Superfunkychanifragisexy: An interview with Prince

Mark W. Olson

Minnesotans know two things about Chanhassen - it’s home to Prince’s Paisley Park and it’s home to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.

The dichotomy of Chanhassen’s two music venues fascinates me. I would take mom and dad to “My Fair Lady,” but probably wouldn’t take them to a late night Prince & The New Power Generation concert. Mom and dad would be more comfortable with “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” than “Superfunkycalifragisexy.”

Chanhassen seems like an obvious setting for a dinner theater, not so much a rock-n-roll studio. (No offense, Chanhassen.)

But out in the innocuous suburbs, amid cul de sacs and perfectly-manicured lawns, lives one of the funkiest musicians in the world. Prince has been a Chan resident since the 1980s, longer than most other residents. And, like the rest of us suburbanites, he copes with road construction, property taxes and development.

Prince is holding his second annual music bash, June 11-17, in Paisley Park Studios, the white, modernistic building at the Highway 5 and Audubon Road intersection. The event, with musical acts, studio tours, and movie screenings is called “Prince - A Celebration: The Rainbow Children.” With a last name like “Nelson,” I can only guess that the bash is Prince’s version of a Minnesota potluck, without the tater tot hot dish.

To publicize the event, Paisley Park Studio invited area newspaper hacks from throughout the Twin Cities to chat with The Artist.

Personally, the conference was a way to verify that Prince actually lives in Chanhassen. The only previous contact I’ve had with the musician was typing up notes of Paisley Park trespassers in the Sheriff’s Reports column.

I’ve always hoped to see Prince, perhaps wearing a golf shirt, khakis and penny loafers, protesting elementary school boundaries at a District 112 public forum, or debating septic tank regulations before the Carver County Board of Commissioners.

The group interview was also a way to add Prince to the short list of celebrities I’ve met since joining the Herald. (Billy Bob Thornton made me freeze my butt off outside of his trailer a couple winters ago on the Laketown Township set of “A Simple Plan.” While I was waiting for a photo/interview, Bridget Fonda walked by, giving me a “Where the hell’s security when I need it?” look.)

We couldn’t record or photograph the interview with Prince, or ask personal questions. (The city council better not get any ideas.) We were directed to a conference room, with the ceiling painted in a celestial motif. A reporter asked if the room had a special name. “No. Just the conference room,” a spokesperson replied to the disappointed reporter, who had probably hoped it would be called the LoveSexy Lounge.

I had spotted Prince earlier while taking a wrong turn in Paisley Park Studios, but until he walked into the room, I still didn’t know if the reclusive musician would give an interview.

Suddenly there he was, not in a golf shirt and khakis, but wearing an unbuttoned red shirt with flared sleeves and an “NPG” emblem attached to a gold chain.

He joined 15 reporters around a conference table, and took 90 minutes to field questions. Before the end of the interview, Prince asked if there were any more questions, and spoke to reporters as they left the room.

During the group interview, Prince spoke at length about the music industry, and how it has usurped his music and royalties. In response to the industry, Prince has gone off on his own, recording and releasing music under his own label.

He also touched on a number of other topics, which I have interpreted from my scribbled notes:

Privacy: “I’m private when it comes to my personal life. I’m not private when it comes to Paisley Park.”

His June 7 birthday: “The first person to say ’Happy Birthday’ gets dropped in the alligator moat.” (The honor goes to some driver on Highway 5 who screamed ’Happy Birthday’ as I was leaving the parking lot.)

Restrictions to musical creativity: “Deadlines and budgets.” (I can relate.)

Living in Minnesota: “I like it here. I like the neutrality. There’s less stress. ... It’s clear - I can create on a clear space.”

Living in Chanhassen: “I pay way too much property tax.” (In response to Chanhassen Villager reporter Unsie Zuege’s recommendation to protest his tax bill at a county board meeting, Prince responded: “I’m there.”)

Impacts of development: “All the deer are coming in my yard.”

The purpose of the round building under construction next to Paisley Park Studios: “I’m not certain what it’s going to be.”

Prince recently gave up swear words, but a reporter asked him if he was going to give up “edgy” lyrics. “Sexuality is not edgy. Adam and Eve’s job was to make love and name animals.”

His favorite part of the Bible: “As a whole it’s important ... Psalms is a beautiful book.”

The press: “People have a way of taking things out of context.” (Sorry Prince.)

The week-long celebration includes “listening sessions” at 10 a.m. every morning, followed by a group discussion. Can they talk about Highway 5 construction? “Absolutely,” Prince replied.

Prince gets my vote for the vacant Chanhassen city councilor position. The group could use some of Prince’s funky love.