Last year THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS released their heaviest, Funkiest album yet in ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’. This month they release a video, ‘Funky Monks’, which shows the making of the album in a haunted Hollywood mansion. But what makes them so Godamm Funky? What gives them Soul? LISA JOHNSON journeyed to bass player FLEA’s apartment in downtown Los Angeles to raid his record collection and find out what really makes the tattooed man throb!
“FUNK IS something so intangible. I hear Funk in so many things, you know? Funk’s just such a natural thing. Either you’re into it or you’re not. And it’s made me happy to do it and be a part of it. I just kinda pick up on the emotion of the music, the feel of it.
‘George Clinton (legendary singer of ’60s outfits Parliament and Funkadelic and roundly considered as the Godfather of the Funk/Rock crossover) used to always tell me, when he was a kid growing up, Funk was a really bad word and something you couldn’t say around your parents, like luck’ or ‘shit’. Now it describes a whole genre of music.”
So, who were the prime Funk motivators and musical talents that inspired Flea and the Chili Peppers?
“ONE THING I’ve always said is that if someone came from another planet, Mars or Jupiter or something, and wanted to know what Funk was, I’d play ’em a song called, ‘If You’ve Got Funk, You’ve Got Style’ by Funkadelic, from their album ‘Hardcore Jollies’. Funkadelic were the most important Funk band, to me, and all of their records are incredibly Funky.
“Funkadelic’s really hard to get on LP. I just completed my collection the other week with ‘Cosmic Slop’. There’s a lot of good Funkadelic records: ‘America Eats Its Young’, ‘One Nation Under A Groove’, ‘Take It To The Stage’, ‘Tales Of Kidd Funkenstein’. They made these records that are just like the most classic records of all time. I could go on forever about Funkadelic, they’re the greatest. “And their musicianship is just so incredible, so intense. They really just laid down the law as far as what modern Funk is all about.
THE PARLIAMENT/ FUNKADELIC FAMILY
“I DON’T claim to be a musical historian or anything, but I’m really into the (George Clinton) Parliament/Funkadelic thing because so many things grew from it. Parliament and Funkadelic are two separate bands (with two separate record deals, but basically the same players). Funkadelic was the real hard-edged one, doing this heavy acid-hard Funk thing, like Psychedelic-dirty Grungey Funk. And they were the first band I knew about, like, who were proud of being the dirtiest, greasiest, smelliest, Funkiest, wacked-out bunch of Funksters around.
Parliament was more slick, with horns and stuff. From that grew the Brides Of Funkenstein, Parlet, The P Funk All Stars, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and a bunch of stuff. Maceo Parker played saxophone with James Brown and then went onto play with Parliament/Funkadelic, like all the guys after James Brown who said, ‘I don’t want to have any rules, I want to go trip on acid and party down with George and Bootsy’.
Eddie Hazel was from the Parliament/ Funkadelic axis and he’s one of the greatest guitar players of all time who never got his due. He’s on a par with people like Jimi Hendrix. And Jimi Hendrix was Funky as hell whenever he wanted to be.”
BOOTSY COLLINS was playing bass for James Brown when he was16-years-old. Then he played with George Clinton in Funkadelic before he started his own band, Bootsy’s Rubber Band. He put out a lot of great records like ‘Stretchin’ Out’ and ‘Ahhh…The Name is Bootsy Baby’.”
A REALLY big influence on the Rea Hot Chili Peppers was a band called Defunkt They were a band from New York in the late ’70s, towards the end of the Punk thing, I guess. Right before the Chili Peppers got staled we used to listen to this Defunkt record all the time. We really loved the Falk on it, particularly the title track. ‘Defunkt’. It was just the hugest influence on us. In fact, the first song we ever wrote, called ‘Out in LA’, sounds a little bit like that song ‘Defunkt’. At least the bass line does.”
“I COULD sit here and talk about James Brown all night long and it would never stress just how Funky he was. My chronological togetherness isn’t that good. To me, everything is like two weeks ago or forever ago. But The Meters and James Brown, they’re like the early hardcore Funk guys. The Meters were one of the biggest, earliest Funk innovators of all time. Their music comes from a thing called Second Line Music, which is this New Orleans beat.”
“MILES DAVIS did some really, really Funky records. My favourite one is called ‘On The Corner’, which is just the Funkiest record of all time. He was originally a legendary Jazz trumpeter but he found Funk. People should definitely listen to everything Miles Davis ever recorded, except for the last two records.”
