Interview

Interview: Prince’s vault archivist, Michael Howe, talks to SDE

With the Originals release now available on CD, SDE spoke to Michael Howe the man responsible for Prince‘s audio archive. Just what exactly does he do and how do they decide what to release? Those and many other questions answered below…

SuperDeluxeEdition: How did you get the role of being Prince’s archivist?

Michael Howe: Well, I was an A&R guy for, I don’t know, 20-25 years or something, most recently at Warner Brothers. And, you know, I worked with Prince when he was alive, toward the very tail end of his life. And then, after he passed away I kind of stayed in the frame, so to speak, and tried to be as helpful to the various and sundry parties who were drifting in and out of the equation, and when the need arose for somebody to basically do what I’m doing, I put my hands up and left Warner and went over to work for the estate.  That’s how it happened.

SDE: And how does the relationship with the record companies work, because, obviously, you’ve got different parties involved; Warners who go back a long way, and then you’ve got Sony that own more recent stuff. I mean, are you thinking about things like that when you’re working through the content of the vaults; who might own and where it sits etc.?

MH: Yes, I am, to the extent that I am the guy who, for the most part, A&Rs anything that comes out of a vault – I’m delivering the content to whoever’s going to be releasing it. So, yes, I’m thinking about that every day.

SDE: And is it always obvious who owns what material?

MH: Relatively, yes. I have a good idea and there are mechanisms in place that govern those things. And it’s easy to figure out if I don’t know the answer off the top of my head. By the way, if I sound vague on some of my answers it’s not because I don’t want to be helpful but I’ve had to sign a constellation of disclosure agreements.

SDE: So… would you say you’re looking for profitable projects for the estate or are you looking for creative projects that would suit Prince as an artist?

MH: All of the above. I mean the main thrust of my gig is to organise, preserve and curate Prince’s body of work, the audio-visual materials from the vault, which is an enormous undertaking, obviously.

The sort of side element to that is to accommodate the commercial considerations when they enter the frame, which frequently… so the basic guiding principle, really, is to do my job with the completeness and respect and integrity that Prince would demand and that the body of work deserves. But when commercial considerations emerge then we have to pivot to accommodate those things, so that it’s not really a linear proposition, so to speak.

SDE: I imagine there’s probably quite a bit of pushing and pulling, so it’s not just record labels sitting back passively waiting for you to knock on the door and say, ‘what do you think about this as an idea?’ Are they proactively knocking at your door, or the estate’s door, saying “we want to do this, what have you got in terms of this material for this era?”

MH: It’s a bit of both.  There’s more knocking on my door, although when ideas come to us we try to be as proactive and helpful as possible so if we view it as an incomplete thought, for example, we try to offer a more comprehensive solution so that everybody would benefit. If it’s an idea that we are convinced, with some level of certainty, that Prince would not have approved, we respectfully decline. But it’s quite a dynamic conversation, it’s not a monologue that’s for sure.

SDE: With the new album, Originals, could you give us a little bit of a feel as to how the project originated?

MH: Yes. Basically an extension of what we did with Nothing Compares 2 U, which was released as a stand-alone single in 2018, and was very, very well received…unsurprisingly.  And as an extension of that we thought it would be interesting to sort of shine a light on Prince… not just the performer, but as the guy behind the curtain, so to speak.

Because there are – I don’t know the exact numbers – but well over 200 songs that he wrote for other artists, that were not envisioned as part of a Prince proper body of work, for whatever reason. I recognise that some of these things have trickled out into the marketplace and, for the most part, these things are in sub-standard audio and it’s not a very satisfying experience. As a Prince fan, it’s interesting to hear things on bootlegs but I don’t find myself returning to them, for the most part, only because it’s such a painful listen, when it’s riddled with dropouts and compression and all kinds of other stuff.

So we thought it would be a special treat, not just for super fans but for more casual fans – and people who might have been familiar with the hits by the other artists – to hear Prince’s take on that.

So we put together a comprehensive-ish master list of stuff and whittled it down. It didn’t take particularly long. The most time consuming element, aside from finding some of the stuff, was determining how to contextualise it and sort of best proceed with this body of work.

A lot of these songs, for example, existed as rough mixes and we would, very happily, use a rough mix as a master. I mean we take as few creative liberties as we can, you know, we try to respect the original vision. But the vast majority, especially the early stuff, exists as rough mixes only on cassette, you know, some kind of substandard cassettes that really aren’t worthy of release, you know, from a sonic standpoint. So what we do is go back to the two inch master and we mix to the granular level exactly what the rough mix would sound like if we were able to clean up the cassette to the point that it would be releasable.  So anything that exists on a format with some integrity, like a half inch reel or, you know, a DAT or anything else, we will release as a master as Prince, theoretically, would have contemplated doing.

