Tuesday 7 October 2014

Greg Boyer: The P-Funk Allstar [Interview]

This is one I've wanted to dip into the archives and retrieve for some time now: a one-on-one with a real hero of mine, Greg Boyer, that we conducted back in 2008.  This interview was carried out shortly after Prince's 21 Night stint at London's O2 in 2007, hence the references, and I was always really appreciative that Mr Boyrer took the time out that he did.

As another graduate from the schools of Parliament and Funkadelic (along with fellow alumni, Amp Fiddler and Mudbone), Greg Boyer has toured the world, with his trombone in tow, and played with some of the absolute greats of the soul and funk world. Many Londoners will know him from his 21-night stint with Prince at the O2 arena as a member of the New Power Generation, which still has London reeling from it’s summer of Purple Funk.

Playing trombone with Parliament/Funkadelic from the age of 19, and being the horn arranger for the P-Funk Horns, The P-Funk Allstar’s ability and natural talent was a standout of the group, and he now has a resume that extends to playing with Maceo Parker, The GAP Band, Candy Dulfer, Sheila E and Bootsy Collins (to name but a few).

Liberation Frequency were honoured when we were able to secure time with the man himself and find out his thoughts about his career so far, his 21 nights at the O2, Prince, Maceo Parker, Parliament/Funkadelic, and what lies ahead for the future.

IMRAN MIRZA: You started playing professionally at such a young age - is it something you stumbled in to or by then were you certain music was the direction you wanted to take your life in?
GREG BOYER: By that stage in my life, I had already decided that music was a better bet than baseball! In the 70's, playing in bands was very easy to do. There were lots of groups and places for them to play - I was lucky enough to know someone in a band that was looking for a tenor player. So as long as I was in the band, club owners didn't care how young I was, as long as I didn't try to buy drinks!

Can you talk a little about some of the artists that were a big influence on you?
Jimi Hendrix - he not only made the guitar "talk", it told very interesting stories as well (example, "Machine Gun"); Miles Davis - he was such a musical innovator, an intellectual. He thought way beyond the 'pyrotechnics' that so many became a slave to. Probably the one musician I related to the closest; John Coltrane - he wasn't just an extremely gifted musician, but his spirituality shone right through every note he played. He could (and did) play anything! Fred Wesley - not only is he the godfather of funky trombone, but he's a big reason why I write like I do.
Burt Bacharach, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan - three of my favourite writers of all time.
James Brown, ground zero for funk, and in his day, a great source of pride for black people in the US.

How would you best describe your time with Parliament/Funkadelic?
In all honesty, I can't! Except maybe it was the most valuable education of music I had experienced - both on stage and behind the scenes.

You’ve been playing with Maceo Parker for such a long time - how does that relationship work?

It works great, and has for almost 30 years! Maceo is more than a "one-off", a true funk original on sax. He's an absolute master of combining a drummer's timing, precussiveness (as well as a singer's emotional output) to his playing. I am blessed to have a musician of his magnitude as not only a colleague, but also a great friend.

How will you look back at your recent stint in London and the O2 as part of the New Power Generation?
I don't think I've ever been part of a movement that gave such a variety of music to as many people as those that graced us with their presence at the O2 - and I don't think I ever will again. That stay at the O2 is "one for the books!"

How did you meet Prince and start making music together?

I first met him when he came to see the P-funk all-stars in Los Angeles in 1983 (he was there when we recorded "P-funk Live at the Beverly Theatre"). He didn't have much to say, but I could tell he was diggin' it! When he hired Maceo to join his band, I guess he thought it best not to break the chemistry between me and Mace. And I'm sure Maceo campaigning on my behalf had a little to do with it!

Do you have any aspirations of taking centre-stage and releasing any solo material?

Yes, I do, but I'm in no rush. If I take my time, I'll be certain to release the best effort possible. My only question is what musical direction to take - between funk, jazz and salsa, I might just do all three!

Are there any artists around at the moment that you’d like to work with, or that you’re just a fan of?

Far too many to mention, but whoever it might be, a plethora of fine music is bound to be the result!

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