Mayte and Me
It's new-life, new-leaf
By Eve MacSweeney
It's midnight at SmashBox studios, in L.A.'s desolate Culver City. The team -- photographer (now napping), his two assistants, two stylists, hair, makeup, two record-company reps, and me -- has assembled for the night ahead. The clothes -- Helmut Lang, Gucci, Galliano (for him and her, and they share a shoe size) -- have been hung on the racks, the jewelry laid out on the bench. We chit, we chat, we stroll back and forth for another canapé or Coca-Cola, but there's suspense in the air. Everyone's attention is subliminally fixed on the door at the far end of the studio, to which out eyes flicker repeatedly, as if expecting a hot wind to blow through.
With the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, who now goes by the slightly less chewy title of the Artist, there are more variables than with most. The man who scrawled SLAVE on his cheek during the final stages of disentanglement from his recording contract with Warner Bros. is clearly his own master now: Earlier in the day, he rescheduled a sedate Sunday afternoon session to this late hour, right after the Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic, where he was receiving a Key of Life special achievement award from Stevie Wonder. Besides, there's no absolute guarantee that he will show, or for how long; that he will talk, or for how long. A couple of days before, he had posed for a photographer, then left after the first roll of film had been shot, not digging the vibe. He's a night owl, his people tell us, and tonight he'll be on a high. For the rest of us, it's caffeine all the way.
Finally it happens. And it's less a whirlwind than a light breeze as the Artist, his wife, Mayte, and one bodyguard walk quietly through the door and introduce themselves. The Artist is wearing a long feminine rollneck sweater and bell-bottoms, a pendant with a rendering of his name, , an elaborate silver sickle-moon cuff on top of one ear, and pink Cuban-heeled boots. Mayte, sleek and sexy, wears a one-shoulder Versace dress, a ponytail, an ankle bracelet, and a large rock on her fourth finger. Aaron, the bodyguard, who looks like a deflated version of a James Brown thug -- young, shaved-headed, and Eastern European-looking, with an earpiece and the obligatory facial scar -- gets straight on the phone. The Artist's luggage was lost between Minneapolis and Los Angeles, and he's trying to track it -- I think I hear the word purple. A message has been discreetly conveyed, and the Sam Cooke that has been playing on the sound system is replaced with the Artist's current triple CD, Emancipation, which at three hours long almost lasts us through the session. Mayte settles in for makeup, and I sit down with the Artist to talk.
After all the ripples that surround him, being one-on-one with the Artist is a bit like finding yourself in the eye of the storm. In conversation, he's low-key and polite -- not charming, exactly, but with flashes of warmth. Signs of the showmanship he displays onstage -- his is the tightest, the most humorous and entertaining live act I've ever seen -- occasionally break through his offstage wariness.
At first his eyes are on the wall, then he gets more animated and turns the kohl-rimmed beauties on me. (This, I gather, is a fairly recent breakthrough in the Artist's interview etiquette.) Part of his relative openness these days is no doubt because these are happier times for him: He married Mayte, a 23-year-old Puerto Rican dancer, just over a year ago, and he's signed a new record deal, on his terms, with EMI. (What's particularly rankled him about his Warner Bros. contract was that he doesn't own his own master recordings, and that the company rationed his musical output.) Emancipation, which he released at his own financial risk, has just gone double-platinum -- "Not bad for someone whose career was supposed to be in the gutter," he says, with a trace of bitterness. There's a sense that he has come through an early midlife crisis -- he has, after all, been a professional musician for half of his 38 years -- in which he's wrestled with success, ego, religion, and control, and struggled to come to some sort of resolution.
We start with this, and with what the word emancipation means to him.
"You have to emancipate people first from themselves," he says. "Your ego want to have the biggest and best for yourself. But you have to think what path that would lead you down. You find nothing that satisfies you. You're continually given things you've seen before -- money, gold records, sold-out shows. You forget that you should be thankful." Just when you're gasping at this humility rap, he comes through with some humor. "Do you have to have a big ego to be an artist?" I ask. "If you do it right," he says, and smiles.
The business with his name is in part a negation of ego, but the slave/emancipation riff is also more political than the Artist's publicity machinery would have us believe. He talks about slave names. "Nel-son," he enunciates. "I've been looking for the Nel in my family tree, and I don't see one. You really do belong to something or someone, and until you get out from under that, you're not free." (Obviously the bank doesn't tolerate these complexities: A check he later sends the magazine for ownership of these photos, which he insists on, is stamped with a no-nonsense P.R. NELSON.) He likes to roam the Internet, he tells me, under a name we'll never know.
God has helped him, and so has Mayte. The Artist is very serious about God, and he's very serious about sex. He expresses his amazement that anyone could accept an award and now find the time to thank God. "That's how you can really tell what time it is," he says. (And judging by the recent Grammys, God is at the top of a lot of artists' lists these days.) As for sex, when I ask him how it feels to finally be free of his Warner Bros. deal, he tells me, "It's like eighteen orgasms at once." I laugh, but he's not trying to be funny. Later we talk about Kamasutra, the ballet he is currently creating for Mayte. It is, he says, "perfect music to make love to." And he means it.
"Mayte grounds me," he says. "She doesn't try to change me, but she makes me more aware of certain things. She's given me respect for life. She's brought in animals to the house -- two dogs, two cats, two doves." Together they've been working on a charity, Love 4 One Another, for underprivileged children and people in need.
The couple are very clean and green. Mayte, he says, has a vision of the future where kids will go to nightclubs not to drink or take drugs but just to chill and get into the music. And she's converted her husband to a "complete vegetarian kick" -- he talks of wanting to get a farmer on the payroll at Paisley Park.
The sadder element of their marriage -- the fact that they apparently had a physically impaired son who died soon after birth -- is off-limits, and is something that you sense the Artist has again made an effort of will and spirit too come to terms with. "When you have faith in God, you don't have bad days," he says at one point. When I ask if I can talk to Mayte, he demurs, saying that she's had a lot to deal with lately.
The famous eyes are beginning to stray toward the door, so I wind up the questions. Then the fun begins in front of the camera. The Artist and Mayte try on clothes, falling about in hysterics at the sight of him in a red-and-white-leather biker-style Galliano jumpsuit. "You look like Eval Knievel," she says. "They got some pretty weird clothes back there," he tells me with a camp roll of the eyes, before getting back onto safer ground by pulling out his own array of trilbies and fedoras.
Visually they make and interesting couple: he so delicate, she with a dancer's body, womanly curves, and a broad-planed, beautiful face. Physically, she's relaxed and confident, at ease with herself. Posing together, she and the Artist throw shapes like a practiced double act, as though they do this every day in the mirror -- and they probably do.
After three costume changes and a hundred variations of the embrace, the Artist sends the hairdresser out from under the lights to announce that they're about to call it a night. He takes one more trip across the floor in those Cuban heels and, without looking at Aaron, holds a finger out toward him for his pendant. And they're off.
Three weeks later, the Artist throws a private party at Manhattan's Life club to celebrate Emancipation's sales. It's a cool scene, with black royalty gracing the small subterranean room, into which a Minneapolis DJ has been imported to spin the decks. Quincy Jones is here, and Spike Lee, Tony Rich, L.L. Cool J, and Savion Glover; industry big-wheels Guy Oseary, Dallas Austin, Motown's Andre Harrell, and Def Jam's Russell Simmons; and a smattering of white rock stars, such as Billy Corgan, Marilyn Manson, and Joan Osborne, whose song about God, "One of Us," is covered on Emancipation. Lenny Kravitz arrives with much ado in an enormous hat and shades. The Artist, dressed in red, moves through the crowd, with Aaron in discreet attendance, taking in the jazzed-up, low-key vibe until 6 A.M.
Everywhere he goes, he is smiling, smiling.
THOUGH THE BUZZING of the talk around him threatened to drown out the music that made him a cultural landmark, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince is once again writing and performing his trademark sexually potent pop. His newest album, Emancipation (NPG Records), marks an important turning point in a career peppered with (as he once sang) controversy. Most recently, his battle to break free of his former record label, Warner Bros., led to speculation that he was withholding Grade A material until he had a more satisfactory deal elsewhere. Whether or not that was the case, the double-platinum and counting Emancipation is a three-disc dish of classic funk, pearly ballads, pastel-hued jams, and even a creamy cover of the Joan Osborne hit, "One of Us." It is a romantic, emotional record, and one that is also powered by the Artist's (as he is now called) faith in God and love for his wife, Mayte Garcia. Here he sits down in New York with writer and director Spike Lee, whose 1996 film Girl 6 featured on its soundtrack songs by the man record sellers now "file under Prince."
SPIKE LEE: It is February 7, in the year of our Lord 1997, St. Moritz Hotel, New York, and I am here with the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. To start, there's something that we need to get out of the way. I really feel awkward asking you this, but I just have to. Will you say anything about your child [who, it has been widely reported, died shortly after his birth last fall]?
THE ARTIST: I have written a song that says: If you ever lose someone dear to you, never say the words, "They're gone," and they'll come back.
SL: That will be a highly anticipated song. Before we drove down to The Chris Rock Show, where you were taping a segment, I asked you about the title of your multi-platinum album Emancipation. I said, "Do you feel free?" and you gave a great response.
TA: There is something that happens when you get emancipated. You approach life differently. You eat differently. You respect yourself more. You respect the gift you have been given. Everything has changed for me since I changed my name. It's one thing to be called Prince but it's another thing to actually be one. I have such a reverence for life now. And I have stopped eating all animal products.
SL: So, when you look back, do you see periods in your life when you did not like your Prince persona?
TA: Toward the end I was a little ashamed of what Prince had become. I really felt like a product, and then I started turning in work that reflected that. I had no problem with people saying I was repeating myself. I knew where I was headed and I just needed direction. I looked up and L. Londell McMillan was there.
SL: You mean your new lawyer?
TA: Yes. He also has a reverence for life. He seems to be a righteous soul and is focused as to what he is on earth for. Those are some of the things we talked about -- what we as black people are supposed to represent during this time period.
SL: Six or seven years ago I had the audacity to write you a letter about your choice of women used in music and music videos. Do you remember that?
SL: Let's talk about it. I think it was very rude on my part. I'll be forty on March 20th and in a lot of ways back then I was too righteous about that type of stuff. Tell the audience what was in the letter I wrote you.
TA: I don't remember exactly. It's really vague to me.
SL: I wrote, Are there going to be any women of dark complexion in your music videos and your films? You had only white women in your stuff. Do you recall what you wrote back to me? You set me straight there?
TA: I probably said, One had to look at everything I had done, not just the most successful pieces. But I have to be honest, I know you as a different person now, too. We met under different circumstances back then, and I have grown and so have you.
SL: Do you remember the first time we met?
TA: Graffiti Bridge [the Artist's 1990 dramatic film]?
SL: Yes, you invited me and my producer Monty Ross up to the shoot. Now I'd like to ask you, how has marriage changed you?
TA: It is ever-evolving every day. It is not a subject I like discussing, but my wife's pregnancy made me an adult four times over. Kids will do that. Just dealing with every circumstance is an emotional roller coaster, but nevertheless I have grown so much as a soul. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel a lot better now.
SL: Let's talk about your last couple of years at [your former label] Warner Bros. records. Would it be safe to say that the music you were putting out was just fulfilling a contract, or were you giving the best you had to offer at that time?
