The legendary Bootsy Collins recently visited drummer extraordinaire, Questlove, of The Roots for an exclusive interview on his Pandora show "Questlove Extreme." Here's the official transcription of their funky interview:
Quest Love Supreme may contain language that some of our listeners may find offensive. Listener discretion is advised.
[music] Thanks for tuning into Questlove Supreme y'all. I am Questlove and this week we are concluding our interview with the one and only Bootsy Collins baby. We ended last week with Bootsy and the rest of the J.B.s being dismissed from James Brown's organization over money issues. Now unemployed, Bootsy heads over to Detroit where he would meet a visionary by the name of George Clinton. All right.
Bootsy Collins: 00:42
[music] Okay. What in the hell are we going to do now? Because I knew that was it. It's like, "We got to go." So we sitting on the bus. The whole band sitting on the bus looking at each other on Trailway.
Trailways man. Woo.
Bootsy Collins: 01:03
I know. Right here. Yeah.
I remember taking them. All right.
Bootsy Collins: 01:07
Trailway bus. man. We looking at each other. And then they looking at me like, "Okay, what we going to do now since you went in there and you--
Messed it up.
Bootsy Collins: 01:17
--messed it all up?"
You didn't ask right. You didn't ask right.
Bootsy Collins: 01:21
And so that was wearing me out. I started feeling like, "Dang, what are we going to do?" So the next thing came to my mind is, "You going to go to Cincinnati. You going to practice. You going to get in that basement. You going to practice. You going to get tight. And you going to go to Detroit and see what happens." Because that's what we were into, taking people's gigs [laughter].
Why Detroit? Did you think maybe Motown could sign us or--?
Bootsy Collins: 01:48
Was Westbound a thing by then?
Bootsy Collins: 01:50
Well, actually, let me tell you why Detroit. Billy from The Spinners called and asked-- well, told us that he needed a band. And he also needed a lead singer. And Philippé Wynne, which is Phil [inaudible] Walker, he was singing with us before we got with James. After we left James-- right after we got left. And so we already had the lead singer. We didn't know it. But I told him I was like, "Billy, we got the lead singer you need, man." I said, "We'll play behind y'all." But seriously, we did not want to play behind another set of singers if it killed us. Because you've got to understand the time that it was coming through Sly and them, these bands was coming up. We wanted to be a band.
Crazy ideas, [in fact?].
Bootsy Collins: 02:48
Yeah. We wanted to dress crazy, act a fool, and do anything we wanted to do. And singers wouldn't let us do it.
Suit and tie.
Bootsy Collins: 02:58
Yeah. Yeah. And so we was really through with that. So we go to Detroit, on Billy's dime. And once we get to Detroit, we play and take a few gigs. Right? We take it to the stage, all right, take some gigs. And when we did that I met this young lady named Mallia Franklin. And she was tied with George Clinton because her sister was dating George. So she knew him and she wanted to take me over to meet him because, "Y'all look just like Funkadelic. Y'all sound like them. Y'all need to hook up." So she convinced me. And I'm like, "Yeah. I've got to go meet this--" I say, "Yeah. We've been wanting to take it to the stage on the mothers anyway [laughter]. Where they at [laughter]?"
You weren't fully aware of Funkadelic by this point?
Bootsy Collins: 03:55
Not fully. We had just been hearing about them.
Bootsy Collins: 03:58
It's like everywhere we went, it's like, "Man, y'all look like Funkadelic. Y'all sound like them." So everywhere we went it was like it followed us.
So about what year is this around?
Bootsy Collins: 04:09
This is like '72.
Bootsy Collins: 04:13
Yeah. And so we heard that so much, it's like-- then when we got to Detroit, it was like, "Okay. I need to meet George." So Mallia sets up the meeting. I go over there, get with George. That's a whole story in itself which is another three or four hours [laughter].
Was it love at first sight when you all first met each other?
Bootsy Collins: 04:41
Yeah. Basically. I knocked on the door and the door kind of [inaudible], the creepy Addam's Family thing. So it kind of creaked open. And I heard a voice say, "Come on in." So I kind of walked in and I saw this black light. And immediately, it was like, "Oh, shit [laughter]." I went straight to the black light. Then I looked right down below it, this mug is sitting in a Buddhist stance, right, with a white sheet on. Now picture this and a black light, white sheet on and chicken feet, no, yeah, yellow--
I don't understand.
Bootsy Collins: 05:32
--chicken feet, yeah. He's sitting there, like this, on the floor, like this. And he's just sitting there in the corner. And he's got a half moon on one side, star on the other and the rest of it's bald, his head. And he is looking just as crazy as-- I mean, when I seen it, it was like whatever he's talking about, I want in [laughter]. Whatever it is. I mean, whatever he says. I already know about the money thing and why. I was not into that. If you just let me get in, I will produce. I will give it to you. I'll lay it on you. And I didn't have to go through all that with George. He was like, "You just come on in here and help me with this Parliament, this Funkadelic, these records I got to do. Just come on in here and do that and on down the line I'll get you a record deal, you and the band." At that point, it wasn't about getting me a deal. It was about getting the band a deal. And George is the one that talked me into the solo thing. Because I wasn't down with that. It was like, "Man, we're a band." I mean, I had always been used to being a band. And I never even entertained the idea of me doing-- I can't sing, man. What am I going to do?
Bootsy Collins: 07:09
That's exactly what he said [laughter].
So at this point--
I mean you're the first larger-than-life character. Your persona supersedes your already powerful catalog. And your name is associated with a lot of megaton hits in the P-Funk songbook.
Bootsy Collins: 07:32
So how did he finally, truly convince you that this has to happen and you know?
Bootsy Collins: 07:43
You know what? He didn't have to convince me. I mean, he already knew about us from the James Brown thing. So he knew more about us than I knew about him.
So he studied you guys and knew.
Bootsy Collins: 07:59
Yeah. He knew. I mean, George is a silent genius. I mean, that mother is a-- I can't say enough about him and how he have moved through not only the music but the business. All of us could use a bit more of what we're lacking. But him as a person-- the thing that messes us all up is the flesh. If we didn't have flesh, we'd be cool [laughter]. We would really be really cool because we wouldn't have to take care of this. And we wouldn't be so addicted or addictable. And so those are the things that caught him. What it catches not just him, it catches all of us. Yeah. And so, but his mind was just so-- I mean, he's the one who got me into reading and being up on the mothership and clones and--
Let me ask you this. Because star-wise, at this point, where were you and how did you get there from James? Right, because when you met George, I'm imagining that you was--
Bootsy Collins: 09:14
I was already there.
Okay. So how did--
Offstage he was dressing crazy. On stage, he had the suit and tie with James.
Bootsy Collins: 09:20
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Okay, okay. So George didn't enhance that?
Even then, you did influence James a little bit because like--
Bootsy Collins: 09:26
He started dressing like--
A little Dashiki and what was the term Hank Ballard used? Blackenized [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 09:32
Right. Well, actually that's what James named us first.
Oh, you all was Blackenized?
Bootsy Collins: 09:37
Bootsy Collins: 09:42
He named us that before the J.B.'s. We was the Blackenizers. And he sent us out with Hank Ballard. So it was Hank Ballard, the Midnighters, and the Blackenizer's band.
So you guys are the band on that record as well? On the Hank Ballard record?
Bootsy Collins: 09:59
Which one? Now, the ones like around in the Twist time we wasn't--
No, no, no. I'm talking about the James Brown--
Bootsy Collins: 10:06
Oh. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
--how are you going to get respect if you haven't cut your--
Bootsy Collins: 10:09
No, that was Macey on the album.
From The Love Side at least? I know he had one record out in '70 that was--
Bootsy Collins: 10:19
That was us. Yeah. Yeah.
Wow. Okay. So the sound of P-Funk is actually the opposite of James Brown?
Bootsy Collins: 10:29
So who's crafting the sound of it? And was it that much of a science, or was it just whatever you felt?
Bootsy Collins: 10:38
Well, let me tell you exactly how it was. Everybody that was involved brought their signature and was allowed to use it. In other words, George gave me an opportunity to get in the studio and find myself. And that is what I didn't get from James. So what I got from James was the A, B, C, like the discipline.
Bootsy Collins: 11:16
Then when I got with George-- well, George's whole thing was whatever the funk you got, bring it. And so, I wasn't never at a standstill. That's why I wasn't ever going back listening. It's like George said, "Whatever I got." So I've got see what I got. He had a lot--
That's a lot of freedom.
Bootsy Collins: 11:39
Yeah. He allowed me to have that freedom to find myself. He allowed Bernie to have that freedom to find his self. And it just so happened that all that stuff worked. The magic was coming from each mother. It wasn't like we planned it, or planned the sound, or the sound was-- any time I'm with Bernie, with Catfish, it's going to sound that way.
How long were all those records-- did they take? I've heard stories of y'all cutting records in a week, week and a half. How would the average studio session work?
Bootsy Collins: 12:23
Well, we didn't have no plan, first of all [laughter].
Just whatever happens, happens?
Bootsy Collins: 12:27
Yeah. Yeah. We'd just go in the studio and start cutting. George say, "I like this for Funkadelic. I like that for Parliament. I like that for Parlet and da-da-da-da-dee." So it went like that. We were just recording. We wasn't thinking.
Bootsy Collins: 12:42
We wasn't thinking about what we had to cut.
One question I always had. Glenn Goins. Because you're the only person I've met that actually worked with him. What was he like, man? He was such an incredible voice, dude. What was he--?
Bootsy Collins: 12:51
Well, not only was he an incredible voice, his songwriting ability, along with his guitar playing. Actually, that's him playing 12-string on Munchies.
Bootsy Collins: 13:04
Yeah. That's Glenn playing 12-string guitar.
Okay. Not many people know that for a lot of those Parliament songs, you're drumming on it. Which - I want to know - I mean, now I appreciate it. But for me, the sound of funk and the sound of raw soul was always James Brown-esque. Tight snares, high-tuned stuff. You guys were the opposite of that. So what was the ideology behind the lowest-tuned snare ever [laughter], and playing unorthodox rhythms? I know Jerome, also. He shouldn't be slept on, as far as his Jerome the big [inaudible]. But just with the age of synthesizers-- which I know everyone, especially with Stevie that sounded futuristic and right up there with you guys. But just as far as slowing the pace down-- Dr. Funkenstein is so slow--
Bootsy Collins: 14:11
Well, that was--
--and anti-disco. What--?
Bootsy Collins: 14:14
That for me was what funk was. I mean, it felt like that. I mean, you don't do the rabbit thing [laughter]. I mean, when you get on a chick, it's like making love. It ain't about being a rabbit. You got to be a slow-go [laughter]. Slow-go that funk down so she can feel it [laughter].
He needs his own love advice show [laughter].
Unpaid Bill: 14:40
Bootsy Collins: 14:42
She wants to feel it, man.
Yes, she does.
Suga Steve: 14:45
Just in case you needed a witness [laughter].
I'm jumping all over the place, but I know that we might as well start the regret questions now.
Suga Steve: 14:53
I know. Right. Yeah. Yeah.
So, okay. Now--
Bootsy Collins: 14:57
You say start the questions now [laughter]?
The ones that we know we're going to forget.
We have regret questions that we think of now and then forget about because we're on a tangent. Okay. So in '78 and again, I'm just jumping all over the place. In '78--
[music] Bootzilla is absolutely inescapable. I mean, what Brick House was for '76 and what Flashlight was for '77. I mean at this point, I felt like your second album was slightly bigger than Motor Booty Affair. So my question is, with Bootzilla, it never occurred to none of you to just call that song wind me up [laughter]? Because I'm just saying--
Bootsy Collins: 16:02
Let me explain it.
--to buy that record in the record store, we'd just say, "I want wind me up."
Bootsy Collins: 16:08
You got to understand, the mentality wasn't, "Buy this." The mentality was I was building a character and Bootzilla was the character not wind me up.
But not even in parenthesis like--
Bootsy Collins: 16:24
Boss Bill: 16:26
[inaudible] even had [inaudible] in parenthesis.
Bootsy Collins: 16:27
And see if you notice on the album, there's nothing about Bootzilla on that album. Bootsy question mark.
I always wanted to know about that.
Bootsy Collins: 16:38
So we wanted to break all the rules, all of the things you're just saying [laughter]. We wanted to break all of those. So we put emphasis on, okay, what are we going to call it? And George would say, "Well," and I'd say, "Well, how about Rubber Ducky?" It had nothing to do with the song.
I realized that there's a lot of titles in which are never--
Bootsy Collins: 17:05
But we only pretty much did that on my stuff. Some of the other things did that. But if you notice on the Bootsy's Rubber Band stuff, a lot of the titles had nothing to do with the songs.
How did you all come up with What's a Telephone Bill?
Bootsy Collins: 17:33
[music] Well, that's one of my love songs, man.
I love that song [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 17:35
What it is, when I used to go to school, it was like this one girl I just messed around and got some mouth from her, right [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 17:50
Now, check it out.
Messed around, and got some mouth.
Bootsy Collins: 17:53
Check it out, check it out. Her daddy was a preacher. And some kind of way I was playing it where I got in and I get that mouth [laughter]. And I got out. You know what I'm saying? So, in doing so, I don't think it was-- well, it might've been love. But I think it was more so lust.
Bootsy Collins: 18:22
Yeah. I think it was more so lust. And then every chance I got I was on the-- you know the phone booth? I was in the phone booth calling. Talking about what to have, can I get some more of that mouth [laughter]. I need some mouth right now. Okay? And so that was the whole conversation. And I would carry that conversation out. Because if I couldn't see her because dad got this strict preacher thing going on. So I had to make adjustments here and there. Whatever time I can get that mouth, I had to sneak in and sneak out. So and I did all of that on the telephone.
Suga Steve: 19:05
Bootsy Collins: 19:06
And so the whole thing came down to if I can get your loving, I mean what's a telephone bill.
What's a telephone bill? All right.
Bootsy Collins: 19:15
I mean it didn't matter.
Boss Bill: 19:16
Bootsy Collins: 19:17
I mean if I can get me some of that mouth [laughter]--
A telephone bill ain't shit.
Bootsy Collins: 19:20
--a telephone bill ain't nothing [laughter]. Because I was getting the nickel back anyway.
Bootsy Collins: 19:27
Because we know how to work them telephone booth.
Oh, my God. And so are these lyrics-- the hook, but then, all the stuff you're saying in the middle, are you making that up as you go along, just ad-libbing?
Bootsy Collins: 19:39
Ad-libbing. Ad-libbing. And then George wrote a lot of that one, too. But the hook of it, the hook of the whole thing was-- the whole purpose of it was to get the word out about if I can get some of that mouth--
What's a telephone bill?
Bootsy Collins: 19:56
--what's a telephone bill. And that was it.
That's so romantic.
Yeah. What Phonte was saying, so when you're in concert and a lot of these songs don't have traditional verses to it--
Verse, hook. Yeah.
It's just you doing dialogue. Like Hollywood Squares or--
Bootsy Collins: 20:12
Whatever. I mean, just talking.
Bootsy Collins: 20:14
Would your audience mouth that back to you and would they be disappointed if you went off-script. Would you have to recite your dialogue?
Bootsy Collins: 20:27
I mean, they want to hear-- they don't have to hear it exact exact. But they want to hear it. They want to hear some of it. They would love to hear all of it. But if for some reason I don't do it that night, it's all right. Because they're going to get some of it anyway. But I don't know. The audiences have been really good for me throughout the career. So it's like, Funkateers is Funkateers, man. I mean, they just come to-- they want to give up some funk and they may want to get some funk.
What was the touring like for you? Because, I mean by that point, black theater really wasn't invented. I mean, your typical night and watching your favorite act was more like a review, like the Motown Review. Again, suit and tie. Nothing close to theatrics and props and lasers.
Bootsy Collins: 21:29
We had the Phantom of the Opera going on like a [mother ?]. I mean, it was a stage and it was bigger than all of us. I mean because we wasn't going for the Shure PA system, the little baby microphones. I mean we were going for the big boy stuff. And that was partially George's idea and my idea as far as, we want to do it like the white boys. I mean why put us on stage with a baby PA when you know we're going to blow that shit up?
Blow the roof off.
Bootsy Collins: 22:10
But that's the way we were always treated. So we had to start taking our own money and--
Reinvest in it.
