Rolling Stone Magazine - interview with the two founders

Rolling Stone Magazine Germany interviewed Michel and Nils on the launch of this worldwide unique project. Read the interview here in German. For everyone else we translated the entertaining interview into English, see below. Have fun!

"The Prince Fan Album" a Germany-based internet portal for purple music to be filled with musical homages to Prince recently launched. ROLLING STONE spoke with the founders Michel Birbæk and Nils Kruse about this unique and ambitious project.

Happy new year! With "The Prince Fan Album" a portal launched on January 1st, 2019, which is intended to unite Prince fans from all over the world in one music project. The founders are two true Prince fans, Cologne-based Michel Birbæk and Nils Kruse. Kruse is a musician and organizer of Prince parties, Birbæk a musician and author of the novel "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", published by Random House in 2018. With "The Real Funkman" they recorded a hymn to Prince, who died in 2016, having been a milestone on the birth of the idea of the portal dedicated to "Purple Music".

Sassan Nassieri talked to Michel Birbæk and Nils Kruse about their wishes and aims for this new project.

ROLLING STONE: How did your project "The Prince Fan Album" come into being? Who took the initiative?

Nils: I was in a vacuum after Prince's death and woke up with the question: "What now?". Never again would I see him live or hear new Prince music. My respect for his music had always been too great so I never covered him. But the decades where I had absorbed energy from him needed to find a way out. So I started rehearsing some of his songs to perform them on a small stage on his first death anniversary. Since I couldn't keep my mouth shut, surrounding musicians got wind of it and joined me. A solo acoustic gig quickly turned into an 8-piece band with a full sound. We couldn’t stop with the memorial concert, and so I started to organize Prince parties in Cologne, where of course my band should also play. And one day my favorite author called me unexpectedly ...

Michel: The day after Prince's death, I started to write about its meaning for me, culminating into my novel "The most beautiful girl in the world". I knew I had to do something on stage. So I called Nils, and immediately felt a chemistry between us. When I heard him play, it was evident we had to do something together. So we wrote "The Real Funkman" as a hymn for Prince and came up with the idea to create a portal for Purple Music.

What demands do you have in composition, production and arrangement - how hard is it to write a dignified homage and avoid parody traps?

Nils: Prince didn't care about conventions in compositions. Everything was open and free. It was all about feeling and dramaturgy, whether opulent or minimalist. "The Real Funkman" is the result of an instrumental session I recorded with my bassist Frank Schumann. In my opinion this is how music is created! Pure flow, filled with the spirit that Prince and his musicians showed in legendary after show sessions. I gave the recording to Michel ...

Michel: And to me, who hadn't written any lyrics in 20 years, gratitude for Prince’s music just formed into words in a flash. In retrospect I only wish we had expressed our musical joy to him in person. Maybe he would have played a guitar track on it ... my God.

Nils: We just got an offer from an amazing guitarist from France, whom we got to know through the project.

In "The Real Funkman" you quote various Prince songs like "Forever In My Life" and "Sometimes It Snows in April". According to which criteria do you use which quotes?

Michel: I had no criteria. I wrote the lyrics in an easy stroke, the straight greetings to Sheila E., and Wendy came to me spontaneously while singing, it was just there.

What did you learn from the homages - does your respect for Prince increase even more when you try to approach him stylistically? Do you disenchant him a bit?

Nils: The respect was and is huge! You can't really get close to him, and I don't aim for that either. It's about being connected to him without giving up one’s own individuality - I think he would have liked our approach.

Michel (nods): What Nils says.

How hard can it be to sing or play like Prince - at what point do you give up your individual note?

Michel: If I could even begin to sing or play like Prince, I'd like to answer that question.

Nils: You cannot copy Prince. But you can immerse yourself in Prince's feelings and visions and be at the same party with him.

Is Prince's music the music you most like to cover yourselves?

Michel: I would never cover Prince. I like the way Nils covers Prince live without trying to copy him, but okay, I love Nils too.

Nils: You love me?

Michel: Don't tell your wife.

Nils: She will read this.

Back to the question ...

Nils: The fact that I pay tribute to Prince is that I want people to know more from him than Purple Rain or Kiss. It's a great pleasure for me to play in front of people who only know the hits and then hear that they also liked unknown songs like Head.

Michel: "Head", an unknown song ...??

How do you aim to promote the "Prince Fan Album"?

Michel: Actually not at all, the idea is that the musicians come to us. "The Prince Fan Album" is not an old-school album with 12-15 songs - the whole portal is the album! That comes up to his musical output, not an album that restricts him, no, a whole portal that keeps on growing, without boundaries. I think he would have liked to have that as an "album".

Which cooperations are safe, which stars are requested?

Michel: I would have liked to know which song Lenny Kravitz, Questlove, or Janelle Monàe would compose for Prince, but ... Nils?

Nils: We decided not to contact any more stars for the moment, it just will take too long. Stars, that means agents or managers who want to talk about additional value and selling points. That's okay, that's their job, but ...

Michel: When Lenny or Sananda get to hear about the project and contribute a song, we're really happy, but we simply don't have the time to go via the agencies. This is first of all a fan project, not a business model. Hey, fan love! One of the purest things in the world!

Nils: On Prince's birthday we'll see what music came in and then maybe there will be a vinyl album.

Michel: Personally, I would like to have one, because this record would reveal the influence of Prince on several generations of musicians in its own beautiful way.

Is every song contributor allowed to bring his own interpretations to taste, or is there a narrative, stylistic framework?

Michel: You have to recognize the influence of Prince, maybe not as extreme as in "The Real Funkman", which is full of reminiscences.

Nils: The main thing is that you hear that the musician wanted to make something of his own out of the essential Prince ingredients. In other words Purple Music. It is already everywhere. We want to collect these and bring them together.

Michel: A home for Purple Music. I like that. That's what we should write on the homepage. - a home 4 purple music.


Date: 2019-01-02

Translated with the support of Claudia Berlinger - Thank U.