TA: I was doing my best to fulfill my contract. You can now hear that my soul has been in love with [my wife] Mayte for thousands of years. I believe that I was just trying to express it in a simple record. I wanted to say friend, lover, sister, mother, wife back then, but it wasn't the time. If you check the video for the song "Seven," you will see Mayte and I walking through the doors hand-in-hand and the dove exploding. That was when I spiritually checked out of the situation; but I did what I had to do.
SL: Right now I have a copy of your Emancipation CD and my wife wanted to kill me because I had "Soul Sanctuary" on repeat. I played that song for two hours straight. It's four minutes long. Divide that into two hours. She was about to go upside my head. But tell me about that song. I love it!
TA: Sandra St. Victor helped with that one. The melody is basically mine, but the lyrics were inspired by verses that Sandra wrote. I love the idea of an ex-lover leaving her reflection in the mirror after she's gone. You know, I just hope to see the day when all artists, no matter what color they are, own their masters [tapes].
SL: Let me ask you this: Why don't African-American artists own their own masters? Is it because we don't have the right lawyers?
TA: I think we can get the right lawyers, but I think we all need to change our mind-set and go in specifically after that [ownership of master recordings] and not just take the pink Cadillac. Then you will see change. It is befuddling how other people own their masters. I guess it's who you know and what deal you make.
SL: It's about ownership, isn't it?
TA: Ownership, that's what you give your kids. That's your legacy. Every one of those songs!
SL: And what about your name?
TA: You know, black people still call me Prince. Sometimes I ask them, "Why do you call me Prince?" And people say, "Because you are a prince to us." Usually when they say that, you know my heart goes out and I say, "I don't mind your calling me that." If there is a pronunciation to my name in the future, I hope it will be "Prince." That's my dream. But until that day, I'll just go by this. [Holds up a necklace with his symbol on it] This is my "X."
SL: You said that a lot of people were confused when you wrote "slave" on your face. People said they didn't know what to call you, but you got it all worked out now?
TA: We got it all worked out! My worth went down a little bit during that period. [laughs] I'm sure there will be a few doors closed to me now because of my emancipation.
SL: Yeah, well that's the mentality of a runaway slave. You're no longer a house-negro. The millennium is coming up. Everybody knows what song is going to be played on New Year's Eve 1999. [laughs] Can you talk about any of your plans? When will we see another album?
TA: To be honest, I thought I had emptied the gun with this one [Emancipation] and I wouldn't have to record for awhile, but some new things came up that are all acoustic.
TA: Yeah, just me and a guitar in a room. One song is called "The Truth" and one is called "Don't Play Me." There is a line about ebonics in it but I won't get into that. [both laugh]
SL: No, let's get into that. What do you think about ebonics? I think it's a plot! And there's black people behind that plot.
TA: Comedian Chris Rock said it best: There is language that will get you a job and there is language that won't. Make that choice as an American. This is where you live now.
SL: Tell me honestly, and you can answer this any way you want: How did you like the way we used your songs in Girl 6? Talk about that process, because the way we did it I had already cut the film before adding your songs. You were also generous enough to give us three new songs. Tell me which songs worked for you in the movie and which ones didn't?
TA: Some worked stronger than others, but overall, musically, I didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised and I like the film for the style in which you did it. I'd never seen that done before. The scene at Coney Island, where you used "How Come U Don't Call Me Any More" is my favorite scene. In fact it forced me to put that song back into our set. I said I would never play it again because I used to think I couldn't do it better than I did with my band, the Revolution. But your film gave me newfound respect for the music.
SL: When you came up with that song, "Sexy Mother Fucker," I said, "My man is losing his mind." But I liked it.
TA: The chorus was a little "different" for you, huh? [SL in background singing, "shakin' that ass, shakin' that ass"] I was talking to Chris Rock and he said the same thing. "Every time you put out an album, I think you've lost your mind!" The music I make a lot of the time is reflective of the life I am leading, and "Sexy MF" came during the period I had the Glam Slam disco [in Minneapolis] and I was hanging out there a lot. There was a dance troupe there, and the sexier the dancers, the bigger the revenues and the noisier the crowd. It's funny, but you have to remember that was during the time when the biggest club song was "Bitch Betta Have My Money." When you hear something constantly, you can get swayed by the current. I was swayed by hip-hop at the time.