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE
“Obviously, Sly & The Family Stone were huge innovators. Sly’s Funk was so sophisticated and so Soulful and covered such a wide range of emotions and stuff. Larry Coin played bass with Sly & The Family Stone before he left and started Graham Combat Station. And Graham Central Stlion is just the Funkiest shit of all time too. They were locked into this heavy Funky thing. And their’s is just the greatest record, what can I say? Incredible.”
“THERE’S ONE person that we can never forget who is incredibly Funky. It’s the amazing, wonderful and beautiful, Curtis Mayfield. He made the classic records of all time. The most popular one I guess is the Supedly soundtrack. He was hitting his stride right there with that stuff.”
BLOWFLY, HE has really cool looking record covers, and these are really Funky. Blowfly has some big fuckin’ fingers, and he has a huge cock, it’s bigger than a kilo box of sausage. Yeah, I saw it, he was changing in front of me at a gig once and it was just huge.”
REGGAE DUB-TYPE FUNK
ANOTHER KIND of Funk that’s really good that I’m into is Reggae Dub-type Funk. It’s not really considered Funk, but it, pretty Funky to me. Things like Yellowman, some of the Dub stuff that Black Uhuru did, that’s really Funky. There, this guy called Dillinger who did some Funky stuff which is in a reggae kind of feel.
AND THE OLD SCHOOL…
“ISAAC HAYES! That, a really Funky cover, too. Isaac Hayes is really funky. Let it be known. Then there’s always the amazingly Funky Stevie Wonder. He’s Funkier than shit. “
“A really great classic record that, really Funky is What’s Goin’ On’ by Marvin Gaye. A lot of Funk music comes from the bass, which is really important in Funk. The bass player that plays on What’s Goin’ On’ is James Jamerson, and he gives one of the greatest bass performances of all time, and he’s probably the greatest electric bass player ever.
“You must have heard The Temptations! You know, ‘Papa was a Rolling Stone? They did some really Funky things.
‘Then there, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson was really Funky. He’s a great Funkster. Look how cool he looks. Yes, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson is one of the Funkiest men.
AND THE REST…
“ANYTHING PRODUCED by Hank Shocklee is really Funky. A lot of the Hip Hop music to me sounds real sterile and mechanical, but some of its real funky, and always the stuff that Hank Shocklee does is so Funky. Like Public Enemy and Ice Cube, in particular.
“A lot of people don’t like Lenny Kravitz but I really like his first record. And there, a song on there called ‘Freedom T. that’s Funkier than shit. Prince did a couple of Funky things, but a lot of it was shit. I like some of it. Fishbone does some really Funky stuff. Their second record, ‘Truth And Soul’, is really the Funkiest. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have done some really Funky stuff, I think. Yeah, and I strongly recommend their new record, ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic.”
YET MORE FUNKY THINGS JAMES
“Oh, JAMES Blood Ulmer. Led Zeppelin did some really Funky stuff. They did. You know, Bob Marley. The first Gang Of Four record has some really cool Funky things on it. And there’s Funk in Jazz, just listen to Theloneons Monk, he was a very Funky piano player. He’s dead now. Charlie Mingus is really Funky. And you can’t get any cooler than Eric Dolphy.
RED HOT MONK ROCK HABITS!!!!!!
THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
Warner Music Vision,
THE MAKING of ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, the Chili’s latest and best album, shot in black and white, like a documentary drama, ‘…Monks’ sees the boys arrive at the haunted Hollywood mansion and soak up the vibes. Along with producer Rick Rubin, a gaggle of photographers and various passers-by, you get an insight into the recording process and how the four group members relate to each other. Through a string of chat and creativity, ‘Funky Monks’ unravels the legend of the house where The Beatles allegedly first took LSD and where one of the oddest albums from last year was created. Mixing Funk power and raw emotions, ‘Blood Sugar..’ is the kind of platter that was made to make you think, after you’ve gyrated furiously to the rhythms. The Chili Peppers come out of it as spiritually-motivated, if slightly pampered, individuals, kinda like The Monkees gone Hippy, the whole thing ending up as they leave the building dismantle the environment they’ve built. With just snatches of music, it’s an interesting piece of film that’s essential for anyone touched by the album itself and a statement of where the Chilis are at, that’s a mind-opening treat. For once a video that’s more than just a promo dump. XXXX DAVE HENDERSON