The New Purple Reign

Prince talks about fame, music and his new studio album.

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Prince geared up for his first national tour in six years with a special one-off gig at Reno’s Lawlor Events Center on Saturday night. Earlier that day, the Oscar- and Grammy Award-winning artist took a few moments to sit down at his computer and chat exclusively with The Examiner via e-mail about the new album, “Musicology” (Columbia Records), which is due out next month, the tour, which officially kicks off tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and comes to the HP Pavilion in San Jose on June 1 and 2, the music business and what makes Prince tick.

Q: Few artists are willing to take the risks that you’ve taken musically because, frankly, they’re afraid of alienating their fans. Has there even been a time when you scrapped an idea because you thought, “There’s just no way that anyone else is going to get this?”

A:
(No), we have a very sophisticated audience, so they indulge us. Since 1981, we have owned (our own) recording equipment, (which) allows us to experiment endlessly.

Q: With every album being so noticeably different from the last, why do you think your fans have remained so loyal to you and are so willing to grow and evolve with you?

A:
Real music lovers appreciate innovation. Real music lovers have heard everything, so you have to surprise them. Real music lovers need constant stimulation.

Q: Is there any ribbon of commonality that you believe ties all of your work together?

A: People have told us that there is an undercurrent of spirituality in everything that we do, but, honestly, we are so busy making the music that there is not much time for analysis.

Q: There also seems to be a message contained in every album. What’s the message in “Musicology"? What do you want people to walk away from it with?

A:
"Musicology” the CD is more or less a companion to the concert. Live interaction with the audience is what it’s really all about. Letting the music come first, before the business (i.e. “ology"). Record executives used to be real music lovers. Now they are business school graduates who believe in globalization. Being an independent artist, I can speak on any issue that moves me without worry of censorship in any way. The sound you hear in “Musicology” is the sound of that freedom.

Q: I read that you refused to perform some of your racier classics at your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction because of your religious beliefs.

A:
Rumors, rumors ... We chose the songs that would work best for the venue we were playing. A lot of our supporters are bringing children into the arena and we have to be sensitive to that fact.

Q: But I also read that you’ll actually be performing a lot of your ’80s hits during your upcoming tour. Is that strictly to make the fans happy or is it more like the final stage of a cathartic process, sort of, out with the old and in with the new?

A:
A little of both. With each performance, it becomes harder to please those that JUST want to hear earlier material. With so many new songs and ideas to explore, anyone coming to our concerts in the future can be sure to experience something fresh.

Q: Very few successful artists are able to maintain such a low profile, especially given the ever-growing cult of celebrity. Was there ever a time when you thrived on that celebrity and what made you decide that you’d had enough?

A:
When a complete stranger knocks on your hotel room at four in the morning and swears up and down that they “KNOW YOU,” celebrity becomes silly. We know many artists who have a much harder time than we do. Most of the time, we are simply shown love.

Q: Having experienced the good and the ugly side of the music business, what advice would you give to young musicians who are just starting out?

A:
In the future, all art will be independent, so retain ownership of everything that you can. Acquire your own recording equipment and learn how to produce yourself. But first and foremost, seek accurate knowledge of God because that, above all else, will dictate the New World.