Bootsy Collins : What's Good with Stretch & Bobbito Collins joins the hosts to talk about his new album, how James Brown saved his life, and the right way to funk people up
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Bootsy Collins

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Bootsy Collins

Bootsy Collins

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Heads up - this podcast contains language that some people may find offensive.

BOOTSY COLLINS: Warm me up, baba (ph). Bootzilla's here, and I'm checking out WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO, baba. Wind it up, man. Hit me.


BARTOS: Yo, yo, yo, everyone. It's Stretch Armstrong.


And I'm Bobbito Garcia aka Kool Bob Love.

BARTOS: Welcome to WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO, your source for untold stories and uncovered truths from movers and shakers around the world.

GARCIA: We are talking art, music, politics and sports.

BARTOS: Joining us now is the one and only Bootsy Collins.

COLLINS: Oh, the name is Bootsy, baby, and let's funk them up.


GARCIA: Bootsy is a legend of modern music. He spent a little time as the bassist for James Brown's J.B.'s. He played on some of the most famous songs, including "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine" and "Soul Power." After that, he joined George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic. There he became one of the world's most-renowned bassists. He also has a signature vocal style, which you just heard. And, of course, he is known for his wild outfits and sunglasses.


BARTOS: Bootsy, of course, went on to form Bootsy's Rubber Band. He's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

GARCIA: Ba-bong (ph).

BARTOS: His music has been sampled hundreds and hundreds of times. And his first new album in six years is out this month. It's called "World Wide Funk."

GARCIA: Bienvenidos, Bootsy.

BARTOS: Bootsy, welcome.


COLLINS: Oh, man. Wow. I don't know how to come behind that, man.


COLLINS: That was pretty deep. That was pretty deep.

GARCIA: There's a whole group of people featured on your new album, MCs like Doug E. Fresh, the BDK - Big Daddy Kane...


GARCIA: ...And Chuck D.


GARCIA: There's even a track named "Bass-Rigged System," where you play with three other amazing bass players by the names of Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke and Manou Gallo. That seems like a lot of bass for one song, my brother.

COLLINS: Well, you know, it's actually one other bassist on there as well, Alissia. And she's straight out of New York up there with Stretch. We just wanted to have some kind of bass expo on this album without it being considered an all-bass album.


COLLINS: (Singing) Don't you want to get all funked up, now? I'm all funked up all over you, baby.

That song just felt right. It just had the tempo, and it had the groove. And I was like, yeah, this is the one.

GARCIA: You had a star-studded cast on this album. Who stands out as having the most fun to rock with?

COLLINS: Oh, wow.

GARCIA: And that's a tough question because you probably had fun with all of them.

COLLINS: Yeah because they're all my friends really, you know. The experience of recording and seeing what we going to come up with, all of that to me is - makes it exciting, an adventure. And each time you do it, it's a different adventure. And this time was a different adventure with all these different people, you know. It was - I think it encourages you, and you encourage them. And I think it kind of works both ways. So if that's fun, if that's what fun is called, then we had a lot of freaking fun, man. Yeah. Because I only know one thing that you have fun doing. Want to know what it is?

GARCIA: I'm scared to ask.

COLLINS: Yeah. Well I've got to tell you, man - it's funking (ph) people up.


BARTOS: Stop funking with us, Bootsy.


BARTOS: So, Bootsy, Bob and I, we're both DJs. And we love hip-hop. And, of course, we've come from hip-hop. We came of age in late '80s and early '90s New York City. And so it's only fitting that we dive into James Brown's "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose," which, of course, you played on.



JAMES BROWN: Hey. Stomp your feet.

BARTOS: It's the incredible James Bond recording from 1978 that features one of the most important breakdowns, in our opinion, in the history of music.

COLLINS: (Singing) Clap your hands. Stomp your feet.


BROWN: Oh, my God.

COLLINS: Lord, have mercy. Man, can you imagine?

GARCIA: I'm amped up. No, we can't imagine. We cannot imagine.

BARTOS: I mean, that's just...

COLLINS: Can you imagine standing there over Clyde Stubblefield? You know, he was the funkiest drummer in the universe. I mean, come on, man. I'm like 18, 19. People were getting off on me while I was getting off on him. It don't get no funkier than that.


COLLINS: That's funky, man, that spontaneity of actual live mugs just getting down for the funk of it. And I don't know how many mugs sampled that piece, but that's signature Clyde Stubblefield.

GARCIA: By the way, if you have not heard of the drummer Clyde Stubblefield, you have definitely heard his rhythms. The track "Funky Drummer," which he is the main juice power behind, has been sampled - get this - in over a thousand songs. And I'm not just talking about hip-hop. We're talking about top 100, pop, number one, Billboard, all that.


CLYDE STUBBLEFIELD: I'm Clyde Stubblefield, the original funky drummer, as they say.


RUN-D.M.C.: (Rapping) With a cooler name, make you dance and prance and draw the fans to stage.


COLLINS: He never got a dime for none of that, you know. But I didn't want to bring us down. But, you know, I had to mention that because, I mean...

GARCIA: Respect.

COLLINS: ...Mugs coming up, musicians coming up now, you know, they have to learn from, you know, the stuff we went through, you know. And they can learn a lot. I mean, they taking care of a lot more business than we did. We wasn't even thinking about business. We was thinking about playing.

BARTOS: Bootsy, so "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose," and particularly that part of the record, is anthemic for B-boys and B-girls. And for three or four years, James Brown was the go-to sample source. We're talking about, I mean, like I would say '86 to '90. It was, I mean, hundreds of incredible hip-hop records sampled James Brown. And many of those feature basslines that you created.

COLLINS: To be honest with you, I had no idea that I was becoming a role in anything. I mean, I was ecstatic to just, first of all, be with James, be in his presence, you know. And everybody was talking about, you know, you need to be getting paid. You need to do this. And I'm like, pay? I need to pay him for allowing me to be in the studio with them.


COLLINS: You know, to me, they had it backwards. At that time, you know, everybody was just, you know, they just wanted to play, man.

GARCIA: Well, Bootsy, if you were unaware, what was the moment that you shifted and became aware of the impact that you were having on hip-hop?

COLLINS: I would say probably it had to be like the '90s, around the time...

GARCIA: Really?

COLLINS: Yeah. When you're going through something, a lot of times you don't see it.


COLLINS: You know, I was hearing everybody talking about it. And I still didn't feel like, you know, I was that far from it. I mean, you know, it's like, to me at that early point, I didn't know that, you know, it was going to be like that or become like this, you know.

BARTOS: You were 19 when you joined The J.B.'s, is that right?

COLLINS: Well, actually, I had started playing in the studio when I was around 17 with all these different kind of artists and musicians that King Records had - Bill Doggett, Hank Ballard - and wound up with James Brown because everybody start talking about how these young mugs off the street was - had this rhythm that was going on that, you know, that just made everybody's track just, you know, liven up. And so James Brown heard about that, and he called, you know, called on us to come to the - yeah.

BARTOS: Got you. So you've described being in James' band as being somewhat like the Army or boot camp.

COLLINS: Oh, yeah, definitely. And I needed it. I was rebelling. And it was like bands was coming up front, you know. It was a new day, and James knew it. He knew it was a new day. That's why he wanted us around him. You know, he wanted that young energy. He knew what was going on.

But, you know, it was like he wanted us, but at the same time, he knew he couldn't control these fools because we was a bunch of fools off the street just got finished throwing Molotov cocktails. I mean, the riots was going on. And actually, he saved us from the street, you know, because we was doing all kinds of crazy stuff.

GARCIA: Were the riots in Cincinnati as...

COLLINS: Oh, was they in Cincinnati? Man, where I lived, the Army trucks came down that street, all of that. So we was right there, a stones'-throw away. The Panthers was on the corner and, I mean, the whole thing. So it was like we wasn't watching it on TV, we was right there in it.


BARTOS: You're, of course, referencing riots that took place in the late '60s throughout the nation.

COLLINS: Yeah. You know, and James Brown got us off of that. He got us into music because, you know, we were playing clubs. In Cincinnati, Ohio, they know how the club thing was happening when we was coming up, you know. That's why this whole area was full of funk.

BARTOS: Of course, after James Brown, you then became part of the Parliament-Funkadelic - what would you call that, the operation? From an outsider's point of view, that situation was really different as compared to The J.B.'s. It was a lot looser and seemingly a lot freer. What did you take with you from your experience in The J.B.'s moving forward?

COLLINS: I would say, you know, James Brown is the one that taught me the one. And I didn't know what the funk the one was. I mean, you know, it's like, what do you mean? You know, it's like - (imitating James Brown) just play all that stuff, man. I love everything you're playing, but you got to...

GARCIA: Wow. You sound exactly like him. It's freaking me out.

COLLINS: ...Give me the one. I need that one. And I'm like, well, what is the one? You know, he said, (imitating James Brown) every measure - you just count four. Count to four. One, two, three, four. You got it, son? You got it? I said, I got it. I think I got it.

GARCIA: Here's a clip of Bootsy breaking down his basic funk formula on BBC's "Rockschool."


COLLINS: One. You know? One. You know? And then you would try to fit your different notes what you felt in between that like - you know, and that's the funk. You know, it's however you feel, but you just have to fit it...

And so once I learned his theory, I added that in everything I did with him. And when I got with George and the P-Funk mob, I took it over there to that camp. And George, he loved it so much, he said, everything is on the one. And that's where that was born.

BARTOS: That seems so standard now. Like, I can't even imagine what music was like before that one. What was your style before that?

COLLINS: Well, you know, you got to understand, I was a guitar player. I didn't ever learn how to play bass. So, you know, the reason I played bass goes back to my brother. And so when I got the opportunity to be in his band, it was like he didn't need a guitar player. He needed a bass player.

So that meant I needed four bass strings to go on my guitar because I can't afford a bass. And I couldn't afford the guitar. You know, the reason I got that was I got a paper route, started delivering papers. And my mother went up to Sears and Roebuck with me. And the guy looked at us and said, I'm going to help these motherfuckers out, you know.


COLLINS: Yeah. And he gave us some credit. You know, I told him I'd pay him a dollar a week, you know. And he was cool with that.

GARCIA: Did you keep your word?


GARCIA: That is crazy to imagine that one of the world's premier bass players started their entire career, A, on credit and, B, without even the objective of being a bass player.

BARTOS: Your first bass was actually a guitar with four bass strings attached to it?

COLLINS: Yeah. It was a Silvertone guitar, cost 29.99. And, to me, it was the greatest thing, you know, ever. But to James Brown? Don't ever come in here with that thing no more, boy. I mean, he hated that thing, but that's all I had. And I played it to death, you know. But that's what funk is. That's why I came up. People kept asking me, well, what is funk? I said, well, funk is making something out of nothing. Funk is whatever you got, you do something with it. All I had was that guitar.

And, you know, it came down to, well, what are you going to do? You got this guitar, but he needs a bass player. I said, well, I need four bass strings. That's all I need. So when I got the four bass strings, I took the - screwed with the strings off of the edge, and I made it small enough to go on the guitar holes and put four strings on that mother. And that was my bass. And I used that from playing in the clubs all the way to the first gig we did with James. And after that, you know, he fired the bass, kept me and bought me a new bass, a Fender Jazz - never will forget it.

BARTOS: Amazing.

GARCIA: And then the world was never the same, never the same.

COLLINS: Man, we were all funked up after that.


BARTOS: Thank God.

COLLINS: Oh, man.


DEEE-LITE: We're doing to dance. We're going to dance. We're going to dance and have some fun.

BARTOS: In 1990, a New York City-based outfit named Deee-Lite, they released the international club smash "Groove Is In The Heart," which featured you and Q-Tip, another friend of ours. And then you went on to be in Deee-Lite's backing band for their world tour.


BARTOS: And I'm just curious because they were making electronic music, really house music, which was, you know, kind of antithetical to your traditional band projects. So I'm just curious what attracted you to work with them?

COLLINS: Well, they was playing - you know, what they was playing didn't have nothing to do with what I was doing, really. And it was kind of like taboo to go from being like the funk God to playing house music. And I knew that, but it's something about these mugs that I'm digging. I couldn't even express what it was.

George Clinton told me, man, you can't do that. Do you know what you're committing? I said, why don't you come down to the show and check it out? Because I was going, and I couldn't explain it to George and nobody else. I just knew I had to do that, and I did it. And it was like one of the greatest things I could have ever did because I was so through with being myself and being the star. It's like, all I want to do is play in a band.

GARCIA: Bring it back to the roots.

COLLINS: Yeah. And, you know, because it was always - I had to be Bootsy. I had to be in the front of the stage. And then, you know, I had to do this, I had to do that. I had to do everything. But by the time I got to the stage, I was through. It was like, man, I don't even feel like playing no more, you know. And when they came along, it was like that was the opportunity. It's like, I got to do it, you know. And I don't care what none of the critics say. I don't care what - I don't even care what George says. And I just did it. And to this day, I would never change that.

BARTOS: Nice, better than nice - funky and incredible. Now we can move up into the present. On your new record, you have a song called "A Salute To Bernie," which...

COLLINS: Oh, wow.

BARTOS: ...Is built on unreleased Bernie Worrell keyboard tracks that were recorded in the early 2000s. And, of course, it's a tribute to your longtime collaborator, Bernie Worrell, who recently passed away.


COLLINS: Just like your mother, I'm your Brother Nature.

BARTOS: Bernie Worrell, of course, is the colossally important keyboard player. He was a founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic, has worked with everyone from Fela to Talking Heads and, of course, was Bootsy's main homie stromie (ph) for decades.


BARTOS: What was the glue to your friendship that kept you two so close personally and musically well beyond the P-Funk years?

COLLINS: Well, I was more of the street brother that didn't know how to put a chord together or didn't know how - any theory on music. And Bernie was the complete opposite. And the same thing with George, only George didn't play an instrument. But Bernie, he knew how to make whatever I did sound like I did it on purpose. You know, it's like, I meant to do this messed up chord.

And Bernie would take it and finagle his keyboard around whatever I'm doing and make sense of it. So it sounded like it was musically correct. And it's stuff made-up. Bernie would just lend himself and his genius, really. And he would make my left arm have a right arm. And that's what he was. He was like my right-arm man.


COLLINS: And we both learned from each other, you know. I learned from his correctness, and he learned from the stuff that I was ignorant to. You know, I didn't have no walls. And we could go on and on and on and on because we understood each other without even talking about it, you know. And that's what was so beautiful, man. I always had to explain myself. Bernie always had to explain himself. But us together, we never had to explain anything - why this works and why that won't work. And we never talked about that. Whatever was played, Bernie made it work.

BARTOS: So you've also talked about the passing of Prince.


BARTOS: Everyone loves a good Prince story and we're wondering if you got one.


COLLINS: Oh, man. This was before he really became Prince. We was at the Coliseum in LA. And it was like a big funk festival. It was Rick James. It was Brides Of Funkenstein. It was Boozy's Rubber Band. It was Parliament-Funkadelic. I mean, we had a hundred thousand, just black people, period, I mean, everywhere, OK. And this meant everybody came to the gig. I don't care who you were, you came to the gig.

And Prince had just signed up with Warner. You know, he came to the gig and didn't nobody know him. And he came up on stage. He had his tape recorder, you know. And my guy Big Jim (ph) said, you know, his whole thing was nobody's allowed on stage when Bootsy's Rubber Band is up there. So Prince figured he could get up there. And, you know, some kind of way, he eased himself in. And he got up on stage. And Big Jim was known for throwing people off stage.


COLLINS: I mean, seriously, you know. I mean, we in the middle of a song, hitting it, people funking like a mug. And the next thing you know, you see this mug fly through the air. OK. Nobody knew it was Prince until after the whole fact. I didn't find out until about a couple of weeks later. Did you know that was Prince? I was like, come on, man.

