An Interview with Michael Cooper of ConFunkShun
by Casey Pukl
With some interviews, it’s just appropriate to start off with a little mood music; this is one of those interviews. Please enjoy a little slice of the funkiest slow jam in the universe, “Love’s Train” by ConFunkShun, and enjoy my chat with Michael Cooper about the group’s first record in over 25 years, why he says they’ll never stop recording, and how young audiences are keeping the group alive!
MC: Yeah, we keep moving back the release date because we’re having such a great time recording it and getting it ready (laughs)!
CP: (Laughs) I guess that’s a good problem to have! Where are you guys at with it at this point?
MC: Yeah, we’re still recording. Our engineer got a little ill on us there for a bit, and then I got a cold which kept me from singing, so we’re just now getting back in the studio as of last week. I’d say we’re about 90% done with the album. I was hoping to actually announce everything at Anthology as far as the release date, having some samples, stuff like that. We’re slowly trying to just get the most impact out of releasing this record.
CP: Tell me a little bit about the record. This is the first one in quite some time, no?
MC: Yeah, I mean, it’s been 25 plus years since ConFunkShun did anything, and closer to really 30 years since the Polygram days. Our last record with Polygram was in 1985, so yeah, we’re looking at 27 years since we’ve done anything new.
CP: What was it like getting back into the studio this time?
MC: The studio is totally different to start off because now there are just so many new electronics involved. You’ve got the whole ProTools, Logic, and midi scene right now, so we really decided to mix some of the old school with the new school. Some things are being done over the internet, we’ve done some vocals over the internet, but for the most part we’re all coming together at a place called Soundfarm Studios in Northern California. We’re recording some of the live stuff there where we’re setting up the live drums, live bass, and all that. Then we’re doing some of the new school stuff where people are sending us tracks over the internet and we’re sending then back to do overdubs and stuff. It’s a mixture of the two recording techniques, which we’re very excited about!
Then of course, the mixing is also now done all via the internet. That’s really different now as well. It’s exciting! You can literally send an entire file over to a mixer, and in three or four days, he can send you back a mix to approve, and you can quickly send your changes back. It has been very exciting. Not everybody has to be in one city anymore to make this album. This album has been recorded all over the country. Different people have studios in their homes!
CP: Sure, it’s a totally different world now! It’s also kind of funny though that recording live to tape is making a little bit of a come back now.
MC: Yeah, and our idea for doing this album is very simple. We can make it, we’re alive, we’re well, and that’s a blessing to be reaching our ages and still having our voices, and still being sought after by people. If you’ve got the ability, the creative mind, the juices are flowing, and we’re just able to do something new. A lot of people know our hits from the past, “Love’s Train”, “Shake and Dance”, all that stuff from the past. But that’s all why we’re giving you a phone call today. We’re not giving you a phone call because of anything new. Leave that to the younger guys to do the new stuff and get out there. Like Simon Cowell said with Susan Boyle, if you’re able to record, go record! There’s always someone out there that wants to buy it. That’s what we’re doing! We’re having fun.
I’ve already got plans for a “Best of Michael Cooper”, “Best of ConFunkShun”, “Have a ConFunkShun Christmas” is coming in 2013. We’ll actually go into the studio and record that this Christmas. And then the next new ConFunkShun album is already in the works for January or February of 2014.
CP: Holy cow! You really don’t plan on slowing down AT ALL in the next 2 years!
MC: Nope. I’m way out ahead of myself (laughs)! But I’ll never stop recording. As soon as we’re done with this one, we’ll just keep right on recording with the Christmas album, and then in 2013, we’ll be in the studio working on the record for 2014. We’ll never stop recording.
CP: I am SO excited about all of this. I cannot wait for this ConFunkShun Christmas album already! Get funky for Christmas!
MC: Oh yeah! We’re going to have a great Christmas album. We’ve already got two songs done, and we’re going to get a couple of original things done that we wrote ourselves. But we’ll also be doing standards and our take on them. Imagine “Fun Fun Fun” and “Shake and Dance With Me” and all these ConFunkShun hits; we’re going to borrow from those, and I’m basically going to change the lyrics to Christmas stuff!
CP: So excited right now (laughs)!
MC: (Laughs) It’s going to be great! I can’t wait to hear it. I’m just so excited about it. I can’t wait to hear a Christmas “Shake and Dance With Me” (laughs)!
CP: (Laughs) You can’t wait to hear it? Are you serious? I can’t wait to hear it! Best Christmas ever!
MC: (Laughs) Oh yeah. It’ll be good!
CP: Over the years, I feel like your audience has gotten a lot younger. Would you agree?
MC: Yeah! Yeah! They are! I mean really, it’s kind of scary (laughs). The radio stations have pretty much put our music out there and still put it out there! My grandson is 18 years old, and he’s a connoisseur of the 70’s and 80’s music; he just loves it! He listens on his iPod, and his phone is just full of old school music. He loves that sound of Philadelphia, and that Chicago sound. He’s just now getting into Motown, and he tells me it’s all he listens to! He loves that stuff!
CP: I thought I was one of the only ones, but it turns out there are tons of other young people with good taste (laughs). I mean, the Dazz Band crowd in December was shockingly young!
MC: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing! But now my job is to go to the gym as much as possible and just keep myself healthy. We’re all just trying to stay healthy and head off any of the illnesses that plague our age group at this time. We’re going to prolong it as long as we can, count our blessings, get down on our knees, and just be thankful.
Just like any other group, we’ve had our ups and downs and bridges to cross, but we keep on going.
Special thanks to Michael for his time! Be sure to come on out at catch one of the funkiest shows around this Friday night!