Taken from WEBSITE (Nov 02, 2017)
Staying On The One: Bootsy Collinsâ€™ Favourite LPs
by Luke Turner
Bootsy Collins helped define the sound of funk, working with Parliament and James Brown, who taught him the mysterious concept of The One. In this Bakers Dozen, he talks to Julian Marszalek about those times & why he couldn't leave home without dropping acid and listening to Hendrix
Bootsy Collin's colossal talent is matched only by his modesty. Having helped alter the course of music with his ground-breaking bass playing not once but twice â€“ first with James Brown's move into harder, tougher and altogether grittier funk territories with bona fide classic tracks like 'Get Up (I Feel Like Being A (Sex Machine)' and 'Super Bad', and then with George Clinton's acid-fried psychedelic funk circus that included Parliament, Funkadelic and his own Bootsy's Rubber Band â€“ you'd be well within your rights to expect to find a man only too glad to revel in his own achievements. Especially as you could argue that he's steered musical history a third time given the sheer volume of samples that have been taken from his work.
But no; not a bit of it. The Bootsy Collins who talks to tQ down the line from Cincinnati is unfailingly polite, funny and in genuine awe of the music that he's been part of. His position as a fan of James Brown, George Clinton, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker and so many others is palpable and frequently touching. And while he's aware of his own considerable talents, he's not slow to pay tribute to those who nurtured and developed them. It was James Brown who taught the young bassist the concept of The One - the source of all funkiness and the first beat in a measure â€“ and then George Clinton who got Collins to stretch that idea out into something genuinely fresh and new. But all credit to Bootsy Collins for delivering the goods and setting the template for what bass guitarists coild achieve when setting their sights below the neck.
In short, Bootsy Collins is a genuine original and innovator.
And now he's back with World Wide Funk, his first new album in six years. An absolute riot of infectious and irresistible funk that deserves to be heard through a bloody massive soundsystem with the volume turned to the max, the album finds Bootsy Collins working with a number of high profile rappers including Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh and Chuck D as well as musicians such as former Guns N'Roses shredder Buckethead and singer Iggy Pop. But in a move that recalls his own youth, Bootsy has also been joined a host of young and upcoming talent that includes singers Tyshawn Colquitt and Kali Uchis, as well as bassist co-producer Alissia Benveniste among many others.
Having recovered from a tumour on his ear, Bootsy Collins is talking to tQ from his office in Cincinnati through his favourite 13 albums and the impact that they've made on both his life and music. Though we can't see him, it's difficult not imagine him to be sat on a chair with stack-heeled boots resting on his desk, a massive hat resting on his head and star-shaped sunglasses sat on his face. And it's impossible not to smile out loud when Bootsy advises your correspondent to â€śstay on The One, man!â€ť
Bootsy Collins - World Wide Funk
What really makes me feel fresh is working with young people and that new energy. I'd been doing that up until the point of making World Wide Funk and I figured that I should continue that because I didn't really want a whole album of featured star artists. I wanted people that had either been forgotten or the ones that nobody knows. It's time for them to get spotlighted by somebody, you know?
There's been a gap between albums because it isn't about simply making music; it's about making something special. It's a special selection of universal ideas. It's not just coming up with songs; I've got songs all day long but if I ain't given what to do, then I can't do it. But this album was given to me from the universe. I keep my ears open and that's why you've got the Mothership because my ears and my eyes and my receivers were open. You can't do that week after week, year after year; you have to wait until it comes to you.
Parliament â€“ Chocolate City
It started to feel like we were onto something new and different. It's kinda like a baby forming and you don't know what it is yet and that's what that early music felt like. It felt like we were doing something. I didn't know exactly what it was - and still don't actually know what it was - but I had my reference points. Looking back to when I was with James Brown, I know how to go back and get that James Brown sound and it's nothing I have to think about. What I don't know is how to do something new and that's why this album, to me, is a landmark. It's one of those goals that I always be looking for; to do things that I don't know how to do. I didn't know how to do it until I went through the Chocolate City and Mothership Connection and that whole Funkadelic time really taught George and I that it was something special burning. We were doing something special but we didn't really know it at the time.