Bootsy Collins: 22:17
Yeah. Investing in PAs. I had Maryland Sound make this thing I call the space-bass station. It was up in the middle of the Coliseum. And it would spin in a certain part of the show and the bass solo and stuff would come out of it. And that was in that year you're talking about, 1978.
So the speakers would rotate?
Bootsy Collins: 22:43
Yeah. Well, they would turn. Okay. While it's in the middle of either the Coliseum or auditorium, it would turn, and the speakers--
Bootsy Collins: 22:56
Yeah. Would rotate. And the sound would come off the stage and up here. So it's like an earlier version of a 3D effect with sound.
What does a rider look like for you guys, at this point? I would be scared as a promoter [laughter].
Unpaid Bill: 23:16
Because there's so many of y'all.
Yeah. And y'all different.
Bootsy Collins: 23:19
Yeah. It was pretty deep. But again, I don't think we were that kind of band where everybody was tripping. If a mother can get a sandwich, we was cool [laughter].
Oh, that's it? Not a special kind of drink that y'all needed? A special kind of--
Bootsy Collins: 23:35
I mean, just because we could affects-- a lot of them did it. But it wasn't really about none of that with us. It was more about we came to give up the funk. And we're going to turn this mother out. That was the whole thing.
When I was a kid, I read about problems with using the name The Rubber Band.
Bootsy Collins: 23:59
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
What was the--
Sweat Band project?
No, no, The Rubber Band.
Bootsy Collins: 24:03
Did someone tried to sue for The Rubber Band's--
Bootsy Collins: 24:07
It was a country and western guy. That's funny you said that because I was just reading over the--
Because it's always been Bootsy's Rubber Band to me but--
Bootsy Collins: 24:18
Yeah. Well, they were saying--
You technically had to stop it.
Bootsy Collins: 24:21
Well, they were saying that we took his name, Rubber Band. And nobody never heard of him. I mean he came in and just because we were being successful, and wanted some money, wanted to get paid.
Didn't The Rubber Band exist then? I don't get it.
Yeah, that's what he meant.
Bootsy Collins: 24:41
I mean the actual Rubber Band that was in existence, so.
Bootsy Collins: 24:46
How could you claim then--?
Bootsy Collins: 24:47
Well, I mean they'll claim anything. Ownership?
That's true. You're right.
Bootsy Collins: 24:52
I mean ownership? Come on, man. I mean we were blessed to get away with-- they didn't sue me.
Right. The Rubber Band, right?
Bootsy Collins: 24:59
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Well, no, I think you're saying the actual literal-- no.
When you are a unit, you have to register your name.
Bootsy Collins: 25:07
Like I own The Roots. As if you're a group, you can't be named The Roots.
Right. A product can't be--?
But then a movie can be made or--
I got yeah.
Unpaid Bill: 25:17
Or a clothing brand.
Bootsy Collins: 25:18
And then today you got to understand that what Quest is saying, that's an everyday known fact. Then, brothers didn't know nothing.
But see, Juicy Fruit still came and tried to come after James and Mtume, but they just didn't win. That's why I was like they're going to try. You know that.
Bootsy Collins: 25:37
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That's they thing. They come and take it [laughter]. They come and take it. They don't care. It's like it's mine. I don't care who came up with it. I mean, it is mine.
So was that why you did the one off the Sweat Band project? Was that because of that?
Bootsy Collins: 25:59
Well, Sweat Band didn't have nothing to do with it.
Bootsy Collins: 26:01
I think what Quest is talking about-- Quest talking about The Rubber Band. Yeah. And then, we didn't call it The Rubber Band, it was always Bootsy's Rubber Band.
Bootsy Collins: 26:11
So that's the other part of it that we had in our favor. We wasn't going around trying to sell The Rubber Band. It was Bootsy's Rubber Band. So I think that's how we won that. Warner's came in and blew because they were so cocky. Because dude had already got with them about, "Give me a little something and everything is cool." They were like, "Man, we own this." So it's Warner Brothers. Come on.
What was it like dealing with Mo Ostin and the cats at Warners?
Bootsy Collins: 26:41
Did you have a relationship with them at all?
Bootsy Collins: 26:43
I did, but not with Mo. Bob Krasnow was the cat. We had a good relationship, real good at the time. At the time, I was doing really good and doing what I'm supposed to do. So, yeah, it was good. But they wasn't into investing in something that they had no idea that-- we look like maniacs, man. Come on [laughter].
But they knew it worked.
Bootsy Collins: 27:15
Well, no. No, I can't say that.
They knew somebody loved it.
Bootsy Collins: 27:18
Yeah, there you go. They knew somebody, and they knew who the somebody was.
Boss Bill: 27:24
We don't get it, but somebody loves it.
Somebody like that. Yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 27:26
Suga Steve: 27:27
Oh, so that's the--
Unpaid Bill: 27:28
So, if Neil Bogart hadn't come in and basically financed the-- what was it? The '77 tour?
Bootsy Collins: 27:33
Unpaid Bill: 27:35
Where do you think P-Funk would've been?
Bootsy Collins: 27:38
Well, I think we would've been somewhere, but something would've happened. I don't exactly know what, but we was at a point that it had to happen. And it just happened that Neil stepped up.
Unpaid Bill: 27:52
Because he's pretty much the only one, I guess, you could say that saw the vision. Yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 27:55
He's the only one. He's the only one.
I mean, by '78, you were such a character figure. Was there any talk whatsoever about you having your own cartoon? Because you guys would have full-blown comic books inside the record, the [inaudible].
Bootsy Collins: 28:11
That's all within our crew, within the camp--
Wild Bill is pulling out [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 28:18
Oh, man. Wow.
Oh man, I haven't seen it since I was like 10.
Boss Bill: 28:21
Suga Steve: 28:22
Overton Loyd. Yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 28:25
I mean, it was so much talent around that whole P-Funk time, man. It was just incredible. But what it was, Quest, was they didn't want that kind of thing. It had to be lightweight. You had to be talking about just love, just I love you baby, and da, da, da, da, dee and dressing nice. They didn't want that raw P crap.
On Saturday mornings.
Bootsy Collins: 28:54
They didn't want none of that, man.
But it's ready for Adult Swim now though. Like that, all that.
Bootsy Collins: 28:58
Suga Steve: 28:58
All that, yeah.
Well, just the way that the shows began and all that stuff, you guys were still like the three, four-minute cartoons at the beginning.
Bootsy Collins: 29:07
But guess who bought those? We did.
What you talking about?
Bootsy Collins: 29:12
I mean there wasn't anybody helping. George had to come up with the money with the mothership. Wasn't nobody helping. And they knew how big it was getting. But at the same time, it was like, don't touch them crazy mothers. I mean, especially George. That's boy's out of his mind, okay?
Okay, so is there any truth to the myth that you and George would purposely go fishing in the Bermuda Triangle?
Bootsy Collins: 29:43
Oh, yeah. Yeah. That's not a myth. That's actually true [laughter].
In hopes to get abducted, or to see what happens?
Bootsy Collins: 29:50
Loving to get it.
Ooh, y'all was fucked up, weren't you?
Bootsy Collins: 29:54
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.
What is it like being fucked up in the Bermuda Triangle [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 29:59
Well, now that's one I can't remember.
But why go fishing in the Bermuda Triangle?
Bootsy Collins: 30:06
Because it's kind of like asking for it [laughter].
Wait. Do you know how heavy the tides are in the Bermuda Triangle? No, but I'm just saying if you're trying to--
And take a rowboat--
They did not take a rowboat.
It's a sailboat? What kind of boat?
They didn't take-- come on.
Boss Bill: 30:19
What I'm saying is, I understand the logic.
Bootsy Collins: 30:21
No, it wasn't a rowboat [laughter].
It was a yacht [laughter].
Or there was one night-- George told me about the night you were in Detroit, driving, and you and George saw UFOs.
Bootsy Collins: 30:35
Yeah. Well, actually we drove from Detroit to Toronto. Yeah. We was coming out of Detroit. And yeah, that's one of the ones that I know really happened.
Come on, man. So you was sober when you--
Bootsy Collins: 30:49
I mean, I didn't say I was sober.
Okay, well how we going to believe you boo, see?
Bootsy Collins: 30:53
I'm just saying that I know--
I believe in other life forces, so.
Bootsy Collins: 30:56
Yeah. I know that that happened. I mean, I know that that happened. And I also know that there's some missing time that happened that day/night, whatever it was. First, it was day. And next thing we know, it was night. And Chuck Berry was on there singing Johnny B Goode.
On the radio? Okay.
Bootsy Collins: 31:17
On the radio. And that's when George told me that after we saw this, it was kind of like--
Nobody going to believe this [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 31:24
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. After we actually saw this come down and hit the car--
Bootsy Collins: 31:30
Yeah. Yeah. I looked at George because I'm always looking up to George like he's the savior. He knows everything. And I'm not afraid. That's like being out there with the Bermuda Triangle and shit.
Bootsy Collins: 31:46
I'm with George. I mean, I'll be anywhere. We night fishing. And you can't even see your hand.
Wait, he's doing it at night [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 31:54
You can't see your hand.
Was there a full moon out, too?
Bootsy Collins: 31:56
No, no, no.
Y'all just had [crosstalk]--
Boss Bill: 31:58
[inaudible] goes bigger.
Bootsy Collins: 32:00
He was asking for it, man. I mean, and George caught this-- we don't know what it was. We never got a chance to pull it in. It went under the boat. And he couldn't pull it in. So we don't know what happened that night. Because you can't see your hand in front of your face. So, yeah. It was some deep experiences. That one you was talking about, though, in Detroit, Toronto?
Bootsy Collins: 32:28
We went to George's house over in Toronto, after that experience. Knocked on the door and his daughter answered the door. And she was in shock by the way we looked. She said, "What is wrong with you motherfuckers?" Because we were lit up. She said we were lit up. Okay? Now, this is her rap. And she don't know. I mean she's a little girl growing up. Barbarella. You know her?
That's her name?
Bootsy Collins: 33:01
Yeah. Yeah. "What happened to y'all?" And we thinking we just got scared out of our mind. We didn't know we had a certain look. And sure enough soon as she saw us, "What is wrong with y'all?" So and we never talked about it. George and I never talked about it because I wasn't sure about the facts. And I knew he wasn't sure because he was more confused than I was [laughter]. And he was my leader.
Man. Another singer I had a question about was Leslyn Bailey.
She sings on Love Vibes.
Bootsy Collins: 33:48
What's the deal with her?
Bootsy Collins: 33:50
I met Leslyn in, let's see, in 1973 or 4. And we started doing a little recordings and stuff around Cincinnati. And I first thought that-- well, actually, she was a part of the band in the very first record. Well, with the Love Vibes--
Love Vibes. Yep.
Bootsy Collins: 34:16
And because I hadn't really put the whole band together yet. So it was myself, Bone, Cat, Frankie, and Fred. Now, I had called them to come in to do the horn thing. But yeah, the actual touring band wasn't together yet. So I was trying to find myself, find out who the actual Rubber Band was going to be. And she was part of that.
Bootsy Collins: 34:51
And yeah. She was a heck of a songwriter with those kind of love vibes and that kind of thing. Yeah, yeah, that's my girl.
So by the late '70s, when you guys are just in full mode, does it get overwhelming--
Bootsy Collins: 35:13
--because you're dealing with Parlet, Brides, Bootsy, Funkadelic Parliament--
Bootsy Collins: 35:20
Boss Bill: 35:21
All the solo albums.
--all these-- yeah. How do you know our first phase-- I mean, because it never, technically ran out of gas. But how did you know like, "We need a break" or that sort of--?
Bootsy Collins: 35:39
I'ma tell you the truth. I think the worse part about music is the business. And music is so blissful, and such a blessing. But the business is the thing that separates everybody. And that's what happens. It didn't only happen to us. That's what happens to pretty much everybody. You start making money. Because when we weren't making no money, I mean it was like-- that was the best time in my life, was when we wasn't making no money. I mean when you start making the money, people start wanting to separate. "Oh, you can come over here and do this with me," and "You don't need them and duh, duh, duh, duh, duh." And so all that rap starts happening.
Bootsy Collins: 36:37
The one thing they couldn't do is separate me and George. Because that came up a lot, wanting to separate. But that's one thing that didn't happen. But when I started figuring out that I needed a drug to go to the studio, I knew something was wrong with me. Not something wrong with anybody else. The blame stop right here. Because I started realizing, "That ain't what I do." I used to go to the studio because I love to do music. But now I can't go out the house without doing drugs first? I knew something was wrong with me. And so, I think that hit everybody in this time period. Maybe not the same way it hit me, but it was hitting everybody.
You think it was-- was it trying to deal with the fame? Being actually famous, that's what it was?
Bootsy Collins: 37:40
Yeah. I mean nobody gave us no manual on how to-- I mean Quest and them, they know more about everything. We was just out there. We was just out there for the experience and the love of music. George is the only one in the camp, I think, even had a clue about how Motown worked or how the--
The business works?
Bootsy Collins: 38:06
Yeah. The business work. You supposed to try to get a hit. Try to make sure you got a hook. Try to make sure you got-- he was the only one who had a little clue. But he didn't have nobody to push him. He was it.
So what were you thoughts once-- even before that. You technically are the producer of the first Zapp album, you're listed on it.
Bootsy Collins: 38:36
I still don't think that the world knows what a virtuoso Roger Troutman was--
Bootsy Collins: 38:46
--as a musician.
Bootsy Collins: 38:48
Well, I knew Roger before any of that stuff.
So you knew him from the hood and--?
Bootsy Collins: 38:56
And we used to play in the same clubs. I mean, when he was Roger and the Human Body. And so we used to go to their gigs. They used to come to our gigs. And we used to joke a lot about his dad. His dad always used to come down on me about I stole his cigarettes. And I'm like, "Come on, man [laughter]. I don't even smoke." Well, not that pack--
Right, right, right, right.
Bootsy Collins: 39:27
And we always had a big joke about that. And Roger and them always had a big motorhome. Because Dad had it going on.
Bootsy Collins: 39:37
No, Dad had it going on.
What did he do?
Bootsy Collins: 39:39
He was in construction, and he did--
Yeah, they still have a big-- they have a big, giant construction--
Bootsy Collins: 39:48
Oh, they had it going on. Out of all the bands, they had it going on with music or without it.
Bootsy Collins: 39:59
And so we always made-- it's kind of like a pledge to each other that if I make it first, I'm going to reach back and grab you. If you make it first, you reach back and grab me. That was our whole thing. And Catfish didn't let me forget it. When we messed around and start making it, Cat say, "Don't forget about Roger, now." And that's when we start-- I was like, "Okay. Where they playing at?" Cat always was in tune with the street. He always knew. "Oh, yeah, them mothers, they're playing up in Dayton tonight. Let's roll up there." We'd jump in the limo. Oh, we was big-timing, like a mother then [laughter]. We'd jump in the limo, ride up, call Roger. "Come on, man. Come on. Jump in the limo. Let's rap, man. Let's rap. We're getting ready to get this deal, man." So we talked about it, and they was all up for it. Next thing you know, we arrive in the studio, United Sounds in Detroit City.
Y'all made [inaudible] at United Sounds?
Bootsy Collins: 41:02
Just what was United Sounds like? Was it just a regular studio to you, or was there anything magical about it?
Bootsy Collins: 41:12
I hear that it was a magical place. Well, I guess I would have to say it's a magical place. Because that's where I found myself [laughter].
Right. I was going to say--
Bootsy Collins: 41:26
Yeah. Yeah, I would have to say that. Because when I first started going there it was the engineer, he'd hate to see me coming. Because I always had some kind of pedal to hook up. He's like, "Man." Because he was used to doing Motown stuff. You just plug it in and play. Just come on in and throw that shit in the wall and let's hit it. But I'll come in and I'll be figuring out my gadgets, trying to get this sound. And he's was like, "What are you doing? Just play the part." I'm like, "No man, you don't understand." See, I didn't even understand what I was doing. I was just trying to get some different things going on. And so I would have to always hear this going into the studio. I would know I would have to deal with Jim. Jim is his name. Jim Vitti. I would put on blast [laughter]. Yeah, Jim Vitti. He was a smash though, man. Once he caught on to what I was doing he was like, "Is that all the pedals you got?" He's like, "Bring them." Because he would start understanding, "Oh, I see what you're doing."
So since you're mentioning engineering the collapse on all people--
Bootsy Collins: 42:50
Suga Steve: 42:53
Because the electronic technology wasn't out there.
Bootsy Collins: 42:56
Harmonizer, the Eventide Harmonizer.
