George Clinton, Bringing the Mothership to Macon April 1
Altough Clinton has been sober (or acid-free) for several years now, he doesn’t mind reminiscing about the beginnings of Funkadelic.
George Clinton revolutionized R&B Music. He twisted soul music into funk and mixed in some psychedelia that would basically define a new genre. Simply put, there is Parliament Funkadelic, and then there is everyone else. Possibly from another Planet, a theory even he himself believes, Clinton and his star children funk too new heights. It’s safe to say that some of the greatest hip hop albums of all time wouldn’t have been born were it not for Parliament Funkadelic. He’s without question one of the most sampled artists of all time. But after a lifetime of living along the outer reaches of reality, along with a good long run at addiction, this is a Fact Clinton can’t cash in on. Most of his publishing rights were signed away a long time ago. But that doesn’t stop Dr. Funkenstien Playing the music he created. And he’s bringing the Mothership to Macon Georgia on April 1 as part of the street party for a show you aren’t going to want to miss. Brad Evans Caught up with George at his home in Florida last week to talk about his long career making the funk.
Of all the nicknames you’ve been given, what’s your favorite?
Ha. The Maggot Overlord sounds good to me.
I was just listening to Maggot Brain this weekend. Such a great album.
Well, thank you a bunch man.
What was the first music you ever remember hearing?
(Sings) Don’t let the sun shine in your eyes, don’t let the music break your heart. We grew up on country music where I came from in Virginia. All we got was country on the radio, that’s the very first music I can remember. Up until 10 years old I was in Virginia, then New Jersey. That’s where I started getting into Louis Jordan, right on through the Doo-Wop days.
What were your folks like?
Well, my father was in the Korean War. I didn’t see him regularly until I was 10 years old. I would see him off and on, but it wasn’t until then that I saw him on a regular basis. But we were country folks. I do remember him coming home on leave. Then he, of course, came back and moved us to Jersey.
You sang doo-wop and wrote songs for Motown, how did that begin? Remember your first gig?
Oh, my cousin that I grew up with in Virginia, she lived where the Shirelles used to live. I used to watch them rehearse. That was the beginning of me liking music. I used to dream about going to the Apollo Theatre. Then Frankie Lymon came out with “Why do Fools Fall in Love” and it was all over after that, that gave me the bug. Then came Elvis. I started skipping school to go see bands at the Apollo. Smokey and the Miracles came through. I was hit, man. Blown away. Then the Beatles. Jimi Hendrix. Come on, man. Motown was it until the Beatles came along.
Yeah, you talk in your autobiography about seeing Jimi Hendrix and some of those groups for the first time, and how it changed you. You had a group called Parliament at the time, though they were a Motown type band. But towards the end of the run there, you can hear it become, should I say –weirder?
(Laughs) Yeah, it got a little weird at the end. We got so weird we actually made the Temptations weird. That’s what got them into Cloud Nine. They were hanging around us too much.
When did you first take LSD? Who were you with? Tell me about that.
Aww, man. That would have been in Boston with some of the college kids up there at Harvard. We stopped playing the Sugar Shack up there, around 1967 or so. We were doing Motown music. We changed there. We took the acid, and the clothes and everything we wore became psychedelic in real life. Even when we weren’t trippin’, we were trippin’.
Tell me about when Bootsy and Fred and Maceo came over to your band. All of them had come over from James Brown’s band, and he was known for being quite the taskmaster. Was it a shock to them?
Well, Bootsy came first, and he was already into the psychedelic thing before he came to us – maybe not as much as us, but when he got there, we realized he needed to be his own band. The Rubber Band. Then he called Fred and Maceo over. Now they were surprised when they got with us. They were a little out of sorts. But they fit in good.
I got the opportunity to interview Bootsy a few years back and he talked very fondly about his time spent with you. One thing he told me was that the first time he met you, you were wearing a chicken suit. Does that sound like something you’d do?
Ha! What do you think? Of course it sounds like something I’d do! I used to wear these chicken feet shoes back then all the time. That sounds about right.
Well, he spoke very fondly of you and said that you changed his life forever.
I try to be there for people. Even the new folks coming along, if they reach out to me, I always answer. The Childish Gambinos, the Kendrick Lamars. I enjoy being there and working with the young guys coming up today. I enjoy what they’re doing.
You got nominated with Kendrick Lamar last year, right?
Yes I did. That was pretty cool.
Tell me about the first time you met Sly Stone.
We had the same manager for a quick second. We signed to the same label. I remember seeing him in New York City at the East Village at the Electric Circus. I was like GodDAMN! It was an R&B band with Marshall Amps. A straight R&B club band, but with Marshall Amps. When they did “Higher and Higher” at Woodstock, that was like the end of the world. And seeing that at a little club, it’s hard to imagine. But we became close and we remain close.
When was the last time you saw him?
Three weeks ago?
He was homeless for a while, right?
He still has to live on the edge, because they won’t give him his money. The creator of that music, out here hurting.
You are the most sampled artist of all time. How does that feel?
It makes me proud. It definitely feels good. It gives me a chance to reinvent myself. I like to recapture some of the old stuff. I feel good that I stuck in there, and hung in there. I’m doing a documentary on that whole story, about how a lot of that publishing got taken from me. We call “One Nation Under a Groove” the Holy Grail. That’s the story people got to try to imagine.
What do you think is the strangest thing you have ever been a part of? Craziest night of them all?
Man, you killin’ me. Tripping was it back in the day. I remember being on the roof of one of the buildings at Harvard. I was up there with a bunch of kids and I was so out here, I can’t remember actually getting up there. But man, my life is full of crazy experiences like that. I was part of a whole bunch of stuff.
What’s a normal day like for you these days? I know you’ve been sober for quite some time now.
I get up and smoke a couple of joints, and I look out the window at squirrels eating food. I like to fish. I caught a bunch of big reds yesterday. But I’m getting ready to head to the studio now. I’m working on a new Parliament album called Medicaid Fraud Dog: One Nation Under Sedation.
Ever been to Macon? What do you know about Macon?
Oh yeah. We brought the Mothership there. I remember Macon. I’m a huge fan of Otis, and I know James lived there for a while. Believe me, I know Macon.
I read somewhere today that you and Bootsy went on a hunting trip together.
Oh man. That ended my hunting career. We had about $10,000 to spend, we got these guides in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and we killed 32 animals. We have this picture of me and Bootsy and all these animals strung up behind us – I guess once you get bloodthirsty, you can’t stop. That trip gave me a Bambi complex. I can’t kill anything anymore. That was it for me. We gave the meat to a school and a hospital. We should have taken the fur – think of all the jackets I could have made!