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Some Quality Time With Morris Day

The legendary leader of the world's greatest party band is coming to Richmond.

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See Morris Day. That's what a good dictionary will tell you when you search for the word “cool.” He established his reputation as the leader of the world's greatest party band, The Time (“Cool," “Jungle Love”) and cemented his legacy in the 1984 film “Purple Rain,” playing himself and nearly stealing the movie from it's diminutive protagonist, Prince.

After his time with Prince ran out, Day went solo and continued to make hit songs (“The Oak Tree” and “Fishnet”) while making appearances in films and television shows. The Time would reunite several time over the years, most recently in 2011 under a different moniker, (The Original 7even), since Prince can be a jerk sometimes.

Day has also been leading a slightly altered version of The Time called Morris Day and the Time, performing at festivals and special events, for years. He's bringing that band to the Second Street Festival on Saturday. From his home in Las Vegas, Day talks about the only book he ever read, the unfortunate demise of the Original 7even and why he quit acting.

Style: Why do you think the music of The Time has endured for so long?

Morris Day: You know that's a good question, man. I think we came out at a time where it was still real music. I don't think it's fad music, I think it's stuff that [you] can put on and it still sounds good. It was all baked in the oven like it was supposed to be – not microwaved! (laughs)

Not to say that we better than anybody, but I kind of think that we have our own little category goin'. We weren't an R&B band or a funk band per se, but we did cover those regions of music, as well as rock and our audience reflects it. So, a lot of times when we do these soul festivals and stuff like that, we have a predominately African-American audience, it's all good, but that's not where it stops for us. If you look at the faces of our crowd when we really come to town, we always have drawn a diverse audience. It's not really a lot of people that can effectively do what we do.

Numero Group is releasing an album called “Purple Snow,” a compilation of lesser known funk bands from Minneapolis. It has songs from groups like Lewis Connection, Cohesion, The Girls. Could you tell me a little bit about the music scene in Minneapolis back then?

It was flourishing. There was a band in every block. That's why we got to be as good as we were. It was really competition. We all played, we fought for the same gigs, we did all the local festivals, and we just rehearsed and tried to be better than the other bands. And there were a lot of bands, like those bands you just mentioned, those bands were around when we were kids, it was just a real competitive scene. If you rose to the top, it wasn't by accident.

Why do you think record labels have stopped signing R&B bands?

That's a good question, because on the rock side, they're still signing. I don't know. I guess like I said the microwave music … They don't want to hand out the money for the band to cut a record, they want you to bring something in that you cut on Garageband or ProTools or something like that, you know? Ever since MC Hammer came out with that record that he basically cut in his bedroom and sold millions and millions of copies, that pretty much ended it for bands. I used to go in to do a record, I go to the company, they give me a half million dollars, you know, just because they knew what I needed to make a record. They don't do that any more.

I understand your son is making music now.

Oh yeah. He's uh …. Hey D! He's doing his thing. He's a real good songwriter and singer and he's coming into his own. I think he's going to be making some noise out there pretty quick. D! Tell my man where folks can hear some of your stuff. (Puts his son on the phone.)

Darren: You can go to soundcloud.com/darrenday. We have some videos on youtube, you can check that out. Or you can go to Facebook.com/darrenday music. You can pick one of the three.

Morris Day: I wanted to that plug in real quick, not just because he's my son, he's actually a lot better singer than I am. (laughs)

Prince has been covering songs recorded by The Time in recent shows. Have you ever considered doing a Prince song?

I thought about it in facetious way. (laughs) But I never have put any time into it. I've had glancing thoughts like that, it'd be funny if I did that, because I know that he's done some of our songs in concert. So I thought about that for fun, but I don't think I'd do it.

I read an interview you did for Right On! Magazine back in the 1980s, that the only book you had read was Jack London's "Call of the Wild."

Yeah.

Have you read anything since then and have you considered writing a memoir?

You know a memoir would be awesome and that will be the next book I get through in its entirety. (laughs)

What's the status of The Original 7even?

The pause button has been hit. (laughs) A permanent pause button! I don't think that's going to happen again. I'm not trying to be negative, but I can't see us going down that path again. It was fun and that was all it was. It was fun for a minute, and then it wasn't fun and it didn't do what it was supposed to do. And, you know, we all have to take individual blame for that. Life goes on.

Can we anticipate another Morris Day album?

Yeah, absolutely. I'm toolin' up to do one, I had to let the smoke clear from the Original 7even. We put in so much work, we did so many songs, so many more than even ended up on the CD. It was a … Man, it was a trip, you know. But yeah, I definitely want to do a Morris Day and The Time record and that's in the works.

Do you have any acting gigs lined up?

No, I'm not an actor anymore. I don't actively seek parts. If somebody thinks that there's a part and they bring it to me and I like it, then that's one thing. That acting thing, going in reading in front of folks, and folks be like, “We'll call you.” That don't work for me.

What can people expect when Morris Day and The Time come to Richmond?

Well, we go'n rip it up like we always do. We gonna bring the noise with us and pimp suits and everything. It's gonna be a party non stop, from the first note to the last. 'Cause like I said, don't nobody do it like we do it, we bring the real music, the dance steps and the whole thing. We got the comedy, we got the pimp suits, we got it all … Be there, be ready to party, it's gonna be off the chain.

Morris Day and the Time perform at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 5 at the Second Street Festival. Admission is free. For more information visit http://www.venturerichmond.com/events/venture/secondstreet.html.

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