hip hop music

February 15, 2006

What It's Like Working With Prince

Speaking of Prince, I was looking through this book of interviews with pop producers and engineers, and came by some cool stories about Prince from Sylvia Massy Shivy, who started out in the lab with Prince before moving on to rockers like Tool and System of a Down. Here are some highlights:

What experience do you feel had the greatest impact on your career

Probably the one with the most impact was the work i did with Prince when I was assisting at Larrabee. He would ahve several rooms going at the same time, and he'd always be short an engineer and would just have the assistant do the project. So I got to engineer and mix for him on several differnet porjects.

He's just one of a handful of artists that have been able to successfully produce themselves. Why do you think that is? What's the magic ingredient?

Well, the thing about Prince is that he has the final product already swimming in his head; he knows what it's going to sound like. He could get it there himself--he could engineer it, hecould produce it, he could perform every part himself faster than anyone else--but he prefers to have other people put it together.

Are you saying there's no real collaboration, that he doesn't seek input?

No he's open to ideas, but when he walks in, he already has the finished product in his head, including every little detail. When I worked with him, this was how he worked: He would play two bars of one riff on a guitar, and he would play a drum beat live on a drum machine with one hand and the bassline on another keyboard with the other hand. And then he would turn around and say, "OK, first riff is the verses, second riff in the choruses, there's your drum beat for the whole song, put it all together, and I'll be back." Andthen he'd leave, and who knows when he'd be back, but you'd better get on it, cause it better be ready by the time he gets back.

Does he start tweaking from there, or is that the song?

He'll start adding to it. He'll lay another part down, and then he'll kick you out, and he'll have you wait for him while he records vocals. He never allowed me to be in the studio when he did vocals. The vocal mic was set up over the console so that he could do his own recording and comping for all vocal parts--I think he's very shy about hsi vocals in the studio. In every other sense, he certainly is an exhibitionist. When he's performing even those few little bars of guitar riffs, he's spinning on his heels, he's dancing and putting on quite a show. He's an amazing musician.

How important was the vibe of the studio to Prince?

The mod was very important with Prince. Larrabee went all out to make him comfortable. The first time he booked the studio, I was assigned as the assistant, and I immediately ordered the guitars and effects I thought he would want to use and had them rented and there in the studio for him. But when he walked in the door, he looked around the room and he said, "Don't you have a big grandma's chair or anything?" And I looked at him, and I just said "yes, we do." OF course the studio didn't have anything like that. (laughs) But I walked out, borrowedsomeone's truck, drove down to Melrose, bought an overstuffed chair, threw it in the back, came back and brought it in, and he sat down on it. He wound up staying in that room for almost three years, and by the time hewas done, the palce was decorated with curtains and candles, with incense always going. In fact, they built a room for him upstairs called the Prince Room at Larrabee.

Did he take the chair with him when he left?

No. (laughs)

Posted by jsmooth995 at February 15, 2006 3:41 PM

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