Five Geeky Prince Questions For Meshell Ndegeocello


The Topic
Prince: pop titan, funk master, scary multi-instrumentalist (“You’ve got to learn your part,” New Power Generation bassist Levi Seacer Jr. told Spin in 1991; “Prince can always come over and play your part”), master songwriter, greatest pop star of the ’80s, unending inspiration to musicians of all stripes.

The Askee
Meshell Ndegeocello: singer, songwriter, bassist extraordinaire, creator of a solid (and peripatetic) body of albums, most recently 2009’s Devil’s Halo; a new album is in the works. Meanwhile, Ndegeocello has been keeping her band in trim by salting her live concerts with occasional all-Prince-cover shows. She’ll be doing the latter tonight at the Highline Ballroom. To mark the occasion, we asked her five geeky questions about the man (or is that a woman? Or something that we’ll never understand?) himself.

1. Some of Prince’s most famous songs don’t have bass lines, and you’re a bassist. Do you plan to rearrange songs like “Kiss” or “When Doves Cry”?
I don’t do either one of those. I’m doing a few that are probably totally unexpected–and have really great bass lines: “Annie Christian” [from Controversy, 1981], “All the Critics Love U in New York” [from 1999, 1982]—one of my favorite bass lines. I didn’t just want to pick hits.

2. Prince once told Bass Player magazine that his one bass lines no one else can play like him is the Time’s “777-9311.” How are you on that one?
Oh, I may have to play that one! Me and my bass player can play that one quite well. [laughs] I actually have three bass players in my band, and we can all play it quite well. It’s one of my favorites.

3. Speaking of outside material, do you plan to cover any songs that Prince wrote or produced for other musicians?
There’s a cover, by a Swedish woman, [Stina Nordenstam], which really changed the game for it. Or do you mean, like, [Sheena Easton’s Prince-penned] “Sugar Walls” or the Sheila E. stuff? No, I’m sticking to his songs.

4. You’ve played with Prince, right?
We did a recording session together, yeah. It was during the Emancipation period—it was his material [we recorded]. It was after the David Letterman show. I think he just wanted to hang out and mess around. It was in a midtown studio that he booked for the entire day [laughs]. I don’t think the studio’s there anymore. We started around midnight, and just hung out for a couple hours and messed around on stuff. I played bass, he played drums—he went through several instruments. We had a feel for each other, I guess.

5. Are you going to do “Right Here’s the Spot” [Ndegeocello’s Prince-tribute collaboration with Basement Jaxx, from 2003’s Kish Kash]?

“Gett Off: Meshell Ndegeocello Covers Prince” is at the Highline Ballroom tonight.