…continue Pg3 – Eric Leeds Interview – April 2016
Park was built, for the first several years, when I was working with him, we would do most of our recording in LA at Sunset Studios. So it wouldn’t be unusual for Matt and I to be out in LA for weeks at a time. He would block out a studio for maybe a month, and we’d be in there almost every day. There were times when we would go in with just him and Wendy and Lisa, and it was not unusual for us to go into the studio late at night with him for hours. We would just jam and he would float between instruments, and those were the opportunities when you really got to hear Prince play.
I remember in the ’88 tour, you guys were just jumping from one song to the next without stopping, or barely even finishing a lot of them.
It was a non-stop thing, and I always found one of the most interesting aspects were the transitions he would write and segues from one to another. Occasionally, we would work on things for several hours and sometimes he would just throw up his hands and say, “Oh, that didn’t work. I’m going home, I’ll see you all tomorrow,” and then he would come back in the next day with a whole new fresh set of ideas about how to approach the same issue. It was very enjoyable to just sit and watch the creative process unfold. And then we would run through the show a couple times a day for months.
Once you came up with the show, did you pretty much stick with it?
For a while. He could get awfully bored with things very quickly. “Lovesexy,” we were out on tour for six months. The changes in the show were incremental, but yeah, it would change a bit.
Aside from the music, what was the lifestyle like in the band? Were there rules? Was it like a party as it went along? What was the backstage atmosphere? I know you would hit clubs a lot after.
Yeah, we would do that occasionally. Try to keep a perspective on it that when you’re out on the road on a rock ’n’ roll tour, a top-tier recording artist, when you’re on a tour like that, it’s Disneyland. It’s not real. I was on the road with Billy Price for four years with seven of us in a van, driving up and down the East Coast, playing one-nighters, where we’re driving 250 miles a day to get to the next gig. You get to the gig, you play the gig, you’re playing three or four sets, you go to some cheesy-ass motel where you’re doubling up in a hotel room. You get up the next morning and you get to the van and you do it all over. THAT’s being on the road. In Prince, you’re staying in four- and five-star hotels, we all had our own rooms, sometimes they were mini-suites. Basically, by the time we hit the road, we had the music so completely ingrained in us that we could play it in our sleep. And for something like the Lovesexy Tour, which was a theatrical presentation, you really had to know it that well. The last thing we had to think about was “Oh my god, I hope I don’t make a mistake.” By then, it was pretty much a machine. All I had to worry about was being in the hotel lobby at lobby call. It might be noon. Everything else is taken care of. You get in the van, you get driven to the gig. Matt and I go to our dressing room, our cases with our horns are already there. So all we have to do is get them out of the case, warm them up, find a good reed, and then know that within the next hour Prince is going to get there and we’re going to start the soundcheck that will last anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on what kind of mood he’s in. We finish the soundcheck, go back to our rooms, have dinner and chill out. Our stage clothes are brought to us by the wardrobe department. We change clothes, we hit the stage, we do the gig. That’s what it’s like. Once were on the road like that, we really don’t see Prince until we get to the venue. There was a level of professionalism in every aspect, and everybody knew exactly what their role was. So it was Disneyland. He was an absolute professional. This was a guy that no matter what the situation was, whether it was rehearsal for a gig or a jam session or whatever, you knew that if you were called to be there at a certain time, that Prince was going to be there before we were and Prince was probably going to be the last one to leave. That engenders not only a sense of professionalism, but the fact that this guy is for real when it comes to that. This guy isn’t going to phone it in just because he’s the boss.
Everyone talks about how quiet he was, so how much did he let you get to know him?
In those days, yes, he was very quiet and very private in that manner. In those days, members of the original Revolution had already been in his band for five, six years, and because he was looking to grow musically, it made it more comfortable for him to have more personalized relationships with the band, to the degree. In those days, I had his private phone number, and if there was a circumstance to call him at home, I would do that, but it would have to be for a specific reason. But we all did, and before Paisley Park was built, he had a recording console in his house, and Matt and I were at his house an awful lot. And there were times during the summer when he would on occasion invite members of his band for a cookout. And when we were in rehearsals, there might be a night where we would get a call that Prince has rented out three or four bowling lanes at a particular bowling alley, “so if you feel like coming by around 10 or whatever.” So it wasn’t necessarily like, “OK, I gotta go bowling.” It was like, “Yeah, OK, maybe I’ll stop by around midnight and hang for a while.”
Van Jones, on CNN, said Prince was one of the funniest people he ever knew.
Prince had a tremendous sense of humor and it could be very dark at times. There was an awful lot of laughter in those days. Basically, you got to be able read him like a book. There were days when he would walk into the studio and we would look him and we would be like, “OK, it’s going to be one of THOSE days.” But I was not someone who was particularly interested in letting him determine what my frame of mind was supposed to be on a given day. I was the kind of person who thought, just because he’s walking in in a bad mood, that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden I have to be in a bad mood. And there were times when myself or other people in the band would make it their purpose to say, “OK, I’m going to put a smile on his face some time during the day.” And a lot of the time, if we really got into some cool music, that would put a smile on his face, and then things would cool out and he would say, “OK, now we’re going to have some fun.”