The 'World Wide Funk' Of Bootsy Collins The funk master is back with his first album in six years: World Wide Funk. He talks King Records and his relationship with the late Bernie Worrell in an interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly.
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The 'World Wide Funk' Of Bootsy Collins

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The 'World Wide Funk' Of Bootsy Collins

The 'World Wide Funk' Of Bootsy Collins

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

They say James Brown is the godfather of soul. Well, you could make a pretty strong case for our next guest, who used to play with Brown, as the godfather of funk.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LADIES NITE")

BOOTSY COLLINS: (Singing) Where my ladies at, baby?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) I'm in the place to be.

COLLINS: (Singing) Where my ladies from?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) I'm in the place to be.

KELLY: That is Bootsy Collins. Collins played with James Brown back in the early '70s. Later, Collins joined Parliament-Funkadelic. That's the music collective headed by George Clinton. In the '80s, he became a solo artist, and he has been going strong ever since. He's just released his latest album, "World Wide Funk." And he's with us now. Bootsy Collins, welcome.

COLLINS: Hey. How are you today?

KELLY: I'm well and glad to have you with us. So we're going to talk about this first album in six years. Congratulations.

COLLINS: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I mean, it gets to the point where those kind of things have to come to you, you know? They're like songs. I mean, you know, you can't just do a track, you know? And you've got to take time to let them come 'cause before, when you're out there on the road just hitting it and then recording and hitting it and then recording, that was in the younger days, you know? Now it's like it's the either the road, or you're in the studio. So I had to take time off of the road and start recording.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOOMERANG")

COLLINS: Victoria got a secret, y'all. And I can tell because I'm out on bail. Dig it now. (Singing) Just like a boomerang.

KELLY: You recorded this at home in Cincinnati. You're in Cincinnati today as we talk to you. And this is where you grew up, right?

COLLINS: Yeah, this is the home front right here.

KELLY: You know, some people listening to us might not know that Cincinnati has this whole long, rich history of funk and soul. It's where you started. I mean, King Records where you got your start is...

COLLINS: Yep.

KELLY: ...A Cincinnati label.

COLLINS: King Records was kind of like our Motown. It was the spot where all the stars were at. And when they came into town, you would want to go see them and get close to them if you could. And so that was the spot. And nobody could actually go in until we made friends with this one guy who was an A&R. His name was Charles Spurling. And we asked him to come hear us. We was all excited, you know? And he actually came and heard us and thought we was pretty good. Next thing you know, he invited us over to King, and that's how we get in the front door of King.

KELLY: And you were how old then?

COLLINS: Let's see. I had to be, like, around 16. And I didn't get to meet James Brown until I was, like, around 18. But during all that time, I got a chance to work inside of King with different artists. And that's how James Brown heard about us. That's how we actually wound up with him.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET UP (I FEEL LIKE BEING A) SEX MACHINE")

JAMES BROWN: (Singing) One, two, three, four - get up. Get on up. Get up. Get on up. Stay on the scene. Get on up.

KELLY: Things you wish you'd known then that you know now - what would you - what advice would you give to the 16- or 18-year-old Bootsy Collins?

COLLINS: You know what? I'm pretty pleased with that rebellious boy (laughter).

KELLY: He did all right.

COLLINS: Yeah, he - you know, he - because he knew he needed a father figure in his life because, you know, I didn't - I grew up with my mother and my brother and sisters, so I didn't have a father figure in the house. So the godfather, you know - he played that role seriously. He always treated me like a son, and he would always give me these lectures, you know? Like, you're not on it, you know? You need to stop doing this and stop doing that. And you know, so I was being disciplined. And it was good. It was good for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET UP (I FEEL LIKE BEING A) SEX MACHINE")

BROWN: (Singing) Can we hit it, and quit? Hit it.

KELLY: Is there a song on this that you can't stop, you know, tapping your toe to, that makes you want to get up and dance?

COLLINS: Oh, you know what? I tell you which one it is. It is "Bass-Rigged System."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BASS-RIGGED SYSTEM")

COLLINS: (Singing) Don't you want to get all funked up, all funked up?

(Laughter) Yeah, I love that one, man.

KELLY: I think I can feel your foot tapping from here.

COLLINS: Yeah (laughter). Oh, man, yeah, I got a chance to call on some of my compadres, my bass friends. And you know, the vibe was just so intense, you know? And everybody that's on there got a chance to shine.

KELLY: And what's going on at the beginning of the song where we hear this voice say...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BASS-RIGGED SYSTEM")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As John Haller) Congress shall now vote for approval of HR 8791, the Homeland Terrorism Preparedness Bill, as said bill requests emergency response funding up to and including - oh, I'm sorry. This section's classified.

COLLINS: Well, you know, all of this campaign stuff was going on during the time.

KELLY: Presidential campaign stuff.

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah. And all of that was going on while I was, you know, trying to record the record. And I was like, oh, yeah, this'll definitely fit right into the groove 'cause I named the song, if you noticed, "Bass-Rigged System."

KELLY: Oh.

COLLINS: And so all of that kind of ties in, you know?

KELLY: A little political commentary in there.

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah (laughter).

KELLY: Well, that might be the first funk bass tribute to the 2016 presidential campaign I've heard (laughter).

COLLINS: I think so. I think so (laughter).

KELLY: You win that one.

COLLINS: (Laughter) I think. Oh, man, but yeah, I really like that one a lot.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BASS-RIGGED SYSTEM")

COLLINS: (Singing) Supersonic, aerial diabolic, space-bassaphonic (ph), (unintelligible) - yeah, I'm perfect for funkin' (ph), you see. Feel the resistance.

KELLY: Bootsy Collins, before I let you go...

COLLINS: Yeah.

KELLY: I have to note. The last time you came on NPR was when your last album came out, and you talked to my friend and colleague Michel Martin. And you told her all about where you were wearing that day. And I have been jealous ever since. You were apparently wearing your trademark star glasses and a top hat.

COLLINS: Yeah.

KELLY: So I'm hoping you are going to let me one-up Michel Martin and tell me you came even better dressed for our conversation (laughter).

COLLINS: Well, I don't know if I'm better. I would say - I do have my trademark stars on (laughter). But I'm kind of low-key today.

KELLY: Low-key today - well, the star glasses...

COLLINS: Yeah.

KELLY: You've got that going on.

COLLINS: Well, I figured since it was you, I said, well, let me just calm it down a little bit, you know?

KELLY: (Laughter).

COLLINS: We're just going to chill, you know, and just feel good about life, you know? And I kind of calmed it down a little bit. I don't have my top hat on. I have a cowboy hat on (laughter).

KELLY: Well, you know, I'm wearing the top hat on the neon pink suit. Did you know that?

COLLINS: Oh, my goodness (laughter).

KELLY: No, I'm teasing you. I'm wearing old Levi's. You've got me beat anyway.

COLLINS: Oh (laughter), oh, man. But it's really a good vibe and a good chance to talk to you and spread that funk around the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORLD WIDE FUNK")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Bootsy Collins (laughter)...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Where's the party at, y'all? You ready? Here we go.

COLLINS: (Singing, unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Once upon a time...

KELLY: That is funk master Bootsy Collins talking about his new album...

COLLINS: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: ...There you go - called "World Wide Funk." Bootsy Collins, thank you.

COLLINS: Oh, thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORLD WIDE FUNK")

COLLINS: (Singing) So put them hands together.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) There's a party on this side...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) Party on this side...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) ...Party on that side...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) ...Party on that side...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) ...Party right here.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) Party right here.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) You know what?

COLLINS: (Singing) This is a worldwide...

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