Thursday, March 8, 2018

"The Choice You Make is Vital" - Interview with Michael Koppelman

"Obviously, he's a complicated figure. But he definitely had an other-worldly air about him."

Photo courtesy of Michael Koppelman

For many former Paisley Park employees (at least the ones I've interviewed), whether you were "let go" hinged upon one choice: whether to say "yes" or "no." For instance, Prince's former press agent Robyn Riggs was dismissed when she pushed back on a particular media request.

Prince's former engineer Michael Koppelman also said "no," and left Paisley Park in 1992 after a three-year stint working on the Batman, Graffiti Bridge, Diamonds and Pearls and Love Symbol albums (more on that in the book).

During Koppelman's time with Prince, he only got "little glimpses" into Prince's vision for certain songs, namely "Live 4 Love" on Diamonds and Pearls. Most fans know Prince changed the lyrics of the track, centered on the Gulf War, to be more optimistic.

But Koppelman didn't get much insight into the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack and movie--Prince's spiritual passion projects--which is what I really wanted to know. However, Koppelman was still able to provide a helpful point of view on Prince's spirituality.

"There's some part about him, in terms of that spirituality thing, that is absolutely sincere," Koppelman said. "He sees his role as being a messenger of God in a sense--and those are obviously my words--but in a highly conflicted way."

Koppelman recognized Prince's struggle, at times, to reconcile his spirituality and sexual side; he shared some remarks Prince made about shelving the explicit Black Album for the more spiritual Lovesexy record. I also asked Koppelman about Prince's decision to release Diamonds and Pearls, a significantly more sexual album, directly after Graffiti Bridge.

Despite Prince's focus on spiritual themes in his music, Koppelman said "there was not a spiritual vibe at Paisley Park." What I have learned while doing this project is that Prince's spirituality was not always enough to foster a positive working environment for his employees. And the spiritual awakenings he had were not always powerful enough to correct certain behaviors.

Or perhaps it's best to phrase those thoughts as a question: Can one be truly spiritual and problematic? I'm hoping readers will draw their own conclusions after reading my book. And I appreciate people like Koppelman, who address multiple aspects of Prince's personality.

It's always intriguing to hear people process their experience with Prince in real time, and in new ways, especially given I'm asking them about spirituality. Koppelman, specifically, wondered what would have happened if he'd responded differently to that crucial choice.

"I think in an alternate universe I could’ve just said 'yes' to everything he wanted and just followed it and see where it led," he said.

See you next Thursday!

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