Pfunkt part hip-hop, part techno, all energy


When Alex Burkat was a child, his dad nicknamed him “pfunk,” a German term meaning “energy”… When Alex Burkat was a child, his dad nicknamed him “pfunk,” a German term meaning “energy” and pronounced like “funk.” It’s fitting then, and no coincidence, that Burkat twisted his childhood moniker into “Pfunkt” to name his most prominent musical project to date.

Never heard of Pfunkt? Try this: Go to YouTube. Type the term “Confidance” into the search bar. Don’t be alarmed as you watch it and think to yourself: “This guy is all kinds of intense . . . and then some.” If you’re confused or even slightly amused, that’s exactly what Burkat wants.

For Burkat, the point of creating his self-termed “electro-clash” music is merely to have fun with it. It’s more of a relaxing diversion from the stresses of schoolwork than a serious undertaking of musical creation.

“For every half-hour of school work I do,” Burkat quips, “I do about three hours of this stuff.”

This relaxation technique began in high school, when he created an anonymous fake German electro-dance group with a friend.

When he entered college, Burkat realized he wanted to continue with the outlet. “It was fun and creative,” he explains, adding, “I didn’t want it to be anything too serious.”

And that nothing-too-serious attitude is exactly what his projects embody.

Basic drum samples and high synth beats drive the pulse of his music, making it infectiously energetic, but his lyrics are what put the music on a different level. They are nonsensical and humorous, with lines like “your love is something to measure (metric units)” and “come onto the dance floor / explode with pelvic fury.”

Burkat also has a penchant for creating fake musical groups as farces for things he sees in popular culture. Burkat created JeromeNJ, a fake rap group that raps about a particular illegal substance simply because, he says, “a friend bet me I couldn’t make a rap album in two days – so I did.”

All of his songs are puns brought about by something that piques his attention. “I like working with the puns,” Burkat explains, “because you get to make it up and ask ‘what does this mean?’ And then you get the whole song to play around with it.”

So far, his most successful pun has been the aforementioned “Confidance,” and overall, Pfunkt is garnering the most attention of any of his musical projects. He’s performed at venues in New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The German record label Moonboutique is currently pressing his stuff – “Confidance” is available on 12-inch vinyl or iTunes.

To top that off, Burkat is just a few rounds away from winning the FameCast contest and flying to Austin, Texas, with a $10,000 budget to make his own professional music video.

As a live act, Burkat performs wearing a red suit and uses a digital video projector, a fog machine and a frenetic level of energy usually only attainable with the combination of Adderall and Red Bull.

He wants to do more shows but feels he would need a booking agent to make it happen. For now, Burkat’s content playing shows in the Pittsburgh area, including one Nov. 9 at Pitt’s own Engineering Hall with the Japanese group, Melt-Banana.

Collaborating with other groups and artists is what excites Burkat the most.

“It’s fun just to see what happens, especially when there is no direction,” Burkat enthuses. “Anyone who’s weird and has no pretensions, nothing to prove – that’s usually the best.”

As a Pitt senior now well-versed in the absurdities of electro-dance-hip-hop-mish-mash music, Burkat is looking beyond graduation to continue his experiments in musical funkiness, even if they simply remain a side project.

His eventual goal? “To make money doing random bulls— like this and not have to get up before noon. If not that, fly to Germany and tour with my label,” Burkat says.

Whether you think Pfunkt is pure genius, pure insanity or somewhere in the middle, you’ve got to concede, it’s definitely one of the most original things happening at Pitt right now.