Our teen-age virtuoso is home to play at last

The extra-ordinary one-man band will take the stage as a mere bandleader tonight and tomorrow at the Capri Theatre.

Jon Bream

[intro missing]

"I’m nervous. I’ll be terrified, because it’s gonna take a while to block out the fact there are people out there. I find it extremely hard to perform for people.”

I think I found it hard to sing and play in front of my band at first. But now that I got to know them better, it’s really easy now and we all bounce off each other as far as energy goes. I think before I can bounce off the crowd it will take a few songs.

Prince paused and looked down, displaying the reserve that has, in the past, led him to shun interviews and public appearances.

"I’m really free and open once I get to know a person. But when I first encounter something, I’m a little laid back and cautious. People constantly call me shy. I don’t feel shy, but I guess I sometimes come off that way to people. Everybody at Warner Brothers has a big impression I’m really quiet. If he doesn’t talk, he probably won’t dance or sing too much. I have to put to rest all those accusations.”

Making the transition from a one-man band to a frontman was difficult at first, but Prince says he’s handing it.

"It’s complicated at times. It’s fun when you hear it [his music] all come back with someone else’s interpretation. Deep down, I can tell it’s different, but sometimes on the surface it’s better. It’s not just me doing everything, trying to keep my energy level up at all times.”

During his formative years, Prince preferred to make music rather than listen to it. His childhood was rather introverted.

"I missed out on a lot, but I don’t regret it. I missed out on socializing. But I get high off playing my music or going to a movie alone. I used to like to play sports, but I had to quit that. I used to want to go to college. I certainly don’t have time for that. At one time, I wanted to get married and I don’t have time for that. I wanted kids, too. But I don’t have time for that, either. I think the things I missed out on, my mind has changed about them. I think I’ve done what I wanted to do in life. In teen-age life.”

To help promote For You, Prince attended autograph parties.

"It was weird. It was mostly kids from 11 to 20. They were relating to me being so young. There’s been ads in the teen magazines and my age has really come up. The kids would ask me if my real name is Prince, what “Soft and Wet” means, and did I really play all those instruments myself.”

People expect you to be an egomaniac because of who you are.

"The way I am now, I was always. I supposed if I lived in California and rode in limos and had people waiting on me hand and foot, I could change. I’m not into all that.”

He often thinks big, but he speaks with a soft-spoken confidence.

"I do what I want to do, otherwise, this business will kill you. It [success] will happen if it’s supposed to. I don’t worry about it too much.”

"What it all boils down to means nothing except love. As long as I got that, I don’t need money. If I went broke, it wouldn’t faze me. Love and music. As long as I got that, everything’s cool. Everything.”

The full version of this interview was printed in Jon Bream’s book Inside the Purple Rain and is re-printed below

What kind of show can we expect?

Are you nervous about it?
Yeah. But after we start I think we’ll be okay.

How does it feel after spending so much time recording the material by yourself to play that same material with other people?
Different. It’s complicated at times. It’s fun when you hear it come back with someone’s else’s interpretations.

It must sound different to you.
Well, yeah. Deep down I can telt it’s different. But on the surface it sounds sometimes better because it’s a live situation. Somebody else has Just that part to take care of- lfs not just me doing everything and trying to keep my energy level up at all times.

Is it difficult to make the transition from a one man band to being in a ensemble?
It’s hard.

Do you think having played In other groups before helps you?
No, not really. That was such a long time ago. I haven’t played onstage in like three years. I’ve forgotten most of it.

How did the promotional tour go?
It was weird. I liked the food drive [in North Carolina] because I was in a small section in the radio station and people could come in and I could talk and stuff like that. But on Saturday night we did an autograph party for two thousand people. It was hysterical.

Did you just sit around and sign autographs?
No. For about twenty minutes, and then the crowd started getting too large. 

What did they do? 
There was supposed to be a disco, but I only got to sign for about one hundred, and they just started rushing the stage and we had to leave. It got really bizarre. Then they [the organizers] were just like throwing posters off the stage. It was just mad.

What kind of reaction did you get from people on a one-to-one basis? What did they ask you? 
Mainly everybody asked me if my real name was Prince. That was the main question. And “What does ’Soft and Wet’ mean?" 

What does it mean?
Are you asking me?

Do you want to hear my new song? . . . [It means] Whatever you can draw from it. They asked me about it on the radio, and I told them it was about deodorant. I don’t think they believed me.

What other kind of things did they ask you?

