Parliament-Funkadelic (P-Funk) was known for its science fiction storylines and spacey music. One of the crucial ingredients in the P-Funk stew was musical genius Junie Morrison. He also jazzed up the early Ohio Players albums (which featured this alien-looking bald woman as their cover model.) And his own solo albums are the bomb, including 1984's proto-electronica Evacuate Your Seats. If you've ever grooved to "The Funky Worm," "(Not Just) Knee Deep" or "One Nation Under A Groove," then you're a Junie fan already. He's also starting his own funky social networking site, IAmNation. He talks to us about the truth behind P-Funk and aliens.
P-Funk featured so many science fiction elements, from the Mothership and the Clones of Funkenstein to "Atomic Dog." Where did the science fiction themes in P-Funk music come from?
To my knowledge, the early P-Funk scifi themes grew out of George and Bootsy's reported encounter with a UFO, somewhere out in the forest. I have no idea what they were doing in the forest but they have said that the encounter was so close, that it would have a lasting effect on them both. Of course, most of us musicians have either seen or been a UFO at some point in time during our careers, so a bit of sci-fi is bound to influence us.
The Parliament-Funkadelic stage show in the 1970s was super elaborate, with the Mothership landing and the giant skull and lots of weird costumes. Did you guys think of it as creating a scifi opera on stage?
In my opinion, the whole P-Funk stage show could be considered as the first mash-up, with many different concepts mixed in... outta space... outer space... skull rock... pop-gun funk... a few cloned meat loaf-isms and even some sexy underwater-underwear mishaps. It was quite an event to behold and to be a part of. I guess you could say "everything plus the kitchen sink" but the science fictional aspects seemed to impact and stay with our fans the most, throughout the years.
A lot of your late 70s songs, like "Musical Son," "Theme From The Black Hole" and "(Not Just) Knee Deep," have totally infectious synth hooks. Were you trying for a science-fictional sound?
As far as my creations, "Musical Son" and "(Not Just) Knee Deep" were concerned, I would consider these songs to be based more on sci-fact, plotted against a grid that utilized my roots in Deep Funk/Jazz and Gospel. My guess is that the main reason the synth hooks sounded so different and futuristic was because the Moog gave an other-worldly vibe to what was mostly, up until then, a soundscape formed and upheld by non-fluidic aspects of analogue-esq instru-mentality. As such, there was very little fiction involved; it was really happening! Anyway, I always thought of a sci-fi synth sound to be more Theremin-like... perhaps something you would hear on Forbidden Planet or somewhat like the ARP sound from [the Ohio Players track] "The Funky Worm".
What made you decide to go all electronic with 1984's Evacuate Your Seats? Were you influenced by European techno music of that time?
I was compelled to make the project electronic. Evacuate Your Seats was happening for me, at the perfect time and represented the best opportunity for trying something different. I have never liked the idea of saying "this is my sound and I'm sticking with it". So, Evacuate caught me at a time when massive samplers were first being built and the Synclavier was the weapon of choice for any serious experimental keyboardist. Just check out some of the Zappa stuff.
These instruments were big, bulky and very expensive at that time. Case in point, a $10,000 sampler would only hold one 10 second sample so I had to use 15 of those devices for the Evacuate album. My Synclavier was another expensive monster and also used on the project.
To me, Evacuate did not sound like a European techno record. Maybe some might disagree, although I did like what the Europeans were doing with their music during that time. Evacuate occurred as a product of my own "new direction" into algorithmic sound and (simulated) computer sequencing. I say simulated because at the time of the recording, none of the gear would sync up together so most of the tracks had to be played and chopped up by hand.
Do you feel like you influenced today's electronic musicians?
I would like to think that there are some musicians who were and are still influenced by my electronics and synth work, aside from the rappers who used samples of my work.
For instance, since Evacuate was recorded in Detroit and was being played there quite a bit by DJs like The Electrifying Mojo, I did begin to see lots of youngsters catching on to the sound, some went on to become influential "musicians" in their own right and a style called Detroit Techno evolved soon afterwards. Perhaps there was some influence there, from Evacuate tracks like "Techno Freqs" and "Stick It In" but I can't say for sure.
What made you decide to start your own social networking site at iamnation.com?
By night-light, I have no choice but to become a super-mad funkateer with a half cape and a half-fro, so I guess you could say that IamNation is one of my respectable "digitized daytime job-style hobbies". IamNation is one of those internet projects that I've always wanted to create... especially since I caught wind of Livejournal a couple of years ago.
At the moment, membership at IamNation is by invitation only and just a few friends and I are using it for posting and messaging back and forth. One of the most famous of those friends is the fantastic P-Funk artist, Overton Loyd. Overton is also a contributer to the design of IamNation.
IamNation has recently turned 2 and I have now completed the forth upgrade to the system, so our members are just beginning to migrate over to the new site. I am also considering opening up a membership tier to the public, in the near future.