Much like the iconic musician he represents, the frontman of the Minneapolis-based Prince tribute band Chase & Ovation is referred to by only one name. He is known as Chase, and he and the rest of his musical posse will be paying homage to Prince Friday (June 3) at WinnaVegas Casino Resort.
After the death of the highly praised rock star and musical innovator in April, Chase and Ovation bear the responsibility of keeping the essence of Prince alive for his many, many fans. Throughout Chase's career -- no matter what the show was or if the set consisted of originals or cover songs -- people would inevitably tell him, "Hey, has anybody ever told you that you sound like Prince?"
"One day I said, boy, wouldn't it be kind of interesting if I attempted to do a show or two of just Prince's music?" Chase said during a phone interview.
Through various channels, Chase and Ovation got a chance to perform at the highly coveted First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis -- a venue which Prince himself helped make famous by using it as a location for scenes in his film "Purple Rain." The 2006 show was seen by Prince.
"From that point forward, he gave us the thumbs up to do the show," said Chase. "And here we are, 10 years later, still performing. It's been a wild ride ever since."
The Weekender had a chance to speak with Chase about the band Prince's legacy:
Prince has had different looks over the years. Do you have to do multiple costume changes in a show or do you just stick with one specific look?
That's the interesting thing. While we do doll ourselves up and change throughout the show, what's first and foremost important to us is that we're paying reverence to his music. It is about us being musicians and performing that music note for note, pitch for pitch.
That's important because there are a lot of tribute bands out there, and, God bless them, they're doing a wonderful job, but to me it's never been about putting on the purple jacket or the white Edwardian shirt. It's about the music, not the man's wardrobe. It's about his intelligence and not his clothing.
It sounds like Chase and Ovation holds itself to pretty high standards. Is there a lot of pressure when performing shows?
Well when he came to opening night [in 2006], the band completely lost their minds. Nerves were at an all-time high as you could imagine. It is no small feat. And it is incredibly hard work.
Listen, there's only one Prince. There only will be one Prince. But the one thing that I knew and continue to keep in mind is that if you come to see a Prince show or even Stevie Wonder or Earth, Wind & Fire or James Brown, the audience has a particular set of standards that they're going to hold you to. The pressure when we get onstage absolutely is there. But I've been blessed to surround myself with phenomenal musicians who understand that and are able to deliver when the crowd is expecting it.
What do you think people are drawn to about Prince and his music?
I think with any music, as long as it lets you feel something and resonates within you, that's good music. Whatever style it is -- whether it's country or R&B or it's blues or rock 'n' roll. If it resonates within you, you're going to be drawn to it and it's going to be good music to you.
To answer that question more specifically for Prince, for whatever reason Prince's musical genius allowed him to touch a large section of the world where other musicians have not. And he did so continuously decade after decade after decade, and really crafted the soundtrack to all of our lives.
Do you remember the first time you were exposed to Prince and his music? And what did you think of him?
I do! I was probably 10 or 11 years of age when I began hearing basement tapes or bootlegs that were going around Minneapolis at the time.
The first thing that I remember when his first record came out is that this is impossible that it's recorded by only one person. I could not wrap my head around that type of musical genius. Every voice, every sound you heard was coming from one person. It was unbelievable. He continued to record like that.
When it was announced that Prince had died, how were you feeling at the time?
Disbelief. I don't think that shock set in until perhaps a week later. Within the first 12 hours, I had 75 to 100 voicemails, emails, text messages and so on that I just sat in disbelief saying the world is wrong. The reality set in but still I remained in shock. I stopped taking phone calls for a good seven to 10 days. And it still didn't set in.
When he was gone, did you have to sit down with the band and talk about it? Did you have to change things about the show?
Because we've been doing this for 10 years and allowed to do so as long as we're paying reverence to the music, truly nothing in our show has changed except for the meaning. The meaning has been amplified.
What is the meaning?
The meaning is to pay reverence not only to his music but to the person and now what has been amplified for 10 years is I've been having talks with the audience in between songs throughout the show. And what I discuss with them is we're all under the same roof for the same reason and that's to celebrate not only Prince and his music but to celebrate love, to celebrate life and to celebrate each other.
Therefore if we come together in that fashion, couldn't we then put our other differences aside as well and learn unconditional love? That's what has been amplified now that Prince is no longer here to share that message.