By Liquid Todd
After decades of decadence, George Clinton is ready to get his groove on again
The story of George Clinton’s Parliament and Funkadelic is populated with larger-than-life personalities, epicbattles with drugs and the law, massive hits which dominated the R&B charts in the 1970s and juicy samples that nourished hip-hop from the verybeginning right through last week. And—through it all—the almost inhuman schedule of live concerts and studio recording sustainedby the talents of the hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of musicians who have rotated in and out of the P-Funk collective over the years.
This is theband which made Bootsy Collins a household name, where hip-hop artists from Public Enemy to Jay-Z have lifted their hit-making hooks and where millions of devoted fans have found the funk.
Lately the manbehind the whole circus—who founded the Parliaments while straightening hair at a salon in Plainfield, New Jersey in the late 1950—hasbeenbattling one of thebiggest trolls in the history of music copyright. According to George Clinton, an outfit called Bridgeport Music—runby a former songwriter named Armen Boladian—forged documents to claim ownership of hundreds of George Clinton-penned tunes. Immediately thereafter Bridgeport starting suing anyone who had sampled as little as two seconds of the songs they now claimed as their own, alleging over 500 counts of copyright infringement from upwards of 800 different artists and labels.
A lengthy and costlybattle has played out in the courts and in the halls of Congress over this issue. At stake are thousands of songs and millions of dollars in publishing revenue that Clinton—and many others—argue should havebeen paid to the musicians who wrote the legendary songs rappers can’t resist sampling for their megahits. Some ofClinton’s most-sampled songs are in dispute, including “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” “More Bounce to the Ounce” and “Atomic Dog.” The musicians came from James Brown’s houseband and from every other corner of the funk universe. Legendary players like Bootsy, Bernie Worrell, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker—just to name a few—all did stints on the Mothership.
I recently spoke to Clinton—who is scheduled to perform at Pechanga today—about touring and trolls.
So give me an update, George. How is it going?
Well, when this copyright stuff comes through everybody will be paid for all this work that they’ve been doing and I’ll make some money. I ain’t making nothing now. But this thing is so big and it’s inevitable, you know, because [of] the copyright law from Congress and from the court cases. They won’t be able to get around it for much longer.
Well it’s a complicated case, but it looks like you are fighting the good fight, making progress for artists’ rights. That’s important because most of these guys aren’t exactly loaded.
Yeah, nobody’s loaded here. I’m pissed that I had to get un-loaded to do this. They made me give up my habits so they really got a problem with me!
So you’re angry for more than one reason.
Hell yeah, I’m angry for more than one reason. I’m cool with it. Believe me, I feel good. I feelbetter. I’m making a whole lot more money and all that shitbut . . . I was having a good time!
Yeah, you were having a ball, but you got robbed when you took your eye off the ball.
Yeah, I got ripped off. So that’s my fault. It’s called f#@ked up, and you don’t know how really f#@ked up yoube getting until later.
So you guys are pretty much still touring constantly, right?
And you have about 31 members in the band—who I hear can come and go if they want. That’s a big outfit to manage. So if a couple of dudes decide to split, how do you replace ’em on the fly?
You got 10 people waiting on somebody to leave! They can’t wait for somebody to move and give them a spot. And the roadies are musicians and theybe waiting to play.
What have you been working on in the studio?
Oh, we have so much stuff that’s getting ready to come out. ’Cause we putting out these apps and we putting our new stuff in there too. We got Parliament stuff, Funkadelic and then each member of theband got all kinds of shit. We putting out loads of shit. We got gangs of Parliament and Funkadelic stuff that I’ve [been] working on for the past two or three years,but it’s taken me this long to actuallybe able to settle down and start putting it together as an album.
I’m sure that is welcome news to P-Funk fans everywhere.
And we got this cartoon we’ve been working on called Dope Dogs.
You’re making a cartoon called Dope Dogs?
“U.S.Customs Coast Guard Dope Dogs.” And that’s Funkadelic. We did an album on ’em already,but the cartoon is gonnabe an Adult Swim-type thing. It’s a lot of dogs tellin‘ their stories.
Speaking of music-based animation, have you seen the show Metalocalypse?
Yeah! That’s Titmouse [the production company that makes Metalocalypse].
Damn, you know everybody.
I worked with those guys on Dope Dogs! When I first got started I did the first dog with them. It’s called Scotty. Yeah, they are so good.
And you’ve always had a good relationship with hip-hop artists too.
Sure. Eminem was 14 when I first met him.
His producer was my partner, Mark Bass. The Bass Brothers. He took him to [Dr.] Dre.
It’s all connected and everything is possible through Dr. Funkenstein.
And Dre,before they was N.W.A. had a clubwe called Uncle Jam, and we lent him the name. We loaned Dre the name UncleJam.He was right outta high school.
Damn, you’ve had a pretty interesting journey, haven’t you?
Yeah, I can remember when N.W.A. sounded like the Sugarhill Gang!
Pechanga Resort & Casino, 45000 Pechanga Pkwy., Temecula, (951) 693-1819; www.pechanga.com. Fri, June 22. 8pm. $35-$55.