And we didn't give a funk what others thought about it; we were just doing it. It felt good. Radio weren't playing it and we were cool with that because we were on the road and the fans were having a great time; that's what we were keyed in on. I didn't know nothing about music for the radio and really didn't wanna know. I just wanted to do what I felt.
Working with George Clinton and James Brown was completely different. Things were very disciplined with James and much looser with George but I don't think I could've done George proud if I hadn't have done the James Brown training school first. All of my tidiness and all of my organisation as a player, I learned all that from James Brown. I learned about The One and The One had all of it together.
It was a natural thing for me but learned to put the emphasis on it with James. The band who played with him before us, they always kinda played pretty much what James wanted and with us, he didn't want that. He wanted the freshness of the street vibe that was going on. I didn't know we had a street vibe â€“ I just wanted to play! I didn't know that I was playing a whole lotta stuff until he told me. He was like, â€śYou're a bass player!â€ť so he was the one who settled me down and told me, â€śPlay all that stuff that you wanna play and the stuff that you're hearing but give me The One.â€ť Once I started doing that, he said [adopts a pretty good James Brown impression]: â€śYes! That's it, son! That's what I'm talking about!â€ť Once I got that vibe down when I was recording, it started showing up and that's the vibe I took from there to George Clinton.
When George heard it, he didn't even know how to count The One â€“ plus he was colour blind! He was pretty messed up in a good way and that's what made him George. By him not knowing where The One was at, it gave me the freedom of showing him. And when he started getting it, he really got it! Then he wanted me to do it more so then everything kinda fell right into place.
Everybody who was there brought something to the table and I just happened to bring a lot of stuff and George wanted it all! And he pretty much did get it all!
It was good for everybody, you know?
Bootsy's Rubber Band â€“ Stretchin' Out In Bootsy's Rubber Band
This was the best experience I ever had because nobody knew what they were doing! I had no idea! 'Stretchin' Outâ€¦' was the last song to put on the album. We were in New York and George and I getting ready to turn it in and we started talkin' and talkin' because stuff was just kept flowing; tracks, lyrics, everything was just flowing. Every day you wanted to change something. George was asking, â€śAre you sure we've got every thing on this record that we really wanna turn in?â€ť I remember we didn't even have the title for it, and I said, â€śNo. Maybe we need to stretch it out a little furtherâ€ť and George then said, â€śYeah! Like in a rubber band!â€ť and that's where the name came from.
And that was also us leaving New York and going to Detroit to record Stretchin' Outâ€¦. So we knocked out two birds with one stone because you got the name of the album and the song that introduces the album. It was like a storybook. It couldn't have happened more perfecter. Hey, I don't know if that's even a word but it couldn't have been no perfecter!
It was crazy with the engineer because every time he saw me coming, he'd put his hands up going, â€śOh no! Not Bootsy and all his shit!â€ť It was drama, man!
It was fun but it was drama at first because nobody understood. And I couldn't explain it! George didn't know what it was but he was just going with it and he had sense enough to leave it alone and us to do what we were doing. He didn't know what I was feeling but what he knew that whatever it was, it was was good and that it was funky. He was like, â€śWhatever you just did and whatever you're talking about, just do it!â€ť
George allowed me to do my thing, and then his thing, and it was a perfect scenario. I'd been with James but he wouldn't have allowed me to do what I wanted to do, but it was good because it helped discipline me. It gave me that other side that I never got home because I never had a father in the house. James Brown was a like my father to me and I got everything I needed from the father side from him. When I got with George, he was like a big brother and I didn't feel as if I had to explain myself.
Lonnie Mack â€“ The Wham Of That Memphis Man
I probably first heard this around the time it came out, around '64 or '65. When I heard this, that's when I wanted to play guitar. My brother was playing him all of the time. I used to hear my brother talking about Lonnie Mack a lot and then I started finding out for myself who he was.
I never got the chance to meet him until I was grown. We got awards for something and I told him onstage how much he meant to me. He looked like was going to cry! Nobody had any idea that Lonnie Mack could be affiliated with the funk like this, you know?
I love the energy of his playing. It was pure down home and gutsy and funky. That stuff he was doing was funky to me, you know? I couldn't explain that then but after the fact it was like, wow! And then when I went to hear him live, it was even more funky! I was like, â€śDear God!â€ť
He was pretty amazing to me.