Eventides were out back then?
Bootsy Collins: 43:02
Eventides and AM-- what was that thing? AMS? That only sampled for a minute?
So he would detune it--
Bootsy Collins: 43:10
No, it wasn't even a minute. It was 5 or 10 seconds.
Bootsy Collins: 43:15
Yeah. Yeah. Jim Vitti came up with that vibe.
And is that y'all clapping or y'all-- how you creating those big claps?
Bootsy Collins: 43:24
Yeah, that's us. We all out in the studio. All out in the studio, clapping at the same time. And it's making that [inaudible]--
The Isley Brothers once told me that--
Suga Steve: 43:36
Wetting your hands?
Yeah, they'd put their hands in a bucket and then start clapping.
Bootsy Collins: 43:41
No. Well, I don't know. That might work for them.
For them, but not for you guys.
Bootsy Collins: 43:45
Yeah, we just all went out and just clapped.
So were you surprised at how your catalog slowly started to come back into fashion in the late 80s and early 90s?
Bootsy Collins: 44:00
You know what, Quest? I was never really surprised about that [laughter].
Because I'm the shit.
Bootsy Collins: 44:09
Yeah, I mean, on the real.
Bootsy Collins: 44:12
Yeah. I was always kind of just looking forward to the experience. And when they start sampling and stuff like that, it was like, "Oh, great. I'm glad somebody really liked it."
Like we won't [crosstalk].
Okay, so can we talk about I'd Rather Fuck With You? Because that's my favorite use of a Bootsy sample [laughter]. I just remember the first time I heard it in high school. And it was like, "What the fuck is this? This is amazing." When the first time you heard it and were asked, "Is it cool? Can we use this?"
Bootsy Collins: 44:45
Well, actually, he played it for me before it even came out.
Bootsy Collins: 44:50
To get the permission, right?
Bootsy Collins: 44:52
Yeah. Yeah. And we were just--
Two words, cha-ching [laughter]. Exactly.
Bootsy Collins: 44:57
Yeah. Not even a question just [inaudible].
Bootsy Collins: 44:59
Right. Right. Right. Just go ahead and hit it [laughter]. And you know what, we wasn't even really getting paid at that point. So, for me, it was more about the rebirth like you was talking about.
Yeah. Because when you started doing it in concert then it's like, "Oh, this is where--"
Suga Steve: 45:18
Bootsy Collins: 45:20
Yeah. Yeah. So for me, it was more of that. And then James, I think, was the first one that started - what do you call it? - suing for the samples and stuff. But George and I was pretty cool with let them--
They legendarily cut great deals [laughter]. I think the not just knee-deep rate was, I think, half a penny an album sold.
Bootsy Collins: 45:51
Because George's theory was it was like crack. Let's sell it for cheap and then everybody will come and use us.
So, in comparison, I'm wondering what James would charge?
Bootsy Collins: 46:02
Oh, James is a whole nother-- that--
I mean, he's not-- I mean, he's not--
Bootsy Collins: 46:05
Picture this: Learjet [laughter].
True that. True that.
Bootsy Collins: 46:08
Picture this: $250,000 a week for gas.
Suga Steve: 46:13
Bootsy Collins: 46:14
He wasn't as litigious with the-- I mean, he definitely went back to--
Get his money, right?
--get his money. But I think he also realized that, where the bread's being buttered now. The state just absolutely encourages it [laughter]. And I'm like, "Well, y'all know that James Brown hasn't been sampled in like 25 years now." And they're like, "Yeah, any time you want to use it [laughter]. Here's some more things."
Bootsy Collins: 46:38
Bootsy, at this point in your career, where is most of your money coming from? Is it shows? Is it publishing or royalties on your records?
Bootsy Collins: 46:47
You want to know the truth?
Bootsy Collins: 46:50
I don't know where in the hell this money is coming from [laughter]. I mean, and I think by me not caring, it just comes. And that's the way it's been all my life.
So you have a very trusting individual in your life--
Bootsy Collins: 47:05
Well, it ain't like--
Bootsy Collins: 47:06
--it ain't like trusting. It's more like I depend on The One, period. And The One is bigger than music. The One is all of us. It's the essence of all it is. And so, that's what I depend on. It's no religion. It's no nothing. It's no color. It's The One. Whatever that One is, our minds can't grasp what it is. And so I don't even try to figure it out. I never have.
Bootsy Collins: 47:38
Yeah. I never tried to figure it out. It's like, "Oh, that's what it is? Okay."
So you've done some collaborations with a lot of artists. People might know you did the [Delight Project?]. But there's one particular, this one particular project, I will never for the life of me [laughter]-- when it happened--
Bootsy Collins: 48:05
What was it, man? What was it?
The Bill Laswell [crosstalk] [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 48:07
What was it?
No. You were in Color Me Badd's band [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 48:11
Suga Steve: 48:13
The second, not even the first?
If you remember the very beginning sketch of Fat Cat--
Bootsy Collins: 48:21
I thought I was on a roll man.
Fantastic volume one. When they were like, "[inaudible] and he's high."
Bootsy Collins: 48:27
I thought I was on a roll [laughter].
You good. You were good. But what were Dank-- Frank, Dank and Dilla talking about?
Boss Bill: 48:37
Is the intro to Time and Chance.
Yeah. Yeah. Time and chance by Color Me Badd. They did it on the Soul Train awards the night before. And even I was like, "Wait, is Bootsy playing with Color Me Badd, is he-- [laughter]?"
Suga Steve: 48:50
[crosstalk] He's on the album too.
Bootsy Collins: 48:53
But I think too what I was doing was trying to prepare myself to get back into band. And it wasn't so much as whose band, it was like let me see where I can fit in.
I'm not clowning. I mean, it actually made sense.
How did they hit the lottery like that?
That's when they were hot, kind of at that time.
Yeah. They were hot.
After I Want To Sex You Up, okay. All right.
Bootsy Collins: 49:22
And it just seemed, like I say, how The One takes care of me.
The One, yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 49:25
I mean with the light now. I mean, of all times, of all people, and house music, Bootsy?
Bootsy Collins: 49:32
Even George said, "Man, you can't do that."
Bootsy Collins: 49:36
Yeah. Yeah, and then I invited him to the gig. He came to the gig. And he said, "Oh, I see."
I get it. [laughter]
Bootsy Collins: 49:44
I mean, seeing all this festival and all of them jumping, he was like, "Okay, I get it."
See, this is all making sense now. You're taking chances. Because I was wondering when I heard you were doing something with Billy Ray Cyrus I was like, ugh. But then I was like, this is Bootsy. He knows the one. He take a chance. You never know what could come out of this.
Bootsy Collins: 50:02
I don't want to do it with who you would think I would want to do it.
You know what? I forgot all the stuff we did together. I'm totally forgetting. So Bootsy and I once did a-- they redid the Monday Night Football theme again and they had an all-star.
Bootsy Collins: 50:19
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That was the bomb.
It was me, Bootsy, Little Richard--
And you two.
--a whole bunch of people. But one of the craziest moments was on break, Charlie Daniels--
Bootsy Collins: 50:33
You remember that?
--starts playing the P Funk catalog [laughter]. I didn't realize--
--how deep into soul music Charlie Daniels was. And he was eating it up the whole fact that like, "Oh, y'all underestimated me." "Yeah, I know my P-Funk [laughter]." But I mean he was doing like good--
Boss Bill: 50:50
Deep album cuts.
--to your ear hole. He's like, "What?" [inaudible].
Bootsy Collins: 50:53
Oh, yeah. Yup.
Suga Steve: 50:54
And I was like, "What the hell?" I did not know that.
Bootsy Collins: 50:59
Heck, yeah. That he was just jamming to P-Funk stuff.
Bootsy Collins: 51:02
But you know what's funny, too, is I run into a lot of cats today that you ain't supposed to be really down with. And I find out that they know more about you than you do.
Bootsy Collins: 51:17
They don't want the world to know.
Bootsy Collins: 51:19
Yeah. And it's like, "Wow," so.
And you're a living legend, Bootsy. I don't know if anybody told you.
Yeah. You're a timeless living legend.
Bootsy Collins: 51:28
Well, like I said, I didn't get into it to be what that is. Because I don't even know. But I'm just glad to still be able to sit here and be amongst people and to vibe the good vibe. Because there's so much mess. So much mess is going on and just to be able to use your platform. That's what I feel like whatever I have done, I want to use the platform for these young mothers that's coming up now. Because they didn't get the platform to play live music like we did. They got a iPhone. They got a iPhone and that's all they need. But we needed to be able to touch and feel people and have those private moments. Because you can't even have a secret now. Ain't nothing private. You can't even get lost [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 52:39
You know the saying, "Hey, man, just go get lost with that shit." You can't get lost. And getting lost was part of the experience, you know?
Awe, yeah. Man.
Bootsy Collins: 52:49
That was the fun part.
Find your way out of it.
Find something different. You find something new. You're like, "Oh--"
Bootsy Collins: 52:52
Oh, man. You'd mess around. You'd wind up in lover lanes like, "I don't know how we got here."
"But we here."
Bootsy Collins: 52:58
The chick be like, "Oh, you know mother--[laughter]"
Suga Steve: 53:03
That's deep. Man, we can't even get lost for that.
Is Bootsy our first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee?
Suga Steve: 53:08
I think he is. I think he is.
Wow, we're coming up in the world, man.
Suga Steve: 53:11
We're coming up [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 53:13
I've got a question about record Instant Replay by Mico Wave.
Ah, man. I wanted to ask about that.
Is that you playing on that? Are you playing on that?
Boss Bill: 53:21
He produced the record.
Oh, you produced--
Bootsy Collins: 53:22
I produced the record. I'm trying to think.
Instant replay, you and me. One more.
Replay, you and me. One more. Play me another love song.
Me another love song.
Bootsy Collins: 53:31
Right, right. I remember the record, but I'd have to hear the song to know if I'm playing on it.
Oh, okay. Okay. That's how much he's done. But you did produce the--
Bootsy Collins: 53:40
Okay, you produced, okay. Love that record.
Bootsy Collins: 53:42
Cookin' From The Inside Out!!!
I loved that record.
Suga Steve: 53:43
Yeah so did I.
Cookin' From The Inside Out!!! I had that tape [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 53:47
Man, Quest, you got everything, man.
No, we're just nerds, man.
All right. Quazar, The Bling Go Inside, were you on that? Were you playing on that as well?
Bootsy Collins: 53:55
You wasn't on that? Okay, got you.
Bootsy Collins: 53:58
But the boys was bad, man.
Bootsy Collins: 54:00
Jersey, man. Come on, man.
Wait, when [laughter] Paul-- billionaire.
Paul Reiser [laughter]. You're crazy.
I was like, I'm thinking Paul--
Bill Gates' former partner.
Boss Bill: 54:18
I almost said [crosstalk]
Music experience in Seattle. I can't remember his--
Bootsy Collins: 54:20
So, Paul Allen.
Bootsy Collins: 54:22
When Paul Allen reunited you guys to do the-- you guys as in the J.B.'s.
Bootsy Collins: 54:32
Was that the first time that you guys played together and--
Bootsy Collins: 54:38
Suga Steve: 54:39
What year was this?
Bootsy Collins: 54:39
You mean all of us like all of us that were--
It had to have been like 2002.
Bootsy Collins: 54:44
It was 2002, yeah. Actually, that was, as far as all of us like Country--
Yeah, the original.
Bootsy Collins: 54:55
Yeah, the original crew. Yeah, yeah. That was definitely the first time. And check this out. So they asked James, "Now, we got your original band. Cat's here. Now, why don't you want to play with them?"
Boss Bill: 55:18
That's what I said.
Bootsy Collins: 55:19
Yeah, yeah. He didn't want to play with us.
Bootsy Collins: 55:22
And he didn't play with us. So we went on before him, tore it up, all right, mind you. Playing his stuff, mind you, and then he came on.
Suga Steve: 55:34
With his band? Nope.
Bootsy Collins: 55:35
With his band and people kind of--
Bootsy Collins: 55:39
--saw him later.
What did he say to you? Did he speak to y'all?
Bootsy Collins: 55:44
Oh, well he came in the room. "Come on in." And what me and Cat do, we get a mother sitting in the middle of us, right? Because we like them headphones [laughter]. It's like we get the mother sitting in the middle and we wear that mother out [laughter]. Then we start cracking on him. "What's with the shoes, man [laughter]?"
What are those?
Bootsy Collins: 56:09
So we had a thing where we didn't even think about what we're going to do. It's like, "Oh, Mr. Brown wants to come in and see y'all." "Yeah. Come on, tell him come on in." Then I move over, Cat moves over, James comes and sit right there and we put our-- because you know he ain't used to that hugging shit [laughter]. First thing we do is he sits down, hug him, then he gets all uncomfortable. It's like, yeah. That's exactly the way we want you mother [laughter]. That's the way you made us feel.
Oh man, but we know it's love. We know it's love [laughter]. So is there anything that you've not done that you wish you could do or-- ?
Bootsy Collins: 56:50
What I've not done is--
You scored a movie. I forgot you even scored--
Bootsy Collins: 56:55
Yeah. Yeah. Well, actually that was--
Almost a J.B.'s reunion.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 57:01
Almost all of them. Clyde was there, Jabo and Bernie, Bernie Worrell came in, Catfish. Actually--
A mashup allstars of--
Bootsy Collins: 57:12
Yeah. Yeah. That was a cool time, now that you mentioned it. I've got some great tapes of Jabo and Clyde during that session.
Suga Steve: 57:28
Bootsy Collins: 57:29
Yeah. And we had the video. I've got tapes. I mean, they was killing it. They was killing. And I already know. I already know [laughter].
You need that.
Questlove is losing his mind.
What does your archives look like? Because there's a lot of your shows on YouTube or whatever, but--
Bootsy Collins: 57:49
You know what I do, Quest? I just stack stuff. And it's just like my music, I don't go back and listen to it. I just know I got it.
Unpaid Bill: 58:00
Do you need an archivist [laughter]? Do you need somebody else?
Bootsy Collins: 58:02
Well, at some point--
He does, Bill. Yes, he does [laughter].
Unpaid Bill: 58:05
Bootsy Collins: 58:07
At some point, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Because I think it's coming around. Because everybody's really asking me. And there's so many different artists that's been through there. For instance, Bobby Womack, man. People have no idea how bad that boy is on the guitar. And I mean, singing, he's killing it. But the guitar, he's killing it even more. And I got these tracks that we did when we did the record before this one and he brings you in. It's this spiritual thing with Bobby. He just brings you in and whatever he's feeling, you feel it.
Actually, you mentioned Bobby Womack which made me think of Breezin', which made me think of him recording in the same studio as There's A Riot Going On. Okay. As honest as you can be about it, what was that miniature Sly period like, when Sly kind of joined P-Funk?
Bootsy Collins: 59:25
In with us. Yeah, yeah.
Because the thing is, is that I know that during that P-Funk Earth Tour - or I think it was the Funkadelic, or no, no, it was Motor Booty Affair '78 - I know that he was opening for you guys. And George had him on a few records. And it was just okay [laughter]. But every time I look at any old footage of Sly in the P-Funk era, I got to wonder how much of a psychological, pardon my french, mindfuck that was for him--
Bootsy Collins: 60:08
Yeah, yeah. You're right.
--to him? As a captain, kind of he has to go down to minion status.
Bootsy Collins: 60:16
And he's opening for me.
Yeah. How awkward was that period?
Bootsy Collins: 60:24
It was. I know that had to be really stupid really for him. And it felt stupid to me. I can't speak for nobody else.
But I know that you guys had nothing but love for him and he wanted to--
Bootsy Collins: 60:36
He's like one of my heroes.
Bootsy Collins: 60:39
And to actually see him going through that at that time, I thought it was good because at least he had come back out of his shell. So I thought that part of it was good. But the agony that I can feel that was coming from him, to have to do that to get his legs back, I know that agony too. I felt that. I've felt that before [laughter].
You felt that?
When did you feel it?
Bootsy Collins: 61:13
I can't say exactly when I felt it, but I know I felt that.
Who was the artist that you were looking at that is kind of you saw as, if not the next you, but like--
Bootsy Collins: 61:26
Well, it didn't necessarily have to be in that same way that it happened. It's just, that feeling, I've felt that before.
