fDeluxe: The Family Reunion

by Keith Valcourt


 

fDeluxe is The Family; the Prince assembled Minneapolis funk group comprised of Saxman Eric Leeds, sultry singer Susannah Melvoin (twin sister of The Revolution’s Wendy)  along with former members of The Time– Jerome Benton and Jellybean Johnson, and instrumentalist/ vocalist St. Paul Peterson. Their debut CD, which spawned the hit “Screams of Passion” and the original version of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” was a landmark recording and sadly was their only musical output.  Until now!  The band is back together with a new name– f-Deluxe  and 2 new CDs! 

 

West Coast Bureau Chief Keith Valcourt caught up with Susannah (over breakfast in Los Angeles) and St. Paul (over the internet from Minneapolis) to discuss the band’s new moniker, playing Carnegie Hall, dealing with Prince and their brilliant, long overdue, sophomore CD: “Gaslight.”  

 

Rocker: How was the recent Carnegie Hall Concert? Did you feel pressure playing that legendary venue?

 

Susannah: I had no expectations. When we got asked by my friend Amir “Questlove” Thompson (Drummer for The Roots) to come and do this gig, a tribute to Prince, we were like, “Do I really want to do that?”  We weren’t sure that it was the right thing.  Should we do it, just to get by?  The band has been struggling for too long trying to get gigs.  Then they said they wanted us to only play the songs that were on the first record.  I really felt uncomfortable about it.  The band has come this far, and  really would like to play our new stuff.  It was a long back and forth with the whole band going, “Is this something we wanna do?”

 

Alan Leeds, who manages D’Angelo, is best friends with Questlove, and Eric.  His brother, and our sax player were speaking and Alan said, “Please, just do it. It’s gonna be great. Do it not for any other reason other than it’s gonna be a bunch of great players getting together to have a great night playing some great music and hanging out.”  That’s how we approached it. I asked my sister to join.  I said, “Wendy (Guitarist of Prince & The Revolution) you’ve got to come and do this. Please come.” She said well Lisa (Coleman, Keyboards – The Revolution) doesn’t want to do it and I’m not so sure I wanna go if I can’t have my creative partner and do my thing.”  Somehow she decided to just come and have a good time. I got to hang out with my sister in New York and play Carnegie Hall.  You don’t get to do that that often!

 

We got to rehearsal at City Winery in New York two days before the show and it was one of the best days we’ve ever had.  It was so incredible to hang out with those players. Bilal (The Roots) to me is so incredibly gifted.  He’s from another planet.  When you see this guy perform he literally comes from a place I’ve never seen before. His abilities are amazing. My knees were shaking to meet him. My sister and I were bowing and kissing him. That was worth it just to see him and play with him. He knew who we were.  That’s a moment where you go, “How does he know who we are?  How do any of these artists know?” With everybody that was involved it was a no brainier. I don’t know why I hesitated in the first place.

 

Paul: Oh man.  It was a definite dream-come-true.  It couldn’t have gone any better.  It was probably one of the highlights of my performing career, that’s for sure.  \Just having the respect of my peers like that combined with the audience appreciation is so fulfilling. It’s nice very once in a while to get a pat on the back and think, “You’re not doing so bad kid.” 

 

Rocker: Did the hesitation at first of not wanting to play the tribute come from wanting to move forward and not be thought of as a nostalgia act?

 

Susannah: Yes and no. We love the first record, and we play it live. We have the best time playing those songs.  The way we set up our live show is a perfect adjunct between “The Family” record and the new CD “Gaslight.”  It’s a big party.  It wasn’t so much the fear of nostalgia.  It’s hard to explain, and I’m almost embarrassed to say, because it’s gonna be in print and I don’t think I should.  In the end it was more than worth it.  It was the greatest night of my life.