Sly And The Family Stone â€“ There's A Riot Goin' On
This is a very dark album but really, it's how it was when it came out. Bands were moving in that direction of being the stars. That was the time of the bands and they coming up front, instead of just playing behind singers. And in that kind of movement, their timing was perfect.
And those songs and what they were singing about! It was like every song on that album is like, wow! It touches you somewhere in your heart about what was going on. It wasn't just the songs; there was a vibe Sly had, also. It was fresh and it was new and there really was nothing like it, you know? When you look at that era Sly was the only one that could do that in the way that James Brown was the only one who could do that !You could have a lot of people trying to sound like it but James and Sly were the ones to do that .
We spent a lot of time together; we were on the road together. He started opening for us. This was long after this album came out, like in the 80s, after he'd been away for a while and he was on the comeback trail. He would open for George and myself. We had a heck of a time riding in limos together and we'd talk shit, y'know, in hotels and acting the fool.
Sly and I stayed together in Detroit. I've actually got tracks that we recorded there. He would play guitar and drums and I played bass and then we'd switch around and there was a bunch of stuff that we just did when George gave us studio time. Will it ever see the light of day? Oh yeah! Oh yeah! It's all about that getting to it. I mean, we had a blast! It was a good time.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience â€“ Are You Experienced?
You've got to understand that this was around the time I was dealing with James Brown, or just before, and I was listening to this new thing, Are You Experienced?. So I had started taking LSD. I couldn't leave the house before listening to this album while tripping. And anybody else who was with me had to be tripping too!
We used to sit in this little, small room with this black light and Jimi's pictures up over the bed. We'd just sit there on the bed because there was no place for chairs and the black light had everything glowing and I had my incense going and we were listening to Jimi Hendrix. And there weren't nothing like it!
Let me tell you, Jimi Hendrix, Howlin' Wolf and Miles Davis were the three artists that I had to listen to before I left the house. Once I got my dose, I was good to go! I was fixed for three days!
It was an incredible experience and it was out of this world. It's something that I couldn't even imagine doing now. It was so deep that I don't even know how I did it back then. It was something else because you have to be guided through those kinda things; it was like a maze. It's hard to get through when you're straight but when you're tripping, you ain't even thinking about it. You don't even belong to yourself.
Howlin' Wolf â€“ The Howlin' Wolf Album
I loved his howlin' and the gutbucket. And what he was singing about was like, â€śI'm built for comfort and not for speed.â€ť If you listen to the lyrics and what he was singing about and that raw, raw music that him and Willie Dixon and the other were putting togetherâ€¦ I didn't have an agenda for listening to music, but these artists with these songs just happened to strike me at that particular time. It didn't have to be in a certain category but it was just something about those songs!
When I tripped, I had to have me some Bitches Brew, I had to have some Santana and it wasn't because these songs were like hits or what they play on the radio every day. When you go back and look, these guys were kinda like underground and then the public finally caught on. But I was listening to that stuff when it came out. And was thinking, this is the stuff â€“ these are the cats that I'm paying attention to. They're not using a formula to make hits; they don't know what they're doing but they're doing it. And that's the way I wanted to be.
Miles Davis â€“ Bitches Brew
Oh man! I had no idea what this was about but it took me further and further and further away! I mean, wow can you get any further than listening to Jimi on acid? Then you gotta listen to Bitches Brew! It don't compete but this is the one thing that can really keep you out there. I was looking for things that would keep me out there because Jimi had already took you out there. So it was like, â€śOK, so how do I stay out here?â€ť And Bitches Brew is a good start!
Once you start tripping, you need something to hold onto and so these were the songs that I would always go back to when I didn't know what else to do. I'd start my day with it and I'd get to the point where I'm tripping so bad I'd play these songs to bring me back a little bit and I would be cool again.
And the music Miles was making then most definitely had an influence over me. I wasn't analysing what he was doing because in my mind I don't think I knew how to analyse what people were doing; that wasn't in my make up. Y'know, if I loved something then I just loved it for what it was. I wasn't trying to figure it out because the pleasing thing for me was how it made me feel. The idea that somebody could do this were the appealing things to me; that somebody could actually do this and that kinda opened doors for me. My stuff wasn't even a scratch in the wall but if these cats were doing this, then I could do anything. That's the thing that kept coming to me. I just had to stay on it and stay at it and one of these trip might bring up something. That was the thing that kept coming to me.
