Detroit asks the questions, and the artist reveals himself as a prince of mystery

Brian McCollum

Well, we knew he was a cryptic sort of guy.

When we asked Free Press readers to send us questions for the artist formerly known as Prince, who plays the Palace on Saturday, we weren’t sure what we might be getting into.

The artist is, after all, a man not known for his forthright interviews. Though he’s opened up to the press this year more than at any time in the past—at least he’s agreed to talk at all—the musician who built a career on mystery and intrigue hasn’t exactly turned into a chatterbox.

The interviews he’s done recently have been conducted by fax and E-mail, which leaves little room for probing or follow-up. Still, this was a chance for Detroiters to connect with a beloved hero who’s been virtually invisible until now.

More than 300 of you responded to the call, some with personal messages for the artist. Unfortunately, time and space limitations kept us from forwarding such requests as this one from a Wayne reader: “Could he please sing ’Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother, Wife’ at my daughter’s wedding on Saturday, Aug. 8 1998, in Flushing, Mich.?”

Some questions dominated: When will the artist release a live album? When’s the next movie? And in homage to the classic “1999,” where’s he playing New Year’s Eve at the turn of the century?

He didn’t answer everything, including a series of questions about potential collaborations with a number of peers, including Bjork, Beck and Detroit techno maestro Carl Craig.

Here are the answers he decided to divulge, via a handwritten, faxed response. Keep in mind, the funky shorthand—“2” for “to"; “4” for “for"; and so on—is all his own.


Q: Do you have plans to do another movie?
A: I would love to work with Kasi Lemmons. (Editor’s note: Lemmons wrote and directed the acclaimed “Eve’s Bayou,” and was just named Best New Director by Entertainment Weekly.)

Q: Any plans to release a live album? Or perform a live TV concert? How about an “MTV Unplugged" ?
A: The quintessential live set will be released sometime in 1999.

Q: Do you plan to perform on Dec. 31 1999? And where will that show be?
A: Psych! (Ed. note: In other words, he’s not committing to an answer

Q: With all the renovation and development in our city, would you consider opening a nightclub, studio or restaurant here?
A: A school would b better. One that abolishes the grading system! No child should ever fail. That’s not the idea.


Q: You play so many instruments. Which are you primarily using for writing these days?
A: I write in my head. The rest is just dictation.

Q: Does the standard eight- to 10-song album still hold interest for you, or has it become too constricting?
A: 2 constricting, although with some sets, like “The Truth,” it’s cool.

Q: Over the past two decades of music you’ve produced, you’ve managed to create and manipulate the most intriguing and original beats ever recorded, either through drum machine or kit. On “Emancipation,” you opted to use Kirky J. Any plans to get back behind the drum board, or better yet, put your own foot back on the kit?
A: The newest, most favorite pieces I’ve done—I handle drum duties.

Q: You’re one of my favorite guitar players. Are we going to see any more music like “Purple Rain” or “Chaos & Disorder"? I’m interested to hear more of that rock, bluesy style.
A: Disc 2 of “Crystal Ball” is 4 u! ORDER NOW!

Q: What do you feel when you’re on stage in front of us all?


Q: The song “1999” has a tone of prophesy to it, and in all areas of life right now, our world seems to be in a state of quickening toward something, maybe even an event. What was your inspiration for writing “1999,” and what do you feel about this quickening we’re going through?
A: God is my main inspiration. 2 wake from this dream and live in a better one is my hope 4 the future.

Q: I know you’re a very spiritual person, and have made references in previous albums to multiple souls. Do you believe in reincarnation? And if so, do you believe you were an artist in a previous life?
A: In a previous life, I was a creator.

Q: If God came to you right now and asked you to play one song of yours, what would it be?
A: "God.”


Q: When will see an album of all new material?
A: 1999.

Q: Will your next album be more commercial, or innovative?
A: What is commercial, and what is innovative? One of my biggest records had no bass—“When Doves Cry.”

Q: What musician would you like to work with that you have not?
A: I never leave dreams unfulfilled.

Q: I really enjoy “Another Lonely Christmas,” and I was wondering if you’d ever do a Christmas album.
A: EEK! Best 2 look up the real meaning of Xmas 1st!

Q: The last three months alone, two bootleg, three-CD sets of very good-to-perfect quality artist outtakes have been released. I also have the unreleased album “The Truth.” Does it concern you that bootleggers seem to be getting a jump on releasing material fans want to hear?


Q: Besides Joni Mitchell, what musicians turned you onto music?
A: So many: James Brown, Santana, my childhood friend Sonny Thompson, & Larry Graham, 2 name a few.

Q: Which of today’s artists remind you of your music? I think of D’Angelo, Maxwell, Erykah Badu. Any other artists you’re particularly digging these days?
A: I like the ones u’ve mentioned. They r nice people.

Q: I’m 13 years old and would love to be a singer. Everybody I talk to says I have talent. What advice would you give a hopeful?
A: Stay out of the music business. Retain ownership of your work and as well your life, if u r a serious artist.

The artist’s charity group asks concertgoers to bring new coats, hats and warm clothing to the Palace for Detroit homeless shelter Off the Streets.