 

Paul: I don’t know if it was hesitation. When were first asked we didn’t really understand what the concert was all about.  There were so many chefs, and no disrespect to anyone who was organizing it, because it came off without a hitch, but communication was a a little interesting at time.  We didn’t really understand what the whole thing was.  Once we figured out what it was being involved was a non brainer.  The only thing we questioned was not doing “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Nina Pearson did it and she knocked it out of the park – but it ended up being better for us to do “High Fashion” and “Mutiny” because it got the place rockin’. It all worked out good, man.

 

Rocker: What were your thoughts when you stepped onto that stage?

Susannah:  My sister and I were giggling.  I thought to myself, “I’m in heaven.  Me and my twin sister, on stage, together at Carnegie Hall.”  It was high contrast living.  Here we are, broke as can be and at the same time enjoying this amazing moment on stage at Carnegie Hall.  We got standing ovations.  It was the good juju that we all needed.  It was validation that what we are doing does matter.

 

Paul:  It was when we left the stage that hit me.  I was going to book offstage right after our performance because there were so many acts.  Wendy grabbed my arm and said, “Wait a minute.  Turn around and look at that audience.  Don’t hurry off.  That’s for you.  The audience was on their feet going crazy.  Wendy held on to me and made me look at it.  If it wasn’t for her I would have totally missed the moment and not taken in what was being given to me.  It really was an incredible moment and I got to call my 91 year old mom and tell her that I played Carnegie hall.  Been a long time since I shed tears of joy like that.  Pretty Incredible.

 

Rocker: Susannah, You seemed surprised that the other artists knew you.  Do you not realize that “The Family” album meant so much to so many people?

 

Susannah:  I do now.  These last couple of years of touring people come talk to us backstage and say, “You don’t know what this record means to me.”  And I’m blown away.   We  had one single.  We had one show.  We rehearsed that show for almost a year, every day in Minneapolis to have a big launch.  But it didn’t really do anything.  Paul got his own thing.  The carrot was lured in front of him and he was a young guy with a family to support, who needed to make a living.  He said, “I need to make a living.  So I’m gonna go. And that was the end.

 

Rocker: The band hasn’t played a lot of shows in its 25 year history.  Is it 7?

Susannah:  No.  More than that.  Shows in New York.  The European Tour.  I think probably all together 15 or 20.

 

Rocker: Why so few?

Susannah:  Nobody wants to book us at all.

 

Why?

Susannah:  Good Question.  I don’t know.  When they come see us live they want to but then they ask, “What do you have out?  Is your record getting any radio play?”  What are you talking about?  Radio play?  There is no such thing anymore.  People aren’t making music selling music anymore.

 

Paul: I couldn’t tell you man.  The booking agents are the rock stars now.  Everyone wants to help until it’s time to really jump in and do something.  It’s been very difficult.  I wish I could answer that question because then we could get an agent. The band is great.  There are something things.  We’re a fairly new “old” band, and it didn’t help that we had to change out name.  The fact that’s a Catch 22.  Agents ask, “Well how many show have you sold out? How man shows have you done?”  Well we’re a new band.  Then they say, “Well you have no track record.”  Yeah, but we do.  It’s difficult.  What we are doing is booking our own shows.  That’s why there have been so few.  But every time we play it’s packed.

 

Rocker: Paul, how did you end up in The Time?

 

Paul: That’s thirty years ago almost to the month.  I had just graduated from high school and was on vacation hanging with a friend of mine in Minnesota when I got a call from my brother in law, who happens to be the first cousin of Bobby Z (Revolution Drummer) saying I had an audition with The Time. So, I quit my vacation early, came home and waited on tapes.  Back in the day it was tapes.  They were supposed to come and never came until the night before the audition.  I got the tape and had to learn quite a few songs to play, sing and dance in foreign environment.  I didn’t know the guys in The Time, I only knew of them.

 

I was a green, young, nervous eighteen year old.  I went into the audition and did okay.  It was in an old warehouse.  Prince was not there the first day.  I got called back for a second day and he was there.  The rest in history.

