An interview with Alan Westfall, owner of indie future funk record label Coraspect Records.
What does future funk look like? The genre usually pays visual respect to the culture that got it off the ground — anime GIFs, nightclub neon and a generally retro 1980s style that plays off an infatuation with nostalgia.
But behind the facade of late 20th century culture are a pastiche of producers, curators and fans from around the world. Some of future funk’s biggest names are teenagers and twenty-somethings who have built their discographies from humble beginnings with software like GarageBand or Abelton.
But Alan Westfall, owner of Coraspect Records, is here to remind you that future funk’s appeal runs deeper than millennials and generation Z.
From his home in Oklahoma, Westfall is a one-man factory, designing, producing and shipping the physical media and merchandise released on Coraspect. Like many of the artists he supports, Alan is something of a bedroom producer. The only difference being, he is in his fifties.
“I do it because I believe in these young people and I really want to see them grow and succeed,” he says.
Westfall is quick to note that future funk lovers aren’t all as young as they may seem. He’s found plenty of fans in their 30s and 40s, an observation that speaks to the genre’s timelessness.
“I came across the music at a small club I went to to try and distract myself from a particularly bad bout of depression,” Westfall tells me. “The DJ was playing the Disco Boys when I walked in, which put a smile on my face, as I had been a fan of the original Manfred Mann track as a kid.
“Then he slammed into ‘Feel So Good’ by Tsundere Alley and my attention was piqued. It was just such a happy, upbeat track, devoid of cynicism. And then he played ‘Stomp!’ by ConsciousThoughts and I was probably hooked right then and there. After his set, I hit him up and asked what I had been listening to, and he was super nice and wrote me a quick playlist.”
From there, Westfall did what any budding future funk aficionado would do, and searched the tracks online, many of which were housed by the now rebranded Artzie Music YouTube page. He shared a passion for “70s disco and 80s and 90s boogiefunk and city pop” with a new generation of listeners. The music was a time capsule that brought back fond memories of high school and helped him out of “a major depressive episode.”
As a listener, Westfall indulges in future funk’s nostalgia. But as a label owner, he engages other fans by getting his artists’ music out as widely as possible.
In the case of Bostonian future funk producer BarbWalters, that means producing an eye-catching design for Pleasure, the 2019 12-track album whose digital edition is emblazoned with breezy script and unavoidable red lips. For the physical release, Westfall conjured up a two-tone sleeve that slides off to reveal a “smoky lipstick-red” vinyl that currently lives on the shelves of some of future funk’s most ardent supporters.
For Tokyo Wanderer, an artist from Portugal, Westfall cooked up a cassette and forthcoming vinyl run for Incubus, the former of which comes bundled with an unreleased track.
Wanderer, who also goes by Nuno Cruz, first encountered Westfall through the r/futurefunk subreddit.
“To put it succinctly, the way he handled ev.exi’s physical release of ‘Remember’ really appealed to me,” Cruz said. “It’s rare to find a label owner these days that puts as much care into their physical pressings as him.”
Cruz reached out to Westfall in 2018, and began to share demos for their upcoming project, Incubus. The album was a departure from Tokyo Wanderer’s typical future funk fare — Cruz instead drew from a well of influences, ranging from Daft Punk and Thundercat to Nine Inch Nails and the Smiths. The resulting project is an auditory buffet, effortlessly jumping from R&B to electric and more.
“In terms of visibility, [Coraspect] might not be the biggest label in our niche, but the quality of the physical releases, infinite amount of creative freedom and excellent communication has helped my album reach plenty of new people that previously were unaware of my project,” Cruz said. “I’m grateful for Alan’s contributions and help, he is a great guy and a friend.”
Like Cruz, Ewan Mallinson, otherwise known as Mélonade, found Westfall’s accessibility to be the bridge for a prosperous relationship. He sent Westfall a demo for his 2018 project Dream Plaza, which led to a limited edition, chrome cassette release, bundled with a custom made, deluxe J-Card mall directory.
“Alan is an amazingly supportive and hard-working guy, and offers constant feedback and help with releases and music in the scene,” Malinson said. “As well as helping me grow my audience a bit, the physical release definitely helped to spread my name about.”
From the designing to the promotion and sales, running Coraspect is a largely a one man venture. The support Westfall does get comes from his daughter, who assists with some of the shipping.
“She’s got a little shrine she’s built of my releases,” Westfall said.
Coraspect’s efforts are also earning notice from outside of the future funk community, as Westfall’s artists continue to catch the ears of creators and tastemakers. English producer Strawberry Station had his song “Rhythm in My Soul” featured in the 2020 Amazon Prime film, Goblin, and recently, was approached by the British Library to archive his music.
“Imagine that, my music in the national archives, safe for generations!” Strawberry exclaimed. “And all thanks to him taking a random punt on my album because he liked my homebrew tape.
When I talked to Westfall in late October, his town in Oklahoma was without power for what would become a two-week long outage. Amidst the stall in business, and between calls and tweets to his power company, Westfall was steadily brainstorming new ways to bring future funk to listeners. He’s planning an app, as well as a 24/7 streaming station, all in the name of archiving and sharing as much music as possible.
“I started thinking, “Bandcamp and SoundCloud and Spotify are all going to go away at some point, and hard drives are going to fail, and there’s this tiny but essential subculture in the dance-sampling music movement,” Westfall said. “This needs to be recorded in some permanent form to both enjoy now, and to research later.”