To commemorate James Brown
on my p-funk
, I have compiled excerpts of interviews I did with P-Funk musicians who used to be members of The J.B.'s
(aka The Jb's
Here's excerpt #1 - from an interview with Bootsy Collins in 1990 (you'll find the entire interview here
).New Funk Times: Let me ask you one of the standard questions about the difference between playing with George Clinton and playing with James Brown.Bootsy Collins:
James... I think I learnt more from him as far as discipline was concerned. He runs it like an army, "you're in the army now!"
It's no shuckin', no jivin', and it's a routine - which is great! I needed that because I was a kid growing up, I was 15 and James was more like the Daddy image. And I was the youngest thang in there, so I can look back at it now and say, without me having a daddy at home, that was great for me 'cause it gave me the discipline, and it also showed me how things should be run. He was so organized, and thangs ran like clockwork.
And I said to myself, if anything ever happened with me, that's the way I want my stuff to run. The difference is, I got with George and it was totally reverse: unorganized, and that was good, too, 'cause at that time it was like, that's what we wanted. We wanted crazy, it was about acid, it was freaking out, it was the time when the bands was coming out-front, you know.
I think I took the business end - the way James was - with me and the creative looseness end of George, and that combination is almost unstoppable.New Funk Times: In the liner-notes on one of the James Brown compilations you were talking about a show when you took a tab of acid and the bass was moving into your face...Bootsy Collins:
Yeah, that was pretty strange. You know, I had always vowed not to never take nothing when I was with James 'cause we had to be so on it
, and at that time acid was so new to us. Even though we was with James, I myself really wanted to stretch there a little bit and get freaky with it. But I didn't wanna do it on stage 'cause I figured something crazy would happen; I mean, we into counting, and we had to watch him and watch his hands, 'cause wherever his hands is at we gotta hit certain notes, it was like, I can't do no acid on this.
One day I figured, well, we gonna be leaving pretty soon, anyway, so what the hey!
And I did it, man, and that was like... I don't know exactly what happened that night, I don't remember playing... I do
remember my bass looking like it was moving like a snake and like all my strings broke. And, sure enough, one string did break while I was playing - I thought all of 'em broke. When that one popped, it was like the whole world came to an end; 'cause I was trippin', I didn't know what the heck was going on!
James called me back to the dressing room and he was telling me how much of a great show it was. And I'm really trippin' then 'cause I knew I was messing up! But that was James' way of dealing with us, he was always into reverse. When we thought we was wearing him out on stage, killing the audience, the audience was like, WOW!
, we was killin' 'em dead, killin' James - when we'd do that, he'd call us back there and tell us: "Y'all ain't got it, y'all ain't got the One, y'all are not happening, we need some more rehearsal!"
He was confusing us 'cause we was dead-on-it, and we knew it 'cause all of us was tight, tight, tight
, as tight as you can get it! It took us a while to figure that one out. But I thank God for that one, too, 'cause it taught me a lot; it was like, okay, the old reverse thang, huh?New Funk Times: You said you knew you were going to leave James Brown. What made you so sure?Bootsy Collins:
We just started feeling too loose within ourselves and we started wanting to do too much of our own thang, so I knew. I was young but I knew I wasn't gonna be there too much longer 'cause I started getting the hang of it and I started getting too comfortable with it - he couldn't surprise us 'cause we was so on it
! For the first couple of years it was exciting; after all, we were with James!
I'm not saying it wasn't exciting in the end but we got so familiar with the ways, and he could not fake us out.
We wanted to start doing crazy thangs, I guess 'cause Sly & The Family Stone
had came out with the band thang up-front and we started hearing noise about Funkadelic
and what we should be doing - you know how it is when you're young and people tell you what you should be doing and you don't have to be backing nobody up; we was listening to that, too. But I knew that I had to stay there for a certain amount of time to get that schooling, whatever was there to get.
When I started feeling like I had to get outta there, we had to go. And we didn't have no place to go, you know, it wasn't like everything was set up for us and George was waiting on us when we got out. It wasn't like that, it was all on the feeling. And all the moves just turned out to be the right ones.New Funk Times: You always mention Europe as an important factor for you to leave James Brown.Bootsy Collins:
When we went to Europe for the first time with James in 1971, that's where we really got turned out on the fashions, what was happening and what we thought was hip. We stayed there for about three weeks, we went to Berlin, Amsterdam, Italy, Paris, all the places; and we found out that we couldn't go see live bands. They had discotheques, which we didn't know nothing about. On a day off we asked people: "Where can we go see a band?"
