Funk legend shares advice

Bootsy Collins brought the bass funk to James Brown and Funkadelic before setting forth on his own cosmic odyssey. These are his life guidelines.

I’ve played with James Brown, George Clinton, Deee-Lite, bluegrass musicians and hip-hop stars. It’s a part of being rebellious. I never lost that rebellious thing, it’s just I learned how to turn it into a positive thing. I’ve learned how to do that. I can still be rebellious in my own way, but it turns into a good kind of rebellion - it makes something positive happen.

For me, making a signature sound was right next to music - music, and then my sound. I had to have my own sound. One thing kind of led to another - it was music, then my own sound, then my own way. That to me was it. I took that and ran with it. I put all I could put into those three things.

It’s funny, because I never even really thought about my technique or how I do this or how I do that. It’s kinda like, how do you play what you play and sing live at the same time? If I had have thought of that in the studio, I probably wouldn’t have been doing it. When I took a break of about five years from the road and went back, I had to think about how to sing while I’m playing. And then I thought about it and messed up - I couldn’t get it right. A lot of it is the thinking gets in the way of it. I never thought about how I played; I just did it. Other people studied it - they know more about it than I do! I have no clue about my technique - it’s just a form of communication to me.

I started learning about creating a character from George Clinton. He always got away with being George just by being in Parliament/Funkadelic - nobody knew who he was when he wasn’t in Parliament/Funkadelic, until he did his own record and called it George Clinton. That’s when it started. I started wanting to have two separate characters, because William was the cat who was at home and taking out the garbage. My outfit allows me to be Bootsy and have a good time. Nobody knows who I am when I’m not dressed up! you have to

They always say when they come out on stage, ‘Throw your hands up!’ Well, we could never say that! We had to go out there and do the job before people start giving it up. They clap for you once you get down, but if you don’t get down, they’re like, ‘You gotta show me something!’ Back in the day, man, they would snap you off that stage so quick. We knew we had to get down - even before the records, people knew about us before our records because we were tearing the stage up! We were burning up the stage! People love that entertainment - they love to see people getting down, sweating, and giving up the funk. That was our motto, and that was what we did. The record was like a dessert, that’s kinda like after the meal, but now, kids want their dessert first. And it’s like, no, you gotta get down first.

Serve the music and not the paper god. What that means is develop your craft. Practice and develop your own skills. You’re investing in yourself, not nobody else. But the word on the street is, ‘I gotta get paid’, so everybody’s into the paper god. How do you fight that? You have to go inwards and look at where you want to go. It’s all a personal thing - what you want to establish in your life - and that’s what you have to be about.

Interview by Simon Harper

‘Tha Funk Capital Of The World’ is released by Mascot Records on April 25th.


Follow Clash: