Social Icons


20 April 2013

Rock and Roll Love Affair: Prince Slays Seattle at the Showbox

  Prince treated fans to some funky rock and roll last night.
  That was how The Purple One described the musical theme for his second, and closing, show April 19 at Showbox at the Market in Seattle. It was the second stop on his "Live Out Loud Tour" with his band 3rd Eye Girl, which includes Hannah Ford on drums, Donna Grantis on guitar and Ida Nielsen on bass.
  The show I attended wasn't scheduled to start until 11:30 p.m., but, I was there promptly at 4:45 p.m., as I only live two blocks away from the venue and this was a general admission event. This was after working the graveyard shift Thursday night and sleeping for approximately three hours. Alas, two people were already in line when I arrived. I guess they were just as serious about it as I was.
  The Green Room, the house bar for the venue, is a place where all the early birds can sit, eat or have a drink and wait to be let in for the show. I got a card for group 1, with first priority  to be let into the venue as a reward for my eagerness (although, I do believe that people were also handpicked from the lines outside to enter early, too). Prince's influence even extended down to the bar, as the bartender informed several patrons that there was a strictly vegetarian food menu at the artist's request.
  I could hear most of the 8:30 p.m. show going on upstairs while sipping on my Negra Modelo with three limes (that's what's up). I recognized familiar guitar strains from "Colonized Mind" and "Dolphin," the latter of which he sadly did not play for the second set. I would've slapped my mama to actually see him play that song live (figuratively speaking, of course, because, I don't think she would be down for that). But, such is life.
  The sounds of excited fans and slamming guitar licks made the three-plus hours waiting in The Green Room go by very fast. I could hardly contain my anticipation.
  But, enough about me: I know you want to hear a little less about Kristi and more about Prince.
  The staff let us in about 10:45 p.m. or so. By the time I got to the main floor, there was already a small group of people gathered in front of the stage. I was still able to claim a great spot at stage right near the lights. It was nice, because, there was a good-sized crowd, but, people were respectful. Unlike most general admission shows, nobody was trying to aggressively push their way to the front or standing so close to you that you feel them breathing down your neck (or back, in my case, since I'm 6'2").
  The concert started on time— in fact, I'm pretty sure that it started a few minutes early—with the new "Let's Go Crazy (Reloaded)." 
  The show literally started with a bang and blinding flashes of strobe lights. When Prince's figure became visible out of the darkness, he had on what looked like a Nehru jacket (but, I could be wrong) with extra long fringes, yellow bell bottoms, gold boots and a yellow scarf to accent his afro, a la Jimi Hendrix. I literally felt like I had been transported in time. Prince and 3rd Eye Girl was taking the audience on a non-stop rock-and-roll journey and he had  channeled the legendary Seattle rocker as an unofficial guide.
"We're not in the real universe, we're in the Prince universe. It's pretty scary...and kind of cool. - A bartender at The Green Room
 The next song was Endorphinmachine, a pulsating, guitar-driven jam that I have been DYING to hear live since the first time I heard The Gold Experience album in 1999. He changed a few of the lyrics (referring to his 'fro instead of the dippy, dippy waves of his 'do in the album version), but that guitar break in the middle of the song was even more killer than I'm used to.
  Next up was "Screwdriver," which Prince recently recorded with 3rd Eye Girl, an always fun and bouncy pop-rock cut. The official lyric video, with Prince's pre-recorded vocals, came up on the screen behind the band. He jokingly asked the crowd if it was okay if the band did some lip syncing during the show, before, they all promptly kicked in on the second verse.
  Fan favorite "She's Always in My Hair" quickly followed, which, in my humble opinion, is the best B-Side he's ever produced. I caught wind of reports that the band played this song at earlier shows and I was hoping to hear it. I was not disappointed.
  This one of those songs that every time the guitar solos kick in on the recorded version, you just don't want them to stop. They didn't last night. The song turned into an extended jam where Prince just let all the emotions flow from his fingers and through his guitar.
  At some point I started to feel flashes of heat, which could have come from the hot-ass lights that I was standing by or the truly electric energy that was emanating from the stage as the band executed hit after guitar-shredding hit. I'm convinced it was the latter.
  I have to give it up for Ford, Grantis and Nielsen, who I believe, compliment Prince's current sound very well. Each lady had their chance to shine, as they all had several solos throughout the evening. Also, one cool thing of note was that the way the lights were positioned on the stage, moving from side to side, behind them--especially Nielsen-- it looked light was actually radiating from them and their instruments while they were playing. They looked like ethereal rock-and-roll divas.
   We got to hear some funky riffs on "Play That Funky Music White Boy," by Wild Cherry and "Alphabet St." Then there was "Dreamer." He slowed it way down on the third verse of this song, to the point where he almost talking, not singing. It was like he was having an intimate conservation with the entire audience. This added even more weight to the lyrics and gave the social commentary at the heart of the song an even deeper meaning. It made me think of this rock and roll anthem, which I've heard hundreds of times, in a different way.
It was the perfect segue into "Purple Rain," where Prince switched to the keyboards. This closed out the first part of the set.
  The band left stage for a brief interlude, where I just stood in the darkness and quietly reflected on what I just saw. Oddly, I was able to do this in the middle of a sea of screaming fans who demanded more.
  The band obliged and came back, picking up right where they left off by launching into "Guitar." Prince had, by now, swapped the jacket for a sleeveless yellow tunic. We also got to hear two more numbers from his upcoming album: "Plectrum Electrum" and "Fixurlifeup."
  Later, they launched into "I Like it There" and "Bambi," two older songs from Prince's more overtly risque songwriting days. Honestly, I was surprised to hear him recite lyrics like "My emotional ejaculate all over the floor," from "I Like it There" (which could be considered sexual...or not. That's up for debate). Or the more blatant "Baby, you need to bleed" and "It's better with a man" from "Bambi," where the meaning is impossible to miss. But, I would be lying if I didn't say I loved every minute of it.
  In addition, a gentleman referred to simply as "Joshua" in the set lists posted on the 3rd Eye Boy Facebook page, joined them for some enthusiastic cowbell playing during "Bambi." (Insert the Christopher Walken's "more cowbell" line from the infamous SNL skit here).
  The band left the stage once more before returning for their second, and final, encore. This is where it really got interesting. First, there was  "Sign o' the Times," where he and the band played along to a pre-recorded track, (I think it would be hard to replicate the specific sound of that song live without a full band, but, that is purely conjecture). The next few songs, however, were presented as if they were part a DJ set. That was totally unexpected.
  I was thrilled to be treated to instrumental snippets of "777-9311," (which he actually sang over the track, dear Lord); "Nasty Girl;" "I Would Die 4 U;" "Housequake;" "17 Days;" "Alphabet St.;" "Shockadelica" and "Mr. Goodnight." I screamed very loudly when I heard the last two cuts and the girl standing next to me looked perplexed as to why I was doing this.
  Finally, Prince sang "When Doves Cry" and finished up with "Hot Thing," another one of those very sexy tracks not often heard in Prince's live performance cannon as of late. Not only did he sing over the instrumental track, he also closed out the show with an amazing solo on Nielsen's bass. I think that alone was worth the ticket price.
  Just to put into perspective how truly impressive that bass solo was, when I called my friend Natasha White-Smallwood, who has been a Prince fan since 1978, this morning to recap the concert, I told her about it. She has seen The Purple One live dozens of times and she said, almost ruefully, that she had never seen him play the bass in concert.
 Toward the end of his solo, Prince fondly bid Seattle adieu and then wrapped it up with some of the funkiest bass licks I've ever heard.  He and 3rd Eye Girl left the stage-- the ladies waving as they went off-- and the curtains closed. Our trip was over. We were back. Prince had taken us on a musical journey and no one had even left the venue.
  The crowd lingered long after the house lights came up, not wanting to believe that it was over. But, once I saw the road crew packing up the instruments not very far from where I was standing, I knew it was time to go.
  I left the building in a daze, along with pleasantly ringing ears, and I was home within five minutes. I am happy to have witnessed a show on what promises to be an epic tour.

