Interview by Scott Preston
Born in the buckle of the bible belt, Ponca City, Oklahoma, Kim studied classical music from the young age of six and was “turned out” when she was hand selected by George Clinton to join his P-Funk All-stars. Here she began the stretch from holistic vegan yoga teacher to Funkadelic Rock star to VH1 Celebreality Star. Since then Kim Manning has performed around the world and on TV shows as David Letterman and the Grammy Awards and with artist as Snoop Dogg, Red Hot Chili Peppers (charting on Billboard in 2009), and the String Cheese Incident. She’s been profiled in such Magazines as “Singer”, “Relix”, “Details”, “Hightimes” and recently chosen as URB’s Next 1000. With a strong belief that “everybody’s got a little dark, especially those with lot’s of light”, Kim began to hone in her message of tolerance and acceptance while simultaneously merging her diverse musical background into a collage of Rock, Funk, and Hip-Hop. Kim wails with 4 ½ octaves of powerhouse vocals, free styled raps, keyboard and guitar skills, and no holds bar- anything can happen performance. Kim is the product of spirit, talent, and beauty, and anyone who sees her is left inspired by the Love and Light that pours from a beautiful soul.
Cincy Groove: I see that you have worked with Freekbass in the past, how did you end up meeting?
Kim Manning: I know Freekbass though George Clinton. George’s old tour manager is Freekbass’ tour manager’s brother as well. We also performed at a festival together in Kansas called Dogstock and most recently at Nelsons Ledges in Ohio at the Mothership Landing Festival, where my band played, then Freekbass, then George & P Funk.
Cincy Groove: How did you end up performing with George Clinton & P-Funk?
Kim Manning: I earned a degree in Theater and was working for an opera company. The money I saved up from that I went with my best friend and we got in my Volkswagen bus and were street performers through Canada. Through all of that we ended up meeting a girl who knew George. A little later on that girl invited me to a P-Funk show in SF, where I got to hang out and meet people in the band. I remember when George came out on stage and was blown away how he was conducting the band. I was so completely into what was happening with the energy and flow of the show I literally ended up passing out.
A week later I found out that they were performing in L.A. and I also had an audition in L.A. for a musical theater company. I also ended up meeting Shock G from Digital Underground who was also doing some shows with them. After the show he was hosting these jam sessions back at the hotel and everyone was there playing. I was just there singing away, not realizing what I was getting myself into (laughing). I ended up giving someone my mother’s phone number because I didn’t at the time have a home phone number. A few days later my mom calls me and says “This guy George Clinton keeps calling, he sounds serious, he wants you to go into the studio”. He was staying at the Hotel California, so I went there to meet him. I had a copy of my senior recital piece from college , it happened to be an opera piece. George listened to it and said “Can you still sing like this?”. I went into the studio that night and the next day met Bootsy, Buckethead. It all happened very quickly.
Cincy Groove: I take it that was your introduction into the “rock” music business?
Kim Manning: Yeah it really was. I did first start studying rock music one summer while I was in school. I went to Paul McCartney’s performing arts school in Liverpool, England. Then the next year I started studying jazz composition and started to play the piano at that time as well. At the end of my last year in school I did a performance with a band, which was the first time I did something like that. But before I met George I had never been in a professional recording studio and P-Funk is the first band I was ever in. My background in music was vastly different than everyone elses in the band. I was highly trained, but it was mostly in classical and opera music. The rest of the band started singing in choir in church & singing Gospel music. Before P-Funk I had never sang a note that wasn’t written down on sheet music paper. It took me a while to feel comfortable when someone would say, “Just sing something”.
Cincy Groove: What did your parents and opera colleagues think when you started singing with P-Funk? It is quite different than what you had done up to that point.
Kim Manning: It’s interesting because one half who you tell that to will know who P-Funk is right away and are really jealous that you get to do something like that. Then you have the other half who say “P Funk who?”. I think by and large most people are proud of me.
Cincy Groove: What projects are you working on right now?
Kim Manning: George just put out the record Gangsters of Love which I’m on and I’m on Let the Good Times Roll by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I also have one of my own albums out, The Love and Light Activation, which I put out a few years ago. This year I released an EP/DVD and it’s called Baked Goods. It has 7 songs on the cd and the dvd is a compilation of live footage from about 4-5 different shows with a few music videos at the end. Now I’m working on a project with Lantz Lazwell, and we plan to put an album out by the end of the year, although we haven’t decided what to call it yet.
Cincy Groove: I see that about a year ago you had an interesting experience with Grace Jones?
Kim Manning: Now, almost on the first day of every P Funk tour someone starts talking about that, that’s a good story. I think I gained about 500 cool points that day. I think I went from , “Kim the weird chick” to “Kim, she’s pretty ok” . We were backstage at a festival in Ireland, and the backstage was absolutely huge, so big that they set up the next band behind a curtain while the current one is playing. P Funk was on stage and I was getting so into the music I just started doing this balletic dance to Maggot Brain. Apparently Grace Jones was there watching me and all of a sudden ran up to me and we started this 5 minute duo dance number. It was great, she was spinning me, dipping me, it was so intense. Out of the corner of my eye I would see George with his mouth wide open and his eyes are huge because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about the improv jam you run at the Jam Factory in SF.
Kim Manning: That’s been going on for a while, I started it at a club here in L.A., I decided I would be the singer and musicians can come and sign up to play. Each song was a different band and the audience would come up with a title and concept for the song. One of the more recent times I did the jam the audience told me we had 18 people on stage. I kind of try to think like George, because when George directs the P Funk shows, he takes all the talent and see’s what people have to offer and knows what time to bring them in. I try to do the same thing with the Jam Factory shows.
Cincy Groove: Do you have any interested outside of music?
Kim Manning: I recently just became a Kundalini yoga teacher. It’s actually one of the oldest form of yoga. I started practicing it at a Rainbow Gathering about 6 years ago. It’s funny now I’m kind of a teacher to the rock stars because I’m usually on the road and around musicians most of the time. I taught a class when we were at Nelsons Ledges in Ohio and I also teach George on a regular basis. Now everyday at 4pm, myself, Kendra Foster, George’s grand-daughter and Mary, one of the new girls from P Funk. I just remembered when I was on Jam Cruise I also taught Bela Fleck, Matt from Everyone Orchestra, Alan from Soulive.
George Clinton & P Funk tour dates
Sep 1 2009 The Crystal Ballroom Portland, Oregon
Sep 2 2009 The Showbox Seattle, Washington
Sep 5 2009 Tokyo Jazz Festival Tokyo
Sep 7 2009 African Fest. of Arts Chicago, Illinois
Sep 11 2009 Jazz on the Boulevard Ft. Worth, Texas
Oct 2 2009 Constant Convocation Center Norfolk, Virginia
Oct 3 2009 Liacouras Center Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Oct 10 2009 Verizon Wireless Amp Los Angeles, California
Oct 31 2009 Voodoo Music Fest New Orleans, Louisiana
Nov 7 2009 Lehman Center Bronx, New York