You try to be tactful, you don’t want to hurt anybody but in the moments after a tremendous tragedy or world-changing event, you sort of have to put your feelings aside and drive where the story takes you.
When TMZ (of all sites) reported the news that Prince was dead, I thought of contacting two people from my immediate circle: Steve Hurley and Jamie Lewis. In a way, this actually made all of the sense in the world. Aside from the JM Silk connection, Hurley remixed “Gett Off” and his characteristic “Silkmix Sound” was pretty much the signature of Prince in the clubs that still stands with any credibility, to my mind at least.
Jamie Lewis worked with Prince more than 15 years later (which felt like about 1500 years in Prince’s world), the last House Music producer to officially remix his material. In retrospect, it was the closing of a circle, though nobody would have guessed it at the time.
I’ve interviewed Jamie Lewis four or five times over the years, and though I’ve never asked him if he believes in destiny, the Prince projects must have been guided by the stars. His label, Purple Music, was inspired directly by Purple Rain after a viewing by Jamie and his wife & label co-founder Manuela, before the Swiss-based label became basically the gold standard for Soulful House imprints in Europe. “Maybe it was a sign,” he allows. But it was many years later when they received a message that must have been difficult to believe.
“When Prince was on tour in Europe in July 2011, after the concert in Zurich, we were contacted by his management for a possible collaboration,” Jamie told me back in 2012.
Despite the legends that circulate, however, the discussions were fairly straight-forward. “A couple of weeks later, we had a meeting with his management at our office. It was really nice discovering that we have almost the same feeling for music and many ideas in common.”
The first Purple Music project with Prince was “Dance 4 Me,” which debuted on Prince’s triple album project LOtUSFLOW3R/MPLSoUND.
“The three original mixes are in my opinion the ‘funky Prince,'” Jamie says. “You recognize him after a few seconds. ‘Dance 4 Me’ is a very catchy song… with a clear message.
“The David Alexander & Brian Matrix Mixes are club oriented. Big room. My mix is in the energetic Purple style.”
A few months later, Purple Music released “2 Nite” by Bria Valente, originally produced by Prince and released on the third part of the triple album set, Elixer. “This song is very club oriented – more Deep House with a lot of vibe,” Jamie said. “I like the song a lot, as well as Bria’s voice.”
Purple released each record in multiple formats, including picture discs, 12″ vinyl, CD singles and digital; the same was true of the 2012 single “Rock & Roll Love Affair,” with original and new Jamie Lewis mixes. It was followed up by “Screwdriver” in digital format in early 2013.
I reached out to Jamie again just a few days after Prince’s death was announced.
“The reaction was very good,” he said of the Prince releases on Purple Music. “We topped the British, Swiss and German dance charts, as well as many official European dance charts. At that time we could say that we brought Prince’s music back into the European club scenes.”
Later in 2013, the collaboration became a bit more personal. I noticed Jamie was listed with a “mixing engineer/recording” credit on the liner notes for Prince’s album Plectrumelectrum. It turns out Jamie had been invited out to Paisley Park to mix and record Plectrumelectrum with the 3dEyeGirl band, and flew in and out of Minneapolis a few times for the sessions.
“We were always together, working in the studio with the band and all the musicians,” he recounted. “It was an unforgettable amazing time… Paisley is a big, great family.”
It happens a lot when you interview people just after a tragedy: they slip from the past to the present tense, and you have to fight the impulse of being a total ass and correcting them. Paisley seems like it’s already slipped into the past. There’s speculation about it becoming “another Graceland” or something like that. For Jamie, though, the memories are still fresh.
“I was always a fan of his music,” Jamie says. “I have been privileged and feel blessed to have had the chance to meet him and work for such a musical genius and icon. I’m very thankful. And on the record label side, obviously we’re very proud and happy to have had the chance to release four records from Prince.”
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