Funktion-One co-founder John Newsham’s week-long visit to Chile proved the perfect opportunity to inspire fresh minds and fine-tune old favourites
As any truly savvy pro-audiophile will tell you, Funktion-One is much more than simply a purveyor of cutting-edge audio technology. The company is intertwined with a philosophical approach to audio provision, one that strives for the very best in sound quality, pushes for purity and clarity, and expounds the virtues of never settling for second best. So, when co-founder John Newsham received an invitation to speak at the Congreso Internacional de Sonido in Santiago, Chile, he naturally grabbed the opportunity.
The conference – organised by INACAP, a non-profit educational institution comprising the Chilean University of Technology, the Centre for Technical Training, and the Professional Institute for technology – ran from 4-5 October. Newsham joined a programme of speakers from Mexico, Argentina and Brazil to deliver a two-hour presentation on the history of audio as it relates to the work of Funktion-One.
According to Cristián Jiménez Rosas, Course Coordinator at INACAP, talks like these are essential in forging a link between theoretical studies and real-world application. “For our students it is very important to listen to a global icon in the design of loudspeaker systems and allow them to associate what they have learned in the university with real practical experiences,” he said. “Visits from professionals with such vast experience in the audio market is always beneficial for our students, both for the anecdotes full of history they relate and for how simple the solutions they have implemented seem to be.”
“We believe that the most important thing our students learn is that in this world of audio, where technology advances very quickly, it is essential to keep abreast of the ‘state-of-the-art ‘and the solutions developed by the different brands of equipment manufacturers,” Jiménez Rosas added. “For this reason, we are interested as a university in promoting research in our students as part of their training as sound engineers.”
For Newsham, the enthusiastic response of the students alone was worth the 7,000-mile trip. “It was really great to meet the next generation of Chilean sound engineers and to discuss the principles that the Funktion-One team apply to our everyday work,” he said. “Judging by the young talent coming through INACAP, I’d say Chile’s live music scene is in safe hands.”
THE PURPÚRA CONNECTION
In addition to inspiring the next generation, Newsham’s trip to Santiago provided the perfect opportunity to catch up with Funktion-One’s Chilean distributor Púrpura Producciones. Indeed, it was through Púrpura – and its work providing high-end rental and installation audio to the domestic market – that INACAP first became aware of Funktion-One.
Founded in 2009 by sound engineer Joaquín Baeza, the company’s colourful name was inspired by the psychedelic spirit of Hendrix’s haze and Deep Purple’s smoky rock. So it was perhaps kismet that just one year later Baeza would team up with Nicholas Hill, a Brit on a mission to bring Funktion-One to the Chilean market. The (purple-hued) stars aligned, and within a year the pair had launched a targeted marketing campaign that soon led to their first sound system installation at Santiago’s La Feria nightclub, host since its inception to such international DJs as Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano.
In 2013, Púrpura stepped things up with the acquisition of a Funktion-One rental system comprising two Resolution 4Es, two F218s and two PSM12s, as well as an X40a, an X2a, an E100 and two F60Q, thus allowing them to service what would quickly become a long list of exclusive concerts and events.
From standout gigs working with producer Alain Johannes (Chris Cornell, Queens of the Stone Age), to working with iconic Chilean legends, Electrodomésticos, at the Municipal Theatre of Santiago, and further afield to the first ever Festivale Nomade, the southernmost festival in the world, some 1,000km south of Santiago – the Púrpura team helped raise the standard of the Chilean live music experience for countless thousands.
THE CARIOLA REBORN (…and fine-tuned)
The burgeoning reputation of Púrpura and their Funktion-One offering didn’t go unnoticed. When influential Chilean producer Transistor decided to breathe new life into Santiago’s historic Teatro Cariola, it was Baeza and Hill he called upon to provide the sound system. Together they struck up an alliance that saw the exclusive use of Funktion-One for a fresh programme of around 50 live shows each year.
In many ways, this intervention by Transistor has seen the Cariola recapture its glory years – albeit reimagined for the 21st century. Established in 1954 by Carlos Cariola, the theatre was originally conceived as a hothouse of dramatic and musical arts. Indeed, unlike its contemporaries, the Cariola included a covered orchestra pit that could be brought into action whenever required for larger scale performances, firmly placing an emphasis on creating the best possible musical experience.
Sadly, the 17 years Chile spent under Pinochet’s military dictatorship slowly starved the theatre of its creative freedom and then, with the implementation of strict curfews, its late-night, bohemian clientele. Such was the crippling effect of those difficult years that, even with the return of democracy in 1990, it seemed the good times were gone forever. However, as Newsham discovered during his visit, thanks to the investment and creative vision of Transistor, and the permanent presence of a Funktion-One PA, the Cariola’s 1,800-capacity main hall has regained its cultural heartbeat – with sonic excellence restored as an essential part of the entertainment experience.
The Teatro Cariola was just one venue on a lengthy roll-call of successful Funktion-One installations that Newsham had the opportunity to visit whilst in Santiago. It was also a chance for the Púrpura team to capitalise on Newsham’s wealth of technical expertise, with their guest happy to oblige in the form of some subtle system fine-tuning in each location – perfecting the local team’s already excellent work.
With a consistent flow of influential bands and expert engineers passing through Teatro Cariola each month, the theatre’s rebirth has provided an effective launch pad for a fresh wave of installs throughout Chile and beyond. After experiencing first-hand the high-quality precision and sharpness that a Funktion-One system can offer – and the emphatically positive response it elicits from an audience – visiting acts and their crew are becoming switched on to the possibilities created by a Funktion-One set-up.
As word spreads, venues across Chile have been keen to reproduce the Cariola’s success. Since 2015, Púrpura’s work has included two of Santiago’s coolest restaurants – Sarita Colonia and Brunapoli; one of the city’s best-known club and gig venues, El Clan; and a multi-room drama and dance space, known as the Nave.
Beyond Chile’s borders, they have worked alongside Columbian-based installers UVA on a new addition to Bogotá’s electronic music scene, Video Club, and at the beginning of this year provided a system for Santiago’s answer to Berlin’s Berghain, Club Room.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure visiting Joaquín and seeing first-hand the great work that’s been achieved over the last seven years,” remarked Newsham of his time in Chile. “In particular, it’s incredibly heartening to see how Funktion-One has been enthusiastically embraced here in the live music world – and that’s due in no small part to the example set by the Púrpura team on touchstone projects like the Cariola.”