George "Dr. Funkenstein" Clinton begins the interview by picking up WAV and saying: "Music uuuuh, art, politics, culture. I'm tryin' to use that as one word!" He repeats "music, art, politics, culture" over and over, and after about two minutes of this I decide to begin by chanting this with him for about another 2 minutes, before breaking into the interview 'VJ' style and Funkateer Trey Lewd's newest tracks are vibin' in the listening den of The Mothership...
Dr. Funkenstein, tell us about your new album How Late Do You Have 2 BB 4 U R Absent.
George Clinton: 4:21!!! If you get there at 4:21 you just blew it! George is goooone yeah, everybody thought that we was gonna be gone forever, but I just told them that we was LATE! We were late getting back to the table - we had somethin' stashed with us under the table, we was just late with the last joint! But we're HERE!
The funk doctor's "new joint" is his newly introduced independent record label The C Kunspyruhzy (pronounced "The C Conspiracy").
GC: Catch-phrases, ya know what I'm sayin'? Communism, Crips, and Crack! See how they can make a phrase stick, make you scared of it, and then sell you protection from it? Communism, Crips, and Crack: The C Kunspyruhzy.
GC: Ha!! It's been fun man. It took a long time to put it out, but only because of the court cases; I had to give all my time to it. But now it's been leveling off since we won 4 of our masters back from these record companies, and 100 and somethin' million dollars from samplin' and royalties back.
This particular company (Bridgeport Music) has been scammin' and forging the papers, and admitted it, and because of a technicality we couldn't submit that in our cases, but it came up in another case, so that one was close...they've been able to keep us out of the court. It was sleazy managers, convoluted cases, lawyers and uninformed judges. They've been tryin' to duck us. There are so many cases out there that they contradicted themselves, and when that started to happen we decided to go ahead and put the album out.
In "George Clinton Wins Rights To Four Landmark Albums," reported last year by Nolan Strongon in www.allhiphop.com, a court granted Clinton complete rights and control of four influential albums, Hardcore Jollies, One Nation Under A Groove, Uncle Jam Wants You and The Electric Spanking of War Babies. Clinton received the rights after a 15-year battle free and clear, with no obligations to any of the previous owners. The judge ruled that Clinton was defrauded of his masters in a case of conspiracy involving former employees, his lawyers and a former manager. In various lawsuits, the former employees claimed Clinton had signed the rights to his masters away.
GC: The former employees, a lot of them are arrangers; they should have gotten millions of dollars - the administrator of my publishing should have been able to tell them that "I gave George your money" if he was administering it right, but he couldn't because he was administering it wrong; he didn't give me their money. We didn't get a royalty check ever- for Funkadelic.
What advice could you give to up & coming bands from your experiences about royalties, publishing, and the record business?
GC (In a voice like my own Godfather or "Uncle Jam' giving it to me straight up): For the record business, you don't get royalties or your back-end, it's been a slave business all the while, like sharecroppin. You get loaned your own money, in "advances"; and for the most part, you end up going to borrow some more, until they get tired of you, and then they tell you that you aren't sellin' records anymore, cuz you're on the road, and they say, you're "un-recouped!"
It's getting harder to do that now with the bar-code, so you find a lot of millionaires now in Hip-Hop and Rock. They don't get nowhere near what they'resupposed to get, they don't get it all now; but they get a lot more than most of us got.
But for us, there was a thing of sampling the masters and the publishing. It's been kept quiet for the longest. Armen Boladian (Music Executive, President of Westbound Records) and Bridgeport Music would sign my name and say he had the publishing (rights), and I got lawyers who were as bad as he was, and there was millions of dollars (at stake).
Now that's the record business's Musi-Cart-Chi-Polytik-cha-Culta for ya, huh?
GC: Hello! Convoluted Cases?!? Another C Kunspyruhzy!
On How Late Do You Have 2 B B 4 U R Absent? it looks like you've made it a family affair with your son Trey Lewd, Prince, Bobby Womack, Joi, The P Funk All Stars, Del the Funky Homosapien, Belita Woods, and your grand-daughter, Sativa.
GC: (About Trey Lewd and Sativa) they've been bad for a long time, on the road with us and writin' for a while, and this album - we all came together with it. The album is probably gonna be underground for a minute, cuz I like it like that. We don't have flops on the record, and for the underground - it's not about flops, just about songs that are gonna last for a long time. Really it's about touring, and we're on tour together ALL the time.
After all of the exploitation you had to endure to gain control of your music, what are your feelings on the "Cloning Dr. Funkenstien" with sampling, file-sharing, free downloads etc?
GC: You should pay for it, but I doubt enough people will do (illegal downloads) to have the effect that people think it will have. Record companies have always been givin' away free records and free goods for promotion. You can access the entire planet with the Internet. Everybody ain't gonna download it. Only the ones that are savvy will do it because it's a hassle. Most people will still buy it. There's no sense scratchin' your ass and tryin' to fight it because they (the public) can do it, it's a reality. The percentage of people that's gonna do it versus the percentage of people who buy it! I don't care! Why lose money fightin' it when we should be more concerned with our music being available all around the world.
P-Funk musicians and offshoot bands continue to tour and record, and according to The Public Broadcasting Service, you are the world's most sampled band. Will Hip-Hop artists now be sought out to pay up?
GC: Hip-Hop has paid for the longest, but the money never got back to us. The P-Funk story and Hip-Hop stories are sooo close, the life of it, the story of it. I'm glad the artists sampled us. It kept us alive. Listen, to all the Hip-Hoppers out there who had royalties deducted from their bank statements to pay for our samples - send me THAT statement, and we'll ALL get money. Oh - the rappers we're told they paid me, they (The Industry) definitely took it out of their royalties, they DEFINITELY took it from the rapper's - and told them it was to pay George, but Armen Boladian didn't give me their money. We didn't get a royalty check ever for Funkadelic.
If Armen and Bridgeport Music had any sense they would settle and pay these other arrangers and artists "big money" now, and get it settled and out the way, then we can do a movie on the entire history of the shit together right now. He could be a hero! He could enjoy life again. He used to dance to this shit, o.k.? Come the hell on! The people who wrote this stuff are in their 50's! Give them each at least $300,000 or $400,000 - it would be light stuff for him compared to what he made and can stand to make, and we can make the movie together. The story about it now is worth 10 times what he got.
Give us all of the rights to all our music, that's the biggest thing right now; that would be the best investment he could make, and I will give him 20% for the movie. To me it's about the story. I'm still makin' records---I don't need that money to live!