Stay beautiful, Kristi 


18 April 2013

Miss Understood: An In-Depth Interview with Susannah Melvoin


  Music has always been a family affair for Susannah Melvoin.
  The singer/songwriter comes from a musical dynasty: Her late father Michael Melvoin was a jazz musician, arranger and composer who worked with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, The Beach Boys and The Jackson 5, to name a few; her twin sister Wendy Melvoin, was a guitar player for Prince and The Revolution and later formed the duo Wendy & Lisa, with Lisa Coleman, who played keyboards for Prince, and her late brother Jonathan Melvoin, also an accomplished musician, worked with Prince, Wendy & Lisa and The Smashing Pumpkins.
  She is best known as the co-lead singer of fDeluxe (formerly known as The Family) who released their first self-titled album in 1985. The record featured the hit “The Screams of Passion” and introduced the song "Nothing Compares 2 U," which was famously covered by Sinead O'Connor in 1990. The band was made up of artists working in Prince's camp at the time: Melvoin, “St." Paul Peterson, Jellybean Johnson, Jerome Benton (who were all members of The Time) and Eric Leeds. The album, which is currently out of print, is a much sought after collector's item and it is considered by many Prince fans to be one of the artist's most ambitious associated artist projects.
  The band broke up about a year later and a planned second album never materialized. However, after two brief reunions, one for a charity show hosted by Sheila E. and a second at a post-Grammy party hosted by ?uestlove of The Roots, they officially reunited in 2011. The group released its second album, “Gaslight," and have been performing around the world, including a performance at the famed Carnegie Hall in February, according to the group's Facebook page.
  Melvoin has also appeared on dozens of songs recorded by Prince and associated artists, including “Rock Hard in a Funky Place,” “It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night” and “Anotherloverholenyohead,” among many others. She has also inspired other songs written by Prince.
    Furthermore, she has worked with countless other artists including Seal, Madonna, Eric Clapton, Quincy Jones and Doyle Bramhall II, whom she later married.
    Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s recently conducted an interview with Melvoin where she discussed fDeluxe, how she started working for Prince and designing  covers for the unreleased Dream Factory album:

  Growing up in a musical family, it's hard to say that I know anything else, because, I never went to college. I was incredibly fortunate to live in a house where music was on or being played all day. I was amazed when I would go to (other) people's homes or I would be in their cars and nobody was listening to music... It was just completely anathema to how I was brought up...
  Looking back, there are musical periods that have complete meaning to me, (because) they were scoring what was going on in my young life. So, music had a huge impact on me. 
    In the 1800s, a cobbler might raise his son to also be a cobbler, because, that's what he knows. (Music) is what I know and I'm fortunate enough to love it as much as I do. I'm blessed in that way, but, I'm kind of cursed at the same time, if I ever have to get a job.