One kid asked me if my mother helped me write “Soft and Wet.” And, um, they asked me how long it took to make my album. Did I really do everything by myself? 
Earlier you were talking about the importance of having hometown talent in your band and how your own music doesn’t even get support here from the rest of the music community.

I’ve never really thought about it too much. I’m going to get depressed now.

What qualities do you think you have that have made you successful?
Being tall. I don’t know. I can’t really say. I can’t answer that. You’d have to ask someone else.

Let me put it a different way. What do you think your strengths and your weaknesses are?
I’m a sucker for good legs.... I don’t think I have any strengths. It’s hard for me to talk about myself. I can tell you what Matt’s strengths and weaknesses are.

What do you see as your goals at this point?
I want to be a janitor. I do. [Laughter from the interviewer.] Don’t laugh. No. I want to produce other groups after a while. And I want to do an album with the band as soon as possible. Maybe after the second tour is over.

You were talking about your new songs.
We’ve got a few songs we’ll do at the Capri that I’ll probably never record on an album because they’re too spicy.

Why wouldn’t you do them on a record?
They come off well in a concert situation, but on a record . . . albums and concerts are pretty much different. I like to make an album and get it out like a book or something. And concerts do you just want to excite. I’ll probably never do them all now button—they’re pretty wild and they come off well, visually. 

When you write your stuff, what instrument do you right on
Lately it’s been coming through dreams. I’ll dream something, and if you dream something and go back to sleep, you forget it. But if you wake right up and stay up with it, you’ll remember it and maybe get something out of it. I did that last night. I dreamt that my dad wrote a song and it was really a nice song. I remember that I woke up and realty liked it, but I couldn’t stay awake. Sometimes I write them on a guitar. I’ve written songs on everything. I’ve written songs on drums. 

When did you first start writing songs? How old were you?
Five. I didn’t really write it, but I just sang it and remembered it, kept singing it. I wrote that on the rocks. I had two rocks—that’s how I wrote that.

Then you progressed.

Yeah, I moved on to bigger rocks, bricks. [Chuckles from the interviewer.]

Do you actually write out the songs or just play them for a copyist?
I haven’t realty needed that for a while. The first couple of bands, we mainly worked on feel and did things out of our head. In this band I can tell somebody what I want, and I can give them a different idea if I want them to change it. We don’t read. They may read music, I don’t know. I asked them. But we don’t have any music.

Earlier you said there’s not a lot of incentive around here like say, LA. Have you ever thought of moving someplace else to be more stimulated?
I don’t need any stimulation myself. I know a lot of other like it here ’cause it’s quiet. There are other places that are quieter, so I don’t worry about losing that. But I know there are a lot of people who would like to see this place really boom.
In your formative years, what did you listen to?
I didn’t do that too much then, either. I was an optimist [sic] or something.I didn’t like the music so much. I liked to make it, but I didn’t like what was going on. It was all sort of manipulated by the business. People write their best songs before they get in the business. A lot of my songs that will be on my next albums are songs I’ve written from years ago. They’re from the heart. You write them when you’re down and out or whatever. 
Why do you always sing in falsetto?
Because when my voice changed it went down, and I couldn’t get any power out of it. I couldn’t get any life, so to speak. The energy—I couldn’t get it from that voice. With the higher voice, it was easier to hit the higher notes. There’s something about the word high that I like. There’s something about the word. And it also hurts in my lower voice to sing, when l sing too hard. It doesn’t hurt in my falsetto.

What did you think of the way they promoted you as the youngest producer for Warner Bros. who did everything himself? It was the point that it was hype. 
I tried not to listen to it too much. That’s why I stayed here and lived here. I’m away from all of that. I don’t see the posters and magazines and stuff like that.

How does your ego handle that? You’re a well-known quantity in some cities, and you’re sitting here in the middle of the wilderness, where no one knows you. 
I like it. I like it a lot. People change when they find out who you are. Like the public. I make my best friends when they don’t know what I’m about. If they do the exact same thing I do, they tend to put up guards, and it’s kind of frustrating because they expect you to be an egomaniac. It’s kind of hard. The way I am now, I was always. I suppose if I lived in California and rode around in limos all the time and had people waiting on me hand and foot then maybe that could make you change. People with the strongest minds change to some degree. But I’m not into all of that. I’m right here and this is where I’ve always been. 

