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7 Electronic Producers Reflect on What Prince Meant to the Dancefloor

Tiga, Cassy, Matmos, and more describe how the Purple One shaped their lives and the course of electronic music as a whole.

by THUMP Staff
28 April 2016, 6:10pm

Lovesexy album cover

No one was untouched by the Purple wake. Prince Rogers Nelson affected just about everything that came after him, perhaps even more so than the other genre-hopping luminaries that dominated 20th century music. His contributions to rock, pop, rap, and R&B are almost self-evident—the Purple One toyed with all of these genres and more over the course of his insanely prolific four decades in action—but even ambient musicians, noise icons, and techno forerunners took to Twitter in the days immediately following his sudden passing to mourn the loss of a figure who was crucial to the development of modern electronic music as well.

Freaks and floor-fillers alike all owe something to the wide swath of perfect pop recordings he released over his life, or the image he projected, or his general unwillingness to accept the retrograde ways the record industry wants to do business. For this reason, THUMP reached out to a few producers, DJs, and artists who were particularly impacted by Prince's life. Below, Tiga, Cassy, Mike Servito, Drew Daniel of Matmos, and more reflect on what Prince meant to them.

1. Tiga

Photo courtesy of the artist

My dad bought the "Controversy" 12" when I was seven. To this day, that's still a template for the kind of music I try to make. The groove, the tempo, the fact that not that much happens. And in a way it's kind of a club record, he knew how to take the best out of disco and just make party records. It's incredible how many of his records can still work in a DJ set.

You know why I put Prince at number one—above Bowie and above Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison and Aphex Twin? There's no context required to appreciate the genius. You put Prince [in] any culture, any time, anywhere in history and he'll blow their fucking minds.That's humankind at its most potent. This is it. I'm one person and I will blow your mind. Me as a fan and just as a human, that's what I live for, that's what I want to be close to, whether that's emulating it or just being close enough to see it. There's so few people like that, that it's really really really sad when the light's not there. You feel a bit lost. Who am I supposed to take seriously, you know?

As told to Colin Joyce

2. Cassy

I remember recording the charts from the radio in the 80s and I just fell in love with his music. The albums Sign o' the Times, Parade, Around the World in a Day, and Diamonds and Pearls all really hit home with me. To think he wrote three of them in succession in such a short time was immense, he was truly prolific. He has had a huge impact on my career too; from his music I have taken the rule that 'less is more.' That approach can be killer when executed properly. His simple instrumentation was so effective, and I guess I've always had that in my mind when making and playing music.

3. Moor Mother Goddess

Photo by D1L0

I remember when Prince changed to The Artist Formerly Known As and had Slave written on his face. [It was] a powerful act of protest and an action that the music world is still trying to understand. What really inspires me about Prince is how tradition and history was so important [to him]. You can find gospel blues and the history of our people through sound. A true Afrofuturist, Prince incorporated the past and future into the music and knew the energy of the music would survive forever. These ideals guide my process towards making my music. I believe it is important to take accountability in one's own art and music because as we see with Prince, it's more than music.

4. D'Julz

No other artist had such an impact on my life. I can honestly say that I really started to love music when I saw the video for "1999" at the age of 11. Then Purple Rain came out and there was no way back. I became a proper fan going to all the concerts, buying all his music, official or not, I even spent a month in Minneapolis!

This passion lasted till the end of the 80s . I kept following what he was doing and going to his concerts and aftershows in Paris. Even if his albums were less my cup of tea ,he was still to this day the best performer I ever saw. It's also through him that I discovered Sly Stone, George Clinton, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and so on....

I wouldn't do what I do today without him. He brought music to my life, and music has become my life since. Farewell your Purple Majesty. Heaven is a funkier place now.

5. Mike Servito

[ed. Note: Mike Servito has requested that THUMP preserve all of his spelling choices in tribute to Prince]

I grew up in the era of Purple Rain and maybe we were 2 young 2 be exposed 2 that kind of content, but my parents never kept anything from me. I don't think it would've been possible 2 contain something like Prince & keep him away from us. He was larger than life. I think it really sunk in 4 me when I saw the "When Doves Cry" video 4 the first time. The imagery of it all was captivating 2 me & there was nothing like that sound. I was riveted on the first beat. All Linn drums & no bass line! Something about the Linn sound was so engaging & it set the tone 4 my ears, musically. Something did compute! I immediately gravitated towards the energy of his music. It was stark. It was infectious, & Prince & The Revolution just looked like the coolest band 2 ever exist.

