Q&A: Bootsy Collins & Funk University
By Daniel Kohn on July 19, 2010
Oftentimes, the bassist is the most overlooked member of a band. It’s not that people don’t respect the musical foundations that the bassist lays, but they just usally aren’t the most identifiable musician on stage. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like the legendary Bootsy Collins. Along with Cory Danziger, Collins recently opened Funk University, an online school geared at teaching people how to play bass. In addition to launching the school, Collins is releasing a new album, Bootsy Collins Funk University. Recently, FILTER caught up Collins and Danziger to discuss how students will be graded, who will be guest professors at the school and how Bootsy’s beloved Cincinnati Bengals will fare this season.
How did you come up for the concept with the Funk University? How are the classes going to be structured and how will the students be 'graded' on their performances?
Bootsy Collins: Actually, I had wanted to do this for quite some time, but I was trying to do it the hard way--you know, with the actual building and everything right there for you to come and be baptized in the funk. But then I was presented with an idea from Cory Danziger that made much more sense now days; with the economy and everything like it is, [the best idea was] to do a virtual campus.
It's been a dream for everyone involved. Professors that are participating wanted this. I have wanted to bring people together like this for years so when I partnered up with SceneFour, the partnering company, it became a reality, because they have experience in this type of online virtual schooling. It was already written in the stars that the Funk University was to exist...now is the time that it was supposed to happen. In terms of grading...like funk, it's designed for students to take the knowledge being presented each day and run with it...some of it is for them and some of it might not be, but they are definitely going to grow with what we have on tap for 'em. So there are no grades, just daily knowledge being thrown out to make them not think.
Funk is what you do when breathing in, and that millisecond that you are breathing out, that is when funk occurs.
As a bass player, you can understand what it's like to be overlooked by fans who are enamored with guitar players. Is the Funk University going to teach bassists to create a stage persona much like yours?
Cory Danziger: That's part of our studies. But that part can't really be taught, it can only be summoned to come out of you, and then it is up to you to act on this in your own special way. We can lead you to the dressing room but it is up to you to enter. Each professor is showcasing their own knowledge about developing artistry...most of 'em are bass players and they are putting together discussions and talks that are bound to unlock doors for our students to look within and then bring those hidden treasures they find out to the world.
Collins: Our first priority is to help develop an aggressive approach to music, sound, timing and how it all ties together. I was fortunate to develop a look before I started performing which wasn't the greatest look in the world, but it got some attention as to "who is this guy and what does he do?"--that was my attention grabber for people that had no clue about me or what I do. That same theory works for me today. I guess you can say that was my Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and etc. all in one back in the day.
Few people can say they shared a stage with legends like James Brown and George Clinton. What are some of the lessons you've learned from these artists that you will pass down to your students?
Collins: What I learned from James Brown words can't express, but in a nutshell I learned discipline and how to respect the other players and their instruments. Everybody is a star, but only the stars that shine may get an opportunity to have a name. The biggest lesson I learned from Mr. JB was all about the One, more on that when you visit FU.
George Clinton, on the other hand, taught me how to be free with what I hear in my head and that it is all right to make a mistake if you learn from it. No matter what you learn there are other mistakes to be made and with George even my mistakes was cool. I also learned that through George the hippie days will never die, he teaches nothing but love. Money has never corrupted his thinking towards people; band members, family members, fans and funkateers are all alike and I hope that I continue to keep that as my leading force right behind the One that I learned from James Brown.
Who are some of the guest professors you have lined up to teach?
Danziger: TM Stevens, Les Claypool, Victor Wooten, Meshell Ndegeocello, Blackbyrd McKnight, John B. Williams, P-Nutt...the list of musicians that are participating or have agreed to appear in year 1 is startling and we are all truly grateful for their commitment to passing their knowledge forward to a new generation.
Was the making of "Bootsy Collins Funk University" any different from your other albums?
Collins: Yes, I think this album will be my best effort in producing an album that speaks to everybody’s heart, and to every body's soul without demanding you to do anything, you don't even have to listen to it, just put it on if you are curious. This album is filled with passion, excitement, joy, pain, love and enthusiasm.
I have had much more fun producing and playing with other musicians, writing lyrics, arranging, watching other artist become a part of the song and the content that they are involved in is very rewarding and exciting for me. This album comes straight out of my heart to yours. This album is not tainted with suggestions and elements of what I need to do to make a record that will sell to the public. I guess that would be everybody's concern that would tend to make money off my product, but just like back in the day it was never my concern to make a record that sells. Rather, I took a stand to make a record that I am proud of that represents the people and is for the people. Maybe that is the stupid side of me that people like.
Do you have any plans to feature some of your students on the record?
Collins: Well, it is a bit late to feature students on this record, but I think that we will eventually have a record dedicated just for the "BCFU-Students" and maybe that would be something that they could earn as they learn to be a part of that record, that could also be where they are graded by the professors and the fans.
Are there any bassists that you want your students to model themselves after?
Collins: I think they should learn from each and every one of us and then find themselves in the mist of this and bring that guy out. We want to encourage them to find themselves, not to be like us. They have an opportunity to be better--much better--than any one of us if they apply themselves with the total focus and hard work that it will take.
You are a well-known fan of the Cincinnati Bengals. Do you think the team can build from last year's division title?
Collins: It all depends on their teamwork, dedication, focus on the game and not the sideshows that a lot of young guys get caught up in. It's not easy to escape the images that are presented to you everyday and then to expect you to go out and perform 150%. It's really not about being fair, it's about "how badly do you want this, do you want this as bad or badder than the next guy do, if so let's go as a team and get it." That is when the Bengals or any other team will be a serious contender. Nobody knows these guys' mindset the day of the game and that is what really counts, Game Day! F