Bootsy Collins | Interview
Is the world ready for a humble Bootsy Collins?
William “Bootsy” Collins established himself as one of R&B’s greatest sideman alongside James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, while rejecting a sideman’s typical invisibility with a riveting, cartoonish presence. On his latest release, Tha Funk Capital of the World, Bootsy uncharacteristically eschews the spotlight. The storytelling concept album gives the floor to others, including Ice Cube, Al Sharpton, Samuel L. Jackson, a from-beyond-the-grave Jimi Hendrix and Bernie Worrell.
Do you have fond memories of playing Chicago?
Oh, man! Chicago was one of the first cities that really embraced the funk! It was a whole love affair going on there. You may be too young to remember the Bud Billiken Parade…
They still have it.
Well, it’s probably not like it was. New Orleans doesn’t have anything on that parade. That was Chicago’s Mardi Gras. I remember riding on the float. I was so into being around people, but they had me up on this big float, and I started feeling like an animal in a cage. I just wanted to touch all the people who were looking and waving, and I’m so far away. It was just incredible.
You were in your full costume?
Oh yeah! C’mon, man! I was always in full costume! The show was just the show and Bootsy was always Bootsy. I think that’s what caught up to me later on in life, I didn’t know how to not be Bootsy. But that’s a whole ’nother story.
Usually people just have guest stars as a gimmick, but your new record really lets other folks tell their stories.
I didn’t want this album to be a record about me. I’ve had my me time, my me time is great, but I wanted it to be more about where I got my funk from. A lot of black people don’t know Jimi Hendrix like the white audiences know him, they don’t know he’s my hero. Our history is so important and we’re letting it go, and I wanted to put it in print so people will have a record of where we got this funk.
Is the world ready for a humble Bootsy?
If I had ever cared what the world was ready for, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’m spreading hope like dope on this album, and if a kid don’t pick this record up and realize that he can go much further than I did, then ain’t nothing else I can do. I would love for people to love this record, but I’m not in love with them loving this record.
Bootsy Collins plays Congress Theater Friday 10.