Being a twin is the best joy. (Wendy) is my best friend in the whole world and my climbing ivy. I've always felt that I had the best friend  (and) the best sister. Any kind of relationship you could fantasize about being perfect... that's what being a twin is like for me. Even the bumps and the bruises within our life together have always been sorted out. But, they are sorted out in the way that you would hope they would be... All has been worked out and everything has been resolved. It's on to the next: no grudges, no competition, no throwing things at each other's faces... I'm really lucky.
  I still have her as my best friend, sister, wife, mother --any role that we need each other to be in... If you're the kind of twins that my sister and I are—so, so close—it's very much like a mother and her newborn. It's so symbiotic and so emphatic. That's good news if you're a mom and a baby. But, obviously there comes a time in life, and it has in certain relationships, where people thought that we were too close. They thought there was no room for them, when we really never felt that way.
  We felt we had the capacity to have really full relationships, because, we learned with each other. But, it's not really easy for others to see it that way. Wendy and I... speak freely and sometimes we can speak too freely with others. That's not always how it should be. But, being a twin has always been a joyous thing for me. I'm the luckiest person in the world. It has its absolute joys and then it has its crosses to bear.
  She's the coolest person in the world. I  think that she's amazing in every way. I've never been jealous of her (and) she's never been jealous of me. I've always championed her and I know she feels the same way about me. That's kind of unusual for a lot of relationships...So, it's great being a twin. I wouldn't want it any other way.

  I've always wanted...that's a loaded question. I think the first thing that comes up is that I've always wanted love in my life -- deep, meaningful love. I suppose that has its own layers in it. It's the umbrella in which everything underneath it exists.

  Singing makes me feel incredibly insecure and powerful, all at the same time. You let it all out and sometimes you get to the moment when you become fully aware that you actually sang and you say, “Oh my god, did anyone see me or hear me do that?”
  I love it and I'm really petrified of it, all at the same time. But, I love it. I know no other.

  When I write songs, I'm at my most self critical. Songwriting is not easy for me, because, I have to know exactly how to say something... So, for instance, a lyric could be as simple as “baby, I love you,” but, I've probably thought about that “baby, I love you” in such a way that it had to be sung right. It had to be right for how it was going to move itself into the next line, for how it would make me envision things and how it would become fully realized.
  I have to be incredibly focused (and) by myself for a long while before I put it on paper. Then, once I've started to put it on paper, I realize I've actually done this really sort of internal experience with it and then written it (to where) it becomes more pragmatic. Then, I put the puzzle together.
  It could be incredibly simple to the listener and maybe that's exactly how I meant it to be. But, there's depth to the meaning, because, of how I set it up and how I resolved it.

  People often ask me what was Prince like or how it feels to be a twin.

  When I auditioned for Quincy Jones, I didn't audition in front of him. I sent him a tape of an Aretha Franklin track (“Until You Come Back to Me”) that I had recorded with a friend of mine in his studio. I was just 19, maybe not even 19 yet, and I got the call. (Jones) called my father, who told me “You got the gig!” and I was like “What?!” There were only six of us who made it out of a 1,000 people who auditioned and I was the only white girl. I never felt more proud in my entire life. I was like “Yes, yes, yes! I am a sister!”
  (Jones) had known my father for years...They knew each other in the early 1950s and then they started playing together in the 1960s and 1970s in Los Angeles. They had always been close.
  There was a vocal contractor that worked with (Jones) who was at my father's house and that's how I found out about it.  I had just graduated from high school and I was visiting my dad. He said, “Oh by the way, Tom is actually looking for vocalists for this a cappella group that (Jones) is putting together. I think you should try out for it.” I said okay and that's how that happened. It came from my father getting the call and also Tom being there talking on behalf of (Jones). It was kind of like a family thing...

  I started working for Prince when I was 19. He had been spending a lot of time at my house, because, Wendy, Lisa and I were roommates. After high school, we always lived together. Lisa had gotten the gig with Prince and, when he would come into town, he would stay with us.
  I was really young, right out of high school, and I was working for David Geffen as the receptionist at (Geffen Records). I had just done the audition for (Jones) and Wendy wanted to play Prince my demo of the Aretha Franklin track. All I could say was “Please don't play it for him. Oh my God!”
  I went into my bedroom. It was 500 square feet, so, the bedroom wasn't very far from the kitchen. They were all sitting at the kitchen table listening to my track. Then the next thing I knew, Prince said “Why don't you come work with us? You should be with our group of people and you know this is where you belong.” I said " You know you're absolutely right.”
  So, Prince and I had a long conversation at that point and I said, “You know I'm working with (Jones) right now. It was hard to get this this gig.”
  The next thing I knew, I'm calling (Jones) in the middle of the night. I said, “I just can't sleep, I don't know what to do. I was offered a gig working with Prince. I kind of want to do it, my sister's there, my best friend who I grew up with (is there)...”
  Long story short, he said, “How could you not want to do that? Go, baby. If you can't sleep at night and that's where you need to be, you need to be there. Don't think twice about it.” So, I got his graces.
  From then on, I started working (for Prince), singing backup and being called in to sing on this or that track. I was singing on a couple tracks for the Apollonia 6 record when they were filming “Purple Rain.” 

  Susannah Melvoin on Prince songs that she inspired: The infamous “Wally,” which no one heard because he destroyed the tape. There's a huge story behind that. “Strange Relationship;” “Nothing Compares 2 U;” In a Large Room with No Light;” “If I was Your Girlfriend.” God, you know there's more and I can't remember...

