It's All About the Funk: George Clinton and John Fluevog on Originality
One of the greatest attributes of Funk music is the compulsion to collaborate. James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament Funkadelic weren't just about an iconic frontman, but about a larger unit of artists defined by absolute tightness of the band and creative, infectious showmanship. In a way, it was about an uncompromised style. The P-Funk bandleader, George Clinton, has long been acknowledged for authentic sense of self and artistic vision, whether through music and fashion, painting or producing. That he found the unique footwear styles of Canadian designer John Fluevog and his eponymous brand, seems like its own mothership connection. Both Clinton and Fluevog ooze originality, both are ahead of the curve and neither really cares if there was a curve at all.
This fall, Clinton and Fluevog teamed up for a limited-edition “moonboot” that stands the test of the Funk timeline, a boot just as essential to a Parliament Funkadelic stage show in the 1970s as it is in 2019. We caught up with George Clinton (on his 78th birthday, no less) and John Fluevog to talk about their unique visions on style, imagination and how to remain true to oneself.
Evan Pricco: George, I think I might have been in London about 10 or 15 years ago, and remember reading the headline in the London Guardian, "George Clinton is the best-dressed man in music,” and this seems to have been the case for 50 or 60 years now.
George Clinton: [Laughing] Well, you know, I started off working in a barbershop. We actually had to make people cool. That was our job, to make people cool. We saw styles of all kinds over the years, and so I made a habit of following these styles no matter what the styles were, you know? It gave me an upper hand on keeping up with the styles, just being able to be aware of what was coming in and getting ready to be a new groove. So we would always jump on the style before, when you see it coming, because you had to do their hair to make it fit.
Both of you are ahead of the curve, too. You aren't really followers. So, there is a bit of originality with what you guys do.
GC: Oh yeah, you know we're always going to put a P-Funk slam to it.
John Fluevog: Well, I echo exactly what George is saying because, you know, that's what we do. George and I don't know each other well, but our relationship came from just a connection that we had with the shoes. He kind of zeroed onto my shoes, and I get it, because George, his music, and what he does, comes from the soul—from the depth of him—and he just goes with it, and that's what I feel when I do my shoes. Whatever comes to me, I go with it. So I'm not really following a trend. I'm following what I'm feeling.
GC: I had the same feeling I had when I saw his shoes. My wife, you know, she's been a fan of Fluevog for so long, and I didn't even know he made men's shoes. But I was such a fan of the shoes for my wife; they looked like some Parliament or Funkadelic style. It was easy to gravitate to that.
JF: Yeah, I remembered that George and I both wanted to think back on my career, which has been nearly 50 years now. I started in 1970 and I remember, you know, clearly the 1970s and all those characters. They were coming to my store with the big hats and the suits, you know, and I get it. I understand. I watch and see every era that comes through, come and go, but at the baseline with all the eras, the music, and the things that stick out are the originality and the soul when people connect to their inner beat.
George, just musically, you've partnered with so many people over the years, and you let those you've collaborated with shine through. But when you're working on a fashion project, something like this, how did you guys actually co-produce? How did this actual shoe come about?
GC: My wife, she is a marketing guru. She loves doing marketing stuff. She just walked into one of the stores in New Orleans and just said, “My husband is George Clinton and this is his work.” I think she showed them some of my paintings of some clothes. She said that I would like to collaborate with John on a pair of boots. And they took her name and somebody got back to us, and that's how it went.
JF: You know, for me, what was cool was when I found out about George wanting to do the shoe. I said, "I love his longevity, that he's been doing it for so long and he's still here, he's still doing it, and he's as popular as ever.” And I didn't realize at first that he was an artist, that George is a painter. When I saw his art I went, "Aw, are you kidding?" It was super cool. And so that's when we had his art and I turned it into a print on leather, and that's what really tied it all together. It was really a fun project for me, to know that his art is on the shoes and looks beautiful.
Is it a moon boot? What are you two calling it?
GC: They're funky to me. Everybody loves them. Little kids, women, men – I mean everybody. I'd be down South and people would walk up to me that wouldn't ordinarily even speak, but they like the boots, “I like the boots.” And then, you see, my wife has hers on at the same time, you know. The hip-hop kids walk up, don't even look at my face. They say, “Boots hard, ma'am.”
You know, that's a P-Funk thing. I tried to straighten up because a few years back, about four or five years ago, I went back to (wearing) suits. And then Ice Cube said to me, "Yeah man, that's cool, but no man, get the costumes back." That's what he was telling me, get those fucking suits off.
It's going to be a limited release, so what are you hoping the younger generation gets from the shoes, or just gets from the spirit of the collaboration?
GC: Oh, I'm thinking the younger generation is into it.
JF: I think when you start baring your soul when you get funky, it shows. And I always say my thing is when I do things that I like and enjoy, and I like their energy, they always work.
GC: Nice stuff makes you feel good.
JF: And that feeling that we all have is coming from your soul, George, and you have the balls to lay out and let it rip, and that's what cool.
People are attracted to authenticity and realness, and if you really feel it and you're real about who you are, I think people tend to be more drawn to you.
GC: Yep. That is absolutely true.