Prince – The Gold Experience – Pers & interviews

Prince - The Gold Experience - Pers & Interviews (

Prince - The Gold Experience (

Dit artikel hoort bij het verhaal Eindelijk wordt Prince’ The Gold Experience uitgebracht!.


In 1995 verschenen veel overzichtsverhalen en interviews met of NPG-leden in magazines en kranten.

Veel daarvan werd geïnitieerd vanuit zelf, die iedereen wilde vertellen over zijn strijd tegen de muziek industrie. Uit al die verhalen kwam hij niet altijd even goed (lees: geestelijk gezond) over. Hij werd niet begrepen, vaak bewust. Niet dat zijn verhaal nou zo consistent was, maar zijn strijd en opstelling waren in de kern juist. Sterker nog, zonder zijn strijd had hij nooit de beschikking gekregen over zijn eigen muziek, nog tijdens zijn leven. Inmiddels wordt zijn strijd als baanbrekend en uiterst belangrijk gezien.

Maar het ‘kwaad’ zat met name in de overzichtsartikelen. was gewoon Prince, maar dan zonder succes, zonder goede muziek en zonder de mystiek. Een slap aftreksel van wat ooit Prince was in de ‘gouden jaren’ (19)80. Prince/ dreigde in de vergetelheid te raken.

Met name het stuk, onder de veelzeggende titel Purple Drain, in de (lokale) St. Paul Pioneer Press van 15 januari 1995 was schokkend. Volgens het stuk, waar niet de minsten een bijdrage aan hadden verleend, was Prince/’s organisatie bijna failliet en zorgde het door wanbetalingen voor faillissementen onder de leveranciers voor Paisley Park. Prince/ kwam als wereldvreemd over, die alles wat hij in zijn hoofd kreeg, ook daadwerkelijk wilde en zou hebben. ‘Het kan niet/is onmogelijk’, werd niet geaccepteerd. Het lijkt dat de monoloog in de documentaire An Evening with Kevin Smith (een dvd met Q&A sessies tussen Kevin Smith en verschillende fans) te bevestigen (lees daar meer over in het verhaal over The Rainbow Children.


De volgende artikelen zijn opgenomen in dit overzicht:




Rails, april 1995

Klik op de pagina’s om deze te vergoten.

de Volkskrant, 20-07-1995

Klik op het artikel om deze te vergoten.

Oor 17, 26-08-1995

Klik op de pagina’s om deze te vergoten.


Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 15-01-1995


Stories by Bruce Orwall

Since the phenomenal success of Prince’s “Purple Rain” a decade ago, no one has questioned the artist’s creative genius. But the status of his wildly unstable multimillion-dollar empire is another story.

WITH A NAME THAT CAN’T BE PRONOUNCED and the word “slave” scrawled on his cheek, Prince has put his faithful through a mighty test of patience in the past year.

Fans may be put off by Prince’s oddball star turns, but one group is a little testier than others: his creditors.

Paisley Park Enterprises, the company that oversees most of Prince’s business interests, is not paying its bills on time or at all. From the Twin Cities to Los Angeles, businesses that have done work for Prince say they must hound the pop star for payment and even take him to court.

Some Twin Cities companies have stopped working with Paisley Park. Others now demand payment upfront for services. One Minneapolis film producer declared bankruptcy last year after Paisley refused to paya $400,000 debt, then settled the bill 10 months late for 70 cents on the dollar.

“People haven’t gotten paid, it’s absolutely true,” says Randy Adamsick, president of the Minnesota Film Board.

Since soaring to multimillion-dollar fame with the “Purple Rain” film and soundtrack in 1984, Prince has operated as if money is no object, according to interviews with nearly 30 former employees and business associates. Despite earnings that easily top $150 million since then, the 36-year-old Minneapolis native has twice found himself in severe financial disarray – first in 1989, and again today.

His associates blame Prince’s habit of spending lavishly on his creative projects, with a cavalier disregard for budgets and professional advice.

“He’ll say, ‘We do this, this and this, and pretty soon…Jurassic Park!'” said Jenifer Carr, former chief financial officer of Paisley Park Enterprises. “He always thinks every project he works on is a home run, and the reality is it isn’t.”

Creditors say they don’t even know who to badger for payment anymore because Paisley Park is in such chaos. Every key company executive has quit or been fired by Prince in recent months, as have a slew of lower-level workers.

Meanwhile, Prince is locked in a cryptic sparring match with his label of 17 years, Warner Bros. Records, rooted in his desire to release new material more frequently. That battle prompted his much-ridiculed name change to 0(+> and his declarations that “Prince is dead” and that his Warner Bros. contract amounts to “institutionalized slavery.”

Despite lagging record sales, Prince’s exalted place in the pantheon of contemporary music is not in question. Few who have worked with Prince question the artistic direction of a man who ranks more with Miles Davis and John Coltrane than with the Michael Boltons and Jon Secadas with whom he shares chart space.

But even hard-core fans are starting to wonder where his career is headed.

“He’s losing a lot of his fans,” said Nathan Wright of Minneapolis, who operates a 900 line that trades in Prince information. “A lot of his fans are tired of it. It’s like a gigantic game that only he seems to know the rules to.”

Prince declined to discuss Paisley’s troubles. Through a Los Angeles publicist, the company issues a one-sentence statement: “There were management changes in 1993 and 1994, and we look forward to a happy and prosperous 1995.”

A LATE-NIGHT PHONE CALL has typically meat one thing for Paisley Park employees: Prince wants something done.

“He’d call on Friday night and want a set for Saturday morning,” said Blaine Marcou, who owned a company that did Prince’s set design for several years. “We’d work all night. Then he’d come in a 4 a.m., look at it and say, ‘I’m too tired. Go home.'”

But the money was already spent. Prince’s snap decisions might cost $20,000 or more, but many associates say he doesn’t seem to care. In Los Angeles, he often pays to have a crew of recording engineers on hand around the clock while he is in town, whether he plans to show up or not.

“Where other guys go out and buy cars and buy drugs and buy jets,” said Steve Fargnoli, the manager who guided Prince to stratospheric success from 1978 to 1988, “this kid is not interested in that. He’s interested in things that satisfy his creative urge. They may not be intelligent business decisions.”

Prince strikes the same risk-taking profile in business as in art. His style is hit and run; try something fast, and if it doesn’t work, move on to something else.

In a meeting, Prince will often listen impassively while advisers tell him why something can’t be done. When they finish, says Rob Borm, the Minneapolis filmmaker whose company went bankrupt, Prince willr emind them whose ideas got them all there in the first place, then say: “I’ll bet the house on this one.”

When one project doesn’t pan out, Prince makes the same bet on the next one. That willingness to spin the wheel and create a kaleidoscopic musical vision is part of Prince’s appeal as an artist. But it has proved a costly way to do business.

“Part of Prince’s creative energy is fueled by walking the edge,” said Craig Rice, former director of operations for Paisley Park Studios. “I don’t have a problem with walking the edge. The problem is, you’ve got to win occasionally.”

Prince’s associates point to his penchant for investing large sums of little or no commercial value: an erotic stage version of “Ulysses” that cost several hundred thousand dollars in 1993; the recent introduction of a cheaply packaged “poly-gender fragrance” called “Get Wild”; expensive stage sets and band rehearsals for tours that never occur.

And while he has taken to saying that “music should be free,” he clearly wants to be paid for the use of his image. Shown how much his activities are discussed on the Internet, Prince talked about trying to start his own on-line service, Carr said.

More expensive still is Prince’s non-stop production of music videos. Record companies consider music videos promotional tools whose sole purpose is to get MTV airplay and sell records. They are usually made only for the singles the artist releases.

But Prince makes videos for entire albums that never see a second of MTV time and are not financed by his record company. He makes videos for songs he has recorded but will never release. And he shoots footage that is of no apparent value to anyone but himself: Prince drivinga round Los Angeles in his new gold Mustang, or playing on the beach with dancer Mayte from his band, the New Power Generation.

“I call it his home movies,” said Bill Felker, a former Paisley Park production manager.

Most associates recognize it as plain wasteful. “It’s like Vietnam,” said Rice. “They just shoot and shoot. They don’t even know who the enemy is anymore.”

The people hired to do the work normally wouldn’t care what Prince intends to do with the products, as long as they get paid. But Prince’s recent antics with Warner Bros. have struck a raw nerve when employees and vendors are being stiffed.

“He talks about himself being a slave to Warners,” said Heidi Presnail, former Paisley Park wardrobe director. “Hello? Let me knock on your door. We don’t work for free.”

PRINCE’S PROBLEM isn’t a lack of earnings. Even though his commercial fortunes aren’t what they once were, he may still earn $10 to $20 million in a given year from record advances, publishing royalties and fees for producing other artists.

That money goes to Paisley Park Enterprises, the company that owns the $10 million Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen and acts as an umbrella for most of Prince’s activities.

