The New Daisy is turning 74 this weekend, and to celebrate, George Clinton will be on hand to make sure the party goes well into the night. The venue will be mounting memorable show posters on the walls throughout the night, including the Bob Dylan concert flyer, and a Big Star show poster. While those shows definitely deserve recognition, the real draw here is George Clinton. I caught up with Clinton over the phone last week to talk about the show and how he manages to keep it funky at the age of 74. — Chris Shaw
The Memphis Flyer: How often are you performing these days? Are you able to tour as much as you'd like?
George Clinton: I generally tour all the time. We live on the road. We've been doing a 30-day tour in the states starting tonight. Then we go to Europe for 30 days, and then we come back here and do the same thing. We've got a couple new records out and a new video with Kendrick Lamar and Ice Cube that we'll be promoting.
You've worked with a lot of rappers throughout your career. Is there any current artist you'd like to work with that you haven't yet?
The group Alabama Shakes. I really like them, that's the rock side of me. The hip-hop side of me [would like to work with] J. Cole. My grandkids show me what's hip, there's about five of them in the group now, and they keep me up to date on what's going on. Flying Lotus is who I'm touring with right now.
Your ties with Stax Records and Memphis run pretty deep.
Al Green, Isaac Hayes, and the Bar-Kays have all been on tour with us. I go way back with all of that. In the '60s, those were our touring buddies, and we were united with Stax and a lot of other Memphis connections. It's always good to play Beale Street Music Fest.
Back in '76 we had the Mothership, and it really blew a lot of minds to see the spaceship landing, and people were freaking out when we brought to Memphis. The Mothership in '76 and '77 pretty much freaked everyone out across the country.
How do you feel about your music being sampled by so many artists over the years?
I'm proud of being sampled. The corporations that try to own the music is what I have a problem with. That's the part I've been fighting, and I've got a documentary coming out about that. My latest album is going to tackle all these pharm drugs you see on TV that are actually worse than street drugs. It's going to be called One Nation Under Sedation.
You've been clean for a while now. Can you still get funky now that you're sober?
Definitely. As soon as you find something better than the habit, you don't need it anymore. All that rehab shit is just for people to make money. I smoke weed. I got my medical marijuana card, and I get higher with that than I ever did smoking crack. The weed nowadays gets you much higher than the crack I used to smoke. I sprained my back and they gave me these painkillers, but I won't take that shit. I'm happy being clean, and I'm not bragging. I'm just happy to be over with it, and I know people need to hear these things without being preached at.
What's been the secret to your longstanding career?
I feel lucky, but coming through the '50s when rock-and-roll was coming up and then working at Motown factory with the best songwriters in the world, you learned to respect all the different music coming along. I'm not afraid of the kids coming along today. I'm not afraid of them putting me out of business. I'm trying to work with them. I get on YouTube with my grandkids and hear their mix tapes, and then I work with them.
It keeps me relevant, just like when I worked with Kendrick Lamar. We are basically doing R&B with this 21st century dance concept. Snoop and all them from that era, they didn't identify with R&B the way they do now. They are all really proud of R&B now, and so the younger generation respects the music itself. The new era of rappers appreciates blues and R&B. That's what keeps the music alive.