Peace, Funk and O.J., Too!

Slapbaks suburban soap opera

But this all pales in comparison to something we like to call the "O.J. Incident."

See, Slapbak's music had found its way into the hands of one of O.J. Simpson's lawyers—this was after he was acquitted of murder—and the idea of O.J. appearing in a Slapbak video had for some reason been proposed to the band.

"I knew he was the most famous guy in the world and that everyone was looking to see what he was going to do next, but I was leery about being seen as a gimmick," Harris remembers. "I didn't have any hardcore feelings about him because I didn't follow the trial. I just went by what the court said."

But a few months later, Harris got a phone call at home: it was O.J. He said he was in Coto de Caza playing golf, and he wanted to talk about the video idea. Two hours later, they met at a restaurant in Dana Point.

"I called the band because I didn't want to go by myself," Harris says. "We met for three hours, and O.J. was really cool, just shooting the shit, but he came across like a womanizer. That was obvious. Then it turned into a disaster.

"He got drunk, and out in the parking lot, he pulled his pants down in front of my sister," Harris says. "She told my brother what happened and told him not to say anything, but he went and told the Brown family, and then the Browns tried to get my brother to convince my sister to testify during the custody case. She wound up selling her story to the National Enquirer, and every time they showed her, there was a picture of Slapbak at the bottom of the page! We were in the Enquirer just for eating with the guy! There's so much more dirt that I can't get into, but it was bad like that for a whole year. It should've just been me at that meeting."

And so Harris decided not to do the video. In fact, smelly label run-ins and ghastly lunches with possibly murderous ex-football players made Harris think about ending the band, until one day a few years ago when he hopped on the Internet and, just for the hell of it, did a Slapbak search—and 120 hits came flying back.

"I was clicking on stuff all day long," he says, "links to Germany and Australia. It was wild! We had all these fans we didn't know about, mostly from the first album."

By the late '90s, more than 100,000 copies of Fast Food Funkateers had sold worldwide, and they had been influencing people in ways Harris couldn't have fathomed. Japanese bands were covering Slapbak songs. A German band named themselves Fast Food Funkateers. A European DJ dubbed himself DJ Slapbak.

"He even spells it the same way we do!" laughs Harris. "People were really taken by the whole funk thing."

The Net has helped keep Slapbak alive, and Harris says they sell about 70 to 100 copies of their albums per month through the band's website (www.toxicfunk.com) to all parts of the world. Now Europe wants to pick up the band's entire catalog. A new album, Fast Food Funkateers 2nd Edition (not a remastering—though the title makes it seem so—but a CD of all-new tunes), comes out next month on Challenge Records, a label based in Amsterdam, where they have some shows lined up later in the summer. They've added a DJ and a rapper, and what was once their strict funk diet has ballooned to a sound that at times tosses in elements of Dr. Dre and Rage Against the Machine.

So after 12 years, it's finally starting to pay off for Slapbak. Smallish little slivers of recognition, compared with what some of the OC bands that came up with them have tasted. But Harris happily takes them.

"There was a point when Sugar Ray, No Doubt and Slapbak were all on the same identical path, with the clubs we played and what our first record did," he says. "Then Sugar Ray and No Doubt did their second records, and they both decided they were gonna compromise and go commercial enough to break big. That's what was happening with us at Warner, and I didn't like that at all. If I can't be known for what I want to be known for, then it's not worth it to me. I don't knock those guys for doing it because honestly, I like Sugar Ray's last couple of records. They're always gonna be great, and Gwen is a great performer. I think it's great that they came out of OC and did it, but for me, that kind of success is gonna have to happen a different way. I've learned a lot these past 10 years. It's kind of hard to pull things over my eyes now."

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