 

Rocker: Was it difficult being the new guy in an established act that maybe wasn’t so welcoming?

 

Paul: When I was that age I didn’t really notice.  I was green, wanted to please and worked my butt off.  Yeah, we didn’t go out partying together afterwards, but I did plenty of that on my own.  In retrospect I’m sure it was extremely disappointing to lose your best buddies. I get that.  That doesn’t disqualify what I ended up getting to do.  I’m very proud to be a part of that.  It’s funny because (Jimmy) Jam and Terry Lewis and Monte Moire (Time Members replaced when Paul joined) have an interesting history.  Monte ended up working on my first solo record once I left The Family. Along with Jam and Lewis, I am in the old Flyte Time Studios as the programming chair for recorded music and technology program at Minneapolis Music Institute.  It’s a very small musical world.

 

Rocker: Susannah, Did Prince originally want you in Appolonia 6?

Susannah:  No.  I was doing a lot of background singing on a lot of the records. I did some backgrounds on the Appolonia 6 record

 

Rocker: Did Prince christen you St. Paul? 

Paul:  That was him.

 

Rocker: Obviously the name comes from the town. Did you embrace the name or worry about anyone angry about the religious connotations by calling yourself a saint? 

Paul (Laughing)  It’s definitely more a nickname than having any biblical meaning.  Even though I went to twelve years of Catholic School.  And if you can shine a little light on the bible, why not.  No.  Absolutely not. (Laughs) You live with it.  I struggled for years with whether to keep it, shed it or do what with it.  People know me by it.  It’s fine.  I’ll answer to it.  I don’t use it all the time.  I’ll use it in this connotation because of the association.  It’s funny, the older I get the more people really are embracing that name and calling me that.  I’m fine with it.

 

Rocker:  Paul, do you have any memories about that making of “Purple Rain?”

Paul  Yeah it was frickin freezing.  I remember going out to this warehouse and it was like twenty below. I believe I was supposed to pick up Rock Garrety the bass player who had replaced Terry Lewis and he ended up not showing up.  We immediately called Terry Halpert.  That was the first day of the filming of the movie.  It was just fascinating.  Imagine yourself at 18 years old and all this is thrown in your lap.  I had never been in a movie before.  It was incredible. Obviously all the performance scenes, and being able to hang out and watch all of Prince’s stuff and Appolonia 6, it was just an incredible experience.  Who knew it was going to do what it did?  To be part of rock and roll history is an incredible honor.  It’s a short part in there, but I still got bragging rights to say that I’m in it.  Still get a little check every year to take my bride out for a little dinner. 

 

Rocker:  How did The Family come together in the 1980s?

Susannah:  It was during the “Purple Rain” era.  The Time had disbanded and there were a lot of players looking around for something.  Wendy was playing with Prince.  Eric (Leeds) was on Prince’s stuff. The Family became the first incarnation of something Prince created after The Time disbanded.  Prince heard Paul singing and knew that he came from a musical family, The Peterson Family, so he asked him to be the lead singer with me.  He said, Eric (Leeds) is going to be in it, Bean (Jellybean Johnson-Drummer The Time) is going to be in it.  And Jerome (Benton-The Time.)  We were like, “Yeah, let’s go!

 

Paul: Prince called us to tell us the news.  We all sat around in a circle in the old warehouse.  That was before Paisley Park was finished.  Prince sat us down and said, “Those guys are gone and this is what’s gonna happen.  I’m gonna form a new band.”  Then he pointed at me and said, “Paul you’re be the lead singer” and I just about fell out of my chair.  He really did take care of his people back in those days.  He must have heard me singing.  The dressing rooms for The Time and Prince were separated by cloth at First Avenue.  Before the shows Morris Day and I would have little sing off and I would bury him.  Again no disrespect to Morris, we were just having fun being boys.  Prince must have heard that.  The rest again is history.

