The former Prince speaks II

In part two of a rare interview, the former Prince talks about his inspiration, values and living a “normal” life in Minnesota

Jim Walsh

Last week, the artist formerly known as Prince talked to local media for the first time in more than 10 years. In this part of the interview— continued from Sunday’s Pioneer Press – TAFKAP talked about a range of topics, from his admiration for Oprah, to his disappearance from the local music scene, to the media’s inability to take religious inspiration seriously.

Q: How did that search for higher self translate musically on “Emancipation” (his new album)?

A: There’s a song called “In This Bed I Scream.” We laid a guitar down on the floor of the studio and just recorded it.

There was electricity in the room, and sound. It just depends on the energy coming out of the speakers, and the feedback. And we just let the groove take it, and built the song around the harmonics. You can hear the note, and you can watch the colors blur. And right there, rules are already broken.

You know, there was a guy, a long time ago, who figured out you can get medicine out of mold. Think about that. “I’m going to eat this ugly green and moldy thing, and it will make me well.” Which is just one way of God saying, “Everything I put on Earth can take care of you.” And if you turn your back on that, if you turn your back on God, you turn your back on everything.

Did you see the interview after the (Evander) Holyfield fight? They were asking him how he beat Mike Tyson. And he was sitting there with his hat on that said “Jesus Is Love.” And they just kept asking (Holyfield), and he kept talking about God. That he beat Tyson because of his faith in God.

But they didn’t want to hear it. The were going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s get off this God stuff. How’d you beat him?” And he’s saying, “I’m telling you: It was God.” Now will you tell me, what’s his last name?

Q: Holy. Field.

A: Thank you. We’re all down here to help one another. My best friends and worst enemies have had the same last name. If someone loves you, they hate you. People think week-to-week. They don’t think about the big expanse.

I’m aspiring to my higher self, and the name I chose for myself, I wanted to represent freedom and truth and honesty.

Q: Over the past few years, you’ve slowly retreated to Paisley, doing shows here, recording here, working here, and not venturing out for surprise gigs the way you used to, at First Avenue and Glam Slam. Even though the gigs here have usually been pretty remarkable, I sometimes got the vibe that you were a caged rat in here, with not a lot of options to play out anywhere else. Did you ever feel that way?

A: No. Not at all. Not to start something, but when people say about me that I live in a prison and don’t go anywhere, it’s just not true. I go to the store, I go to the video store, I go to ballets, movies, the park. I live like anybody else. But I play music every day.

Now, I ain’t talking about musicians who make a record, do a tour, and then chill for eight, nine months. This is my job. This (soundboard) is my desk. If that’s a prison, then everybody else going to work is in a prison, too.

If you talk to people who have money, they’ll tell you that money can’t buy happiness. But it does pave the way for the search.

Q: What kind of advice would you give to that kid who started out doing this at (Minneapolis) Central High back in the ’70s?

A: I could never give advice to myself. But I want to find out who the first person was who saw fit to sell music. Who came up with that concept? That’s where the trouble started. There’s a bag of tricks (used by the music industry) that continue to work on people.

Take (R&B singer) D’angelo. A very talented brother. Now, if I was a record executive, I’d do my best to get him to where I am now. Free. Letting it flow.

I just use D’angelo as an example. But there’s others. TLC—they’re real nice people. What? When the record company gave them $75,000 and took $3 million, didn’t they think TLC was gonna find out? Who’s on the magazines and the Web sites, and the records? Not the lawyers. Not the managers. Some artists need management. I don’t. I can count.

And it all, always, comes back to God.We are all down here to work toward one thing—love.

If I ain’t got a ceiling over me, watch me fly. If I’ve got a ceiling over me, watch me rebel. You get enslaved to the bitterness. That’s what the gangsta-rap game is all about. All those records are being sold, but they’re trapped in their own bitterness.

Q: On the tip of everybody aspiring to their higher self, what do you hope for the future?

A: One day all artists will be able to be part of an alternative music-distribution set-up, where there will be no limits. There will be no label president looking at his watch, saying, “Time’s up! We need that record now.” It’s like with a painter. Would you ever say to a painter, “Oh, I’m sorry. We’re running out of that color. You have to stop now.”

If I was a journalist, I wouldn’t write about something that wasn’t positive. Like (Michael) Jordan. Phew. You can’t criticize Jordan— ever. It’s like Dre said (to a journalist). You put some beats together. We’ll sit here and wait. (He crosses his arms and taps his foot). Can’t do it? OK, then take your pen and pad get on down the road. (He bursts into laughter) It’s like with Jimmy (Jam) and Terry (Lewis). They will never fall. They are the kings. I went to school with Jimmy. I know what he can do. He is a king. He is a king human being. And he is a good soul. Amen.

Oprah’s another one. She’s a queen. She was out here in the kitchen the other day. She’s not like those other (talk-show hosts). She has chosen the high road. She’s all about (positivity), and where’s Jenny Jones? She’s on trial, isn’t she? Oprah is a queen. A queen.

And it’s people like that that just (inspire) me. I talked to a radio deejay recently who told me that he got into deejaying because of me. He wanted to play my music. And that just knocked me back.

It was very, very emotional. And it just made me want to go and make another whole record. I’ve said the words in the past, “Welcome to the dawn,” but I don’t even know if I knew what they meant. Now I do.

It’s the dawn of consciousness. If we all aspire to our higher selves, think of where it could go: Universal knowledge. There. That’s it. We’ll end it on the highest note imaginable.


The former Prince’s wedding date was incorrectly listed in Sunday’s part one of this interview. He was married in February 1996.