The Power of the One is the title of the new album by James Brown bassist-turned-Parliament mainstay-turned-solo funk superstar Bootsy Collins. It is also the name of his personal philosophy, one which he believes we should all pursue in these divisive times.
"The power of one is all of us together," says Collins. "We all are this one ship, this earth, and we've got to get together and hit things as one people - the tragedy that's going on or something that's good that's going on in the world. It's all of us together coming down on the one. I got it from James Brown. His thing was, the first count of every bar one was the one you emphasized. I just made it a broader point."
Below, the bassist talks more about his new album - whose guest artists include Snoop Dogg and jazz great George Benson - and why he loves a very old TV show.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, I was playing the title track from The Power of the One on a recent Friday night and my neighbor texted to see if he could come around because it sounded like I was having such a great time.
BOOTSY COLLINS: [Laughs] Did you invite him over?
No. It was a bit late.
Right. [Laughs] Tell him to get his own copy, right?
But such is still the power of Bootsy Collins' music!
Oh, man. Well, that's good news. You never know. You try to put stuff together and all you can do is just throw it out there and say, "I hope you like it." We're getting really good feedback.
How did the lockdown affect the way you made the album?
It hit while we were actually doing the recording, and we do a lot of in-studio work, with people coming in. When COVID hit, it was like, What do you do now? I started to send songs out to different people and talking on the phone, and back and forth with email, instead of reacting in the studio. It became a new way of doing things. COVID gave me the chance to research some of the rough stuff I've got. Snoop happened to be on this one that we hadn't finished. I was like, Oh, yeah, I've got to get back to this. It's called "Jam On."
What was it like working with George Benson?
Oh, man, he was such a joy. We've been passing, doing so many different gigs together, festivals and all these years. We always talked about getting a chance to hook up some day but we never did. For me, it was just so exciting because, you know, because he was playing before I was, so he was a hero of mine. I always looked up to him, but never got a chance to really play with him. This was really a privilege for me to get the opportunity to play with the great George Benson who has played with all of the jazz greats. And I thought by doing that it would show people as well that everything can kind of work together if you let it work. [Laughs]
Speaking with you, you seem like such a positive person. Has that been tested in 2020?
Oh my god. I mean, every day. Every single day. The good part about it is, I'm so used to the bad times, I guess you would say. I've experienced that kind of stuff coming up, in my life. It ain't really new, you just have to figure out new ways of dealing with stuff. But I take the same attitude I've got about everything, and that's go at it with a smile and you can make it through. I guess that's from my mother. She was so powerful with her every day dealings. Her back was so strong. I only wish I had a quarter of the strength that she had.
I always got off with making people feel good, playing this music so you can groove, make you feel good. I always got off on that. I think it had something to do with the time we came up and the hippie days. People were having fun. We're not really used to this lockdown thing - and separation. Everybody got their own room, everybody got their own phone. I mean we were blessed to have a phone in the house! Or even a television! And everybody's got their own everything now and you can carry it in your hand! So, it's a different day, and you have to either grow with it and learn how to accept it, embrace it, or else you become a dinosaur. And I refuse to be a dinosaur, because I'm here to grow, to keep learning.
What's a normal night in like for Bootsy Collins?
Normal for me is waiting to get inspiration, whatever the song is, whatever the slogan is. I've always got a pen and paper ready, because I'm always expecting something good. It drowns out the craziness that's going on.
You never just kick back and check out some Grey's Anatomy?
Well, actually, my favorite show is Gunsmoke, believe it or not. Gunsmoke really lets me know how far along we are. [Laughs] Because that was when stagecoach was first class! So, come on, man!
Last question, Bootsy. How many top hats do you own and where do you keep them?
[Laughs] How many top hats? Oh my god. Well, actually, we keep them in a couple of places and then we've got the roadcases that we've still got stuff in. I haven't counted them. I have no idea. They just keep stacking up.
I'm going to put you down for 50.
Yeah, yeah. Okay. That's in there. I know it's probably many more. But that's good enough.