 

Susannah:  Prince went into the studio and started writing some songs.  I was in L.A. at the time and Paul was in Minneapolis.  Prince asked David Z, Bobby Z’s brother, to be the engineer and producer for the record.  Prince would be the executive producer but Prince said, “It’s really up to you guys to get this record done.”  That made it even more enticing because Prince was like, “Here’s some songs.  You guys go!” So we recorded it with Paul doing his vocals in Los Angeles and David Z would fly out there and record them.  Then he would fly to Los Angeles where I would do my vocals.  It was kind of wacky because it wasn’t done like that back then.  David would be flying back and forth with these huge boxes of tape.

 

Rocker:  Paul, memories from recording session?

Paul: I was still living at my mom’s house.  Susan Rogers would deliver me the recording with Prince showing me the songs with his vocal on it.  Those bootlegs that are out there today are those original tapes that I had to learn verbatim.  They were done to a T, no doubt, but on line there are some false facts that state that you can hear Prince on the finished recording and it’s not true.  That’s me.

 

Rocker:  Where did the string arrangements come from?

Susannah:  Once it was finished, in my opinion it needed strings.  Prince and I were talking about string arrangements.  My father had worked with Claire Fischer many times, and some of my favorite records were the Rufus records and Claire Fischer had done all the string arrangements on all those records.  Prince and I were listening to “Rufusized” at the time and I said, “What about strings like this?”  Prince said, “That would be great.”  I told him my dad knew Claire, and that we should send the tape to Claire. We went in the studio with a 35+ piece orchestra in Pasadena.  Prince was not there.  It was just the band.  That was the moment we realized that this record was going to be something.  It became fully realized at that point.

 

Rocker:  Did Prince control everything?

Susannah:  He didn’t on this one.

 

Rocker:  You guys actually had creative input?

Susannah:  He had full faith in these players.  He knew Eric had an incredible ability.  Amazing player.  Amazing writer.  He knows how to conduct  an orchestra.  He can write a lead sheet like nobody’s business.  He knows how to do it all.  Paul is a savant.  He can play any instrument.  And he’s got the voice.  Although I come from an incredibly musical family, I wasn’t schooled per se.  I didn’t go to college for music.  I didn’t write.  I and my sister were the ear gals.   We had an uncanny ability to hear any music and play it.  Prince had no worry that he would give us this project and everything would fucking fall about.

 

He had confidence in us.  It was “Let’s see what happens.  Go for it!”  People think that record was all Prince.  And yes, they are his songs, no doubt about it.  Burt historically speaking I can’t look back and think that Paul and I had nothing to do with it.  That’s just not true.  I had way too much influence at the time with Prince, as Eric did.

 

Rocker:  Is it true the band rehearsed every day for a year before the record’s launch?

Susannah:  Every day in rehearsal hall, working on sections of songs for hours and hours and hours.  Sometimes Prince would come in if he was in town.  He would stay with us and hang out all day.  We were there every day and happy to do so.  We were so young.  I was 21 at the time.  It taught all of us an incredible work ethic and discipline.  He had no tolerance for any other way.

 

Rocker:  There is an amazing musical chemistry between you two.  Where does that come from?

Susannah:  Prince had the ability as a producer to know that Paul and I were gonna be right together.  Throughout the years Paul and I have become great friends.  When we started to write this record “Gaslight” together we realized that we are so different.  That’s what creates the chemistry.

 

Paul: Back then we really didn’t know each other.  The chemistry was probably that we were thrown into the same learning university.  It’s a really odd way to say it but it was like “The Prince University.”  We were thrown into this incredibly magic opportunity.  The camaraderie was there.  Susannah comes from a musical family, as do I.  We shared that and became fast friends.  Fast forward 30 years later now we choice to be friends.  We’ve all gone down the same roads and have that history.  I love her.  She is my friend.  My sister.  We fight like brother and sister and she makes me make better records.

 

Rocker:  Paul, you decided to leave The Family?

Paul: Business.  Strictly business.  I loved everybody I was with, but there was no negotiations with the Prince camp at that time.  Someone else put a few extra zeros on a check and I went, “Bye!”  To be given an opportunity like that and not taking it would have been foolish. 

 

Rocker:  After Paul left the The Family  for a solo deal, was there an attempt to replace him?

Susannah:  I told Prince that I didn’t want to do it.  I said, “If Paul’s not doing it then I don’t want to do it,” and that was the end of The Family.  But it wasn’t the end of me and Eric working with Prince.    But it was for Paul.  He got other gigs and Eric and I worked with Prince for many years after that.  Jellybean started playing with The Time again in different incarnations of it.

 

Rocker:  Susannah, is that you or Prince screaming on “Screams Of Passion?” 

Susannah:  That was me.

 

Rocker:  What was it like to be in the Paisley Park Universe?

Susannah:  That’s a hard question for me to answer since I had mixed feelings at the time.  And still do.  As much as learned so much there was a lot of high stress.  I developed some great friendships, many of which I still have today.   It was a big learning curve.  There was a lot going on.  It was a little world.  It was a family.  Dysfunctional a lot of the time.  I grew up through all that.

 

Rocker:  Did it help to have your sister there? 

Susannah: You couldn’t separate the two of us, which was a contention for Prince.  He was not into Wendy and I being a close as we were.

 

Rocker:  Did Prince try to get between you? 

Susannah: Yeah.  I think it just made him feel uncomfortable to have anyone know somebody that intimately.  It was difficult.  Although at the end of the day it was just about the music.  It wasn’t anything else.  He loved Wendy.  He loved me.  He loved Lisa.  We three girls meant a lot to him.  We had him in our homes.  In the early days he would come stay at our house.  Sleep on the couch and just hang out.   It was a big deal.  Towards the end of all of our working with it wasn’t that we didn’t want to be there.  He started having feelings about “Where is this going and how much control does my band want now, when it’s ultimately my gig?”  They were The Revolution and they were getting huge props.  All working there asses off and they just wanted proper compensation for that.

 

Rocker:  A lot of people felt Prince surrounded himself with this universe of talented player that he drew from…

Susannah: Particularly Wendy & Lisa.  100% percent.

 

Rocker:  But did he give credit where credit was due?

Susannah:  He was so inspired to keep up with those kinds of minds.  But he was battling giving credit because he needed to feel validated that it was his gig.  His name.  He needed the psychological power that comes from that.  It’s understandable to some degree.  Hopefully, somehow, you grow out of it.

 

Paul: Is it really his job to give credit?  It’s a tough question to answer, because I wasn’t around long enough to personally feel the effects, or non-effects, of that statement.  There are times when certainly I could have given up a little bit more than he does, but it’s not in his personality to do it.  It’s just not.  I have seen him on occasion give it up to people on stage.  But he does it in a different way. It’s a little more subtle.  He doesn’t go on the press and say, “I think Susannah Melvoin is brilliant and changed the way I make music.”  he doesn’t operate like that.  More of an understated thing between two people.  Sometimes he’ll say it.  And sometimes he won’t.  There’s a good non-answer for you.  (Laughs)

 

Rocker:  What was the last time you spoke to Prince?

Susannah:  My last contact with him was about the name of our band.  He stopped talking to me.  Completely.  We’ve always talked throughout the years.  But when it came to that it was the reason he’ll never talk to me again?

 

Rocker:  Did Prince force you to chance the name of the band from The Family to F-Deluxe because he owns the name The Family?

Susannah:  He doesn’t own the name.  He owns the brand.  The brand is something that we can’t play with.  We could have the name and we could use it.   But we couldn’t go out and tour as what they consider the brand of “The Family.”  It just became a litigation nightmare.  We didn’t want to play it.  It wasn’t worth it to us.  We were proud of the new music and feel that is holds up perfectly fine.

