Every Tuesday, usually by 5 p.m., but always by midnight, Ted Mills posts the Funk Zone Podcast (funkzonepodcast.com). This has been going on since October 2014, with only a brief hiatus for upgrading and rebranding in November 2015. As a result, the February 2 show, which featured jazz guitarist and mouth trumpeter extraordinaire Raul Midon, is episode number 60 — a remarkable feat given that Mills produces the entire thing from end to end by himself. In an interesting contrast to the type A tenacity suggested by that accomplishment, the vibe of the show is laid-back, offering guests the opportunity to relax and get comfortable in its anything-goes, talk-all-you-want format.
The list of guests for the last two years — Lindsey Ross, Crista Dix, Maria Rendon, the Yarnbomber, etc. — reads like a who’s who of the Santa Barbara art world. The idea for the show first occurred to Mills when he applied to Mesa Lane’s Funk Zone Artist Village (FZAV) project. As proof of concept for his proposal, he knocked out the first 10 episodes. The FZAV never happened, but Mills persisted, feeling that he should continue because, as he told me recently, “the Funk Zone is not only a place; it’s a concept — the idea of a place for the artists of Santa Barbara.”
While there is no “typical episode” of the “Funk Zone Podcast,” there are a few principles that Mills follows pretty consistently. “It’s not just an interview; it’s a conversation, and that means that the digressions get to stay in [the final edit],” he said. The conversations must be face to face, and, Mills added, “I try to steer away from art theory. I don’t think listeners want to hear that. I try to get the guests to tell me about their lives. I’m trying to give people a chance to write their own biographies, and I want to know why they do what they do. I hope that the podcast will stand as a record of all the artists here.”
Interestingly, only 38 percent of the show’s online listeners are from Santa Barbara, and only 80 percent are from the United States. Apparently there are people out there who know that we exist! Or who love the heavy funk and are now deeply confused. Some of that out-of-town traffic may actually be due to the increasing diversity of the guest list, which has stretched in 2015 to embrace both performers and artists who are passing through on tour. For example, there was Midon, who was in town with the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, and Kate Quigley, a standup comedian and the host of Playboy’s Undercover, who was here for the LOL Comedy Fest.
Asked about the future he envisions for his virtual Funk Zone, Mills characteristically spins in two directions, one practical and the other, well, who knows? “I want to continue having conversations I think people will enjoy, whether that’s with musicians, artists, authors, actors, or even chefs or people who run restaurants. And I would like to have a television show.”