Some companies working with Paisley report slow but regular payments. “They’ve fulfilled all obligations to us on every level,” said Gerry Wenner, vice president of the Los Angeles production company Planet.

But Paisley’s freewheeling spending and subsequent inability to manage it have taken their toll on a growing list of people who do business with the company.

People like Gary and Suzy Zahradka, a St. Paul couple who made the ornate canes that Prince toted to French fashion shows and Monte Carlo parties last year. Their $4500 bill was nearly half a year late when they filed suit against Paisley Park in Carver County District Court in November. Paisley settled the case in late December.

While some have gone to court, others have simmered in silence when Paisley Park snubbed their bills or arbitrarily cut in half the fees for a makeup artist or hair stylist.

“There’s a lot of little guys out there,” said Julie Hartley, a former Paisley Park production manager. “I have a friend who used to borrow money from his mom to pay his mortgage” because of Paisley’s nonpayment.

The big guys have not had much better luck. Northwest Teleproductions in Edina has worked on Prince-related projects for several years. Paisley Park has always been a slow payer, said Northwest President Bob Mitchell, but a few months ago the payments on a months-old debt in the tens of thousands of dollars simply stopped. When the company called to collect, it finds confused employees trying to piece things together.

“Mostly, we just meet with the frustration of employees over there,” Mitchell says. “There’s often continual replacement of middle-management-type people over there…. The people that created the work simply aren’t there anymore.”

Broken promises extend beyond the Twin Cities. In Los Angeles, Prince spends about $500,000 a year to have a crew ready for him at The Record Plant, a recording studio where he works when away from Paisley Park Studios.

Until last year, Prince’s representatives have always paid the bill on time. But last summer, said a source close to the situation, a $150,000 bill went five months without payment. The debt was not paid until Paisley Park called asking for a master tape Prince had recorded there.T he studio owners struck a deal: Pay the debt and you can have your tape. The bill was paid the same afternoon.

Smaller vendors usually do not have Princely valuables to take hostage.

Jim Mulligan, owner of the Minneapolis company Videoworks, did one project for Paisley Park last spring. His $1,400 bill languished for months before he waged a time-consuming collection campaign.

Each morning, Mulligan faxed Paisley an invoice detailing his work.T hen he called the accounting department, where he was thwarted each day by voice mail. Then he began faxing his invoice twice a day. For six weeks, there was no response.

One morning late last summer, Mulligan simply announced to the Paisley Park voice mail that he expected the check to be waiting for him at the front desk that afternoon. His strategy worked – the check was there.

“I never talked to an actual human being,” he said.

ROB BORM’S PITCH to Prince was: “Hire me. I’m young. I’m hungry. I can make you some money.”

Three years later, Borm’s association with Paisley led to the end of his business.

Borm says the story of his association with Paisley Park is a rags-to-riches-to-rags story. He had just launched his film production company, Point of View Films, in 1991 when Prince gave him a break, hiring him to produce a video for the hit song “Gett Off.”

The instructions from Paisley Park Enterprises President Gilbert Davison were vague: “Prince wants his yellow suit in it, and he wants his yellow car in it, and he wants it to look a little like ‘Caligula,'” a reference to the 1980 film that oozed Roman decadence.

Borm crunched a careful budget that would bring in the two-day shoot well within the $220,000 allocated by Warner Bros. for the project. According to Borm, Davison barely looked at it, saying: “Oh, by the way, there’s probably going to be quite a few changes to the concept.”

By the time it was completed, the “Gett Off” video had cost $1.3m illion over seven days – the overruns owing to Prince’s desire to keep shooting on the surreal fall-of-Rome set Borm created, stocked at Prince’s request with erotic imagery and women recruited from a local strip club.

When Paisley was slow to pay the million-dollar overrun, Borm began a two-year high-wire act with his own creditors, as he produced 47 more music videos without the aid of a budget.

The fast and loose spending caught up with him two years later. In summer 1993, Borm was preparing to film shows in London for Prince. But back home, Paisley was $450,000 behind on its payments to him, and Borm’s creditors were getting antsy.

He said he asked Prince about it before a London concert and got a mild scolding: “You should know better than to talk to me about money, especially before a gig.” Subsequent lectures were delivered by Prince’s attorney and business manager. But the payment was never made.

That’s when Borm pulled his crew off the tour and returned to the United States on the advice of an attorney. It took 10 months of rugged negotiations and threatened lawsuits before Borm reached a settlement of $315,000.

But the money wasn’t enough to satisfy Borm’s creditors. Since Paisley represented 90 percent of his work, his company was essentially doomed: Live by Prince, die by Prince. Point of View Films declared bankruptcy with about $5,900 in assets and $135,000 in debts.

CERTAIN THAT HIS JUDGMENT is on the mark, Prince sometimes grows exasperated when people say “no” to him.

“I don’t need a mother,” Prince once said to Rice when a business manager tried to reign in his spending.

Several generations of attorneys, managers and accountants have been put through the same wringer. One of the first was Steve Fargnoli, who hooked up with Prince in 1978 and took him to the top.

Prince was exuberant but more impressionable in those days. Fargnoli manages to bottle the magic and parcel it out in marketable bursts.

“He’s a pure musician and artist who is so much more prolific than your average rock star,” Fargnoli said in his first interview about Prince since being fired in 1989. “He’s constantly frustrated by the environment he’s in. He’s constantly trying to grasp at new ideas because it’s not moving fast enough.”

Because Prince liked to work so much, Fargnoli tried to keep him focused on revenue-generating projects such as writing and producing records for protégés’ acts, including The Time.

“There were years when he wrote and recorded four albums,” Fargnoli said. “It added up, all that stuff.”

But Fargnoli’s ability to control Prince’s wandering ideas faded with the rocker’s ascension to post-“Purple Rain” superstardom.

For example, Prince wanted his second movie, “Under the Cherry Moon,” to be black and white; Fargnoli predicted, accurately, that it was a commercial misstep. Fargnoli wanted him to buy an existing studio in Los Angeles; Prince wanted to build Paisley Park Studios in the Twin Cities. (There were minor victories: “He wanted blue mosque domes on it,” Fargnoli recalled, “which we, uh, didn’t get to.”)

Their relationship ended in 1988, when Prince tried to back out of a Japanese tour so he could get to work on his fourth film, “Graffiti Bridge.” The shows were already booked and the tickets sold.

“He could have been sued to $10 to $20 million,” Fargnoli said. “If you don’t show up, you pay for it.”

Prince responded by firing him at the start of 1989, at the same time he fired his attorney and business manager. The two traded lawsuits for a few years, with Prince claiming mismanagement and Fargnoli saying he had been libeled in a Prince song. The suits were either dismissed or settled out of court. Fargnoli has written to Prince several times, but there has been no response.

“He looks at it as, ‘These guys are old now. We’ll get somebody younger,'” Fargnoli said. “It’s always, ‘They’re the new heroes and the old guys are the bad guys.'”

WHEN PRINCE’S DEPOSITION WAS TAKEN for a lawsuit two years ago, he was asked to provide a small description of what he has done since graduating from Minneapolis Central High School in 1976.

“Gotten a job as a songwriter and performer,” he lowballed. “I have done some movies, and a lot of concerts.”

Of his work at Paisley Park Studios, Prince added: “I basically come in the back entrance and just pretty much use the studios…. I basically work here. I don’t run it.”

Although he is the sole shareholder in Paisley Park Enterprises, Prince didn’t get into the music business to be a corporate executive. The concept at Paisley Park was intended to keep the artist in the process of creating, while professionals ran the recording studios and 12,000-square-foot sound stage. Prince would book his time like anyone else.

Paisley Park’s opening seemed to be the culmination of a sweet success story: a local man, from a poor family in North Minneapolis, who willed himself to the top, then chose to give something back to his hometown. Work at Paisley Park helped the Twin Cities film and music communities grow and flourish.

But Paisley needed professional management. After a decade in which he had known only tremendous commercial success, Prince was several million dollars in debt as the ’80s drew to a close.

“There was a serious debt level,” Rice said. “It was boggling. But there was a way to dig out from beneath it. It was cost cutting.”

The financial struggle is confirmed in a deposition by Nancy Chapman, an entertainment industry CPA in Los Angeles who was Prince’s business manager from 1989 until last year.

“When we became involved with Prince in his corporate activities ,he was in financial trouble,” said Chapman, detailing how she and others completely overhauled the company. “…During the first 1 1/2 years of our involvement in his life, this was a search-and-rescue mission.”

Sound operation of the studio and new management helped dig Prince out of the hole. Paisley played host to such international superstars as R.E.M. and Madonna, and its sound stage was usually booked solid with commercial and film work. “It was a concentrated effort by a group of people to alleviate the debt and bring it back to a good, solid financial ground,” Rice said.

Because Prince is a sharp thinker who devours newspapers and magazines, most people figured the financial crisis would never be repeated. But they say Prince is proving otherwise.

“I don’t think he ever did reform his practices,” said David Rivkin, a record producer whose association with Prince dates back to the 1970s. “It happened so fast in the beginning for him that it’s always been ‘easy come, easy go.'”

THE PAISLEY PARK of the ’90s has been a roller coaster ride, as company employees attempted to keep up with both the highs and the trials of a workaholic genius.

A bodyguard, Gilbert Davison, was elevated to company president in 1990. Former employees say Davison let Prince do as he pleased, attempting to do damage control when possible. Sometimes he would scurry around behind his boss’s back, telling vendors not to heed Prince’s expensive requests. “They say, usually after the fact: ‘You can’t listen to what he says,'” said Marcou, the set designer.

When Prince would learn that his request had been dismissed, Carr said, he would just write a check himself, on an account to which only he had access, and get what he wanted.

In interviews with former employees and vendors, Prince’s associates said that the business began to stray in new, expensive and unprofitable directions. Prince provided most of the $2 million to launch the Minneapolis Glam Slam nightclub, which was technically owned by Davison. Vanity projects such as a Prince comic book took a lot of time but generated little revenue.

Paisley also ran a 10-person wardrobe department, which made all of Prince’s clothing as well as costumes for his band and street clothes for his girlfriends.

Prince’s record label, Paisley Park Records, also struggled for financial success. Where Prince had once launched new stars like The Time and Sheila E., his more recent protégés produced a log string of bombs.

Most notable were Prince’s efforts to manufacture hit records for his girlfriends, among them a dancer named Tara Patrick, a.k.a. Carmen Electra, whose aptly titles “Go Go Dancer” album came out in 1993.

The record received a top-drawer promotional campaign worth about $2 million, according to industry sources, about half of which came straight out of Paisley Park’s pocket. But the record still died a quick death.

“If it’s a personal relationship,” said Carr, “he’s going to spend money on it.”

Some projects have found success. A CD-ROM game featuring Prince has sold more than 60,000 copies and won praise for a pioneering concept that was developed by a California software company. In 1994, the renamedP rince released a single, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” which enjoyed a lengthy Top 10 run – but was also very expensive for Paisley Park to produce.

Prince has also done some high-profile charity work in recent time, performing benefit concerts for the National Kidney Foundation in Minneapolis and the Dance Theater of Harlem in New York.

If Prince noticed the failures, he didn’t show it. He told employees he did not want to be involved in business discussions but found himself drawn into them anyway.

Chapman said in her deposition: “I may go to him to run something by him, and his response to me is: ‘Why do I have to get involved int his? That is what I pay you for. If I have to make these decisions, why do I have you'”

PRINCE CLEANED HOUSE at Paisley Park in 1994. He appointed his older brother, Duane Nelson, to head a five-member committee that would downsize the company, and pink slips started to fly. Even as the company hasc ontinued mounting expensive projects, vendors say that Paisley, and sometimes Prince himself, have asked vendors to take less for their work.

What they told me is that I was being fired on a cutback, and they were eliminating my position,” said former wardrobe director Heidi Presnail. The committee disseminated no information explaining the need for cuts.

Longtime employees and confidants left or were fired. Davison left in a dispute related to the ownership of Glam Slam. Sound stage manager Mark “Red” White, who had been with Prince for a decade, left. Chief financial officer Carr was fired. Publicist Karen Lee quit in November. Levi Seacer Jr., a former band member who was running Prince’s new NPG Records label, departed at the same time.

Several of those people hired attorneys to collect their money when their severance payments stopped last fall. By year’s end, most had negotiated a final settlement with Paisley Park.

Duane Nelson’s committee started to resemble a “cage match” in professional wrestling – last one in the cage wins. Today, Nelson is the only one left from the original downsizing committee.

The studio, meanwhile, has operated less as a business available for rent and more as Prince’s private work space. Twin Cities film producers say the sound stage has not been reliably available for sometime because of Prince’s perpetual video production.

According to the film board’s Adamsick, Warner Bros. had to intervene with Prince himself to get the star to clear enough time to shoot the movie “Grumpy Old Men” there in 1993.

Prince has also been asserting himself in the recording studio. Record producer Rivkin said Prince once put up the money to move a Rivkin recording project to Los Angeles because Prince wanted to work at Paisley.

Rivkin, who used Paisley Park so frequently that he rented an office in the building, moved out last summer. The loss of a reliable client didn’t stir much interest in the studio, though.

“They didn’t seem to give a s— if I was leaving or not,” said Rivkin, who produced the demo tape that got Prince signed to Warner Bros. in 1977. “They just said, ‘If you’re not going to use this office, can we use it?'”

Despite the financial problems — and the declining use of the studio by insiders – Paisley Park invested several hundred thousand dollars in new recording technology last year.

The experience of working at Paisley Park has left some people disillusioned or angry. But some – even those who have lost jobs – say they would love to work with the company again and see it prosper.

Julie Hartley was fired as a production assistant last year when Prince accused her of lying about how much it would cost to build “The Endorphinmachine,” a new stage set he dreamed up. She remembers with exasperation how Prince ordered all but two members of a film crew off the sound stage, then ordered: “Now here’s the shot. I want the bed to get up and fly over me to there.”

But the frenetic pace of Paisley was addictive, and she would do it again – if Paisley Park pulls out of its tailspin.

“I like the allure that that place brings here,” she said. “I hope it stays, and I’m sad that it’s tarnished.”

Sidebar article #1: 0(+>-controlled corporations

PAISLEY PARK ENTERPRISES – Prince’s main business, it owns Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen. Paisley Park Enterprises also handles Prince’s recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, his publishing royalties and his work producing records for other artists. Recently acquired the Los Angeles version of the Glam Slam nightclub.

PRN PRODUCTIONS – The company that handles transactions related to Prince’s touring.

NPG RECORDS – The independent record label that Prince has recently launched in opposition to his contract with Warner Bros. Records. It has two releases so far: the single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” by 0(+> and “1-800-New-Funk,” a compilation of artists on the NPG roster.

PAISLEY PARK RETAIL – The company that owns and operates the New Power Generation stores in Uptown Minneapolis and at the Mall of America. Also sells Prince-related merchandise via an 800-phone line.

HEAVEN & EARTH – The Minnesota Corporation that owns and operates the 4-year-old Glam Slam nightclub in downtown Minneapolis. The corporationis controlled by Gilbert Davison, a former Prince bodyguard who is also the former president of Paisley Park Enterprises. Most of the start-up funding was paid for or arranged by Paisley Park Enterprises, which has no ownership interest in Heaven & Earth.

Sidebar article #2: Chain of events

Prince Rogers Nelson, 19, signs a three-record, $1 million contract with Warner Bros. Records.

Self-produced debut, “For You,” is released to critical acclaim. Its U.S. sales of 150,000 make it the only Prince album to date not certified as at least gold (sales of 500,000 or more).

Signs a contract with the Los Angeles management firm of Cavallo Ruffalo and Fargnoli. Steve Fargnoli, a partner in the firm, takes control of building his career. Second album “Prince” goes platinum (1 million U.S. sales).

The landmark LP “Dirty Mind” establishes Prince’s taste for controversial subject matter and goes gold.

New album “Controversy” sells 1 million copies in the United States. The strong reaction Prince evokes is highlighted when he is booed off the stage opening for the Rolling Stones in Los Angeles.

Prince’s commercial breakthrough arrives with “1999,” a 3 million seller in the United States.

After the successful “1999” tour, shooting begins around Minneapolis for Prince’s first film, “Purple Rain.” The $7 million film is partially funded by Prince himself, who puts up about $2 million.

Release of the “Purple Rain” film and soundtrack puts him in the commercial stratosphere. U.S. sales of 11 million and $70 million in domestic ticket grosses, followed by a world tour that plays to 1.7 million people.

“I’m going to find the ladder,” Prince says in announcing that he will not perform live for a period of years. Album “Around the World in a Day” takes creative risks and sales slip to 2 million. Prince’s new Warners-affiliated record label, Paisley Park Records, is formed.

Construction begins on Paisley Park Studios in a Chanhassen cornfield. Release of “Parade,” soundtrack to Prince’s directorial debut, “Under the Cherry Moon.” Album sells 1.8 million domestically; film bombs.

“Sign ‘O’ the Times,” an ambitious double album that many call his best, is released and sells about 1.8 million U.S. copies. Price had to be dissuaded from releasing it as a triple album, which would have further diminished its commercial prospects. European tour is filmed and released as a movie. At the last minute, Prince halts release of “The Black Album,” a dark and daring dance record that is heavily bootlegged. Paisley Park Studios opens in the fall.

“Lovesexy,” a more positive replacement for “The Black Album.” U.S. sales stall at about 1 million copies. The subsequent tour is hailed as one of the best rock shows ever, but American audiences stay away in droves. It is Prince’s last U.S. arena tour.

