Date printed: Wed 24th Apr 2019 12:57am PDT
Interesting article from Launch.com - 1999
Very last quote in the article:
"I've got Larry for the inner self and Mayté for the outer self. Everything is taken care of." Hmmm, wouldn't you think Mayte would be for the inner self? Ah well...
FEATURE - Produced By Prince
By Jeff Lorez
"This is our new beat," the Artist says with a slight smirk on his face to NPG drummer Kirk, banked up to his left. A thumping, computer-triggered P-Funk groove explodes from the speakers. The Artist plays a familiar synth line from the distinctive red Nord Lead analogue keyboard.
"Know what this is?" he asks, catching me off guard.
"No, what?" I reply. He plays the riff again.
"Oh, yeah, that's Parliament." He nods and continues to play. It's a chilly October night in Minneapolis. We're at Paisley Park studios on a huge soundstage. Banked to the Artist's right is New Power Generation keyboard player Morris and onstage with him is legendary bassist Larry Graham. And, quite remarkably, I'm there too, looking over the Artist's shoulder, watching him nonchalantly tickle the keys of his Fender Rhodes, improvising to impressive effect as the band kicks in soul classics in the shape of the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" and James Brown's "Sex Machine."
This is the Artist, at home, doing what comes naturally, taking his band through exhaustive daily rehearsals in preparation for an upcoming promo tour to Europe followed by a world tour in support of his striking new album, Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. What doesn't come naturally to him is entertaining the press; for years he's been notoriously media-shy. However, today he's invited journalists not only into his expansive and luxurious studio complex, but also onstage with him. What's more, he's even taking my requests!
"I'm much more comfortable with doing interviews now because I'm harder to misquote," he tells me earlier in the day, as we talk in a conference room at Paisley Park. "Everything I'm about is freedom of choice and knowing what the truth can do."
If the Artist, now famously contract-free (his current arrangement with Arista Records for his new album is for marketing and promotion only; he maintains ownership of the master recordings), feels like a liberated man, it shows. His newest collection is undoubtedly his best in years, harking back to glory days of old. Both melodically and musically he's firing on all cylinders with a who's-who of guests joining the party, such as Sheryl Crow, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, rapper Eve, Chuck D, and sax legend Maceo Parker.
Not since Sign Of The Times and Diamonds And Pearls has he sounded this inspired. The connection isn't lost on him. That's why he's chosen to credit Prince (not the Artist) as the album's producer.
"I didn't want people to say to me, 'Why don't you sound like your old stuff anymore?' I think in a lot of ways I still sound like I did before, so by having Prince produce it, it helps make the connection."
Sitting opposite the Artist--a man who provided the soundtrack to much of my life--and chewing the fat with him is a quite surreal experience. For years he surrounded himself with mystery, but in reality he orbits a lot closer to Earth than most people would imagine. Sure, he still wears makeup (then again, he did have a photo shoot a couple of hours prior), and his high heels, crushed velvet flares, and satin hood are in full effect. However, the truth about the Artist is that he's pleasingly down-to-earth; during this interview, mentor Larry Graham is in the room with him, and the Artist bounces impersonations and jokes off Graham like a stand-up comic.
However, the Artist isn't here just to joke around or reminisce idly over past glories. He has specific topics he wants to address during our interview, and he makes sure the conversation remains focused on them. Naturally, his new music and new approach to music-making is a central theme. He admits to being filled with anger and confusion during the final sad years of his contract with Warner Bros. I ask him how it affected his creativity, since disjointed albums like Chaos & Disorder and Gold were hardly his most successful.
"I was still creative, but what I was creating wasn't necessarily what people would want to listen to," he confesses. These days, negativity isn't a place on which he chooses to dwell. "Look, you see those groups talkin' about negativity and anger, and they'd do that for two albums and then you'd see them change up. I knew they couldn't do a Kurt Cobain on their whole career. You can't stay like that all the time. It's like when Hammer tried to go gangster. You can't be something that you're not. I always used to cuss onstage. I'd wonder why Larry and his family would always leave the shows. He'd ask me, 'Why d'you need to cuss onstage?' [The Artist is now up and animated, acting out a scenario.] And I'd say, 'Cos that's how I express myself, I need to.' Now I've learned that that's not necessary."
Although the Artist mentions singers such as Beyoncé from Destiny's Child in a favorable light, he's not overly encouraged by the themes of some of today's R&B, mentioning his single, "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold," as the counter to Destiny's "Bills Bills Bills," which he feels only serves to keep the sexes separate. He's also unimpressed by many of today's songwriters churning out "mundane R&B." Thus, despite his admiration of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, it's unlikely that'll you'll see too many of today's young hopefuls heading out on the road with him.
"On the next tour I'm gonna do, it's gonna be more of a review-type thing with all good acts. The show might start at four o'clock in the afternoon. There'd be Mavis [Staples], Maceo, Lenny [Kravitz, with whom the Artist shares a strong kinship], Santana, and the Family Stone and us. I just want to be around people that are about positivity."
The Artist explains that one of the ways he's managed to increase the positivity in his life is by stepping away from music and adding other elements into his life. This is a dramatic change from days of old.
"Larry and Maceo have helped me to be able to relax. They say, 'Look, you've got nothing to prove.' In the early years when I toured, I was never a tourist. I was always so focused on the show. I just wanted to tear it up and get out of town. Actually, Mayté [the Artist's wife] has really helped me in that area. She's opened me up to be being far more international [the two divide their time between Minneapolis and Marbella, Spain, where they have a second home]. She's very worldly. She's learning Italian now, which is like her fourth or fifth language."
Just prior to changing his name, the Artist wrote, "Why is age more than a number?" in a song called "The Morning Papers." Now, remarkably, at age 41, it would appear he lives by his ethos, as he doesn't seem to have aged a day in the last decade. In fact, there's something disarmingly youthful about him. A strict vegetarian diet may well help, but, as he takes pains to explain, as far as he's concerned age is merely a state of mind.
"Being around great musicians always gives me this energy. I've had it my whole career. I look at some of the newer artists onstage that are performing with the tape rolling and they're good performers, but they're looking tired and sweating after a few songs. That's because what they're doing is so predictable. When I'm up there with the band and suddenly Larry does something on the bass that'll excite me, I'll react to it. It gives me this energy. That's why we don't count. We don't celebrate birthdays like we don't celebrate Thanksgiving. Because you're told you're supposed to retire at a certain age. Just look at that word: 'retire.' It sounds like you're supposed to become 'more tired.' Charlie Chaplin started having kids at 60--just decided he wanted to have kids then. I still feel the same as I've always felt. Better now because I'm happier. I've got Larry for the inner self and Mayté for the outer self. Everything is taken care of."
Date printed: Wed 24th Apr 2019 12:57am PDT