Heavy Load

Bootsy Collins

Classic Rock - - Contents - In­ter­view: Ian Fort­nam World Wide Funk is out now via Mas­cot.

The funk mas­ter gets down on play­ing with James Brown, learn­ing from Hen­drix, LSD, su­per­na­ture and The One.

Hav­ing gained an en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion while still a teenager – as the fleet-fin­gered, funk-defin­ing space bas­sist with James Brown’s orig­i­nal J.B’s, along­side his gui­tar-play­ing el­der brother Cat­fish – Wil­liam ‘Bootsy’ Collins sealed his leg­end with Funkadelic, Par­lia­ment and Bootsy’s Rub­ber Band. In­spired by Hen­drix, Bootsy formed pi­o­neer­ing funkmetal fu­sion trio Hard­ware with Buddy Miles and Ste­vie Salas, be­fore work­ing ex­ten­sively with

Bill Laswell and Buck­et­head as Zil­la­tron.

Bootsy’s World Wide Funk al­bum is im­mi­nent.

Do you be­lieve in God?

I don’t know what he looks like or where he came from, but yeah, ab­so­lutely.

What were you like at school?

I was a kid that loved to go to school. I re­ally liked art, mu­sic and gym class, but be­ing in class­rooms do­ing his­tory, so­cial stud­ies and math, I wasn’t so good with that.

How would you de­fine funk?

I’ll give you an ex­am­ple. You have a six-string gui­tar. James Brown says he needs a bass player. You don’t have the money to buy a bass, but you can get four bass strings from your friend, put them on your gui­tar and take the job with James Brown. Funk is mak­ing some­thing outta noth­ing. You take what­ever you’ve got and use it to do what­ever you’ve gotta do. Funk is the raw in­gre­di­ent of the essence of all that there is. It’s ev­ery­thing but it’s noth­ing. And so that’s what funk is.

What was the most valu­able les­son you learned dur­ing your time play­ing with James Brown? Dis­ci­pline. But he also taught me about The One. I started play­ing gui­tar to be like my brother Cat­fish, who was eight years older than me, but never re­ally learned how to play bass. Then when we got with James Brown he was like: “I love all that stuff you’re do­ing, but you’ve gotta give me The One.” I didn’t know what The One was, so he ex­plained it to me: “Al­ways hit The One, the down­beat. In be­tween that you can play what­ever you wanna play.” So that’s what I started do­ing. And once he started lik­ing it, I felt I was on the right track.

Which are the best and worst drugs you’ve taken?

LSD was prob­a­bly the best, be­cause it took me to places that I would never even think of. It opened my mind to a lot of things that I would never have been open to. The late six­ties, early sev­en­ties was just a re­ally good pe­riod. The mu­sic that was go­ing on in that era was per­fect, so the LSD was right on time. The worst one was co­caine, the one I got ad­dicted to. What’s your big­gest re­gret?

Wow. I’ve never thought about any re­gret. I’ve al­ways felt ev­ery­thing that should hap­pen, hap­pened. It’s like ev­ery­thing was al­ready in place, I just had to get there. So I don’t have no re­grets – I’m just glad to still be breath­ing.

Did Jimi Hen­drix change your world?

To­tally. It wasn’t just him as an en­ter­tainer or a gui­tar player, it was his whole em­bod­i­ment of be­ing a space be­ing that did what he wanted to do, played the way he wanted to play, dressed the way he wanted to dress. And all of that sent sig­nals. He was like a mile­stone or blue­print, es­pe­cially for young black mu­si­cians com­ing up. It was like, “If he can do it, it can be done,” and that’s all I needed to know.

What was your big­gest waste of money? I was gonna say the drug thing, but I can’t re­ally even say that. While it was a waste of money in a way, on the other hand I got what I got, and that had a lot to do with it.

Have you ever had a su­per­nat­u­ral ex­pe­ri­ence on stage?

Oh yeah, a lot of times. No­body’s re­ally with you when it hap­pens, you just go off into the mu­sic and it’s like trip­ping. Su­per­nat­u­ral is what it is, it’s so be­yond the imag­i­na­tion, an out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ence. In­stead of be­ing up on stage and play­ing, you’re fly­ing high and watch­ing the peo­ple, you’re om­nipresent, and it’s one of the best feel­ings in the world. Or out of this world.

What’s the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about you?

Just be­cause I play funk doesn’t mean that funk is all I like, and that all the peo­ple I know are funky peo­ple. I do know a lot of funky peo­ple, but that ain’t all. Peo­ple put me in that one corner and just as­sume, “That’s all he is,” but I like play­ing all kinds of mu­sic.

Where do you stand po­lit­i­cally?

I call it politricks, man. By com­par­i­son to the funk, politricks don’t even count. It’s mess­ing stuff up more than it’s help­ing, and funk ain’t down with it.

What in your life are you most proud of?

I’m prob­a­bly most proud of my mother, that she put up with me, be­cause I was a com­plete fool, and I never un­der­stood how deep down I was un­til she was gone.

What will be writ­ten on your tomb­stone? He came, they saw, and we funked.

“Hen­drix was a blue­print, es­pe­cially for young black

mu­si­cians com­ing up.”

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