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Five things I learned from visiting with Prince: From album plans to thoughts on Prop. 8

December 31, 2008 |  2:13 pm
Prince500_2

Tuesday morning, I received the Golden Ticket of journalistic invitations: a summons to Prince's mansion, high atop Mulholland Drive, to hear the new music he'll be releasing sometime after the holidays. At 8 p.m. that evening, I drove my dirty Mazda past the fountain in his courtyard, parked by the limo in the back, and entered his manse. The man himself greeted me in a candelit study, where he was laboring over a laptop with his Web designers, Anthony Malzone and Scott Addison Clay.

The next five hours took me from that room to a car Prince referred to as "Miles Davis," where we listened to one set of songs; into a back room furnished with a round bed, faux-fur carpeting and a plexiglass Rhodes piano, where he played cuts by his new protege, the comely Bria Valente; and into that white limo, where the entirety of "Lotus Flower," the album previewed earlier this month on Indie 103.1, boomed through the speakers as we drove through Hollywood.

Needless to say, it was an amazing experience. After the jump, a few tidbits, including Prince's promise of three albums in 2009 and his thoughts on Proposition 8.

Prince will release not one, but three albums in the new year. He's in final negotiations with "a major retailer" to distribute the music in physical form, and a highly interactive website will also provide an opportunity to buy. He's not working with a record label. "The gatekeepers have to change," he said several times throughout the evening.

He's found his way back to the sound of "When Doves Cry." The first disc, tentatively titled "MPLSOUND," is an electro-flavored solo effort recorded at Paisley Park Studios. Prince experimented with Pro Tools and "new ways of recording" on these trippy, experimental pop songs. One features a Q-Tip rap; another calls a "Funky Congregation" to worship and may become a live set piece.

He's ready to revive the Quiet Storm. "We got sick of waiting for Sade to make a new album," he said, introducing Valente's new album, "Elixir." The tracks are chill, with Valente's buttery voice melding with beats by Morris Hayes and Prince's guitar lines. Some are explicitly sexual. "This music is nasty, but it's not dirty," Prince said, explaining how sensual music fits in with his much-discussed faith -- he's a Jehovah's Witness. "There's no profanity. It isn't promoting promiscuity. She's singing about her lover, who could be her partner for life."

He loves his guitar. As the tracks played on Indie 103.1 indicated, "Lotus Flower" is rooted in the instrument. Prince said he refocused on his playing while performing live dates with the singer Tamar Davis in 2006; with the spotlight trained on someone else, he could fall back in love with solos and riffs. "Lotus Flower" is a varied album, featuring cuts recorded over the course of two years, but standout tracks include some heavy rockers -- especially the apocalyptic "Dreamer," which Prince said was partly inspired by the radical black comedian Dick Gregory.

He did not vote for Proposition 8. In fact, he didn't vote at all. "I didn't vote for Obama either," he explained. "Jehovah's Witnesses haven't voted for their whole inception." The controversy over a recent New Yorker "Talk of the Town" item, which Prince feels implied he supported the gay-marriage ban, has upset him. It's the first thing he wanted to discuss when the Web geeks had gone and we were alone. "I have friends that are gay and we study the Bible together," he said. He added that two sides fighting "only benefit the third person" who instigated the fight.

Read more about my night with Prince in the Jan. 11 Sunday Calendar.

-- Ann Powers

Photo of Prince at Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in 2008 by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times

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