This is part of a multi-part tribute to Prince. See the rest of the parts here, and check back in the coming days for more interviews!
Bryan Black is best known to the world as the techno DJ Black Asteroid, and before that, 1/2 of the band Motor. He currently resides in New York, but he is originally from Minneapolis and lived here until 1997. A few years before he moved away, his band haloblack was invited to play a show at Paisley Park. After the show, Black was offered a job working for Prince as a keyboard tech at Paisley Park, and he accepted.
At his own expense, Black returned home to Minneapolis two days after Prince died to play at one of First Avenue's all-night dance parties. He played Saturday night in the 7th Street Entry as part of the house and techno tribute put on by Mike Gervais and his System team. While the night in the Entry started as all Prince and ended up with mostly techno and house, Black found a medium somewhere in between for his set, which he dubbed the first ever Purple Asteroid set. Part of the set was recorded, be sure to check the bottom of this post if you would like to listen to it (and I recommend that you do!).
I connected with Black to discuss his history with Prince and his set at the memorial party.
How long did you work at Paisley Park?
Most of 1995 into 1996.
I remember the Gold Experience just came out, so the band were rehearsing those songs live during that time. Prince shot videos for at least 5 songs from the album while i was there. "319" was my favorite song.
When you worked for Prince, did you see him often?
I saw him everyday. I got into Paisley around 10 am, and went straight into live rehearsals. After lunch they were recording in the studio or having video shoots. In the evening more recording and on many nights Prince would throw impromptu live gigs for a small number of people.
You said when I interviewed you previously that you left Paisley Park with a bag of tricks – can you explain what some of them were?
I learned how to maximize a sampler and map samples across a keyboard in ways that were very creative. De-tuning drum machines and using distortion pedals to get unique drum sounds, etc.
More than anything, his work ethic left the biggest impression on me. I got so inspired when i watched him work, I saved up all the money I made at Paisley and recorded my own album called Funkyhell with my haloblack project. I pitched down vocals and drums, and played with digital editing, which was a new technology at the time.
How were you feeling when you heard that Prince died?
I couldn’t listen to his music for about 2 days. But on Saturday I had to hear it all, and revisited the 1999 album first, start to finish a few times. The First Avenue tribute was a perfect way to digest it all. Now its all about celebrating his music, and the internet is full of rare live gigs and songs for the first time ever. Everyone is discovering just the depth of his genius in ways we didn’t get to see before.
How quickly did your plans to come to Minneapolis form?
I got an email from Mike in the afternoon on Thursday. He asked me to cancel my weekend plans and fly to Minneapolis at my own expense and play a tribute event at the 7th Street Entry. Under no other circumstances would I do something like this, but it didn't take long for me to recall all the things Prince did for me. I immediately booked a flight and hotel and started selecting tracks I wanted to play. It meant something to be in Minneapolis that weekend. It is something I will never forget.
Can you explain what you did for your set?
I chose mostly rare and experimental Prince tracks. i think everyone had been listening to the hits all weekend anyways. Unreleased songs like "Purple Music" mixed with "Bob George" and "Le Grind". I put a big 4/4 techno kick on top of the tracks to give the set a pulse. It was also an opportunity for me to play all the Prince covers I did in previous years, and I played some tracks inspired by Prince from artists such as Felix da Housecat, Bicep, AMFM, and XLOVER.
You can listen to the final 50 minutes of the Purple Asteroid set below: