Interview by Paul Salfen
Interview With Drummer Bobby Z
When the world lost Prince two years ago, it was a untimely shock and quickly made people realize even more so how much of an impact his music had on their lives. Whether it was on the radio, on TV, on the big screen, or live, millions loved his music and it will live on long after him. Some of his music that fans remember the most fondly are with The Revolution, his band during his rise to fame and that was seen prominently in the Oscar-winning film, heard on the 16x platinum GRAMMY-winning soundtrack, and music videos for “Purple Rain” as well as the albums 1999, Around the World In a Day, and Parade, which was the soundtrack for Under the Cherry Moon. Prince himself declared at the time, “I’ve got the baddest band in the universe.”
The multi-racial, multi-gendered band, which was very uncommon at the time but very important to Prince, featured Wendy Melvoin on guitar, Lisa Coleman on keyboards, Matt Fink on keyboards, Brownmark on bass, and Bobby Z on drums.
Now back together to celebrate his music and bring back some great musical memories, the band has been playing sold-out dates around the country and have three shows in Texas before the end of the year, Calling in during his travel to Austin, Bobby Z recalled memories and music from his time with Prince and The Revolution and what we can expect to hear from the band this weekend and beyond. He recalls, “Dallas has a lot of history with Purple Rain. We did a couple of tours with New Year’s Eve there a couple of times in a row I think. We’re looking forward to ringing in the new year there together.”
AMFM Magazine: Everyone was very sad to lose Prince a couple of years ago, but not many more than you – you spent many years with the man.
Bobby Z: Yeah, it was about 43 years in total. [Laughs] He was a huge part of my life obviously and just still trying to make sense of it all but music is the glue he left behind that holds us all together.
AMFM: Although you hadn’t played in the band with him in a while, you did get to play with him again before he passed, so that must have been nice to get to do looking back.
BZ: Especially with “Purple Rain,” which was such an important song for the whole journey. I started with him when we were so young and for him to acknowledge that was a very special occassion.
AMFM: What do you remember the most about the man himself? He was a lot different than I think many people knew. I saw that firsthand when I met him.
BZ: He was very full of life. Every aspect was bigger than life, whether you were at an airport or eating or at a truck stop or backstage, it was intense. The intensity that he brought was beyond anything you can imagine. His gift was giving you confidence to be something better than you were.
AMFM: It has to be nice to have people look up to you because he only used the best musicians, being one himself.
BZ: Right, but it also works both ways. If you make a mistake, you look up, you don’t look around. It’s very strange feeling. You go, “Agh!” He wouldn’t like that. It’s very odd – we still have his DNA in us. We’re very excited to share the original arrangements with everyone. It’s a responsibility and a joy.
AMFM: I understand there’s a vault with a lot of old recordings from many, many years. Do you think a lot of that includes you? Do you remember recording a lot of unreleased material?
BZ: Oh, sure. There were lots of recordings: recording rehearsals, recording jams was a big thing to him. Videos of rehearsals – everything was documented to an intense degree. It’s all there. I’m sure they’re going to dig through it for the next hundred years but it’s there.
AMFM: Would you be happy to see all of that come out and do you think he would have wanted that?
BZ: Well, it’s very fun to see the independent albums in one day.I think that’s very cool that all 26 of those indie albums are out there. I’m glad they’re also being selective with the classics, Better slow because there’s a lot to go through. If you’re doing a special package for 1999 or Parade or whatever, there’s so much around it. I mean, the original [Beatles] White Album – how many years ago was that? And we’re still hearing gems from that release they put out this year. There’s a long way to go and I’m glad they’re taking their time in curating it. It’s like an archaeological dig, you know?
AMFM: That must be quite a feat. I believe someone said there’s enough material to put out an album every year for 60 years or something like that.
BZ: Well, yeah, if you wrote – and I’m just making something up here – a song a day and I met him in ‘78 and knew him for 43 years, so 365 days in a year times 43, that’s kind of the rough number of songs. It really is a spectacular amount of work.
AMFM: We’re very excited to hear these songs again. Of course we’ll probably hear the hits, but you probably have something else prepared for us, right?