I went backwards in my Prince discoveries. I received a double cassette of Dirty Mind/ Controversy 4 my 10th birthday. Soon after, I got a copy of 1999. I became obsessed. My first concert was the Parade Tour at Cobo Arena in Detroit. It was Prince's 28th birthday. I was 11 years old, & acutely aware that I was witnessing a true genius at work. After the show, we would listen 2 the now legendary interview with The Electrifying Mojo on the drive home.

I could go on & on about Prince & how he influenced everyone in Detroit who grew up in that era. The magnitude and his impact on Detroit musicians, producers, and DJ's is endless. We will 4 ever be his "Motor Babies". He meant the world 2 so many of us. We will never have someone like him in this lifetime, again. Prince was all 2 vital 2 dance music. 2 techno. 2 house music. "U Can Dance If U Want 2" he told us, & we did with great pleasure.

"Always cry 4 Love. Never cry 4 Pain." he sang.

Prince Rogers Nelson will be greatly missed. May he rest in purple peace.

6. John Olson of Wolf Eyes

John crouches on the far left/Photo by Alivia Zivich

A Genuine American Weirdo Giant (G.A.W.G for "short") has passed into the next realm. Our Midwest Bowie is gone: instead of David's swinging London laced with LSD Spiders, we had a gender bending sexy Suburban outsider baptized in one of the many frozen mystery lakes in the fringes of strange isolated Minneapolis. Always changing, always himself: Prince was an ideal and fitting icon. He was glam that didn't have to go the gym—the textbook definition of heated charisma.

Being of prime make-out age when Sign O' The Times dropped, everything inside that classic album is iron-ized with heated memories of intimate teenage encounters—which means his goal was spot on target. Always 1999 years ahead of the trends, Prince will leave a big gap in pop culture and also an overwhelming collection of velvet platforms to fill.

7. Drew Daniel (of Matmos)

Drew on the left/Photo by Josh Sisk

Prince's art is so capacious and fluid and panoramic that it's hard to take it all in, and everybody draws out different aspects, phrases, riffs, ideas, elements. You stare at that glyph and contemplate its weird alchemical hermaphroditic enigma and realize that Prince contains multitudes. Prince's music is about freedom—the freedom to be funky and sleazy and wild, the freedom to express your deep religious faith in the afterlife, and the freedom to play wild ass guitar solos and wear women's underwear and not give a fuck about what authority figures think. And that freedom always takes place in the face of resistance, dislike, rejection, and risk. So, accordingly, our stories about Prince are also stories about police.

In the early 80s, M.C. Schmidt [Drew's partner in Matmos] and his friend Peter Accident were going to go see a concert by this amazing new dude called Prince that everyone was whispering about. So they piled into a car with some pals and smoked some weed on the way to the concert and...[they] were followed and pulled over by a police officer. When they rolled down the window to give him their license the cop could smell the pot in the car. He orders everyone out, demands the weed and the pipe, and, in a would-be display of police authority, throws their pipe onto the ground and stomps on it. Take that, druggie scum! But: the pipe is made of metal, and the stomping doesn't do anything, So M.C. and his friends just look at the pipe, doing fine on the ground, and look up at the cop, who's trying to hold onto his authority-figure shtick even though even he knows that what he just did was embarrassing and didn't work. And he lets them go. (So this is also a story about "Criming While White," sadly enough; if they were black, I doubt they would have been let go). But Peter is now so freaked out at this turn of events that they don't go to the concert. So they missed seeing Prince circa Controversy in 1982. It would have been amazing.

Happily, we did finally get to see Prince; but our luck was coiled inside a larger tragedy. In the wake of the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police officers, Prince wrote a song called "Baltimore" about what was happening in our city, and he came to Baltimore to perform a Concert for Peace. M.C. and I went with our friends, we all piled into this big ass arena downtown which was full of black people and white people and young kids and old burnouts and yuppies in expensive seats and poorer people in the nosebleed section, just completely mobbed. People had their best jackets on, and their tightest dresses and pointiest shoes. Everyone was in a good mood, talking to strangers, getting to know each other, just aglow with this weird thrilling non-specific feeling of imminent Prince-itude.

Prince came out and fucking slayed, playing a kaleidoscopic suite of his jams, doing raunchy Muddy Waters tunes, and talking about the politics of blackness in America, then doing insane guitar solos and endless funk vamps and chants. It was inclusive and loose and sassy and utterly present—completely in the moment even in the midst of a heavy nostalgia trip—because it was also about Prince making a community out of the room, and pointedly doing something for Baltimore at a time when our city was in mourning. I know it wasn't like seeing the "Controversy" tour but it was deep all the same. Later we learned that he had taken the very poorest people who had paid the lowest amount for tickets on the sliding scale and moved them up to the very front of the arena. The first shall be last. R.I.P. Prince.