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GEORGE CLINTON Bring The Funk

George-Clinton_IMS_pq
Soul legend George Clinton and his immortal band, Parliament-Funkadelic, will be gracing the West Coast Blues And Roots Festival on Sunday, March 29, 2015 in Fremantle Park.  DAVID JAMES YOUNG checks in. “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 Blues And Roots, 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!”

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