SDE: So does this mean that you actually have multi-tracks for a lot of these tracks on the Originals album?

MH: We do, yes.

SDE: Okay. That’s quite interesting. I would have thought, you might just do a nice remaster of a stereo mix, but in most cases these are actually remixes of his original work?

MH: Well, in this case, they are mixes that would be the rough mix, you know, so I’m just arbitrarily picking, ‘Manic Monday’, which was on a cassette with too many dropouts and too many sonic flaws to really contemplate for commercial release. But we took that version, that would have been a master version, and mixed from the multi-track exactly to that spec.

SDE: Okay. That sounds like that’s a sensible approach…

MH: Yes. And, as I said, you know, in the case of something like ‘Love, They Will Be Done’, you know, there was an existing half inch rough with Prince’s vocal on it that was certainly sufficient for a master, it was a flat half-inch tape, so there was, you know, we didn’t have to mix anything there, we just turned that into the master, basically.

SDE: In terms of the availability of all the original tapes, were they well catalogued? Was it quite easy to find things?

MH: No. I wouldn’t say ‘quite easy’, but it’s not impossible. It’s more than a bit of piecing a puzzle together because the materials, for the most part, are not organised in any kind of conventional way. To the untrained eye, it seems pretty haphazard.

Having lived with the stuff for as long as I have, there’s certainly some rhyme and reason to it but… if you walked into the room you would be thoroughly confused, I think, by the way it is currently housed. But we’re figuring that out.

And sometimes we just don’t know what’s on it. A lot of these tapes are mislabelled or not labelled at all, or only partially labelled… so that if we put something up on the machine it has maybe what the label purports it to be but three or four other things that are delightful surprises to us that, for whatever reason, are not listed on the box or on the track sheet or in the notes. I mean it’s a world of surprises.

SDE: And talking of labelling, I’ve been involved in a few reissue projects myself, and sometimes you come across tapes that are labelled “do not use this mix”. This will be like 30 years later, so you think, well, okay, they said do not use then but this is a reissue project and that’s quite an interesting mix, so you need to decide if it’s fair game now. If you came across a tape where Prince had written, “not to be used under any circumstances” how would you feel about an instruction like that, now?

MH: I would adhere to it. I wouldn’t put it forward as something to possibly release. It’s a challenge, certainly, to try to determine what Prince’s thought process was at the time, or would be if he was still with us. I don’t think anybody can really figure that out, you know, it’s a very, very small group of people that talk about this stuff regularly, and we try to determine, to the best of our abilities, what is appropriate and what isn’t, and what is a high enough bar to really consider for a commercial re-release that Prince would, theoretically, be okay with. We take it very, very seriously. It’s something I think about every time I’m putting these things together, you know. I want to do right by the guy, I mean that’s kind of item number one on the checklist.

SDE: Some people would say, well, he never really dug into his vault very much. I mean there’s the odd thing, but he never seemed like someone that wanted to put out much stuff that was in the vault. So there’s the argument that if he’d wanted this out, he would have released it when he was alive. What’s your feeling in terms of how Prince would feel about, now he’s gone, actually releasing music from the vault? Is the general feeling that he knew it would probably happen anyway at some point and, therefore, it’s legitimate?

MH: I mean I get asked this a lot and my standard response is that, you know, we’re using our best judgement, number one; number two, is that Prince himself said, on at least one occasion, maybe more than one occasion, I’m paraphrasing but, you know, [he said] that he expected that the contents of the vault, or some portion thereof, would emerge at some point after he was gone. Again, I’m paraphrasing, but that seemed to be something that he acknowledged could be a possibility. And, you know, I talk to you and deal with people who were in the room with him every day, Peggy [McCreary], Susan Rogers, the people in the band and take their advice, and take what they say very seriously.

SDE: With this Originals project then, there’s so many tracks like this that you could have put out a 50-track boxset if you’d wanted to, I imagine. Is that where the record company comes into it, and they decide how to shape it in terms of commerciality?

MH: Well, somewhat.  I mean we don’t want to induce Prince fatigue, you know. I’m not sure that opening the floodgates, with 50 tracks, is really the best consumer experience. And I’m not sure that it would be the best thing for the estate either. I mean I’m just thinking aloud here, you know, I’m not taking a position. But in this particular case we kind of envisioned a body of work… you know, more than a single and less than a boxset, that we kind of presented as a pretty appealing proposition to Warner, and they were very happy to basically let us proceed as we saw fit.

I would say, generally speaking, record companies, kind of err on the side of ‘more is more’, I mean just, because of the world we live in, from a fan engagement standpoint, but we, the keepers of the Prince legacy, are much more interested in quality over quantity. You know… presenting a finished body of work or shining a light on a particular creative period with respect and integrity [and] not just sort of dumping things into the marketplace because somebody’s asking for it.

And not that we would even be able to do that given the other mechanisms in place, but I know there’s a lot of fan chatter about, you know, “why don’t you release this?” and, “what about Dream Factory?” and it’s like, ‘yes’, is the answer to all of those things. We’ve thought about it, we’ve discussed it, [and] maybe it will happen at some point, but it’s not as easy as me going in and plucking out a half inch reel and sending it to [mastering engineer] Bernie [Grundman], and then just putting it into the marketplace.

SDE: And do you work with Troy Carter, who has this role as entertainment adviser?  How does that relationship work if you work with him?

MH: I do work with him. I mean, he is, basically the public face of the estate as it comes to entertainment related deals. So he interfaces with and sort of conceptualises a lot of the overall deal structures, and negotiates with the various and sundry commercial partners. And he’s awesome. He’s a fundamentally decent human being. He’s a real music guy, you know, he is a very clear thinker, he’s supportive, you know, I can’t say enough good things about him.

SDE: So his role is a bit more about partnerships and deals and structuring things rather than the nitty gritty…

MH: Generally speaking, yes, but I mean he’s deeply involved in any element of what the public will end up either seeing or experiencing as part of the Prince ecosystem.

SDE: I want to talk to you about digitising in a second, but one thing … Sony has just released the ‘Rave’ albums, haven’t they?

MH: Yes.

SDE: And how does that work, then, because obviously those albums, they’re not new things, they’re things that came out before and they’re putting them out again. Will they have their own tapes for that or do they still need to come to you guys and say, look, we want to do this….we need access to the master tapes because we might have something that’s inferior? If they own something and they’ve put it out before, do they still need to engage with you if they want to put something out into the marketplace?

MH: Well, the short answer is yes. I mean there’s a mutual approval process that occurs, and we, for all of the things that they have so far released – and are going to release – we delivered them the masters. Again. You know, even if they had a couple, like Musicology, or whatever, I believe we delivered the masters to them [again] anyway. So I don’t know if that answers your question. I mean they can’t just insert something into the marketplace without our approval.

SDE: Even if it’s something that’s already been out before in exactly the same form, they still need to engage with you?

MH: Correct. They have been fantastic partners, they are extremely proactive and extremely engaged, and communicative and respectful, and they have not done anything without engaging us fully. And it’s been a real pleasure working with them.

SDE: Just briefly… I don’t want to go on about Sony, but for those particular releases, were there any conversations around, you know, “we’re going to reissue these albums, what outtakes do you have, could we put a bonus disc with them”. Because, obviously, Sony haven’t really gone down that route in the way Warner’s did with Purple Rain a few years ago.

MH: There have not been any conversations, any deep conversations, about that yet. I mean it has been, you know, sort of tossed around as something that could happen but, you know, there is nothing concrete at this point, to my knowledge…

SDE: Let’s talk about the digitisation process, then. Can you give us a feel for the scale of this archive? How many hours of audio or movie footage you have. Do you have an idea of when you may get to the end of your digitisation process?

MH: No I don’t. I mapped it out several months ago, you know, based on the current rate that we’re doing, and it’ll take years. I mean I’m talking about full-time, eight hours a day, five days… I mean that’s a tremendous amount of stuff.

SDE: How do you prioritise what stuff you tackle?  I mean have you got material in the back of your mind where you think, okay, this is more likely to hit the marketplace in the next three to five years, than this other material, therefore, we’ll concentrate on that first?

MH: Well, yes, but as I said toward the beginning of the conversation, the way I have been approaching it, we’ve been approaching it, is to try to put the commercial considerations aside. We try to do it as chronologically as possible, for two reasons: number one, it’s generally the path of least resistance and the path that makes the most sense; and number two, those tapes, for the most part, are potentially in the most distress so the sooner you get to those the better.

[But] the commercial considerations show up every day. So we have to divert from the chronology and then focus on different, specific things. Some things are much more urgent than others, you know, some things we can take our time on

SDE: Prince sounded like he recorded so much material…  rehearsals, sessions, live concerts etc., there just must be so much to get through, it must be a bit overwhelming at times, I imagine?

MH: It definitely is, yes. I mean it’s a good problem to have, but it is head spinning for sure.

SDE: Presumably you have to call on his old colleagues, producers, engineers, musicians, sometimes, to validate what things are or when they were recorded or to make some sense out of it.

MH: Yes. Fortunately in the cases of most of the analogue multi-track stuff and the half inch reels, the quarter inches  and some of the other formats, labelling is decent enough but there are certainly times where we have been mystified and have to call Susan or Peggy, or whoever it is, an try to help put the pieces together to sort of figure out with somebody who was actually there, how it fits into the overall equation – if they actually remember doing it, which in some cases, not many, they don’t!

