The Interview with The Artist

Claudia Perry

The Publicist called The Reporter about The Artist.

The Artist (once known as Prince) played the PNC Bank Arts Center on Sept.16, and he was willing to fax answers to a series of questions. The Publicist made it clear that The Artist doesn’t just fax anyone. In fact, The Artist didn’t fax anyone else in the Garden State.

The Publicist also gave The Reporter The Rules. No more than six questions, and there is no guarantee The Artist will answer any or all of them.

The Reporter was apprehensive. How do you limit yourself to six questions to a person who writes songs the way most of us breathe, who is notoriously guarded about his personal life, and has a penchant for substituting numbers and letters for various English words?

Also, when once asked what was wrong with the name Prince, he faxed, “Nothing. It is a beautiful name. On Earth it was my favorite I think.”

After a busy afternoon of studying discographies and listening to a few old songs for inspiration ("How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” was high on the hit list), The Reporter wrote out the questions.

The first thing The Reporter wanted to ask about was The Artist’s rather contentious relationship with the press. He gave up doing phone and in-person interviews years ago, claiming that the press had an agenda that had nothing to do with his music. Although most of the mainstream music press made their peace with his silence, the tabloids were not so accommodating. When The Artist’s child died about a year ago, tabloid speculation ran rampant.

So The Reporter had to ask The Artist about the death of his child and his reaction to being hounded by the tabloids. He’s a celebrity. A lot of celebrities have weighed in on the topic recently, and it seemed like a good way to ease into the other questions about his music and business.

“I just want to let you know he won’t answer that question,” The Publicist said upon receiving the fax. “He won’t talk about anything personal.”

When The Artist faxed back, sure enough, he skipped the tabloid question.

Aside from using a little drawing of an eye for the word “I,” the rest of the fax appeared pretty straightforward.

The first question that The Artist answered was about a topic nearly as ubiquitous as Diana - the Internet. Since releasing his 3-CD set, “Emancipation” through EMI, The Artist was selling his latest work, an acoustic album “The Truth,” on his Web site ( Also coming is a 4-CD set, “Crystal Ball,” containing bootlegs and legendary outtakes. The Reporter asked what fascinated The Artist about computers and the Internet.

“The Internet is fascinating for a number of reasons ... the anonymity afforded the user allows communication 2 be a bit more open and non-judgmental,” The Artist faxed. “Also, the quick, direct access between consumer and supplier is how music was meant 2 come across we believe. Thus, a purer exchange of energy.”

The Artist’s exchanges with various record companies has been less than pure. He was so appalled by his arrangement with Warner Bros. that he painted the word “slave” on his face when he appeared in public until he got out of his deal with them. It’s no accident that his last album was called “Emancipation.”

All of which led The Reporter to ask The Artist if he would ever sign with another record label.

“I will never sign with another record label,” he faxed. “I could 4c myself using a major label for distribution, but rest assured - any new music released by us will be owned solely by us 4 all time.”

Although The Artist has concentrated on music for the last few years, few fans can forget his forays into the world of motion pictures. “Purple Rain” and the accompanying soundtrack were huge hits, but the subsequent films, “Graffiti Bridge” and “Under a Cherry Moon” were a lot less successful. He also dabbled in soundtracks, writing music for “ Batman” and Spike Lee’s “Girl 6.” Would The Artist consider doing another movie?

“I’m trying more and more 2 let God direct my path,” he faxed. “If this includes a movie, so be it.”

Well, OK. But what about other art forms besides movies and music. Any interest?

“Music is tops 4 me, although I am finding more and more artistry in simple things like the exchange of oxygen between 2 humans. The universe is a masterpiece that craves never-ending study.”

So far, The Artist’s universal cram session has been an extended course of study of the sensual and the spiritual. This dichotomy isn’t a new one - the late Marvin Gaye was big on sanctified ardor. So The Reporter had to ask - would The Artist ever release a gospel album? Does he find that the booty and the Bible can co-exist?

“Everything on earth is compatible in one form or another, and spirituality and sexuality can be one in the same. depending on your outlook. 2 me, ’Emancipation’ is a gospel record! God is in everything! ’The love we make’ (from “Emancipation") is about the acceptance of the divine plan. ’The only love there is - is the love we make.’

“ ’Saviour’ “ (also from “Emancipation") is about being born again. The day that every living thing accepts that fact that God can and does exist - outside of religion - is the day when all will begin 2 welcome the dawn. The awakening will occur among those who beckon it and the new kingdom we’ve heard so much about will become apparent. Needless 2 say - we will have 2 build it, but 1st it must be born in our hearts.”

The Reporter was pleased to see that The Artist had a firm grasp of pantheism, and she wanted to know more about the signs of this new kingdom. What would they be? Puff Daddy starts a gospel label? Kajagoogoo ( “Too shy shy") and a-ha ("Take on Me") lead a revival of ’80s music? But the fax was done, so we will never know.