Prince fires Fargnoli as manager and dumps his Los Angeles attorney. Al Magnoli, director of “Purple Rain,” takes over as his manager. Another L.A. attorney, Gary Stiffelman, takes over. New business manager Nancy Chapman later discloses that despite Prince’s commercial success, he is in financial trouble. Prince soundtrack to “Batman” movie marks a commercial revival: 2 million sold domestically. Magnoli fired as manager, replaced by film producers Randy Phillips and Arnold Stiefel.

Prince’s fourth film, “Graffiti Bridge,” stiffs at the box office, and sales of the soundtrack do not reach a million in the United States. Prince provides most of the financing for Glam Slam, a new nightclub in downtown Minneapolis owned by his bodyguard, Gilbert Davison. In December, Stiefel and Phillips are fired as manager and Prince goes without a formal manager. Davison is appointed president of Paisley Park Enterprises and Prince’s publicist, Jill Willis, as executive vice president.

“Diamonds and Pearls” provides a commercial boost with 5 million sold worldwide. Prince and his former manager, Fargnoli, trade lawsuits that are eventually resolved out of court.

Prince announces that he has signed a new deal with Warner Bros. that is worth $100 million – a figure delicately downplayed by Warners. The new contract calls for Warner Bros. to become a partner in the operation of Prince’s Paisley Park Enterprises. A new album, “0(+>,” sells just over 1 million in the United States.

Prince announces in April that he is retiring from studio recording and will instead focus on “alternative media” – live theater, interactive media, nightclubs and motion pictures. In June, he celebrates his 35th birthday by changing his name to 0(+>.

Warner Bros. and Prince announce the collapse of their joint venture, and the Paisley Park Records label is disbanded. Prince forms a new record label – NPG Records – and releases the single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” Paisley Park Enterprises acquires Glam Slam clubs in L.A. and Miami, but the company – increasingly hounded by creditors – also begins a dramatic downsizing of its staff, firing many key staffers. Two albums – “Come” and 1987’s “The Black Album” – are released. Prince begins campaigning for release from his Warners contract, calling it “institutionalized slavery.” In club dates, he promotes another new album, “The Gold Experience,” which he says will never be released.

On Jan. 30. “The 22nd Annual American Music Awards” will present Prince with an award of merit for “outstanding contributions to the musical entertainment of the American public.” He is also being honored for being “an entertainment entrepreneur.”

Sidebar article #3: Symbolic feud continues with Warner Bros.

At an awards ceremony last year, Prince read from a legal pad to explain his side of the war he has waged against his label of 17 years, Warner Bros. Records:

“Perhaps one day, all the powers that are will realize that it is better to let a man be all that he can be than to limit his output to just what they can handle,” Prince said at the Soul of American Music awards.

In Los Angeles Monday, Prince will get another chance to explain himself when he meets with Warners chairman Danny Goldberg. The topic: the relationship between Prince and the company, which Prince has described as “institutionalized slavery.”

After seeing Prince’s strange performance on “The Late Show With David Letterman” Dec. 13th – in which he sang, “If I came back as a dolphin, would you listen to me then?” before performing a mock suicide – many fans were more perplexed than ever about Prince’s contract struggles.

In a nutshell: Prince has been frustrated that the company won’t release his records more regularly. He produces the equivalent of three or four albums a year; the record company would rather have just one and milk it.

Hoping to squirm through a contract loophole, Prince changed his name to 0(+> and said he would fulfill the remainder of his Warners contract with selection from his 500-song vault of unreleased material. New songs he records, though, would be released on another label as 0(+>.

While Prince’s stand does not seem to hold much promise as a legal theory – he currently owes Warner Bros. four more albums – he has won praise from artists. Last month’s Musician magazine declared him one of several industry “revolutionaries” who are challenging the status quo that exists between artists and corporations.

At stake in this week’s meeting with Goldberg is an album recorded last year called “The Gold Experience,” which contains some of Prince’s most commercially viable and adventuresome music in years. The leadtrack, “Gold,” has a grandeur that has been compared to “Purple Rain.”

Prince representatives have regularly tweaked the company publicly for the past year. “‘The Gold Experience’ likely will never be released,” publicist Mitch Schneider said last week.

The company says that isn’t true. “Yes, we would like to put out the next Prince or symbol-person album,” said Bob Merlis, vice president for communications at Warner Bros. “And we will, once he delivers the masters.” That delivery hasn’t taken place.

Warner Bros. executives, who will not speak for the record, say that Prince has at least three times negotiated a deal to release “The Gold Experience,” then backed out of it. Once regarded as a reliable, if sometimes hard to handle asset, Prince, they say, has been a different, less reliable person since he changed his name to 0(+> in 1993.

Adding to the tension was Prince’s 1992 announcement that he had signed a $100 million deal with Warners, when the reality was much more modest. The deal did call for Warner Bros. to become a partner in the operation of Paisley Park Enterprises, but that partnership was curtailed about a year ago. Warners spent about $5 million on the partnership.

Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 15-01-1995

New Musical Express, 11-03-1995

My Name Isn’t Prince, And I Am Flunky

By Andy Richardson

March 1, 1995. A stretch black limousine is purring gently in a London car park. Two young men stand nearby, pressingtheir faces against a high steel fencethat is dwarfed by the neighboring twin towers of Wembley Stadium. They talk in quick voices, check their watchesand anxiously wait for a glimpse oftheir hero.

As the limousine door opens, they pull harder on the railings but then a large hand reaches down. I think it’s time both of you left now,” booms a deep voice. They turn around and stare into the eyes of the security man. Momentarily, they are confused. Then they hear the thud of the limousine door. They spin around, their hearts sink when they realize it’s too late. The man they were waiting to see has gone. Beyond the gates lie a connection of executive cars, a swish coach with tinted-glass windows and an open doorthat leads to the belly of Wembley Arena four people venture past thedoor, step over miles of black cable, past the naked mannequin which lies on top of a flight case and walk towards a dimly-lit corridor blocked by two sharp suited guards.

Suddenly a small man appears from behind a grey door. He is wearing along velvet coat and eating bread wrapped in a pink napkin. As the foursome step a little closer, they recognize the wire thin moustache, immaculate black hair, huge brown eyes and elegant gold jewelry.

Who are these the diminutive star demands, glimpsing the people who have crossed his no-go threshold. His publicist explains they are journalists. The superstar nods approval and then climbsa set of stairs to the Wembley Arena stage.

“I’ll see you in a minute,” he says, and then disappears from view.

Rewind to December 1994. The Artist Formerly Known As Prince is locked in conversation with his publicist. He is talking about his on-going battle with his record company, Warner Bros. Music, his new, unreleased album, The Gold Experience’, and his forthcoming world tour.

He is asking what people think of him. What people expect of a multimillion dollar megastar who is preparing for an unequaled four-year world tour. Do the public want him to break his legendary silence? To talk about his music, dispel the myths and explain why he killed the artist known as Prince?

“Do you think I should do interviews again?” he asks, though in his mind he has decided the answer is yes. His publicist says he should talk, explaining that being remote is an ’80s thing and the public expect to hear from their heroes. “Even Michael Jackson has done a TV interview,” the publicist adds. I think you should.” Fast forward to February 20, 1995, and Prince and his publicist are sharing a table at the UK Brit Awards. Their $350-a-head seats are just a few feet from the official Warner Bros. table, which both men snub, and TAFKAP/0(+> has written ‘SLAVE’ on his right cheek. The word is an apparent protest at his record company’s refusal to issue a backlog of albums which he has made. Eventually he leaves his table and makes his way to the stage to receive his award as best international male artist. Once there he makes a typically elliptical speech: “Prince best, Gold experience better. Get Wild. In concert free. On record slave. Peace.”

The assembled guests quietly mock him, wondering how a man who signeda $100 million record deal could consider himself a ‘slave’. Worse still Dave Rowntree of Blur, has scribbled the word ‘Dave’ on his cheek, and it is Dave, not 0(+>, who’ll make the morning headlines.

“I’ll talk,” says 0(+> as the night wears on. “I’ll talk before the tour.”

Two days before the tour and 0(+> is rehearsing his band into the ground. Wembley Arena has been fitted with his $250,000 ‘Endorphinmachine’ – a stage set mimicking the human endorphing lands which produce morphine like hormones – and 0(+> has been working his band until 2am each night, by which time he is too tired to continue. He has been in London for a week practicing, partying and watching Eric Clapton at the Albert Hall and fake lesbian group Fem 2 Fem at the London Astoria.

Today, though, his thoughts centeron the launch of his gargantuan tour. It’ll end in New York In 1998,” he says later. “We’ve already booked Madison Square Garden for the final date. We’re bringing all our friends. It will be special.”

0(+>’s entourage is vast. There are five bodyguards stationed outside his dressing room door; all of them well dressed and wearing small brown earphones that link them to a production room. One sports a six-inch scar from his ear to his chin, another drips with expensive jewelry a third has a skinhead crop, immaculately pressed suit and piercing eyes that say “Don’t even think about it.” Outside the dressing room is a long corridor with white walls and a blue rubberized floor. It leads to six rooms where his dancers and backing band are busying themselves in make-up rooms.

