INTERVIEW: BrownMark of The Revolution on Prince’s History, Legacy, & Ringing in the New Year

The incomparable, legendary Prince left us a little more than two years ago, but his band The Revolution is out there carrying on his legacy and giving fans the opportunity to party down with the classics they recorded with him on such albums as 1999Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Parade.  The Revolution (Bobby Z, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Matt Fink, and BrownMark) originally reunited in September of 2016 to play a series of gigs at the historic First Avenue Club (where the concert scenes in Purple Rain were filmed). Several months later they played at Paisley Park to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of Prince’s untimely passing. The band soon realized that the response from fans demanded extensive touring and they’ve been on-and-off the road ever since.

The band is closing out 2018 with three shows in Texas: Austin (12/29), Houston (12/30), and Dallas (12/31). We were lucky enough to catch up with bassist BrownMark ahead of this Texas run to discuss the band’s history, Prince’s legacy, and what fans can expect when they ring in the New Year in Dallas.

the void report:  Now that you all have been back on the road for a while, what do you notice most about the crowds? Obviously, they want to celebrate a truly great musical legacy, but does anything in particular stand out to you about the response you are getting?

Brownmark:  The crowd is happy to be able to help the legacy live on and share in its survival. They dance and sing along and enjoy the spirit of Prince that we are able to bring, being we were his original co-creators. The only band he let write, co-produce, and and have input in to the sound and energy of it all.

the void report:  Amsterdam, Paris, and London are key spots in the Prince history as they were the first cities he played outside the USA. Do you notice in difference between the crowds there versus other U.S. cities? Both back then and today…

Brownmark: I can’t speak to Europe today since we haven’t been there yet. However, the energy and excitement from the fans is very similar based on response. It is a universal music that has no boundaries, so people from all walks of like are energized with the spirit of Prince and everything he gave to his audience. There is a difference in the earlier Prince audience and the later Prince audience, however. I think there is a huge generation gap between the two audiences that has posed somewhat of a challenge in that the later audiences aren’t too familiar with The Revolution. They tend to only relate to the NPG (New Power Generation) concept Prince created after our departure in 1986/87.

the void report:  You were invited to play at Paisley Park for the first anniversary of Prince’s passing. Can you describe some of the emotions you were feeling at that show?

Brownmark:  It was a very bitter sweet performance as most of the performances have been. To be back at Paisley Park, but now under different circumstances was very hard to swallow. The place was very different than how Prince kept it. It didn’t feel like him and that was hard for me to deal with.

the void report: I assume emotions run high every time you perform, but has that changed at all since you first reunited in 2016? By “changed,” I mean have you begun to process those emotions differently over the last 2 years.

Brownmark:  Much has changed as far as emotions are concerned. We all grieve differently, but we grieve. We have learned to evolve and look at this journey the way Prince would have wanted us to take it. We keep his spirit alive by keeping a happy, celebratory attitude towards everything we do. Prince enjoyed playing music and entertaining. We have now learned to process out sadness and we now concentrate on the joy and happiness the music gives the fans. We love the fans like family and we have fun with them.

BrownMark x Corwin Wickersham
BrownMark of the Revolution. Photo courtesy of Corwin Wickersham.

the void report:  In 1986, Prince said, “I’ve got the baddest band in the universe.” Further, people undoubtedly come to these shows with high expectations. You’re all seasoned veterans of touring and performing, but do you use that as inspiration for each nights show?

Brownmark:  Well, we do what we do. There are many great bands out here and we just give it the way we did back in the 80’s. We sound better and tighter than ever and we have the same musical energy we had then. I think our inspiration comes more from the fact that we love what we do and we love doing it for and with the people whose lives we affected in so many ways decades ago. There is no better joy than giving back. We love our Purple family.

the void report:  It wasn’t until D’Angelo’s Voodoo album that I learned about “Chicken Grease” – Prince’s term for a un-muted sixteenth note guitar riff. Can you share any other examples of Prince’s musical vernacular that is still used today? And if I’m wrong about Prince coining this term, please enlighten me.

Brownmark:  Well, as Momma always use to say, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Much of the vernacular you speak of comes from a variety of super artists of our past. James Brown, Wilson Picket, Al Green, Sly Stone etc…Prince was just smart enough not to let these funky gems from our past disappear. He used them to create his own image and kept reinventing himself year after year.

the void report:  I was 7-years old when Purple Rain was released. Not only do I still clearly remember my Mother buying it for me on vinyl, I remember hearing it for the first time and knowing that it was awesome, but not entirely understanding what I was hearing. Over the years, this album has aged incredibly well. When you look back at it’s creation and subsequent success, were you at all aware of it being a masterpiece? Prince always seemed incredibly confident in what he produced, but did that carry over when you were recording the album? Did he instill that confidence in you? Or were you confident that this was something special?

Brownmark:  I think that when we all sat down and started writing for the Purple Rain album we knew we had something special. To the greatness it achieved, I don’t think any of us could foresee it. We knew it was going to be good and we knew it was special however. Prince on the other hand knew this was going to be it. This was a pinnacle in his career and it would be hard to outdo. He knew it was a masterpiece. But then, he was from another planet and he could see things we just couldn’t. lol… As far as confidence is concerned, we were a confident group of individuals period. He put together a group of personalities based on our hunger and eagerness to succeed no matter what the task. We were fearless. I am still fearless and I know I got that from his royal badness. No fear to be who you are and think outside the box.

The Revolution. Photo by Kevin Estrada.

the void report:  Was there any reactionary influence to Purple Rain that informed the Around the World in a Day sessions? Be it trying to make a better album or doing anything differently?

Brownmark:  As I had stated earlier, Prince was constantly reinventing himself year after year. H was always trying to outdo his previous self. He was bored with Purple Rain before we even started touring it. We were already experimenting with new sounds and musical concepts. The band almost tripled in size and the sound was way more musical than anything we had done previously. We were evolving into this super group from another universe. Pure self expression with no boundaries. Pure freedom to feel and play what we felt or express what we were feeling through the compositions. It was a truly wonderful time and a new found energy.

the void report:  You are playing Dallas on New Years’ Eve. Can you give us a little preview of what the fans can expect?

Brownmark:  Expect to party like it’s 1999. We play all the hits and we party like it’s our last show. As I always say in the words of Mazarati, “Put on your lace and you button down pants.” The Revolution’s “gonna teach you a brand knew dance. Don’t be afraid of the trip or fall cause everyone’s in love at the Players Ball! “  We hope to see everyone out December 31st ready to party with The Revolution. #Makeitfunky

The Revolution. Photo by Ron Harris.


1 Comment

  1. I’m so happy that the revolution is touring and celebrating the life of Prince.. It’s a bittersweet feeling and I miss Prince so bad.. Thank you and I’ve always loved the revolution and always will.. for Christmas I got a new stereo with a turntable because I wanted to buy albums again and my first new album I got is Purple Rain and I will continue to buy more albums and am so happy Princes estate is selling more albums.. I’m going back to vinyl because in my opinion they sound so much better.. thank you revolution and I hope to see you guys this year and I’m saving to go to PP this summer.. God Bless all of you and good luck💜💜

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