  My band mates are my big brothers. We couldn't be more different. We are such different personalities and it all goes perfectly together. It's a crazy gumbo.
   I'm like their punk-rock girlfriend. I make such trouble. I'm literally like the girl where they say “Where's Susannah? Where is she? What's she doing?”
  I say “I'm here, I'm not doing anything.” I always think I'm like the innocent one and they say, “You're a pain in the ass” and I say, “I am not!”
  I love them, though. But, they don't carry my luggage very often and I hate them for that. They leave it up to me to pack the van.

  “The Screams of Passion” music video is hard for me to remember... I was so young and I was inexperienced with that kind of thing. We had been in rehearsals for such a long time to go on the road. We were rehearsing for a year before we went and did our first gig.
  Doing the music video was just part of the rehearsal thing, (because), we were in work mode. I saw it only as a job, but, not a job where I said, “Oh, this is a pain in the ass to do and I wish I was home by 5 p.m.” No. It was all part of what we were working on at the time. It was sort of a package deal in terms of how I felt about it. It was just part of the plan.
  I remember not having any expectations. Prince let us do a lot, too. There's a lot of people who think, that we, as The Family, didn't have any influence. But, that's not the case. He was there for part of the video, but, he wasn't really there (all the time). He wasn't the little guy dictator in the background saying “No, they can't do this or this is how it should be.” It wasn't like that. We had done pre-production for such a long time. We had fun, but, I wouldn't say that we were in heaven about it. It just wasn't like that. My memory of it was just working really hard. That's what I remember about it.

  fDeluxe's look was inspired by film noir. It was inspired by mid-to- late 1940s noir films with smoking jackets, fast dialogue and black-and-white glamour.
  It was Prince's concept to put us together. The reason (the band) was (previously) called The Family was, because, we had all been working within the Prince organization: I was the staff singer; (Peterson) was the keyboard player for The Time; (Johnson) was the drummer for The Time and (Leeds) was a horn player for Prince.
  When the Time disbanded, we all felt bad, because, they were a bad-ass band. But, everybody wanted to play and Prince wanted to hear people play. He was also in a place where he was fertile with music. He said, “We're like a big family here... I'm going to get (Peterson), because, people don't realize what a bad-ass singer he is. You guys will be the lead singers in the band. We're gonna do this, we're gonna play together. How about that?”
  He wanted to sell records and he believed this band was going to be the way to do it. We were the first band that he put together and produced with the idea that "this is going to do something." It wasn't a fly-by-night project. It had weight to him and to us.

  The 1985 First Avenue Concert...we had the best time. It was great. I mean I look at it now--because, I have looked at it-- and I said “Oh my god!” It's amazing what young kids we were and we just kind of went for it. We were like crazy puppies on stage. It was a lot of fun and the house was sold out. We worked really frickin' hard for that show to get out there and do that... It's great seeing it. I laugh a lot when I watch it. I can't even believe that's me! My favorite moment was singing “Nothing Compares 2 U.” It was just a great moment to sing with (Peterson). It still is for us when we sing it.

  It all changed for fDeluxe when (Peterson) decided he wanted to have a solo career. It was understandable, because, none of us got paid enough money and he had a family. He needed to support his family and it was kind of difficult.
  As “hired guns” we got paid weekly. We got paychecks and it wasn't a lot of money. No joke. I mean, it's embarrassing. But, when we were that young, it was for the love of the music. I didn't have a family, so, I wasn't worried about the kids, the mortgage or anything like that. I was along for the ride. But, it was a really long time before anyone – and it wasn't with the Prince organization-- made money.

  Susannah Melvoin on designing the Dream Factory album cover: Prince and I used to draw together. He was actually a really great artist. I was really into it, too. I would always have a pad and I was always drawing. I've been drawing since I was a kid. We would sit down and we would draw together. One particular night he couldn't come up with an album cover (for Dream Factory). I came up with a couple of different ones.  One of them was actually a dramatized version of myself, opening up a door into this dream world, with images that were based on some of the songs. I remember that there was a lot of white space, because, I couldn't fill up the background with color... Everything was kind of drawn onto white paper. But, the doors were very ornate and I'm opening the door into the Dream Factory.  The second album cover didn't have me on it. It just had the name Dream Factory, with some things hanging off the words.  I used to do murals in the house where Prince lived, incredible, crazy murals that he would ask me to paint. We were always into doing stuff like that.

  Humor... Oh my god, if there is no humor, I'd rather stick a hot poker in my eye and pass away. I have no reason to do anything if I'm not laughing. That's where I'm not joking. I have to laugh and I have to continue to laugh. If the laughter stops, I'm done. If the laughing stops, that means the fat lady sang and we're done. That's the beauty of being in my band with these guys, they're the funniest people you have ever met. 

  I'm always surprised by racism, bigotry and war mongering.

  My musical influences, this is a hard one. I had so many life experiences with different artists. When I was a really little girl, the biggest influences-- where I would put on the records  and try to sing that way—were Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell. That was always a given for me. That was really, really early on. Those were the records that I had in the house, because, of my parents.
  I would say after I turned 8 years old, I started getting into other listening experiences. But, the Aretha Franklin and Joni Mitchell records were the ones I sang to, that the words meant something to me. Every single Joni Mitchell record that I had was like my growing up as a kid. She said the words I wanted to say. But, the music moved me with Stevie Wonder and all of his early records. Those albums had huge impacts on me, in shaping who I am; not the just the music that I love, but, how I think.

