Starr Cullars is on the road again, with a new band, spreading her own brand of rock. It’s progressive and hard, with a funky, cosmic flow. Starr is from the P-Funk pedigree. She was introduced to George Clinton via Prince and Paisley Park. Starr may look familiar as a former Counselor on VH-I’s Fantasy Rock Camp or featured in posters for the upcoming documentary, Nice and Rough: Black Women IN Rock.
SHEILA: How did playing with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars influence you as a rock musician?
STARR: When I was hired by George Clinton, Archie Ivy (Manager), and Garry Shider in the fall of 1992; there had only been women who were background-singers in the group. After about 9 months of working as the Assistant Road-Manager, I was promoted to a performing member on stage. I was and I am the only true-female-musician-member of the hallowed Parliament-Funkadelic.
The Funkadelic side of the group is one of the original Black Rock bands. The founders of Funkadelic: Eddie Hazel and Billy Bass Nelson were hardcore Rockers. Eddie had jam sessions with Jimi Hendrix! So I would be called out at the show’s last hour/30 minutes, and I would play a section of Funkadelic Rock hits: Red Hot Mama (signature), Alice In My Fantasy, No Head, Free Your Mind, etc. Having to learn all these catalogs of music, learning and having the ability to appease all of the veteran Band Cats – many of whom played on the various hit-records and platinum albums. Having all that power, history and active bad-ass Band members teaching and playing with me, truly enabled me to develop the skill and power I function and create from now.
SHEILA: After playing in the 18-piece P-Funk All Stars, your current band is a trio. What were the considerations when you put together your band?
STARR: Definitely coming from that gigantic rotating orchestra, you immediately learn what it means to share the stage and song with a village. For some in certain genres, a large ensemble like that is great. But I am from the school of the power-Rockers. Those Cats that are 3-4 piece super-bands: Cream, Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys, Rush, my big brothers of Living Colour. I am a Musician’s musician. I must be physically involved in the making of the music, to feel it through my instrument, through my body. I can do that best with a 3-4 piece band. If we added anything, the musician would have to be in vibration with us, and have all the necessary skills.
STARR: Thank you. I have always known that the Bass guitar requires serious strength – just to lift and handle the instrument. My Kung Fu training has 100% enhanced my entire stage/show performance, From my agility and power-control of my Bass, to the stamina, strength, and balance I have navigating the stage. I study Choy Li Fut Kung Fu and Tai Chi at the White Dragon Martial Arts school. These instructors are some of the best in the world (seriously), like real-life Jedi-Knights. Kung Fu is soooooo challenging and definitely hard to do. It’s mind-blowing when you see and feel yourself grow stronger, deeper, more agile, super-hero-like!
SHEILA: A lot of the imagery you use is about the cosmos. Is it simply a reference to your name “Starr” or is there a deeper message you want to convey to your audience?
STARR: I would say, my music is about cosmic-inspirations, fighting through life-battles, and empowerment. In one of my songs, “I’m Still Standing” some of the lyrics are:
Nothing has killed me yet
No matter how mad
Nothing has taken me out
No matter how bad
I always said I was like the
Highlander, an Immortal
Somehow destined to go
Through the light portal…
SHEILA: At a recent show, the M.C. announced you were ‘the first woman-led rock band to perform’ there. You have been on this journey of rock for a while now. Do you see the path evolving for Black Women In Rock?
STARR: No – not without the serious fight into the Rock Industry. Not until more Black Women have more opportunity and exposure in the Industry. The Rock Legend Cats, from the VH1 show, told me directly to my face that, “There are NO women in Rock today – not since, Heart and Joan Jett” (from the 70s/80s). And because I have proven myself to them, that I was “the Queen of Rock today.” I can tell you, that the path is extremely challenging, and plays right into MY M.O. So I am claiming the throne, infiltrating the male-testosterone Industry, and being the “Queen of Rock” in their faces, whether they are ready or not…Because I AM!
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Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director of the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”