Throughout his genre-bending career, Prince worked with a dazzling array of musicians.
His New Power Generation rolled with him through the '90s and the female trio 3rdeyegirl shared his space in the most recent years of his musical creations.
But his 1980s-era crew The Revolution, their star cemented in 1984’s “Purple Rain,” remain the definitive Prince backing band.
Shortly after Prince’s death last year from an accidental opioid overdose, original band members Bobby Z (drums), “Doctor” Matt Fink (keyboards), Mark “BrownMark” Brown (bass), Lisa Coleman (keyboards) and Wendy Melvoin (guitar) convened in a Minneapolis hotel to share their grief with fans via a heartfelt video.
In September, The Revolution reunited for a trifecta of sold-out shows at the fabled First Avenue club in Minneapolis, and after their planned performance at this weekend’s Celebration 2017 at Prince’s Paisley Park compound, will embark on a tour of about two dozen dates through July.
Atlanta – the new residence of bassist Brown – isn’t on the itinerary yet, but fans will likely be sated during a second run of shows this fall.
Earlier this week, Brown and Fink – clad in his trademark scrubs – sat inside the band’s rehearsal space near downtown Minneapolis to discuss the loss of their leader, as well as what can be expected on this Revolution return.
Their feelings about the one-year anniversary of Prince’s death
Matt Fink: The sting of that happening has not really left any of us. We still think about it a lot. Almost every day I’ve thought about it. The mourning process for him is still there. Who knows how long that will take before you really start to not think about it as much? But now that we’re doing this (tour), it’s there in your face no matter what you do. We’re just going to do our best to help the fans heal. ... I thought by now I’d be doing better, but it’s still very emotional. It’s like losing a family member, a parent, even.
Mark Brown: We hit this jam the other night, and it was like, he’s not there. Emotionally, when we were finished I was like, (that was just) like the old days. Then you start reminiscing and a sadness comes over you. ... He lives inside of us now. He was our mentor, our leader, our purple funky Yoda. The force was with him.
Fink: He was such a spiritual person to begin with and believed in the afterlife. In our hearts we know that he’s watching over all of this.
On The Revolution’s decision to reunite after Prince’s death
Fink: Let’s go back to 2012 when we did the (American) Heart Association event for Bobby Z. He was working with the heart association (after surviving a heart attack the year before) and asked us to help him out. We hadn’t played together since 2003 with Sheila E. and (before that) show we hadn’t worked together in 17 years. ... When Prince passed, the immediate reaction is, we’ve got to get together. We made the decision to get together in L.A. because Wendy and Lisa were working on soundtrack work. It was at that time that we said maybe we should get out and play again just to keep the legacy alive and give fans something to hold onto as well.
Brown: When we came out to Minneapolis right after he died, we were in a hotel room and ... you could look in the streets and see the pain. We all just said, ‘We should make a video right now and let the fans know that we feel that pain, too, and we’re gonna play.’ I never felt it was impulsive or the wrong thing to do. Some of us have different opinions. For me, I felt like, I’m there with them, I feel their pain. I was there in the beginning when we created that stuff, (so) let me give some of that back. Then later on we decided at the right time, we need to get back on the road and start the healing process. By playing the music, it helped us. I know it helped me.
Fink: My last meeting with Prince (in fall 2014), he expressed quite a bit of interest in reuniting with the group. Who knows? It might have been coming, anyway. To me, that still made sense; he was wishing that to happen.
On whether they had witnessed Prince in any kind of pain or in the throes of addiction
Fink: No, not at all. During that meeting he seemed just fine. I had not hint of it at that time.
Brown: For me, I thought he was a little thin. I even said to him, ‘Losing a little weight there, bro?’ and he said, ‘You getting a little belly, bro?’ (laughs). But it was fun, so I didn’t sense anything. When it all went down, I was like, that just blew me away. But even the piano tour, I was watching some of the clips and I was like, hmmm, as well as we know him, something’s not right there.
On The Revolution playing Atlanta at some point on the tour
Brown: They’ll see us, that’s all I can say. This first leg, it’s set, but the second one is being worked on. We can’t say anything until it’s contracted, but we’re on the move.
Why Brown recently relocated to the Atlanta area
Brown: I got tired of the city life. San Francisco is a beautiful, lovely city, but I’ve always been a country boy. Always lived in the suburbs, I always liked the quietness. Atlanta always seemed like a spot that I’d like to check out. The music scene, it’s like a second Hollywood. I plan to tap big time into the scene once things start to settle. I know a few musicians down there already, but would love to tap into that scene and really be a part of it, like I was in the Minnesota scene.
On the Prince that the public didn’t always see
Fink: He was very gregarious. When he wasn’t embroiled in music creation, there were days he’d be very businesslike, but he’d interject funny things and quips. But then there were moments if you were just relaxing, everybody liked to be funny and use their own sense of humor. He had a very infectious laugh as well. He was very good at doing voices, too, and imitating people. Go on YouTube and watch his appearance on ‘Muppets Tonight’ (in 1997) – that’s the real Prince.
On what fans can expect from The Revolution’s live shows
Fink: There are songs from the catalog starting from ‘Dirty Mind’ through ‘Parade’ and a few numbers that they’ve never heard, things that have been sitting in the vault.
Brown (laughs): We’ve got some junk up in there!