His room is surprisingly small; the size of an average front room in a terraced house. Against one wall there is a vast mirror and a table top which holds oranges, bread, china cups and saucers, an ordinary electric kettle and an abundance of candles. There are two sprawling house pants in the corners of the room, a medium- sized table in the center and two large leather sofas which are covered in purple, red and green velvet drapes.

Inevitably, there is a huge TV/stereo in one corner, with two large speakers on the floor. And built into one wall are two sliding double doors which lead into 0(+>’s personal changing room; a space bedecked with mirrors and innumerable hair sprays, moisturizers, restless of makeup and bottles of cologne.

0(+> is sitting in the center ofthe one of the sofas with the word ‘Slave’ written on his left cheek. He is dressed in a blue all-in-one which is cut to the waist revealing his taut, lean physique. He wears blue suede ankle boots, chunky black wrap around shades and a gold necklace with coin-like circles that hang into his chest. His publicist leaves the room, the boom of the rehearsal disappears ast he door closes and 0(+> relaxes into his seat. Finally, it’s time to talk…

The BIG issue for 0(+> is his recording contract with Warner Bros. It demands four new albums at a rate of no more than one a year. The record company, ideally, would like to release one LP every two or three years to ensure maximum sales. With 0(+>’s cooperation, it would release a single, an album, and then further singles and watch as the records reached the ten-million-plus sales of ‘Purple Rain’.

0(+>, however would like to release one LP every six months to keep up with his prolific songwriting and recording output, or maybe even more. He sits on the board of WB and the 2 sides have tried many times to reach an agreement .But on every occasion the talks break down. Now he wants out.

There’s a brilliant Prince and theN PG album waiting to be released, hes ays, but WB won’t release it. “See, if they give me control and let me release this (holds up the GE) then Madonna would be straight in wanting the same.”

“I’d like to put out 700,000 copies of some blues guitar music with a guitar magazine but WB don’t let me. I’d give away a single with just the A-side and tell people to come back next year and buy the b-side. Record companies are run by men who think they run America. They think they’re the smartest but they’re not. They don’t know what’s going on in my mind.”

0(+> says he can release music on the Internet. When it’s suggested that most people cannot get access to the Internet he says “we’ll fix it.”

“Once the Internet is a reality the music business is finished. There won’t be any need for record companies. If I can send you my music direct, what’s the point of having a music business?”

His main bugbear with Warners is that they don’t understand. He repeats he doesn’t mind the situation and says the problem has had no effect on his ability to write and record.

In simple terms, it’s not something that gets him down.

“They don’t understand me. I understand them. I’ll just give there one album every year for the next four years. I’m not going to take them to court and the stories saying I will have just been made up. I won’t do that. I could give them four albums tomorrow but they don’t want that.”

And what will you do while you’re waiting for your contract to expire in 1998?

“I’m going to say on the road until the contract ends. I’ve already booked a show for Madison Square Garden in 1998. We’re going to get loads of people down there. I can keep touring until then. I love being on stage, I love touring and I’m strong enough. I never get tired.”

0(+> says one of his reasons for breaking his silence is to make sure young musicians don’t ever experience the contract war he has become embroiled in. “I want to help young musicians. I don’t want people to be in the same position. I’ve been doing this for 16 years now, I know how it works.A manager knows thinks when you start out that he ain’t gonna tell you because it isn’t in his interests. He’s only gonna tell you the things he wants you to know. You understand what I’m saying?

“But I’m not bitter. I’m not angry. Mo Austin (Warners boss) gave me ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The World’ to release as 0(+>. And I will love that man forever because of that. I don’t have a problem with Warners. I’m content with them.”

So why do you scrawl that slogan across your face?

“Because I am a slave to the truth. It’s there to remind myself. I’m not a slave to Warner Brothers. It’s not there to embarrass Warners – why would I do that? You gotta understand that. I don’t need to. It’s not about that. I’m not angry with them. It’s just there as a reminder.”

0(+> is animated when he talks about his contract. He sits forward on the edge of his sofa, his hands wave about in the air, he is imploring the world to listen. He also knows that there is no quick legal fix to beat Warner. American contract law is far more stringent than that in the UK and he has seen what happened to George Michael: a costly legal battle which ended in defeat and which could now take up to five years to resolve. (If Michael is to overturn his judgement tying him to Sony Music, his only hope is a victory in the European Courts. But before that he would face probable and costly legal defeats in the Court Of Appeal and the House of Lords.)

“I’ve seen what happened with that case,” 0(+> adds. “And I don’t want to go down the George Michael road.”

Face to face, 0(+> is far removed from the unworldly public image built around him steadily since his recording career began in 1978. It is difficult to equate the man sitting on the sofa with the pop star who apparently dreams of reincarnation as a dolphin, who inspires national radio polls in Australia – where the nation wants to name him ‘Davo’ (an affectionate, if unimaginative, colloquial nickname for people called, er, Dave) and who mumbles ‘Thank You, God’ acceptance speeches at major awards. His dressing room is essentially a slightly tacky boudoir with a cheap-looking rug that could have been bought from IKEA for $35.

So does it worry you that people think you are mad?

“No,” he laughs, crumpling into the sofa in a heap. “I don’t care. If people think I’m insane, fine. I want people to think I’m insane. But I’m in control. It was different before I became this (points to the 0(+> on the cover of ‘The Gold Experience’). I didn’t have control. I didn’t know what was happening beyond the next two albums. But now I know exactly what the next two albums will be. I’m not playing anyone else’s game. I’m in control. I don’t care if people say I’m mad. It don’t matter.” But if your sanity is intact, why did you change your name from Prince to 0(+>?

“I got a whole new mindset when I became 0(+>. I can’t explain how I feel now compared to then. I don’t want to destroy the mystique by revealing everything. And if people come to see me just to hear ‘Purple Rain’ then I’m sorry. I’m playing these (0(+>) songs now. I’ll play Prince songs occasionally. I just want people to understand who I am. See, you could go away and tell people I am stupid. I just want you to help me people to understand The only thing I care about is your journalistic ability. Your ability to articulate.”

But if you’re so keen to let people understand you, why won’t you let journalists take notes or record their interviews with you?

“You don’t need to do that. The mind is perfect.”

The mind isn’t perfect!

“You will only remember the things that are important.”

There is a knock on the door.

The 20 minutes is nearly up and there is an abundance of questions still unasked. But 0(+> is happy, he’s jovial, falling about on the sofa and making the points he wants to make. His publicist stands at the door and is motioned away by the small one’s left hand. “A few more minutes,” he says. And again we are alone.

So tell me about your vices.

“What’s a vice?”

A habit that can be self-destructive.

“I don’t know about those.”

Well how about your obsession with sex?

The mood stiffens and 0(+> slaps his boot in apparent agitation He refuses to say whether he slept with Kylie Minogue (as it was rumored) or hisd ancer Mayte Garcia.

“I won’t use the word ‘sex’ and I won’t use the word ‘beauty’. Those are two I can’t use because people have different tastes and they ask you what kind of sex you have.” Again, 0(+> falls over in the chair laughing and clapping his hands together.

What about drugs? Do you take drugs?

“I’m interested in all experiences.”

Can I take that as a yes?

“I didn’t say that. I don’t think people are interested. I’m not interested if you take drugs. I think we’d better chill it there.”

But you’re an icon.

0(+> stops laughing.

“What did you say?”

I said, a lot of people see you as an icon. There’s only a handful of people in the world in your position.

“I don’t see myself as an icon. I don’t see that. Do people care if I take drugs? People aren’t interested in me. I didn’t put myself on a pedestal. If I’m on a pedestal it’s because other people have put me there.”

Do you feel anything for a person like Michael Jackson?

“I could talk to you about Michael Jackson but I would just be doing the job that a journalist does so there’s no point. I met Michael, if other people talked then he’d say something that would tear the house down from what everyone else would say anyway.”

Throughout the interview 0(+> has been wearing shades. I ask him to take them off, trying to reason they are defensive and they make it easy for him to hide.

“OK,” he says, and lowers them to the bridge of his nose. “I’m only wearing them because I’m tired. My eyes are red. It’s because we’ve been rehearsing. It’s just to protect my eyes,” and then he puts them back on.

Do you ever relax?


Do you wish you could?


How do you try?

And suddenly 0(+>’s veneer dissolves. He no longer appears as the invincible round-the-clock superstar. He lowers his voice, sits upright at the front of his sofa and looks to the floor. He Is suddenly fallible.

“The only time you can get tranquil is when you are at one. And the only time that happens is when you are with God. I do that sometimes. When I’m like that I’m not happy. He tells me to carry on doing what I’m doing, which is my music. I’m always happy, I’m never sad, I never slow down. I’m constantly occupied with music.”

And what about…

“Look, they’re calling me. I’ve gotto get back to rehearsal.”

The interview over, 0(+> refuses a direct request for a follow-up conversation tomorrow – five journalists huddle around a table in a room marked ‘Catering’.

