Here are the selected 20 questions from our members & the answers from Dez Dickerson himself. I’d like to thank Dez Dickerson for participating on this questionaire and of course all the Housequake members that sent in a question. Do yourself a favor, and buy his book (My Time With Prince), it’s a fun & interesting read!
Have u heard the song by Prince “Xtra Loveable”? If so, what is your reaction to the line “What’s the matter Dez, don’t u like my band”?
Believe it or not, I’ve never heard the song, although I’m familiar with the lyric. It’s really just a typical example of Prince’s sense of humor. My split with him and the band was completely amicable. While I was unhappy with the band at the time of my departure (as I detail in my book), we parted company on good terms.
Are you happy that your contribution towards Prince’s career has been correctly recognized. I’m thinking in particular about the input you may have had in the songwriting process between 1979 and 1982, including the vanity 6 and the time projects?
As is often the case in these situations (George Martin and the Beatles, for example), the public perception and the behind-the-scenes reality are two different things. I’m satisfied that those who were on the ‘inside’ are aware of the facts, and, for those that would like more insight, I’ve written about that period in my book. Recognition is always nice, but you have to be secure in knowing that, even if it’s not widely known, you’ve made a contribution of significance. True fans know I played an important part in The Time and Vanity 6 projects, as well as having had an influence on Prince himself during my time in the band.
Do you plan on releasing any of your older stuff for instance Modernaire?
Unfortunately, we do not possess the Modernaire master, so, unless it turns up somewhere, that will never be released. However, we do have plans to release other rare material from that era sometime soon.
With regards to you religious perspective now, if you were as religious then how did it affect you performing with Prince?
I actually had a profound, life-changing conversion experience during the “dirty mind” tour, which I chronicle in chapter 20 of my book. While, like many, I had grown up ‘in church’, I had only been introduced to religion (man’s attempt to change himself from the outside-in, through works, deeds, and being a so-called ‘good person’). What I found out in December of 1980 on a Christmas break from the tour was that god, through his son Jesus, wanted a relationship with us, not religion, and that the true church was not meant to be an Organization, but an organism. God didn’t want me to jump through religious hoops-he wanted my heart.
I cover the challenges of my conversion extensively in the book, but, in short, it did create great tension and conflict within me over time, because I knew that what we were doing ran contrary to my faith in many ways.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?
For me, the highlight came long after my time with Prince. In 1997, I produced my then-11 year old son’s first album, with his band, “squirt”. They went on to record two full albums and an ‘ep’, tour extensively, and score a couple of radio hits. With all the incredible things I had the opportunity to do with Prince, they pale in comparison to the thrill of helping my son begin his career.
Prince must have really liked your guitar playing style. Which song, that Prince has written, do you consider being influenced by you the most?
That’s a great question! I think there were several, but probably the most evident to me is “Purple Rain”. Some of the earlier stuff, like “Bambi” also comes to mind.
Prince is a great guitarist in his own right, so I don’t know if he wouldn’t have written that kind of stuff without me around, but I’m glad I had the chance to influence his sound somewhat.
I assume that Prince had the most ideas and wrote most of the songs or at least the biggest part of a song. So what was it like for you when you had to rehearse or play a song live that you actually didn’t like much for some reason over & over again. How did you motivate yourself for that?
It all came down to being there for the sake of the fans. Being in a band, there are always some songs you like and some you don’t-even if you wrote them all! But, you’re exactly right, when you are in someone else’s band, you often have to play things you aren’t particularly crazy about, and do things you don’t always agree with or want to do. I just felt I had a responsibility to be professional and find a way to enjoy it-and when I felt I couldn’t do it any more, I left.
Being up close with Prince for years, is this where you’d expect Prince to go? What I’m basically talking about is the instrumental stuff Prince did on Xpectation and news and the more adventurous rainbow children album?
He’s always been a player first and foremost, so, in that regard, it makes perfect sense. It’s tough to keep re-inventing yourself over that long a period, and usually even the greatest run out of gas eventually. To his credit, it’s always been about the music for him, and he has stayed true to that. I commend him for it.
Can you elaborate on the genesis of the solo from ‘Little Red Corvette’? Did you and Prince collaborate on it, or was it predominantly your conception? Who else was in the studio at the time? When did you know you “had it”? It’s one of most brilliant pop guitar moments. I’m sure you’re proud to be a part of musical history.