SDE: And the vault, it moved, didn’t it?  It’s my understanding it’s in LA now, because it was obviously at Paisley Park.

MH: Yes.

SDE: Was that just about practical considerations?

MH: Not everything has been moved, you know, Paisley is still open and there are elements of Prince’s life that are still there, you know, instruments, clothing and whatnot, but the audio-visual materials and a tremendous amount of other, kind of high value stuff was moved from Minneapolis to Hollywood, that’s correct.

SDE: You’re obviously doing multi-track tapes as well. One question about the multi-track side of things… do you ever see any 5.1 surround versions of Prince’s studio albums being released?

MH: This is a tough one for me to answer, because the decision wouldn’t be entirely mine.  I’m certainly open to it, as I think my colleagues would be. .

SDE: Because it’s reasonably common these days – perhaps more in prog rock circles – if you’ve got a multi-disc boxset to maybe put a blu-ray or a DVD in there and put a 5.1 mix, you know, as part of the overall offering…

MH: Yes.  I mean, there are guys obviously guys who do it very well, like Steven Wilson…

SDE: Michael, what about the cost of this whole undertaking? I mean, it’s an expensive business, baking tapes, transferring tapes, you know, the time and energy and the cost of doing that. Is someone worrying about the cost of all this or is that not a consideration?

MH: Well, it’s certainly an expensive undertaking. The estate is mindful of the costs, [but] it recognises that it’s an essential cost and has been extremely supportive and helpful with making it happen. You know, I would imagine there is some fluidity to the cost, and as time marches on, maybe it will get scaled back or throttled up depending on what is immediately in front of us at whatever time, but there has been no pushback at this point, certainly, and there’s been nothing but their full support. You know, just kind of doing the right thing on behalf of the estate with this stuff.  I mean it’s been a real pleasure.

SDE: I imagine this would be a long time in the future it if happened, but do you foresee a time where you might consider publishing the entire contents of the estate, you know, so people could look at a list, see what’s in there, almost like a kind of museum/library type resource, even if they can’t listen to everything, they could at least browse through and see what’s in the library?

MH: Maybe. You know, there are probably things that, the estate would not permit to be exploited in any way. I don’t know anything specific, but I’m sure that that would be the case. But I would say the vast majority of the stuff, I mean from an academic standpoint, certainly, and from the perspective of being able to have a public acknowledgement of a guy who was so titanically creative, you know, sort of living and breathing in front of you would be pretty interesting, I think.

I don’t think it’s being built or anything but I think it’s a pretty cool idea to be able to have maybe some kind of like interactive exhibit or something, you know, that looks at the arc of Prince’s life and, you know, his creative contribution to the world.

SDE: Prince is very well known for almost uniquely having so many songs that he wrote and recorded that were never commercially released. How much of the archive is just different versions of things we know, and how much is unheard material that no one’s ever had the pleasure to listen to?

MH: Well, if you count the live stuff and rehearsals and just general kinds of ephemera, I think the vast majority is things that people haven’t heard. Not all of it is super compelling in the way that his released albums were, for example, but there is, in my estimation, a tremendous amount of first rate material that hasn’t been heard that would be, theoretically, worthy of release.

SDE: You mentioned bootlegs earlier and things getting out, but in some ways it’s quite surprising that stuff did get out from Prince because he seemed quite a controlling individual, in terms of his own environment. So how did things get out back in the day?

MH: Well, I don’t know exactly. I think Prince certainly gave cassettes away to people and maybe didn’t ask for them back, that’s one way. I think that a couple of things probably walked out of there without his knowledge, through some unscrupulous person. There is a fair amount of stuff that seems to have trickled out, some of which is surprisingly robust, sonically and of pretty high integrity. I mean, it’s a little frustrating from time to time. It certainly shows that the appetite is there, which I like, but the wholesale commercial infringement of the stuff rankles me.

SDE: You know this already, but there’s a massive appetite for what you might call the classic Prince era of the 80s. All those albums like Sign ‘O’ The Times, Parade, Around The World In A Day etc. You know, big, expanded box set editions of those albums to come out, similar to the way Purple Rain did with live stuff, 12-inch mixes, outtakes, whatever…  Is that kind of thing miles away or is it…

MH: No, it’s not miles away. I mean I can’t … this is a very dicey area for me but it’s not miles away. I think there will be, you know, a couple of them will probably emerge over the next year or two, is my guess. And one of them is pretty much done.

SDE: And getting back to this Originals album, then… who measures the success of these kind of projects, and how is success measured? Is it numbers and commerciality, is it how the Prince community, the fans and people like that react? 

MH: Well, I mean I guess it depends whose seat you’re sitting in. I think if you’re Warner it’s more numbers than than critical acclaim, although critical acclaim, I would imagine, is part of it, to help drive the numbers.

