*George Clinton, the man behind Parliament, Funkadelic and the P-Funk All-Stars, recently announced that next year will be his last year on the road, as he is leaving the group in the hands of the musicians he’s worked with and trained for years, per forbes.com.
The music legend chopped it up with the publication recently about saying goodbye to the road, mixing family and music and his passionate views on the drug crisis in America, which he describes as: “One nation under sedation.”
Check out excerpts from the conversation below, and scroll up to watch a very interesting and insightful interview between Mr. Clinton and Killer Mike.
Steve Baltin: How is the tour going so far?
George Clinton: It’s going great. I’m just resting up, I had a pacemaker put in, I’m excited about the years ahead. I’m directing the band and they’re tearing the place up.
Baltin: As a bandleader and director how much pride do you take in having a band that you can leave your incredible legacy to when you retire next year?
Clinton: It’s everything. Individually I’ve had a bunch of superstars and I’ve got superstars that are brand new I’ve been working with for the last three years as we activated the whole thing, Parliament and Funkadelic for today’s world. So I’m basically just being what I’ve been to other artists, inspiration. Over half of them are my grandkids and my kids, so the rest of them have been in the band forever, the musicians. So that merger is working so good that they can do it now.
Baltin: Why do you think both Parliament and Funkadelic still work for today’s world?
Clinton: It always relates to the kids, the most youngest of the kids. By the time the teenagers get to be teenagers they already old-school. The ones that really set the fire of the bubblegum, they’ve always been 12 and 13, it’s always been the ones that started it off. And with the internet you can see it way ahead of time. Five and six years old you can watch them and see the next thing that’s getting ready to hit, you can see that long before it ever hits their screens.
Baltin: You mention the internet, but how did you find your music and what were those first songs that spoke to you?
Clinton: Those first songs it was always gonna be word of mouth either through fans or we all pretty much heard them the same time on the radio. We all listened to the same shows on the radio in the ‘50s and since rock and roll was just being born in ‘55 or ‘56, that was the beginning of the Go, Man, Go (British radio show), Jitterbug, getting it from all kids, from teenyboppers, always 11, 12 years old, those were the ones who was talking about who they thought was the cutest musicians or the singers. I always say pay attention to YouTube, that’s where Kendrick was. My grandkids was pointing him out, they knew something was up. They said, “That’s the one to do it with because he’s talking about the same things you’re talking about.” I’m glad I did because he really did live up to what I had been preaching about.
Baltin: Will there be new studio music after you retire from touring and will your grandkids be your A&R reps?
Clinton: They’ve been that way forever. My kids was at first, but then that’s how I was turned on to before Snoop, “The Humpty Dance” and Dre, Afrika Bambaataa, the whole east coast hip-hop thing — Rakim. I knew about them from my kids in the early ‘80s. So I realized then it was always gonna be the music that get on my nerves was gonna be the next music that’s gonna be the hit. They like the music that get on my nerves (laughs).
Baltin: So what music is getting on your nerves now that will be the next hit?
Clinton: It’s been pretty much the Atlanta trap music or Childish Gambino, it’s definitely Thundercat, Flying Lotus. It don’t get on my nerves no more, I’m loving it now.
Baltin: I think at one point it had gone back to the bubblegum youth and singles era. But I feel like now it’s changed and social messaging and deeper themes matter. Do you see that on the road? And part of that job of activism is to let people have a good time and escape their troubles, which Parliament did better than anyone.
Clinton: That’s the way I look at it. I look at it as dancing your way out of your restrictions. Even though we’re talking about prescription drugs and we’re talking about the horrible things that only medical insurance companies and lobbying, all of that big drug dealers, not the street-corner crack dealers, but the big drug dealers and Medicaid and the maneuvers in the big markets and things, that’s what I’m looking at, the Medicaid fraud dogs, the dogs sniffing at the bigtime dealers — the government, the lobbyists, the pharmaceuticals. And they make it look like it’s street. A lot of that stuff is pharmaceutical. It’s one nation under sedation, everybody is getting high on something.
The parents got their meds and everybody is on some kind of meds. You look around and it looks like 1968 to me, everybody looks like they’re tripping. But that’s the norm now, everybody’s gotta have it. And doctors give away those freebies of different drugs and next thing you know you’re hooked. They give samples away, it’s ridiculous. So now you got folks doing it. That’s a plague, that’s something it’ll take a long time for people to get out from under. Having dealt with drugs a long time myself I can look at it now and say it ain’t too much different than the streets from the ‘60s to the ‘90s. It’s just they can do it legally with prescriptions and all that. You can’t go from one state to the other without the right prescription. They are giving out serious meds and they ain’t easy to quit. They give you commercials telling you what’s gonna happen to you. So that’s the new album we made and that’s our way of being social and political, but still you can dance to it.
Baltin: Talk about the plague, as you put it.
Clinton: That’s scientific, they know what they were doing. They knew what kids and society will be drawn to. That s**t is marketing. You ain’t gonna tell me that’s an accident. They learned that from cigarettes and alcohol. They know we’re an addictive species and food and drug got a legal excuse. They can toss your ass around between what’s legal and not legal. By the time you find out society is strung out.
Baltin: What can be done to change it and how does music help people in this time?
Clinton: I don’t know what to do about it because there’s so much politicking, so much money in all of the lobbying. It’s hard to distinguish what’s good for society medically — the inventions, the discoveries in medicine — and what’s done purely for marketing and making money’s sake. Even over religion making money is still the strongest urge. And with that being the case it’s hard to figure out what to do about things like that. I think the best thing we can do is be educated. I’ve always said, teachers work harder than you do know matter what you do. They should get paid ten times what they get paid so they can teach us how to understand what we’re even looking for.
Baltin: You just did records with both Funkadelic and Parliament. Was it important to you to say goodbye to all of those incarnations?
Clinton: I got one more coming real soon, the P-Funk All-Stars. I sent it down to mixing already, but it’ll be another six months.
Baltin: How do you go out on the final show? How does George Clinton say goodbye to the road?
Clinton: Right now I’m in discussions with Snoop to play, so we’re gonna see what’s happening. Everybody’s still around to jam, you got Maceo [Parker] still around, they do what they do; Bootsy [Collins] is still around. Pretty much P-Funk family all over the family all the time. But there’s another group I worked with, Flying Lotus, I know we’ll be doing some touring with them on this run here. We’re touring with them over in Japan.
Baltin: What are the three songs to get into George Clinton’s music?
Clinton: I would say “Knee Deep,” “Maggot Brain,” “Atomic Dog.” They have the weirdest styles of all the music that we did, but they still maintain to the level. I could’ve said “We Want The Funk,” like that. But I think “Maggot Brain” represents our rock and roll era, Funkadelic rock and roll era. “Atomic Dog” represents all what hip hop has done with sampling. It was made in that era when they was doing it. We were trying to copy them, the sounds and effects. That’s what that represents. And “Knee Deep” is just one of my favorite productions.