GEORGE CLINTON AND PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC

Funky Up Bluesfest One Jam At A Time

“Funk!” It’s more or less the first word out of George Clinton’s mouth, and it’s prob­a­bly a word that hasn’t been left unsaid on any day for prac­ti­cally all of the 73 years he has been alive. It should be stressed, how­ever, that Clinton’s not just shout­ing the word at ran­dom. Not yet, at least. It’s in response to the ques­tion of exactly what’s kept the Parliament-Funkadelic col­lec­tive going strong after so many years – espe­cially when they’ve shared bills so often with bands that have come and gone. Funk is the answer.

 

“Funk is in all of the music that sup­pos­edly came after Par­lia­ment and Funkadelic,” says Clin­ton. “It’s in hip hop, it’s in elec­tronic music – it’s in every­thing. As long as there’s some funk in some­thing, we’re gonna be a viable force to deal with. We love doing what we do. We ain’t going nowhere. To us, it’s always a party. There’s always a rea­son to keep funky.”

Of course, what’s even more impres­sive about the last­ing power of the Parliament-Funkadelic clan is how crowded the musi­cal cli­mate has become around it. Dozens upon dozens of artists will share the stage with Clin­ton and co. for the upcom­ing edi­tion of Blues­fest, many of whom were not even alive at the peak of their suc­cess. It begs the ques­tion as to whether Clin­ton still keeps his ear to the ground in the realm of con­tem­po­rary music.   “I keep my eye on any music that par­ents or older musi­cians are say­ing ain’t real music,” he says. “When I hear ’em say that, that’s when I start watch­ing. Usu­ally, that’s gonna be the next music. The music that gets on people’s nerves … it’s usu­ally gonna be the next thing that’s hap­pen­ing, so you best be down as quick as you can, oth­er­wise you gonna be old and out of step.”

It’s now been about six years since we heard from Clin­ton in a recorded sense – his last stu­dio album was a selec­tion of cov­ers and col­lab­o­ra­tions, enti­tled George Clin­ton And His Gang­sters Of Love, which dropped in 2008. It won’t be long, how­ever, before we’re inun­dated with what Clin­ton calls “the doo-doo”. “That’s what we call the new shit!” he cack­les. Not only will you be hear­ing from Clin­ton very soon in this regard, you’ll also be read­ing about him, too. “I just did a book of my life,” he announces. “It’s got an album to go with it. The title of the book is Brothas Be, Yo, George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? That’s one of the songs on the album. I been work­ing on this project for 20 years. The album’s got 33 songs on it, and a lot of songs have come together in the last few years; songs that I been real fond of. I been work­ing on fight­ing these court cases, and now with the book com­ing out, I feel I get a chance to explain my side of all of that stuff. I feel vin­di­cated already.”

Not much is known about the new mate­r­ial so far, except a) there’s a lot of it; and b) there’s a chance you’ve prob­a­bly heard some of the tracks if you’ve seen Parliament-Funkadelic in action in recent times. What we’re set to dis­cover, also, is that the col­lab­o­ra­tive spirit of Gang­sters Of Love will con­tinue into this mate­r­ial. Clin­ton elab­o­rates on one par­tic­u­larly spe­cial guest that we’ll be see­ing in the not-too-distant future.   “I just did a song with Kendrick Lamar,” he says. “Talk­ing to him, I found out his grand­par­ents were both into P-Funk. It was passed on to his par­ents, and now down to him. To hear some­body that young know so much about it – y’know, I feel blessed. Kids hate their par­ents’ music! For some rea­son, funk sur­vived through the generations.”

Talk turns to Clinton’s upcom­ing visit to Aus­tralia. He’s played here sev­eral times over the years, but he recalls one fas­ci­nat­ing moment from his very first visit. “I remem­ber com­ing, but I don’t remem­ber what year it was. I went to a party with the Prince of Bali after the show. He gave me a ring that I still have. He was killed in a coup a few months later. I’m look­ing at the ring right now.”    We move toward a more recent mem­ory – com­par­a­tively, at least – of when Parliament-Funkadelic per­formed a now-legendary set at Blues­fest for what some say went for up to five hours, before the power was even­tu­ally shut off on the stage. “Oh yeah!” The mem­ory is instant in Clinton’s mind, before he heads off on a dif­fer­ent tan­gent entirely. “That’s some­thing we used to do quite often, where we would play until they pulled the plug. In New Orleans, they let us play for seven hours. It was day­break, and they were serv­ing whisky on the street. The place was packed, so they opened the doors and let us play out into the street.”  So, exactly how does one last through a seven-hour show, George? “Two can leave, three can leave, go get a drink, get back in there,” he says. “It’s always shift­ing in and out. Back then, there was 26 of us.” And just so we’re clear, how many are Parliament-Funkadelic tour­ing with these days? “22!”

 

BY DAVID JAMES YOUNG

George Clin­ton And Parliament-Funkadelic are play­ing Blues­fest 2015 with Ben Harper & The Inno­cent Crim­i­nals, The Black Keys, Zac Brown Band, Alabama Shakes, Train, Paolo Nutini and many more at Tya­garah Tea Tree Farm from Thurs­day April 2 to Mon­day April 6, tick­ets online at www.bluesfest.com.au

Tour Dates

April 1 – Enmore The­atre, Syd­ney NSW
April 3 – 170 Rus­sell, Mel­bourne VIC
April 8 – Power Sta­tion, Auck­land NZ

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