I was very honored to interview Morris Day of the Time (the band that played Prince’s musical rivals in Purple Rain), who performed at St. Aug High School’s financial aid fundraiser, Hamp Fest, on September 28, 2012. If you would like to be able to win a trivia contest about Morris Day, click here and read my well-researched OffBeat article about the man. Otherwise, below the video (check out what a badass performer he is, even in 2012!) is the straight Q&A with Day, which the article quotes. The interview starts slow (his answers about New Orleans = zzzz), but it gets really good by the end.
So what can you tell me about St. Aug High School’s Hamp Fest, where you’ll be performing this Friday?
I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about it.
You’re going to get to see some amazing musical kids at this HampFest marching event. Arguably the best marching band in New Orleans – which is really saying something!
Awesome. Oh, great.
You all must have played New Orleans a lot in your career, no? This being the birthplace of the funk.Do you have a special relationship to it, as someone who famously likes to “shut down restaurants”?
I have been to New Orleans many times since 1981. We played Essence a few times. We’ve spent a lot of time there. I love the music, the vibe. It’s a party town.
So who are you bringing to town with you? Who is in the Time, this time around.
This is my touring band. I have three original members, keyboardist Monte Moir and drummer Jellybean Johnson. But most of the rest of the guys too, they’ve been working with me for the last 20 years.
I was watching a lot of videos of you this morning, and you all are still pretty amazing. How much of the show are you all doing synchronized dance moves?
60 to 70-percent, at least. We’ve had synchronized dancing in our show since day one, at least since 1980. After you do it so long it becomes second nature, then you find ways to make it better, think about it, always doing it and adding little things and it keeps building.
Can you tell me about your 2011 album, “Condensate,” which is a great album title, by the way.
Oh thank you, man. In 2008 we did the Grammys with Rhianna, and we all decided we were gonna put this CD together. It took a while but we committed, and we did it.
It’s all the original members but you call yourself the Original 7even. You aren’t allowed to use the name, the Time?
Absolutely. For recording purposes, no. We can only use it for the live performance.
You mean that some businessman won’t let you use the name you came up with?
That’s pretty much it. At first it was [irritating], but we can’t let things interrupt our life too much. I ranted and raved about it, got past it, now I’m on to the next thing.
Am I to assume Jerome won’t be coming to New Orleans? What sort of relationship do you and Jerome have in real life?
We’ve been really tight. We just decided at a point that it was not good to work together in this capacity, and we’d only work together with the original members, that way it would make that thing more special.
I was always intrigued by Jerome’s place in the band? His concept. It’s fun watching how committed he is to playing the second banana, almost like a much classier Flavor Flav to some extent.
There were bands like the Busboys, they did a thing like Jerome, they had a guy who didn’t sing with them on stage and he was always busy, hyping the crowd. Jerome was always around, he had a great personality. We had just cut the first album and were rehearsing to go on tour, and there’s part in [the song] “Cool” where I say “Somebody bring me a mirror” and we were rehearsing in this dusty little rehearsal hall and Jerome ran into the bathroom and grabbed the mirror off the wall and brought it out and we all just looked at each other like, “That’s got to stay! That’s got to be in the show.” From that point on Jerome was in the band
Prince wrote the first album, called the Time?
He was involved for the first three albums. Initially Prince did everything. I played drums and did most of the vocals but he did most of it. He was sort of opposed to the idea of anybody else doing anything. But this was a super creative time in our lives, we were all writing, submitting stuff, everybody. So by the time we got to do some songs we were more than ready. By the time we got to write songs we had turned down so many gigs and so much money from people who wanted us to write and produce for them… But we were unable to.
Because Prince wouldn’t let you?
You have a musical studio in your home now?
Of course I got my room, my designated studio room. If I have it in me I express it. And I have kids who are musicians, and they keep me in the loop. My kids do their own thing. I will sometimes send them an idea and ask them to hammer it out for me. Or else I critique what they do. I stay in the loop with them.
You still live in Minneapolis?
I live in Vegas.
Vegas? Who lives in Vegas? Is it because you have an ongoing show there?
We have done some three weeks at a time in Vegas. But any more than that would be too much like having a job. I just had to find a town that suited my personality. Minneapolis doesn’t get it anymore [laughs]. Plus the cold weather, and there’s not enough to do, and it closes down early. I will always love Minneapolis for what it meant to me coming up, but I couldn’t live there anymore.
So you are indeed like your character in that you like to stay out late, close down restaurants?
Not as much anymore. But living in Vegas is almost like alotta money in the bank: you like to know it’s there, but you might not use it all the time. I like to know if I wake up and feel like having a drink, or gambling, or hanging out, I can do that at any point in time, day or night. But it’s just to have a good time. I don’t park there and let it control me.
You surely get sick of being asked about how Prince fired Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis from The Time…
…but I wanted to set the record straight, because sometimes it is said they were fired for producing that S.O.S. band record, and other reports have it Prince cut them for being late to a show. Which is it?
It was all of that.
Oh. So they were fuckin up then?
[pause] I mean really they weren’t. I mean who cares, because look at where it got them. They were answering to their own gut, which is a beautiful thing. I was pissed that they did get fired. I didn’t like that they missed the show, but they didn’t miss it on purpose; it was a weather thing; they got stuck in Atlanta while producing somebody else, the S.O.S. band. All the accounts you heard were mixed into one big reason.
There’s tons of stuff on the web, interviews with you about Prince. I was trying to avoid it, but I just wondered: you’ve known him and played music with him since you were both 13 years old. Was he always so…I don’t want to say weird… But, was he always such a unique human being? He seems unapproachable, not very nice, really…
Absolutely. It’s not an act. He’s always been a very different kind of dude. [laughs].
But how are you like that at 13? I mean, I can see how after a lot of accolades, years of accomplishment and adoration, you would start to see yourself as very different, and separate from humanity or reality, like you’re some kind of super hero but…how are you like that when you’re 13?
That’s a good question. But he was. [laughs heartily]
Was he cut off from the other kids, just playing music?
Sorta kinda. He interacted a little bit and he was on the basketball team at Central High and stuff. I just know when I first started coming around and set my drums up there and they had me play, they wanted me in their band, but he never said anything to me for quite a while, he just be standing around looking at me all crazy and shit. But then after a while we got to be good buddies. But he’s always been the same. He’s consistent, I will give him that. [laughs].