Different musicians, producers, and DJs discuss the way that Prince changed their lives and their art
Prince meant many mean different things to many different people. Some will remember him as the virtuoso musician who would play every instrument in his music, others as the producer who pioneered a futuristic style of funk. Some people admired his refusal to compromise his artistic vision, while others found his subversion of macho masculinity liberating. Some musicians will remember how he inspired them to sing, others how he taught them to dance. It can’t be overstated just how much he made an impact on listeners around the world, nor how different music could be without him.
We’ve spoken to a handful of musicians, DJs, and producers about the impact that the Purple One had on their work. While these artists all come from different worlds musically, they're unified by one fact: that their lives would all be very different if it hadn’t been for the Prince.
“Prince is, was, is an iconoclast. Losing Bowie and now Prince is just a major blow. It's symbolism for an artist like me, honestly, [to] keep pushing, no boundaries, fuck everyone, fuck your likes, and fuck your ego. Prince was IT, IT! A national treasure. What can we do to honour him? Go beyond ourselves and the mediocrity of what entertainment culture has become.”
“The first release on [my label] Hyperdub was a cover of Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ the Times” by the Spaceape (R.I.P.) and myself called “Sine of the Dub”, which came out in 2004. It was the first track that the Spaceape ever recorded – the first time he did vocals. It was a Sunday afternoon in 2002. We were bored, and I asked him if he wanted to make a track together. I told him to pick out his favourite record and just read the lyrics to his favourite track, and I would manipulate his voice somehow, because he was a bit shy. The Spaceape was a huge Prince fan, even more than me. If we hadn’t made that track, and if The Bug hadn’t encouraged us to put it out... well. So, without Prince there may have been no Spaceape. Without the Spaceape, there may have been no Hyperdub. So without Prince, there probably would have been no Hyperdub. We also did a cover of “Raspberry Beret” – but it was shit [laughs].”
“Like many, I made connections, memories, friendships, and most importantly formed a lot of my taste through Prince. He was a father of music. We've lost another genius while we're left with too many replaceables down here.”
“He’s the world’s greatest ever – and I say ever – performer. Living, dead, male, female, whatever – he embodies the antics and discipline of James Brown, mixed with the guitar virtuoso of Jimi Hendrix, and every woman diva singer rolled into one, and he makes it all his own. You can be a great songwriter, you can be a great musician, you can be a great lyricisist, you can be a great performer, you can be a great dancer, you can be a great guitar player, you can be a great singer – and you can do it all in high heels. But he was great at all of those. Someone like Madonna has always said, ‘I know I’m not the best singer, I know I’m not the best dancer, I just do it all.’ But he is! He’s just so fluid at everything. And also – of course he won’t admit it – but he’s also the pinnacle of gender fluidity, [with] songs like “If I Was Your Girlfriend”. He also brought the LinnDrum into the forefront, and for me, that was the basis of all my drums for my first two albums. I was obsessed with his production. And the sex appeal – [he was] dripping with sex appeal.
“[He had] a lot of songs that mean a lot to me. I really, really love “When Doves Cry”. I just think it’s beautiful; so filled with emotion. But I love “Little Red Corvette”. I love that he has a whole orgasm talking about a limousine. He gets away with a lot of insane sexual lyrics. I love “When You Were Mine”, just being honest about being in love with someone more after you were with them. There’s so much. It’s sad – it’s really sad. It’s hard to talk about.”
“I was brought up in a real musical household. One of the people that my dad was constantly playing was Prince. I really was brought up on his music. From a young age, I thought he was this mystical man who made music from another world – I never quite understood who he was. Then when I was about 14, I started to really discover his music. The reason why he’s one of the most important musicians to me and probably loads of female musicians [is because] he was one of the first to use female session musicians – and not just behind the scenes, but actually out front performing with him. If it wasn’t for him giving a platform [to people like Sheila E.], I don’t think I’d have started playing the drums. Sheila E. made it cool to play drums, and to be shit hot at what you do. The Sign ‘O’ The Times tour, where Sheila E. was the main drummer, just completely changed my life. She was my idol. And if it wasn’t for Prince, no one would know who Sheila E. is – or Wendy [Melvoin], or Lisa [Coleman]. He championed great female musicians.
“He influenced me as a solo musician. His early records were done in his bedroom studio. He recorded onto 8-track recorders. He was the first one to do it himself – and he really did do it himself. He played every instrument, he had the whole sound and vision. And that completely influenced me. Only he knew how he wanted it to sound – that amazing guitar mix, keyboard sound and drums, only he knew he could do it. That was so inspirational for me. I’m not particularly amazing at writing down music and explaining to people how I want it to be played. He set that whole DIY thing of doing it in your bedroom.”