You see I would-- okay. That's news to me. Because I would still feel as though you are still Bootsy. Unmistakably, Bootsy Collins. Your presence is such-- if you're standing with Snoop, if you're doing stuff with the rapper of the moment, whatever, millennials aside, somebody knows that's Bootsy Collins. Whereas--
Bootsy Collins: 62:02
I'll tell you when it was.
Sly was kind of still--
Bootsy Collins: 62:05
Suga Steve: 62:05
Go ahead. [inaudible]
Bootsy Collins: 62:06
I know now. This is one of the times when you're playing to a audience that don't have a clue of who the hell this motherfucker is standing up there with. The star glasses on and the mothers don't have a clue of who you are. And all the mothers is on the show is like, what do you call, funkateers from what-- that's a time that you feel like, "Damn [laughter]." I mean, you know, and it ain't got nothing to do with the artist, this has something to do with-- they don't know and ain't nothing you can do.
Again, fucking millennials. Wasn't?
Bootsy Collins: 62:56
Bootsy Collins: 62:58
But it wasn't like it was their fault.
Right. Well, it's their parent's fault. You've got to blame somebody.
Parents didn't school them.
This is why we have Questlove Supreme.
Parents didn't school them.
Bootsy Collins: 63:11
But that's the closest time I think, that that kind of feeling would come out is when you come on-- and you know these mothers supposed to know something. Somebody's supposed to know something. And they don't.
Bootsy Collins: 63:28
But then, me being a man of the world, I kind of understand why they don't. Because funk was a bad word when we first came out. And they wanted us to do interviews on the radio. But they didn't want us to talk about funk. So I understand that stupid part. How are we going to tell y'all about what the funk is about if we can't say funk? So right there, that was so stupid. And then it was the people that drove it home that made them realize, "Hey man, y'all better catch up because the people are going for it." The people was in it. They was in it already. And the DJs, and the radio, they was like, "No, we can't play that shit." They got airplanes in the records, alarms going off. We can't play that on the radio. So we had seen that story before.
I also think it's on us because we just can't take for granted that someone's-- if I say Flashlight you'll know what I'm talking about. There's sports events, it's each one, teach one. If you leave this earth and didn't at least teach 20 people about your playlist or whatever is on, then that's--
I hear that, but I still blame the parents. Because it was in my house where I learned about Miles, and [inaudible], Phil, Ted. It's just, but I do that too. I do that too.
Bootsy Collins: 65:11
Well, you know what? But do you know what? It's a lot of kids that they get it like that. And then you have a lot that don't.
That's true. You're right.
Bootsy Collins: 65:23
So it's like you get the best of both worlds every now and then.
Unpaid Bill: 65:28
You also have to look at the way people's music collections are these days. It's not necessarily a physical object in your house. There's not a stack of vinyl sitting in the corner of most people's houses.
People aren't making mix tapes at home anymore.
80,000 records are in this telephone right now. It's kind--
Right. Right. And when you have access to that much, you kind of lose context for it all.
Bootsy Collins: 65:45
So Quest, let me ask you. How do you feel now, because you have moved-- check it out. Just let me ask. Just let me ask. You have moved from crates, right?
Bootsy Collins: 65:56
And then just to have the availability, what does that make you feel like? I mean--
I miss the immersive experience of record shopping. Mainly because that was the bonding thing with my dad and I. My dad and I would go to the mom-and-pop store. And he was a binge shopper, the way I am now [laughter]. So after school, we'd go to the record store, just buy every 45, every record. So I miss the incense in the store and him playing this record and that record. I miss that experience.
Bootsy Collins: 66:37
Well just think about this--
But on the other hand, I'm fully embracing technology now. And there's so much music out there on the internet. I mean, it's overwhelming. And I'm probably not even going to get through 25% of it [laughter].
But I'm kind of aboard for the ride.
Bootsy Collins: 67:02
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I guess the same kind of thing you're dealing with there is kind of what we dealing with as well. Because the crate is what we do. That's the crate of music. And what they're doing now is they're making it where you don't have to carry the crate. So if you don't carry the crate with you, then they give you a replacement, which the replacement--
Is your phone.
Bootsy Collins: 67:31
It's your phone.
Bootsy Collins: 67:32
I mean, and that's where the future--
I've seen people play guitar on their phone. It's kind of crazy.
Bootsy Collins: 67:36
I know. I know. But that's where it's going.
That's where it is now.
Bootsy Collins: 67:40
All right. Are there any regret questions?
What was your thoughts on Redbone, for a second?
[music] By Childish Gambino?
Yeah [laughter]. Childish Gambino.
Bootsy Collins: 67:55
I thought it was pretty, pretty good. I mean, I liked it. I knew that Rather Be With You was-- I knew that was all up in there. It wasn't sampled. But they recreated it the way they heard it.
Unpaid Bill: 68:13
Bootsy Collins: 68:14
Yeah. I thought it was a great record.
Wait, so they don't have to check--
Bill might hint that you're being diplomatic right now but.
Yeah. Because there was a big debate online about this because people--
Bootsy Collins: 68:23
Let me tell you if you just--
You can be honest here.
Bootsy Collins: 68:28
Yeah. I'm going to be honest. Okay.
Oh, no. Why did I open this door? Now, I'm a fan of that song.
Bootsy Collins: 68:36
My partner, George, he's actually-- what I understand is, he's going after it. And that's what George do.
Because I was going to ask was there a sample check? Or how does because it because you say--
No, they didn't sample that.
Unpaid Bill: 68:54
They didn't sample it or interpolate. It's just--
It's influenced by.
Unpaid Bill: 68:57
It's just the way it's inspired. It's kind of like Blurred Lines.
Oh, I didn't know that.
What? That that was I'd Rather Be With You?
No. I thought that there was some clearance going on. You mean it was done and not even--
It's inspired by--
Bootsy Collins: 69:08
Just inspired by.
Unpaid Bill: 69:10
That some blurred lines shit there.
I thought they just gave [inaudible] [laughter]. No, no. I wasn't doing it at you. I'm like but even I knew it was derivative.
You remember when I called you and I would text I was like, "No." I heard that record and I was like, "Yo. He might be in Blurred Lines circles.
Here's the thing though because we don't have physical copies of it--
Boss Bill: 69:29
I'd never read the credits of that album.
Of that album.
I just heard the song, naturally assume, "Oh, yeah. They cleared that shit."
Oh, everyone knows it's derivative of I'd Rather Be With You.
No, because that was the debate. Because remember when y'all said a lot of millennials will not know where this comes from.
Oh, damn [crosstalk].
They will think that it's an original composition [laughter]. And that's why Bill didn't fuck with it in the first place.
So y'all are not credited as co-writers on that song or nothing?
Bootsy Collins: 69:53
Okay. All right.
Anyway, Bill just got happy [laughter]. And we have to wrap up this episode [crosstalk].
And I'm looking forward to having Donald Glover coming.
Boss Bill: 70:03
Unpaid Bill: 70:04
We were supposed to go back to talk about this. What did James think about your guitar [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 70:09
You didn't forget that, huh [laughter]?
Unpaid Bill: 70:11
I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget.
Bootsy Collins: 70:12
Awe, my goodness. Okay, that first night we played, I had that green $29 Silvertone guitar, which I turned into a bass. And I played it. I thought the color of it was just-- let me see if y'all got a green--
Nothing but gray and black around here [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 70:32
Yeah. Okay, take this blue and neon green it. Okay? So that's the color of this bass, okay? And James looked at that mother, and he was like, "Son, son. Nah." This is what he would do. "Nah, nah, nah. Ain't going to work. Ain't going to work. That thing you got there can't ever be on my stage again [laughter]. On my stage."
You can play wherever the hell else you want.
Did you stand out too much?
Bootsy Collins: 71:13
I don't think it was that. It's just he didn't know the story. He didn't know that I was blessed just to have that [inaudible] [laughter].
He didn't care.
So did he buy you a bass?
Bootsy Collins: 71:25
He bought me a bass.
Do you still have that bass?
Bootsy Collins: 71:28
Actually, I don't.
What was the story about it turning into a snake on the--
Unpaid Bill: 71:33
Yeah, yeah. I heard that story too.
Bootsy Collins: 71:35
That was, what happened--
Unpaid Bill: 71:36
Bootsy Collins: 71:38
Well, actually, I thought it was pretty good [laughter]. But, obviously, other people that was looking thought it was bad.
Bootsy Collins: 71:48
So what happened was James said, "Son, look at your eyes. There all red. I know you're doing them drugs." I'm like, "I don't do it on your set. I do not." And anybody would be crazy, outside of Catfish to [laughter]--
Boss Bill: 72:13
That was a loaded statement.
Bootsy Collins: 72:13
I mean, to do drugs on James' set. With all the movements, hits, I mean, everything he did was a band--
Was a signal.
Bootsy Collins: 72:22
Yeah. And it was like, "I can't be high on the stage, you know?" "Even I know that [laughter]."
Bootsy Collins: 72:29
So you don't have to drill me on doing drugs. Because, "Yeah, I'm going to do them, but I ain't going to do them on your set [laughter]." So that's what I told him. And every time he'd comment, "Look at your eyes, son." And I'd be looking crazy [laughter]. But it was because of the sweat. The sweat done dripped in my eyes, maybe I stayed up all night with this, that, and the other one. And all of that played into seven nights a week. So every night he'd call me in there, I'm going to look crazy. It ain't going to be one good night. So he called me in this one night and that was after I had the snake experience. I'm on stage. Because I said, "If he's going to accuse me. I'm going to let it be real. I'm going to take some LSD." And so I took it.
Okay. I might as well do it.
Bootsy Collins: 73:27
I might as well, I mean, he's going to accuse me anyway. So I took it. Now you're talking about recalling that night? I have no idea.
And no mess ups either, huh?
Bootsy Collins: 73:40
And no mess ups.
Bootsy Collins: 73:41
Nobody complained about nothing I played.
Boss Bill: 73:44
It's like a Dock Ellis no-hitter [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 73:47
I don't even know how I got through that night. But I winded up in James' room. And he said to me, "Come here son, sit down, sit down, sit down over here." And he put me right next to him. I mean, right next to him. It was like, "I need a little room because I need--" it's like I'm tripping. And I couldn't tell him that. But it's like, don't you know? And see what, he's so deep. He knew that I was tripping. And he just going to mess my trip up. He going to mess it up [laughter]. So he call me to get real close to him. Because he ain't never had me getting that close. So I got so close to him that when he was talking, I had to look at him. And when I looked at him his face started-- you know how volcanoes look? The volcano with the stuff spewing out of them?
Bootsy Collins: 74:51
I start seeing his pores just all over his face. And the next thing you know, I fell out on the floor. Check it out. Fell out dying laughing [laughter]. He was so through with me. He said, "[inaudible], get your ass up out of here." He told the bodyguards to throw me out. And that was the last time that he called me back in his room to talk, to give me a lecture.
A drug talk [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 75:29
Yeah. Yeah. Because every night, he would call me in the room to tell me how bad I was. How I wouldn't on the one. "Son, you ain't got it. You still ain't got it." And see, we be done killed the people. The people be like, "Damn, that boy [inaudible]. Oh, man, that motherfucker [inaudible]." So you get all that rap, and then, James calls you in the back, "Nah, [inaudible] [laughter]. Son, you ain't got it. You wasn't on the one tonight." So every day we went in there, that's the story I got.
And you think that was his way to just kind of keep you all humble from not getting the big head?
Bootsy Collins: 76:09
But check it out, it was a little deeper than that, the more he said that, the more it made me want to practice. I never knew it at the time. But once I got out of the thing and looked back, I was practicing hard as a mother because I thought we wasn't happening. And I don't think he was doing for that purpose. I think he was doing it just to wear me out because that's what he do. He wear a mother out. But if you take it in a positive way, you can help your situation. And that's why a lot of negative stuff that come down, some of it is good for you. Some of it will-- if you take it in a positive way, some of it will make you get on it.
Bootsy Collins: 77:00
So that particular one made me get on it. And wasn't nothing nobody could say that was deeper than James Brown about, "[inaudible], you ain't on it." Because I hear that voice all the time.
You still hear it now?
Bootsy Collins: 77:14
I still hear it now.
Bootsy Collins: 77:17
And it makes me want to do that much better. But I know the reasoning now. But then I didn't know why he was doing it. I thought he was doing it just to wear me out, to make me throw my instrument down and say, "I can't handle it." But it made me grab my instrument more and take a hold of that. And like I said, I don't think he was doing that on purpose. But then again, he might of, because James was deep.
Suga Steve: 77:51
No, I think I'm good for the--
You good, Phonte?
Yeah, I think we covered it.
Random question. Did anybody, any stylist, ever try to get up in your business and be like, "I think I could do some things."
Bootsy Collins: 78:03
What? You mean stylist?
He's clearly his own stylist [laughter].
No, clearly, he is but--
Can't really miss that.
--at some point, somebody was like--
Bootsy Collins: 78:08
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was lots of people that did that. But, well, it was only a select few that would come in and-- I always drew what I wanted. Because if I hadn't have been a musician, I was going to definitely--
Bootsy Collins: 78:26
Yeah, because that's all I did in school was draw.
Well, I do want to know how many star glasses do you have [laughter]? And do you ever go out and disguise yourself by not dressing like you, just so you can-- if you've got to go to Whole Foods and get some bread.
Bootsy Collins: 78:44
Yeah. Actually, I had to figure that out. I mean once you make that monster, the monster turns on you. I didn't find that out until it turned on me. You know that Bootzilla we was talking about?
Bootsy Collins: 78:55
When that mother turned on me, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know who I was. And when he turns on you, you just-- so I had to find myself again. Find out the William. I had to find William again.
William Earl, right?
Bootsy Collins: 79:15
Two William Earl's in the room.
Bootsy Collins: 79:17
My mother named me William. I had to find that boy that took out the garbage. "Now, go on out there and take that garbage out." I had to find him again because I was so into Bootsy and Bootzilla that I lost that boy. Until I came home one day and mama slapped these same glasses off my face and said, "Nigga, get out there and take out that damn garbage [laughter]." And I had all my friends with me.
I don't do that no more, mama.
Bootsy Collins: 79:46
No, I didn't say that.
He ain't say that.
Bootsy Collins: 79:49
Never mind. No, no.
Fucking picked up that trash, that's what you did.
Bootsy Collins: 79:51
That's exactly what I did. I was fully dressed. She was like, "You better get your ass in there and take out that damn garbage." I went straight to the garbage.
She was talking to William [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 80:02
She was talking to William.
She don't know Bootsy?
Bootsy Collins: 80:04
And that's where I start to find William again is when she did that. Yeah, that's a true story.
Suga Steve: 80:15
The star glasses, do they pinch your nose or dig into your cheeks at all at the points of the stars [laughter]? Does that hurt at all?
Bootsy Collins: 80:23
No. It might look like it, but--
Actually, that's a great question, Steve.
Suga Steve: 80:27
Bootsy Collins: 80:27
And the other part of the question is - I got asked this a few times too - what is the star glasses all about and--?
And the star, period, because on your hat, too.
Bootsy Collins: 80:39
Yeah, yeah. And why did you make your glasses mirror? And my answer was I did it in mirror so who's ever looking at me-- at the time, it was a lot of kids that would come to the show. Because I dealt with a lot of [geepies ?]. The fans that the Funkadelic was too-- were older kids, right? So I started getting the younger kids.
The kids, right.
Bootsy Collins: 81:12
Six, the seven, eights. So I start calling them [geepies ?]. And so I got the star glasses so when the kid look in my eyes, instead of them seeing me--
Boss Bill: 81:23
They see themselves.
Bootsy Collins: 81:23
--they see themself. Yeah.
That's beautiful, Bootsy.
That's the brainchild moment [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 81:29
Yeah, yeah. But that's what this was all about. And with the bass, if you notice the first space bass it's got the mirror as a bodyguard. And what I did with that was I wanted the lights when they hit me from the stage, I wanted those lights to hit the bass and bounce off the bass--
And shoot out.
Bootsy Collins: 81:51
So then all of that was thought out. Now I'd admit most of the stuff we'd never even-- but the glasses and the image, I was already on that in school.
That was important.
Bootsy Collins: 82:05
When I said I was drawing a lot in school, stick men, with the star glasses, with the star bass. That was the beginning of it. I didn't know that I was going to wind up actually being that guy. But that's what came to me.
That's amazing, man.
Bootsy Collins: 82:20
And then when George gave me the opportunity to front the Bootsy's Rubber Band, I was like, "Oh, I already know what I going to do. I've got to find somebody to make these star glasses and I've got to find somebody to make this star bass." And I was on a mission.
