I spent a couple weeks cutting basic tracks at Paisley Park back in ’92. At the time, I was too much a post-punk/pop nerd to appreciate Prince so my producer’s idea to cut tracks at Prince’s state-of-the-art facility in the middle of freakin’ Nowhere, Minnesota (in MARCH!) was nowhere near as glamorous as the idea of recording in, say, Los Angeles!
So, begrudgingly, I agreed, but subconsciously dragged my feet. I distinctly remember waiting until the last minute to book a flight and ended up paying top dollar. Sure, it was on the company dime, but I was smart enough then to know all the expenses, advances, per diems, and recording costs eventually come out of my pocket.
So, I arrive in Minneapolis and take a limo to what then was a very remote suburb of Minneapolis. It has since been heavily developed and is considered an upscale community these days. My first impression of the facility was that it looked like the building you’d see in a movie that would house some top-secret weapons facility, but try to appear harmless and ordinary from the outside. The walls were a pristine white.
Upon walking inside, though…
“Holy…” I whispered with my jaw dragging the floor.
We had been scheduled for Studio B, but were moved to Studio A (which was HUGE) because a certain someone had decided he wanted to come in and record some new tracks.
The first three days we were there, though, Studio B remained empty. I didn’t care, though, because, as I said, Studio A was HUGE and, since we were going for big, football-field sized drum sounds, the bigger the better!
The cool thing about the facility is that you could walk all over the place, feeling as if you’ve walked for miles, and still never feel as if you’ve seen everything. The interior design is so intricate in places that it can take you a good long time to drink it all in. The other cool thing is that, since it IS its own little world, you have no idea what time it is. Pulling a 12, 14 or even 17-hour day was not outside the norm. Plus, being in a state-of-the-art recording studio is like locking a kid in a candy store for me. I tend to lose myself in the fun of it all and, before you know it, ten hours have gone by. Sometimes we started at ten in the morning, but, if we’d pulled a long session the night before, we might start at 3PM the next day and go for another 10-12 hours.
The reason I mention this is because while we were recording drum tracks (at 3AM, I later realized), the Purple One walked into Studio A’s control room and stood behind my producer and engineer, just listening, not saying a word. As was common for me upon finishing a new take of a drum track, I got up from my kit and walked into the control room to listen back to the track. Upon entering the room, I noticed another person in the room – not altogether uncommon. Thus, I only gave him half a look as I plopped down on a nearby couch to listen to the playback. Then, boom, it hit me: Um, that’s Prince.
It gets better.
After staying and listening to the playback, tapping his fancy boots in time to the drum track, he turns to me. “I’m Prince, by the way,” he says, extending his hand. “So you wanna play drums on a couple tracks for me?”
I nodded as nonchalantly as I could, trying to act is if this kind of thing happens to me all the time.
I honestly don’t remember him saying anything else. Next thing I know, he’s gone and my producer and engineer are right back in “business” mode. I guess this kind of thing wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to them. I wanted to call everybody I knew and tell them about what had just happened. The more I thought about it, the more my mind explored the possibilities. Maybe Prince would be so blown away that he’d offer me the drum gig in his band.
A couple days later, I show up and my engineer says “Oh, they need you over at Studio B”. Okay, cool. Gotta go jam with Prince, ya’ll.
I walk in and see a face I don’t recognize. It’s just a tape-op guy whose name I forget the minute he tells me. Where’s Prince, man?
So, for the next couple hours, I play one of the nicest DW kits I’ve ever seen as the tape-op guy hits me with one song after the other. After the first track, I ask to take another stab at it, having only heard it the one time. “No, you got it,” he says as I hear the whir of the tape machine fast-forwarding to the next track in my headphones. I do much the same thing for five or six songs, one take and onto the next one. Some of the tracks are nothing but guitars, bass and a click track, some with incomplete or gibberish vocals, and others are darn close to completed tracks, loaded with horns, female backing vocals, the whole nine yards.
“Alright, that’s it. Thanks!”
Wow, it’s over. I feel the air-conditioning come on and the cool air reminds me I’m sweating profusely.
To this day, I have no idea what I played on, whether I’m credited on anything (although my hunch has always been that if I get credited on a Prince album, I’ll know).