From our standpoint I think it’s a combination of how it’s received in the marketplace and whether we think we have done the right thing by him by putting it out there – as judged somewhat by the community…and that we are sort of bringing joy to the consumer. Not only satisfying the hardcore, Prince aficionado but that we are turning people on to his music and his legacy who might only heard of him by name, or didn’t realise that he wrote ‘The Glamorous Life’, or whatever the case may be.

The emotional impact the music has on the listener is really, I think, what Prince’s number one goal was. He was not a perfectionist at all, as some people think he was. I mean he was really about the, you know, about the complete commitment to the music and the emotional impact it had and that’s the most important thing to remember.

SDE: What about the sort of political element, the noise in the background where you’ve got the the bank, the executors of the estate, you’ve got Prince’s heirs, you’ve got the labels. There’s a lot of competing parties who have their own viewpoint on what should go on. How do you deal with that?

MH: Well, I mean it’s tricky…I try to be as helpful as possible, but I try to stay away from anything that’s not really related to the creative process or the effort to sort of preserve and promote Prince’s legacy through the music. I mean I do get sucked into some of the other stuff because of what I do but I try not to let it affect the overall complexion of what I’m doing on the creative side, which is much more satisfying to me, and, frankly, much more important than the sort of nonsense in the background.

SDE: Are you committed to this role for the long term. Do you think you’re going to be here in five or seven years’ time?

MH: I certainly would like to be. It’s by far, the most satisfying, creative pursuit I’ve ever undertaken. I mean I’ve had the good fortune of having worked with a number of pretty iconic artists in various and sundry capacities, but Prince was, in order of magnitude, more creatively evolved of anybody, really, that I can think of.

And it’s, you know, it is pretty special to be the guy doing what I do. I mean, I move through life with a lot of gratitude and as much humility as I can muster on a daily basis.


Michael Howe was talking to Paul Sinclair for SDE. Prince’s Originals is out now on CD. The vinyl and deluxe edition will follow on 19 July 2019.


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First Released by (Artist: Album – year) followed by the year of Prince’s recording included on Originals

1. Sex Shooter Apollonia 6: Apollonia 6 – 1984 / 1983

2. Jungle Love The Time: Ice Cream Castle – 1984 / 1983

3. Manic Monday The Bangles: Different Light – 1985 / 1984

4. Noon Rendezvous Sheila E.: The Glamorous Life – 1984 / 1984

5. Make-Up Vanity 6: Vanity 6 – 1982 / 1981

6. 100 MPH Mazarati: Mazarati – 1986 / 1984

7. You’re My Love Kenny Rogers: They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To – 1986 / 1982

8. Holly Rock Sheila E.: Krush Groove (OST) – 1985 / 1985

9. Baby, You’re a Trip Jill Jones: Jill Jones – 1987 / 1982

10. The Glamorous Life Sheila E.: The Glamorous Life – 1984 / 1983

11. Gigolos Get Lonely Too The Time: What Time Is It? – 1982 / 1982

12. Love… Thy Will Be Done Martika: Martika’s Kitchen – 1991 / 1991

13. Dear Michaelangelo Sheila E.: Romance 1600 – 1985 / 1985

14. Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me? Taja Sevelle: Taja Sevelle – 1987 / 1981

15. Nothing Compares 2 U The Family: The Family – 1985 / 1984

 

 

79 responses to Interview: Prince’s vault archivist, Michael Howe, talks to SDE

  1. SJ says:

    wish you had asked about Diamonds and Pearls. Seems like this album keeps getting skipped.

  2. paul wren says:

    Great, informative interview. I’m not a huge fan of Prince, but this was very insightful and the process of dealing with the archive as described will apply to many other major artists as well (step forward, Neil Young) hence this being an interesting read.

  3. GentleRabbit says:

    Paul, this could be your greatest coup yet. Could this possibly be a regular feature every few years as the Vault recordings are gradually released? Yes, please :)

    PS what an extraordinary, privileged position to be in… the Vault Archivist of Paisley Park.

  4. O(+> Peter B says:

    Just echoing other readers sentiments that this is a great article (glad U have a fondness 4 Prince 2, Paul) and it’s great 2 know that the vault recordings R in such great hands. It took me a while 2 get through this article! Great work as always

  5. Sherry says:

    I recently read that Prince may have had intentions to release his new album, “Black is the New Black”. I would love to see that available. There are short snippets of sound bites they play for guests during the tours at Paisley Park. One of them is a real jazzy and smooth song. I don’t know if that’s on the “Black is the New Black” album, but anything Prince was working on I really crave.

  6. eric says:

    As much as I love actual physical media, they really should digitize as many of the unheard songs and unseen performances as possible and give fans access to that digital library for a fee. That should reduce some of the costs of production, shipping and marketing.