And then I had to get on my boy Big Jim because he was throwing some of the Parliament-Funkadelic crew off stage. I'm like, Big Jim, listen, man, you know. With Big Jim, everybody knew that mug. It's like, man, you don't mess with Bootsy's road man. That mug is crazy. So Prince never forgot that day, man.

GARCIA: Bootsy, earlier this year, you cancelled your tour because of an issue that required surgery.

COLLINS: Oh, yeah.

GARCIA: And, you know, in the midst of that - I mean, Stretch and I, we're DJs. And we perform. And we're fortunate to travel the world. In moments where we have to make personal decisions like that, there's always a lot of pull.


GARCIA: You know, responsibility to your fans, to your audience, to the promoter, to, you know, the marketing company, to your booking agency, your manager. You know, there's - everyone's like pulling at you. But at the same time, I'm wondering and curious - in that moment where you were like, you know what, I just can't do it, who is your advocate? Who is the one saying, you know what, we may lose money, we may lose steam on the album or whatever? But who is really there by your side to say, you know what, let's make the right decision, and I'm going to help you and pull you through this?

COLLINS: Actually, nobody.

GARCIA: Everybody was upset with you?


COLLINS: But, you know, I'm cool with it. I'm a trooper, man.


COLLINS: I mean, you know, I've been through this stuff before. And I know who's going to act a fool. You just have to take a stand. You know, I mean, my health was more important, man. I mean, you know, if I can't get out there and give you the whole P and nothing but the P, then I can't - I cannot fake the funk. You know, I cannot go out in front of people and not put on what they expect.


COLLINS: You know, I'd be doing a disservice, not only to them but to myself. And I knew I couldn't do it. Man, I couldn't hear. Come on, man. Don't that mean anything to y'all?


COLLINS: You know, and it didn't. At the time, it did not mean a thing. But that's how it is with that. And so you learn from that, man. It's like, man, if y'all bear with me, give me a chance to get myself together, I'm going to come back and I will funk you up.

GARCIA: In that moment of clarity and decisiveness, looking back, have there been any unexpected positive energy that you've sort of collected from this?

COLLINS: Yeah. It's like the fans are understanding now. I mean, they're really supporting the fact that I had to do what I had to do. Booking agents and promoters and accountants and, you know, all these mugs, they ain't going to understand none of that.

GARCIA: Well, Stretch and I are rooting for you, bro.


GARCIA: And we're hoping for your safe return.

COLLINS: Yeah. Well, it's coming now. I mean, I can hear, you know.



BARTOS: So as a young man, music clearly changed your life. Now you and your wife are using your resources and platform to support girls through music and art, specifically with an eye on bullying. So we're curious. Is bullying something that you experienced as a youth?

COLLINS: No, no. It had more to do with her coming up in the school and in her thing, the abuse and all of that kind of thing that women go through, you know. I mean, not to say that guys don't go through it too, but she attached her thing to this Bootsy Collins Foundation. You know, I'm kind of doing more of the music thing, and she's taking care of the foundation side of it.

And the main thing was Say It Loud, An Instrument For Every Child, which deals with the music programs in school and getting instruments for kids. You know, that was my main reason for going to school was the music class, you know. You know, so at the end of the day, I got to go to the music class. And now they, you know, like, taking music classes out of schools. And forget the instruments you used to have to take home, I mean, you don't have classes. And so the foundation deals with that, giving instruments to schools - certain schools.

BARTOS: Beautiful.

GARCIA: Well, up next - (imitating trumpet).

BARTOS: (Imitating bass).

GARCIA: It's time for the Impression Session.

COLLINS: Yes. Cool (laughter).

BARTOS: Did you like my human slap bass?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

COLLINS: Yeah, the sound effects was awesome, man. I was like, how did he do that? Oh, man.


BARTOS: Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the Impression Session.

GARCIA: Bootsy, here's how it works. Stretch and I are each going to pick a song to play for you and we ask that you digest it, you listen to it. And whatever that song brings out of you, whether you recognize it or not, we would like for you to share it with us. You down?

COLLINS: All right. I think...


BARTOS: You sound nervous, Bootsy.

COLLINS: I hope I'm with you on this. Come on, man. Bring it.

GARCIA: All right. All right. Stretch, why don't you go first?

BARTOS: All right.


COLLINS: Oh, yeah, baby - Tom Tom Club.


COLLINS: Getting funky on me, baba. Hit me.


TOM TOM CLUB: What do you consider fun? Fun, natural fun.

COLLINS: Look at my toe, baby. Yeah.


GARCIA: Look at my toe.

COLLINS: I love it, man. I love it. Now this is the kind of stuff we miss, man.

BARTOS: That, of course, is "Genius Of Love" by the Tom Tom Club, an American band formed by husband-and-wife team Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz also of Talking Heads. And, of course, Tina is the bassist on that record. I love that record because it's just so quirky and unusual and, of course, so funky.

COLLINS: Well, Stretch, I appreciate that one because some kind of way we connected and you knew I would know that one. Now I know y'all are getting ready to destroy me right now.

GARCIA: Well, speaking of...


COLLINS: Y'all done funked me up, man.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

COLLINS: For me, that's that Latin kind of funk that just speaks to the soul. I mean, you know, the record is one thing, but picture that...

GARCIA: Speaks to the spirit.

COLLINS: Yeah. And you're in the middle of it. And you're in the middle of this band, and they playing that vibe. And you're just absorbing all of that. I mean, that just funks your soul up, man. That's what we need. That's what we've been missing, I think.

GARCIA: The name of the artist is Mongo Santamaria. The song title is "Bacoso," led by a all-star band of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz musicians.


GARCIA: This was recorded back in the early '60s. And the reason why I wanted to share with you and Stretch is because, I mean, you are the carrier, if you will, of this ideal of playing on the one that you learned from James Brown and then you and George Clinton cultivated in which, you know, 99 percent of American pop music since - including hip-hop - is all based on the one. I wanted to play this where it's not a four-four drum signature. But it's also - it's just so loose.

COLLINS: It's still funky, yeah.

GARCIA: Oh, no, it's very funky. But I'm just wondering, like, does the one - that concept - does it ever confine you? Because there's a lot of music that's prior to the one that's like this where like there were like jazz dancers in that club not following the one, not waiting for the one but just letting loose. So I'm just wondering, what's your impression?

COLLINS: Just so you know, the one is not necessary to be funky. If you count and listen to "Sex Machime," I'm not playing on the one.


BROWN: One, two, three, four.

COLLINS: (Imitating bass line) You know what I'm saying? So it don't have to be on the one. You know, it kind of makes you think that that it's on the - well, it don't even make you think, you know. It gives you the impression that it is on the one but it's really not.

GARCIA: Yeah. Yeah.

COLLINS: Because I didn't hit the one all the time. And that being said, it's like that track you just played me, I don't care what nobody says - that's funky. That's some dirty lowdown clean dirt funked-up funk, you know.

GARCIA: Hey, we have a lot of love for you and your kindness and your sincerity and your longevity. So thank you for being part of WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO.

BARTOS: Yes. Thanks for spending some time with us. We really appreciate it.

COLLINS: Thank you, man. This was awesome. I love it, man.

BARTOS: That was Bootsy Collins.

COLLINS: On the one, baby.


GARCIA: That's our show. This podcast was produced by Maria Paz Gutierrez and Sami Yenigun, edited by Steve Nelson and N'Jeri Eaton. And the executive producer in charge is Abby O'Neal. Special thanks to our VP of programming, Anya Grundmann. If you liked the show, you can hear more at or follow us on Twitter @stretchandbob. Instagram - stretchandbobbito. Facebook - Stretch and Bobbito.

BARTOS: And while you're at it, give us a rating on the Apple Podcasts. We'd really appreciate it.

GARCIA: That's a wrap for the first season of WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO.

BARTOS: We will be back soon. But in the meantime, check out these episodes with Hill Harper, Jose Andres, Mr. Cartoon, Rosie Perez, Dave Chappelle and many more.

GARCIA: Peace, people. We appreciate your love. We sincerely hope you enjoyed the first season. Stay tuned.

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