Why have you decided that now is the time to talk?
There have been a lot of things said about me, and a lot of them are wrong. There have been a lot of contradictions. I don't mind criticism, I just don't like lies. I feel I've been very honest in my work and my life, and it's hard to tolerate people telling so many barefaced lies.
Do you read most of what's written about you?
A little, not much. Sometimes someone will pass along a funny one. I just wrote a song called "Hello," which is going to be on the flip side of "Pop Life." It says at the end, "Life is cruel enough without cruel words." I get a lot of cruel words. A lot of people do.
I saw critics be so critical of Stevie Wonder when he made Journey through the Secret Life of Plants. Stevie has done so many great songs, and for people to say, "You missed, don't do that, go back" – well, I would never say, "Stevie Wonder, you missed." [Prince puts the Wonder album on the turntable, plays a cut, then puts on Miles Davis' new album.] Or Miles. Critics are going to say, "Ah, Miles done went off." Why say that? Why even tell Miles he went off? You know, if you don't like it, don't talk about it. Go buy another record!
Not long ago I talked to George Clinton, a man who knows and has done so much for funk. George told me how much he liked Around the World in a Day. You know how much more his words mean than those from some mamma-jamma wearing glasses and an alligator shirt behind a typewriter?
Do you hate rock critics? Do you think they're afraid of you?
[Laughs] No, it's no big deal. Hey, I'm afraid of them! One time early in my career, I got into a fight with a New York writer, this little skinny cat, a real sidewinder. He said, "I'll tell you a secret, Prince. Writers write for other writers, and a lot of time it's more fun to be nasty." I just looked at him. But when I really thought about it and put myself in his shoes, I realized that's what he had to do. I could see his point. They can do whatever they want. And me, too. I can paint whatever picture I want with my albums. And I try to instill that in every act I've ever worked with.
What picture were you painting with Around the World in a Day?
[Laughs] I've heard some people say I'm not talking about anything on this record. And what a lot of other people get wrong about the record is that I'm not trying to be this great visionary wizard. Paisley Park is in everybody's heart. It's not just something that I have the keys to. I was trying to say something about looking inside oneself to find perfection. Perfection is in everyone. Nobody's perfect, but they can be. We may never reach that, but it's better to strive than not.
As far as that goes, let me tell you a story about Wendy. We had to fly somewhere at the beginning of the tour, and Wendy is deathly afraid of flying. She got on the plane and really freaked. I was scared for her. I tried to calm her down with jokes, but it didn't work. I thought about it and said, "Do you believe in God?" She said yes. I said, "Do you trust him?" and she said she did. Then I asked, "So why are you afraid to fly?" She started laughing and said, "Okay, okay, okay." Flying still bothers her a bit, but she knows where it is and doesn't get freaked.
It's just so nice to know there is someone and someplace else. And if we're wrong, and I'm wrong, and there is nothing, then big deal! But the whole life I just spent, I at least had some reason to spend it.
When you talk about God, which God are you talking about? The Christian God? Jewish? Buddhist? Is there any God in particular you have in mind?
Yes, very much so. A while back, I had an experience that changed me and made me think differently about how and what I wrote and how I acted toward people. I'm going to make a film about it – not the next one, but the one after that. I've wanted to make it for three years now. Don't get me wrong – I'm still as wild as I was. I'm just funneling it in a different direction. And now I analyze things so much that sometimes I can't shut my brain off and it hurts. That's what that movie will be about.
What was the experience that changed you?
I don't really want to get into it specifically. During the Dirty Mind period, I would go into fits of depression and get physically ill. I would have to call people to help me get out of it. I don't do that anymore.
What were you depressed about?
A lot had to do with the band's situation, the fact that I couldn't make people in the band understand how great we could all be together if we all played our part. A lot also had to do with being in love with someone and not getting any love back. And there was the fact that I didn't talk much with my father and sister. Anyway, a lot of things happened in this two-day period, but I don't want to get into it right now.
How'd you get over it?
That's what the movie's going to be about. Paisley Park is the only way I can say I got over it now. Paisley Park is the place one should find in oneself, where one can go when one is alone.
You say you've now found the place where you can go to be alone. Is it your house? Within the family you've built around you? With God?
It's a combination of things. I think when one discovers himself, he discovers God. Or maybe it's the other way around. I'm not sure. . . . It's hard to put into words. It's a feeling – someone knows when they get it. That's all I can really say.
Do you believe in heaven?
I think there is an afterworld. For some reason, I think it's going to look just like here, but that's part . . . I don't really like talking about this stuff. It's so personal.
Does it bother you when people say you're going back in time with Around the World in a Day?
No. What they say is that the Beatles are the influence. The influence wasn't the Beatles. They were great for what they did, but I don't know how that would hang today. The cover art came about because I thought people were tired of looking at me. Who wants another picture of him? I would only want so many pictures of my woman, then I would want the real thing. What would be a little more happening than just another picture [laughs] would be if there was some way I could materialize in people's cribs when they play the record.
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