As the bassist for the Revolution, Mark “Brownmark” Brown was privy to many of the intricacies of Prince.
It might have been a 3 a.m. phone call demanding that Brown and his Revolution bandmates stumble out of bed and into Prince’s Paisley Park compound for a studio session.
Or the stubborn insistence of the musical genius to never publicly acknowledge that Brown co-wrote the 1986 megahit “Kiss” (“All Prince did was put the guitar on it and his voice. I never got a penny for it,” Brown said).
Then again, Brown immediately acknowledges that Prince was a mentor, a brother, a friend so dear that he still refers to him in the present tense during a recent conversation at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Brown and his Revolution mates — keyboardist Matt “Doctor” Fink, drummer Bobby Z., guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboardist Lisa Coleman — are the best known and, for the “Purple Rain” generation, most revered band associated with Prince.
Five months after the musician’s shocking death in April 2016, they reunited for a show at First Avenue, the Minneapolis club immortalized in the film “Purple Rain.” A tour followed, both to help fans and themselves rebuild their musical souls following the loss.
The Revolution is back on the road and will visit Atlanta — Brown’s home as of a year or so ago — on Saturday with a concert at the Tabernacle.
During our conversation, Brown, 55, talked about the book he has coming later this year (“My Life in a Purple Kingdom”) as well as the future of the Revolution and life after Prince.
To watch our Facebook Live conversation with Mark Brown,
visit the Atlanta Music News Now Facebook page.
His impression of the Justin Timberlake Prince tribute at the Super Bowl:
“Me personally, I think Justin was respectful. I know there was some beef some years back, (with Prince saying) “sexy never left” (in response to Timberlake’s “SexyBack”). People don’t forget. But I think you look at the time frame and look at Justin now and he’s mature, he’s a man. You grow up and you learn. … To the Prince fans who are angry, I respect you and understand your reasoning behind it, and I’m sorry for that for you because I understand how they feel as well. But I try to stay neutral.”
On the return of the Revolution:
“(When we got back together in September 2016) we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. The first set of shows was so successful that we were like, ‘OK, there’s more to this.’ We called it the ‘healing tour.’ We were out on a mission; we wanted to help people heal and we were accomplishing that. People were coming to us in droves. Everyone says the same thing — ‘You were the soundtrack to my life’ — and that resonates with me always. I didn’t realize how much of an impact that we had on young kids at that time period and now those kids grew up with our music and now they have kids — probably from the music!”
And the future of the band:
“We’ve taken on some management. Now that we’ve done our ‘healing tour,’ we’re going to take it on a different direction. Now we’re going to get on board with this thing and start to manage it and nurture it and let it grow into something. (We’ll probably play) a lot more festivals. Hard ticket sales are very difficult with an age group that doesn’t know you. Prince’s fans are 50, 60 years old. They’re not coming to the club! Even though we did very well, we don’t think it’s something that will continue. We had to rethink it and the first thing management said was, the hard tickets are the wrong move, you need to be doing festivals. We’re being introduced to a whole new generation now, and this generation ain’t seen nothing like this. We gonna bring the house down. That’s just the way it is — we come in like a freight train. We’re coming with something that people have never seen before. We’re the last of the old school.”
What fans can expect from the Revolution in concert:
“We added a couple of new songs that will surprise some folks. The Revolution, we recorded music with Prince for years. I joined the band in 1981, we were actually recording music that far back for ‘Purple Rain,’ so the vault is full of Revolution jams and unfinished music. All I can say is, it’s gonna be funky. … We’ll always have a guest vocalist. I sing, Wendy and Lisa sing. We can cover the entire show if we have to. Nobody is trying to replace Prince. You cannot replace that genius. In my lifetime, I’ll never see another artist like that, ever. I went to the Prince University of Funk. We’re smart enough to know that in order to make this work, we need to bring in guests. There is some stuff that has to have some kind of a feel to it to draw in the audience.”
On life after Prince:
“He’ll always be here, even though he’s passed away. The memories are too strong. He was a true mentor for me. I wanted to be successful and I was on my way; he just intercepted me in the process. I was in line for success and he took me out of line and said, I’m gonna move you way up here … but then I’m gonna move you back when I’m done with you! So I had to restart all over again and try to figure out who I was after I left him. That was very hard. He drained me of everything that I was about, so how do I reinvent myself? That was really difficult.”
On moving to Atlanta more than a year ago:
“There’s some sickness in the family and I’m a family man. We’re all gonna grow old together, that’s our plan. We take care of each other, we always have. But to come here and be with my sister who has multiple sclerosis, in the event that it progresses, I’m here. We know that’s the inevitable, so we looked way into the future and planned accordingly. The right hospitals are here that she needs and there’s a music scene here. This is a music mecca.”
On his solo plans:
“I regrouped (1980s band) Mazarati. They’ll be playing with me and we’re going to take that on that road. That’s gonna be some nasty funk. We go into rehearsals in March. I’m releasing a solo album this year, so I’m in the studio with that. I’m looking for some young talent. I want to teach ‘em. I want to package ‘em, put ‘em together and show the world how Prince did it, how we did it back in the day. I feel like we’ve lost touch with what it’s like to grab an instrument, hit the stage and give a SHOW. There’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing now, but let’s not forget where we come from.”
8 p.m. Saturday. $35-$65. Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.livenation.com.