Proudly presenting Duane Tudahl as our next guest for a Housequake questionnaire. You might know him from writing about Prince and the Minneapolis music scene for over 25 years. After the release of Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984, came his second book Prince and the Parade/Sign O’ The Times Era Studio Sessions: 1985 and 1986 that chronicles Prince’s legacy in the recording studio.
Besides Prince, Duane Tudahl also worked in entertainment for over thirty years and has produced and directed documentary programming for the History Channel, CBS, GTV, Fox, Discovery, among others. He also was an editor on multiple Emmy-nominated programs, including Intervention, and Unsolved Mysteries.
Hi Duane, thanks for agreeing to answer questions from our readers. We had a lot of great submissions from people eager to ask you all kinds of things, and it was difficult to narrow down to just these 20. Let me kick off the first question. I obviously remember you from Uptown as a contributing editor and later on at the Housequake forum. For those that remember, Duane’s nick on Housequake was ‘Madhouseman’ back in the day. Around early 2006 I recall you announced on Housequake you were already preparing a Prince studio session book. So my question is: The road to releasing these books must have been long and winding. Could you roughly tell us how that went down? Housequake
First off, thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions. I’ve been a fan of Housequake for a long time and your work has been a source of knowledge for me and has helped give Prince’s music context, so I’m honored to participate in this Q&A about my book series.
I’ve been a fan of Prince since the early 80s, and have always enjoyed finding out the behind-the-scenes stories about his studio work. When Mark Lewisohn wrote the book about the Beatles Studio Sessions, I was intrigued because it made the music so much more intimate and personal for me. While I was working with Per Nilsen on UPTOWN Magazine and his books, DMSR and The Vault, I remember discussing the idea of a similar book about Prince’s studio sessions, but I think all of us wondered if that was possible. If it was going to be done, it would require a lot of research, so in the late 80’s/early 90’s, I started a huge database of all of Prince’s songs, big events, and other key parts of his career which included as much information as possible. I logged every interview that Prince or those around him did and placed the quotes in their proper context. This several thousand-page document became invaluable when it came to having quick access to the thoughts of those who participated in the sessions. Those quotes answered a lot of the “why” and “how” questions, but for a book like this, the “when” questions were equally important, so I reached out to multiple studios including Sunset Sound (where he did the bulk of his recording in the 1980s) and they were kind enough to supply the work orders for all of his sessions. This gave me the basis for the daily sessions.
Once these were compiled, and the events of his life were added, the quotes were able to bridge the dates and sessions to help fill in important details about each one. I was also fortunate to have been able to interview most of the major people in these sessions including the entire Revolution, as well as most of the engineers, protégé band members, singers and people around him. It was important for me to do as much firsthand research as possible. In addition, I was able to gather even more detailed information because the Prince community is blessed with so many amazing podcasts and writers who interviewed dozens of people as well. Countless interviews done for podcasts and radio shows were transcribed (with the help of so many incredible friends in the Prince community), double-checked and logged for the first book. Luckily for the second book, I was able to build on the 25+ years of research to document his recording session with even more detail. Once the first book established that my goals in doing this immense project are to preserve Prince’s legacy as accurately as possible and explore the deeper meaning of his music/find out more about the man/musician behind the music, I think people felt a little more at ease to discuss their time in the studio with Prince.
I finished the first draft of the first book in March 2016, one month before Prince passed and debated releasing it because I didn’t want to be seen as taking advantage of the situation, but after many conversations with those who had helped, I realized it was a tribute to him that revealed to the world how hard he worked, how dedicated he was to creating music he was, and how we all benefitted from his incredible life and work ethic.
