20 Questions: André Cymone

He was Prince's bassist and an underrated solo star. Now, with his first solo album in literally decades, André Cymone tells us about all things Streisand, Obama, and James Blake.

André Cymone

The Stone

Label: Blindtango
US Release Date: 2014-02-18

André Cymone has had one of the most interesting careers in music history.

Indeed, Cymone, who was a childhood friend of Prince's, started out as the bassist for Prince back in the early days (some of their early work can be heard on the recently-released Numero Group compilation Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound). He played with Prince quite a bit in the early days before branching out and going solo, having released a unique trilogy of efforts in the early '80s: 1982's Living in the New Wave, the following year's Surviving in the '80s, and his most popular disc, 1985's A.C., which included a Prince-written track called "The Dance Electric", which became a minor club hit. (Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for the 2012 UK re-release of A.C..)

However, after leaving his own solo career to take on duties as both a songwriter and producer (his most notable contributions being the work he did with Jody Watley, whom he was married to for several years), Cymone re-emerged in 2012 with two songs he wrote and briefly released for free in support of Barack Obama's re-election bid, "America" and "American Dream", the latter of which made its way onto The Stone, his first new solo album in decades. From storming opener "Rock and Roll" onward, Cymone shows that his years a producer have paid off in droves, as he makes potent, lush soundscapes for all of his songs, all dripping with a nice bit of sunshine mixed into classic rock and funk tropes -- his absolute specialty.

To celebrate the release of The Stone, Cymone swung by to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, here revealing his relation to a famous Barbara Streisand film, his country boy roots, and gives a unique shoutout to James Blake...

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

When I was a kid I used to sometimes go to work with my mother; she was a housekeeper for a Jewish family in Minnesota. I watched her work really hard cleaning and maintaining their home, it was beautiful and I knew she could only dream of having a place like that to call her own. I made a promise to myself that if I ever made enough money I would buy her the home of her choice. Thank God I was able to do that for her. My mother's gone now so when I watched The Help, it brought all those memories back and the tears fell like rain ...

2. The fictional character most like you?

John Norman Howard from A Star Is Born played by Kris Kristofferson, minus the booze and the tragic demise. What can I say? I like to do what I can to help others realize their dreams.

3. The greatest album, ever?

That's really hard, maybe a three-way tie between Stevie Wonders' Innervisions, The Beatles' double A-side "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" and the album that followed, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Joni Mitchell's album Hejira.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Trek. I was conflicted between wanting to be cool like Captain Kirk and intellectual like Spock.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Any conversation with my older brother or my father. There's also an old book I love to reference from time to time, it's called Path of the Masters by Julian Johnson.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Being part of a musical revolution that still seems to have influence in popular music today.

7. You want to be remembered for ...?

Being the artist that proves music is one of the most powerful tools for bringing the world together and taking the longest hiatus and returning to the music business to have more success than I did previously.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, John Lennon Stevie Wonder, and David Bowie.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Picasso's seated woman in red arm chair, James Blake's Retrograde, and Frank Gehry's Disney Building.

10. Your hidden talents ...?

Writing stories which I hope one day to turn into films, tennis, painting, furniture making ...I think I'll stop now ...

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

I was visiting my mother who at the time was very ill. I told her how unhappy I was with my relationship at the time and how disillusioned I was with the music business and the people running it and I just wasn't interested in it anymore. All the reasons I wanted to be an artist seemed outdated. She said something really simple, it was so simple it didn't hit me right away but I kept hearing her voice saying those words, she said, "Follow your heart" ... and that advice is what brought me back to making music.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

I have an old Vintage Vox phantom V that I bought when I was 15 or 16. I bought it hot, the guy was asking $75 for it I told him I only had the $5. He wouldn't go for that so I dug a little deeper and somehow found $40 more. I love that guitar, it makes me write some of the strangest songs.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or ...?

I had an Armani phase and who knows, I may have one again, but right now I'm a serious Levi's bum with a touch of John Varvatos.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

My wife, President Obama, Bill Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and Steve Jobs.

15. Time travel: where, when, and why?

I'd go back to the 1950s it seemed like such a great time for music, art, film, and fashion, and if you were creative and bold you had room to make a statement.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?

I'd be chillin' like James Bond in a spa surrounded by lust, I meant lush, beautiful ... plant life.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or ...?

Well, I hear cannabis can be very good for creativity and coffee is an amazing pick-me-up and wine to mellow it all out but hey ...who's askin'?

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Country. I'm basically a country boy, I love nature and I love fishing, so a cabin and a lake somewhere in Colorado or Minnesota is where you might find me.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Go further in exposing those who want to impede the progress you've been trying to make on behalf of and in the best interest of our country and the American people. Address and readdress the fact that a vote for those politicians is a vote against their own best interest. Name names, name corporations and political party affiliation so there's no doubt who the problem children are when midterm election time come around.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

I'm working and preparing for a tour in support of my album entitled The Stone!





'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.