A Prince of a guy

The rocker with a “bad boy” rep talks to Vegetarian Times about the loves of his life: his wife, music and vanilla soymilk.

Catherine Censor Shemo




MOST KNOW HIM as the guy with the symbol for a name-the rocker whose raunchy lyrics were quoted in Congress during the debate over parental advisories on recordings; the guy whose sense of style includes peek-a-boo clothing and bold gestures such as scrawling “slave” on his cheek during his disputes with Warner Bros. But there’s a surprising side to The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

The man behind the symbol is witty, political, compassionate, deeply spiritual-and vegetarian . He’s also newly talkative. For much of his career, the Artist ( as he is ref erred to by friends and even Mayte, his wife) , rarely granted interviews. His reluctance to discuss the name change or other, more tragic aspects of his life (he and Mayte reportedly had a physically impaired son who died soon after birth), fueled rampant tabloid rumor.

But now, at 38, the Artist seems to have found his voice. And perhaps the reason is that he has a great deal to talk about: He finally owns the master tapes to his own work and his latest triple CD, Emancipation has gone double platinum. He is deeply in love with his wife. 23-year-old Mayce ("my-TAY"), a dancer and former member of the Artist’s band , the New Power Generation; together they have founded a charity, Love 4 One Another, that helps underprivileged kids and adults. And his vegetarianism-indeed much of his outlook on Life-has been inspired by his love for her.

If the Artist is still learning his way around a vegetarian refrigerator (Mayte describes his food preferences as “still kind of bland-he isn’t used to the ethnic food; that vegetarians eat"), he’s both knowledgeable and outspoken about animal rights and human nutrition. In fact , the theme of animal rights has cropped up in the lyrics of two recent songs. One of them, “Joint 2 Joint,” on the Emancipation CD reveals a distinct preference for soy milk over dairy ("Oh great/Now you think you’re my soul mate/You don’t even know what kind of cereal I like/Wrong/Captain Crunch/With soymilk/Cuz cows are for calves"). The other, “Animal Kingdom,” from his as yet unreleased CD, Truth, takes an unnamed friend to task for singing the praises of cow’s milk. That “friend” is apparently Spike Lee who has appeared in the dairy industry’s “milk mustacl1e” ad campaign.

In an exclusive interview. we asked the Artist about everything from karma to Captain Crunch. Here’s what he had co say:

Vegetarian Times: How, when and why did you and Mayte become vegetarians?

The Artist: I’ve not eaten red meat for about 10 years now. Mayte for a lot longer. I’ve always had a preference for all things vegetarian but not until recently did I find out how good they were for you (in a physical sense)

VT: How far have you taken your vegetarianism? The lyrics on Emancipation’s “Joint to Joint” suggest you like soy milk on your cereal. Have you given up dairy and eggs as well as flesh foods?

The Artist: We don’t eat anything with parents. Complete vegans—both of us! The opening lyrics to “Animal Kingdom” [on the forthcoming Truth album] refer to a conversation between Spike and me about the benefits of cow’s milk over human. I believe they are few.

VT: Many people become vegetarian out of concern for their health, but I know that’s not what motivated you and Mayte. Can you tell us how your beliefs affected this decision?

The Artist:Thou shalt not kill means just that! We don’t have to kill things to survive. In fact, the complete opposite happens: If you kill, you will die.

VT: That sounds pretty dire. Speaking of dire: Some people think vegetarianism is all about denying yourself pleasure. Have you found this to be true? You don’t strike me as the kind of guy who thinks sensual pleasure is negative.

The Artist:Mayte and I get no pleasure from playing Russian Roulette with food. Eating anything ridden with bacteria raises your chances for disease. Being sick is not pleasurable.

VT: I gather that Mayte is the driving force behind your interest in vegetarianism. Would you have gotten there without her influence?

The Artist: Mayte showed me how many different vegetarian dishes one could have and never miss the things you would imagine. I never was a big milk drinker anyway, but I really like vanilla soy milk. Being without my wife’s influence is not a reality to me, so I don’t speculate on life without her.

VT: What changes have the two of you noticed since becoming vegetarians?

The Artist: I actually enjoy eating more. I have more energy and most of all, my aura is stronger. One can actually feel one’s karmic debt decrease with every meal. Mayte enjoys preparing meals for the two of us. It strengthens our bond.

VT: Your practical, as well as philosophical experience, is of interest to us. Now that you’re eating vegetarian meals, are you learning to cook differently? Do you have a chef who cooks for you? Do you have a favorite style of cuisine or a favorite meal?

The Artist: Mayte cooks for us. She’s always trying new things. The wonderful thing about vegetarianism is there is no favorite dish because there is no addiction. Non-vegetarians always speak about their favorite because it usually involves something artificial or something that doesn’t belong in them. Ah, the universe keeps expanding!

VT: I noticed that a major theme in your recent music is freedom. It’s on tracks like “Animal Kingdom” and “Joint 2 Joint” Is this a new area of exploration for you or has your freedom always been a central theme of even your early work? Has vegetarianism expanded the horizon of this concept?

The Artist: Freedom has always been a theme in my work. Vegetarianism is a natural step for anyone seeking oneness with the spirit. The conscience is powerful (in a good way) when clear and weak when not.

VT: Life can be pretty brutal. There’s a lot of senseless pain and suffering in the world, and some people say “Why waste your time worrying about animals when so many people are suffering?” Are vegetarians wasting their compassion? Distracting themselves from human pain?

The Artist: Compassion is an action word with no boundaries. It is never wasted. To eat a tomato and then replant it for your nutrition as opposed to killing a cow or a pig for your meal is reducing the amount of suffering in the world. Besides, pigs are too cute to die.

VT: Do you worry that fans of your music might be put off by the message of songs like “Animal Kingdom” or by the public declaration of your vegetarianism?

The Artist: Fan is short for “fanatic.” I call my supporters “friends.” My friends are very forward-thinking individuals. I’m not sure how many are meat eaters but soon all will know the consequences of a barbarian lifestyle. It’s called karma! My music is dictated by the spirit. Not worrying about people’s reaction is what has sustained me. I believe.

VT: Speaking of worrying about the public: There are lots of people who think vegetarianism is weird. You’re already the subject of lots of public speculation and gossip. Will declaring yourself vegetarian add fuel to that fire?

The Artist: We’d rather be looked over than overlooked. In all seriousness, it’s obvious that the world has problems, but doing nothing about it is foolish. We have holidays for dead presidents who stood for everything but freedom of the soul. We need an Animal Rights day when all the slaughterhouses shut down, and people don’t eat anything they can’t replace. Yeah!

VT: Much has been made of your name change. Does that signify a reinvention of self? A rebirth? What has fallen away with the old name?

The Artist: My name change is a complex issue not really suited for this discussion but what I can say is that it is much easier to separate the ego from the personality now. And I’m much happier since my name change.

VT: Tell us about the new album and your latest projects. What can we look forward to next?

The Artist: Emancipation [the current album] is a tour de force and what’s best is that I finally own the master tape—so if you have any of my work and you like it, please support this project because it’s the closest to my soul. Thank you for a chance to speak to the enlightened vegans of your magazine. We like being one of you!