SL: Do you feel that you successfully incorporated rap into your music. Sometimes it felt like it was just stuck on.
TA: I've gotten some criticism for the rap I've chosen to put in my past work. But there again, it came during my friction years. If you notice, not a lot of that stuff is incorporated into my sets now. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised when you hear the new remixes we are working on. On the rap tip though, it is an old style and I have always done it kind of differently -- half sung, you know, like "Irresistible Bitch" and some of the other things I use to do.
SL: Do you ever think that you have been cursed? That you can't stop the music in your head?
TA: Sometimes it is a curse, but it's also a blessing. It's a gift that I am completely grateful for. That's why I keep [making music], because I don't want to be ungrateful for the gift.
SL: I know you guys like to keep it all mysterious, but I know there is a creative process to how you write a song. It might now be the same thing all the time, though.
TA: Yes, it is different all the time. The main way that something comes is fully completed. And the fun part is just listening. When I'm writing, sometimes the pen just goes. I'm not in charge and I'm almost listening outside of it. That's when I realize that we all have to start looking at life as a gift. It's like listening to a color and believing that these colors have soulmates and once you get them all together the painting is complete.
SL: What is Cat [a former dancer with the Artist] doing now?
TA: Last time I spoke with her she walked up to Mayte and me and said to us, "I like you two dancing together, but she'll never be what I was with you." The very last time we spoke. [laughs]
SL: And Apollonia?
TA: To be honest, I haven't really spoken to anybody. Once I got married, the phone stopped ringing.
SL: You said earlier that you have been in love with Mayte for one thousand years. Can you elaborate on that?
TA: I am a firm believer in reincarnation for people who either have more work to do or have so much debt to pay back that they have to be here. I hope for me it is the former, and my work was finding Mayte and having a child, which we will continue on until there are several here.
SL: Would you like to comment on how the media attempted to make a circus out of that particular episode?
TA: What people have to realize is that if one has a firm belief in God and the spirit, then one does not make statements that are negative and untrue. I would have been lying to myself and the spirit of the child. I have a very thick skin. I take everything that comes and let it bounce right off of me because I know the time will come when nobody will be able to speak falsely. Mankind doesn't understand the whole process yet; that we have to ask for ownership of our masters, instead of taking the Cadillac, so to speak.
SL: Quick music question: Why did you decide to make "Betcha By Golly Wow!" the first single from Emancipation? Why did you want to do a cover?
TA: I don't believe in singles. The singles market has changed. I am trying to get to the old days of releasing albums at will, like Star Wars coming out again.
SL: I want to ask you about how you pick your bands. You've had several. Can you tell me about the whole process? Is it the same way a general manager would pick a team?
TA: I have been blessed with having these people come to me. I don't want to sound cosmic or anything, but it really seems magical because in this case I was looking for a group of four vegetarians.
SL: Was that actually a criterion, that they have to be totally vegetarian? Do you think that meat and stuff clogs up your brain?
TA: Our people have the worst diet of anybody. I'm ready to put a farmer on my payroll. We've got to get back to growing our own food. You are what you eat!
SL: For our audience, I want to present this question to you: How is it that Geffen, Spielberg, and Katzenberg got together? How was it that these three giants put aside their egos and came together for the whole? What would stop African-American artists like me, yourself, Michael Jordan, Bill Cosby...
TA: My hat goes off to anyone who can sit down and put their heads together. I am ready for something like that because I am free and I am happy and I have time. There were a lot of things in the way before. I have nothing put time now, and I love getting older.
SL: We've got to do a musical together.
TA: We have to do several. Some will hit and some won't, but hey, we have the time.
TheArtst: the artist is here...where r u?
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?
