I never thought I’d get torn up as much as I have about Prince passing away. Bowie affected me, Cobain and Jeff Buckley shocked me, MCA and Phife made me incredibly sad. But Prince…I guess I hadn’t realized just how much a part of my life he was. I found myself welling with tears with every tribute I saw today, which just doesn’t happen.
I remember hearing Prince for the first time - or at least paying attention to him - when Purple Rain came out. I was nine years old. I remember seeing the movie and actually laughing at it, because Prince was just so…silly…to a nine year old. Those clothes! The purpleness! But then the title track came, and something just sort of clicked. A few weeks later I bought the cassette at K-Mart, and listened. And listened. And listened. I think for the first time, I felt the weight of drama. Epic emotion.
Prince’s music made me feel a lot of things. A lot of it surrounded with dreaming about girls. About sex. About processing that part of your brain that overrides all other desires. It wasn’t coded or cryptic (wait wait wait Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” was about masturbation?), I heard a song like “Gett Off” and there were no doubts. I straight up wanted to FUCK Ms. Diamond and Ms. Pearl, both ladies together in 23 positions, all to that grinding bassline. And you know what? Prince made it ok to think that. It wasn’t obscene, it was straight up erotic.
Prince gave me permission to be young. To be brash and aroused. To love and cherish love. Then he writes a song like “Nothing Compares 2 U” and it contextualizes everything. He gives that gift to Sinead O'Connor and she, with a single tear, turned me from a horny young teenager who never experienced actual romantic loss into someone who felt the pains of a broken heart. All through a song.
And then an embarrassing admission - for many years, I didn’t even know Prince was black. He didn’t fit the mould of the black folks around me when I was a kid, I just assumed he was “other.” Once I learned of his ethnicity, he challenged everything I knew about black identity. About model minorities, masculinity and manhood. He opened me up and freed me from archetypes, and I became a part of his tribe. I could claim something so much deeper, for me at least. “Alphabet Street” transforms from a funky ditty to a claim of territory. The man who embodied sex was one of us. I aspired to his confidence. He was my Marvin Gaye, my Smokey Robinson, my Black Elvis.
Kurt Cobain, Blixa Bargeld, PJ Harvey and Trent Reznor all came along and pushed everything that I loved of pop / R&B/ soul deep down inside, revealing a still-bleeding scab of wanting to be noticed. Prince took a back seat to nihilism, but the slabs of guitars from grunge / industrial / metal actually made me appreciate Prince’s guitar virtuosity all the more. I listen to that guitar on “When Doves Cry,” and it sounds metal as fuck. The drum signatures are almost Kraftwerk-ian. In exploring other music, it dawned on me that Prince really could do it all. And again - he was one of us. When my wife and I saw him live in 2001, it all came together in a glorious four hour show that I’ll never, ever forget.
I’ll never turn off a Prince song. There’s always something new going on. Even with constant change, he remained consistent in wanting us to feel love in all its myriad permutations. “Black Sweat” is dope as hell. “Crystal Ball” as epic as any song ever made. And then I learned that he’d lost his newborn son a week after he was born, and that through all of this he remained as prolific as ever. That he tirelessly fought for creative control, for artists rights, for agency. That he committed millions of dollars and his time to social justice.
Then he died.
And with that death, so many of my memories no longer remain fluid. They are now etched in stone, the chapter closed. The reality that I will no longer grow up along with Prince is what makes me most sad. My son will have his art, but it will remain antiquity. Lessons. I only pray that an artistic and creative force emerges in his formative years to say the things he doesn’t want to hear from me, to allow him to feel without restriction, to dream of sensation.
There’s a gift a generation carries. Each has their own. Prince was ours.
Disappointment. I gained a lot of weight. We all look really old. We don’t have fire on the stage. The story about the pneumatic drill is a press legend. We never had a pneumatic drill. Nobody’s getting hurt. No blood, what else? Actually that’s the best, nobody in this band has a tattoo. Nobody.
I think they can probably disappoint themselves to a maximum by noticing that we are actually soaked in beautiful ideas. That we have a very fragile way of playing that has dynamics from being absolutely silent to being incredibly loud, and that we do incredible things with objects that look like they are just harmful or would sound really awful. That we could possibly use them for the exact opposite as well, and they can hear a lot of German lyrics that they’re probably not able to understand. I will try my best to make them understandable.
Blixa talking to MTV about what fans should expect from a Neubauten tour (1998, before the Ende Neu American tour)