I can only imagine the hard work and dedication it must have taken to finish now two books about Prince, but what was the hardest part about making this latest one? Zsinku
The hardest part about writing the second book was not allowing myself to coast on the reaction to the first one. I wanted to make the second one better, deeper, even more revealing and rewarding. Book 2 is about 200 pages longer, has almost 100 additional sessions and covers one of the most intimate and emotional periods in his life. I think the bar for authors is much higher these days because of the many beautifully detailed books, articles, and podcasts that are out there now, and fans/fams of Prince have big expectations for what they read and hear. We are no longer in a time when just the basics of his story are enough for most of us. This community is filled with truth-seekers and they hold all of us accountable to not just repackage what we know but to explore, research and reveal new ways to understand Prince and his legacy.
What was driving Prince to work on so many different projects during this era (1985-1986)? After the success of Purple Rain, he could have slowed down for a few years, but instead, he seemed to go into creative overdrive with so much musical variety from Parade to Dream Factory to Madhouse to Camille and more, all within two years. He also made a film that was totally different from Purple Rain, just months after finishing the Purple Rain tour. What was driving him during this time to do so many different things? Da Glass
I can’t speak for Prince, but it seems like he was going through a period of incredible inspiration. I think that the success of the Purple Rain project (movie/album/tour) empowered him to create without boundaries or financial restraints and few people questioned his direction. Prince was always the one to make the final decisions about his art, but before Purple Rain, he was more open to the advice his managers would give to him. Once he had achieved so much success, he was rapidly expanding all of his creative options and stopped listening as much to those managers who’d helped guide him up to that point. I think his horizons were expanding exponentially and he worked hard to express where he was musically during that period.
It’s been often discussed that Prince could write, record, mix and master a song within 24 hours. Based on the notes in your book, some songs were created and mixed in a few hours and some took several days. Some he kept coming back to over and over during the course of a year or two. Which songs were you most surprised by how much time he put into creating it? Jim Emmons
In the first book, “Baby, I’m A Star” stood out as something he spent some time crafting. For the 2nd book, I was actually more surprised at how quickly he did most things. Madhouse 8 was recorded in a few days. THE ENTIRE ALBUM! Similarly with Parade. The first configuration was created in a few days. He went back in and added new songs, but an entirely new album was created in about 10 days! Who does that? The songs he spent a great deal of time on, “Crystal Ball” for instance, were statement songs and he worked hard to find the right tone. On that one, Susannah, Wendy and Lisa added some really fun elements to bring it to life. I would also say “U Got The Look” which was the last song done for Sign O’ The Times. WB had asked him to reduce his 3-disk set called Crystal Ball into 2 disks. He did eliminate some songs, but in true Prince form, he also added a song. “U Got The Look” was something that Prince was inspired to create, almost as if to show them that he had a hit on the new album. The song took about 3 days and involved changing the speed and adding (and removing) whistling and other elements. I really think that he wanted to give them a jam they didn’t expect, so he spent additional time on it.
With such a large amount of Revolution-related material on SOTT SDE that highlighted Dream Factory in particular, why were there so many obvious omissions like Movie Star, Last Heart, Databank, Girl O’ My Dreams, Can’t Stop, We Can Funk, etc.? I know several of those songs were previously released on Crystal Ball, but it felt like a huge miss and left a noticeable gap in the presentation of SOTT SDE in totality. Are there any plans to eventually release those songs? Jason Paul Smith
I can’t speak for the Estate on this one. However, my own personal thoughts are that the songs that you mentioned above were either previously released by other artists or on other CDs by Prince. Even though I love the songs in question, as a fan I am always wanting to hear music I’ve never heard before. Another possibility is on box sets like this, real estate is generally tight and in order to allow room for the maximum number of unreleased tracks, previously released and officially circulating songs probably aren’t as high on the list to be considered for the collection. Sadly, with these projects it seems that there is never enough room to include all of the great tracks that all us would want included.