TA: We don't eat anything with parents. Complete vegans -- both of us! The opening lyrics to "Animal Kingdom" (on the forthcoming album The Truth) 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?
TA: 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.
TA: 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?
TA: 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?
TA: 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?
TA: 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?
TA: 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?
TA: 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?
TA: 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?
TA: 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?
TA: 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?
TA: Emancipation 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!
Taken from the October issue of Vegetarian Times.
Copyright (c) 1997 Vegetarian Times
Sites O' the Times
Artists have always been interested in
By Ben Greenman
In his early days, Prince was dismissed as a sensualist. Later on, when he started writing scriptural pop like Lovesexy and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, he was ridiculed as a spiritualist. All along the way, the Minneapolis multi-instrumentalist has been at once an avid consumer and a sharp critic of technology. The title song of 1999 fretted about nuclear weaponry, while the title song of Sign O' the Times mused on the folly of space travel in the wake of the Challenger disaster.
In recent years, the Artist has turned his attention toward interactive technologies, particularly the Internet. Last year's triple album Emancipation included two songs about cyberspace -- "Emale" and "My Computer," the latter of which sampled America Online's "Welcome," "You've got mail," and "Good-bye" sounds. The Love 4 One Another Web site launched this summer. And on the eve of his Jam of the Year tour, in mid-July, the Artist even drew more than 300,000 participants on an AOL chat. Because of his interest in the online medium, the Artist agreed to talk to Yahoo! Internet Life about his music, his fans, the future of the Internet, and even cybersex.
YIL: When did you first go online?
The Artist: I first went online alone 7 months ago, 2 the best of my recollection.
YIL: How often do you go online?
TA: When I am not on the road, maybe 3 or 4 times a week.
YIL: Are there any sites that you think are especially good?
TA: Love 4 One Another. I also like the news section on AOL.
YIL: Are there any sites that you think are especially bad?
TA: Bad is not a word I use unless I am describing a fine girl.
YIL: Do you visit the alt.music.prince newsgroup? If so, what do you think about it?
TA: I have seen it once or twice. It seems 2 just be a place 4 trading bootlegs.
YIL: Do you visit the fan Web sites devoted to your music? If so, what do you think about them?
TA: There are many I really dig. I'm really interested in getting all my friends 2gether on one site.
YIL: How do you feel about tape-trading and bootleg CDs? Have you ever bought a bootleg of one of your own performances?
TA: I understand their existence. But I don't agree with buying and selling stolen property. Trading isn't so despicable.
YIL: What about all the rumors, speculation, and criticism about you that circulates online? Is it amusing or annoying? For example, someone wrote to the newsgroup to complain that you always release the weakest songs from albums as singles.
TA: Opinion is how the world changes. That's cool, but lies and rumors don't deserve response. Also consider that any release of a single is only an advertisement 4 the album. And guess which 1 costs more?
YIL: On your newsgroup, some people have worried that the charity aspect of the Love 4 One Another site will be overwhelmed by the fandom aspect. Are you concerned about this?
TA: Not in the least bit. Negative souls are bored by things like charity. They obviously think the world revolves because of something other than love.
YIL: Why did you close your previous official site, The Dawn?
TA: Because without my involvement, the message was getting blurred. In my humble opinion, the dawn occurs when spiritual enlightenment takes place. When 1 learns of his or her relationship 2 everything on Earth and the universe. The new Web site will mirror the positive aspects of the dawn. In my rush 2 enlighten myself and others, I tried 2 "buffalo the vibe thru" when it was not ready. Love 4 One Another is the dawn.
YIL: Since you broke with Warner Bros., you've explored alternatives to traditional distribution. Do you have any plans to sell your music directly to consumers via the Net?
TA: Yes. NPG Records will sell as well as give away a lot of new and old music over the Internet in the not-too-distant future.
YIL: Will record labels eventually disappear?
