Grown Folks Music caught up with Michael Cooper of the legendary funk band Con Funk Shun. He talked about the new album, More Than Love, which drops TODAY, what audience the band caters to with the new music and his thoughts on the Con Funk Shun Unsung episode. Read and enjoy.
GFM: Con Funk Shun is reunited and hopefully it feels so good. Tell us about the reunion and this new chapter.
MC: Well, the first thing that we’ve gotta try to do is we have to get used to people calling it a reunion. Maybe it works better for a lot of people in interviews to just call it that. We’ve been together now… the second version… the second coming… for almost 20 years. (laughs)
GFM: Oh okay, thank you for educating us. Wow. (laughs)
MC: We went in the studio maybe three years off and on. We started about three years ago working on various music for this new album. We’ve actually been on the road touring for almost 21 years, but we decided that’s it’s time to take advantage of being alive and well and being blessed. We’ve all got studios. We’ve all got the ability to write. We’ve all got the ability to sing and perform. So we said, ‘What the heck, why not? Let’s throw our hat back in the new music ring.’
GFM: That brings me to my next question. You guys could have just booked every old- school, funk festival and rode your train of hits off into the sunset, no pun intended, but you’ve chosen to make new music. Talk about this album, More Than Love.
MC: More Than Love is an absolute expression of what we would have done today so that we would not have to make that statement, ‘I wish we would have or should have.’ More Than Love is basically us picking up where we left off 25 years ago in the studio. Because the internet, and because of the constant flow of material coming from our heads, we decided to record this album and express ourselves the same way we did back in the late ’70s and ’80s. We talk about love, funk, dance (and) movement… express ourselves musically. You know, nobody’s playing solos and there’s no live instruments on anything anymore, so we decided to get out there and go back to just doing it the way we used to do it– with a little bit of a new-school twist to let people know we can definitely get out there and jam with the best of them.
GFM: Whats been the most pleasant about recording this time around in this day and age? What’s been the best thing about it?
MC: I’d say the best thing about it is that it’s very inexpensive. It’s very inexpensive because of technology and the things that you have available– both at home and with the internet. For example, you can actually record a song with someone in Atlanta while you’re in California and email the parts back and forth to each other without any sound quality lost. That’s really exciting. You don’t have to go to the studio and pay $150 an hour for recording anymore. You can actually record the song and have people play on the song all over the world. You can take it to a mixing studio and mix it down and you’re done. However, we did choose to enter the studio on a few of the songs and do it the old way.
GFM: Is the writing and production on the album self-contained? Or, have you invited some additional writers outside of the band to participate on this album?
MC: Absolutely. We took on the blessing of having producer/writer Wirlie Morris, from the Charlie Wilson camp, come in and do a song. We also took on a wonderful producer/writer by the name of Jamie Jones from Silk–he did a song. At that point we spread the production around the band, but yeah, we got some very top notch people to work with us.
GFM: Shifting gears a bit, were you satisfied with the way the band’s story was told on Unsung?
MC: Yes, I was. No Unsung story has enough time to tell the whole story. But, I think if a story has to be compacted and touched upon within an hour period of time, I think they did a fantastic job. The leaving out of my soul career– which I had five top-ten hit records in a seven-year career with Warner Brothers, (they’re) leaving that out and some negative statements about my solo career that were not accurate– I didn’t really appreciate that.
Our drummer (Louis McCall) was painted in such a negative way. He did have some brushes with the drug world, but he was painted in a completely negative way. He was our primary who started the band and he was one of the greatest guys I’d ever had the pleasure to work in the music business. That (his private life) shouldn’t have been the main focus of his main value. He was a lot more valued person in the beginning and in the creation of Con Funk Shun. I just didn’t like the way that his story was told and of course his story was told by his ex-wife, so it really made it a double punch to my stomach.
But, all that said, it was a fantastic presentation of Con Funk Shun at its finest and Con Funk Shun at its worst. It let people know Con Funk Shun is still functioning. It’s alive and well and that’s what I took from it.
GFM: What’s your definition of Grown Folks Music?
MC: The funny thing about it (is) this particular album, More Than Love— its original title was Sound of Grown Men. The record company decided that they didn’t care for it. They didn’t think they could work well with that title. They thought that it would kind of dial them into a stereotyping way of promoting the album. They just didn’t wanna get into that. After 25 years they said, ‘Let’s just stick to what you guys used to do and make the title a little more simpler and not concept,’ and that’s what we did.
Grown Folks Music is that which you can sit and enjoy. You can learn from and it invokes the passion of the age group that you are targeting. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make sure we stay in our lane. Stay. In. Our. Lane. (We’re not) trying to be Bruno Mars. (We’re not) trying to be (Justin) Timberlake. We stay in our lane, do what we do and still have that little twist underneath to raise the eyebrow and gain the attention of today’s listener.
If you can throw a log on the fire to a song like “It’s Time”, if you can get on the floor to a song like “Dance N With A Grown Man”, if you can listen to the crooning of Felton (Pilate) on a pop ballad like “No Place Like Love,” then you’re listening to Grown Folks Music. We’re not out here trying to be teeny boppers (by) rapping and wearing a bunch of sports gear. We’re out here catering to the 40-60 (year old) crowd.
GFM: With that said, if you could choose three words that define or describe Con Funk Shun in 2015, what would those three words be?
MC: Blessed, able and willing.
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Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.