In 1984 Prince was at the height of his powers, and standing beside him in the genre-defining film “Purple Rain” was his greatest band ever — The Revolution. Wendy Melvoin on guitar. Lisa Coleman on Piano. Dr. Matt Fink on Keys. Bobby Z on drums. And BrownMark — born Mark Brown — on bass.
Sadly, Prince left us a year ago April. And while there will never be another like him, the pool of amazing musician he surrounded himself and collaborated with over the years lives on — but leaving The Revolution with the heavy task of bringing the music they created to Prince’s fans in the hopes of beginning the healing.
BrownMark discussed the early days of working with Prince, The Revolution reunion tour and the just-released deluxe version of the “Purple Rain” soundtrack.
Question: What do you remember most about the first time you met Prince?
Answer: [He was a] very cool, very focused individual. He knew what he was doing from the very beginning.
The first time I met him was in a pancake house. I was a 15-year-old cook [and] I ended up cooking pancakes for him. Two years later I end up auditioning for his band.
Q: Why do you think he chose you to be in his band?
A: I heard he had auditioned some 400 bass players. I don’t know how true that is. I think that Prince scripted his entire life. As I got to know him and we got closer, the more I realized, “This guy has got a mindset a little different from how normal people think.”
He knew what he wanted and how he was going to get it. He was not going to let anyone stop him. He scripted out the band like a blueprint, which he followed to success.
Q: Some people think he came up with everything himself, but the reality was it was a collaborative process.
A: Totally. There were a couple songs that he would bring to us that were totally finished [like] “Darling Nikki.” When he brought that to us, we were all, “What the heck? Whoah!” Others would start one way, but once The Revolution would put our touch on it, it would change.
We had developed such a sound. Prince would call us the “freight train.”
Q: Seems like he trusted you guys like no other band.
A: I think he trusted us because he handpicked us. And he didn’t handpick us as hired guns. He totaled [up] our personalities first, then our skills second. He had formed a group of people that really was his musical family.
Q: Why do you think the film “Purple Rain” became such a cultural phenomenon?
A: I don’t know. It was a surprise to me, but it wasn’t a surprise to Prince. I remember right before it was released, he said, “We’re gonna make history.” I laughed and looked at him and said, “Man, you’re smoking crack. This is not gonna make history.”
I didn’t realize until we hit the red carpet at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood how big this thing was.
Q: Because of the film, do people come up to you and ask you what time it is to see if your watch is on backwards?
A: (Laughs) Yeah. It’s funny, even today somebody will come up to me, poke their bottom lip out and look at their wrist. I’m like, “OK, funny, funny, funny.” But because all my speaking parts were cut, that move became the signature BrownMark moment in the film.
Q: I know the touring after Prince died was very emotional at the start. Has it gotten easier?
A: Yes, definitely. They say there are seven stages of grieving. We’ve gone through all of them as a band. At the start we kind of huddled together like little children who had lost their big brother. We realized at that moment how tight we really were with one another. Then it hit: “We can’t talk to him anymore.” We bonded tighter than ever and realized we had to play.
Q: What are your favorite songs to play live?
A: I love “Computer Blue.” That songs just rocks. I love “America”; I love playing the bass on it. I love “Erotic City” and “Controversy” [and] “Baby I’m a Star.”
Q: Over the years after he changed bands, did you keep in touch with Prince?
A: Totally. Through the years he had flown me out to Minneapolis for different projects. They just never saw the light of day. Me and him, we stayed in touch.
Sometimes he would call me at two, three o’clock in the morning. I knew it was him because who else would call me at that time? (Laughs)
Q: What do you miss most about Prince?
A: I loved his sense of humor. His laugh. When you would hear that laugh coming from his gut, you would start laughing. I loved the way he would sarcastically joke and pick on people. I loved that about him. That’s what I miss the most.
Q: Will The Revolution ever record again?
A: That’s a given. I think we just have to get past our mission right now, which is to heal and help [other] people heal from a great loss.
Once we get done with touring, we’ll definitely go into the studio and see what we come up with.
“Purple Rain” deluxe edition is available now.