  A common misconception about me... Well, I've never really heard this from people, but, what I'm going to guess is how short I am. People always think I'm incredibly tall, because, I have long arms and long legs. So, when they meet me they say “Oh, you're just a peanut!”
  People who come out to the shows and meet me, they're always surprised that I talk to anybody, that I am absolutely open to talking to them and that I have an open heart. Human beings are human beings. I am no better of a species...
  I just happen to do this and I'm glad they're all there to have fun with me. That really surprises people. I'm surprised by that myself. How else would I be? Why would I ostracize anybody that's having a good time with me?
  If you've been through a lot of heartache in your life and you are not one of the so-called privileged, you know what you have and you are grateful. You become really in touch with things that can be gone in two seconds. Those are the people you can actually have conversations with, because, they don't have time to waste time. To be anything other than real is just a waste of time.
  Say what you mean, but, don't say it mean. I have no fear of talking to people. If you don't like me, fine, I don't even have a grudge about that. It just is what it is.

  Wendy, Lisa and I are family forever. They happen to be really, really funny. That's why I stick around (laughs).

  John Cusack is very funny and smart.

  Susannah Melvoin on playing the lead role in “Under the Cherry Moon”: We were on our way to Paris to hunker down and study the script and get that all sorted out. Some other things went down and the next we were doing was me not being in the lead of the film. Which I'm grateful for. It was a blessing in disguise.

  Under the Cherry Moon... The record (Parade) is fantastic. It was a very, very loaded time. There was lots of stuff going on, but, the record was amazing. The “Girls and Boys” music video was shot in Nice on the set of the film. It was actually fantastic. I remember it being really grand. There we were in Nice and it was so beautiful there. It was just kind of a magical time. I felt like a princess. I think all us girls did, because of the hair and makeup. We were like “Oh my God, this is fantastic! Do me!” It was really fun.

  I want my fans to know that sadness... is like the clouds. They come in different shapes and different colors, but, they pass, and somewhere along the line the light comes out. Then the clouds come again. You should just breathe deep...and vote!

  “Miss Understood” was not put on the (first) album, because, I didn't want it to be. I wanted it for the second record and I wanted to re-cut it. There wasn't time to re-cut it before it was going to mastering and I said “Prince, you can't put this on, I'm not happy with it. Let's wait until the second record.” Then we both decided to just do that.
  But, that never happened. It's just floating around out there in the ether, totally not the way I wanted it, but, whatever... It was just way too insincere. I didn't believe myself at all, how would anyone else believe me? It just wasn't something I was comfortable with. At the time, I sang it so many different times to give it something and I was sort of given direction on that song by Prince. I was just not feeling it.
  But, at the end of the day, once I was done, I said, “Can I just do this again on the next record? Can I just re-cut it? There's some other ideas that I've come up with so I can get these words out.” Prince was nice about it. He was just said “Of course, let's wait for the second one. Let's just put (the album) out as is and we'll redo it the next time." I said “Great!”
  There were two tracks that had been done that were going to be put on the second record. But, that was all put in the vault, because, (Peterson) left. But, we definitely had the plan of doing it. (Peterson's) unreleased track had something to do with a tiger or a jaguar, or something like that. I can't remember. You would have to ask him. It had to do with some animal.

  fDeluxe is a bad ass band. Come see us live.

  I wish I could pay my mortgage.

  The music business... there is no music business. It's just the “ic” business. It's the I-C of the business...there's no muse, it's just the “ic.”
  If there is a music business, whatever business it is, has nothing to do with music. It has nothing to do with artists, it has nothing remotely to do with anything I, or my artist friends, do for a living...
  You certainly can't even sell music anymore. It's not about even selling music or making music, because, there is no money in making music. There's only money in selling...a part of your brand that has nothing to do with the music. That's a whole new world for artists now. But, that's the world that I live in and I'm not even talking about the ones that have no history. Those people have it even harder.
  Luckily, I've had a history (and) I'm heavily involved in the social media aspect of it. I'm heavily involved with my fans. I'm very involved in structuring how (my music) is heard. This is all pioneer stuff. Nobody out there has a clue on how it's going to work. There are some models, which people are going by, but, even those aren't a guarantee. It's just like work your ass off and something may stick. Maybe.
  But, hopefully, we can get out there and play... If you're lucky enough you have an agent who says “Yeah, we're going to put you out. Even if you have to play shit clubs, we're going to still put you out.” That's better than literally being told “There's no room for you out there in the touring world and you're going to have to figure it out for yourself” or “You're going to have to pay to play," which is even harder.
  So, in the music business, there is no muse. The muse is the thing that I was referring to, the inspiration. That's what a muse does. It's something or someone that inspires me to write a particular record... There's no muse in the music business anymore...

  I've worked with amazing dream artists. I've worked with everybody I've ever wanted to and I feel blessed: Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, Bilal, my sister and Lisa, the musicians in fDeluxe, Oliver Leiber, Chaka Khan...