  7. DW says:

    Thank you for making this interesting and informative interview available.

  8. Steve W says:

    Great interview and the guy comes across as being sincere in doing the best by Prince.

  9. Babakazoo says:

    Thanks for this interview Paul, it excites me to get this insight into what’s to come from the archive, and the process behind it all. Can’t wait for those Box Sets!

  10. Ian says:

    God, I love this site. Just keeps getting better.

  11. Sordel says:

    Great interview … and surprisingly candid.

  12. HalloweenJack says:

    Very informative and excellent interview, Paul!
    Thanks!

  13. Zongadude says:

    Fantastic ! A major and essential interview. Thank you Paul.

  14. Millins says:

    Outstanding work, sir. So good to have the right insightful questions asked. I salute you!

  15. Wayne C says:

    Really enjoyed reading that, and appreciate the knowledge shown and scope of your questions Paul!. I guess it’s difficult to get sound answers to potential future releases, but you seemed to get close to actually finding out from the man himself!!. For me personally it must be SOTT which gets the expanded treatment?, there are so many good tracks on that and he was so creative that there must be a treasure trove of goodies, 10 album vinyl super deluxe box set – my money you can have now!!. Again thanks for a really tremendous interview !!.

  16. Zane Wilde says:

    ALL THE CRITICS LOVE U…PURPLE ONE…

  17. mike says:

    reflecting though, the Estate has yet to release a SDE of the size that the hardcore Princerati would want. Sign O’ The Times (as the greatest album of all time imho) would need to be minimum the original album (2CD), dream factory (2cd), Camille (1cd), Black album (1cd), the Shep Pettibone mix collection / B sides etc (1 cd) and that’s before anything deeply archival really!! Hard to tell from the interview whether there is the appetite for something of that order as the last three releases don’t really indicate that’s the way they’re heading… I may well be completely wrong!

  18. Alex Cho says:

    Great read – Thanks very much

    I have one major concern though – The rate at which this archiving/releasing is being done.

    We are all getting on and the key people who were there at inception (The ones who have vital insight as to the integrity of Prince’s art) aren’t going to be around for the next 100 years.
    The flip side of the coin is, also possibly the aging and perhaps shrinking, hardcore group who, let’s be honest here, are the ones buying physical releases – Certainly more the dependable revenue source than streaming!!
    I am glad there’s mention also of the deteriorating media
    Combining all points, we end up with a very very real race against time.

    PS. I’m hoping Michael Howe has a team behind him!!

  19. Dianne Parker says:

    Excellent interview! Thank you – so interesting and informative.

  20. Paul Waddington says:

    Enjoyed that, thanks Paul. But how close were you to asking for the keys to the vault for the weekend?

    I have around 40 CDs’ worth of Prince bootlegs and can agree with him when he says the sound quality is patchy. There are versions of one or two of the tracks that are included on Originals, but the versions on Originals are far superior. I was very pleasantly surprised with Manic Monday in particular, as the bootleg mix is nowhere near as good.

    I’m hoping that we will get official releases of some of the albums that were download only, as well as better sounding versions of some of the albums already available on CD. A new Sign of the Times would be very welcome.

  21. Danny says:

    Bravo!

  22. Murray Robbins says:

    Well done Paul. A real scoop and shows the shortcomings of coverage in the mainstream newsstand music mags. I can only envisage Record Collector doing anything remotely similar at about a third of the depth!

    It was an all round fascinating insight. It sounds like the curation is in good hands all round.

    It would be interesting to get a handle on how the judgement calls as far as re-mastering are made and whether flat transfers are the default option. Purple Rain was pretty brick-walled but I believe Prince has signed that off prior to his demise.

  23. Travis says:

    Awesome interview. Great questions! Thanks!

  24. Superb work on this one Paul. You asked all of the questions that we die-hards wanted to ask. Thanks!

  25. James says:

    The Prince estate should really be looking at what Neil Young has done with NYA – charge the yearly fee, and throw everything online as it comes to hand.

  26. Camille says:

    Great interview, must be a difficult job for Michael to keep everyone happy, I can remember being a teenager & flipping over the When Doves Cry single & hearing 17 days, surely the best b side of all time, it sounds like they’ve got the right guy for the job, so many happy memories in my life seeing Prince, glad his archive is being treated with care, be interesting to see if they start releasing live stuff, still got a big box of C90’s in my garage somewhere.
    It’s a good job this site exists, so much stuff I get to hear about here would otherwise go under the radar for me.

  27. Carlos says:

    Great! With this interview I already want other Prince stuff to be released now! At least hewe know now that another classic album box set is coming, as he mentions it.

  28. James Barker says:

    Well done Paul, what a scoop! So much more in the pipeline from everyone involved and all done in the best possible way to suit how Prince would have believed to have done it. Box sets to come, finally what I’ve Been wanting to hear forever in my life! Amazingly excited!

