George Clinton – the leader of Parliament-Funkadelic or the P-Funk All Stars or whatever funk powerhouse he’s fronting has been on the job – since, well, forever. It all started with a teenage group in the ‘50s called Parliament. We talked a few years back and I asked him: What is the key to maintaining the energy and interest over that long stretch of time?
“Liking what you’re doing,” he said, simply. “The energy becomes its own replenisher. If I ever get to the point [of thinking I can’t do this anymore] I try to think of the alternative and the alternative is real hard to think about. What am I gonna do 9-to-5? I go, `Hell, yeah, I can do this some more.’ I love it, it’s my job — I mean I get to go to work for play. I feel lucky.” Clinton told me his job was pretty much this: Lead vocals, band referee and galaxy traffic cop. On the cover of one of his many albums, Clinton asked this of himself: “Inspired madman or complete jackass?”
On Friday March 7, Clinton’s staging the Funkapalooza at House of Blues, which means not just him and his multi-piece band, but ‘70s funk bands, the Zapp Band and Con Funk Shun. I don’t know if the presence of these other bands will limit Clinton’s stage time, but I’m guessing not. The line in the song goes “Ain’t no party like a P-Funk party/And a P-Funk party don’t stop.” I was sidestage and backstage and one of his shows and he kept wandering in and out of the mix, socializing backstage, recharging, then going out to funk it up with his gang. “I go out in the audience and check it out for myself,” he says. “Then, I go `Damn, it’s fun being up there,’ and then I go back on stage.”
“I figure 1 1/2 hours is pretty much what anybody else would give you,” he says. We give you the basic stuff, stuff you know. That is for the people. Then we play another two hours, like George Clinton bonus tracks, and we are going to do whatever we want here. That is for us. We sing anything we feel like singing.” That could include “Do Fries Go with That Shake?,” “Mothership Connection,” “Atomic Dog,” “Knee Deep,” “Bop Gun,” “Flash Light,” “Maggot Brain,” “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Cosmic Slop” and, perhaps, a theme song, “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow.”
Clinton hardly feels too old to rock ‘n’ roll. “I think it’s the other way around,” he says. “I think this makes you feel younger. Old is relative to how you think and feel. Even other guys in the group who’ve gotten older, I keep telling them all you have to do is think about playing four hours a show and you start losing weight.”
His music is a favorite source of sampling by the rap generation; his funk style is the blueprint for virtually anyone out there playing in that field. His songs can be silly; they can be profound; they can be a mix of the two. “It has to be funny,” he says. “If it was not funny, you would go crazy for real and you would end up as [messed] up as the people you’re singing about. You would be so [ticked] off, you would end up as bad as they are.”
There’s a lot of nefarious characters on Clinton’s albums. Take “Dope Dogs,” where most of the songs use dogs both as central characters and metaphors for the human condition. Why dogs?
“Because we basically are animals ourselves,” says Clinton, “and we tend to think that [being human] separates us from that. Dogs are supposed to be our best friends, but we also use them as the epitome of what you wanna do to somebody when you don’t like ’em — you dog ’em out. It’s a weird relationship we have with dogs. Some people love ’em to death, spend a fortune on ’em to keep ’em alive, and bury them richly. Some people eat ’em, a weird thing to do with man’s best friend. When I saw people use them as drug dogs, after they’re done using them. . . . they’re so strung out from their habits. They have dogs in laboratories where they test chemicals.”
Starts at 8. Tickets: $45 and $29.50.
15 Lansdowne St., Boston, 888-693-2583 www.houseofblues.com