  Clare Fisher, talk about a muse. He was my inspiration for getting the strings on the (first) record. Clare had done work with my father —my father being the arranger and Clare being the string arranger. So, I had that “in,” although, that was not how I was thinking about it at the time.
  Prince and I were listening to a bunch of Rufus records back in the day-- and this was before we thought about doing strings on the first record. We were talking about how brilliant the strings were on those albums. I had also been listening to a lot of Claus Ogerman and Bill Evans. There's one record they did called Symbiosis and it's just one of the most beautifully arranged records. Ogerman's string arrangement, and Evans playing the piano over it, is some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard.
  The only thing that's ever came close to feeling as perfectly arranged in terms of the strings was on the Ruficized record. I just said, “Prince, why don't we get Clare to do the strings on our record?” He said,  “Yeah.” I said, “My dad knows him.” I called my dad and said “Pop, you gotta call Clare and see if he's up for it.” He was.
  We sent him the 24 track. He got back to us right away and said “Absolutely.” Within a month we had all the lead sheets and we had the entire score for the record. We went in and cut it and I couldn't have been happier.
  Cut to this record (Gaslight) and Clare's son, Brent Fischer, who managed him. (Clare Fischer passed away two years ago). Brent would do all of his father's transposing, writing, and he would do all the lead sheets for his dad. Then he started to actually compose. So, I had gotten in touch with him.
  (Peterson) and I were in my garage where we recorded my record on Pro Tools. We called Brent and said, “You know your dad did the first record...Would you be up for listening to this one and see what you think?” He said, “I absolutely will.” But, we couldn't afford it, no matter how we tried to budget it, we just couldn't afford it.
  To make a long story short...(Peterson) went in on some of my sister's and Lisa's string programs and with my chirpy little ears, I was that gal who said, “This is beautiful, but, we have to have to make it more heartbreaking...” Brent actually heard it later and said “My dad would be so proud. I couldn't have done better.”
  I was in heaven about that. (Peterson) is really smart.  I just want you to know he's a total savant. He's a dork, too. That makes him even more of a savant. He's got all those fun qualities.

  I wasn't always...blonde?

  Will I ever make a living being a musician?

  The band Prince ever had.

  I've learned that feelings aren't facts...and that took me a look time.

  The response to the fDeluxe reunion was a total surprise and a shot in the arm.

  The Carnegie Hall concert was the best night of my life. Playing Carnegie Hall with my most beloved sister, all those other artists and my band...It was all good. It's too bad Prince took all the footage off (the Internet). You can't find footage of that anywhere anymore, but, It was on there for a while.

  Recording “Gaslight” was liberating. A lot people had never heard me sing like that...It was really satisfying to put my song on there...and show that I could throw myself into a track like that. It was liberating and absolutely fantastic. I had written that song years ago.

  Looking back...I don't do much of that anymore. But, if I do look back at all, I'm just glad I'm not there anymore. I'm glad I'm where I'm at. Life goes on. I've got the best two babies in the world.

  The future is always uncertain.

  Check out fDeluxe online at

  Stay beautiful, Kristi


Like us on Facebook: Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s and Beautiful Nights.

15 April 2013

Controversy: A Candid Interview with C.J., Minneapolis Star Tribune Columnist

  You thought I was going to call this story “Billy Jack Bitch,” didn't you?
  I thought about it, but, I don't think that really sheds any light on the, shall we say, “differences of opinion,” between C.J., Minneapolis Star Tribune entertainment columnist and her most divisive discussion topic: Prince.
  She has often made critical observations about the artist in her column and the writer-- as well as most Prince fans-- are sure that The Purple One wrote the song “Billy Jack Bitch,” from his 1995 album The Gold Experience, in her honor. The opus depicts its subject--whomever that might be--in a less-than-flattering light. However, he has never publicly confirmed or denied if the song is about her.
  C.J. has lived in Minnesota for about 25 years and started writing her column for the Star Tribune in the late 1980s. She also hosts “Buzz,” an entertainment segment included on KMSP (Fox 9) newscasts, for the last 10 years.
  C.J. said she grew up in the “deep south” and her father was one of the first Black people to receive a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. She said he was “essentially a poor boy trying to get through school with a wife and two children.” She added that sometimes he had to leave school to go work and he would save money to go back to continue his studies. He later became the first dean of the graduate school at Alabama State University.
  She received her bachelor's degree from Bennett College, an all-women's Historically Black College, in North Carolina and a master's degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. Her first newspaper job was in Flint, Mich. and she later landed a reporting gig with her current employer.
  C.J. did a telephone interview with “Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s” about two weeks ago where she discussed her column,“Billy Jack Bitch” and some things she likes about Prince:

