Funkmaster Bootsy Collins to Host 'AmsterJam'

One and only funk bass virtuoso Bootsy Collins will host the AmsterJam music festival in New York City this weekend. Collins reviews his 30-year career with Ed Gordon, and the eclectic music lineup — including Snoop Dog, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and 311.

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(Soundbite of song)

Mr. WILLIAM "BOOTSY" COLLINS: Yabba, dabba, dooza, baba. Bootszilla's here, the world's only rhinestone rock star, my silver-domed baby baba, my Bootsy Collins, that is. Hit me!

(Soundbite of music)

ED GORDON, host:

His mama may have named him William Collins, but the world knows him as Bootsy. Tomorrow in New York he'll host AmsterJam, a daylong festival featuring music of all kinds, including the good-time funk Bootsy's been pushing for 30 years.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. COLLINS: Whoo!

Back-Up Singers: Bootsy!

Mr. COLLINS: Say, what?

Back-Up Singers: Bootsy!

GORDON: Bootsy Collins, welcome, man. Good to have you on the show.

Mr. COLLINS: Always good to be in the house, you know that.

GORDON: Hey, man, let's--let me get into, for those who don't know about your historic career--many people obviously know Bootsy Collins from the singular fame of the Rubber Band.

Mr. COLLINS: Yes.

GORDON: And that became just an icon in and of itself. We'll get into that in just a moment, but you have grown up under the tutelage of James Brown, and you were very instrumental in many of the hits, in particular, that I think about, "Sex Machine," that most people will know...

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Yeah.

GORDON: ...in laying down that bass line, "Super Bad," I know, "Talking Loud And Saying Nothing"...

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Yeah.

GORDON: ...just, you know, some of those later hits for James. But talk to me about working with him. He is not an easy taskmaster.

Mr. COLLINS: No. And it was kind of like being in the Army for me because I came--you know, I didn't have a dad in the house so I didn't know it at the time but it was really good for me because I was out on the streets doing all kind of crazy stuff just like the rest of the kids, you know, but we got with James--I was like 17. He got us right off the streets during the time of the riots and all that so it was--the timing couldn't have been more perfect than that, you know.

GORDON: Yeah. Let me ask you about the bass in and of itself. There are so many people that don't necessarily see the bass as one of those lead instruments but you, Stanley Clarke, George Johnson...

Mr. COLLINS: Larry Graham.

GORDON: ...and Larry Graham, obviously...

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Yeah.

GORDON: ...you all really put the bass in the forefront. What was it about this instrument that attracted you?

Mr. COLLINS: For me it was like I always wanted to play with my brother, you know? And my brother played guitar, and so that's what inspired me to start playing something. I didn't know I was going to wind up on bass. We couldn't have two guitars so I had to switch to bass, so that's pretty much what got me to playing bass, so it started like that.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. COLLINS: Yabba, dabba, dooza, baba. Bootszilla's here.

GORDON: There is a William Collins.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah.

GORDON: And then there's a Bootsy Collins.

Mr. COLLINS: Ah, yeah, baba.

GORDON: Who are you most often?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, it depends on where I'm at. I mean, at one time, when we was creating the monster, Bootszilla, that was--I was Bootsy all the time. I was Bootsy because I guess it wasn't created yet. But I was trying to create that special character, you know, with the star glasses, with the star bass, you know, and with some verbal rap ability bobble.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. COLLINS: Wind me up. Put me on your ...(unintelligible), and at no extra expense comes this remote control unit. Oh, yeah. I'm programmable. One hip of a dial...

So, you know, I had to be that cat all the time, and it was great being on like that all the time, you know? But, you know, when I went home one day, my mother stopped me at the door and--you know, I had the fellas with me, you know, and I came in, you know, with the outfit, the leathers, the star glasses and chicks and everything, and then she smacked my glasses off my head. She said, `Boy, go take out that garbage.' I said, `Oh, my God!' But that's--that was the first thing that made me realize `Wow, I have to be able to turn on when it's time to turn on, and turn off when it's time to turn off, because I have to be William Collins taking out the garbage.' Mama was the first one that really made me realize that.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).

Back-Up Singers: (Singing) How sweet. How strange.

Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible). Oh, yeah, yeah!

GORDON: What was the marriage like between you and George Clinton and that whole Parliament/Funkadelic? You know, often you hope to be able to make something that really makes a mark in your industry and has longevity, and when you talk about funk and that era...

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Yeah.

GORDON: ...and really laying down--when people will go historically and look at R&B, you know, you got a big chapter in that.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Well, you know, I think by us sticking to our guns, to what we felt from right off the street--because we were always the kind of people that were like right off the street that you can touch. So, you know, it was like nobody in between us and the people. And I think that's very important. Then and now, that's what I bring to the table.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah, we're funking on, baby. This is the world's funkiest sing-along. Sing! R-U-B-B-E-R B-A-N-D-S, rubber bands and funkateers. Mmm!

We were just taking it a day at a time and doing what we felt was good, you know? Doing it to you in your ear hole, you know? And that to me was the real fun.

GORDON: Is there ever a day, man, that you can go through the entire day where somebody doesn't come up to you and do their imitation of Bootsy?

Mr. COLLINS: (Laughs) No, I get that a lot. And it's funny, you know, 'cause I'm just glad, you know. It's a blessing to be around and the kids can relate to you. And I don't know, it's like kind of being accepted as an uncle.

GORDON: Let's talk a little bit about the project you're involved with which hits New York City, and that's AmsterJam.

Mr. COLLINS: AmsterJam!

GORDON: And one of the things that's unique--one of the things that's unique about...

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah.

GORDON: ...this, Bootsy, is--one of the things that you and George Clinton did and the whole Funk Revolution, is it really did bring together groups of people who did not jam together, necessarily.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Yeah.

GORDON: I mean, you could look and go to--and I've been to many a Funkadelic concert or one of your concerts, and you'd see black, white, green, purple...

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. Yeah.

GORDON: ...beige, all in the audience, jamming.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah, and that's what we're attempting to do on this AmsterJam thing, and, with me involved, I think it's gonna fly.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) Well...

Back-Up Singers: (Singing) We like to party.

Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) Come on, y'all.

Back-Up Singers: (Singing) Do you like to party?

Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) Do you?

Back-Up Singers: (Singing) We like to party.

Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) Got to shake some of this funk loose.

Back-Up Singers: (Singing) Do you like to party?

Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) Hit me!

GORDON: One of the guys that put it on the map is with us today, and you can see him if you're in the New York area. AmsterJam is the name of the daylong concert.

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah.

GORDON: Included on the bill--Snoop Dogg, Red Hot Chili Peppers, many, many more, and, of course, this man, Bootsy Collins.

Mr. COLLINS: Oh, yeah.

GORDON: Bootsy, William "Bootsy" Collins, welcome, man, and good to have you. Good to talk to you.

Mr. COLLINS: Oh, thanks so much, man. Keep the funk on the one, baby.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. COLLINS: ...(Unintelligible). You want some?

(Soundbite of music)

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