George Clinton: ‘If people don’t like funk, it’s just the wrong time’

The musician, 76, on life on mars, marijuana pens and looking good in a cape

My mother gave me the discipline to follow my dreams. You know: you can do what you want as long as you put your back into it. Just keep ploughing away.

If some people don’t like funk music then it’s just the wrong time for them. They will get it. It’s addictive. That’s why they call it dope. It gets you. If you’ve got a booty and you can shake it, you’ve got the funk.

Album titles are important. Some Of My Best Jokes Are Friends (1985); You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish (1983); Hey, Man, Smell My Finger (1993). You have to have something to make people go: “What the fuck is he talking about?” Usually nothing. I just like the way it flows. Then you have to make up something afterwards to say to journalists. When they start analysing it you go: “What the fuck? I spelled it wrong.”

I cause confusion for a lot of folks. “He looks like Rick James!” Or “There’s Chaka Khan!” A few people thought I was Bill Clinton, because of the name. I’ve never complained. Just the fact that you recognise me is enough. Even if you think I’m Chaka Khan.

The key to looking good in a cape is the way you take it off. You should look like those sword-fighting people, the Three Musketeers. Taking it off, swinging it, that’s what makes it cool. I did it coming out of [his UFO-like stage prop] the Mothership once and I was butt naked underneath. That worked pretty good.

It’s the job of young people to be into music that pisses their parents off. That gets on their nerves. They’re the ones that are going to appreciate it. So they’ve got the right to shape it.

We’ll be living on Mars in the next five or six years, because we’ll probably have an accident on earth. They’ve already got people working on it, they just ain’t letting us know [everything] about it. People on this planet got to learn to get along with each other first.

Drugs stopped being fun after Woodstock. It started becoming for money, and that’s when it became dangerous. Now you got pharmacists dealing meds. They pass bills and lobby and get you hooked by mind control. They sell the dope now.

I’m probably the most sampled artist after James Brown, probably more because of electronic [dance] music. Plus, the movies and the video games. A lot of instruments have our samples in them when you buy them. I haven’t made shit from it. The most I made is $100,000 from De La Soul. That’s it! We’re talking about $1bn. I’ve been in court fighting for that shit. You need an army of lawyers.

Films make me cry. All kind of stupid ones. I get fucked up over Babe, the pig. I had Busta Rhymes and ODB [the rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard] looking at me, like: “He crying, motherfucker!”

I’ve got a marijuana pen these days, for medical reasons. I’m having a smoke right now. It’s legal – you get a card. You used to have to run from the police, but now you can get it in the corner store. So everybody’s happy.

Why are we here? We’re just biological speculation. Sitting here vibrating. We don’t know what we’re vibrating about.

I kicked the [hard drugs] habit five or six years ago. That let me reignite the spark for music, to reignite the whole band so now we’re up there with Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino. I’m proud of that. And the Mothership is in the Smithsonian [it was acquired by its National Museum of African American History and Culture], you have to be proud of that.

Funk is linked to sex. If you’re good at one I don’t think it makes you an expert in the other, but there’s a good chance of it. ■

George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic perform at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival in East Sussex on Sunday 1 July (

Johnny Davis

The GuardianTramp

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