George Clinton interviewed: “Save the funk!”

Dr Funkenstein on the Mothership, funk and his personal philosophy

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You’ve worked with several white rock bands… the Chili Peppers, Thomas Dolby, Primal Scream… What was it like working with them?
The Primals? Man, Bobby was so hard to understand! When you get fucked up, he’s really hard to understand! And both of us being fucked up, there was no chance! But we had so much fun working together. I worked with some techno guys last night, the Soul Clan. They had a dance track, and I put a typical abstract P-Funk song on it, called “In The Car”: “Oilspill, makin’ a killin’, drillin’ in the oilfield/Pipe it, pump it, truck it and fuck it”.

Going from being a cult thing to massive commercial success in the ’70s must have brought huge problems. Was it difficult to handle at the time?
Yeah, it was. You had personal relationships, I was stretching it out so the Family was getting bigger, they was the same people, but they was bigger. Like, Bootsy was number one, then when the Brides started becoming important, that started taking away from Bootsy and my other relations. The same with the other members – as it became bigger, other label executives and lawyers and managers wanted to carve themselves a piece of it, and started snatchin’ players away on the side. But it was the chemistry among all of us, that’s what fuelled the thing and made it work.


There were 16 P-Funk members inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame – that must be the most from one band inducted at the same time.
It is. And there were still some important people left out. We didn’t choose it, but they were trying to get a bit of all the important stuff in there to round it off. We wanted to get the P-Funk All Stars inducted, so they could include all the rest of the people involved.

Drug culture was once positive, useful for creativity, then it turned to being a bad thing.
The minute the Vietnam War was over, it was right back to two cars and a swimming pool. Any kind of war produces money, y’know what I’m sayin’? So they get a war on drugs, get 40 million dollars to fight it in this city, 30 million to fight it in another city, they get allocations, and they don’t really want to catch anybody but somebody with a half a gram up their ass, they don’t want to catch the person that’s selling the drugs or causing the deaths, otherwise they would really get on the pharmaceutical companies for stuff like that, too. There’s more profit in pretending we’re stopping it than in selling it. If they can sell you protection, they ain’t gonna stop it, they’re just gonna get it slowed down enough for you to stay scared of it. That’s the way the system works, they sell us protection on every level. The most important part of the President’s campaign was about Obamacare, how his people were going to get their meds; but drugs is still the number one evil, because it’s used like that.

You’ve always used music to talk about taboo things in a forthright manner. What would be the subjects you’d be dealing with now, if you were just starting out?
It would be about the monopoly of the record industry, how they’ve destroyed hip-hop by not paying people, going under the table with each other, trying to change the copyright laws. We’re just finding out how it works – this is the first year people are supposed to get their stuff back, and we’re fighting like hell now, trying to keep “One Nation” and “Knee Deep”. There’s this lawyer suing me for copyright ownership, for a million and a half dollars, and he got the judge to put interest on the lawsuit, so I would never ever be able to pay it back, the way they got it set up.

You used to have a lot of copyright problems…
We’re still having them! The entire band is having them, my entire Family, we just sent a request to the President of the United States to save the funk. We got a list of names, my entire family, to BMI requesting all our cheques. Other artists are involved in it, too. We gonna have us a Twitter Army! You can bet we know how to use the media, and the stage. I’m doing a reality show with my family, with my son Tracy, my six grandkids, Scott Thompson, Brandi – it’s a big family thing.

Is it going to be like The Osbournes?
A bit like that, but most of them are, like, musicians, rappers and everything – it’s what we call our C Kunspyruhzy: I see conspiracy all around me, y’know, with all the copyright stuff? We got to come up with new ways to get the music across, so we’re doin’ this reality show. So we can expose all the noses out there, stealin’ the copyrights and takin’ people’s music and money. This is all gonna be part of the reality show, the copyright fight, plus we still kicking ass onstage. We exposes the noses!

It’s a similar situation to that faced by the families of Hendrix and Marley.
I’m having problems with the same people that did the Hendrix case, the same lawyers that brought the case and then got sued by his family for over-charging them. I’m in court with this guy charging me a million and a half dollars for my own songs. All the lawyers and all the record companies banding together, because all of them have samples. It’s a cartel, and its long arms reach to the copyright office, BMI, ASCAP, all of them, so we have no choice but to go straight to the President. Hopefully the President danced to the music at one time. We seen him singin’ Al Green, we know he has some funk! And he used the phrasing from “One Nation Under A Groove” quite some bit in his speeches. We’re trying to keep it isolated to one record, but I’m really talking about all of them: Snoop Dogg, Puffy, Dre, Jay-Z, Public Enemy, Eminem, Michael Jackson. I’m talking about all these records for the past 25 years, we had samples on all of that, and we don’t get a penny from any of it.


Really? I imagined you were making more from samples than from your own record sales.
Well, Mothership Connection is the most sampled record in the world. But I’m telling you, these labels, they’ve got together in a way that they take all this money. With one forged document, and the lie that I filed for bankruptcy, which did not happen, the judge awarded it all to them. We’re asking for a federal investigation into the whole thing, because they are effectively a monopoly, they back each other up on all these court documents and shit.

The band used to make donations to the Negro College Fund and the NAACP…
Yes, we made the promoters give 25 cents out of every dollar to the NAACP. And right now we just adopted a school in Plainfield, New Jersey, where the band originated, the Obama Green Charter School, we’ve given it 25 per cent of the ownership of “One Nation”, “Knee Deep”, “Hardcore Jollies” and “Electric Spanking”. That’s the case that’s in court now, the guy’s suing me for a million and a half dollars, trying to take it back from the school. All of that’s part of the story coming out in the reality show, the book. We leanin’ on that so much, we makin’ T-shirts with the court documents on there. We call it legal briefs! We got underwear on sale with motions to come to court on there!

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The September 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Rod Stewart on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Pixies, The Byrds, Jess Williamson, Liverpool’s post-punk scene, Sly Stone, Gruff Rhys, White Denim, Beth Orton, Mary Lattimore and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Oh Sees, Cowboy Junkies, Elephant Micah, Papa M and Odetta Hartman.


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