  ?: How did you start writing this column? What did you cover before that?
  C.J.: (The paper) said they wanted a local column about people and, one day, I looked in the paper and saw they were promoting it as gossip column.
  (Before that), I covered everything, but, courts was my favorite thing to cover. Actually, at the time I got this job, I had been banished to covering one of the suburbs, because, I was being punished. That's the truth. Ironically, the editor who banished me later apologized...
  We didn't have many celebrities here in Minnesota back when I started this column and (Prince) lived here at the time. Sometimes, he is not the most well-behaved person and I thought, is anybody telling him the truth? He didn't appreciate that because he is only interested in adulation. I'm kind of a no-nonsense personality myself. I guess, some years later, he reportedly wrote a song about me...
  ?: How did you initially find out about the song “Billy Jack Bitch”?
  C.J.: I was on vacation at the time and I was not the first person to write about it. One of the local news stations had reported (while I was gone) that Prince had written a song about me. This was before Twitter, e-mail and everything, so, I wasn't really connected to the office.
  I called to talk to my editor and I was telling him I wasn't sure if I was going to have anything to write about (upon returning). He said, "Oh, I think that you'll find something to write about" and he told me about the story...
  I got back to town, got a copy of the song and I got the lyrics. I wrote a column about it. (It was) very entertaining. I had a lot of fun with that.
  ?: Do you think that people sometimes misunderstand you and your column?
  C.J.: They most definitely do... One of the most useful elements of my appearances on Fox 9, has been that people can now hear me, so (now) when they read (my column), they don't get as upset as they used to. When I was at the Minnesota State Fair last summer, I was at the Fox 9 booth autographing pictures. This scruffy, older-- I would guess he's kind of conservative-- white man came over to me. He said, “I didn't like you when I read you in the newspaper, but, now that see you on T.V., I get you. You're a smart ass!” And he said he liked me.
  A mouthy black woman is still something kind of hard for America to deal with. Think about how careful Michelle Obama is. I bet you that the First Lady is quite a bit sassier than she lets anybody in the greater public see. I bet you she is a hoot behind closed doors...
  A lot of people think that when Black folks have a (public) profile, they should just be grateful. They shouldn't start acting like White folks and be smart asses. (Laughs). I don't really view myself as (just) a Black person and I don't think about it very much. But, other people remind me all the time that I am... I think I was a white guy in another life, I have to tell you.
  ?: In one of your columns, you wrote about e-mails you have received saying that you should not criticize Prince, because, he's Black and you're Black. What do you think about that?
  C.J.: I don't do “Black for Black's sake.” I don't operate that way. I can't operate that way. I've never operated that way.  I believe there's right behavior and there's wrong behavior. After I had gotten out of graduate school and I was working at my first job in Flint, Mich., one of my brothers asked me, “Are you going to be a journalist first or a Black person first? I told him I was going to be a journalist first. That was the wrong answer, by the way.
?: Tell me about the time you met Prince.
  C.J.: My dear friend Beverly was in town and she was a big Prince fan. She wanted to know where he lived. (Usually), I don't tell people where celebrities live, (because), I don't like to create additional security issues for people. But, I figured she was from out of town, so she wouldn't know where she was.
  (We drove up to the gate) and we were driving by it, then I said, “Here he comes right now.” He was driving his BMW and he was leaving his property. She got so excited. (We were driving away) and he pulled in right behind us. She was trying to take a photograph of him through the back window of my car. She could barely work the camera, (although) her daddy was a famous photographer...
  So, I slowed down even more and I saw through my driver's side mirror that Prince had wrapped his thumbs around his steering wheel and he was using his fingers to essentially tell us to move along... because, he could tell that he had been made.
  Then I told her, "If he's going to Paisley Park, he'll make a series of turns,” and he made those turns. When he got to Paisley Park, he pulled onto the property and I thought he had pulled his car into the garage. I parked my car on the street; having been kicked out of Paisley Park once, I didn't dare park my car on his property. We got out of the car and as she's walking over to take a picture of (the building), I realized that his car was hidden behind a berm. So, he came driving out and pulled out on the street and she was just beside herself. He lowered the window just a little bit, because, the glass was really tinted and he said "No pictures, no pictures."
  She said "I'll put the camera behind my back" and I was afraid he was going to flee-- he looked very skittish to me-- so, I took the camera from her and I said "Watch, I'll put the camera in the car."
I walked over to the car, so, he could see me. I opened the door and threw the camera in and I said, "See, no camera."
  I returned to where Prince was talking with my friend Beverly. She was going on and on about what a genius he is and how incredible he is. To tell you the truth, I was kind of standing there rolling my eyes, because, I never heard her gush like that about anybody.
  They talked for a very long time, before he noticed me kind of rolling my eyes. He said something about me—I can't remember what question he asked. But, it was a question that prompted me to respond: "You don't know me, but, you know who I am."
  He said, "Who are you?"
  I said "I'm C.J.," to which he said, "Billy!" Then, the little devil proceeded to say "Oh, that song is not about you."
  So, if that song's not about me, why is "Billy!" the first thing you say when you find out it's me?
  I asked him why he couldn't behave like a normal human being, like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who didn't roll around town with bodyguards, calling additional attention to themselves-- that was back when they still lived here. He told me he wasn't like them. I can't remember all the things (I said), I wrote an article about it...
  I thought it was interesting that he said that the song wasn't about me. You know, Prince has worked with a lot of musicians and there are a lot of musicians with whom he does not continue to work. I've been around long enough that I've met one or two of these musicians. One day, I was out covering something at a private recording session and somebody came over to me and said "Oh, I know you. Didn't Prince write a song about you?"
  I said "Yeah, I think he did, but, when I met him, he said he didn't write the song about me." One of the musicians who was at this private recording session turned around and said to me, "It's about you, I was there when he wrote it."
  Also, when Prince performed that song out in California a couple of times, he ended it by falling to his knees saying "C.J. Billy Jack Bitch." I had this Prince source who was a member of his inner circle-- clearly someone who has died, because, I haven't heard from this person in a long, long time-- and that person played me a recording of, I heard it for myself.
  ?: What would you say to Prince fans who think you are unfairly targeting him?
  C.J.: I do think Prince is a genius, but, I also think he's a bit of a jackass. I don't think he should be held to a standard as though he is a deity. He is far from a perfect person... (But), I don't have a problem saying nice things about Prince. He does lot of things that are a little bit different and I don't mind calling attention to them...