The last trip that I did, I got so sick. It was such a bad trip that I stopped doing it. But it was after the fact when I was got everything that I was supposed to get because acid was going out and cocaine was coming in. But that's a whole 'nother storyâ€¦
But Bitches Brew sure worked its magic.
Blood, Sweat And Tears â€“ Blood, Sweat And Tears
What they did with the horn section and the rhythm section was just amazing. And then the singer! I mean, I was tripping listening to that stuff! Blood, Sweat And Tears and Chicago Transit Authority, you couldn't beat it. And it all wound up helping me develop what I was hearing [in my head]. Anything that I wrote, or anything that I'd come up with, Blood, Sweat And Tears â€“ because of he rhythm and horns â€“ were always in the back of my mind. The arrangements and the hits just blew me away.
I wouldn't say that I wanted to push what they were doing any further, but I wanted to do it in my own way. Nobody could it no better than them. It wasn't about trying to out do them doing what they do, it was more about finding my own space with what I heard. It wasn't about trying to be them because you just can't. They had it down to a science. It was a signature sound and when they played together you knew it was them.
James Brown â€“ Live At The Apollo
What's it like to play with someone of this stature having grown up with their music? Y'know what, man? I've been trying to figure that one out! I really have. I don't even think my words would do it justice to describe what it feels like.
James Brown was so huge at the time. I didn't even think I was going to get the chance to meet him. We started meeting his band over at King Records and that was big enough for me. That was the biggest thing that I figured would happen; that maybe we'd meet some of the band members. And when that happened, then I was happy. If nothing else had happened, I'd still be great. I met Bobby Byrd, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Clyde Stubblefield, Jabo Starks and those guys would wind up in my band! I can't explain none of that. It's mind-boggling!
I can't say that I felt intimidated when I joined the band. When you're a kid and you're coming in off the street you have a cocky attitude, anyway. I wanted to learn so I knew that these were my heroes and I knew that I needed to learn from them. These cats did it for me, so I never thought about discrediting them because those cats gave me something to look at that maybe I could do at some point. And the whole thing was about being in a band; not just James Brown. We were all so tight and so when we got together with James Brown, he just made us better. He made us the best we could be.
Earl Van Dyke â€“ The Motown Sound
I never got a chance to meet The Funk Brothers until we did that video together and that was around 2002. I was a fan around them then just like I was when I was a kid. That stuff, for me, never changes. Even with Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, I'm still like a fan!
The thing about Motown at that particular time, it was like house parties and socials and dances every weekend and me and my brother, Catfish, we loved to be there. We loved it! And Motown pretty dominated the events. I got it drilled into my ears a lot! That was right before my LSD days for me.
The thing about Motown was that it was all about keeping it together. The way we were coming up weren't nothing that was together. Motown helped bring people together and maybe it was because the people who made it were so together and the vibe was so together. And it felt good.
The Counts â€“ What's Up Front That Counts
Oh, man! I met them when I played on my first outing with Funkadelic and we did a show together: it was us, it was The Counts and it was War. The Counts were opening and we became so close and so tight with The Counts. They were a three-piece and they had organ, guitar and a drummer and they were just so on it, man. And the music they made was like a cross between the church, funk and the blues. It kinda grabbed me real good and they stabilised the high by kinda making you feel like you were grounded. That foundation that they had was so solid.
The Ohio Players â€“ Skin Tight
I knew The Ohio Players before they even had records. They were playing around Cincinnati around the time that we were. This was before we got together with James Brown were they were the first professional group that I'd ever, ever seen. They were just so on it. To me, they were better before the records and I got to feel the stuff they didn't know they was doing. When they started to make records, they made records to make records, you know? But before that, they was raw; so raw. I got a chance to see that and they'd really put on a show.
And so any time The Ohio Players was anywhere within 100 miles of Cincinnati, all the musicians would show up and they'd want to be on the first seating because they wanted to watch. These cats were so dominating when they first came up on the scene. When they started making records, that's when they started to get popular. And I'm not saying they stopped making a good show but it wasn't like it was when they didn't make records. I got a chance to see that and feel that up close.