George Clinton is an undeniable funk icon – so much so, there probably isn’t another artist as synonymous with the genre as he is.
When the icon announced his retirement from touring in April 2018, the music world was sent into a collective shock. After years of collaborating, evolving and pioneering, the legend would no longer exist in a live setting, no longer allowing funk-hungry audiences to experience his ethereal artistry.
Fortunately for us, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic will be making his way to Australia one last time for a show at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre and Melbourne’s The Forum around his Bluesfest performance.
Ahead of his appearance, we sat down with the music legend to discuss the value into continued learning, the war on intellectual property and who he believes are the voices bringing African American issues to the forefront in music.
Watch: 5 George Clinton samples you need to know
Your Bluesfest sideshow last year was excellent – I am so looking forward to getting down to the next one which is going to be the final one!
We’re having a good time in the van, jamming, it’s so spectacular. Third generation Funkadelics, along with the band, and they are killing it. So we are having a big party!
Since you are working with a lot of your family now, in terms of writing, recording, and performing is there much left for you to teach them at this stage or are you learning more from them at this point?
I’m learning from them now. They have got from me, and all the people that I’ve liked, they’ve learned from them and they’ve also got their own funk.
What’s good about it is they’ve all got different styles and they are all pretty good at their version of the funk. So when you put if all together, it’s a brand new third generation of P-Funk. And its living up to the old image of the group and some, because they bring a lot of energy.
So, what are they bringing to the table now that’s sort of shaping a newer direction?
We’ve got one of my grandsons Tra’zeal is well versed in heavy metal. Really hardcore metal, so he’s got the band playing heavy metal. I mean the band can play pretty much anything. He’s got them doing that.
My other grandson is a really good hip hop writer in the style of Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, and all the new ones out there now, and the track music from Atlanta. I’ve got the candy apple red granddaughters. They’re rock and roll, you know, and RnB, today’s type of RnB.
My daughter Nakid87 is a Cardi B type, Beyoncé, type of musician. She writes well, sings well, looks good. My son Tracey, who has been there forever. He pretty much writes all of the songs, hip hop, he pretty much is all around and I’ve got Poppy my other grandson, straight New York, New Jersey type of rapper.
I’ve got Blackbird, Lige Curry, Greggory, Benny, Denzel the drummer of Benny and the Horns. Garry Shider, who is Diaper Man’s son, used to be with us, his son is in there. There is so much. Steve Boyd, been with us forever. You know, Clip Payne has been there. So, I mean we’ve got a lot of fresh energy.
Parliament Funkadelic – ‘Bring The Funk’
So how are you feeling about leaving it all behind at this point?
Oh well, I’ve got a lot to do. So, it’s going to be good. We are going to do movies about the crew, animation, and plays, Broadway plays. I have a lot of music to write.
It’s actually inspiring me to start writing again, just trying to keep up with them. Cause most of them are so good at what they do I have to learn from them.
I heard you might have been busy with a documentary talking about intellectual property and copyright. Is that something that is on the go?
All of that, is what I’ll be doing, you know, as soon as I retire. I’ve been putting that together for the longest. You’re going to see a lot about us in the next months, about the beginning of the year. We will make a lot of announcements
You are clearly very passionate about the copyright and intellectual property side of things. Looking back, how happy are you with how your music has been used over the years?
Oh, I’m happy as hell. It’s actually becoming like classical music, I call it long tale music, it’s actually becoming like classical music, all the generations find some part of the funk that they can identify with. It keeps itself alive because of the sampling and the reissues, and people that just to cover the songs.
I’m quite happy about that, I have to go through all of these loops to actually get the rights, I actually own ‘Atomic Dog’ now, I got that back.
What advice would you have for any artists to make sure that they get the money and the credit that they deserve from their work?
From day one as soon as you start doing anything, document it, learn as much as you can about it. They have the internet now so it’s a lot easier. You can copyright stuff by performing it online, puts your seal on it.
All of that dictates the dates that you did it. Learn as much as you can about the business part of it. Most of the kids wanna make it so bad that you don’t care about making it legal.
It actually bothers you If you get a real big record and none of it belongs to you. Or someone takes it.