  29. Andrew M says:

    Well, I hate to just repeat what everyone else is saying but this really is your best interview yet. Simply outstanding. Were you aware Housequake have picked up on it?

    Fantastic stuff indeed. Thanks Paul.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Repeat away! :) Thanks Andrew. No wasn’t aware of Housequake, so thanks for letting me know…

  30. Matthew Jessee says:

    Great interview, Paul! You hit all the major points I wanted to know about – obviously he can only reveal so much but I think the vault is in good hands. I hope Originals helps to put the associated artists back on the map so that we may see reissues of The Starr Company and Paisley Park albums – especially Apollonia 6! (Love to get a pristine version of their ‘Manic Monday’ which was on an early acetate…)

  31. Mark says:

    Paul – that was an excellent interview. Thank for putting my question to him. Clearly there are figuring things out as they go and there are a lot competing demands, and I think you get a real sense of that. It is interesting that P&aM was put out, great as it is (well I really liked it) it wasn’t what I would call master quality. So clearly if the desire is there…

    I would still like the missing DVD from Purple Rain set to come out. I’ll make do with my dodgy copy until then. I’d love to see more from the Dirty Mind era, that period of transition is really intriguing. Looking forward to reading more from Duane Tudahl, I hope the estate are able to help him out with his research.

  32. ALM says:

    Completely fascinating, this is a masterclass in interviewing, Amazing work Paul

  33. Charles K. says:

    Outstanding interview, loved getting details of how the estate is handled with regards to the music. I like what’s been produced so far but would love to see a comprehensive catalog reissue.

  34. Jason says:

    You have done it again, Paul Sinclair. Fantastic interview…Bravo!

  35. Shane says:

    Aside from the many many “you know’s” this was a gripping read. Thank you Paul

    • Chris Squires says:

      Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It was the same with the Stephen Duffy interview…
      I would much rather read the conversation as it happened with all the “y’knows” and umms and aaahs intact so that you get the feeling for how the interviewee actually is. The way their mind ticks. Rather than a bowdlerized, cleaned up version which would inevitably not convey the interaction between Paul and his prey.

  36. garax says:

    Another excellent interview – that was fascinating – and doesn’t it seem like his music is in safe hands! Thank you so much.

  37. David McIntyre says:

    Awesome interview Paul, thank you so much. I have watched some stuff on youtube of Michael talking and he is an interesting guy and certainly someone who seems the right fit for this task. Interesting that he says that one of the ‘big’ albums is done as there has been rumours recently that there could be an expanded version of 1999 on the way but this gives me hope for the future of Prince material, both classic and new emerging as the years pass.

  38. Bill says:

    Essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the great man’s work. Quality job Paul, thanks

  39. MusicFan says:

    It’s a shame Michael didn’t speak about Prince’s final projects.

    It’s great people chat about the vault and deluxe editions, but before Prince died he said he had finished his new album but before that he was ready to release a live album for the Piano and Microphone tour. There was also speculation about Hit N’Run part 3 and further volumes.

    We need to know if Michael and the Estate are to fulfill Princes wishes for his last works to be released.

    The Estate and Michael justify what they do by saying they are being respectful blah blah blah but in fact they have never mentioned anything about fulfilling Prince’s final ambitions.

    I feel the Estate should have firstly fulfilled Prince’s wishes and only then should then have started to poke around the vault.

    Hopefully this will happen one day… soon.

  40. John Barnes says:

    This is such a great interview and read. Thanks so much for it.
    So intrigued for future releases. And I would love to spend a couple hours in that vault….

  41. RODOLFO MARTIN says:

    Paul,
    This was awesome. You had the right questions. I think the guy said a lot. I wasn’t expecting that he gives you a list of future releases. I think it is a milestone in your list of interviews. Where did the interview take place? Was it face to face, Skype, phone call, hotel lobby, British pub, L.A.? You did not tell anything about the backstage of the interview and how long did you work to get the opportunity. Thanks a lot for all the work in transcribing . Congratulations
    Rodolfo Martin
    Jacksonville, FL

  42. Michael says:

    Thank you Paul. I hope this gentleman Michael gets no repercussions from talking.

    Some of the things sound exciting. I’m sure you know the Warner Bros material is able to start being reissued in 2021. A fan who may know says it’s the 1999 reissue that’s pretty much done.

    I have the Dream Factory album. It’s one of the better unofficial releases. Another good one is Small Club from the Lovesexy period. These deserve to be released. The archivist is right about the bootlegs. They are mostly unsatisfying.

    Prince fans in the 80’s bought the associated artists & the records on the Paisley Park label. There would be a market for a good compilation of those songs especially if the songs that were hits were included.