- "Bands? No, discotheques! Records and DJs!"
And we was like: "WHAT?"
Once we went to a discotheque and seen it - they had the floors lightened up and the DJ was up there pumpin' the sounds -, we couldn't get to it 'cause we was into live bands and we wanted to wear bands out on the stage. And then we started picking up on the fashions, like the girls was wearing hot pants and all the see- through stuff, and it was like, God, this is happening!
So we kinda said when we was with James, okay, when we do finally leave James, this is gonna be our style!
As a matter of fact, before we even left James... we started wearing hot pants with our street stuff, high boots, chains and capes; and then once we'd get to the gig, we'd take that stuff off and put the uniform on to go play. I knew we was getting ready to exit! The people was loving it, though, it wasn't like they didn't understand - they liked it! They wouldn't do it themselves, but they appreciated somebody to have enough nerve to do that.New Funk Times: What kind of places were you playing before James Brown?Bootsy Collins:
[laughs] That's funny... we was playing places about as big as this hotel room - wine bars, Playboy clubs in Cincinnati, serious rat-holes. We did that for a while, and we started getting better and better. And we started hooking up with this small booking agency in Dayton, and he started booking us as opening act for Gladys Knight and the Pips, people like the Dells, [Aretha's sister]
Erma Franklin, the Chi-Lites. When the people would see us, it was like: "God, who is them crazy guys?"
But the kids loved us, and we weren't playing no Top 40, it was like all the stuff we'd made up, and - although they couldn't dance to it - they was liking it 'cause we had the nerve to come out there and do it. We were dressed all crazy, it wasn't like your average put your suit on, let's go out and hit it
; we was always doing something that didn't fit - "where is these crazy boys coming from?"
Of course, we got more experienced as the time went on and the different places we went.[Since we deeply care for our readers, we want to use the final part of this interview to enlighten you with some powerful anti- drug and anti-drunk-driving statements conveyed by Bootsy, an obviously repentant ex-participant in certain controversial recreational activities. Take this documentation as a public service type thang, and don't try any of the following at home! - NFT Ed.]New Funk Times: When did this famous Catfish story [Bootsy’s Brother Phelps "Catfish" Collins, guitar] happen, with the tab of acid in the milk-shake?Bootsy Collins:
Well, that was close to the time when I had that meeting with James. Catfish's whole thang was, like, begging although he'd have money in his pocket. He, of all people, would be one to save his money - I think him and myself was good at saving, even the money we was making before we got with James, we'd always save a dollar or something out of it, and we kinda grew up with that; so when we was with James, we just saved everything. But Catfish went deeper than that - he would save to the point of not buying food while we was out on the road. He would pocket the per diem
and go around with a fork and bum off of people's plates. And it became such a thing that it was funny: "Oh, here come Catfish with that fork, he's the fork bandit!"
So, one day we was playing at a college in Virginia and we was staying out in front - myself, Chicken [Clayton "Chicken" Gunnells, trumpet]
and Hasaan [Darryl "Hasaan" Jamison, trumpet]
. So we standing out there talking, we got us a milk shake and we said, "maybe we should take this acid, crunch it up and put it in the milk shake; this way we can go in the place, and everybody be cool!"
So we all did that - and here comes Catfish down the street, looking crazy, and I said: "Don't give Catfish none, whatever he say, don't give him no more!"
- "Okay, cool!"
- Catfish's first rap was: "What's in the cup? - Oh yeah, man, hit me with some milk shake!"
I gave him some, and after that he was cool, went in and played the gig. We come off, get on the bus, we took off, getting ready to ride, everybody thought Cat was there
, no signs of nothing. Next thing I know, Catfish was on the bus with his eyes like this [Bootsy takes off his glasses and produces a hollow stare - Ed.]
for three days, sitting in the back with no rap!New Funk Times: Was he still playing?Bootsy Collins:
I don't know what band he was playing with when he was playing but, you know, we kinda covered for him a little bit. He was just out of it, man, for three days. I couldn't believe it! He couldn't sleep, he had his little spot all the way in the back of the bus. We didn't tell him what was happening while he was going through this - maybe a year later we had the nerve to tell him. He said he knew something was going on.
When we was with James, we wasn't seriously doing the drug thing but we was getting into it. George's thing really took the cake with the drug thing. We really got off over into it, 'cause we didn't have to pay attention like we did with James. It was our thang
, and it was cool. And the people loved it!