Well, William Earl Bootsy Collins, we thank you very much for sharing the experience.
Bootsy Collins: 82:45
Bootsy Collins: 82:47
Thank you, man. [applause] I never knew I remembered all this stuff myself [laughter]. Oh, man.
Jesus, that was more than I bargained for. I didn't think you'd remember these stories.
Bootsy Collins: 82:59
Those ones there but a lot of stuff, I don't have a clue [laughter].
Unpaid Bill: 83:06
We won't ask you about that stuff.
Bootsy Collins: 83:09
But those stories, yeah--
And just for the record, because they're all over your hands, you are a Scorpio?
Bootsy Collins: 83:12
Okay. That says a lot. All right.
Bootsy Collins: 83:14
Oh, yeah. You know about that, right?
He will be 23 next month [laughter]. Anyway, on behalf of Boss Bill, Unpaid Bill, Phontigallo, Suga Steve, it's Laiya, sorry, consistent. This is Questlove and my brother Bootsy Collins.
Bootsy Collins: 83:31
Awe, yeah, brother.
There you go [laughter]. All right.
Bootsy Collins: 83:35
Over and out.
See you all in--
Bootsy Collins: 83:36
Yes, that's right. See you all in the next go round. Questlove Supreme baby [laughter].
[music] Questlove Supreme is produced by Pandora and Team Supreme.
Input sound file:
Bootsy Collins Part 1.mp3
Questlove Supreme may contain language that some of our listeners may find offensive. Listener discretion is advised.
Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call.
The name is Questzilla.
And I am shy.
Don't play them cheap.
Don't them cry.
Roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call.
My name is Phonte.
And I must confess.
The answer to the question.
Is very yes.
Roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call.
Suga Steve: 00:54
The name is Suga, baby.
Suga Steve: 00:56
That ain't no joke, yo.
Suga Steve: 00:59
I got a theory baby.
Suga Steve: 01:00
Roll call [laughter]. Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call.
Boss Bill: 01:11
Boss Bill: 01:12
They call me Boss Bill.
Boss Bill: 01:14
Not the Friendly Ghost.
Boss Bill: 01:16
But the Holy Ghost.
Roll call [laughter]. Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call.
It's Laiya. So ready for Bootsy. I got my munchies and my sweet love.
Ah, ah, ah.
Roll call. Suprema.
Oh my God.
Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call.
Bootsy Collins: 01:43
Bootsy Collins: 01:45
Bootsy Collins: 01:46
The name is Bootsy baby.
Bootsy Collins: 01:48
And I got a request.
Roll call [laughter] Suprema. Suprema roll call.
Bootsy Collins: 01:55
Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call. Suprema. Suprema roll call [laughter].
Best roll call ever.
Boss Bill: 02:09
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
That might have been the best one.
Boss Bill: 02:12
That trumps Charlie Wilson.
Suga Steve: 02:13
Boss Bill: 02:13
That trumps Charlie Wilson.
Bootsy Collins: 02:14
So ladies and gentlemen, our guest today, in my honest opinion is the spiritual epicenter of postmodern black music.
Bootsy Collins: 02:26
Oh, my God.
That's a lot.
No. But listen, listen, listen.
Bootsy Collins: 02:29
That's a lot to live up to man [laughter].
Because I mean, Bootsy Collins, in my opinion, is a bridge. He ushered James Brown-- all right, all right, people are saying--
No, no. Absolutely. I know where you're going, but.
His young blood energy gave James Brown new life for the '70s and basically for that much because of sampling technology, '80s, '90s, 2000s, and so forth, not to mention him co-piloting--
Yes. Cohabitation [laughter]
Bootsy Collins: 03:00
I tell you.
Suga Steve: 03:00
One syllable at a time.
As co-pilot of the mother ship with George Clinton, expanding our minds and pushing the boundaries of Funk music and dare I say it, Afro-futurist ideas and creativity into millions. And, not to mention, I mean, he's pretty much on the Mount Rushmore of G-Funkology.
Bootsy Collins: 03:33
No. Absolutely. No.
There's no exaggeration. No exaggeration.
There's not much more to say than that. Welcome the one and only, Bootsy Collins, to Questlove Supreme. [applause]
Boss Bill: 03:41
Bootsy Collins: 03:42
Oh, man. Wow.
Boss Bill: 03:44
Boss Bill: 03:44
Bootsy Collins: 03:44
Great. Well, like I said before, I got one request.
What you got, bro?
Bootsy Collins: 03:48
Request love, baby [laughter]. You going to add that to the show. I tell you that right now.
I think I might change that [laughter] to Requestlove Supreme.
Bootsy Collins: 04:00
You know what? Okay. So. I know most of our guests that come here. And of course, we've known each other for a long time, but there's one question I never asked you. How did you get your name?
Bootsy Collins: 04:17
Oh, that's easy, man. Momma looked at me, and she told me that, I look like a Bootsy.
Bootsy Collins: 04:24
Yeah. And I started to say, "Well, can you tell me what a Bootsy look like?" And then something stopped me and said, "Well, you see how deep she is. So leave that alone." I just left it alone.
Is Bootsy on your birth certificate?
Bootsy Collins: 04:42
No. No. Well, actually it was added. But she just called me Bootsy.
Suga Steve: 04:51
And just stuck.
Bootsy Collins: 04:53
Stuck. Everybody started calling me Bootsy. That was it.
Suga Steve: 04:57
Bootsy Collins: 04:57
Okay. I assume that you're a Cincinnati resident, correct?
Bootsy Collins: 05:02
You're born in Cincinnati?
Bootsy Collins: 05:04
Born in Cincinnati. Well, at first, we did a lot of work in Cincinnati at the King Records. That's where we actually got started with all the different groups and stuff that were recording there and then finally with James Brown.
So what was your childhood like in that city? Did your parents migrate to Cincinnati or was the entire Collins family from--?
Bootsy Collins: 05:32
Yeah. Well, I didn't get to know my dad but my mother, she was from Tennessee, Pulaski. Tennessee. Then she came to Cincinnati. Her and a couple of her sisters. And I kind of grew up with my cousins. We all lived in one house and it was pretty much ladies. And so, ladies with the kids. And so I kind of grew up-- we was just having a blast. I mean it was fun time. Not having nothing. Everybody is used to that. Funk is making something out of nothing. So it's like whatever we had we dealt with it.
Well, assuming that you were a child in the '50s, you're so timeless, I don't even know what your age is [laughter]. You still might be 24 years old as far as I'm concerned [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 06:34
Oh, come on.
But growing up in--
Bootsy Collins: 06:40
I still might become a man [laughter].
No, you pretty much--
No, you haven't aged.
You've not aged. So I know that for a lot of the pioneers of funk and soul that were from down South, their stories are definitely much more harsh. You know James Brown's story. Of course.
Bootsy Collins: 07:02
That's typical of anyone that lived below the Mason–Dixon line.
Bootsy Collins: 07:08
But because you're kind of part of the baby boom generation that grew up in the Midwest and there were factories and jobs and all those things. Was your childhood as similar? Was there still danger elements?
Bootsy Collins: 07:26
Oh, man. I mean, it was all around us.
So Ohio was always still Ohio?
Bootsy Collins: 07:32
Yeah. I mean, yeah. I mean it was all around us. But we kind of came with, I guess, a new twist. The same twist you was talking about when we bought that new energy to James Brown. I think that's kind of the way we came up. We refused to go with how deep it actually was. So at that particular time, we were going with-- it was deep. We was in the riots. I was actually a part of all that. The Black Panthers used to come down on the corner about a block from us. I mean, we was into all that. But at the same time, just like George Clinton and I did with Parliament Funkadelic. All of that deep stuff was going on, but we refused to react like that. In other words, we made a little humor about it where it was humorous enough not to be taken like, "Oh, well they laughing about it." I mean, so it was a kind of silly-serious kind of thing.
Well, sometimes you've got to laugh about it.
Bootsy Collins: 08:41
Yeah. And that's kind of the way we came up with our situation, as deep as the situations were.
So how was music introduced to you?
Bootsy Collins: 08:53
Oh, my brother. My brother, Catfish. Yeah.
Catfish. How much older was he than you?
Bootsy Collins: 08:58
He's eight years older.
Bootsy Collins: 09:01
I thought you guys were close in age. I didn't know he was your big brother.
Bootsy Collins: 09:04
Oh, yeah. He's definitely. That's the only man figure I had in the house that I looked up to that I kind of wanted to be like. Well, not even kind of. I wanted to be like.
So describe Catfish.
How did he get the name Catfish?
Bootsy Collins: 09:21
Oh, I wore him out, man. I mean he looked like a catfish [laughter]. I mean you look at him. He had these little whisker things going on. And he had these big eyes. And he just looked like a catfish, man [laughter].
Plain and simple.
Bootsy Collins: 09:41
Because most of these characters were introduced to me via James Brown.
Right, right. right.
I'm thinking, "Yo, they've got some funky nicknames." I thought he had catfish sandwiches in his luggage [laughter] or something like that.
Bootsy Collins: 09:53
He looked like one.
He just teasing [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 09:55
Well, now I'm finally realizing-- I understand what my mother said when she said, "I look like a Booty." Whatever that was. I still don't know what a Booty looks like.
I was, "What?"
Bootsy Collins: 10:07
Yeah. But then when I look at her, I just said, "Because he looked like a catfish." And that's the truth [laughter]. I mean there's no other explanation. He looked like a catfish [laughter].
Did he appreciate this nickname early? Or--?
Bootsy Collins: 10:23
Oh, he loved it. I mean pretty much anybody that I would nickname, I mean they wind up loving it.
Suga Steve: 10:31
I'm about to say Babyface too [laughter].
Boss Bill: 10:33
Babyface, yeah. Babyface.
Bootsy Collins: 10:34
And so, that was a thing that I did. I always came up with-- when I saw a person and if something hit me like, "Oh."
You was looking at me. I thought it was a naming sound game [laughter]. What is my name?
Tiggs. Tiggs [laughter].
Like, "Oh this? Okay."
Bootsy Collins: 10:54
Melody, baby [laughter].
Oh, hell no. No.
Boss Bill: 10:57
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Bootsy Collins: 11:00
And that's the way it all went down. It was like Catfish brought the bands to the house and we had a two-room house but my mother, she was into whatever we were in to. And music, she loved it. She loved that we were into music. And so, Catfish would have the girls and the bands all around the house and I'm like nine years old, so I'm loving it. I'm like, "Okay. I got to learn how to play." And so I start putting two and two together. I don't have a guitar, I don't have no way of getting anything. So when my brother leaves to go on the paper route, I'll just steal his guitar for a moment [laughter].
But was he a, "Don't touch my guitar," type?
Bootsy Collins: 11:57
Oh, he was definitely a don't you ever [laughter]. And don't never let me catch you with it. So I always knew, when I get his guitar out of the case, to put it back exactly like before.
Did he test you?
Bootsy Collins: 12:15
Oh, did he test me?
Put a pick there--
Bootsy Collins: 12:17
Did he tune the strings first [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 12:19
Oh, yeah. He tested me and busted me [laughter]. And all it took was one time. When he busted me one time, I knew then that I had to get myself a guitar because he wore me out [laughter]. It wasn't even I was nine years old. He wore me out like I was a man. So I said, "Okay. I got to get me a guitar." And so I started doing my own paper route. I got me a paper route job.
Was he not even the least bit curious if you could actually play or-- the Joe Jackson, the Tito theory [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 12:51
You know how big brothers-- you know how big brothers treat little snotty-nosed, long-haired suckers?
Bootsy Collins: 12:57
Well, that's the way I was treated. And it [laughter]--
I'm ordering all these people in the room, but-- yeah, I get it.
Suga Steve: 13:04
Why are you pointing at me?
I'm pointing at all of you [laughter].
That's how I get treated.
Bootsy Collins: 13:08
First of all, he didn't think I was serious because it's like, "Look, he going to change his mind next week." But I tricked him because, once I got locked in, this is what I want to do. And I just start showing people that's what I want to do. And Catfish was the last one that realized I was serious. His drummer, named Raunchy, was the baddest cat in Cincinnati, man. I mean, and he embraced me. He allowed me to come into their rehearsals. Cat was like, "Oh, man get that [inaudible] out of here." But Raunchy embraced me, man. And I used to stand there and watch him play. And while listening to the guitars and-- and the band thing was just such a-- it was such a big deal back then.
What would they play at the time? What type of--?
Bootsy Collins: 14:08
They was playing--
What year was this?
Bootsy Collins: 14:10
This was like '60. What is it? It's like '60, 1960, '61. I was born in '51, so nine years after that is, what, '60?
'60, '61, okay.
Bootsy Collins: 14:25
Yeah, yeah. So it's around in that time and--
So right before the British Invasion, so--
Bootsy Collins: 14:30
Right, right, right. So we was listening to Lonnie Mack. Dang, man. It was so, so much stuff, so much of the instrumental kind of music stuff. Curtis, King Curtis, Miles Davis, I mean, you name it. I mean, all of that stuff was-- then you had the Motown thing that was hot-- beginning to be hot. And--
So was he playing sock hops, and those things. Were these bands-- was your brother playing in--?
Bootsy Collins: 15:09
Yeah, yeah. Every club you can think of, I mean, them mothers was playing in, because that's what time it was then. It was like everybody was playing clubs. It was more about-- that's how I met as many musicians as I met, because I was always around. I always was watching. And that's how I kind of picked up on certain things, and how to play, and all of that. Because I didn't go to school for it.
So how old were you when he realized, "Okay, you're good enough," and--?
Bootsy Collins: 15:48
Well, what was deep was I got a chance to play with him. That was my dream. Even before playing with James, or anybody, I wanted to play with my brother, because I wanted to prove to him that I was worthy [laughter]. Yeah, worthy. Yeah, seriously.
And did it work?
Bootsy Collins: 16:08
It worked big time. That one time I played with him, and what happened was he was called to do a gig, a weekend gig, and the bass player couldn't show up. So I was like, "Yes. This is my chance." And he was like, "Oh, no." He's like, "No, not you. I'm going to get me a bass player but it ain't going to be you." So I'm like, "Ah, man, ah, man." So he kept trying to get the bass player. Wasn't written. It wasn't written. So he said, "Okay, man," he said, "But you ain't even got no bass." I'm like, "Well if you can get me four strings, I'll turn this guitar." I had a $29 guitar, Silvertone, never will forget it, James Brown blasted me out. I'll tell you about that, too. But I said, "You get me four strings I'm going to turn this into a bass. This is going to be my bass." He said, "Okay, I get you four strings. It better sound good." I was like, "It's going to be the bomb." So he gave me four strings. I put it on that guitar, and that night played the gig, I mean it was about the size of this room [laughter]. I mean everybody was drunk as a skunk. Okay? The Playboy Club you got the upper end Playboy. Right? Then you got the rathole Playboy.
Which one'd you play?
Suga Steve: 17:40
Guess which one?
Bootsy Collins: 17:40
Guess which one we played [laughter]?
You was at the rathole.
Bootsy Collins: 17:44
Yeah, it was a double rathole. Okay [laughter]? I mean I got mugs all up my face because I'm the youngest mug up there so it's like-- and they say I sounded pretty good so I had to go with that. They all up in my face and my brother's standing back there. He's playing the lead and he's watching. I didn't know he was watching me like that, but after the gig, it was like, "Okay, man. You going to be the new bass player." I'm [laughter] like, "Yeah."
You were that good. Damn.
Bootsy Collins: 18:17
Yeah, I mean I didn't know what I was doing, but he liked it. And that was the first time he liked anything that I did. So I was like, "Phew, yeah." [laughter] and from that day on, we played together from then on.
Your brother's guitar technique is probably the-- I mean, next to Chank Nolen and Cheese Martin and James Brown's arsenal. His guitar playing is-- was he always that good and that precise with his rhythm?
Bootsy Collins: 19:00
Always, always. George, to this day, will tell you that-- I mean, forget the drum machine. Timing. This boy was just so-- his timing was so much better than mine, and both of us had pretty good timing, but his was exceptional. He can turn around, everything can go off, the PA, everything, and Cat will still be having that thing going, and that happened to us a few times [crosstalk].
Bootsy Collins: 19:35
A fuse was blowing and--
Bootsy Collins: 19:36
Yeah, yeah. And George just turned around and start smiling because he got Catfish, that ain't going to stop. And if you move, he ain't going nowhere. He don't get emotionally upset or emotionally involved. He's just grooving. He's doing his thing, and once he gets locked, it's on.
