Ben Weinman – Dillinger Escape Plan and Giraffe Tongue Orchestra guitarist and founder of Party Smasher Inc. – talks to TeamRock about growing up during a time when Prince was a permanent fixture on MTV and why he transcended the limitations of your average pop star…
WHAT WERE YOU DOING WHEN YOU FIRST HEARD PRINCE HAD DIED?
“I was hanging with William DuVall from Alice In Chains, who’s also in my band Giraffe Tongue Orchestra. He was at Prince’s last performance in Atlanta in April 14 – just him and a piano. It was really personal to him, because not only was he at the last Prince show, he’d didn’t think he’d be able to see it because the first one was cancelled because he was sick. William said he was perfect. He’s seen Prince with every single version of his band up until present day. He said it was the best he’d heard him in 30 years. Then he dies. It was surreal for him. He’s older than me, so was into Prince before he was huge.”
WHEN DID YOU FIRST BECOME AWARE OF PRINCE?
“I was born in the 70s, so I grew up in the 80s. I remember the first day that MTV came on the air. I remember sitting in front of the TV and seeing the first video. Prince was obviously a major part of that first onslaught of visuals with music.”
AT WHICH MOMENT DID YOU THINK HE TRANSCENDED YOUR AVERAGE POP STAR?
“When I was younger, I saw the persona that the media put out there – the androgynous, 80s pop guy. But when I saw the movie Purple Rain, you really believed that’s who he was; a tormented artist at a piano, being obsessive over notes – not because it has to be perfect in a technical standpoint, but it has to be perfect from an emotional standpoint. I think that’s what was really conveyed in the movie. It was obviously dramatised, but gave me more of a perspective of who he was and wanted to learn more about him as a person. It wasn’t a created pop star.”
WHAT WAS THE BEST PRINCE SHOW YOU’VE SEEN?
“I got to see him in 2013 at the Ogden Theatre, a fairly small club in Colorado – one that we’ve played, to put it in perspective. It put me in awe. It was like, ‘This is a unicorn’. The way he played guitar and the emotion in his singing… he was music. Everything music should be was him. He should get a pass on any story you might hear about him. He was such a genius; this motherfucker has a pass for anything. Such a rare unicorn.”
HAVE YOU EVER MADE THE PILGRIMAGE TO PAISLEY PARK?
“No, but we’ve played the club shown in Purple Rain – First Avenue in Minneapolis – and that’s always cool.”
YOU GO TO YOUR RECORD COLLECTION. WHICH ALBUM DO YOU PICK FOR THE UNINITIATED?
“[Laughs] Honestly, I know this is a bad answer, but a Greatest Hits record. Every single record he’s released is relevant and amazing.”
WHO COULD YOU SEE FILLING THE VOID HE’S LEFT?
“I’m a little biased because I’ve worked with this person, but Kimbra. She’s not had a lot of exposure in the UK. Most people know her from that Gotye single Somebody That I Used To Know. I see how her brain works and I’ve never been as intimidated to sit with somebody as I am with her, musically. She’s a rare find. A unicorn.”
WHAT WAS PRINCE’S ENDURING APPEAL?
“He was such an innovator. His lyrics were so edgy and he was like nobody else. He was pushing the limits in every single possible way. I think he influenced most of what was going on at that time as far as fashion and music went – not just the next generation, but his peers, too. Anyone who says they don’t like Prince is lying.”