When did you get ‘Atomic Dog’ back? Are There still a few that you’re working on, trying to reacquire?
Oh, about a year ago. All the ones from ‘Fast Lane’, and ‘Tear the Roof Off’, and all of that, they have to wait a couple more years to get those back.
George Clinton – ‘Atomic Dog’
How have you felt about the reception to the new album?
Oh, love it! People everywhere we go, because of the internet. We pretty much film our show every day, my wife does that. That’s like our radio station. You know? We actually touring like we have a hit record.
You know, regular radio ain’t what’s happening. Its internet, that’s where the kids get their music, online. So we’ve got into that and the kids show me how to you know, social media. The new record is doing very well, both of the records are doing well ‘Shake the Gate’ and ‘Medicaid Fraud Dog’. You know the videos came out really good. Just did another video for ‘A Momma Told Me’ off of Medicaid Fraud Dog album.
It must be exciting putting a video together, after so long having so long not released an album.
Right, the first one with Kendrick Lamar and Ice Cube. The second was Scarface, you know, so. We’ve still got our connection with all of the artists around town.
The new album Fraud Dog is pretty concerned with medications and pharmaceuticals – that seems like an issue you’ve been pretty passionate about. Is that one of the bigger problems you see impacting society today?
So much so. The average person has some type of meds, or they worry about how they are going to take care of their insurance. That’s the number one problem in the political scene. The whole thing about health.
When you’re talking about health, you’re basically talking about drugs. That being the case, people have to really pay attention to the fact that drug companies are in it for the money. Like drug dealers they are going to sell you anything they can that they can get passed by the FDA.
When money is involved you can get anything passed, some lobbyist will get the shit passed, like this new opiate they got passed this last week.
The legalisation of marijuana was something that was held back for so long and is now starting to happen. Do you think it was the drug companies really pushing against that for so long?
Yeah, it’s one of those natural remedies that they don’t want you people to deal with. One of those prevention type medicines. So the drug companies don’t want that – have never wanted that – to be legal. Now it’s becoming legal, and you can see why. People are paying attention to it.
So many people own drugs legally, and they are in the same trouble as those who take the drugs illegally. They are hooked, and they can’t get off them – the side effects are worse than what they take the drugs for.
Where I grew up, it was just plain street drugs. In the hood it was basically heroin. We didn’t get introduced to pills until years later. We used to hear about barbiturates and pills, you know, but didn’t run into that too much. Now its everywhere.
You know we ran into every version of heroin. Percodan, Percocet, or whatever, those were around later on, now that’s the big thing, Oxycontin you know. Drug companies found a way to do that shit legally and people get hooked, and you know it’s hard to get off, the same as it is when its illegal.
They don’t pay much attention to it because there’s too much money, the government gets lobbied, everyone gets lobbied to make it pass.
George Clinton – ‘We Got The Funk’
Are there other issues on that scale you would tackle, or comment on in future music?
Basically, I’m obsessed with the ‘Medicaid Fraud Dog’, drug dogs sniffing drugs. They need dogs to sniff out the money people that put the money behind the drugs. That’s where my head is at right now.
Obviously, the mothership is in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American history. It must be a pretty nice feeling and you’re obviously a pioneer of Afrofuturism. Who do you see flying the flag for African American artists these days?
Right now, it’s got to be Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, they have a real hell of a sound. Childish Gambino. All of them have some funk coming out and they take chances. I’m kind of like digging on them now. There are a lot of new groups, I see them on the internet, I don’t know their names, got to start jotting down who it is.
In your career a big focus on creating characters and personas, personas that would outlive you. Do you think it’s harder for artists these days to adopt those larger than life alter egos?
I think so, because it’s about branding nowadays. You can’t sell a whole lot of records, they can download too easy. You have to find something that can supersede the charts or the records.
Give you a chance to be a superhero. Not have to worry about growing up and getting too old for your fans. Your fans are only with you for three years before they grown up and onto something else.
Unless you have characters, albums don’t sell as quick as these one singles. You know what I’m saying everything has that snap chat mentality, really short and quick. Even your career will be like that if you don’t have a character or something they can relate to.
Saturday, April 20th, 2019
Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Thursday, April 25th, 2019
The Forum, Melbourne, VIC