Prince: What We Learned From His Slightly Weird Guardian Interview

When Prince summons you to Paisley Park, his studio complex in Minnesota, you don’t ask questions. You just go. Although Guardian journalist Alexis Petridis admitted that the resulting mini press conference, which he attended with three other European journalists, didn’t necessary lead to the most revealing interview ever, there was still plenty to chew over. For example: the funk-rock genius famed for the pomp and ceremony of his legendary live performances really is planning a UK tour on which he’ll perform solo and play piano (though it’s been recently postponed).

Anyway, here’s what else we learned from the slightly weird but nevertheless compelling press conference/interview, which you can read in full here.

Paisley Park isn’t what you might expect

On his 1985 single ‘Paisley Park’, Prince eulogised the studio as a place with “no rules” and characterised by “love”, but Petridis found it looked “more like a branch of Ikea”. From the outside, that is.

Inside, the journalist notes, “there is a lot of purple. The symbol that represented Prince’s name for most of the ’90s is everywhere: hanging from the ceiling, painted on speakers and the studio’s mixing desks, illuminating one room in the form of a neon sign.”

Having sold over 100 million records, Prince wants to “challenge” himself

Of the tour, the Purple One says: “I’m doing it to challenge myself, like tying one hand behind my back, not relying on the craft that I’ve known for 30 years. I won’t know what songs I’m going to do when I go on stage, I really won’t. I won’t have to, because I won’t have a band. Tempo, keys, all those things can dictate what song I’m going to play next, you know, as opposed to, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do my hit single now, I’ve got to play this album all the way through,’ or whatever. There’s so much material, it’s hard to choose. It’s hard. So that’s what I’d like to do.”

In this vein, he doesn’t get too attached to his hits: “I write so many songs that I don’t even think about those songs any more. I don’t get attached to it. Because if I did, I couldn’t move on and there’d be no space for a new song like Stare. That’s what you want to listen to.”

He’s still not crazy about the internet

In 2010, Prince declared the internet to be “over”. He clarified that statement in the new interview: “What I meant was that the internet was over for anyone who wants to get paid, and I was right about that,” he says. “Tell me a musician who’s got rich off digital sales. Apple’s doing pretty good though, right?”

Though it has made him like critics more

“Oh, I love critics,” he says in the new Guardian piece. “Because they love me. It’s not a joke. They care. See, everybody knows when somebody’s lazy, and now, with the internet, it’s impossible for a writer to be lazy because everybody will pick up on it. In the past, they said some stuff that was out of line, so I just didn’t have anything to do with them. Now it gets embarrassing to say something untrue, because you put it online and everyone knows about it, so it’s better to tell the truth.” The internet: bad for getting paid, good for accountability. Seems fair.

And yet…

In case you were worried that the eccentric genius was talking to talk something dangerously close to sense, he also claimed that the problem with the music industry is… its lack of jazz fusion:

“There are no great jazz-fusion bands,” he laments. “I grew up seeing Weather Report, and I don’t see anything remotely like that now. There’s nothing to copy from, because you can’t go and see a band like Weather Report. Al Di Meola, the guitar player, he’d just stand in the centre of the stage, soloing, until everyone gives him a standing ovation. Those were the memories that I grew up with and that made me want to play.”

Though that’s not his only issue with the music biz

Petridis writes that, Prince, having described record contracts as “slavery”, still isn’t crazy about the whole set up, saying: “I think history speaks for itself. You know, U2 don’t have a problem with their label. They love their record label” – and advising new artists not to sign anything.

And you don’t need a record label, apparently: “You don’t need a record company to turn you into anything. It wasn’t like they were directing our flow whatsoever, you know. I had autonomous control from the very beginning to make my album.”

He’s still mercurial and weirdly compelling

Be sure to read the full piece, which is packed with background info and anecdotes about the superstar. Other revelations: Prince is funny, playing the theme to The Twilight Zone on a keyboard and shaking his head when he doesn’t like a journalist’s question. Also a local fan once spotted himself riding around the Paisley Park studio on a bicycle, which would surely make anyone’s day.