Monday, June 13, 2011

5 Questions with Jason Draper, author of "Prince"

What was the most fascinating thing about you learned about Prince from creating this book?
The thing that most surprised me was actually during a crisis for Prince. He and his first wife, Mayte, had a baby who was tragically born with Pfieffer syndrome. They had to take the terrible to decision to remove the baby from life support very soon after he was born. Following this, two nannies that Prince had hired to help Mayte through the pregnancy got a local Minneapolis reporter involved in the story and began to claim that the whole thing was Prince’s fault – that he didn’t look after Mayte enough during the pregnancy, didn’t let he eat properly, etc. Of course, the whole thing’s preposterous, and it was just a cruel twist of nature. But after the reporter got involved, the police were called and, most shocking to me was that these two people once in Prince’s employ could actually have gone and tried to turn something so private and tragic into a very public homicide case. Of course, the whole thing was shut down almost as quickly as it started, but still – it never should have gone that far.

What was the most challenging part of writing this book? 

I wanted this book to move away from all the gossip and the jokes and the ridicule. Prince has done some odd things throughout his career, but he’s also done many more amazing things. Around the name of the name-change, it was easy to make a joke out of him. But beneath that, there was a deeper argument going on about artists’ rights and, now that the dust has settled, it’s easier to appreciate that. So I want this book to really bring to light and chart his successes – not just as a musician, but as an industry revolutionary. Lost in the commotion have been facts such as Prince being the first artist to sell an entire album online, direct to his fans, through his own website – and 10 years before Radiohead did it with In Rainbows. So the main challenge was to steer clear of the nonsense and really get down to what really matters – and what should be celebrated. It amazes me that there are so many “serious” rock bios about other artists in the canon, but that Prince really isn’t treated the same way.

What’s a big misconception about Prince?

That he’s humourless, maybe? The guy can be very funny. Also that he’s a recluse. Currently, he’s been on his Welcome 2 America tour since the end of last year – which is quite a long time for someone who’s not meant to make public appearances. And, in recent years, he’s conducted some major, high-profile interviews. Yet people still think that he doesn’t talk. What he does do is play the game brilliantly, masterminding things in such a way so that, whenever Prince makes an appearance, it’s an event; you want to be there. It’s brilliantly stage-managed.

What’s the best compliment you have received on this work? 

I had an interview earlier today with a group of hardcore fans for the Peach & Black podcast, and they were so positive about the book it was wonderful. One of them said he learned at least one new thing in each chapter, which was great. If you can appeal to – and engage with – the people who already know everything, then that’s just fantastic. But the response in general has been great, with people saying it’s the best researched Prince book out there. What a compliment!

How do you think Prince will be remembered decades from now?

Probably as the eccentric he’s seen as now, but hopefully also as a true revolutionary. He’s equally as important as Bowie, James Brown, Dylan, Sly Stone – you name it. Musically, he dominated the 80s, while the repercussions of his business decisions in the 90s are only really just being understood. I hope this book can start to make these things a little more explicit, and that Prince can start getting his due outside of – to many – just being the guy who wrote Purple Rain or When Doves cry, etc…

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