It was just Prince and I in his home studio when we recorded it. He played me the track once, and then we started tracking. He would always let me play what I wanted to (I appreciate the fact that he ‘trusted’ my playing). I recorded three different versions of the solo, and he later ‘comped’ them into one, using different sections of all three. I was finished within half an hour!
A couple of years ago, guitar world magazine named that solo one of the “100 greatest solos of all time” (#64 to be precise). It was quite an honor.
Did you and the Modernnaires ever record an entire album or did you only do ‘I want to be a Modernaire’ and do you ever see the day when the recording(s) will ever be released?
I recorded about 5 albums worth of material during the Modernaires period. We toured extensively with Billy Idol and others in 1983-84, and recorded extensively during that time as well, although I did most of the recording solo, with help from my keyboard player, Dave Moulton, we played much of it live. We are seriously considering releasing those recordings in the near future, and making them available on www.dezdickerson.com.
Was there anything Prince asked you to do that you absolutely refused to do? Like, song he wanted you to play, costume he wanted you to wear, act he wanted you to perform on stage?
He pretty much knew what I would and wouldn’t do-we had a very good rapport. When it came to things he knew I wouldn’t be into, he seemed to respect me enough not to ask. Overall, my attitude was, ” I work for Prince-it’s his gig, so I’ll do all I can to be a team player”.
What triggered you to write about your experiences with Prince all the way now?
It just seemed like it was time. I turned down offers years ago because folks wanted me to cash in by telling the ‘inside dirt’. I’ve been quoted and misquoted in so many other people’s books that it seemed to be important to set the record straight by writing myself.
Your book describes your impression of Wendy Melvoin’s gradual development within the band as ‘climbing’, which indicates that there were some hard feelings there, at the time. This was an important transition for all of you; for Prince, for Wendy and for you as well. Having clearly grown so much since then, how do you feel about the end result for both you and Wendy today?
In reality, there were no hard feelings then or now. I just saw it for what it was- she was being opportunistic, and that was not then, and is not now, my style. In the end, it was time for me to move on, and she had positioned herself to move in when I did. It seems to have been a good move for her, but I’ve never actually talked to her about it, so I don’t know how she feels about it. For me, it was the most important thing I’ve ever done-in walking away from it, I was able to become a real person, not just a rock star caricature. I feel like the most blessed man alive for having had the opportunity to experience the ride, and still have a normal life afterward.
Just how sick are you of talking about Prince by now?
Ha! I love this question! I really don’t mind-it was, in retrospect, a significant piece of music history. For me to have an attitude about it would be selfish and arrogant. I don’t go out of my way to discuss it, but I don’t avoid it either.
If you could put together your own group of supermusicians (with you on guitar of course!) And head out on tour, what would the lineup be?
That’s easy! Michael Bland from N.P.G. On drums, Phil Solem from the Rembrandts on guitar, and Will Lee (David Letterman) on bass.
Are you still in contact with Prince and/or any members of the revolution?
I communicate with Prince occasionally via a third party (his preference). I just recently spoke with Dr. Fink. I speak most regularly with Bobby Z (a few times a year). I’ve recently been in touch with our original keyboardist, Gayle Chapman, via e-mail.
After years of being such a forefront figure in the revolution and since Prince always works on many different projects at once, were you at all involved in the music from purple rain before you left?
Originally, it was to have been a true soundtrack album, with all the music from the movie contained in it. Prince kept writing more and more music, even after the film had been shot, so all the non-Prince stuff (including modernaire) got bumped. I wasn’t involved in the writing, primarily because immediately after the end of the “1999” tour, I left the band to go solo. I do think I still influenced one song, however. I wrote a song called “she loves to video” that Prince heard my band and I play at a show in L.A. Shortly after he finished shooting the film. The rhythm from “When Doves Cry” is identical to “…video”. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional on Prince’s part-that’s what happens when you’re in writing mode. But it is unmistakable…
Would u like to work with Prince again? if yes what sort of project would u like to do?
I’d like to work with him on a real rock record-all guitars and real drums, no keyboards, samplers, loops, or sequencers.
During your time with Prince, what was the best song he ever recorded, but never released?
That’s a tough question-most of the good songs have been released over the years. I think the whole “rebels” project was cool, but it was never released.
Could you tell something about some of the short “movie” projects y’all did back in 1980/1982, like “the second coming” tour movie and some others and were some of these actually ever considered for release?
The only one I was really involved in was the tour movie. There was a lot of great footage, and at one point I even saw an edit of the entire “movie”-it just never saw the light of day. Prince seemed to just ditch the idea, and, once he did that, it was over. I don’t know if he’ll ever release it.