See, I knew his technique with timing was super important. Catfish is probably his most iconic-- rhythm, in my opinion, is Get on Up, Get into It, Get Involved. The infamous [inaudible] which never-- I mean I've heard a gagillion live versions of that, and he's the anchor, more than James' drummers, more than anything. That's the driving rhythm of that song.
Bootsy Collins: 20:30
You're right. You're right.
Yeah, I've just always-- did he practice a lot or was it just like--?
Bootsy Collins: 20:36
He practiced a lot, but it was just a natural thing to him. He was chewing his gum-- every time he sang that mother--
Suga Steve: 20:43
Yeah. Chewing his gum. Yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 20:43
--he was chewing his gum and hitting the guitar. And he first made his guitar because he went to Bloom Junior High, and they had a thing, a woodshop, and he made his first guitar by hand. And he put these fishing strings on it. This was before he knew what to do. He just wanted a guitar, and he made his own guitar and put fishing strings on it. And wasn't nothing happening. Once he found out wasn't nothing happening, then he realized he needed a guitar, and once he got his first guitar, it was on. It was on.
Did he ever figure out how to make one since he bought one? Did he ever go back to it? Because that's kind of fascinating?
Bootsy Collins: 21:39
Yeah, he didn't go back to that. Yeah, he didn't go back to that because it didn't take too long after he started playing that we got together and the next thing you know, I mean things just start--
Bootsy Collins: 21:55
Yeah, it start happening. And people like Roger Troutman, Sugarfoot, all of us kind of played in the same circle, in the same clubs. And all the bands-- it was so many bands.
Why were there so many--okay, so our listeners should know that Cincinnati is kind of regarded as the Funk capital of the United States. I mean, Ohio is regarded as the Funk epicenter, but Cincinnati in particular. Why were there so many bands in Cincinnati? And is it the effect of King Records and James Brown's operation being there and him recording at the time?
Bootsy Collins: 22:41
I personally think that that had a lot to do with it because it made young musicians want to be like these people that's recording all this stuff in the studio.
Would he live there or would he-- how often will you see James Brown on the streets?
Bootsy Collins: 23:02
And this was before you joined him.
Bootsy Collins: 23:05
He would just random-- it was a random thing where he'd come in, he'd stay two or three days, sometimes a week with the band. And our thing was, we were so hyped on the band that they were our heroes because James was so out of reach that we just knew we wasn't going to meet him [laughter]. So our thing was if we could only meet the band. Fred, Maceo--
Bootsy Collins: 23:39
--Clyde. Come on, man. Jabo. If we could meet-- and our dream came true. But first we met Bobby Byrd, who treated us like we were somebody. And nobody knew us. Nobody knew us. And--
Is that when you were the House Guests, or--?
Bootsy Collins: 24:00
No, that was before. This is like Pacemakers, yeah. Yeah. I mean nobody knew what was happening. First, we met The Dapps. And so we used to all be in that same circle. And so one thing kind of sparked off of another. Next thing you know after the Daps started recording over the King some kind of way. Oh, I tell you exactly how. Charles Spurling came down to hear us playing at a club, and he was like, "Man, the energy y'all cats got. We need that over at King Records." And he was the A&R guy and so he invited us over because he wanted us to be his backup band for his recordings and any production stuff that he does over in King. And so we agree, "Let's do it," because we had never been in no studio. Not recording. So we got a chance to start recording with him. Once we started recording with him, then Henry Glover and Gene Redd hit on us about recording with Arthur Prysock, Bill Doggett, Hank Ballard, so we was all on those records.
Wait, so that's do, do, do, do, do. Is that you on Honky Tonk?
Bootsy Collins: 25:27
Bootsy Collins: 25:30
Wait. Yeah. Okay. Give me one sec. I don't even know if I have Bill Doggett's Honky Tonk.
Bootsy Collins: 25:37
Well, Bill Doggett and then Soul Trees by Arthur Prysock. Hank Ballard. We actually went on the road with Hank Ballard. We went on the road with him before we-- Yeah. [music]
Of course, that's you.
Bootsy Collins: 25:52
Boss Bill: 25:52
Are you ready.
--because you played half notes. Duh, duh.
Boss Bill: 25:57
Are you ready?
So who's the rhythm section? You and who's drumming?
Bootsy Collins: 26:05
Damn. That's funky [laughter]. I ain't heard that [laughter] since we did it.
Are you serious?
Bootsy Collins: 26:12
Yeah. I don't listen to--
See to us, because it's been sampled, it's something totally different now. It's the Beatnuts--
Are You Ready.
--Are You Ready. Right. Still even in b-boy circles, that has been played millions of times in the last 20 years.
Bootsy Collins: 26:29
Yeah. People always ask me about songs that I've played on and then I say, "Well, play it for me."
Yeah. Finish that sentence. "I don't listen to," what? You don't listen to your music--
Bootsy Collins: 26:39
No, I don't listen to myself.
--after you've played it at all?
People don't do that.
Bootsy Collins: 26:42
I don't play with myself [laughter].
Wait. Sometimes it can be healthy. Okay. All right.
Bootsy Collins: 26:48
Yeah. I mean, you know. I mean, you know [laughter]. No. It was always so much coming in that I never had time to just take a break and listen to what I did-- what I've done, because I was never interested in what I've done. It was always, what's coming next. Because I always had something coming in. I'll tell you what it was, I was so full of it. Now, whatever that it was, I was full of it. I mean, full of it. We used to hang with the brothers on the corner, that was our whole thing. Music got a chance to take us out of that and give us a place where we can crack on ourselves. It's like looking in the mirror and laughing at yourself. It gave us a chance to do that with ourselves. And I just happened to run into somebody that liked that approach, George. Now James was serious. That boy was serious. So he kind of helped me because he was like a father figure that wanted me to be a certain way.
Suga Steve: 28:04
Bootsy Collins: 28:05
Yeah. And I needed it. We were just coming off the streets, with the riots, throwing Molotov cocktails, stealing, and we was a part of all that and James reached in, pulled us off the street, put us in the band and the next thing you know, man we were in Africa with James Brown. And those mothers over there were bowing down like we were somebody. And we were saying, "Damn, we just played benefits in the clubs and ain't made no money. Now we're with James Brown." So it hit us like that. And we didn't have-- just like the songs you're talking about, do I go back and listen? I never analyzed that part of how it felt with James Brown at that particular time. Because it was so unreal that I had no feelings, it was just deep.
Do you think it's also a danger? I tend to avoid favorites of whatever my audience expects because maybe there's a fear that you can't replicate that or do it again. Okay, I know that in your job of doing concerts, yes, you have to do Bootzilla, you have to do Hollywood Squares or whatever. But just in terms of sitting back and listening to it, do you think it's more of a psychological thing of-- because a lot of artists refuse to listen to their recorded work.
Bootsy Collins: 29:47
Because it might be too haunting of an earlier time.
Bootsy Collins: 29:54
Well, you know what? I think that's got something to do with it now. But when I was coming up, I was really too full of it to go back and listen because I had made up in my mind I wasn't going to be listening to radio. I wasn't going to be listening to how people do this and how people do that. Once I got on a path, it was like I'm just listening to the universe and what they tell me-- what they send me. And actually, that's the way I was feeling, and that's what was going on at that time. But after all of that time, now it's like-- when I put stuff on, it's like dang, you start feeling those feelings. It took all of that time, though, for me to get to this point--
Suga Steve: 30:46
Bootsy Collins: 30:47
--to where it's like if I put I'd Rather Be With You on, that's going to take me all the way back to not only what we were doing onstage, but where that actually came from in the first place and who I was talking to. And then all of those feelings start coming up, and it's like, "Wow, I don't want to feel that, so."
That's understandable because to us-- I think of a barbecue if I hear body slam. My uncle's barbeque. But for you, you could have been in a car accident a week before you recorded those vocals and--
Bootsy Collins: 31:25
I'm going to tell you exactly where that came from. I was on the way to the studio. And what happened? A traffic jam [laughter]. I'm caught up in this traffic jam. I was on the way to the studio to record that. And I was still coming up with, "Okay, what's the lyric?" So I kind of had to leave my mind-- I always have my mind open because sometimes you don't get it until you're right there on the mic. And then bam. There it is.
Bootsy Collins: 32:04
But I was on the way to the studio to record Body Slam. And I got the lyrics. I didn't know I was going to get the lyrics that quick because I still had to record the song. But then the lyrics came, said, "I'm caught up in." I mean the whole way I did it and everything came. And I was like, "Got it."
Bootsy Collins: 32:26
And then when you get to the studio-- see you didn't have the luxury of--
Bootsy Collins: 32:32
Yeah, you didn't have that luxury. So you had to remember. That's why we use our brains. Now you don't have to use your brain like that. You got smartphones that do it all for you. But we had to put stuff in there and rely on that instant recall, "Now, what was I thinking about this song? I was going to do--?" And you had to recall that. And that was a thing that musicians had back in those days that I think is a lost art. And you won't even be thinking about that. Well, you don't think about it too much now, no way. But 5 or 10 more years, that's going to be-- brain is going to be useless, as far as that.
Thinking for thinking [laughter] won't happen at all.
Bootsy Collins: 33:25
So wait. Before I get to your James Brown chapter, I just have to know. Just in the Battle of the Bands situation, and all those local bands. what band unit scared you? Were the Ohio Players officially--?
Bootsy Collins: 33:42
I didn't even have to finish it.
Bootsy Collins: 33:44
Them boys were the baddest boys in the world, as far as I was concerned, and as far as a lot of musicians because anytime they would play anywhere, it was like the whole front line of seats would be nothing but musicians. And they'd be there--
Bootsy Collins: 34:03
--they'd be there like this [laughter].
Suga Steve: 34:08
He's sitting with his hands on his knees.
Bootsy Collins: 34:09
And everybody knew. It wasn't like everybody was trying to hide. Everybody knew. I mean, these was the baddest boys and I'm going to tell you something else. When they started making records, that wasn't when they were really the bomb. The bomb was when they didn't have no records and they just played in them clubs. That's when they was killers. I mean, them boys, I mean, you ain't never seen no show like this.
How old were they at the time?
Bootsy Collins: 34:44
They had to be in their, I'd say, late teens, early 20s.
Did Sugarfoot always have that voice?
Bootsy Collins: 34:53
Always [laughter]. Sugarfoot just [crosstalk]--
He was 19 [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 34:57
Well, he always had that voice but he never used it like he used it on the records because they always had a singer that would do the singing part. So Sugar, he had that voice, but he never used it like that because they always had a--
Boss Bill: 35:18
Someone else is singing.
Bootsy Collins: 35:19
Yeah. Somebody else singing.
Speaking of voice, all right, so we were working on a project, 2003. I forget the project, but you played me a demo. You told me, you was like, "Yeah, Questlove, I had a dream about Jimi Hendrix and I want to play it for you." And you played me the song. And then, I had one of those Bootsy kind of-- the thinking black man memes.
Yeah, yeah [laughter].
Meme to me pointing to his temple. I was like, "Hey, you know what? You kind of sound like Jimmy Hendrix." Not totally going over my head that your whole voice is embodying Jimmy Hendrix. So, what even gave you that thought to take on his--
Bootsy Collins: 36:15
Well, you know--
-- to continue to take the baton away, like--
Bootsy Collins: 36:16
Well, you know he was my hero anyway. I mean, and I used to have this room where it was about-- okay, say, half of that-- say half this room from there to here.
And we're in a very small room right now.
Bootsy Collins: 36:36
Yeah, very small. And then pull the rest of the room all the way up to here. Okay, so in that little box was my room, and I had a blacklight. I had a bed and incense, weed [laughter], LSD.
You had me at blacklight.
Bootsy Collins: 37:00
And an 8-track, okay? And that's what I played. I played Jimmy Hendrix. Jimmy's poster was up over the bed, okay? And all you could see when you walked in my room-- when you walked in my room. All you could see was that poster. You smelled the incense, and you smelled the weed. And that's what I did.
This is why I'm confused, though, Bootsy. The weed, the LSD, but your memory is remarkable [laughter]. Help stoners.
Bootsy Collins: 37:35
Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's just like I was saying how you retain stuff. And that was some kind of gift.
Bootsy Collins: 37:45
I mean, because you really don't supposed to remember that kind of stuff.
Bootsy Collins: 37:49
But the important stuff [laughter], okay? That, to me, was the most important memory, pretty much, of all--
Bootsy Collins: 38:02
--was to be able to remember that. And I won't let that go. I won't let that go because it was one of the best times in my life. I was finding myself. I didn't know what the heck was going-- I'm sitting there listening to Howlin' Wolf, Santana, Jimi, I mean, Miles Davis. I mean, you name it. And I'm sitting there-- well, not just sitting. I'm doing something. And it's usually me, my guitar or my bass. And I'm just sitting there. And I'm listening. And I'm freaking out. And it was always a good freak out. It was always a good freak--
That's a blessing.
So besides-- yeah, besides Ernie Isley, I just don't know another figure in black music that was young at the time that really absorbed Jimi's essence. And I guess in the beginning, I was just led to think that he was so freakish and out there that he black community really didn't embrace him.
Bootsy Collins: 39:08
They didn't understand. They didn't understand. What are [crosstalk]--
You're in the inner city. How did it speak to you?
Bootsy Collins: 39:14
Well, it was my gift to not go with-- it's just like we was talking about, the serious part of the blackness and we took that and made not fun of it, but made it where you could kind of laugh about us partying on the mothership and acting a fool and having a good time. So we had to kind of take the seriousness and show people that we can actually have with this, with ourselves. We can actually laugh with ourselves instead of-- because we was making it through this deepness. There was so much deepness going on. And it was like if we keep going this deep, everybody going to be dead in a minute, I mean, because they're killing everybody, so we've got to figure out a new approach. And it wasn't like we was sitting there analyzing the next approach. The One gave us certain talents and we just brought it to the people. It's just like we took the street drug rap and made it funny. P-Funk, The Bomb, I mean that's drug wrap. I mean [laughter]--
Bootsy Collins: 40:40
Bootsy Collins: 40:42
Boss Bill: 40:42
Uncut funk, yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 40:43
That's all the street drug rap.
So can you describe-- I'm glad your memory's there [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 40:51
Yeah. Me too [laughter]. Me too.
Because I have so many questions about the day that Bobby Byrd came to get you guys to play with James Brown, which is, essentially, your moment.
Bootsy Collins: 41:05
Oh, you know what? You know what, Quest? I didn't finish on Jimmy. Let me--
Okay, okay. I'm sorry.
Bootsy Collins: 41:12
Let me just tell you how that came about.
Bootsy Collins: 41:17
What happened was we was in the studio - George and I was in the studio recording Be My Beach - and I was in there clowning around. And I said, "Yeah, be my beach, baby." And George said, "Oh, that's it, man. That's it." And I was just clowning around. And next thing I know, George was like, "Go ahead, do that. That's the voice, and that is where it started. I was doing my imitation of Jimi.
For the rest of your life.
Bootsy Collins: 41:55
Bootsy Collins: 41:59
That's it right there. That's it.
So the very first time the Bootsy character came to light was--
Bootsy Collins: 42:10
Yeah, that was be my Be My Beach. Yeah.
And which album is that? That's--?
That's Let's Take it to the Stage by Funkadelic.
Take it to the Stage by Funkadelic.
Okay, so Laiya.
Bootsy Collins: 42:23
So well, yeah, I'm going to explain to you that because of financial reasons, the team of James Brown, his band, decided that they were going to pull a mutiny--
A strike. We out. We out.
--a mutiny the morning of a gig. I think it was around 11:00 in the morning that we are not going to go on stage until you get the money straight that you owe us.
Because he was a real Republican [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 42:59
Hey, there you go. So James decided to call their bluff, and he told his ace [inaudible] Bobby Byrd, his A.J. to his O.J.
That was it done either way [laughter].
You know what I'm saying.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Sports. I'm bad with sports [laughter]. To get on the Learjet, the private plane, and go to Cincinnati and go grab them kids. And put them on the plane and bring them down here. So come show time--
So they broke the line. Y'all broke the strike line. Y'all-
Bootsy Collins: 43:36
Well, they were-- I'm going to explain that.
Okay. All right.
So tell me. My question was, what parent, in their right mind, would just let their teenaged kids--
Go with James Brown?
All right. I'm out.
How teenaged? What you mean, like--?