When reading your latest book, and specifically the part describing the story of Prince not wanting to participate in the recording of ‘We are the world’ giving an excuse, and then Prince going out to party, I wonder if you have any explanation for such behaviour? I guess it was one of the worst mistakes in terms of public image, and more so when he was at the very peak of his career. Cateto
Like most things in life, there are likely a number of factors. Many people might chalk it up to the arrogance of youth and the celebration of his recent success. Prince, himself explained it as not wanting to be in a room with so many great people. It is possible that both of those reasons apply to a degree and that he may not have wanted to sing on a Michael Jackson song, and maybe he didn’t want to be produced by someone else. Giving up control appears to have been an issue for Prince, and that personality trait may have kept him from doing a number of projects throughout his life, but it is also what made him Prince!
If you had the power over the estate releases, would you release Crystal Ball, Dream Factory, and Camille as limited edition record store day releases in their final configs as they were intended? Jim Emmons
I think that would be fun! Remember that even RSD releases are a lot of work to put together and take time to get done properly. The estate has been doing amazing work, and I expect them to continue it. I mean… it is Prince we are talking about here! I would love to see so many projects come out. Where do you begin? lol
What musicians and albums did Prince listen to and/or was influenced by while doing the Parade and Sign O’ The Times sessions? Ricardo Kaulessar
Anything I could list would be incomplete, but I feel that there are a number of artistic influences that can be heard during the Parade and Sign O’ The Times period. Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” probably influenced Prince when he wrote “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” I would guess that parts of Madhouse 8 were inspired by David Byrne and Brian Eno’s 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts specifically by tracks like “The Carrier” and “Mountain of Needles,” as well as “Moments In Love” by Art Of Noise. The beginning of “The Cross” seems to have been influenced by the beginning of “Samba Pa Ti” by Santana. He also did several covers including songs performed by the Esquires and Fontella Bass, so they were likely on his mind as well.
I don’t know if he was listening to all of these at the time, but you can find lyrical and musical references to the Brothers Johnson, the 5th Dimension, Elvis, the Chambers Brothers, Nina Simone, The Cars, Gustav Mahler, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the sounds of the Paisley Underground and obviously Sly Stone, Miles Davis and James Brown.
And possibly a few more that are escaping me at the moment. If any of you can think of others, please let me know. One of the most fun things about Prince is the musical doors he opens by letting us all know his influences.
The above question from Ricardo Kaulessar is my favorite (and winner of a free copy), because it really made me think about what influences Prince had and it opens the doors for many of these artists and songs to be heard by others.– Duane Tudahl
I am wondering, after digging through and doing the research, interviews, etc., what was one of the most surprising things you learned? Christopher Morris
I think one of the most surprising was realizing how much missing the We Are The World session caused lasting ripples in his behavior and decisions. You can see in many of his subsequent interviews during that period that he kept explaining his decision, and you can tell how the media in many ways saw it as a turning point in his career and revealed a chip in his armor. Another topic that was extremely fascinating was understanding the entirety of how his relationship with the Revolution transpired. Obviously, there were a lot of factors but hearing the causes and effects from those who were there, and seeing how Prince may have expressed his frustrations in his post-Revolution music was eye-opening.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about Prince while researching and writing this book series is that no matter what the situation, he always persevered and was able to work through it and move on to the next stage, which sometimes meant leaving behind people and artistic directions. I am a huge fan of David Bowie as well, and I see so many parallels between the two artists, and how their art came before almost anything.
What surprised you most during this time of Prince’s creativity Hvnlygaines99
I loved finding out how much of Prince’s life was TRULY reflected in his music. The lyrics uncovered so many deep insights into where he was emotionally during each time period. His songs were a combination of diary, observation, and confessional in ways most of us never imagined. There is a lot of Prince that can be revealed by studying his art.
