|When you think about funk, bass is probably the first instrument you think of. When you think about funk bass Bootsy Collins is definitely the first name that comes to mind. From his pioneering session work in the 60's and tenure in James Brown's band to his essential contribution to Parliament and Funkadelic, his own Rubber Band to his work as a producer. Bootsy has had his finger on the pulse of funk for over 30 years. Recently, this Rockwalk inductee gave up the funk in an interview with Guitar Center.
GC: What was it like being inducted into the Rockwalk in January?
Bootsy: It blew my mind, or should I say what's left of it. It was such an honor to just stand there with all those great bass players. And for me, a once-upon-a-time snot-nosed kid, to be honored along with my all-time hero James Jamerson, I couldn't believe it.
GC: You are sometimes associated with a fairly effects-heavy bass sound. Does running the bass through effects cause any problems sound-wise? How have you solved these problems for yourself?
Bootsy: Well, I've come up with a system that comes out of my Space Bass: four outputs into four sets of pedals into four sets of amps which allow me to have a clean signal going all the time. So I can work around it pretty good and at the same time be the only one in the world that has a system like this...well, until this interview runs!
I have a certain setting for each amp and output from the bass. It's pretty simple but hard to explain... Hughes and Kettner amps is what I use for recording and also on the road. But on the road I need some additional power for which I add Alembic pre-amps and two Crown Macro Tech 5000 and two Macro Tech 3600's...that's the Bootzilla monster sound.
GC: Say I'm just getting started playing bass, I don't have a lot of money to spend, what's the first thing I should get equipment-wise?
Bootsy: A nice bass, when I started out I had a $29.95 Sears guitar which I put bass strings on when I decided I wanted to play bass. It sounded great. But once I landed my first real gig with James Brown the Godfather of Soul, he and I decided: "Well, son, I think it's time for a big-boy bass...." He bought me my first real bass, a Fender Jazz, the Bomb...
GC: What's the coolest recent addition to your bass set-up?
||GC: What's the next thing you'd like to get? What's on your wish list?
Bootsy: Two specially made cabs with four15 inch speakers in each. I use this for my mid pick up only. You see, I have a low pick up, a mid pick up, a high pick up, and an ultra-high pick up all coming from the Space Bass into their own amps. For my low-end pick up I'm using two 4x18 speaker cabs, one on each side of the stage. For my highs and ultra-highs I use four 8x10 inch cabs...this is my road set up.
Bootsy: Another new Space Bass with 5 strings. Of course, I can't play 5 strings yet but that will help me learn!
GC: Do you have a home studio that you use for song-writing or even full-blown recording? What's in it & what do you think about the equipment you have?
Bootsy: Yes, a full-blown studio called Bootzilla "Re-Hab" P-Form School of Fine Arts...Whew!!! I've got old vintage and new stuff in it. I love it and it keeps growing.
GC: Do you have any particular mics that you like to use for vocals or recording? Why do you use them?
Bootsy: Neumanns I use. I also like AKG's, they sound good!
GC: Do you practice a lot? What is your practice regimen?
Bootsy: I don't get to practice like I want because I handle a lot of my own business. That's the curse about becoming a popular musician...(bummer)
GC: How do you write songs? Do you have a song-writing "routine?"
Bootsy: Songs kinda just come while sleeping, while funking, while riding your Harley. I have a little hand-held tape recorder and when an idea hits I put the idea down. I sing the line or lines onto tape.
GC: How do you warm-up before a performance?
Bootsy: I just kinda meditate and get myself hyped and then go out and act a fool!
GC: What advice would you have for a young player who might want to model their career after yours? What would you tell someone who said to you: "How can I be successful and get to where you are?"
Bootsy: I would say it would be better to learn as much about the instrument as possible, be it getting lessons, videos, records, tapes, and practicing all the time. Unfortunately for me I never had lessons, a teacher, or any of the above, but I'm looking forward to going back to school one day. I would say as far as being successful, don't think about that part of it, think about becoming the greatest player. Then bug everybody. Go to talent shows, stand on the street corners, let people hear and see you, that's the key.
GC: Do you shop at Guitar Center?
Bootsy: When I started out with Funkadelic in the 70's, I shopped at Guitar Center on Sunset, but it wasn't on the same side of the street where it's at now...It's the greatest!