They chain smoke each other’s cigarettes, desperately scanning their memories trying to recall every quote from their individual interviews.

One talks about how strange and detached from reality the whole situation was “It’s difficult to remember everything. I was just sitting there thinking. ‘I’llh ave to remember this’, and impossible!”

Across a table, a group of American roadies are talking to their two English counterparts about bubbly beer, the strongest coffee in the world and the number of drive-by shootings in the USA. A member of 0(+>’s crew walks in, scans the room, exclaims, “Oh shit,” and walks out. In the dressing rooms and wardrobe areas five people walk by dressed as devils or in skimpy dresses.

And then the journalists are returned to 0(+>’s now-empty dressing room to listen to ‘The Gold Experience’ LP in the company of his bodyguard. Two women walk in and head straight for his changing room to re-stock the cosmetics and his publicist returns, sits on the floor and shakes his head in awe of the new album.

As we leave, 0(+> is still rehearsing on the vast Wembley stage and we leave with impressions of a control freak who has banished reality from his life in his quest for invincibility. A man with a paranoia so deep-seated that he killed his own identity and refuses to recognize the name – Prince Rogers Nelson with which he was born.

And a man who is a creative and commercial colossus who considers himself no more than a slave.

New Musical Express, 11-03-1995

Time Out, 15/22-03-1995

Slave To The Rhythm

By Peter Paphides

Prince has always been a bit weird, but latelyhe seems to have lost it completely. He’s changed his name to 0(+>,declared war on his record company and scrawled ‘SLAVE’ on his cheek. Granted a rare royal audience, Peter Paphidesasks: what the *@,0{+^!is he playing at?

NO FOOTBALL. There’s NO FOOTBALL allowed in here. ‘Can we switch it off?’ The Wembley catering staff are looking decidedly agitated. It’s not clear whether or not the directive concerning the backstage TV has come from higher up, but you can sense the relief when the offending footy fans switch back to Bugs Bunny. Royalty is in the vicinity. Consequently, even though The Artist Formerly Known As Prince/0(+>’s minders are taking it easy over some lunch and a coffee, there’s a palpable tension about the place.

Minder One: ‘Did you see what she called him?’ He’s referring to ‘Sunday Show’, BBC2’s new youth magazine show hosted byDonna McPhail and Katie Puckrik. 0(+> performed an as-yet-unreleasedsong live from Wembley Arena.

Minder Two: ‘She didn’t call him Prince, did she?’

Minder One: ‘She did, you know! She was in the studio and she said, “And now we’re going to Wembley for Prince!” She said it!’

Minder Three shakes his head, incredulous. Staring at his pizza for inspiration, he reflects on it for a moment and inhales sharply: ‘Heads will roll.’ Before anyone has time to workout whether or not he’s joking, the door opens. A voluptuous young woman in cycling shorts strolls in. Clearly, this is some kind of sign. Six minders grab their radios and jump to attention just as 0(+> follows behind her, heading for the canteen. However, by the time they’ve come to their senses, he’s gone again, evidently not peckish. Then the summons. ‘He’s ready,’ shouts his publicist, avoiding at all times the dilemma of having to address 0(+> by his new name.

More minders line the walls as I pass through another layer of security blokes, until finally I’m faced with a small subcontinent in trousers. I offer a joke following a somewhat erotic body-search, but it seems this is no time for funnies. The point, of course, isn’t that I might be an assassin, more that 0(+> is one of the most famous pop stars in the world. And along with 15 albums, an entire Minneapolis studio complex, several other solo careers launched on the back of his patronage and an untouchable respect within and beyond the music industry such is the paraphernalia of that fame.

As you may have heard, 0(+> wants to wrestle ownership of his songs from Warner Bros Music. At this point I ought to explain that the concept of ownership in music is kind of anodd one. When you sign to a label, you basically sell them your songs. Consequently, any time one of your songs is covered or used by another artist, on film or in an advert, the record company receives a large percentage of the royalties. For example, since Paul McCartney was outbidded by Michael Jackson in the battle to buy The Beatles’ songs, even he would need Jacko’s permission to sample or use Beatles songs in any unorthodox way.

Warners, then, has responded to 0(+>’s dissent by refusing to release his new album, ‘The Gold Experience’. So he’s taken to writing ‘SLAVE’ on his face, changed his name and refrained from performing any ‘Prince’ songs at his current shows, opting instead for songs from ‘The Gold Experience’. As long as Warners owns his songs, it is claimed, you won’t get to hear the albumon record. Terrible shame, really, as it’s his finest album since 1987’s ‘Sign O’ The Times’. If you’ve seen 0(+>’s firs trun of Wembley dates, then you will probably know all this. 0(+>’s set comprises almost entirely unreleased material, yet it’s only upon going home that you realise he didn’t play ‘Alphabet Street’, ‘Gett Off’, ‘1999’, ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In TheWorld’ and ‘Kiss’.

The new songs suggest a man in the throes of some kind of creative rebirth: ‘Gold’, which closes the set in a slo-motornado of stardust and iridescence, lies at the core of this rebirth evoking the grandeur of ‘Purple Rain’ albeit in a more languorous setting, ‘Endorphinmachine’ is also remarkable, especially the way 0(+> squeals ‘Prince is done with!’ overall manner of bustling funk syncopations. Mercifully, it’s much less clumsy than the eponymous stage set – a big blobby climbing frame representing a colossal hybrid of the male and female genitalia, in fact most of ‘The Gold Experience’ bulges ripely with a life-affirming spontaneity more common to mid-’80s gems like ‘Mountains’ and ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’, rather than last year’s flaccid ‘Come’ effort.

So: 0(+> wants to talk. About ‘The Gold Experience’ and about his ‘enslavement’, and he wants to talk about these things to me. The last time I saw 0(+> speaking was his acceptance speech at last month’s Brit Awards. This is what he said: ‘Prince? Best? “Gold Experience”, better. Get Wild. In concert, perfectly free. On record, slave. Peace.’ Can you see why I’m nervous?

‘Sorry about the glasses. We were up kind of late last night,’ smiles 0(+>, pointing to his Bono-style ‘Fly’ shades. In terms of fame, he may be even bigger than Minneapolis, but right now he’s smaller than my mum. His dressing room is tiny, rendered claustrophobic by the sheer volume of patterned drapes andvelour hangings that frame the dim light. Sifting through the awe, I remind myself that I’ve been summoned here for a reason. 0(+> is using Time Out to tell everyone how oppressive his record company is. When I suggest to 0(+> that he’s only decided to talk to the press because he has a vested interest in doing so, he snaps, ‘Well, Prince never used to do interviews. You’d have to ask Prince why he never used to do interviews, but you’re not talking to Prince now. You’re talking to me.’

Okay then. So why are you doing interviews at the moment?’ We have to free the music,’ explains the pantalooned sex dwarf opposite me. ‘I don’t own my music at the moment. That’s why I’m in dispute with the record company.’

Apparently, 0(+>’s record company thought he was releasing too much material. This is why it claimed to be putting off the release of ‘The Gold Experience’. According to Warners, if it released 0(+>’s albums as often as he wants they’d swamp the market and everyone would lose interest in 0(+>. Aesthetically too, it might make more sense for 0(+>/Prince to release fewer records: many critics have commented that if he was more selective and released fewer albums, they would be stupendous rather than merely very good. 0(+>, unsurprisingly, has little time for either line of thinking.

‘There’s a lot of things that critics don’t understand,’ he responds conspiratorially, as if I’m not one of those critics.’Like the second song in our set is a track called “Jam”, and what people don’t realise is that in America that’s the number one track at house parties. Now, the audience know that, they’ve respect that! But that’s not something that most critics are down with, you know what I’m saying? So when people say I make too many records, I just show them the Aretha Franklin catalogue in the ’60s, when she made a new record every four months.’

That’s the kind of work ethic you aspire to then, is it?

‘That’s right. I work hard with the best musicians in the world. We work all day, you know what I’m saying? But those people at the record company who own my music, they go home at 6pm! And they’re the people that control my music. Can you see how there’s no room for debate between myself and them?’ 0(+>’s eyes peer up from beneath the shades as if to punctuate the assertion: ‘You know, they still call me Prince!’

Is that so surprising?

‘No! That’s my point! They have to! It’s the name that’s written down in the contract. If they acknowledge that I’m not Prince, that 0(+> is different to Prince, then they can’t hold me to the conditions of their contract.’

One’s initial reaction to 0(+>’s tale of semantic crosswits is to laugh in disbelief, but the point beneath his almost whimsical reasoning is a serious one: ‘The concept of ownership of music by record companies is senseless. Like, you know the singer Seal? He’s a wonderful talent, but how do I go about telling him and all the other brothers about the battle that we have to fight, when I don’t own my music?’

