George Clinton brings Funk to the new generation
There are moments in one’s career that can be considered to be milestones, whether they be personal achievements or accolades, turning points or simply unforgettable experiences. One such moment occurred just recently for me when I had the privilege of interviewing the original funketeer, Mr. George Clinton at the International Music Summit in Ibiza. This year the Parliament frontman and funk legend will be back in the public eye with a new album, a reality show and a book about his life all set for release. It’s an exciting time and I had the opportunity to talk to him about the forthcoming projects just a couple of weeks ago, here’s the resulting chat…
Have you been out to Ibiza before?
No, I’d never heard of it. I’ve been here two days, this is the third day and I leave tomorrow.
Great! I heard you had a bit of a jam session last night with Nile and the gang?
Yeah, Nile, Bernie Worrell, Nona Hendryx it was fun, you know. They called me up on stage, I didn’t what they was doing – and it turned into a jam session.
I heard it went on for quite a while?
Oh yeah, once you start the funk you can’t stop. You let the cat out the bag, once that happens you got to go along with it!
Obviously, you’re familiar with Nile already.
I’ve known Nile a long time yeah. And Nona. I used to do her hair, and Patti’s! [Labelle]. I used to do their hair when I had my barber shop between ‘63 and ‘64. Then we had the same management company, Labelle and Parliament – you can tell by the costumes! So we’ve been close for a long time, and Bernie played with us a lot before he went to college.
With that kind of relationship I guess you can just jump on stage and get straight into it.
Yeah, we were just making up s***!
I know a few people who were there and said they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
You could see the people trying to analyse it, and film – I was like, ‘We are doing the show!’ Most of them were stood there like this [open-mouthed]. It was like, ‘We are actually here, it’s alright!‘. That used to happen with us as Funkadelic over the years, people used to stand there and try to analyse it. You can’t even count it, you can’t count it this craziness we’re doing, so you may as well enjoy the show… you can analyse it later!
I was with Soul Clap a few weeks ago and they said they’d been working with you, can you tell me a bit about that project?
They’re on my new album, the title cut is with them plus the first single is a cut with Sly Stone and those guys. ‘In The Car’, it’s from the new album which contains 33 songs, and there’s a book about my life to go with it. The album and the book come together.
That’s quite a package!
Yeah that’s a package. I’ve got Sly Stone, he’s on five cuts. Some of the stuff I did a while ago but didn’t have the chance to put it out, but the last 15 or 20 songs I did just a year ago.
So, you’re back in the swing of things?
Yeah, once we got all the court stuff moving forward and looking good I started concentrating, stopped getting high! That wasn’t no fun! But I had to to fight the court case, I’d love to still be able to do that but I’m 73 years old. You can’t go talking to congress f***** up!
You’ve got be sharp.
Yeah, you gotta be sharp. So now you know they took me to me to church and got me public ready. So once that happened I realised, ‘Ok – I can do the book, a reality show with my grandkids’, ‘cos they all into music. In order to do all of that it was all dependent on my court thing, so I cleaned up and stopped getting high. You get f***** up that’s gonna f*** up everything you do! That’s the sad circle of life when you do that. You don’t think about it, but when you’re getting high you’re end point is to get f***** up.
You don’t want to be halfway there.
You want to be all the way. So once I did all that I got fresh inspiration again, changed my image again – then I got the old spark back. I thought, ‘If I catch them off guard and they don’t know I’m not high – they won’t be able to protect themselves’. They don’t really know what happened and they got a lot of answers to the stuff that they owe me now. I’m organising all the members of the band that got taken. Now it’s like new music with the old stuff, electronic with the old. It’s great! Whatever the new thing is, I’m down with it.
How did you connect with Soul Clap then? Did they reach out to you?
Yeah one of the guys in my organisation, he’s into the internet and he told me they wanted to do something. So they came down, I thought they wanted some samples – I’m always jumping on somebody’s record, I don’t care who it is. Most of them just want me to babble or just talk shit, I’ll do that in a minute! But they came down, did some things. I didn’t think too much of it, but one of the songs was really nice! Sly just happened to come by, and it came out really beautiful so that inspired me to just go ahead on it.
Yeah they sent it to me the other day, it’s really cool. I mean those guys know their stuff.
Exactly, and one of the tracks is the title song to the album – ‘First You Gotta Shake The Gate’ and the other one is called ‘In The Car’. All of the other songs on there have Sly, Del the Funky Homosapien (he’s been on a few of my records). I’ll let you hear the rest as a surprise, there’s a lot of stuff on there.
How big is the book? It must be full of stories.
The book is big. Lots of pictures, too. Oh God, some of the pictures go way back, I’m 73 years old!
You have quite a history! Were you interviewed for the book, how did the writing process work?
Myself and another writer, Ben, we worked together on it. I’ve been saving stuff for years, just in case my memory didn’t last! I didn’t trust nothing! I stacked them all up and I told all the people around me these stories. I knew I was going to write a book one day. If I wasn’t getting paid for the records I was going to be paid for the book, I always planned that. I knew it would be something that people would be interested in. You buy the book, you get the album. And, since we are who we are, people will listen to the music, especially since it’s free!
When is it released?
October. So it’s all coming together the same time, the reality show with my grandkids will be around that time. On the album we also have Kendrick Lamar, Rudimental, Boy George.
How was it working with Rudimental?
I was in London and they sent the tracks over to the studio, I did my part and they called back and said they loved them and wanted to put them out. I got to do some singing, some melodic stuff which was really nice. Boy George: I always liked him but I never knew he was like that.
Yeah, he’s super talented right?
Yeah! And Kendrick Lamar, he knows so much about us. He came to my home and did some stuff – so the next year is going to be really interesting. We gave a replica of the Mothership to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, so that’s going to be out in June.
You’ll be back in the public eye with a whole new generation. I first became aware of you through Ice Cube, on his Lethal Injection album in 1992.
Yeah I worked with Ice Cube, and Del the Funky Homosapien is his cousin. I was just with him two or three weeks ago, he’s going to be involved in some way. When NWA first broke up I’d be riding around with him in LA and one day he called his wife and he was like, ‘Dear, I’m with Mister Clinton’. I was like, ‘Hold on a minute, you gon’ f*** up you street cred! Talking about “Dear, I’m with Mister Clinton”!’ I really like that. Him and Snoop, both of them are like that.
You’ve got to have a public persona I guess.
Yeah, if they were who they were on stage I really would be dead! You act… it’s show-business. Most of these rappers are studio gangsters, I call them ‘bubblegum gangsters’. They supposed to be like that, they’re actors – you don’t expect Al Pacino to be Scarface! You have to entertain people.
George Clinton comes to London on 26th July, for tickets and more information click here.Tagged in: George Clinton, Ibiza, IMS
Recent Posts on Arts
- Friday Book Design Blog: The Ariel Poems, and other seasonal pamphlets
- Children’s book blog – Ask the illustrator: Rebecca Cobb
- Piggott's post: Jacobson, Heller and reflections on "real life"
- Ric Blackshaw tells us Scrawl about his street art enterprise
- Children’s books for November: The Something, The Imaginary and Eren
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter