Sebastian Nagel

Meditations in Funk
Sebastian Nagel: Daniel Ritzmann.

Germany’s Sebastian Nagel is a producer, composer, session guitarist, performer, and fan of the funk. His latest project finds him joining Colemine Records for an odyssey into the groovy world of retro instrumental psychedelic R&B.

The project is called The Winston Brothers, where jazzy octave guitar work meets dreamy arpeggiation, fuzz solos, and hallucinogenic fade-outs. It’s outta sight, baby.

How did the idea for this music come about?
It was born when I was working on the first album by Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band. Around 2017, we were digging into hip-hop instrumentals, covering hip-hop tracks, and getting into that sound versus funk. I asked drummer Lucas Kochbeck to join me for some studio sessions to track ideas I had. Lucas is the funky drummer in town.

I was still with the Mighty Mocambos, so I thought I’d like to do something with a different sound and aesthetic. We made six tracks. After I left the Mocombos, I finished the songs and got in touch with Terry Cole of Colemine Records. Terry liked it and wanted to release “Winston Theme” as a 45 with “Boiling Pot” as the B-side. That was the beginning of the Winston Brothers. Later, we thought it would be nice to release a full album. I produced another five tracks with Lucas putting grooves together and then built it up with horns and synthesizers to finish the songs.

So, The Winston Brothers are you on guitar and bass, Lucas Kochbeck on drums, with session horn players.
The horn section is the same, but I did sessions with the Mocombo horns at the beginning, then moved on. I brought in people to add a different impact on the album and catch a certain vibe. I put everything together, wrote the songs, wrote the horn arrangements, and played bass on 50 percent of the songs. A few of the pieces were co-written with Lucas.

It has a ’60s retro-funk flavor. It doesn’t sound like hip hop.
It was more of the idea of a funk band playing hip hop instrumentals. I needed a starting point that would grow in a totally different direction. I love ’60s and ’70s funk, but I always try to bring something new to the music. What I did with Winston Brothers was put my own spin on it. I don’t like to copy. I always try to create something that comes from me.

What’s your musical background?
My first guitar teacher was a friend of my dad. He was into blues guitar, so that’s where I started. I loved all the old blues guitar players and bought old records from flea markets when I was a teenager. I prefer ’60s and ’70s music and got into jazz-rock and funk. After high school, I studied jazz guitar in the Netherlands. I love Jimi Hendrix and Clapton, particularly when Clapton was in John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. I also love John Coltrane. It’s the energy I like. I love funky R&B, as well – not so much as a guitar player, but more as a writer and producer. I love Parliament-Funkadelic. When Daptone Records came along, it was a real game changer for me in terms of sound and how to record a band. I’m also a huge fan of Lee Fields’ My World.

Let’s talk guitars.
My main guitar a 1989 ES-335, but a few years back I bought a ’56 ES-125T. I’m a lefty, so it’s hard to find guitars. So, I took the 125 to a guitar builder who modified it into a left-handed model with DeArmond pickups. It has a nice vibe. I also have an ES-330 with a P-90 in the middle position that I used for some wah. It has a woody, percussive sound.

How about amplifiers?
I used a Vibrolux reissue from the ’70s with a reverb tank, a Carr Vincent, which is like a Deluxe Reverb, a ’62 Bassman, and a ’63 Super Reverb.

“Drift” is a standout on the album. Which effects did you use on that track?
I used the reverb and the tremolo from the Vibrolux, and either the Devi Ever Legend Of Fuzz or the Fender Blender Fuzz. They’re both great pedals.

The oscillating, fuzzy guitar fade-out is super cool.
That’s the Roland Space Echo doing the repeats at the end. I used that a lot, especially where the sound oscillates at the end. I also use plug-ins, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds. When it comes to the guitar, I prefer the analog stuff.

What’s next for The Winston Brothers?
Concerts in Hamburg and a tour through Europe. We’ll see where it takes us. I’m already working on the second album.

This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.