The more you talk to 0(+>, the more you begin to feel that he’s been planning this whole stunt for a long time, just waiting to reach a position of sufficient power from which he could pull it off. Look at the sleeve to Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ album, made 11 years ago. You’ll see a primitive version of the 0(+> sign clearly emblazoned on the side. It’s been appearing since then with increasing regularity. Presumably, that was the point of the Paisley Park studios and pressing plant, to create the beginnings of a separate infrastructure in the music industry. One that doesn’t have to go through the exist in white multinationals, and ultimately exists an alternative to them.

0(+> sits upright in affirmation: ‘That’s what the live show is about. I’ve done it! And if you look around at the fans, so many of them are waving signs with the new symbol. It’s such beautiful sight.’ You can see why Warners is worried. For commitment to the promotion of a separate infrastructure is no longer a distant dream. Far from the patronising jests of certain broad sheet writers who see endless comedy mileage in referring to 0(+> as Squiggle Man, the motivations behind the name change are, to a degree political. Sure, 0(+> doesn’t need the extra money, but if he’s making you question the ownership of intangibles like music (and the political implications thereof) then 0(+> deserves much respect. The idea of record companies actually owning the songs you write is outrageous. It s like demarcating a piece of the pavement and charging people ‘Pavement Tax’ to walk on it.

‘That’s exactly what it is,’ smiles 0(+>. ‘Do you see how suddenly, writing “SLAVE” on my face suddenly doesn’t seem as strange? It’s a gesture that communicates my position very well. It’s like this is what my record company has reduced Prince to. So now, Prince is dead. They’ve killed him. 0(+>,on the other hand, is beyond contracts. They can talk about contracts till they drop, but they’re Prince’s contracts, not mine. The record company can’t afford to accept that though. ‘Now the relish on his face is palpable… ‘They’re still expecting me to do “Purple Rain”, a cabaret set.’

Of course, there are other ways of getting ‘The Gold Experience’out. How about the Internet, for instance? ‘We’re currently looking into that one,’ says 0(+>, ‘The important thing is that my fans hear this music, whether it be through duplicating cassettes, or if we press up 10,000 CDs after the show and charge $5 each, just to cover costs you know? Even if we do what Pearl Jam do – just turn up at radio stations and play the people our music. That’s what these shows are about, communing with the fans. I go to a club and I see fans dancing to my records. They wave to me, I wave back, and I realise that this is why I make music. Not for record companies.’

0(+> is always quick to mention how his fans ‘understand’. While I don’t doubt he’s genuinely moved by the adulation he receives, it also strikes me as a pretty basic ploy of testing the commitment of the diehards while bringing the waverers closer to you. It’s what any cult from Morrissey to Michael Jackson to the Reverend Moon, does in the face of adversity, implicitly calls the love of The Fans into question by appealing to their loyalty. Still, as long as the majority of your fans are prepared to, ahem, die 4 U, there’s never too much need to worry about what critics say. So when I start asking 0(+> anything more probing than ‘Why are you so wonderful?’ he clams up visibly.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with Prince’s canon will already know the three main themes of his music: shagging, humping and fucking. An elementary knowledge of psycholog ytells me that anyone so eager to impress on the world his sack prowess (‘you jerk your body like a horny pony would’ and ’there’s a lion in my pocket and baby it’s ready to roar’ are my personal faves) must be motivated, in part, by a deep- rooted misogyny. It’s also worth bearing in mind that early in his childhood the young Prince Rogers Nelson ran away from his mother ino rder to be with his father, a musician. For the first time in our little meeting, 0(+> stumbles on his words: ‘Aah…ohwell, that’s a whole concept that, aah… you know, I could say something about that, and you could take a line out of context that might change the meaning entirely. It’s all in the songs anyway.’

Yes, but you do see, don’t you, that the sheer volume of fucking that goes on in your songs, is frankly bizarre. Don’t you?

‘Um, I believe that sometimes hate can be love and love can be hate.’

‘Gett Off’ boasts your, sorry, Prince’s ability to assume ’22 positions in a one-night stand’. Any chance of passing a few tips on to a mere novice like myself?

‘Oh… ‘ 0(+> is now visibly buckling beneath the ignominy of having to entertain a question this moronic. ‘That’s not what all this is about… That’s not something I, aaah…’

All what?

‘Aaaah.’ Big pause. He looks away. All right then. What about marriage, then? Any plans to single handedly put Durex out of business by having lots of little 0(+>s?

‘Not really,’ smirks the compact sex symbol. ‘I decided that things like family don’t have a big part to play in my future. I’m dedicated to music, to the point that I see all of life through it.’

What would seem like a flippant, sentimental declaration from any other pop star becomes a fierce declaration of humanism from the mouth of 0(+>. The past two weeks have seen him deliver night after night of rambunctious boiler house funk while the psychedelic harems of his mind are recreated on stage around him. ‘A couple of years ago perhaps,’ he concludes, ‘I had a spiritual, uh…rebirth. I was lacking direction for a very long time. But I saw a light which I realised I had to follow. At that point I became…’ 0(+> points to a drape bearing hishieroglyphic name…

By the way, how do you pronounce that? ‘It isn’t pronounced. It just is.’

0(+>, aka The Artist Formerly Known As Prince plays two more dates at Wembley Arena on Tue and Wed.

Time Out, 15/22-03-1995

Esquire Gentleman, herfst 1995


By Julie Baumgold

Amid pomp and circumspection, rock’s crown prince extends his purple reign

THE DARK CAR slid into the well-guarded alley. On the day after his second birthday as 0(+>, he got out of the car and walked quickly into the Glam Slam in South Beach, Miami. For twenty years, 0(+> has had a life of rear entrances, underground passages, announced and plotted arrivals, usually when night iswell tipped into day.

He owns the Glam Slam and two other clubs like it and was here to perform on his birthday, make a video, and straighten out a little business problem. He stared straight-ahead, the master of the place, with debutante posture and, as is usual, “Slave” written artistically with marker on his right cheek.

His white silk shirt floated back from his frail body, a white Borsalino rode high on his hair, which glowed with glitter like stardust. He wore a mask of absolute expressionless stillness. His vacant face is his armor. It allows him to think without being bothered. It is convenient for creation, and it keeps the mystique.

Living in mystery is a stage of stardom, a reaction to early fame. Sometimes it is risky because silence can be misconstrued, but this is how 0(+> wants it. No interviews – or if he does agree to one, he cripples the writer by removing his pen.

The big disco room had become a movie set since he left it after performing until five that morning, his wet body wrapped in a robe. As he had reminded the Glam Slam audience many times, “Prince is dead.” He was feeling good, for each day was bringing him closer to the end of the contract with Warner Bros. Records that he feels enslaves him.

No one approached him. Those who did not know him well quickly averted their eyes when they passed, as though even to look on him were forbidden. He is the perfect combination of tininess and threat: Though he is thirty-seven in his past life as Prince Rogers Nelson, with a deep voice and a hairy chest- this is still a boy-man. With his long, slender fingers, slightly pointed ears, and large beautiful eyes, the effect is elfin. He is very small and so dainty in his visible proportions that it is hard to imagine his childhood in a rough part of Minneapolis.

HERE, AS HE SITS with Carolyn Baker, a vice president of artist development for Warner Bros. Records, and two members of the band, the NPG, he is completely accepted as the genius, the boss, the coddled star, and the reason everyone is in this room. They are used to his ways – the fabled sleepless energy that leads him to do aftershows in clubs following is performances. They know his talents as songwriter, performer, star of four movies, producer, autodidact on sixteen instruments, miniature sex machine. They know he is so prolific he could put out four albums a year if the record business worked that way. They know him in the many reincarnations as he redefines himself with the times. They know the things that make him an artist: the fact that he changes and gives himself the possibility to fail, that he moves through different mediums, that his life is the stuff of his work and the reverse. They accept – it goes with the job.

“He’s a genius…like a Miles Davis, who sounds like no one else heard. They hear, see, feel something we don’t, and their job is to interpret for us,” Baker says a few days later. “His whole world is colored differently from mine. People used to say, ‘Will you tell him to do something?’ And I’d say, ‘No, you need to work around it.’ He has a vision. He has got to be able to do it his way….It’s kind of like being an alien.”

The large, heavily fringed 0(+> eyes are sneaking a peek at me, checking me out although I have been preapproved or I would not be in this room. One does not approach. One waits as the big white hat swivels slowly, the outlined eyes blink and consider. A little pencil line of hair surrounds his mouth. When he is ready, he comes over sucking a cherry Tootsie Pop, smiling redly. Juli Knapp, his director of operations, privately refers to and introduces him as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” Everyone is very scrupulous about this name thing.

0(+> and I go up into the balcony to talk. His bodyguard sits down in therow behind us, but 0(+> sends him away. “I’m a terrible interview,” he says. His speaking voice is very low, like his low-register singing voice. I think he is afraid of not being as interesting as this whole edifice he has created, happier to hide behind his scarves and costumes and characters. With the press, as with his record company, he has trusted people and been burned. Actually, he is the perfect star in this era for which, as someone said, the best way to get attention is to shun attention. At least until the next album.