BZ: Oh yeah, we jam a little bit and we like to dig a little deeper – and there’s an extended version of “Controversy” and a lot of extended arrangements that are fun to show everybody. It’s just fun to take a walk back through the past but we like to stay current in our musicianship as much as we can.
AMFM: That’s got to be nice to be a part of a special night or time in so many people’s lives.
BZ: There’s literally kids conceived by this music. It’s generational and there’s so much to celebrate now. It’s a grief transition into celebration and New Year’s Eve is certainly a great night for that.
AMFM: And there may be more babies conceived that night in Dallas!
BZ: Yeah, I mean, it never fails that Prince brings warmth, freedom, and celebration of life for a minute with this music.
AMFM: Of all of the great songs on the set list, what’s your favorite to play?
BZ: Well, it’s really fun to play “Take Me With U” and “Raspberry Beret.” They’re great songs that tell a story and celebrate his life and everyone’s life that lived it, you know? And everyone that lived with it will live on with the records. Every generation will discover him and that’s a beautiful thing.
AMFM: Do you get to meet a lot of the fans now and what are they saying to you?
BZ: Yeah, it’s really great to meet people because in the ‘80s there wasn’t really meet-and-greets. They weren’t established and he was much more elusive so he would leave the stage immediately and go back to the hotel immediately, so there wasn’t the kind of interaction that we’ll have at the House of Blues where we’ll meet folks after. You hear so many stories that have inspired so many people for so many things. It warms your heart and it was unbelievable that he was this icon for so many people – as well as a spiritual advisor, life coach, and all of these things with his music. It’s beautiful.
AMFM: Well, we have to ask you about your health because you had a heart attack a few years ago and had a close call.
BZ: Yeah, and thank you for asking. I just had a checkup in May and they can maintain you with drugs and exercise and procedures. Luckily I’m feeling better and my heart is pumping away.
AMFM: And you were able to raise awareness and money with My Purple Heart.
BZ: Right. My Purple Heart was really an extension of the American Heart Association. They do a tremendous job with research and getting new procedures, medicines, and diagnostics. We did lobbying for the main governing body that oversees experiments to find new drugs and they do a good job of lobbying in Washington. We did that with My Purple Heart, but the focus is certainly the American Heart Association, which is really a force to be reckoned with when it comes to heart health issues.
AMFM: So we should probably keep an eye on that at home since we’re talking about it?
BZ: Yeah, you gotta check it out because if you’re borderline or have high cholesterol, have family history or show any signs, get on the meds because it can really help quickly avoid a lot of problems in the future, even if you’re young. Even just getting simple blood tests to see what’s going on in there.
AMFM: You’ve had quite the career and have made recordings that people will always love. While it sounds enviable, it’s a tricky business, isn’t it?
BZ: The business is a very interesting business. You’re only as good as the people you’re backing up, at least in a pop band configuration. I’ve played with some of the greatest drumlines that have ever lived and I’m grateful for that. But I’ve stuck with it and trying to get better. That’s how it seems to work out.
AMFM: What do you think you’ll always remember about doing this tour?
BZ: I think just the smiles on people’s faces. It started out very sad, of course. Tears still flow with “Purple Rain,” of course, but the uptempo songs are such celebrated classics, it’s really hard to ignore. It’s really a gift.
For more information on The Revolution, visit TheRevolutionOfficial.com.
The Revolution performs on New Year’s Eve at House of Blues in Dallas. 2200 North Lamar Street. 8:30pm. $45 – $80 via LiveNation.com.
The Revolution in concert in Austin, Houston and in Dallas for New Year’s Eve!
Prince’s original band during his rise to fame will perform three year-end shows in Texas! Wendy, Lisa, BrownMark,
Bobby Z and Dr. Fink as The Revolution have achieved two number-one Billboard 200 albums (Purple Rain and Around
the World in a Day), multiple top ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and have won numerous awards, including
three Grammys & the three American Music Awards.
Attached is the official press release. Come and hear the iconic songs that are still popular today. Below are the Texas dates. Kindly share/posts/blog
Saturday, December 29
Austin – Emo’s
Sunday, December 30
Houston – House of Blues
Monday, December 31
Dallas – House of blues
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