Editor’s note: Prince died five years ago today, a moment that shook the entire music and cultural world. Dywane Thomas Jr., better known as MonoNeon, worked and performed with Prince in his latter days. Here, he shares some of his memories of what it was like to be with and work with the artist.
My time with Prince was a life-changing thang. I started working at Paisley Park in early 2015 as Judith Hill’s bassist, Prince hired me to join her new live band.
Prince was super chill. I never felt nervous or under pressure playing with Prince, I just wanted to play some music with him. If Prince wanted me to play a certain thang he would tell me but other than that he just let me play (and of course know the song). I did get some little butterflies in my belly when Prince first walked into rehearsal but that went away immediately (haha!)… then I was just anxious to jam with him.
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It wasn’t any weird thangs happening when I was at Paisley with Prince… we just played music till Prince said lunch/dinner break or see ya tomorrow.. haha! Sometimes Prince would invite us to hang with him to see some live music. I remember hanging with Prince and the band to check out Fred Wesley and Jabo Starks at Dakota Jazz Club and we also saw KING perform at the Ice House in Minneapolis.
In late 2015 to early 2016, I started playing bass with Prince’s new band with Donna Grantis, Kirk Johnson and Adrian Crutchfield. The jams we had with Prince in the NPG Music Club Room were so funky. The Paisley Park After Dark shows we played brought down the mothership a few times (haha!)… even Madonna came to one of those shows in October 2015. That was actually one of my first Paisley Park After Dark shows I played with Prince. One of the songs I loved playing with Prince was “Stare,” also a Billy Cobham tune Prince covered called “Stratus” (there’s a video on YouTube of us playing that song in the NPG Music Club Room, the video is titled “Laughing Stallions” which you can see below).
But yea… P was in a great mood that night, honestly, Prince was never in a bad mood when I was there with him… we played music!
Prince and I eventually started recording together along with Kirk Johnson and Adrian Crutchfield for a project Prince named “Black Is The New Black” (P told me and Adrian he would name it that). I think we recorded around six or more tracks. The only song Prince released from the project was “RUFF ENUFF” on Tidal under the artist name MONO NEON, he played guitar and keyboards on that song. I loved being in the studio with Prince. I would sit next to him playing my bass in the control room of Studio A and he would be playing on a clear see-thru Fender Rhodes Suitcase with a black Yamaha Motif keyboard on top. Prince would record the sessions to tape as well, rolling back and forth from the Studer A827 remote controller to the keyboards.
The last time I was with Prince was February of 2016 at Paisley. He actually posted video snippets of two of the tracks we recorded together on his Instagram (Princestagram) on February 2, 2016… one of the songs is called “Soul Patch.”
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I miss Prince so much mane! Everyday I think about him and the music we played. My time with Prince was cut short but I will cherish every single moment I had with him.