Music legend Prince met with The Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey in a Parisian restaurant for an exclusive interview in which he discussed the the concept of age [“Time is a mind construct… It’s not real”], his disdain for press exaggeration, fame, creative control, religion, touring and other subjects with wit and conviction.
The writer comments, “You expect funny peculiar from Prince, one of the few superstars who still enjoys an old-fashioned forcefield of enigma and hence endures the rumours that enigma tends to spawn. Funny ha-ha, however, is more surprising. He often seems mysteriously amused, cocking an eyebrow and pulling a coy, wouldn’t-you-like-to-know smirk, but he likes to laugh out loud, too. He is determined to be entertaining.”
on modern music:
What does he make of Lady Gaga? “I don’t know,” Prince says diplomatically. “I’d have to meet her.”
Prince will happily talk about how much he adores Adele (“When she just comes on and sings with a piano player, no gimmicks, it’s great”) or Janelle Monáe, but he won’t criticise other artists. “The new pushes the old out of the way and retains what it wants to. Don’t ask me about popular acts. Ask Janelle. Doesn’t matter what I say. We ain’t raining on anyone’s parade. I ain’t mad at anybody. I don’t have any enemies.”
on the music industry and internet piracy:
There was, of course, that business in the 90s when he went to war with Warner Bros, changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol and marking his eventual exit from the label with a triple CD pointedly titled Emancipation. “A lot of people didn’t know what I was doing,” he says, “but it helped some people. I don’t care what people think.” He’s not as angry now. “I don’t look at it as Us versus Them. I did. But you know The Wizard of Oz? When they pull back the curtain and see what’s going on? That’s what’s happened.”
Now his opponents are no longer the ailing majors, but the people selling or sharing music online. He was one of the pioneers of self-financed website releases; more recently he made lucrative deals to give away albums with tabloid newspapers. But he has no plans to make a new album, even though he has hundreds of songs stacked up.
“The industry changed,” he says. “We made money [online] before piracy was real crazy. Nobody’s making money now except phone companies, Apple and Google. I’m supposed to go to the White House to talk about copyright protection. It’s like the gold rush out there. Or a carjacking. There’s no boundaries. I’ve been in meetings and they’ll tell you, Prince, you don’t understand, it’s dog-eat-dog out there. So I’ll just hold off on recording.”
Does he have a ringtone?
“No,” he says, looking as offended as if I’d asked him if he drove a clown car. “I don’t have a phone.”
He’s equally put out by covers of his songs, Glee’s version of Kiss being the latest offender. “There’s no other artform where you can do that. You can’t go and do your own version of Harry Potter. Do you want to hear somebody else sing Kiss?”
on faith and social boundaries:
For inspiration he keeps coming back to Sly and the Family Stone, and it was that band’s former bassist, Larry Graham, who introduced him to the Jehovah’s Witnesses a decade ago. The faith seems to have made him calm and content, albeit at the loss to his songwriting of the anguish, combativeness and transgressive sexuality that animated some of his strongest 80s material.
“I was anti-authoritarian but at the same time I was a loving tyrant. You can’t be both. I had to learn what authority was. That’s what the Bible teaches. The Bible is a study guide for social interaction.” He puts it another way. “If I go to a place where I don’t feel stressed and there’s no car alarms and airplanes overhead, then you understand what noise pollution is. Noise is a society that has no God, that has no glue. We can’t do what we want to do all the time. If you don’t have boundaries, what then?”
Read the full interview at Guardian