  43. Alan Lee says:

    Great interview, Paul. I’m not a Prince fan but am always interested to hear about the archival work which goes on for any big artist. Great probing questions which go beyond the usual tired questions which generally get asked by the established media.

  44. fenwick says:

    Wonderful interview! Congratulations!

    I do wish he could be more forthcoming on what’s around the corner etc. But it’s completely understandable that his hands are tied.

    From the various Prince forums around the internet, the speculation of what’s next is a 1999 Super Deluxe….. No idea on contents or how expansive…

  45. Richard Cosgrove says:

    Fascinating interview, Paul. I’m a fairly casual Prince fan but have always been quite intrigued by the whole ‘mythology’ of Paisley Park and the sheer amount of creativity that went on there.

    Keep up the excellent work, Sir!

  46. Stefano says:

    Wow, this is a great interview Paul. You’ve asked ALL the right questions.
    And a special thanks to Michael Howe for being so frank. He gave us such a great insight. I hope he reads this.

  47. Don says:

    That was an amazing interview and I learned a lot.
    And I know it’s a transcript but, you know, I could have done with 200 less “you know’s” for readability.

  48. David Roest says:

    Great read and a good interview. Paul, are you at this moment involved with possible boxsets by other artists?

  49. Nick Love says:

    Wow great interview. I wasn’t even that interested in hearing the Originals release but this article really sucked me in.

  50. Eamonn says:

    Great stuff, Paul. I mean, forget about BBC News – Mojo/Record Collector/Classic Pop etc. should really be commissioning you regularly for interviews that tie-in with reissues. Then again, there wouldn’t be the magazine space that your own SDE gives to such articles plus you can be your own editor…

    Any chance you could do something similar with Tintoretto(sp?)/Bowie estate?!

  51. Spencer Erkkila says:

    As always, Mr. Sinclair, a fantastic interview! It’s all I can do to contain myself with the news of another expanded edition pretty much done! I hope it’s SOTT, but I love ATWIAD and Parade just as much. Whatever it is, it’ll be wonderful. Thanks, Paul, for SDE and all you do!!

    • stefan says:

      As a fan well informed from serious sources & some bits of informations from several interviews given these past weeks……BIG BIG probability next release as DELUXE EDITION will BE = 1999 DELUXE

  52. madman says:

    Awesome interview! Fantastic job as always, Paul!

  53. Lanny says:

    Thank you Paul! That was such a well done interview. Being a Prince maniac for most of thirty years, I’m so excited to see what else gets released.

  54. James says:

    Great interview. Thank you for posting it.
    Excited to hear there are expanded box sets forthcoming. Multi-disc reissues of his albums plus the issuing of completed albums that were shelved will certainly all be welcome to this Prince fan.

  55. Christopher says:

    Great interview Paul. I’m sure I’m not the only one who got goosebumps at the mention of Steven Wilson in reference to any possibility of 5.1 mixes.

    • haikubass says:

      Of course you’re not. And I’m pretty sure SW is going to get them too.

    • Clifton Montgomery says:

      I almost had a nerdgasm when he named dropped Steven Wilson. The fact that he knows who he is gives me hope for a 5.1 Sign O The Times. And I know Steven is down.

  56. Mark says:

    Fantastic interview, Paul. Nice work… so happy you’re asking all the right questions, as usual!

  57. AdamW says:

    It’s clear how much Mr. Howe cares about Prince’s ongoing musical legacy – that attitude comes through very clearly via this interview. As someone who would love every single note in the archive to be released one day (and knowing that will never happen), I feel like the process he’s going through is justified, and that we’ll have better product at the end for it.

    Thanks for giving Mr. Howe an opportunity to shed some light on how these things get done. It was a great read.

    • Marilynn C McNair says:

      wow, wow, wow! this is one of the best written articles/interviews about prince’s music, ever! you asked the right questions and i loved michael’s answers. i feel very satisfied right now. i don’t smoke, but i need a cigarette! lol! seriously, long live prince because he is the king!

  58. Fredpostman says:

    Paul,you did a sterling job asking all the right questions.Great interview.

  59. ROBIN PULLEN says:

    Many MANY thanks for this wonderful and insightful interview Paul, this is one of the many reasons I visit SDE multiple times a day, absolutely fantastic, thank you so very much, all your hard work is very much appreciated.

  60. MusicFan says:

    Well I popped on the kettle and sat with a cuppa and had such a great read!

    Thanks loads!

    It’s exciting to read Michael feels at least one expanded edition, ”is pretty much done”.

    :-)

  61. Jay says:

    Interesting stuff. Great in depth interview Paul. Really gives us an understanding of what he’s dealing with and how he and the estate work. And it looks like we can look forward to an expanded box set of SOTT within the next year or so going from one of the answers above! Scoop!

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