Call him "The Artist Formerly Known as The Artist." Speaking before press assembled at the Sports Club L.A. in New York Tuesday afternoon, the Purple One announced that he is putting aside his unpronounceable symbol and formally reclaiming the name "Prince."
"On Dec. 31, 1999, my publishing contract with Warner/Chappell expired, thus emancipating the name that I was given before birth, Prince, from all long-term, restrictive documents," he said, reading from a pre-written speech. "I will now go back to using my name instead of the symbol I adopted as a means to free myself from undesirable relationships."
The announcement coincides with the upcoming weeklong festivities at "Prince: A Celebration," set to kick off on Prince's forty-second birthday. From June 7 through June 13, the gates of Prince's famed studio Paisley Park will be open to the public for tours and nightly parties. The week will culminate with a performance by Prince and assorted friends at the Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis on June 13. "It's not going to be a concert, per se," said Prince. "More like a jam session."
"People who have supported my music through the years never really got a chance to go inside Paisley Park," he said. "A lot of changes have happened there recently. It's a more public-friendly place. All the studios are opening back up, and they'll be ready for business in August. There's just a lot to do there and I'd like for them to see what they helped create -- the interaction that went on with us throughout the years that actually painted the joint."
Prince said that he would also like for the celebration to provide a forum to further discuss the debate on access to music on the Internet. "Our goal is to further the dialog between us and our audience to find the best way to continue our mutual relationship. If that sounds vague, it's meant to be ... Napster may be listening."
He laughed at that, but beyond addressing the importance of artists controlling their own music, he did not express a clearly defined stance on the MP3-trading debate. "It's interesting -- Chuck D supports Napster," he said at one point, looking amused and bewildered. "I don't know where I sit on the issue, because there's rights and wrongs on both sides."
He did reveal that, in response to the "lackluster way" in which Arista Records promoted his last album, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, he will be releasing a new version available exclusively on his Web site, www.npgonlineltd.com. In addition to featuring remixes and a couple of new songs, the new version will be renamed Rave In2 the Joy Fantastic.
Prince said that though he is willing to discuss further projects with Arista in the future, he informed Arista Records president-elect L.A. Reid that "any previous agreements with Clive Davis and NPG were null and void."
Regarding his future plans, Prince said he has been recording new music and may tour later this year. But for the moment, his June 13 performance is his only confirmed show in 2000.
"My main concern right now is to take time to study things of a spiritual nature," he said, preferring to keep the details private. "So I'm going to go away for awhile and do that, and then I'm hoping to go on the road by July or early August."
Prince was candid and relaxed throughout the press conference, even addressing rumors about the strained state of his relationship with his wife, Mayte. "I think most of [the rumors] derived out of the perceived notion that we are still married in the conventional sense. Contrary to recent statements in the press, that's not true. We're still friends, but she does her thing and I do mine." When one goading reporter asked Prince if he could take Michael Jackson in a fistfight, Prince laughed and said, "Michael's not a fighter, he's a lover."