I would like to ask about Prince’s vision for Paisley Park. So I’ve read that apart from it being his main recording studio, his rehearsal ground, his creative abode etc., he wanted it to be like Motown – producing successful artists with strings of hits on the Paisley Park label. So what happened? Apart from a few hits for a handful of musicians and singers, he was less ‘successful’ with this endeavour – was it because of his straight jacket control of all outputs, that only he can produce and write for them you know the ‘arranged, composed and produced by Prince’ imagery to the exclusion of coopting creative inputs from his protégés and those external to Paisley Park? Merza Ghalib
Prince was a visionary, and he could bring to life all of the sounds he had in his head which made him an amazing once-in-a-lifetime performer. Because of that, he really didn’t have to rely on others very often. He did have some who he relied on to influence him, but in the end, he was always the final word on the music and I don’t imagine him ever relinquishing that role. But what if he kept Jimmy and Terry, Jesse, Wendy and Lisa and others and had them writing, recording and creating content for his label? You are correct, it could have been something like the way Motown was run. Prince was already creating his own competition (again, who does that?), but the market would have been filled with artists from Paisley Park Records. Sadly, there weren’t enough hours in the day for Prince to do it all on his own and I don’t think it was in his DNA to allow others to have that much control.
I’m not sure what Prince’s vision for Paisley Park Studios was, but for quite a while it was a successful home for a lot of projects from Prince, but also from a variety of outside clients including recording artists like REM, Fine Young Cannibals, A-Ha, the Replacements, Stone Temple Pilots, Soul Asylum, among others, concert rehearsals for Neil Young, Kool and the Gang, and Barry Manilow, and many movies and commercials that were shot there.
If you are asking about his creative vision for Paisley Park Records, I have often wondered if the label was created as a vehicle to release more of his own music under different names since he could only release an album a year of his own. I hope to explore that concept in future projects.
What do you think peoples biggest misconceptions about Prince were/are. Clegatha
The biggest misconception about Prince was that he was mainly a sexually obsessed rockstar, because his real passion was being an artist. His dedication to his craft, and commitment to creating his music was his main focus. And his creativity wasn’t limited to just music, he came up with ideas for concerts, movies, Broadway plays, videos, fashion, artwork, marketing, etc. He could have easily rested on his accomplishments but instead he was at work every day trying to create the next big thing… and he generally succeeded!
Which of Prince’s songs chronicled in this book resonated with you personally? Mariapacerappaport
Personally, I have always loved “Rebirth Of The Flesh” and to listen to it in the context of his life and how some of it seems to be a reaction to the breakup of the Revolution was wild. Same with “Housequake” when it is noted that it was recorded just after he announced the breakup of the Revolution. Other songs that really hit home are “Sometimes It Snows In April,” and knowing the bigger history of the first Madhouse album. Prince has a song for every emotion, so some songs resonate with me depending on my mood.
So Prince recorded a lot of songs but he also recorded most of his live shows. Can we expect a book of some sort where we can read which ones he recorded audio or video and what was played? Per Nilsen’s book had some dates and what was played but more accurate than his work, which was excellent by the way. Hetoorzaakje
Unfortunately, I have no knowledge what projects are being planned for the future, but that would be a great book and I would enjoy reading it! And I agree with you, Per Nilsen’s books (DMSR and The Vault) were both exceptional. It was an honor to help research them, and he and I are still in touch and maintain a friendship after all these decades. He helped supply research for this entire book series and I always look forward to working with him on future projects.
With the heaps of knowledge now in your possession, what do you reckon the impact of the switch to different engineers (e.g. Joe Blaney) has been on the sound? Dylan Alling
Most of the people who knew Prince say he was a sponge and learned as much as he could from each person that worked with him. He surrounded himself with people who were inspirational and helped bring his music to life. Prince could have done it all himself, but every person who was around him had the potential to bend his musical direction slightly by introducing new techniques, adding filters, and other knowledge to the songs. A joke, a reference, the way they moved or a story from their past could all influence him. It seems throughout Prince’s career, he grew as an artist, and part of that growth was based on who he surrounded himself with and who he trusted. You weren’t around Prince unless he wanted you to be, and if you were allowed to be close to him, it was likely that he recognized and enjoyed what you brought to the table.
