Photo courtesy of Nitin Vadukul
Funk legend George Clinton, with his rainbow-coloured dreadlocks and shout-outs to the Mothership, seems an unlikely authority figure.
But Dr. Funkenstein is the centre of a massive collective, and with 30 musicians onstage, someone has to control the ruckus.
“My job — I’m the police,” he said. “I direct the traffic.”
Clinton began putting together funk in 1950s New Jersey, while working as a hair straightener. He formed Parliament (which also performed as Funkadelic) and over the next two decades melded psychedelia with R&B.
During the 1970s, Parliament/Funkadelic’s roster increased to more than 50. After the group dissolved, Clinton continued recording and performing with many of the same musicians as P-Funk Allstars. Their revolving membership reflects Clinton’s interest in building a musical family.
New players join the group by jamming and sticking around, said Clinton. Ever since Parliament, the group’s experienced members have shared their musical prowess while the younger ones bring in new sounds.
Funk has since flown in a hundred directions, with influences poking up in artists like Dr. Dre and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Clinton said with its basis in psychedelic rock, he wasn’t surprised rock bands used funk, but hip-hop’s layered samples were a revolution.
“To me, it sounded like tuning into two radio stations at the same time … but on purpose,” he said. “After awhile, laying one sample on top of another started sounding normal.”
Clinton said despite these innovations, audiences have remained the same: moving, shaking and taking it to the stage. He said the Vancouver audience can expect a four to five hour set that mixes new material with classics.
“We play the first couple of hours for the fans, and the next couple for us,” he said. “Tell (people) to bring extra booty with them.”