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Alaska group plays for the love of music

By Emily Carlson 7:16 AM January 27, 2014

Alaska Thunder Funk dreams of making it big without sacrificing their roots.

ANCHORAGE – If you watched the Grammy’s, you saw some of the best musicians in the industry.

But there’s plenty of up-and-coming talent ready to break into the big time, including some groups from the Last Frontier.

They don’t have the fanciest practice space, but Alaska Thunder Funk doesn’t need glamour to jam out. The Anchorage group is made up of Alaskans who sing about the state and play for other Alaskans.

“People embrace us because we represent Alaska. As far as the market goes once we hit that 500 or 600 people, then we’re looking for other people,” said Ginsu, a member of the group.

ATF is well known in the 49th state. They’ve toured with Snoop Dog and opened for Sublime. They have two records and a solid fan group and are consistently named the best band in town by the Anchorage Press. However, staying in Alaska has its drawbacks.

“There’s a thriving music scene,” said member JT Carter. “There is a lot of musicians that want to play — that are willing to play — there’s just not a lot of good music venues to play.”

Right now, the group doesn’t have a gig on the books. They’re in between drummers, and practice time is hard to come by.

“It’s hard for me to get off and play with these guys, cause these guys are off at 4 or 5 or 6, ‘You ready?’” Ginsu said. “No — I might be off at 7. Might be off at 8. I’m off at 9. Nope, it’s 10!”

The reality is that it’s not easy to make a living as an artist in Alaska. JT is a server.

Ginsu is a cook, and Scotty — a third member of the group — is a teacher. Their day jobs support them, but their night job keeps them going.

“Now that we’ve been doing it for so long, we get decent paying gigs,” JT said. “All the money we get from the gigs goes back into the band.”

Last year, the band used their earnings to go on tour in the Lower 48, but they have no plans to leave Alaska.

“We’re still here because when you do that, you make the pressure harder for yourself and you spread yourself thin,” Ginsu said.

Their dream, of course, is to make it big. But the group refuses to sacrifice their roots or their love for music to make that happen.

“Of course that’s the eventual goal,” TJ said. “We just don’t want to get jaded by, you know, having that be…we want it to be fun.”

If their lyrics never leave their basement practice space again, they’d be ok because at the end of the song, it’s the laughter and friendship that keeps the music flowing.

Alaska Thunder Funk relies on Twitter and Facebook to reach their fans in the Lower 48.

They also sell their music — a combination of rap, hip-hop, rock and funk — on sites like iTunes.

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