  He makes some very poor decisions. I mean, throwing that poor guy's guitar recently? Can you imagine? You can throw your own guitar (but), you don't throw somebody else's guitar. Although, I'm told he has now agreed to pay for it... But, I don't think you should throw it to start with.
  ?: So, on that note, what do you like about Prince? You said you thought he was a genius.
  C.J.: Anybody who can play that many instruments is a genius, no doubt about it.
The one time I met him, he said he thought the reason I wrote negative things about him is that I was one of his old girlfriends-- and this was back when I was actually in shape. But, even when I was in shape, I didn't look like ANY of the women Prince has ever dated. He has spectacular taste in women and there is no day in his life (that) he would've looked at me and thought, “Hmmm, I'd like to take her on a date.”
  What else can I say about him? He makes some interesting fashion choices. I admire that he's a trendsetter.
  He really does think of himself as being a very deep thinker and I am assuming that he must have done a fair amount of reading. He enjoys going on television and yammering with Tavis Smiley, who is a very smart guy. And if you're hanging out with (Smiley), I assume you also get to hang out with Cornel West, another very smart man. I'm sure that they love the idea that they're hanging out with Prince...
 (Also) Purple Rain is one of the best albums ever.
  ?: Why do you still insist on calling Prince "Symbolina"?
  C.J.: Because, it gets a rise out of you guys (laughing) and I created the name. Other people use it, so, why shouldn't the person who coined it get to use it? I've created about eight names for people and that's one of the best...
  ?: I know that you do columns on other entertainment luminaries, but, a lot of your stories are about Prince. Why?
  C.J.: He's one of the biggest stars from Minnesota. He is an internationally famous musician and he's from Minnesota... When he does something on national T.V., I write about it.
  ?: Is there anything that people would be surprised to know about you?
  C.J.: I'm an artist ( and I've painted some pictures of Prince. One of the pictures is called “Billy Jack This,” where I painted Prince with dreadlocks. I have trouble painting people for whom I don't have some affection. I clearly have some affection for him. I didn't think it was a hairstyle he would ever wear, then he turns up in an afro again! I know one of Prince's former hairdressers and I'm told that nobody does Prince's hair better than he does. I'm told he can do some hair, you hear me?
  I had a very good relationship with Prince's brother Duane Nelson... I was very fond of Duane and he liked me... Prince also had a sister named Lorna Nelson. I got along fine with her. She was a nice lady.
  ?: You said that you were once asked to leave Paisley Park.  Why?
  C.J.: Sharon Sayles Belton, a former mayor of Minneapolis, had a fundraiser out at Paisley Park (in January 1995)  and it cost $100 to get in. I thought it would be funny for me to show up (and) one of my editors lived out near Paisley Park. I decided that I did not want to take the chance of driving my car over there, because, my car was kind of distinctive. I dropped my little sports car off at my editor's house, took his minivan and drove over...
  I had on a purple dress and some eyeglasses-- which I wore as a disguise-- this was before I had to wear glasses. I sashayed in there and I was amazed that I got past the front door, where they took my $100 bill. I walked through Paisely Park and I was in the audience, enjoying the performance. I'm don't remember how long I was there, but, I was there much longer than I thought I would have been.  I was not there for an hour, but, I think it was more than 30 minutes.
  Prince was onstage performing and, all of a sudden, somebody taps me on my right shoulder. He said, “I've been asked to ask you to leave.” I thought it was hysterical. I said, “Well, I'll need my money back,” (and) he took out a $100 bill. (Then), I was escorted off the premises.
  It's always more interesting when they kick you out, than when they let you stay. I got a great story and I didn't have to stay there all night long. You can see pretty well from the stage, so, (Prince) might have seen me...
  It must have been something I wrote!
  ?: What are the guidelines for who you can write about in your columns?
  C.J.: I can write about anybody with a Minnesota connection if they are here or if someone else is writing about them. These people in New York are constantly sending me e-mails to write about their people, because, they know I have a column. I tell them when their celebrity gets into Minnesota, (then) I can write about them.
  ?: Do you think that the stories you've written about Prince have raised your notoriety?
  C.J.: I think him writing a song about raised my notoriety. If I was Prince, I would have never written a song about me. You just ignore me! It kind of suggests that I have gotten under your skin. I wouldn't give (anybody) that kind of satisfaction. When somebody really annoys me, I don't write about them anymore.
  ?: What do you enjoy most about being an entertainment columnist?
C.J.: I love observing people, it's always fun. When it comes down to it, if I had my druthers, I wouldn't write about my interactions with celebrities. I'd write about their interactions with other people, because, I think that tells you more. Everybody is on their best behavior when they're talking to me. I also like when someone calls me and tells me about an experience they've had with a celebrity.
  ?: Who's your favorite singer?
C.J.: Patti Austin! She doesn't need autotune, she has a wicked since of humor and she is one of the greatest impersonators of other singers. She can do Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, Anita Baker...I actually got to meet her. She performed at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis...But, she is not appreciated to the extent that she should be. I wish she get this Ella Fitzgerald stuff out of her system and go back to doing rhythm and blues...She is a really, really good singer.
  ?: What's your favorite Prince song?
  C.J.: I'm into lyrics, because, I'm a words person. I like songs that tell stories, songs that paint pictures, (like) “Purple Rain.” What I understand of it paints a very good picture. I think I understand the imagery of “When Doves Cry,” that's a very emotional song. I like good lyrics and it's hard to do. I could never write a song. But, I know good songwriting when I hear it.
  ?: Do you have any final thoughts?
  C.J.: I find it irritating that Prince doesn't have a sense of history. He tore down that purple house. He tore down that other property. He could take Paisley Park, open it as a museum...He could have that place as a museum standing at all times. Every now and then he could say I'm going to do a performance...and you know that Prince fans from all over the country would pour into the Twin Cities for that. Am I right?
  He is missing opportunities to earn money... and also to create a lasting edifice for his legacy. It would be like Graceland. He could open it one day a month and it would constantly be filled with people. They could get their tickets online, only let in 500 people and charge them $50. Do the math...


You can read C.J.'s column in the newspaper or online at

These opinions are solely those of the interviewee and do not reflect the views of "Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s."

Stay beautiful, Kristi


Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Photo credit: Bob McNamara ( Hair and makeup by Terra H.


Like us on Facebook: Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s and Beautiful Nights.