You and Owen used to go to a lot of concerts. What were you looking for?
I’d go to concerts like I go to movies—it’s just an escape. I think Owen was doing most of the work as far as what made things work smoothly. Concerts and movies are nice because it’s an escape from real life. You can just bury yourself in something else. I don’t really listen to the music so much at concerts as just looking at the players and wondering what they’re thinking about. 
What’s going to go through your mind and your audience’s mind when you’re at the Capri? 
First of all, I’ll be terrified. It’s going to be a small amount of people. It’s going to take a while to block out that there are people out there. I find it extremely hard performing for people. It’s like my band—I found it hard singing and playing in front of them at first. But after I got to know them better, it’s really easy now, and we alt bounce off each other as far as energy goes. Before I can bounce off the crowd, it’ll take a few songs. I think it’ll be the same with them, too. I’m really free and open once I get to know a person. But when I first encounter someone, I’m really laid back and cautious, I guess. 
You have to build up a trust and rapport. 
I’m constantly getting called shy and stuff like that. I don’t feel shy, but I guess I sometimes come off that way to people. At any rate, I don’t want to come off as shy to a crowd. So I’m working on that.

Do you feel having gone through all this that you’ve missed out on anything in life? I mean you’ve been heavily into your music for a long time.
I did, but I don’t regret it. I missed out on a lot. I used to like okay sports and I had to quit that. I used to want to go to college, and I certainly don’t have time for that. At one time I wanted to get married, and I don’t have time for that.

I wanted kids, too, ’cause I really like kids. But I don’t have time for that, either. I think mainly the things I missed out on, my mind just changed. Like right now I don’t want to get married or have kids or play sports. I think I’ve done what I wanted to do in life, teenage life.

What are you thinking about for the next album?
I’m constantly trying to do different things, you know. Whether they be better or good, it doesn’t matter. It only matters to me. If I find out that it’s for the worse, so? What it boils down to is that nothing means nothing except, you know, love. As long as I’ve got that, I don’t need money. If I went broke or something, it wouldn’t faze me. Love and music—as long as I’ve got that, everything’s cool. Everything.

What are your plans from here?
Just go out and play, and we’ll be revamping the show constantly. I hope to sell a lot of records. People that aren’t hip to it, I hope they do get hip to it. Because I’m going to be around for a while until something freaky happens—like a thunderbolt or something. I really want people to catch on to what I’m doing, because I’m going to do a lot of different things. I’ve got people behind me that love and care about me, I can help change things.
Are you concerned about your image? I don’t think Warners knows whether to market you as black, disco, or pop.
I have a lot of really nice acoustic songs I’d like to record it’s like "Three Times a Lady.” I didn’t write a song like that, but I’m using that as an example. That was a song that just couldn’t be stopped—it just broke everywhere. It didn’t matter that they were black or whatever. Sometimes I’m tempted to just not do another single like "Soft and Wet” and  just do something out of the ordinary. Then if that hits, then people would, I guess,
Realize. I don’t want to be trapped into a particular thing that would be hindering, because I would like to do a lot of different things.

What will Warners think of that?
They are going to come see us perform on Saturday. Everybody has a big impression that I’m really quiet. You know, if he doesn’t talk, then he probably won’t dance or sing too much. I have to go to the rest all those accusations, I guess.

I guess you got the image already.
I didn’t like to do a lot of interviews, and I didn’t do a lot because I got misquoted a lot, you know. A lot of writers have a way of switching words around, and it comes off like you don’t know what’s going on. Plus I found it really hard to open up to people and I’ve been trying to work on that a lot lately within myself. That’s one of my weaknesses—sometimes I just won’t to talk to people at all. I’m trying to get over that. It hurts your business, as well.

I get the idea that you spend so much time at home getting into your music that you didn’t have the time or energy to relate to others.
Yeah. That’s it, you’re right. I don’t know, it’s like I get high off of playing my music or going to a movie alone or going to a concert or something like that, because I can just fantasize about anything I want when I’m doing those things. When I talk to people it’s almost a routine. They’ll tell you what they want you to know and you have to [know]—it’s really dumb, and you’re supposed to accept that and give your response. I don’t like to talk too much; I like to act. I’ve done a lot of strange things as far as that goes. I’m getting out of it slowly and trying to relate to people a little more. I think I best relate performing and playing music. There’ll be a time probably when I won’t do any interviews. I know they’re important right now ’cause people won’t know what’s on my mind. I don’t mind doing them with people I can bounce off of rather than they ask the same stupid questions—"What kind of food do you eat?” It doesn’t really matter.

Is there anything else you want to talk about?
First of all, I’d like to say this was about the most interesting interview I’ve done. I’ve never talked this much in my life. [Giggles.] I swear.