You were 19 at this time, right? So, first of all, who is it, and how old were you guys? I'm assuming that your brother was the oldest, right?
Bootsy Collins: 43:58
And if he's 8 years-- he's 27. So give me everything. What time did Bobby Byrd come to the club and tell you guys, "Stop what you're doing. Come with me."
Bootsy Collins: 44:11
Well, actually he called. He called first. And we was playing a benefit. And we would get whatever come in the door. And didn't nobody know us. I mean, so it was pretty much the fam. And so we wasn't really getting no benefit, I mean as far as no money. So when Bobby called, I thought he was joking. Yeah--
Boss Bill: 44:41
What'd he say?
Bootsy Collins: 44:42
He said, "Mr. Brown wants y'all to come down here and play on the show. So it wasn't like, "He wants y'all to come down here and play with him." It's like, "He wants y'all to come down here and play on the show. So it was like, "Aw, man. Come on, man. You know, "Yeah, man. I'm coming to get you. I'm coming to get you in 45 minutes on James' Learjet. And so y'all just be ready."
Bootsy Collins: 45:13
And I'm like, "Okay." So I go back, I hang up, because I'm still thinking he's joking, but I go back and tell the boys. I tell Cat, "Bobby, I just got off the phone with Byrd and he said James wants us to come down and play on the show." And so everybody's eyes lit up. It was like, "Aw, man. He got to be joking." It's like, "No, man." He said, "Well, you better go tell mama because you know mama ain't going for that [laughter]." And I said, "Well if you go, I know she won't have a problem with it." So called mama and I asked her. I said, "Mama, we got an offer to go down and play on James' show."
Where is the gig?
Bootsy Collins: 46:04
Oh, where? It was in Columbus, Georgia.
And you're in Cincinnati.
Bootsy Collins: 46:11
I'm in Cincinnati.
How far is that, flight-wise?
You could probably make that in two hours, maybe? I mean now.
So what time is it when you get the call?
Bootsy Collins: 46:19
He had a Learjet.
That mean it go fast-- I never understood the Lear part. That just means faster, right?
I thought it was just private, but--
Bootsy Collins: 46:27
No, no, no. They don't fool around. Those boys go straight up into the air.
Yeah, that's the speed.
Bootsy Collins: 46:32
James Brown was that famous back then? He could--
Bootsy Collins: 46:35
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah [laughter].
I just got to maybe private jet status maybe last year [crosstalk]--
But you ain't got to share [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 46:43
Yeah, no, he was that famous. That was the first time we ever got on a plane. So he actually came, Bobby Byrd, and--
What time was it?
Bootsy Collins: 46:58
Damn. Let's see, what time [laughter] was it? Now see, that's--
You're testing him [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 47:01
--where my memory--
You forgot that.
Bootsy Collins: 47:04
I wasn't clocking in on time.
It was 2:52 in the afternoon.
What was he wearing [laughter]?
Boss Bill: 47:08
I don't know because I'm just thinking 68 degrees. If it's 68 degrees outside.
You're starting to think how did they make the gig in time [crosstalk]--
Boss Bill: 47:14
Bootsy Collins: 47:15
So it had to be around I would say at least 6:00, 7:00, somewhere around in there. And when he actually came and got us, we went straight into the limo, straight to the plane, straight up in the air. It wasn't no fooling around.
What about luggage and your--
Bootsy Collins: 47:41
Oh, we just took our instruments. That green bass I was telling you. That $29. That's what I had. And I'll tell you about it. Remind me to tell you about what James thought about that bass.
Bootsy Collins: 47:53
All right? So we get there, okay? We land. We get there. We go to the auditorium, and then we hear all this ruckus going on. Rioting kind of vibe. Which we were used to, but it's we didn't realize it was directed at us because the band is late. Well, there the band is and they're pointing at us and we didn't know. We didn't even know--
Bootsy Collins: 48:29
--we was walking into that.
Did y'all walk into the front door or backstage?
Bootsy Collins: 48:32
Well, we was getting ready to walk in the front door [laughter].
Wait, you were walking to-- James Brown's famous enough to be in a theater. They didn't think, "Hey, let's go through the backstage door."
Bootsy Collins: 48:42
Not at first. They was just going-- they wanted to show the people that the band had arrived, because they didn't want to put it on James. It's the band's fault.
Bootsy Collins: 48:52
Now see, we don't even have tell you it's the band's fault because--
Boss Bill: 48:56
We going to show you [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 48:56
--here they come through the front door. And we fools--
Suga Steve: 49:02
James is sneaky [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 49:02
--I mean, we fools. We don't know what's happening. We don't even know that we're actually playing with James Brown that night.
He didn't tell you that?
Bootsy Collins: 49:10
They told us that we were coming to play on James' show.
But wait a minute--
Suga Steve: 49:14
But it's the Review.
You mean during that two hour-- during that two-hour flight--
Flight, oh yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 49:18
--Byrd's not going over parts, or none of that stuff?
Bootsy Collins: 49:20
James told Byrd-- this is what I'm guessing, that he better not say nothing about they're coming down here to play with me. Just go get them. That was my take. Okay? And then--
Bootsy Collins: 49:39
Then I found out my take was the truth when I got down there, and we start walking through the band. Once we went around, because we couldn't come through the front. They was too deep, they was going to start some serious-- so Byrd took us around to the stage door. We went in the stage door, and the next thing you know, we start looking around, and the vibe-- as soon as we got in the door, the vibe changed. It jumped on us like, "Okay, something is wrong." We didn't know what it was, but it's like, "Something is wrong." And then I looked over, and I saw Fred and Cush--
Looking at you like--
Bootsy Collins: 50:26
No, no, not looking at me. They still arguing at James [laughter]. They arguing at James. You know how short James is. Well, they're looking down at him, and to me it looked like they was getting ready to choke him, or do something. And I was like, "Byrd, what is that all about?" He was like, "Oh, oh yeah. I was going to tell y'all [laughter]."
And I was going to tell y'all.
Bootsy Collins: 50:57
"I was going to tell you. That's why I wanted to get y'all back in here with-- come on, we need to go into James Brown's dressing room because we need to talk." So he takes us back in James Brown's dressing room. Next thing you know, James comes in. "Fellas, fellas. Yeah, yeah. Glad y'all made it. I need y'all to play my set tonight." And we like, "Huh? We ain't rehearsed. I thought we was going to open--" "Nah, son. Y'all playing on the James Brown Show. Y'all playing tonight." And I said, "How we going to know what to play?" He said, "Well when I do like this here, I'm going to call out the song, 'Cold Sweat [laughter].'" And that's the way we did it [laughter].
I love the way he assumed y'all knew it. I love it [laughter].
I got questions.
Y'all don't need jams. Play that shit [laughter].
All right. Two questions. Was his music so inescapable that you guys, as a unit, just knew it like you knew Mary Had A Little Lamb?
Bootsy Collins: 52:16
Yeah, yeah. What it was at that time, you've got to realize that James was the hottest mug black performer. It was. I mean all the bands, every band, knew his stuff.
Bootsy Collins: 52:32
Or at least attempted to play--
That's something that will never happen again.
Do you know how cocky that is? Do you know how cocky that is? I know they know my material?
Bootsy Collins: 52:39
Who is that of today?
Boss Bill: 52:41
That can never happen. That will never happen again.
Dude, not only will it never happen again, but when I get with these artists-- like Stevie Wonder don't know half his songs now. It's the opposite. We've got to remind them. Chaka Khan don't remember her-- you know what I mean? It's the opposite.
Bootsy Collins: 53:00
And then if I said play this Beyonce song right now?
I'll fake it till I make it [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 53:07
So okay. And my second question is that funk wasn't invented yet.
Bootsy Collins: 53:17
You guys have yet to do-- Sex Machine is a week later.
Bootsy Collins: 53:22
Boss Bill: 53:23
Literally a week later.
Bootsy Collins: 53:25
And so the thing is that the transformation of his music from the suit and tie soul thing to the gritty down and dirty funk shit. First of all, did the audience buy it?
Bootsy Collins: 53:44
Oh they freaking loved it.
Bootsy Collins: 53:47
And how did you interpret those songs? Did you just approximate it as his band would have done it?
Bootsy Collins: 53:54
Well, you've got to understand, too, that we needed to be polished. I mean, we came in with what we came in with, and that's raw energy, raw talent, which needed to be put on the one, as James would call it. And me not being a taught bass player, I really didn't know the purpose of the bass, other than just play these low notes. But I played them like it was a guitar because that's what I learned on. And James was responsible for telling me that, "All right, son, look here. Look here. Now, I love all that stuff you're doing there, son. I love it. I love it. But the only thing you've got to do if you're going to play with the James Brown show, you've got to give me the One. That's what I need, son. I need the One. You can play all that other stuff. But I need the One. Can you hit me with the One? That's where the One come from. So I learned the One.
The One was birthed, you said?
Bootsy Collins: 55:08
The One was birthed.
Okay, every member of The Roots, I want you to listen to this. Can you say it again because there is--
It's all about the One.
Please, can we explain to the listeners what the one is? To just--
It's an establishing pulse. In music, you got to have a four count. One, two, three, four. Now for soul music, even though the emphasis in on-- you might hear the snare or the tune before one, two, three, four, one, two. It's that boof, right? It's first that is what hits you. And oh my God, what's wrong with my voice [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 55:56
What'd you say?
Okay, okay, okay. And the thing is that it's a certain repetition. African drum repetition. There's joy in repetition.
I was avoiding saying that. Because I was trying to think of I don't want nobody to tell me nothing. I don't want nobody to give me nothing.
Bootsy Collins: 56:22
Dnn, dnn, dnn, dnn.
Like the One is underlined.
But how do you not have a One? I don't understand how you don't have a One. You got to start somewhere [crosstalk] so how would you sing--?
Distortion of staff doesn't have a One.
Check it out. Yeah, but which is why [crosstalk] [laughter]--
Doo, doo, doo - that one, right? That's an example?
Right. Right. I'll give you a better example. Well, here's what's this is what's weird, technically 777-9311 doesn't have a One. Okay, I'll even make it easier for you. The Whisper Song by the Ying Yang Twins doesn't have--
It just starts--
Well most snap music has no hi-hat. You need a metronome. You need something that establishes the pace of a song. You need a metronome. Now, not every song is going to have a one, two, three, four-- but it's insinuated in your head.
Bootsy Collins: 57:12
You don't realize it, but you're being hypnotized every time a loop happens. So think. James Brown's music really isn't a linear structure of song. Think of John Coltrane or jazz. Jazz is linear. James Brown is circular. And he has a whole bunch of people playing repeated notes all over again. P-Funk is even crazier, because they'll have counter stuff [crosstalk].
Yeah, yeah. Right. Counter-melodies and stuff.
Ya, la, lo.
Yeah, but repeating the same thing over again. So by the seventh minute-- like, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough. Remember how shit just breaks down to the end? It's just stuff playing over and over again. Shake Your Body Down to the Ground. Another example--
And that's a loop. That's like a one-bar.
Yeah. There's no--
That's it. That's the song.
So the One is just-- it needs to be super obvious sometimes. And with my band-- and this is the one downfall of worshipping J Dilla. Because he kind of throws out the manual of meat-and-potatoes rhythm. And it's causing a lot of cats, like Thundercat, Chris Dave, a lot of post-J Dilla disciples to just--
Kill the One?
Suga Steve: 58:35
I call him the time-stretching drummers.
That sounds almost sad, though.
I mean, it's like Thelonius Monk sort of having subnotes. I mean, it's creative. But the thing is, I believe that you should study the Old Testament--
--master it, and then you expand.
Yeah. You learn the rules before you break them.
Right. Now you just got Cats coming in and breaking the rules and then--
With no foundation.
Boss Bill: 58:59
But you can still listen to someone like Chris Dave, he still comes back to the One.
No. Well, Chris is a genius. But he has a lot of disciples who're just watching his Youtube videos and then just going from that. But the One is important. The One is meat and potatoes. It's the foundation. [music]
So there's something really cool about the Sex Machine session that, I guess, well, Boss Bill and I, we're alerted to it because we have the ProTools, the master reel and--
Boss Bill: 60:00
I do [laughter]?
Do we not occasionally teach at NYU, Bill?
Boss Bill: 60:06
Yes. But I don't have the Sex Machine reels.
Well then, we share-- I mean, come on now [laughter].
He's like, "I have them and you work them sometimes."
Kind of yours is maybe mine. The point was that you guys did two takes of it and the kind of in-between banter-- I guess there's like a two or three minutes break between take one, which was the master take, and take two which was like, "Let's just get a second one for safety's sake." And every James Brown expert that's ever heard that, their jaw dropped because-- their jaw dropped simply because of the nurturing kind of tender, father-like way that he's communicating with you guys. Whereas with anyone else--
He hollered [laughter].
Either with Ron the engineer or whatever he's just like, "Nah, man. That was wrong." And even in Give It Up Or Turn It Loose, you hear him like, "Starting all over again" in the song. That sort of thing. But he actually stops this, "No, no, no. No. Do it again. You can make it work. No, you're doing good. You're doing good." They've never heard James Brown actually--
Be nice [laughter].
Yeah. That's the thing. So was Sex Machine the first time that you guys were in the studio or was that your first professional--?
Bootsy Collins: 61:37
You mean with James or--?
Well, I know that was your first with-- was that your first with James?
Bootsy Collins: 61:42
What was before that?
Bootsy Collins: 61:47
The first time I played with James, of course, he didn't use it but his band took a break while they were recording Licking Stick. And, yeah, most mugs don't know nothing about this one.
Boss Bill: 62:07
Yes, we do.
Yeah. I know Licking Stick.
Bootsy Collins: 62:08
No. I mean with the story. And so his band went on a break and James get this horrific idea. And we outside. Me, my brother, the band. We outside. Always outside waiting on a chance to get in because they didn't let nobody in. It was like, "We don't care who you are. Nobody is coming in but James and who he needs." And so his band--
Wait, y'all would just be outside.
Bootsy Collins: 62:42
Outside the studio, hanging.
Bootsy Collins: 62:45
Like the cowboy downstairs waiting for us, right?
Bootsy Collins: 62:48
I mean, every time James came to Cincinnati, we was there. And so he said, "Man, I know Bootsy and them out there. Go out there and get Bootsy." Next thing I know, they opened the door, Byrd say, "Bootsy, come on in here." And we was shocked. We was shocked. It's like--
The golden ticket.
Bootsy Collins: 63:12
We was shocked, but at the same time, we was all waiting for that. Because, before that, he ain't never called us in the studio. So he called us in. "I want you to play this part for me. It goes something like this." I say, "You mean--?" "Yeah, son, that's it. That's what I'm talking about [laughter]."
Describe a session. That's how songs would get made? He would just sing something and you had to decipher what he really was--
Bootsy Collins: 63:52
It was like, you from here, America. You go to Japan and they don't have no idea what the hell you talking about. But if you play it in music they can sing it.
They understand it. Yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 64:06
Okay. So James's whole thing is, when he's communicating with you, you don't know what the hell he's talking about [laughter].
Sounds so African. That's crazy.
Bootsy Collins: 64:23
So that's what you're going on. "Oh, you mean doo da doo da doo doo doo doo doo da doo da doo?"
"Yeah, son. That's what I'm talking about. Yeah, I'm glad I thought of it [laughter]." That's the way it worked. That's the way it worked.
Oh my God.
Boss Bill: 64:42
Bootsy Collins: 64:43
And you was glad he thought of it too [laughter].
Suga Steve: 64:47
It's good, boss.
Bootsy Collins: 64:47
Because just being in his presence, that was enough for me. And then the mugs tell me, "You mean you didn't get paid for that?" Get paid? We wasn't thinking about getting paid. "You mean your name ain't on--?" Name on what? We was just so inspired, lifted from being in this cat's presence. At that time, you got to remember what time that was. That was writers, publishing, all that stuff was unheard of from musicians. You'd be lucky to come in and they give you 25 or 30 dollars for a session. And don't even speak about you done wrote a bass part or you went or Jabo done came up with a drum part or Clyde could. No. That belonged to James Brown. Because nobody tell Clyde to play that-- "Play that--"
Funky drum or whatever. Yeah.