Do you know how much you don’t know? In other words, how many sessions/recorded songs you were not able to find back? Differently put, any idea how complete your works are? Ronald Wielink
I like to think that they are fairly complete, but who knows? I mean, I’ve covered him working on almost every day, with hundreds of sessions over a two-year period. That said, I would love to find out that he did another album that I didn’t know about, or that he created songs that none of us have heard about because he was inspired. Part of the fun and frustration of Prince is that he would work on so many projects, but then get distracted (or inspired) by another idea and he’d shift his focus, which is why there are so many abandoned projects in his wake.
Who of Prince’s collaborators surprised you the most when interviewing them for this book? James Wilson
Where do I begin? First off, it is an honor that any collaborators who worked with Prince want to share their stories with me. My goal is to keep my voice out of the book as much as possible and let them tell the story. I would say that spending hours with Wendy, Lisa, and Eric Leeds was mind-blowing. Prince relied on them so much and hearing their memories and insights was priceless. Engineers like Peggy McCreary knew him from before the success of Purple Rain and was able to detail his journey in a very unique way, and Susan Rogers has an incredible number of insights when it comes to the music and being alone with him in the studio when he was focused on his craft. To me, Susannah Melvoin was a real hero as she influenced so many songs, participated (often uncredited) in sessions and was able to detail what Prince was like when he wasn’t the icon, but as a man.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview the entire Revolution, all of Apollonia 6, most of the Family and just about every engineer and performer with him at that time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to interview Sheila, but I found as many quotes from her as possible so she is represented as I feel her influence was vital to his music. I hope to speak to her for future volumes as I feel her contributions cannot be understated, and her memories would make all of this so much deeper.
How much of the creative process & finished product of the music during this time period were Wendy & Lisa a part of or will we ever truly know? I suspect their contributions were much more significant than has been divulged or admitted to even by themselves. Mozenator ’21
Their contributions were HUGE. They were probably the first people that he truly gave full access and permission to influence his work to such a large degree. He’d done it before in a limited fashion with a few band members, but the amount of freedom he gave Wendy & Lisa was astonishing, especially considering the amount of control he always demanded. Again, he was always the decider and would remove what he didn’t feel was necessary, but he was very open-minded about what they brought to him. It is impossible to listen to the music from this era honestly and not respect the influence they had. Could he have done it all himself? Of course. Did he enjoy what they brought to the table? From what I’ve learned through interviews with the people in the room at the time, yes. You can even see that in comments Prince made later in his career.
What is next for you when it comes to potentially writing a 3rd chapter for e.g. LoveSexy/Black Album? Rotweets
I’ve been researching all of these books for about 30 years now, so I need to start compiling a very detailed list of dates/sessions/quotes and potential interviews from my research for the 3rd book. At the end of the 2nd book (December 1986), Prince decided that he would no longer rely on many of the people he had around him, so he had to include new people, develop new relationships and create a new band without the company of those who were previously in his inner circle. Similarly, as I start working on this book, many of the people who’ve contributed beautifully to the first two books are no longer involved in Prince’s day-to-day life going forward. Even Susan Rogers, who is such a wonderful voice of introspection and first-hand knowledge about Prince was no longer working with him by mid-1987, so for the 3rd book I have to establish new relationships with those who worked with him on the SOTT and Lovesexy tours and all of the stunning music he created during the rest of the 1980s. I’m excited about the process and I love that it will introduce new voices into this period of Prince’s studio sessions story. I’m nervous about getting it right, but my wife reminded me that was what I said to her as I started the journey of writing book 2 (and even book 1 lol), so I go into this new one excited and I’m looking forward to Prince revealing his story once again through his music.
Prince and the Parade and Sign O’ The Times Era Studio Sessions: 1985 and 1986
From Prince’s superstardom to studio seclusion, this second book in the award-winning Prince Studio Sessions series spotlights how Prince, the biggest rock star on the planet at the time, risked everything to create some of the most introspective music of his four-decade career.