Congratulations on The Meters winning a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year. What does that kind of recognition mean to the band, and how did the performance at the ceremony go?
George: I was pretty pumped. The performance was really well. It was good. All the egos got left in the dressing rooms and came out on stage and played really wonderful together. We naturally missed Art, but you know, the musical director whose name I can’t remember unfortunately, he sat in for Art and he did a wonderful job. So it was really a good weekend.
Zigaboo: This Grammy thing totally blindsided me. My wife broke the news to me one day: I was downstairs collaborating on some music scheme, and she said, “Hey, congratulations Zig—you just won a Grammy.” My wife is a jokester, so I’m thinking, “Aw, come on, you see I’m down here busy!” [Laughs.] And it turned out to be for real! I sit here and I’m just happy it happened to us. Even though we have some musical acclaim, to a large degree we’ve still been invalidated in the annals of history. That is one of the reasons why the Foundation of Funk is a vehicle that I think should be utilized by at least some of The Meters if not all of ‘em. I think it’s important to keep telling the story, keep bringing the message out there.
The Grammy performance was awesome. We played two songs, and we had our chance to say what we wanted to say. It was just a really really high point, a pinnacle moment for me. It’s something I can’t forget even if I tried. I’m just sorry that Art wasn’t there with us, because that’s the guy who got me started in the music business—Art Neville. I ain’t gonna forget that, and I love him for it. And it was his brainchild that got us together in the first place. I was just happy to be there, happy to be performing. I’m happy I can still perform; I’m almost 70. If I can make it out, I’m very happy. I still wanna play, and I still need to play, ‘cause it’s a spiritual thing.
What does it mean to be continuing the legacy of The Meters, 50 years on, with Foundation of Funk?
Cyril: Let me say that when I share the stage with those guys, it’s never been like those are just the other cats in the band—it’s family from day one. I mean, me and Zig was friends long before we even started playing music together. And then everything else kind of fell into place afterwards. We all were in the same band with my brother Art, and basically without Poppa Funk, none of this would have happened. My take on the Foundation of Funk is that that is exactly what The Meters are, along with James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic. We were joking about it as we were receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award—there are people in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that were influenced by The Meters, but The Meters still haven’t gotten there yet.
But, you know, the facts are what they are. I mean, they are one of the most sampled bands. Some of the most seminal hip-hop songs have Meters samples in them, They definitely left their mark as far as changing the whole landscape of the music scene. And after 50 years, Zig and George and them, they’re able to dispense that funk the same way like back in the day, you know? I look at it as each one of those shows is based off of that.
It’s a great feeling to have the Nevilles mixed with the Meters because that’s how it all started in the beginning—and it just shows the power of the spiritual, musical force called Art “Poppa Funk” Neville that the three of us [Nevilles] have to take his place. It’s also nice to me that everything we do is more than just entertainment; its educating. Me and Zig were talking about that yesterday—it’s so wonderful to have stories to tell about every song you do, some tidbit that would please the audience to know about. Like the song “Gossip,” for instance. I don’t know how many people know that at the time when that was done, nobody in America other than Leo Nocentelli was playing eastern sitar on a funk record. [Laughs.] I mean, that’s what I’m saying—it’s not just the influences themselves, but the types of influences that these cats left on people. I don’t think Ravi Shankar was even known at that time, and Leo Nocentelli was in the studio on one of the funkiest songs you could imagine, on the sitar.
The original Meters lineup played some shows in the past few years, at Jazz Fest and on Jam Cruise. Will the four of you ever get back together on stage again?
George: I don’t think that the original four guys would ever be seen again, because I think Art is pretty much done. I don’t believe his health would allow that to happen. And so, I would have to say no to that question. But I’m hopeful that there will be something to represent that music moving forward and, at this point, I’m thinking Foundation of Funk is probably that best incarnation.
What’s the future for this specific lineup of Foundation of Funk—any plans to keep booking more shows past LOCKN’?
George: I think it’s a good lineup. But the Foundation of Funk is pretty much Zig’s baby, so the end result will be his call. I never say no, especially with this configuration. I think this configuration can be well-received, and it went over very well at High Sierra. And that was with no preparation, just everybody doing their own homework and coming on stage—maybe in the dressing room, 40 minutes before, just deciding, “OK, this is how we’re gonna end this song and that one.”
Zigaboo: I’m looking forward to 2019 be a very good year for the Foundation of Funk. It’s about the avails. I don’t live in New Orleans right now, and most of those guys are down there, but I just got to get used to that and figure out how to schedule people better, then we can get into making this flower bloom to its potential. I want to go in the studio with all this. I want to get everybody who has been involved in the project to be involved in a recording. I don’t really know how I’m gonna do that, but I do think that would be a great thing. So I have to just bide my time and try to work on a little bit at a time. I wrote a lot of music. I’ve got about 26 new songs in the can, and half of those songs are designated to be available for Foundation of Funk.
But I ain’t trying to be the head honcho, like, “Everybody do my material.” It’s gotta be collab, collab, collab. So I wanna leave room for that, but I also want to put it in the format where nobody walks away from this project disappointed, only hungry to do more. How you do that? I’m not a psychologist; I’m just a guy that plays some funky drums.
Is there anything fans should know about what to expect for the upcoming shows at The Cap and LOCKN’?
Ian: I’m just glad that in the 50th year anniversary of that band and that music, we get to represent it in an actual New Orleans funk fashion, where all the cats grew up in the music. All biases and family associations aside, the Meters are one of my favorite bands, ever. I’m excited for the music and that it gets to come alive again like this.
Cyril: I’m going to tell them to do like I always do. Bring two pairs of dancing shoes, cause you might wear that first pair out. Come ready to let your hair down. Or if you can’t let it down, take it off and have somebody hold it for you while you’re doing your thing.