Bootsy Collins: 65:55
"--play that funky drum like this here. Let me show you how it go." And James used to do that. "Let me show you how it go." And he'd get on there and play some 4/4, and--
Clyde told me that [laughter]. And he would get on the drums and play totally something--
Bootsy Collins: 66:10
Ain't nothing happening. Ain't nothing happening. But see, the thing is, I don't want to-- I don't want to make it sound like he was that far gone. He wasn't gone at all. He knew what he wanted. But you had to give it to him. He knew it when he heard it. If you didn't play it right, "No. No, no, son. You ain't got it. No, no. No, no, no. That ain't going to work. No. No. No." He'll give it to you like that. But if you play it-- if you play what he wants to hear, "Yeah. That's it, son. That's it [laughter]."
So I know that you guys were wet behind the ears, just being thrown in this situation--
Bootsy Collins: 67:02
Just to say the least [laughter].
So what were the-- because Alan Leeds told me that there were a lot of rigorous hours of rehearsing and--
Bootsy Collins: 67:11
What were the rehearsals like? And why did Clyde and Jabo cross the picket line, or--?
Bootsy Collins: 67:21
Oh, you mean come back?
Bootsy Collins: 67:23
You know what? I never even thought about that. And I didn't ever look at it like they crossed the picket line. It was like--
Well, the band left and then Clyde stayed.
Bootsy Collins: 67:41
Yeah, but Clyde came back. He didn't actually leave when the band left. He came back about maybe a couple of weeks after we start getting things together. Jabo is the one that didn't leave. He stayed. But Jabo was that kind of loyalty guy. He was kind of like Bobby Byrd, he wasn't going to leave James. At that particular time, Jabo was like, "This is it." And he was the foundation for us because he was the only one, well him and Bobby Byrd, was the only ones that were there the first couple of weeks that we could rely on that kept us steady.
That's another question. Because your style, your James Brown style then was pretty much James Jamison on steroids.
Bootsy Collins: 68:49
I mean, you're going all over. And I know you're saying James just wanted that One, you can do all that other stuff. But someone had to be the bad guy to say, "You're playing too much--" you guys are virtuoso musicians. But who's the person that has to reel it in and say, "Yo, you're playing too much. Just give me the--"
Bootsy Collins: 69:12
James would be the bad guy. He didn't need no help on that [laughter].
That's what I was thinking.
Bootsy Collins: 69:18
But he liked what we was doing. He just liked it. I mean, we heard all of the stories and we would see how he treated the other guys. But with us, just like you was saying about this story about how he nurtured us, that's the kind of father figure he was to us. Fining us? No. Fining us didn't work because we didn't have no money anyway [laughter]. So it's like, "Yeah, take my money. Take whatever you want. I'm here with you. You can have my money. It don't even matter."
So he did kind of slightly take advantage of y'all being younger with the whole, the pay cut thing I'm imagining, since everybody else didn't come back.
Bootsy Collins: 70:06
Well, I wouldn't even say take advantage.
Suga Steve: 70:09
It was just the law.
Bootsy Collins: 70:10
That was just what he did. That's what he did.
"I'm James Brown."
Bootsy Collins: 70:13
When it get to a certain point-- and he could be just going through a thing where he feels like he need a change. You know what I'm saying?
Yeah, I do.
Bootsy Collins: 70:25
And if he need a change, then he'll start a ruckus and say, "Man, fuck y'all." So they had me going in asking for raises when I didn't even feel like-- a raise? I mean--
Y'all just got here. Right.
Bootsy Collins: 70:45
Yeah. We just got here. We having a great time. What is wrong with you people [laughter]?
But the thing is, is that it seems amazing enough, but you guys were only there for less than a year. You were there for 11 months.
Bootsy Collins: 71:00
In that time period.
--everything that you guys did was some life-changing funk. Next to Sly Stone, you guys were singlehandedly rewriting the book of what soul music was. What was the last gig like before you guys were--? Did James let you guys go? Or was it you guys said, "We have to go?" Or--?
Bootsy Collins: 71:26
You would ask. You would [laughter].
No, I never knew what the last gig was.
Bootsy Collins: 71:31
It's funny. It's funny. The last gig was here in New York at the Copacabana. We was supposed to be there for two weeks, right? We had just came back from Europe. We had did two, three weeks over in Europe. We had did a couple of weeks over in Africa. We come back and the first gig that we do is the Copacabana. So we play for a week. We supposed to be doing two weeks. We play the first week and-- but the trouble started over in Africa, before we got back. The trouble started while we went to the president, what was his name--?
Mobutu? Not Mobutu-- [crosstalk]-- this was the Rumble in the Jungle? The--
Bootsy Collins: 72:20
No, no, no. This one was the president of Zambia. Yeah, yeah. Well, we went-- he invited us to his-- it was like the White House thing. So he invited us there, and what happened was, there's been some rumbling going on about we need a raise. And so I'm the Mikey. You know I'm like Mikey. You know that commercial, the "Let's get Mikey to do it!"
Boss Bill: 72:50
Right, right [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 72:51
So I was always the Mikey character, where they tell me what they wanted-- because James was always kind of soft with me. You know, "Okay, man. Okay, yeah. Okay. You can get away with it. Okay. Yeah."
You really were his son.
Bootsy Collins: 73:06
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And remind me to, well maybe I shouldn't tell that story. Okay, but anyway--
You should absolutely tell that story.
You should [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 73:17
No, it's kind of personal with his. So we go to dinner and they say, "Bootsy, you going to tell him? You need to tell him now, you need to tell him now because we're with the president and we want to embarrass him right--"
No, no, no, no.
Bootsy Collins: 73:37
So check it out. So check it out. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what I said. "You need to go tell him now because we have to play-- after we leave the dinner we have to go play, but you need to tell him now so he can agree to it." And I ain't going to tell the names that told me to do this. So I said, "Okay. I'll do it." So I went and told him and actually, I didn't tell him. They wrote it down. They wrote it down. They gave it to me. Take it to James. James is down on this end of the table and then you've got the president on the other end of the table. And everybody else is sitting around, right? Long, long table. So I gets up, I go down, I hand the note to James, okay? He said, "What's this here, son? What do you know?" "Oh, the band just want-- just read it, and let us know what's happening." "All right, son. All right." And he knew I was full of it. He knew it. So once he read it, he jumped up from the table. "Ah"
Oh, shit [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 75:05
"You mother-- [laughter]."
In front of the President?
Bootsy Collins: 75:12
"I knew it."
No fucks given.
Bootsy Collins: 75:13
"I knew it. I knew it. Y'all coming here, y'all got busy doing all this shit. I know it ain't him."
Bootsy Collins: 75:22
"I know it ain't him. And y'all ain't got but one more time to try this." He said, "And that's going to be it. That's going to be it." So, well, the whole thing was, well, do we get a raise [laughter]?
Boss Bill: 75:39
Do we still get it [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 75:41
Yeah. "All right. I'm going to give it to y'all this time."
Bootsy Collins: 75:44
"I'm going to give it to you. But don't try it again." And so that stuck in my head. Don't try it again. So we get back from Africa. Everything's cool. It was a blast, man. I never, I mean, never could imagine what Africa was really like unless I had really been there. I was thinking Tarzan, the animals, Jane [crosstalk].
Did you all go to Nigeria?
Bootsy Collins: 76:13
Did you go see Fela?
Bootsy Collins: 76:16
Did I go? Oh.
Yo. Tell me.
Bootsy Collins: 76:19
Did I ever come home [laughter]?
What was like for you to see him in his prime, then?
Bootsy Collins: 76:26
Man. I mean, words can't even do that justice. Words can't do that justice man because-- okay. I got a story, man. But--
Bootsy Collins: 76:35
Oh, come on, y'all.
It's a fireside chat.
Bootsy Collins: 76:40
All right, All right. So we're on the way to see Fela, right? All right. So we're off one night. So we're on the way to see Fela. And then at this time, you got to understand, in Nigeria, the police was the army. It was the army. Serious. They didn't play. They didn't play. I mean, with nobody. So we in the car, riding to the gig. And we in the backseat. We smoking. And, of course, I got the weed, right. I got the bong.
In Nigeria, Bootsy [laughter]?
Bootsy Collins: 77:17
Yeah. In Nigeria. Oh, I got friends. I got friends everywhere.
Boss Bill: 77:21
Talk to them. It's all good.
Bootsy Collins: 77:23
Yeah [laughter]. I got friends in high places and low places [laughter]. And even lower than that [laughter]. So I got the weed. And, well, I ain't going to call no other names because y'all already know I'm guilty.
Bootsy Collins: 77:39
So I'm passing it around. And so, all of a sudden, this car pulls up on each side. One pulls up on this side. One pulls up on that. And, "Get out of the car." And we're looking at each other because we don't know what's going on. Only the driver knows what that means. I mean, get out of the car. Well, he didn't say get out of the car in--
Suga Steve: 78:06
English. Yeah [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 78:07
Whatever the line is [inaudible].
Boss Bill: 78:09
Suga Steve: 78:09
And now we've offended the continent [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 78:10
So yeah. We didn't know what was happening [laughter]. So the driver looked at us and said, "Won't you step out?" And I'm looking at this person, saying, "What do I do with the weed?"
Bootsy Collins: 78:30
And she said, "Put it in the boot. Put it in the boot." I was like, "Oh." Then I snuck it, put it in my boot, and then the driver said, "No, no. Open the boot. Open the boot."
Suga Steve: 78:45
Oh, the trunk.
Bootsy Collins: 78:46
Check it out. "Open the boot. Open the boot." I'm like, "How did he see me put that in my boot [laughter]?"
And why he telling?
Boss Bill: 78:56
Bootsy Collins: 78:56
Yeah. And so, next thing I know, the driver got out, opened the trunk and I was like-- and then this other person said, "He meant the trunk [laughter]." Man, my heart jumped out the window. It was on the floor. I didn't know what because the stories of what these cats would do to you is like--
Bootsy Collins: 79:25
Oh man. So when he said the boot and it meant the trunk, I was like, "Okay. Cool." Then they checked the trunk, nothing because we had everything on us. And so after that he said, "Okay. Y'all can go." Right there I was through [laughter]. The only thing that saved me was the rhythm of the drum. The closer we got, the rhythm of the drums. Rhythm of the drums. Because that's what drove me out of the state I was in after, "What's in the boot?"
Right. Because it fucked up your high [laughter]. Fucked up your high.
Bootsy Collins: 80:03
Oh man. So we got down to Fela's place. He had this big, big room. It's kind of like back in the gladiator days where there was no roofs so you couldn't tear the roof off. The roof was already tore off [laughter]. It wasn't no roof and all you can hear when you're on the way there is the rhythms, is the rhythms. And actually, that's where I put in my memory bank that beat. [inaudible]. If you listen to Stretching Out, which I know you have [laughter]--
Look at your face.
Yo, this is the quietest I've ever been in any Questlove Supreme show [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 81:00
That's where I got the emphasis of this. And I saw the females dancing. [inaudible].
Did you know of Fela's music ahead of time, or--?
Bootsy Collins: 81:16
I had no idea.
So tell us when you walked in the door. Oh my God, what you saw must have freaked you.
Bootsy Collins: 81:21
Well, it was before I walked in the door. We was already freaked out [laughter]. Like I was telling you, the rhythms, I mean, and the way they was treating us was like we was gods, and I'm like, "Y'all got this twisted." I'm saying to myself, "You mugs got the gold." And of course I told them that, but they was like, "No, it's y'all." Because they praised James Brown.
Right. Was he with you? He was with you guys?
Bootsy Collins: 81:55
He wasn't with it-- no. Now you got to remember. This was after we--
The raise [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 82:01
Yeah, the raise thing.
Bootsy Collins: 82:02
So he was mad. "I'm mad [laughter]." So he wasn't going down there with us. At first, he was going before that but no. He saw us later. And I can dig it. Because it wouldn't have been cool. We couldn't have been smoking.
You wouldn't have had no fun.
Bootsy Collins: 82:20
No fun at all. So it worked out really good. Got to meet Fela. He did the horn thing, he sung. And the people-- I mean it was something I never experienced since. I'll say it like that.
I believe you.
Bootsy Collins: 82:41
Yeah. Yeah. Because it was all natural, all raw. And then he invited us back to the room and we had these little-- the little joints. [inaudible][laughter]. I mean seriously.
It's shit too, huh?
Expensive shit [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 83:07
I mean it's like, "What are y'all--" and it was like an insult to offer--
Your little bit of whatever [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 83:14
Oh man. It was like, "Okay. I'm putting this away [laughter]." Because it was massive, man. I mean it was massive. And we stayed pretty much all night in that room. After they came off stage, it was a blast.
Suga Steve: 83:32
What time did they come off stage?
Did they come see you? What was it like for them to see the James Brown show? 'Cause--
Bootsy Collins: 83:38
Oh, it was the same kind of experience for them.
Because I know that Fela Kuti worshipped James Brown and--
Bootsy Collins: 83:46
Yeah. It was that same kind of vibe we had when we saw them. That's why I couldn't understand, personally, myself, why they was so-- well, I understood it, but at the same time, it was like we're nothing compared to what y'all are doing. And they couldn't--
Boss Bill: 84:08
Bootsy Collins: 84:08
Yeah, they couldn't fathom that.
Because I think that just the myth of America and what it's supposed to represent is larger. The idea of America is larger than its byproduct.
Bootsy Collins: 84:19
So you guys flew home to the Copa after that.
Bootsy Collins: 84:25
Yeah, right after that.
And what happened?
Bootsy Collins: 84:28
We did about two or three gigs because we had six-- was it six or seven? It was seven nights-- I mean, yeah, seven shows and two on Sunday because we had to do the matinee. Okay, so James was going to cut the salary, okay? And we were playing seven days and twice on Sunday. And he decides to cut the salary, and the same people came to me, like, "We can't let him do this. You've got to go in there, Mikey [laughter], and you've got to get it straight, man." And I'm like, "What the problem is?"
We working. We good.
Bootsy Collins: 85:26
Yeah. I mean, I've got all these girls, and I've got my weed, and I've got my LSD. I'm cool.
Boss Bill: 85:33
What else do I need?
Bootsy Collins: 85:34
Yeah. I ain't got no responsibilities. The only responsibility I have is playing because I love to play [laughter]. And so these mothers with responsibilities, that's what they were really concerned about. And I understood that after I got away, but while I was there, it was like, "What the problem is?" And so they talked me into it again. Go in and tell him either he pay us full salary or else we walk. And so I didn't feel good about-- all the other times, I felt like you can go in and do it. But this particular time, I didn't feel good about it. To myself, I was saying, "Okay, man, if I do this, and if it don't work, we walking. The band that came with me, we walking." It's like, "Ah, he get you everything. Buy you coats, a bass. He buy you all that." I'm like, "Okay." So I go in there and I drop in on him. He says, "Son, I knew you going to do it [laughter]. I knew you going to do it. They been using you. They just using you, man. Do you see that?" And I'm like, "Well, this is what they saying." "Well, son, you know what? I ain't going to let you get away with it this time. You go back there and tell them they all fired. I ain't going for it." He said, "I know what they doing to you, and you should know. So if you all got to walk, walk." That was it. I went back and told them and they was like-- they started looking up in the air and stuff. I'm like, "I can't go back on my word. If I told a man I got to go if he can't do nothing, then I got to go."
Called your bluff.
Bootsy Collins: 87:46
Yeah. And then in my mind, it's like, "Okay. What in the hell are we going to do now?" Because I knew that was it. It's like, we got to go. So we sitting on the bus. The whole band, sitting on the bus, looking at each other. On Trailways. I know--
Trailways, man. Whew.
Bootsy Collins: 88:14
I remember taking them, man.
Bootsy Collins: 88:19
Trailways bus, man. And we looking at each other. And then they looking at me, like, "Okay. What we going to do now, since you went in there and--"
Messed it all up?
Bootsy Collins: 88:29
"--messed it all up?"
You didn't ask right [laughter].
Bootsy Collins: 88:31
You didn't ask right.
Bootsy Collins: 88:33
And so that was wearing me out. I started feeling like, "Dang, what are we going to do?" So the next thing that came to my mind is, "You going to go to Cincinnati. You going to practice. You going to get in that basement. You going to practice. You going to get tight, and you going to go to Detroit and see what happens." Because that's what we were into, taking people's gigs.
Boss Bill: 88:56
[music] Hold it right there, baby boy. But we got to stop this episode so you can take that on in. Next week's episode we going to have much more with Bootsy Collins talking about his years about a member of the P-funk mob, baby. All right. This is Questlove Supreme, only on Pandora.
[music] Questlove Supreme is produced by Pandora and Team Supreme.