I was privileged and astonished to be invited to a private event for 35 people with George Clinton, the inventor of P-Funk, Funkadelic, Parliament, whose influence has transcended generations, musical genres, class, creed and credentials. With influences spreading from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Joss Stone. Thank you so much to Lois Acton at Urban Unlimited for the invite.
I’d caught the train up to Shoreditch House in Bethnal Green on Saturday – the first time I’d ever been to Bethnal Green, although I quoted it in my spoof hard rock song on economics Fiscal Cliff, so there was a piece of serendipity! I was expecting a huge venue with a massive audience. Imagine my surprise when I was standing in the foyer with 4 others and Mr C comes in and casually remarks “Prince – what a great T Shirt” whilst shaking my hand.
At the start of the session, the interviewer asked if Mr Clinton was from another planet and he reassured us that he was certain that he was not sure … as I have said on many occasions, truly creative people are better at ambiguity tolerance than most mortal souls!
Quite a few people wanted to know what the ‘recipe for fusion’ was and it became clear that George was simply an intuitive learner who ‘felt things and followed the direction’. Perhaps that is the lesson from mastery of an art – being able to follow where the path leads. He said on more than one occasion that he watched what Sly Stone was doing, where Jimi Hendrix and James Brown was going musically and so on and just felt that a fusion of these genres was possible, which became the P-Funk genre, a totally unique brand of music. Coming ‘late to the party’ was clearly an advantage in terms of surveying emergent forms of music and being able to comprehend it all through being a songwriter for major labels. Let’s hear Mr Clinton to get in the groove:
I asked George about the value of happy accidents in fusing musical genres and he replied with a detailed story about a day in the studio when he had laid down a drum pattern but somehow the studio engineer had reversed the loop on a tape machine in the same way as Prince subsequently used backward drum tracks. George was trying to talk with the engineer but for some reason could not be heard, so he just started singing some ‘nonsense’ words about a ‘man and a dog’, expecting the engineer to eventually reverse the tape loop and for a key to come up to. He did not do so and he kept on singing. Eventually he realised that he had just created “Atomic Dog”. We have discussed the value of serendipity on The Music of Business Linkedin group – please join to learn more. Here’s the track:
Someone else asked him what album he wished he had recorded and he said “Sargent Pepper” – a real surprise, but perhaps not when you consider the production values that Mr Clinton has applied to his songs. Asked about these he related a story about engineers being unwilling to say they had produced his records, due to George pushing recording levels way beyond the point at which normal recording conventions allowed, sometimes just using the repeat of a sample rather than the original recording as the main groove. The only rule being to break rules and follow your intuition when you find something cool to jam on
I saw George again at a Prince gig tonight as I write this on the train. Needless to say the concert was better than sex. I will write more on this soon. Suffice to say, I have not slept that much tonight after a two and a half hour set and 40 songs at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Let’s hear what Prince has to say about the teacher:
George Clinton… May the funk remain with u until the dawn … He has a new album out soon at George Clinton.
About the Blogger: Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 7725 927585. Check out our online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.