George Clinton is looking quite dapper these days. He’s cut off the long, neon locks and lost the intergalactic muumuu and replaced them with a pressed suit and fedora reminiscent of his earliest days in the Parliaments. On top of that, he’s back in healthy shape and is off the drugs. The reason? He’s in fightin’ form so that he can go toe-to-toe with labels and publishers claiming ownership over his copyrights. Clinton has started Flashlight2013, an organization dedicated to reclaiming his works as well as letting artists know about their own creative rights. Hive spoke to Clinton about his campaign, drugs, and Celebrity Rehab because, well, we want the funk, we gotta have the funk.
Forty-two years ago, you urged people to “Free your mind and your ass will follow.” Have people freed their minds in the past forty-two years?
Oh, I would think so. It’s still a work in progress. People are a lot freer in their minds these days. But, we are still waaaaay behind. And, asses are still behind them. Asses are a little behind.
How does someone free his or her mind and therefore free his or her ass?
It’s a state of mind. Just think and get all that heavy thought into your brain and out of your brain. Then, the ass will down its own work. Think and clean out our brains. I don’t know how to do that completely, but there is prayer, meditation, and just thinking. Shit, we have got to keep thinking. You know, I have another song called “Think (It ain’t illegal yet).”
Indeed! Do you think that the government and society are trying to encroach on individual thought?
Always. They try to make it coordinated and a pattern that they can control. You do have to do that in a democracy. In that same way, people have to try to be free. So, it’s a balance. It gives order to the world. That’s our job, to think for ourselves, but never-the-less, we have to make sure that they don’t suppress us.
You recently released a Funkadelic single with Sly Stone called “The Naz.” Of course, you have a long history of working with Sly Stone.
I work with him all the time. We’ve known each other for years and years and we’ve been doing music for the last 52 years. It never gets into the news. You know, we tried to join Celebrity Rehab. We tried to get on the show together. Sly and me both.
Why didn’t they let you on the show?
Because of what I was going to talk about. I was frustrated with this God damn copyright issue and the labels and things. All of that was fucking me up, so I knew that I had to get cleaned up to get it fixed. So, they asked me what was my problem, and I said I was having problems with copyrights, lawyers, and judges.
You’ve started a campaign to make artists aware of their copyright reclamation rights as well to get back your own rights. How is that going?
We’re getting the information out there. People are beginning to get their copyrights back from 1978 through 2013. We’re putting the word out to let people know. The thing is, for myself, for my family, and all the people that have written for P-Funk, songs liked “Atomic Dog,” “Flashlight,” “Get Up for the Downstroke,” all of that music has been sampled so much that it is historical music. You can still hear that in music today. It is unbelievable that labels and other people are fighting so hard to steal that music from me. BMI have gone into the copyright place itself and done things. That’s the kind of thing that we are trying to get into the open.
I heard that you are also doing a reality show that will feature your copyright battle as a part of it.
We are doing a reality show with my family. You see, we’re not sitting there and bitching about this. We’re going to be putting the facts out. It’s all in the documents. We’re not putting out my opinions, we’re putting out facts. So, it’s going really good. Flashligh2013 gets the information to the people.
You’ve also contacted the president. Did you hear back from the White House or the executive branch?
We got something back from the Attorney General that is keeping us informed. They gave us a control number. All the information that we find, they get. The White House itself has not responded, but we will keep trying.
You said that you are living a healthier lifestyle now. You sound like you’re doing really well, from a personal standpoint.
Well, they were taking all this music. This music is historical. And, this is not just the records. It’s in The Snoop, Dre, Tupac, right up until today. It all samples this music. The musicians pay for the samples but it doesn’t go to the right people. But, the drugs were a way that these people could get my music and recordings. On drugs, it was a pain in the ass to deal with. I had to clean up just to get respect from people to talk about it.
So, you got yourself clean so you could be in prime fighting condition for the copyright battles?
If I was able to do it while on drugs, I might still be doing it. But, you can fool yourself when you get high. You say “I’m doing what I want to do.” But, I wasn’t really doing what I wanted to do. Now, I’m able to control the situation. Because this music is history.
What do you think enabled you to make such groundbreaking, lasting music?
Because we were a bunch of motherfuckers in a van! There was a bunch of people in that van: Bootsy, Bernie, Eddie Hazel, Tiki, Gary Shider, Ray Davis, Sly. Sly was on some of the records in the eighties. We are a bunch of great musicians and we spent a lot of time in the business. Motown is a big part of it. I worked the streets of New York. I worked in the Brill Building. All of that was education. We had James Brown’s band. We had Fred Wesley, Bootsy, Catfish. We had three or four genres of music in that one van. It was supposed to be bad shit.
George Clinton is currently running Flashlight2013, an organization dedicated to informing artists about copyright reclamation: http://flashlight2013.com/