George Clinton is one of the foremost innovators of funk music, and the mastermind behind the bands Parliament and Funkadelic, also known collectively as the P-Funk All Stars or P-Funk.
To date, P-Funk has had 40 hit R&B singles, including No. 1 hits ‘Flashlight’, ‘One Nation Under a Groove’, ‘Aqua Boogie’, and ‘(Not Just) Knee Deep’.
I bagged 5-minutes with George during the IMS, just before he was interviewed in front of the Summit audience.
CB: How do you feel about being invited to The International Music Summit here in Ibiza?
I’m loving it. I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s like a new era is coming in in electronic music.
CB: You joined Nile Rodgers onstage at the IMS Legend Award Dinner? How was that?
It was great. Nile and Nona Hendryx.
CB: I guess you know Nile?
Oh I know Nile since years ago, yeah.
CB: What of the current music scene interests you?
The electronic music scene is what’s happening. It gave Nile a new start, a new life, and Pharrel is doing well. I just did a couple of records with him and Soul Clap, it’s a real big part of the electronic music scene. I’m thinking it’s going to be the next big thing.
CB: And does electronic dance music interest you at all?
Yes, I’m saying that to me it’s all the outcome of disco; hip hop, techno, it’s all the same, it’s all the same as funk to me. If you dance, and shake your booty, it’s funky. It interests me a whole lot.
CB: In 2012 you were presented with an honorary doctor of music degree from Berklee College of Music. How did you feel about that?
I was real proud of that, I had no idea that it was happening. I never took music at school or nothing like that. I appreciated the fact that they saw fit to honour me like that. We had a wonderful time there, and I’ve been doing it with the Berklee School of Music and other places such as the Stax School of Music.
CB: I read in an interview with Maceo Parker (from James Brown’s band) that he said your philosophy was that “life’s just a party”. Is that right?
I’m glad to be invited, to be asked. Maceo makes a party, you know, Maceo, Fred, all of the James Brown band, there’s always a party, like this one.
CB: You were renowned for wearing some really outrageous outfits on stage. Are you growing older gracefully or disgracefully?
I suppose I would like to be disgracefully by the time I get there. I aint gotten older yet.
CB: True. I wasn’t suggesting that you were growing old, I said growing older.
This is the way I used to dress when I was a kid, so this is probably disgracefully.
CB: What would you like your lasting legacy to be?
Copyright, an advocate for copyright.
CB: I was going to ask you about sampling, because your music has been sampled by a lot of other artists.
Yeah, we love that. We love the fact that they sampled it, but the big major companies, the publishing companies, societies like BMI they’ve actually conspired too, in a racketeering type of way, of copying all those samples and all those songs from those eras. Not any of the writers in my band that wrote all of the songs got paid. They’re supposed to get paid. A few people that did it got money to fight them, to go to court so I got Congress to help me. But I love the fact that they sampled it, but they’re making a mockery of the whole copyright system with what they’re doing. They’re trying to change the law of the land. Copyright is supposed to be protected by the government, and I want my legacy to be that we stood up for that.
CB: What plans do you have for the future?
Oh I have a reality show coming up with my grandkids. I have a book coming out about my life story and a new album for the first time in 20 years with Funkadelic. And the book and the album is together. You buy the book, you get the album.
CB: That sounds exciting. OK, I guess I’ve had my five minutes. Thank you very much for talking to me.
International Music Summit
The Summit traditionally kicks of with the IMS Business Report given by Kevin Watson, which serves to highlight the extent and importance of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) to the music business. Last year in the USA, dance music was the only genre to experience a positive growth in digital sales, and the EDM business is estimated to be worth $6.2 billion. So EDM is big business, exemplified by the fact that Calvin Harris earns more than musician Jay Z and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. IMS Business Report in full:
Mark Lawrence, Chief Executive of the newly formed Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) talked about the association and its aims. With music sales falling and revenue streams changing, it was a good time for there to be an association to look after the needs of the electronic music industry. Their aim is thus to provide recognition, reward, protection, information and preservation for the industry, and to provide a forum for debate, understanding, solutions and action, to nurture the future and protect the past.
Miles Leonard (A andR for Warner Bros./Parlaphone) talked about recent changes in record companies, and how their business models have changed, as well as their attitudes and culture. They now have a broader business, with synch teams looking after the range of different outlets (social media, digital streaming, sales, etc.) and brand teams. Up until about 1991 record companies held the power, but now artists have almost as much say, and it’s more of a collaborative/joint venture. He sees this as an important shift, and that artists are more aware of the broader business now than they used to be.
Pete Tong interviewed Paul McGuinness, who managed U2 for 35 years. Often referred to as being the 5th member of the band, he spoke openly about the early days with the band and getting them a record deal, through to their huge Zoo TV and 360˚ tours. When they formed in 1978 it took them two years to get a record deal, largely because he said they couldn’t play. Island eventually signed them, “the only label that wanted us”. However, the band had strong ideas about what they wanted, deciding to play to 50 people that wanted to see them rather than getting support slots with bands playing to 2,000 people on the chance that a few people would be interested in them. Coming from Ireland, they didn’t regard London as the gateway to the world, seeing the USA as the answer, and where they eventually had much success. Talking about their later ambitious big stage shows, he said how they were ahead of the game in using DJs, such as Paul Oakenfold for doing remixes of their songs and taking them on tour to play records as part of the Zoo TV show. This collaboration led to their dance album ‘Pop’, which was not successful. The 360˚ tour was even more technically ambitious, was very expensive to put on, had 400 people travelling with it and 200 drivers. 3 versions of the set were built, in Belgium, but the show grossed three quarters of a million dollars, from 110 shows. He told how they always wanted to embrace new technology and tried to use it first, with the audience experience and putting on a good show being the main concern.
