Interview ~ Matt “Dr.” Fink of The Revolution

Matt Fink is known to music fans around the world as Dr. Fink and he is in this little band from Minneapolis that you may have heard of………….The Revolution. They were fronted by this dude who went by one name………….Prince. He may have been short in stature, but he was a musical giant in an industry oversaturated in mediocrity. He, along with The Revolution (Dr. Fink, Bobby Z., Brown Mark, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin), created musical magic together and wrote a chapter in music that will be revered until the end of time (and maybe even after that) as legendary.

Although The Revolution began with other members, this lineup is largely recognized as the Purple Rain era lineup. The movie and accompanying soundtrack elevated Prince to a whole new level in music and the entertainment world. This lineup of The Revolution grew in 1985 when Prince added several new members, thus leading to the Purple Rain era lineup going their separate ways in 1986. Dr. Fink remained on-board as a member until 1991 as an early member of the New Power Generation or NPG although they were not officially named that until after his departure.

As we all know, Prince passed away on April 21, 2016. The Purple Rain era Revolution announced shortly after his death that they would reunite and perform to honor the late artist. Those shows have proven to be therapeutic to many fans that were devastated by his sudden death. The reformed band decided to continue on playing live and that brings us to 2018. The Revolution announced a new series of dates and one of those will be in Raleigh, North Carolina during its Hopscotch Music Festival. Although Prince played Raleigh, North Carolina several times in the past, he never performed there with The Revolution. The closest that he did was a three night stand in Greensboro, North Carolina during the Purple Rain era (November 14-16, 1984).

We will be covering The Revolution’s performance at the Hopscotch Music Festival on September 7, 2018. We had the extreme pleasure of sitting down with keyboardist Matt “Dr. Fink” Fink to talk about the reunited Revolution and all sorts of Prince related topics including his vault, playing basketball with Charlie Murphy and much more.

We are all excited about The Revolution playing the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday, September 7th!

Dr. Fink/The Revolution: Yeah, it looks like a great festival and I’m excited. We’re really looking forward to playing it.

You guys have really stepped up your live game after reforming and have been adding quite a lot of dates both stateside and overseas. Before we get into all of that, can you tell the fans what you’ve been doing as of late?

I’ve been an independent producer since the 90s with artists in the local area in Minnesota and some out of state. I have a studio built into my home and the last couple of years I’ve been involved in a new music streaming service called MyMy Music. There’s a website and apps that you can download to stream independent pop and R&B artists specifically on that platform. It’s fairly new and was launched last December; it’s a cool new site. You, the listener, can curate the music by judging the songs in the blind so it’s kind of like doing The Voice online. If you’re an artist and you get positive feedback from the listener, then you move into the streams more often.

That sounds pretty cool! What’s the response been like so far?

It’s been really good so far and we’re just now getting into a bigger marketing push. It took a while to develop the apps and get them running properly and get all the bugs out, but they’re working well for iPhone and Android. Basically, I helped develop the platform and now I am the Director of Artists Relations for the company, amongst other things that I do with them. I’m doing a lot of promotional work for them and encouraging artists to sign up. When I have time between that and touring, I am working with a few artists in the studio. I just finished an EP for a new up and coming female singer from Minneapolis. It’s not released yet, but it’s in the works to be released. We’re shooting some music videos for it and her name is Michelle Rose.

We will definitely keep our eyes and ears open for her! Speaking of videos, how do you think social media might have impacted Prince’s career if it had been around back in the 70s when he started and especially during the Purple Rain era.

I think he would have taken advantage of it, but I know he didn’t like the way people were bootlegging all of his videos and putting them on there (YouTube) without any kind of compensation. He didn’t believe in all of that whereas a lot of artists don’t mind the promotion. Nowadays, everybody and their mom have a YouTube channel. I don’t know how much he would have liked having everything so free and open and out there.

Photo Credit: Larry Williams

There was almost always this bit of mystery when it came to Prince. I think social media has its good points, but it seems to have taken a bit of the mystique away from artists.

Exactly; I think that’s why he tended to keep his stuff off there as much as possible.

Are the shows getting any easier to do? It has to be a little tough to look over and not see him there.

It’s definitely different working without him; it’s a big void that can never be filled. You just have to deal with it in whatever way you can. It’s like Queen and they eventually put it back together with someone like Adam Lambert in the band.

You were there with him from almost the very beginning.

I was in the first version of the band with Bobby Z and I was with him for twelve years. I also worked with the first version of the NPG (New Power Generation) as well.

What were those early days like when he first started out and before the big breakthrough?

It was a pretty short amount of time, especially when you compare what he did to other people in the industry. He worked so hard with what he did. It’s a relatively short timeline from the first album, the recording contract and then achieving the Purple Rain era. It was actually kind of fast. Some artists are out there for ten years and then they finally have their big breakthrough. With Prince, the timeline wasn’t long, maybe about five years. If you go by 1999, which was a multi-platinum selling album, it was only four years.

Wow, four years! You had to always sense something big was going to happen?

He worked twenty four seven; there aren’t many peers that I feel worked as many long hours for their career as he did.

You are known as the Dr. Fink, but I wonder how many people know that you started out with a jail outfit on instead? They can actually see you in it in the American Bandstand clip. You’re wearing it in that clip which also includes Andre Cymone and Gayle Chapman who were in the band at the time.

We were on tour with Rick James and he was wearing something similar, so Prince wanted me to change my look. The doctor idea was another idea that I had on top of the jail-suit look. Prince came to me and told me that he thought I was going to have to change my image because Rick was wearing the jail-suit look. He asked if I had any other ideas and I told him about that one and he thought that one would be cool.

I always wondered about the interview Prince did with Dick Clark after you guys performed “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad.” Was that purposely awkward or did Prince really feel shy or uncomfortable doing the interview?

That was mostly on purpose partially due to the fact that he was fighting a pretty nasty head cold and was all hyped up on antihistamines. After dancing during the performance, he was out of breath, his throat was really dry and his voice sounded funny. He was verging on laryngitis and almost whispering. If you watch closely when he’s talking to him, he’s having a hard time catching his breath after dancing his butt off. So, it’s really a mixture of all of that plus he did warn us in advance that he didn’t want to us to give away too much. He really didn’t want us to talk. He wanted us to be more mysterious, so that’s really where he was coming from. He wasn’t shy and he was never really a shy person although he comes off like that at times.

There’s that mystery and mystique aspect again that we talked about earlier.

Exactly!

The guy could play anything, but I still say that he is a highly underrated guitarist. That clip from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony where he, along with an all-star cast, is performing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is just insane! The solo from his 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance during his cover of Foo Fighter’s “Best of You” is another crazy one. I could go on and on and on!

He’s so prolific on the guitar, but I don’t know why that is. He should certainly be rated at a much higher position than he is. I do know that in critic’s polls that he easily makes it into the Top 50 of all-time. He gets the recognition from the critics for sure.

Photo Credit: Steve Parke

The Revolution reunited shortly after Prince’s death and there have been some people who view it as cashing in on his death. I’ve seen some comments online and we actually received a few negative comments as well when I announced our interview with you.

At one time or another, we have all noticed negative comments. We always try our best to make it clear that we had always wanted to reunite with him directly. In September of 2014, I had a meeting with Prince to talk to him and catch up on things. The first thing out of his mouth was talk of reuniting with The Revolution in the near future. He discussed it with me and said that he was highly interested in it. I didn’t bring it up; it was the first thing out of his mouth. In fact, I wasn’t going to broach that subject. I knew in the past that he had said no to it when we approached him. In 2003, we had an offer from some concert promoters to go to Japan and he turned that idea down. I think there was another time two years after that when Wendy went to him and he wasn’t interested. So, after he said no to that we all pretty much gave up on the idea of asking him about it. Then, when I saw him in 2014, he brought it up himself so I think he was really considering it. I think that once he was done with his Piano and Microphone Tour was when he was going to revisit that idea, but it never happened obviously. Then, the band decided to do some reunion shows to honor him. The original idea was just to get together for a handful of shows just as a memorial kind of thing for him. We realized that a lot of fans wanted us to continue and that it helped them to heal a lot from the loss of Prince. It helped our own psyche as well, so that was when we decided to carry on his legacy at this point. We will take it on a long as we can take it for now. We understand that it can look like money grab in some respect, but believe me it’s not. It’s nice to make some extra income from this, but it’s certainly nothing that’s making us millionaires by any means.

I’m sure there are a ton of fans out there that never even got to see The Revolution perform.

Yes, you’re right and that’s the other thing. There are so many who didn’t see us back then and they’re coming up to us now and thanking us. They tell us that we never got close to their hometown or they couldn’t afford tickets.

I see that we are running short on time, so I will throw out a few quick ones for you. If one night you could dust off a track or two and add it to your setlist, what do you think you would pick?

Yeah, I’d like to do “Darling Nikki” and “The Beautiful Ones” from the Purple Rain soundtrack.

Did you participate in the basketball game with Charlie Murphy and his gang?

Yeah, actually I was there.

Did you play?

Yeah, (laughs) we had a lot of fun.

Is there a real vault?

There was an actual climate controlled room with a combination lock door almost like a bank vault door with all of his recordings. Now, the majority of that material has been transferred to a special restoration archival company outside of LA and they are now digitizing everything from their masters that were analog recordings. They’re also restoring tapes that may have been too old, brittle and deteriorated over time. There’s a process where they actually have to heat the tapes up to a specific temperature. They call that baking an analog tape in order to make it viable to play it on a machine so that you don’t lose the magnetic oxide on the tape as it’s going across the magnetic tape heads. They are preserving all of his material as we speak.

How much material do you think there is?

Thousands and thousands of songs, tons of good stuff. There’s so much material that you could release an album every year for the next 50 years.

I think we have the first one coming out in September (Piano & a Microphone 1983).

They’re putting out this primarily 1983 recordings of him playing just on a piano with just his voice. They are songs that were developed for different albums later on and some unreleased material as well.

Can we expect any new material from The Revolution?

We are, at some point in the near future, going to try to do some new music. The other issue is that there’s a lot of unreleased Prince and the Revolution material from the vault that has to see the light of day too. At some point, that may happen as well. That’s the other thing that we are looking forward to.

Matt, it’s been a pleasure sir and I thank you for your time today. Is there anything that you’d like to close with?

Thank you as well Johnny and for whoever reads this, please keep an eye on our Facebook page to see where we will be playing. If we come through your town, please come give us a visit; we’d love to hear from you.

Photo Credit: Ron Harris

Top Photo Credit: Kevin Estrada

By I’m Music Magazine Owner/Editor Johnny Price

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