 

Paul:  We couldn’t afford to fight him in court.  My wife says she likes her house and wants to keep it. I have pay my mortgage before I have to pay an attorney.  But the fact is he does not own “The Family.”  We didn’t want be miserable.  We were putting out a record we were funding by ourselves.  Sure, we paid a price by not calling it “The Family.”  But our core fans knew where we were .  In fact, it turned out to be a blessing because if you Google “The Family” you’re not going to get us.  You’ll get family planning or something else.  In the internet age, it was a smart choice to go back to the old name.  I have no regrets.

 

Rocker:  Why does he feel the need to control the band?

Susannah: He said, “You can’t have the Jackson 5 without Michael Jackson.”  That was his philosophy.  I asked, “Well what are you saying?  Do you want to be in it?  Do you want to produce us?  Prince said, “No. I want nothing to do with it.”  I said, “I don’t know what to tell you.  It’s not just your history it’s our history too.  I’m not trying to take anything away from you but we’re all trying to make a living too.  We’re proud of this new record and I know you would be as well.”  He said, “I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t care what you’re doing.”  I told him I would go over and play the record for him but he said, “You can’t play any of that for me because it’s not mine.  Those are my children.”

 

Rocker:  But children grow up.

Susannah: We all tried to tell them that.  The last time we spoke he heard my kids in the background, and my youngest one was little at the time, he said, “Is this a bad time?”  I said, “No.  I’m about to put my kids to sleep.”  He had never actually heard that part of my world.  It wasn’t a bad time. I said, “They are my concern but you have my time right now. “  He didn’t like that. He told Paul I was belligerent and that was enough for him.  That’s 25 years of a friendship of sorts.  I wouldn’t call it a real friendship.  Prince said, “I’m done.  I’m not going to speak to her.  I’m only going to speak with you Paul,” And he had never spoken to Paul in any of the years.  Ever.

 

Paul said, “You don’t own the band.  This is not a copyright issue.”  Prince told Paul he would do whatever you want for this band if you don’t use the name.  Paul agreed and tried to keep Prince to his promise.  Didn’t happen.  Prince called and said, “You can’t perform any of the old songs live.  I will have my guys get out there.  If somebody bootlegs it I’m going to come after you.”  How do you stop bootlegging in a time of camera phones and YouTube?

Rocker:  He had been over the top about pulling clips off in recent years.

Susannah: He pulled everything off from the Carnegie Hall tribute to Prince show.  You pulled all those amazing artist off?  Elvis Costello? Everybody performed.  You pull all that down.  He did. He was supposed to come to Carnegie Hall.  Wendy and I were like, “He’s not going to show.  Get ready.  He’s not coming.”  And he didn’t.

 

Rocker:  For someone who is so controlling of his past, he also hasn’t done anything to preserve that legacy.  None of the Paisley Park released, aside from Prince albums, are on CD. 

Susannah:  The only way he would participate is unless it was his idea.  And it would never happen because he would never ask anybody to be a part of something he was doing.  He just wouldn’t.

 

Rocker:  Susannah, have you ever considered doing a solo CD?

Susannah:  I never did it myself.  I wanted to but I just didn’t.  I think it’s part being a twin.  I didn’t want to be alone.  It’s a very strange thing. There was a time in my life when I thought, “If I am very successful I won’t be able to see my sister.”  That kind of thing really stopped me in that day.  Maybe I didn’t have the ego for it.  I like being a team player.  Always have.

 

Rocker:  Do you and Wendy have that weird twin connection?

Susannah:  Wendy and I are so connected that it’s almost dysfunction.  Almost.  I’m not saying it is. Cause it’s not.  But it could be.  We are so close.

 

My children are her children.  They’re her DNA.  When we do things there is never competition. It’s always like, “Go get it.  Because if you’re getting it.  We’re both getting it.”  We were always each others vines.  We clung onto each other and it grew since we were babies.  We’re foxhole buddies.  We have each others backs, and each others futures.  It’s an unusual relationship.  Very embryonic fully connected relationship.  If it were to regular people it would be way too much.  I worship her.

 

Rocker:  How did The Family, now f-Deluxe, reunite?

Susannah:  We were asked by Sheila (E) to do a benefit concert for Angel Bunny Charity foundation at The Forum in L.A.  It was so amazing.  We just said yes right away.  At that point the band hadn’t played together in years.  She booked a rehearsal space in a place we had all worked years before.  She asked Wendy & Lisa with The Revolution to do it.  She asked Jill Jones to do it.  After 17 years apart we rehearsed for just 45 minutes to play the show.  After 17 years!  We got up there, and Paul and I looked at each other and asked, “Do you think we should be playing again?”  I was 3 months pregnant with my second baby at the time and didn’t know it.  That concert sparked us.  8 months after that we decided to go back into the studio.

 

Paul:  That concert was the first total reunion.  I had been playing the songs prior to that with Jellybean and Eric Leeds with the Minneapolis All Stars and in some of my old solo projects.  I would play the song but it was not the band.  The Family jam was the genesis of the reunion for sure.   

 

Rocker:  F-deluxe features you, St Paul, Jellybean Johnson and Eric Leeds.  But where is Jerome Benton?

Susannah:  Jerome, God bless him, Jerome is taking care of his son who is a football prodigy.  He is grooming him with his brother.  At the time of our reunion Jerome was in The Time and didn’t want to mess up his relationship with that band.  We didn’t think he would, but he felt that he needed to focus on his son and just one band.  We did everything we could to try and get him to play with us.  He played the Sheila gig with us and it was so much fun.  Plus a few years back he did the gig with us for The Roots Grammy Party.  That was our second gig after the reunion.  He is such a great energy and such a part of the theatrics of how we express ourselves.  He is always welcome.

 

Paul:  We miss him.  We offered it to him and he passed, which is his prerogative.  Doesn’t mean we don’t love him.  He’d be a great addition any time he wanted to join back in.

 

Rocker:  The look of the band also evolved.  Do you miss wearing the pajamas and robes?

Susannah:  No. There was a discussion.  Paul was like, “Should I wear it?”  I thought, “If you want to wear it you can wear it.”  Not me.  Too many things we want to hide now.  (Laughs)  No pajamas.

 

Rocker:  Maybe a turtle neck..

Susannah:  A girdle, long pants…

 

Rocker:  Boots and maybe a hat.  Sunglasses. 

Susannah:  Totally.

 

Rocker:  Paul, did you want to wear the pajamas again?

Paul: None of us wore pajamas again after we left Prince. Can you imagine middle aged people in robes and pajamas?  You might as well put a cane and walker in front of us.  We wanted to be stylish and keep the vibe of how cool the imagery was but update it to who we really are.

 
Rocker:  Is it hard having 3 members of the band in Minneapolis and Susannah in L.A.?

Susannah: No.  Because of technology, we are in each other’s craw constantly with texting and Skype.  But I’m the worst, to get in touch with me is very difficult for my band.  They cannot stand it.  I’m trying my best to change that.

 

Paul: Creatively it makes it a little bit tougher, yeah, and more expensive.  Doing “Gaslight” took four years to get out.  Plus, I was on the road and everybody has gigs.  It would be easier if Susannah just lived down the block,  no doubt.  We probably would have made the record a lot faster.

 

Rocker:  Is that why the new album “Gaslight” took 3 years to come out after the reunion?

Susannah:  It took only a year to record it.  It just took a while to finish it and get it out.  That took almost 3 years. There were string arrangements we were doing.  That took a while.  Then figuring out how we were going to master and mix this record.  Who was getting involved in that.  We were asking favors.  Everybody did favors and when you ask for favors you gotta wait till people are available.  We were really fortunate to have so many people who cared about us.

 

Rocker:  Susannah, how do you balance time between being a parent and being a musician?

Susannah: I’m a single mom trying to raise my babies.  It’s tough because I won’t do either one of them half assed.   I’m 100% involved in my girl’s life.  And when I’m doing my work I have to be 100% involved in that.  I know when I’m asked to do something if I know I can’t give 100% I’ll just skirt out of it.   But then again, I’m screwing them by skirting out of it.  My band hates it.  They hate it.  They love me, but they also hate me.

 

Rocker:  The chorus to the title track is “Doing The Gaslight”, I know it’s based on the movie, but what does “Doing The Gaslight” mean?

Susannah: It’s making you believe something that’s not real.  “You’re crazy.”  “You’re not crazy.  It’s actually true.”

 

Rocker:  Do you have a favorite song on the record?

Susannah:  I think “Lover” and then “The Vigil” those are my favorites.

 

Paul: I’ve put so much blood and sweat and tears into every one of those things, because for me it was such an important record to make.  I love them all equally, but I think “At 8” is really fun.  It’s funky and it’s got sophistication with jazz bebop harmonies and the strings over the top.  That whole thing worked for me.  It shows our growth and sophistication.  One more that is dear to my heart is the ballad, “When You Go,”  It’s the sleeper of the record.  I love that song.  That was the most heartfelt and quickest written song on the record.

 

Rocker:  You’ve also just released a remix record called “Re-Lit.”

Susannah:  Paul decided to do that.  I wanted to get Wendy to do a remix, and Chad Blake to do a remix, and they did.  Paul remixed a track.  Then we had one of the fans do a song.  Paul is the mastermind at keeping the band rolling.  If you leave it up to me to keep the ball rolling, the ball will turn into a block. I say I’m gonna do things but don’t always pull through.  That’s a big fucking drag on my part, but I mean well (Laughs)!

 

Paul: I thought it would be fun to do and a chance to involve the fans which was really the crux of it.  We had a bunch of alternative takes around and wanted our friends and fans who we love involved.  Wendy and I did a few.  My nephew did a few.  Mr. Leeds did a few.  Everyone was just into it.  Like, “Come on let’s make some music.”  That’s why we’re doing this band at this point.  Our fans are the best fans ever.  They have been around the whole 30 years.  And our new fans are just as cool.  It’s important to keep engaged with our fans.

 

Rocker:  What’s next for the band?

Susannah: We are in the middle of picking out songs.  Our next record looks like it’s going to be an album of covers, just because we want to keep playing.  Until were able to sit down and write a new f-Deluxe studio album we are doing a CD of the most amazing songs that influenced us.  Our versions of things like Bowie tracks.  I wanna do this one Neil Finn song called “Sweet Peace,” a Miriam Makeba track…

 

Paul: We’ve been going through so many old songs to come up with something that is going to be a little avant garde.  Hopefully, we will cut that after my kid graduates high school in June sometime. I’m hoping to cut some old Leiber Stoller tracks, considering that Oliver Leiber is in our band, but not the obvious ones.  Such a plethora of great tracks.  Some old Neville Brothers tracks too.  That stuff is incredibly funky in a different kind of way.

 

Rocker:  Since you’re doing a covers CD, what did you think of Sinead O’connor’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U?”

Paul:  I hated it at first.  I didn’t like it.  That was my song.  Actually not my song, but I felt ownership of that.  I didn’t like the way that was done.  She modernized it.  That’s one thing Prince and I share in common.  We talked about it a couple months ago.  He asked, “Did you like the way that sounded?”  I said, “No, but I’m glad you got paid.”  He said, “I don’t care about money.”  (Laughs) I’m like, “Dude I know you got check for that.  Come on!”  It was my favorite, but it was certainly impactful.  The song deserved to get that kind of exposure.  Probably one of my favorite Prince tracks ever.  It was a brilliantly crafted song and the poetry in that.

 


blog comments powered by Disqus