Seymour Stein (Warner Bros.) set up Sire Records in the 70s and is credited with coming up with the term ‘New Wave’. He spoke openly about his experiences in the music business and about signing The Ramones, Talking Heads and Madonna. He got into the music business because he got hooked on rock and roll at an early age and got into the business because he wasn’t good at anything else, starting off working at Billboard doing some research, compiling the charts and doing some writing. When he set up Sire he said it was just a question of finding artists who made good music: “we didn’t really think about what we were doing”.
He heard about The Ramones from CBGBs. He sent his wife to see them because he was ill and she raved about them. So the next day he hired a studio for an hour and let them play for him. They played 18 songs in about 15/20 minutes. 3 days later they recorded their first album, co-produced by Tommy Ramone.
Talking Heads however were harder to win over. He first saw David Byrne performing when he opened for a Ramones gig, saying, “it was nothing like I’d heard before – I was sucked into the room”. Afterwards he went up and met them and said you have to be on my label. David however was very off-hand and it took 11.5 months before they signed: “I lost sleep over them”. Seymour considers them to be the greatest rock and roll band ever. He came across Madonna when he was given $18,000 to find some unknown artists to produce. He was sent a Walkman with ‘Everybody’ on it to listen to whilst he was in hospital, and she then went to visit the next day. He said of her, “she believed in herself so much, and that impressed me more”. “I knew she’d make it but I had no idea how much until after the 4th single. She’s still totally determined.” Pete Tong asked who decided which singles came out, and Seymour said that he realised early on that he should just get out of the way and let her get on with it. “When she needed me she came to me – with someone like that you give them all the freedom they need and more.” In addition, he’s had the privilege of working with many great artists from all types of music: The Cure, The Pretenders, Rezillos, Echo and The Bunnymen, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, IceT, and Seal, amongst others. But he thinks it’s a lot harder to be in the record industry today, although some areas, such as live concerts, are thriving. By selling the label to Warners he thought he’d get more support in marketing etc. His advice for getting started in the music business is, “the most important thing is the song”. He’s currently interested in emerging markets, saying that, “you should look where no-one else has looked”. Asked about the biggest difficulties, they were the things I couldn’t do anything about (being an indie label), if I’d have had a bigger A andR fund I could have signed more bands, and we should have embraced digital more. On which producers stood out, he said that Nile Rodgers is one of the best because he’s a great musician. “The best thing a producer can do is have a great rapport with the artist or band.” “I believe all artists should have creative freedom, let them pick their own producers.” Finishing on new technologies and how it’s become simpler to make music now he said, “it doesn’t matter how it’s made – for me it still revolves around the song”.
Pete Tong also interviewed Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac. Talking about how she got started, she said that she looked up to radio DJ Mary Ann Hobbs, and never aspired to be a club DJ, pursuing a career in radio by working as a producer on Radio 1, where she learnt the ropes. She was introduced to dance music when she moved to Belfast and started working in clubs and got an education into Techno and House. But it was when DJ Sneak dropped Armand Van Helden’s ‘U don’t know me’ and she saw the crowd’s reaction to it, that she saw the draw of being a DJ. But there weren’t many female DJs to look to as role models. When asked about the lack of female DJs, she replied, “I look forward to the day when I’m not asked that question”. On the way to IMS she spotted a billboard ad for Ushuaia, noting that the line-up comprised of 9 men, and joking that most of them had receding hairlines. To discover new music she trawls through what she is sent, feeling a responsibility to listen to everything, and realising that she might have to get someone to help her. Her advice for women getting into the industry: “It’s the same advice that I’d give for men. Work hard. Be passionate. Try not to use your boobs to get you places because you won’t be taken seriously. Be good at what you do. You might have to work harder to get along, so make sure you’re good.”
The closing session of the Summit was an interview with George Clinton (Parliament, Funkadelic), who now in his 70s, wowed the audience with interesting tales and anecdotes about his life and career. He confirmed the story that he was born in an outside toilet, saying that it was just a simple matter of his mother needing to use the facilities, and out he popped. He said that he still gets a huge thrill from performing live. When asked what made him want to do such spectacular performances, he said, “that was the Mothership – that’s what we came to earth with”. The idea behind the Mothership (the spaceship that was part of the stageshow for Parliament-Funkadelic for many years) was that they wanted to put themselves into the future, and there was nothing better than a spaceship. To the question, “Did you feel unstoppable?”, he replied, “we thought we could take over the world – I still think so”. He also talked freely about his battle to get financial compensation for the many samples used by other artists, something he’s working on at the moment, joking that, “instead of a drug habit, I’ve got a lawyer habit”. On working with Primal Scream on ‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up’, he said of Bobby Gillespie that he couldn’t understand what he was saying most of the time, “we were on different planets”, but they had lots of fun doing that album. When asked about how dance music compare to 70s soul, he said that there are better sound systems now, but that “the objective is to get people to dance – that’s what it’s all about”. “I’m still partial to vinyl myself – I’m not even old school, I’m older school.” George gave illuminating responses to many questions. You made your album ‘Free your mind’ in 1 day on acid – was that intentional? “We were on acid all the time.” If there was a funk-off between Sly Stone and you, who would win? “He would.” He finished off by talking about his up-coming reality show, which is going to be called ‘The Clinton’s – the first family of funk’. Three of his grandchildren have been on the road with him for 15 years and he reckoned he had about seven great grandchildren. And there’s also a book and an album coming out, “it’s getting really exciting – I get tired doing nothing – I fish”. With no plans for retiring on the horizon, the interview covered his past, present and future, and the 3-day Summit ended on a high note and with a well-deserved standing ovation for George.
IMS videos all the sessions and interviews and each one will put on the website once it has been edited: