George Clinton has been producing the baddest music the world has ever danced to. As impresario of a half dozen groups including Parliament, Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band and the Brides of Funkenstein, he has circled the globe with the funk a dozen times. He’s given us such hits as “(I Just Wanna) Testify,” “Tear the Roof Off Sucker,” “Up for the Down Stroke,” “Flashlight,” “Bop Gun” and “One Nation Under a Groove.” For the May, 1980 issue of High Times, Glenn O’Brien spoke with Clinton about why America is full of shit and whether white people got rhythm. We’re republishing the interview below on the occasion of Clinton’s birthday July 22.
George Clinton didn’t invent the funk—it’s been with us from the beginning of time—but he sure as hell has put it out there where you can work with it. George has given us more funk than anybody since James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. He has also been one of the most underrated major influences on Western civilization.
George first came to the attention of the funky public in 1968 with his first single, “(I Just Wanna) Testify.” Remember? That was with Parliament—a singing group. Subsequently Parliament’s record label went bust, and instead of waiting around for two years to get the rights to their name, they put the backup musicians up front, took acid, put on crazy clothes and became Funkadelic. The rest is funk history.
Parliament and Funkadelic became two bands in one. At least. But you could call them P-Funk too. And the split personality aspect of the band paid off in spades, aesthetically and businesswise. Parliament broke out the heaviest dance groove of the ’70s with sounds like “Up for the Down Stroke,” “Chocolate City,” “Bop Gun,” “Flashlight” and “Tear the Roof Off Sucker (Give Up the Funk).” Meanwhile, in another crazy incarnation, Funkadelic, they turned out album after album of the most bizarre fusion ever attempted, carrying on the spirit of funky psychedelics long after most people had forgotten the ’60s. But they didn’t even stop there.
Boosty Collins, a James Brown alumnus and George’s bass-playing partner in funk, spun off Bootsy’s Rubber Band while continuing as a songwriting and recording partner in P-Funk. With George, Bootsy produced several albums of the funkiest funk of all time. And since Bootsy, the P-Funk ensemble has started to turn out great solo albums under the direction of George, Dr. Funkenstein. The horn section has done it as Fred Wesly and the Horny Horns, featuring Maceo Parker, James Brown’s favorite former tenor player. (Fred Wesly, trombonist, also is a former James Brown sideman.) The backup singers have done it as The Brides of Funkenstein and Parlet, two different aggregations of lovely and funky ladies. Bernie Worrell, keyboard virtuoso and one of George’s main song-writing partners, is the latest member of the group to go solo. But now that George has begun his own record label we may assume that everyone in P-Funk will get their turn. (Not everybody could wait, however. P-Funk’s great guitarist Glen Goins and drummer Jerome Brailey split a while back to form Quazar. Glen died, and Jerome has carried on with his Mutiny on the Mamaship without Dr. Funkenstein.)
George is the impresario, the lyricist, the conceptualizer, the guru, the producer and, until quite recently, was the illumined, madcap referee of one of the wildest stage shows in the world. While George is not an amazing singer, he is an unparalleled performer in terms of funky presence. In his long white wig and paramilitary beret and shades, George dominated a stage loaded with great singers and players with his sheer funk. A natural shaman and an electronic witch doctor, he moved the P-Funk through a rhythmic spectrum of dance-motivating, mind-expanding sound.
A P-Funk concert is not just a rock concert. It’s a funk opera, a funk ballet, a funk control panel of the cosmos. It’s as high art as Sophocles and as low art as you can go. George Clinton is a poet, a philosopher, a singer and just about everything else that the funk can make one.
George recently announced his retirement from the stage. He’s not burned out, but he’s been on the road with P-Funk constantly for ten years—while putting out 21 great albums, including his latest, Parliament’s Glory Halla Stoopid (Casablanca NBLP 7195).
High Times’ Glenn O’Brien tracked down Dr. Funk in “Chocolate City” (as he calls Washington, D.C.) and “Fun City” (as we call New York), two of his favorite locations for reflecting on the state of the funk.
High Times: Can you remember when you first heard the word funk?
Clinton: It must have been around ’57 or ’58. I don’t know exactly. I remember when I first knew I wanted to do funky things, funky songs: hearing Lee Dorsey’s record of “Get Out My Life Woman”… “You don’t love me no more.” That sucker hit a primal urge for me. ’Bout made my dick hard. I knew I wanted to sing that kind of shit. Before that it was always stand-up, suits-alike groups: Cleftones, Velours, Heartbeats. Everybody wanted to be that groove. That was the cool groove that got you the pussy, got you into things. There was a quick reward for singing it. Blues and shit was your mother’s music and it was old and country, so most of the young kids didn’t want to be bothered with it.
High Times: Who else was funky at that time?
Clinton: Guess the only other one that I could appreciate was Ray Charles. I guess there was a lot of ’em. Whenever Joe Tex was doing it. James Brown of course.
High Times: How old are you, George?
Clinton: Thirty-eight. But even then James was more blues than he was funky. When he said, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” that’s when he seriously got funky. He meant it. He had a brand-new bag. Wasn’t no nickel bag either. He was really workin’ hard. He worked real hard to have the horn lines and everything right together. The uniformity, the sheer oneness of that group made it, made it seriously funky. When everybody playing everything on the one, just alike, one’s a big number. And if you’re playing it good individually, and all on the one, it can be the simplest thing in the world and it’s strong. It was about advanced rhythms. He didn’t have to say no words—it could just be “Uhh… Ahh… Good-God” or “Hit me” or hummin’ or gruntin’ or grumblin’—it doesn’t matter what you say.
High Times: Does Dr. Funkenstein have a definition for funk?
Clinton: It is forever growing. Funk can be anything it needs to be. It’s basically the rhythm of life, but it can grow all into whatever it has to be to keep one from committin’ suicide. It’s that ability to say, “Funk it! This is cool too.” ’Cause it’s a bitch to try to be what is programmed through TV as cool. It was hard as hell to be Dr. Wellsby. That’s some hard shit in real life, and after seeing it on TV and in magazines you can think that you supposed to be that way and if you ain’t there’s something wrong with you. It is that deep. But if you got a little bit of funkability, you gonna funk that shit. There’s nothing wrong with makin’ money —we try to make all we can—but the idea of lettin’ it become the dominant thang puts someone on your funk. When it starts to get commercial, it starts to get fucked up. Hippies was cool in the ’60s. Now they are selling brand-new jeans all prefaded and patched up with Fuck You patches. They dustin’ the acid.
High Times: Adulteration is a main theme with P-Funk: “Don’t want my funk stepped on…”
Clinton: It’s based on competin’ and gettin’ over at all costs. We don’t watch it. We don’t check it out. We just do it. Now they made it almost an instinctive urge. When you look at TV and see what they have as the good life, and your existence don’t look like that shit…“What kind of drink you want, Pop?” “Oh, champagne.” Dr. Wellsby got all the answers. Everybody lookin’ like they’re rich. It ain’t no such thing. In real life a lot of people is laid off. So you got people fightin’ for what they think everybody’s got but them. And then the concept that anybody can become president. If you got all that shit in the back of your head. It’s all possible. You have to work extremely hard.
You can’t be laid-back and comfortable. Either you’re a fool, a bum and no good—unless you’re lucky and get rich, then you can be eccentric. It’s all about the interpretation they put on shit. So there are people running around with their heads cut off, competin’ and fightin’, with no thoughts in their head about what that can lead to, aside from maybe some money, if they can get it. So you have people actually robbing and stealing and killing and they ask why, why they can’t maintain control. It’s impossible to maintain control with all the woo that’s aimed at you, all the advertising that says if you have this, you’ll be happy. It’s impossible to just sit back and say, “They’re full of shit. I’m not going to do nothing.” You’ll feel like you don’t exist. Nobody loves you. You won’t get no pussy. If you’re a bitch you won’t get no dick. You have to really be out here involved, to try to look what’s hip, try to be hip what’s hip. Unless you really know that it don’t mean shit and that you can make up your own set of rules. Even then it’s going to be hard until you prove it.
You got to have some media. We did it ourselves. We took the opposite of what was supposed to be cute, hip or what would get you over. It took us a long time, because ain’t nobody wants to see no ten ugly motherfuckers running around up there with bald heads, screaming, shouting and acting the fool. They were supposed to be calm and in order. We was going out the other door. Took us a long while and every once in a while we had to show ’em we could do it the other way but didn’t want to. And when you’re accepted like that, you’re accepted on a much wider scale. We could do almost anything now and it’d be cool. It just takes a little longer that way, but it’s more fun. It’s our own interpretation now and it’s out of sight. It might be crazy to a lot of people, but we’re doing it. We made that room for ourselves.
We don’t have to seriously compete with nobody. We don’t even look at competin’. The battle of the bands is a big political trap. If you battlin’ the other groups you in trouble, ’cause it ain’t you against the other groups, it’s you against the business. So most people won’t come together ’cause of all the competition. As long as you’re think-in’ about competin’, you’ll never have a chance to see who’s in the same boat as you.
High Times: Did you grow up with blues?
Clinton: The blues had to go to England to get back. Blues was so uncool for little young blacks. “Shit, man, what’s that shit, get that shit off the radio.” I was grown before I realized, wait a minute. The first Funkadelic album says it all. I was from North Carolina and I went to New York and got my head laid. I was cool but I had no groove. I got into the funk. You ain’t cool until you got into the funk.
But they’re still trying to stop New Orleans music. There is rhythms of a basic primal nature that everybody can relate to. The same rhythm is used on all TV commercials, but it’s sophisticated and it’s colored and it’s hid in the background music. And they only take certain parts, like the part that gets your attention and primes you for programming. But there’s a basic funk rhythm that everybody can relate to and get those urges off and not have to go buy nothing. All they’re doing is selling you yourself. All those advertisers are doing is selling you your own primal urges and needs and wants. But when you get this funk and all the rhythms that satisfy that nut, when you run into a mother tellin’ you this toothpaste got sex appeal, you know damn well this toothpaste don’t have no sex appeal. And you won’t try to fuck no toothpaste and you won’t get upset because your dick don’t get hard when you’re trying to get some real pussy.
Right now, people are screamin’, “I can’t come.” Everybody’s impotent. It’s only because all of the technology is pullin’ at your senses and your urges all day, so after it pullin’ at you all day, and inside primally thinking you’re getting ready to have sex and being on your guard, by the time you’re really ready to have some you’re tired and fidgety. Your body doesn’t know if you’re lyin’ again or not. ’Cause you been preparin’ to fuck toothpaste all day.
High Times: I don’t know if you know any Rastas.
Clinton: I’ve met Bob Marley.
High Times: Well, one of the things I like best about them is that they always say what they mean. You’ll never hear them be sarcastic or ironic. They say what they mean. They stand by their word. But in American society the standard of speech is so sarcastic that the most common form of humor is saying the opposite of what you mean. People will say anything just to test out how it sounds. People have no concept of standing by their words. I don’t think it’s very funny to say the opposite of what you mean.
Clinton: Either that or you have to say it different at all times. There’s no set way to say it. At one time I have no doubt that the Bible was the perfect rhythm to say all that’s in it. It all seems basically true. When you get it broke down and clear, it all seems to be the same thing that most anybody say in any religion. But to even mention the Bible is a turn-off. To even mention religion is a turn-off. I’ve been thinking that there’s a rhythm for all times and a way for all times to communicate things. As soon as you get a good communication going with people, even if it’s underground and everything, Sir Nose pop up and he put his paw in the drain of interpretation and it’s no longer safe to talk that way. That’s why slang keep developin’. Sir Nose keep getting in there.
High Times: My Gideon Bible was opened to the same page as yours in Proverbs. It says here, “A contentious wife is like a continual dropping.” That probably meant a bitchy wife is like diarrhea, but it’s lost something in the translation.
Clinton: You can say it so many thousands of ways, but whoever wrote it was poetic, and the shit will go and come.
High Times: Well, you have a lot of similar references: Roto-Rooter, Promentalshitbackwashpsychosisenema squad, the Doo Doo Chasers. Do you think America has a big bathroom problem?
Clinton: They’re full of shit.
High Times: But don’t you think it’s literally true?
Clinton: I have no doubt about that one. We just full of shit. That’s just the way it is. And the only way we gonna get it out is to realize that we are full of it. And once we realize we are full of shit, we can go on enjoying the shit for however long we need to keep doing it.
But there shouldn’t be guilt, ’cause that’s the real trap that the church, the state and the scientists got you trapped in. It’s hard to get rid of your shit, because you’re gonna start to feel real guilty when you start to educate yourself about the shit you got in you. But fuck that. Go on. You ain’t got to feel guilty. It ain’t your fault. Somebody done programmed you to be like this for a long time. You ain’t really got nothing to do with it. A lot of people think, “I don’t want to face all that shit I done did. I don’t want to face the shit I’m hung up in.” To face it makes it go away. And it ain’t your fault, so fuck feelin’ guilty.
The church really got you where you really don’t want to know. You might go to hell. You might be the devil. You is just a human computer that’s been programmed to act the fool for a minute. If you realize that’s all it is, it ain’t no reprimand to realize it. That’s a trap. No sex education. No, don’t even look at that.
You see everybody going crazy at Son of Sam. Nobody really wanted to know what that is. They all said, “He’s crazy.” That’s it. “He’s crazy. He’s not one of us.” They don’t even want their bodies in the same funeral home. We’re programmed not to understand what makes that happen and to just treat it as an isolated incident that happened to a crazy motherfucker. When, in fact, the same trip is happening to all of us, driving everybody out there. You won’t look at it if you of the church, ’cause to play some shit like that mean you got some serious animal instinct in you, and you’re being programmed through those animal instincts by somebody else. And that means that you a devilish ass.
You watch what they do for cults now since Jonestown. They’re gonna crack their asses. You better not even say, “What’s your sign?” They’re gonna wipe out all interest groups of more than three people. Four people will be a cult.
High Times: It already is in Philadelphia.
Clinton: It’s getting so systematic now. They don’t want no mixture of ideas. The deejays is gonna be like Muzak. No emotional nothing. There’s a great effort to shut us up, emotionally and intellectually. “Think. It ain’t illegal yet.”
Did you see that mind-control thing on TV the other day? It was so jive. They was trying to tell us, “We busted the mind controllers just in time.” They had a couple of scapegoats. Two of the dudes were dead. One was alive. He was expendable but he didn’t want to come on TV. They tried to make it seem like it was over. When I know the shit they was doing was amateur shit compared to the shit Manson, Cinque and them dudes was up to. And they learned it from Vacaville, a prison, where they really do the old monkey thing on ya. These dudes was do-loops from Vacaville. That’s a album, man. I’m scared to do it. But I’m gonna do it. Timothy Leary, he sound weird to me now. He was there. I have no doubt when you go to sleep there them mothers fuck with you. But I think now it’s so sophisticated they ain’t even got to get you in prison to do it no more.
High Times: They can probably just put the beam on your head.
Clinton: Hey, man. You know the dude from Hustler? They just rhythmatically drew some vibe… with enough of that writing about his conviction and his pornography and his religion. You get those two together and boy, you got the sacred fire. Those are the two that they ain’t never want you to have, ’cause they got that one and they don’t want you to fuck with that. They don’t like pornography. Pornography deal with it on that low level like funk. Not hiding too much and giving you a lot of it. Which means eventually you’ll get educated. You’ll see the real trip in it all. The novelty will wear off and you’ll have to see the joke in it. Or it’ll just be plain life. It won’t mean shit. But that a little bit at a time. Playboy having subliminal sex behind the page—that shit is just too erratic. You don’t know what the picture is. You don’t see real life in it. When it sneak up on you like that it gets a little erratic.
They don’t even need the beam to get you. They don’t have to go hire nobody. They got us so rhythmatically fucked up now that if they write certain things in a certain rhythm, people are drawn to write it that way in a magazine, the news is prone to report it that way on TV, it will pull a do-loop out of the audience of the world and he will show up and bang. And you can’t never tell which side he’s on. He might be on the pornographers’ side. “You’re slandering pornography with God!”
They can infiltrate you. That’s why it’s not safe to be no serious leader, ’cause if you’re a serious leader you will be the martyr for whatever happens to you. And people will put an interpretation on you. When you start gettin’ too visible, when you start gettin’ too many followers, when you start sayin’, “I am it” then they’ll exploit that part of you that’s in all of us, a subinstinctive, survival, animalistic thing way back in the primal brain with no thoughts or nothing.
High Times: But working with the funk you’re not saying, “I am it.” You’re saying, “This is it.”
Clinton: The funk is it. I would not be it. No way. That’s why there’s gonna be a lot of us. I didn’t start it and I ain’t it. It’s coming through me, but it don’t live here. I’ll be one with it, but it’s not yours to be. That part of the funk is in everybody free. And all religions sell somebody is their own ability to hyperventilate and feel good. That’s all you be doing when you be singing in church. Hare Krishnas do the same thing. All it is is chanting till you get past that point of attention span when you transcend it and you feel good. Holy and sanctified people —I used to be amazed at ’em talkin’ about they see God. But I know these little old ladies didn’t lie. They felt something. And I found out that at a certain point in any rhythm you just trip right on out. Acid was the same thing. It made you breathe in rhythm until your head exploded. Funk is the same thing. We’re saying, “Hey, that’s yours. If you want to do it at home with your records, it’ll work.” It ain’t nothing but your own ability to get a cheap high.
When somebody’s selling it to you over a political speech and it sound good—bullshit. It’s you making yourself feel excited ’cause they know the key words and rhythms to get you started. But that shit is ultimately you. You can do it yourself. Freedom, love, national unity—there are certain words that politicians know are primal. Also abortion, antiabortion, homosexuality… And masses of people can be much more stupid than one person can be. If somebody’s manipulatin’, you better know you’re susceptible to it. Not just “Yeah, yeah, yeah, right on.” With the funk you have a choice—to say, “Those mothers are silly.” There’s so many variations of what the funk can be that you still got your choice to be whatever in the end is you.
We have no concepts of good and bad. It’s just all life. To look at things one way or another, you’re being set up to like one and dislike the other. And when they get tired of you liking this then they’ll make you switch it, ’cause you will get bored. And then they’ll call you perverted ’cause you switched and God was watchin’ you and you got to get back and it’s all confusin’, and what the fuck am I doing here? And when you jump they say, “Why did you lose control?” And they be making unisex it while telling you to be a real man or a real woman. Everybody’s saying, “I don’t understand how people can do that,” and they ain’t more than a few block behind ’em. And if you don’t know you’re doing it, you’ll be doing it in giant steps. You’ll be right behind the dude that did the crazy shit. And you’ll be saying, “I was only kidding, I didn’t mean it the same way he did.”
Logic is out to lunch. Everybody wants to say, “Why do they do that?” Anybody that can say, “Why do a junkie become a junkie?”—that’s full of shit. Valiums and Libriums. If you go to the doctor’s office and you don’t get a prescription you’ll feel like you been cheated. It’s a drug society. So somebody else can’t afford the serious Medicare, so they get a $5 bag and they get strung out on that end of it. It ain’t nothing but degrees, and the lower the degree the more fucked up you’re gonna get that’s the only difference. The higher the degree, the more sophisticated you are. But I don’t know about that. Rich and sophisticated seems like the punishment for being rich and sophisticated. It might be horrible to be rich and martinied and Valium’d. That’s a deep one. Maybe the junkie way out ain’t the real grind. They know they ain’t did it. When they get busted for shit they know they been programmed and pushed. And because of that they think they can fight it. God damn! Fuck!
High Times: Well, if you were President George what would you do about heroin?
Clinton: It’s the causes. Forget the heroin. They should never even get to that. It’s about all the erratic rhythms that you can come up with. But it’ll be really rough now, because we had this so long that we’re into it and it’s programmed. To ask people to break a lot of habits can be erratic too. But the solution has got to be education of all the biorhythm fuckup that’s been made. And people will have to think their own individual ways out of it.
High Times: What do you think about white people and the funk?
Clinton: They’ve got their rhythm. And they can dance to the funk. Anybody can do the funk. It just takes exposure.
High Times: The average American watches six hours of television a day. Do you think there’s hope of beating that control system?
Clinton: Yeah. Everybody’s gonna start being stupid and silly and funny and start dancing and having a good time and just disregard it on a light, head-trip level. The same thing that happened in the ’60s, but it’ll be mental this time, not physical. It won’t be like long hair. It’ll be overground, not underground. It will be head communication. Sir Nose will try to follow us, but he won’t do it. You’ll do whatever you need to do and keep your eye on Sir Nose this time, give him the respect that he’s always gonna be there, he’s never gonna go nowhere. ’Cause you ain’t never going to be seriously happy. The pursuit is what’s happening. If you’re happy, you ain’t got nowhere to go.
High Times: Are you really retiring from the stage, or is this a fake?
Clinton: Dear me, no. This is definitely the thang. But you know I ain’t saying I ain’t gonna jump on stage with Bootsy if he come through town, Parliament or Funkadelic. But I’m talking about a road thing, because now I feel the pressure of having to keep the hits out there and trying to keep the group alive. And it ain’t easy no more. When you get a “Knee Deep” that’s almost sold a million and you can’t get nowhere near crossover or exposure… I know I have to keep putting out that kind of record. I just might as well get used to it. All I can do is not have to do the road thing. I have to do it with Bootsy and the Brides and Parliament and pretty soon they’ll get frustrated if I have to divide my time between all of them and the stage too.
I’ve planned this. For a couple of years I’ve been singing less and less onstage and Gary’s been doing more and more and Michael’s been doing more and more, and now Philippe is there. And they are all peaking now. So it’s the best time in the world to do it. It’s about the singer now. It’s got a lot of voices now. They’re really singing. It’s been a serious, thought-out thing and I think I can get away with it right now. I’ve got to. Otherwise I couldn’t do it all. And I’ve got Uncle Jam that’s being formed, my own label. And I’ll still be doing the records with the groups.
High Times: Are you going to produce James Brown?
Clinton: Well, we did a record together, James, Bootsy and myself. That’s going to be on Uncle Jam Records. It’s called “Go for Your Funk.” We did three tracks so far. It’ll be an album before we finish it. I did it for history. I played it for a few people and everybody liked it, but they wanted to keep the interpretation that it’s just another record. I know this is history and it ain’t gonna be played as just another record. So I had to save it until we had our own label, so that whether it’s a hit or not it will be treated like the history it is.
High Times: Could you imagine producing rock groups, like new wave-type rock groups?
Clinton: I can’t consider it now, cause I’m leaving the road now just to be able to do what I have to do on my own. Now once I get off the road and get caught up and get everything going I’d really like to work with a couple of groups. The Talking Heads thing, I could dig that. I saw them on TV. And just for an outlet into another thang.
Funk and rock should bridge anyway, especially right now because they’re in the same boat with the industry not wanting to see a return of the ’60s: the rock ’n’ roll superstars and rock ‘n’ roll funk stars, no more Jimi Hendrix, Beatles, Led Zeppelin. It’s totally against this now, that superstar personality. Rollerball is a reality now. So a relationship better be forged between rock stars, rhythm-and-blues stars, ’cause they want mechanical stars so they can tell ’em to stop when they want. If you get too popular they set you down or tell you to quit. That’s not gonna happen with the funk.
I say I’ll get out and I’ll make the funk more powerful. The group will still be alive—Funkadelic and Bootsy and the Brides—and I’ll be able to put more energy into it. The band will be on the road much more. They’d rather work all the time. They hate to be off. Now they have to wait for me to rest or to be ready to go. So I’m doing this last one. But I don’t come out until about the fourth song and by then the group done killed ’em. They still be happy to see me. But it’s established that these mothers are just playin’ and they can handle their own shit. But I got no choice. I know if I did this another year the records would catch hell, I’d be a tired ass, and it won’t work either. So it’s a lucky thing. And if I need some rock ’n’ roll star vibe, I’ll just put on my shit and go out to the airport and pinch myself. Or I’ll go visit whoever’s in town and jump on the stage with ’em. I ain’t saying I’ll never be on the stage again. But I’ll be in the studio and then I’ll be able to aim a lot of funk at ’em.
High Times: They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Clinton: Unless they fuck it up. Naw, it’s cool. If they got any funk in them, I’m grateful. Shit.
High Times: What do you think about Mutiny on the Mamaship? [A brilliant funk concept album by former P-Funk drummer Jerome Brailey, an unauthorized departure from the concepts of P-Funk—Ed.]
Clinton: Slander with a backbeat. Naw, it’s cool. Any form of funk is cool. As a matter of fact I like it. ’Cause that makes people rap. It’s the same vibe we use on Let’s Take It to the Stage. I think it could have been a better record.
Jerome—and that little horn player—he can really do good stuff. Once they get the P-Funk thing out of their head—they’ll still be mutinies and stolen treasure chests and everything else—but I think we should get together on it. It’s really hard to separate those fans. The funk is just comin’ of age itself. To have it torn down from within… People have to know we’re playin’ with each other. We did it on Let’s Take It to the Stage: Tuff, Hot Air and No Fire, Fool and the Gang, James Clown. On the new album there’s Slick James, Donna Bummers, Mick Jagoff. Whoever’s hot, we take a poke at ’em. It’s on the fun side, but if they want to wear us out back they have to meet us on the stage.
High Times: Sometimes you’d think there’s something to it.
Clinton: Yeah, I know. It’s meant to lead you to think there’s something to it, but in the final analysis, we would not refuse to be on stage with anybody and we would not apologize if anybody took offense to it. People have got to know that we’re goofy anyway. We started with Let’s Take It to the Stage. We were serious in the beginning, till I realized there was no sense in being mad with ’em.
We were serious with Earth, Wind and Fire, of all people. We went to a gig and they wouldn’t let us play. We was hungry as hell and when they found out it was us on the show, they said they didn’t have that kind of stuff on their show and they wouldn’t let us play. We had drove about seven hundred miles and were hungry, so I think I did have a little attitude. After I had something to eat I could see where they were coming from, so I wasn’t really mad, but I kept the feud as a way of poking fun. And then I started poking fun at everybody. Then I started poking fun at the business. ’Cause it was about who’s the star of the show, who would pull the plug on who, who would turn the sound down on who. There was so much of this going down. The sound companies always ask the headliner, “Do you want us to keep the power down on the first two acts?” We realized this is a regular thing. They do this shit to each other. So we did “Let’s Take It to the Stage.” Believe it or not it quieted down. You don’t hear too much of that no more—pulling the plug, having power surges on each other. I think we brought that one down front, the out and out joke of it. And then the thing about playing with each other. That’s why we had Bootsy and the Brides, ’cause we couldn’t get nobody to play on a show with us and we couldn’t be on nobody else’s show. But now it’s the easiest thing in the world to be on anybody’s show and they can be on ours.
High Times: I didn’t realize that you were so controversial that nobody would tour with you.
Clinton: We wasn’t that big. We was just breaking into it. The first one to take us around the country was Chaka [Khan]. We went on tour with her two or three times in a row, and that was really cool. But some of the other tours we went on… We was on tour and I won’t mention the two groups’ names but they used to pull guns on each other every night. That was really sick, having people turn the power down on you. They’d come on with little Fenders and the shit would sound big as hell, and we’d come on with more equipment than anybody and you couldn’t hear anything. So it was about making friends with everybody, not letting nobody be mad at you, and if you wanted to be mad at them, it was about not letting that take place. And I think we mastered that pretty good, ’cause there ain’t hardly nobody that don’t like working with us.