The stage 0(+>, historically dirty with his “motherf—ers” and sex talk, is obviously showbiz. He is very well-spoken, intense, funny, dipping into funk speech when he wants to, and very smart. He leans forward to tell me he feels angry at himself. When he signed the Warner deal he didn’t know what he knows now, and sold what he feels is his birthright. He sold his mastertapes. And now his future children won’t have them. This is why he turned in disgust from “Prince” – taken as a seventeen-year-old boy, his image controlled- and the work that was Prince. This is why he became 0(+> and does not sing Prince songs: If I can’t have me, they can’t.

Of course he took the money, a deal worth a variously reported $30 million to $100 million. But they are not releasing or promoting his work the way he wants. Warner Bros. Records refuses to put out albums at the fast rate he writes songs, preferring to promote one album and one tour a year, as more might overwhelm the market.

All of this is involved in the name change. It was both a spiritual conversion and a business move. Just when he had been around long enough to have generations of fans, he became someone else and was reborn, artistically recast. He has his slave self, which is issuing a new album, The Gold Experience, and his semifree self, which contributed to Exodus, by the NPG. And there is a third self, a big hidden album.

For some time, he has been working on Emancipation, which will be his first album when he is free – maybe fifty new songs. Then, he says, he will reemerge. He will speak to the press. His face has changed now, as though the plastic boss face was to keep everyone else calm. He tells me that his heart and perhaps his best work are in Emancipation. This album is a big surprise to people at Warner. No one seems to know about it.

“He’s been here since the ’70s,” says Baker. “He was very young. Sometimes you love your parents but want to leave home. None of us wants to see it happen.”

0(+> is a businessman. He has a $10 million studio, Paisley Park, where he produces other recording artists; he has these clubs throbbing until dawn, 0(+> stores in London and Minneapolis, where the symbol and the face take on iconic dimensions, his own love scent, and so forth. In 1992-93, Forbes ranked him the fifth most highly paid entertainer in the world. But a part of the Warner deal was a restructuring. Right now he is a businessman who made a bad deal. He doesn’t want it to happen to others. He says he want to take care of other artists. His ambition is nothing less than to form an alternative recording industry where artists own their own work and have creative freedom. The NPG, the New Power Generation, the people of the sun, are part of this new quasi-hippie world. When he performs with them he is “Tora Tora,” his head and face wrapped in a chiffon scarf, yet another self. He is hidden, as he was in the “My Name is Prince” video when he wore a curtain of chains over his face.

0(+> IS IN AN ARTISTIC CONUNDRUM – art versus what is “commercial.” When he hears that word, he almost leaps from his seat in the balcony. When they let him handle the single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” he says he had his most commercial hit of the decade. (“It would have been spooky if it was the whole album,” he says later.) It is every artist’s devil – his vision and the world’s may not always mesh. His best stuff may be beyond them, but he knows how good or bad it is. Though sometimes he can fool himself, inside the artist always knows. The record company sometimes knows. The dilemma was there as early as his movie Purple Rain. People kept warning The Kid (0(+>’srole): “Nobody digs your music but yourself.” Of course, central to artistic freedom is the freedom to fail on your own terms.

He talks about people who don’t own their parent’s work – Nona Gaye doesn’t own Marvin. Does Lisa Marie Presley own Elvis’s masters?

He talks of the creative accounting of the record business, how black stores don’t always have the digital scanners and miscount, so say, for instance, a big rap artist, who is said to have sold four million copies, might really have sold twenty million. He totally sympathized with George Michael, whom he considers a great talent, in his fight with Sony, which he says is an “even worse” company than Warner. Warner goes ahead and promotes what they want from the NPG album, which isn’t always the right song, though the one he likes is nine-and-a-half minutes long. “Everyone gets to play on it. I have the best drummer in the world,” he says.

According to his people, his deal is this: He gets an advance that might cover his living expenses while making an album. Once the work is delivered, Warner can decide how or if to promote and market it. The final decisions are not his. Thus, he is a “slave” to the system. Warner, I’m sure, has a different interpretation. I do not say to him that perhaps it trivializes the African-American experience for a millionaire rock star – who travels with aides, bodyguards, a chef, a hairdresser, valet, backup security, wardrobe, band, technical people, a personal dancing muse, and a man who sits behind him on the Concorde handing him freshly sharpened pencils – to write “Slave” on his face. This – glittery chains on the face versus chains on the ankles – is his version of slavery. Though he is half white, he identifies completely as a black man and talks about the lack of images for black children in movies and television.

“And who is at the head of those companies?” he says.

Mayte wafts into the balcony. She is his current inspiration after a long line of protégés including Apollonia and Vanity. 0{+ tells her what to wear for the video. Mayte has been with him for four years, since she was a famously virginal seventeen. Mayte, who is also of mixed parentage, grew up on army bases and studied ballet and belly dancing from the age of three. She fulfilled her mother’s own balked ambition in the way 0(+> fulfilled his father’s. Mayte is his Tinkerbell, his Linda McCartney. She bumps and grinds and tosses her black hair and cheerleads his songs. She shakes her ass and belly dances with a sword on her head. She punches the air and stalks the stage in hot pants, not shy about showing the cheeks of her tush, her dancer’s thighs flexing. Her poster sells next to his in the lobby. She is always next to him.

TOGETHER THEY LOOK LIKE they live on sweets and air, two ethereal beings who inflate, take on power, persona, and sexiness onstage. Offstage they look like they should be wrapped in bathrobes, fed warm starches, and kept safe till it is time to step out again into the pink smoke.

They reappear – she in her gold costume and he with his face wrapped in a chiffon scarf beneath a Mad Hatter hat with a rose and wearing a floor-length black gospel robe with the NPG insignia. When I tell him that he looks like Thing in the Addams family, he starts to shuffle and make squeaking Thing noises.

Glam Slam’s lights are flashing, rebounding off the mirrored disco ball inthe ceiling, and a member of the crew falls to the floor in an epileptic seizure. 0(+> looks at him with his blank expression and, standing rigid, alienated from the situation, makes no move to help. There are other people helping the man. 0(+> is disconnected. When things go wrong in the world he controls, he does not scream. He walks away. He and Mayte stand there in their funny show clothes with Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita on the monitors because the songs they will be doing is “The Good Life.” The man is carried out on a stretcher and the video goes on.

It is 0(+>’s birthday night. He is onstage in a burnt-cherry-red jumpsuit cut open in the back all the way to the cleavage of his tiny behind. A fabulous dresser, masculine in his feminine clothes, he has always dressed out of his times and just like a prince in his frock coats, rampantly ruffled shirts with fingertip-dragging cuffs, tight high-waisted pants with matching French-heeled boots, royal medallions, arrogant walking sticks, tiny boleros with high Beau Brummel collars. He has borrowed from both masculine and feminine figures: the toreador, the languid Byronic poet coughing in his cuffs, the dandy, the fop, Prince Charming, Coco Chanel.

It’s 2 A.M. or so in the Glam Slam and he is playing the music he wants to play. The place, which has been in a bit of a slump, is now filled with bobbing, heaving fans, their arms waving in the dark like undersea fronds blown back and forth by the currents. Mayte is strutting in her black boots, punching the air with a tambourine, keening, sweating alongside him, her ambition intertwined with his. The monitors are going, as are the video cams, in this big throb of video love. 0(+> pounds out the show – all rocking, all beat, jamming and funk. He is the complete mid-career 0(+>. This is his night in his club with his symbol over the bar, on the waitresses’ chests, on his boots, on his 0(+>-shapedguitar “Prince is dead,” he keeps saying, enjoying it, shucking the old self, as Mayte flips her hair down and back. He asks to hear the crowd; he wants to hear feedback from the void.

He says the obligatory “motherf—er” to prove he has not crossed the line to Lite Rock. Reminiscent of his old dirty days, he gets into a whole “pussy control” rant: “How many ladies got pussy control?” “I got a headache tonight,” says Mayte. “I got something for your headache,” he says – kind of like a dirty Captain and Tenille. He is no longer feeling “The Kid” when he says to them, “I am your mom’s favorite freak.” Mayte carries out a cake but he waves it away. “I hate that Happy Birthday song.”

The next night he plays even longer – three hours instead of two – and is even hotter, released from his video chores, having imparted his bit tome. He has a chiffon scarf over his face, a white suit with fringe, another Elvisoid chest-baring white suit with gold trim. Up in the balcony, at 4:30A.M., his three aides in black dresses are dancing away – his accountant, one of his lawyers, his director of operations, all reminded of why they work for this man.

“This is your captain,” he says onstage in the colored cone of streaming light, his rhinestone necklace shining on his slender throat. He is at his best in the hour of the owl with the creatures of the moon. Now, over these bodies, he has the power. When he is free, emancipated from his demon Warner, if it all works out, he will be laughing in the purple rain. And maybe it will be the last laugh.

Esquire Gentleman, herfst 1995

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