Morris Day is the frontman for The Time, a band which is known for funky songs like “Jungle Love”, “The Bird”, “Jerk Out”, and “777-9311”.
From the beginning, The Time enjoyed a close association with Day’s childhood friend Prince, who contributed significantly to their early albums – 1981’s The Time, 1982’s What Time Is It?, and 1984’s Ice Cream Castle. The combination of Day’s spirited vocals and Prince’s funky grooves led to some of the finest R&B of the decade. The band’s early association with Prince culminated in an appearance as the rival band in the film Purple Rain.
The Time returned in 1990 with the well-regarded album Pandemonium, recorded with less input from Prince. The original band also released the album Condensate in 2011, where the band was called The Original 7ven because Prince owns the recording rights for the name The Time.
The following interview was for a preview article for the concert by Morris Day and The Time at the Chumash Casino on 4/11/13. It was done by phone on 4/3/13.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming show?
Morris Day: You can look forward to being entertained. We are a show band, we bring music, we bring entertainment. We bring the pimp suits and all the good stuff. It’s gonna be off the chain.
JM: Will any of the other original members of The Time be joining you?
MD: Yeah, we’ve got three original members including myself. We’ve got Jellybean Johnson and Monte Moire.
JM: If we can go back in time a bit, what was the music scene like in Minneapolis back in the early 1980’s?
MD: The music scene was really great, because, just like everywhere else in the world back in the ’80’s, bands ruled. In Minnesota where we grew up, Northside Minnesota, there was just like a band on every block. There was a lot of competition, which was good because that forced us, if we wanted to be good, to work harder, which we did. We rehearsed a lot and became good musicians because of it.
JM: There were also some notable rock bands in Minneapolis at that time, like The Replacements and Husker Du. Did you interact with them at all, or was that a totally different scene?
MD: I don’t know anything about them [laughs].
JM: You had your own thing going, right?
MD: Right, right.
JM: Could you comment on the contributions of Prince to the first few albums by The Time, and how his role evolved over time?
MD: Oh, it was major. He was instrumental in the whole putting the band together, conceptualizing… pretty much everything.
MD: Absolutely. It was down to pretty much not being in the studio, and just dropping in from time to time to hear what was going on.
JM: Back when The Time would open for Prince, was there a rivalry?
MD: Yeah, absolutely. Early on, when it all came together and we started going out and doing dates, I don’t think Prince had any idea that the show that we had put together for us would start to rival his own show. So in that sense it definitely did become rivalry.
JM: Mostly friendly rivalry?
MD: I mean, it was just him versus us. We had a short, tight set. We’d do 30, 35 minutes. We’d do hits, we had some great arrangements. We’d come on and hit hard and then leave, and then he’d come on and do like a two hour show. It was hard to outshine what we had done in that 30, 35 minutes. I think his show sometimes would come across as long-winded. Then we were starting to get good reports, like good write-ups and reviews, to the point where we started being left out of certain major markets. We weren’t invited in on the tour anymore [laughs].
MD: Well, it was just an honest effort on everybody’s part, I believe. You know, we didn’t have any powerhouse directors or writers. We had no reason to believe that the movie was going to do what it did. I think we were just all having fun, and just trying our hand at being in a movie. I ain’t even going to call it acting, I just say we were trying our hand at being in a movie, that’s all.
JM: How autobiographical was that movie?
MD: It was very lightly autobiographical. What it was, it was sort of autobiographical. Like his parents weren’t black and white, they were both black. Just different things. It was a bit autobiographical, but a lot was changed to sweeten it up. I guess that’s what everybody does.
MD: Well, Kevin Smith is just a big fan from what I understand. He did tell me that. Apparently he had written the movie, and really he went out on a limb because he included us in the script and used our name throughout the movie, which the grand finale was finally getting to see Morris Day and The Motherfucking Time. That was all done before they even contacted us and asked us if we were available and wanted to be in the movie. Of course we agreed, obviously. But I think that was pretty bold for him to go ahead and just say “I’m gonna write it like this”. He didn’t write it and say “A band goes here”. He specifically put us, so that was cool.
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
MD: The first advice I would give them is to be a musician [laughs]. We don’t have a lot of them anymore. I come from an era where there were bands on every block, and these guys were good. So I think, first of all, just to be a musician, and that’s different from being in the music industry or being a computer genius.
I’d say to any young person, be prepared. If you think you’re at the top of your game, at the point where you can be out there and your music can sell records and stuff like that, I say be prepared. Have a nice production, if you’re a songwriter or a singer, always with you, because you never know when Morris Day or whoever might be coming down the escalator at the mall or something. You might meet somebody who can get your music to the next step. So do your homework first, be good at what you do, and then be prepared.
JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future. Do you have any recordings in the works?
MD: We’re always tossing songs back and forth between ourselves. We’ve got a lot of talented guys in our band. When we get enough where we feel like we could put something together, which I think we’re pretty much at that point, we just get together and start collaborating and putting it down, putting it all together. So there’s definitely gonna be some releases from Morris Day and The Time coming up in the near future.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your career?
MD: No, man. It is what it is. Everybody has their own perception, you know. I kind of like to hear people talk, especially the ones that don’t know what the hell they’re talking about [laughs]. I get a kick out of it. I ain’t trying to straighten anybody out.
JM: Maybe you don’t want to answer this then, but I’ve heard different stories about the song “Partyup” that Prince had on his Dirty Mind album. Some places say that you were involved with writing that song. Do you want to comment on that?
MD: I wrote the music to that song.
JM: And he wrote the lyrics then?
MD: Yeah, he took the track and sped it up and wrote the lyrics.
JM: Cool. And people like me are curious, to what extent are you still friends with Prince? Do you guys talk to each other every once in a while?
MD: Not really. It’s weird how life… you know, people who are good friends as kids, and even do the same thing and have some of the same aspirations… but life has a way of happening man, then you just look up and you don’t talk that much anymore. We’re always cool when we see each other, but it ain’t like it used to be.
JM: Where am you speaking to me from?
JM: Do you live there, or are you just there for a show?
MD: I live here. The greatest city on the planet.