TA: The writing is on the wall. Other souls were successful in their divide-and-conquer approach 4 a while. But now that we communicate with each other on a worldwide basis, the need 4 an "in4mation censor" is no longer a reality. The process of manufacturing and delivering music 2 a "friend" is not brain surgery.
YIL: On Emancipation, you wrote two songs about the Internet -- "Emale" and "My Computer." What was the inspiration for those songs?
TA: A man who unsuccessfully tried 2 "play me" was the catalyst 4 "Emale." I imagined his woman looking at her computer and being seduced by her "emale." "My Computer" was inspired by some of the insightful talks I have had with many positive people on the Net.
YIL: "Emale" is about cybersex. What do you think about cybersex? Have you ever done it?
TA: Ain't nothin' like the real thang.
YIL: In Graffiti Bridge, you use a Macintosh. Do you still use a Mac?
TA: My art department does. My wife owns an IBM. That's what I use.
YIL: Does "Computer Blue" have anything at all to do with computers?
TA: It may. That hasn't revealed itself yet.
YIL: What is the place of computer technology in composing new music?
TA: I try 2 let the song dictate its own direction. If one makes music with a computer, one has 2 be satisfied with the computer's limitations (and there are many, especially when it comes 2 music), though some songs only "sing" when programmed on a computer.
YIL: On the Interactive enhanced CD and The Gold Experience LP, there's a lot of talk about interactivity -- "over 500 experiences to choose from," etc. Have you ever thought about creating new types of music especially for the Internet-interactive environments, personalized songs, and so on?
TA: Yes. We are in discussion now 2 design a computer that can be a member of my band as well as interact with the audience. I have always been intrigued by the notion of being inside a computer.
YIL: OK, now for some final questions. If you were to write a theme song for the Internet, what would it be called, and what would it sound like?
TA: "New World."
YIL: The Net seems to attract lots of studio-obsessed musicians. Is surfing the Net at all like being in the studio?
TA: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!
YIL: Do you think "Shockadelica" is your best song? If not, why not?
TA: "Shockadelica" is about a witch. "The Holy River" is about redemption. I am no judge.
YIL: What do you think about the Warner Bros. site?
TA: I never visit their site.
YIL: Most of the online search engines still have you listed as "Prince," rather than the androgyny symbol, "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," or "The Artist." How do you feel about that?
TA: 2 each his own. I am a progressor. Some like the past. I don't mind.
YIL: This may sound nuts, but does the Camille alter ego, which you used on Sign O' the Times, have anything to do with the famous nineteenth-century hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin, who was nicknamed Camille? If so, my younger brother will be very, very happy, since he has spent roughly a decade trying to convince me of this.
TA: Your brother is very wise.
YIL: And finally, will you be online in 1999?
TA: In some form, yes.
Detroit asks the questions,
BY BRIAN MCCOLLUM Free Press Pop Music Writer
Well, we knew he was a cryptic sort of guy.
When we asked Free Press readers to send us questions for the artist formerly known as Prince, who plays the Palace on Saturday, we weren't sure what we might be getting into.
The artist is, after all, a man not known for his forthright interviews. Though he's opened up to the press this year more than at any time in the past -- at least he's agreed to talk at all -- the musician who built a career on mystery and intrigue hasn't exactly turned into a chatterbox.
The interviews he's done recently have been conducted by fax and E-mail, which leaves little room for probing or follow-up. Still, this was a chance for Detroiters to connect with a beloved hero who's been virtually invisible until now.
More than 300 of you responded to the call, some with personal messages for the artist. Unfortunately, time and space limitations kept us from forwarding such requests as this one from a Wayne reader: "Could he please sing 'Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife' at my daughter's wedding on Saturday, Aug. 8, 1998, in Flushing, Mich.?"
Some questions dominated: When will the artist release a live album? When's the next movie? And in homage to the classic "1999," where's he playing New Year's Eve at the turn of the century?
He didn't answer everything, including a series of questions about potential collaborations with a number of peers, including Bjork, Beck and Detroit techno maestro Carl Craig.
Here are the answers he decided to divulge, via a handwritten, faxed response. Keep in mind, the funky shorthand -- "2" for "to"; "4" for "for"; and so on -- is all his own.
Q: Do you have plans to do another movie?
A: I would love to work with Kasi Lemmons. (Editor's note: Lemmons wrote and directed the acclaimed "Eve's Bayou," and was just named Best New Director by Entertainment Weekly.)
Q: Any plans to release a live album? Or perform a live TV concert? How about an "MTV Unplugged" ?
A: The quintessential live set will be released sometime in 1999.
Q: Do you plan to perform on Dec. 31, 1999? And where will that show be?
A: Psych! (Ed. note: In other words, he's not committing to an answer.)
Q: With all the renovation and development in our city, would you consider opening a nightclub, studio or restaurant here?
A: A school would b better. One that abolishes the grading system! No child should ever fail. That's not the idea.
Q: You play so many instruments. Which are you primarily using for writing these days?
A: I write in my head. The rest is just dictation.
Q: Does the standard eight- to 10-song album still hold interest for you, or has it become too constricting?
A: 2 constricting, although with some sets, like "The Truth," it's cool.
Q: Over the past two decades of music you've produced, you've managed to create and manipulate the most intriguing and original beats ever recorded, either through drum machine or kit. On "Emancipation," you opted to use Kirky J. Any plans to get back behind the drum board, or better yet, put your own foot back on the kit?
A: The newest, most favorite pieces I've done -- I handle drum duties.
Q: You're one of my favorite guitar players. Are we going to see any more music like "Purple Rain" or "Chaos & Disorder"? I'm interested to hear more of that rock, bluesy style.
A: Disc 2 of "Crystal Ball" is 4 u! ORDER NOW!
Q: What do you feel when you're on stage in front of us all?
PHILOSOPHY AND SPIRITUALITY
Q: The song "1999" has a tone of prophesy to it, and in all areas of life right now, our world seems to be in a state of quickening toward something, maybe even an event. What was your inspiration for writing "1999," and what do you feel about this quickening we're going through?
A: God is my main inspiration. 2 wake from this dream and live in a better one is my hope 4 the future.
Q: I know you're a very spiritual person, and have made references in previous albums to multiple souls. Do you believe in reincarnation? And if so, do you believe you were an artist in a previous life?
A: In a previous life, I was a creator.
Q: If God came to you right now and asked you to play one song of yours, what would it be?
Q: When will see an album of all new material?
Q: Will your next album be more commercial, or innovative?
A: What is commercial, and what is innovative? One of my biggest records had no bass -- "When Doves Cry."
Q: What musician would you like to work with that you have not?
A: I never leave dreams unfulfilled.
Q: I really enjoy "Another Lonely Christmas," and I was wondering if you'd ever do a Christmas album.
A: EEK! Best 2 look up the real meaning of Xmas 1st!
Q: The last three months alone, two bootleg, three-CD sets of very good-to-perfect quality artist outtakes have been released. I also have the unreleased album "The Truth." Does it concern you that bootleggers seem to be getting a jump on releasing material fans want to hear?
THE MUSIC OF OTHERS
Q: Besides Joni Mitchell, what musicians turned you onto music?
A: So many: James Brown, Santana, my childhood friend Sonny Thompson, & Larry Graham, 2 name a few.
Q: Which of today's artists remind you of your music? I think of D'Angelo, Maxwell, Erykah Badu. Any other artists you're particularly digging these days?
A: I like the ones u've mentioned. They r nice people.
Q: I'm 13 years old and would love to be a singer. Everybody I talk to says I have talent. What advice would you give a hopeful?
A: Stay out of the music business. Retain ownership of your work and as well your life, if u r a serious artist.
The artist's charity group asks concertgoers to bring new coats, hats and warm clothing to the Palace for Detroit homeless shelter Off the Streets.