Recording studio inside of Paisley Park

Recording studio inside of Paisley Park

*Former Paisley Park employee Scott LeGere is one of the rare people on earth who have experienced “the vault,” Prince’s vast storage area holding an untold amount of his unreleased material.

LeGere, who began working at the facility about a decade ago, gave Rolling Stone a detailed description of the space, and how music ended up being filed inside.

It all started, LeGere explained, with Prince laying down the tracks. “He’d be tracking drums in Studio A, horns in Studio B, and doing writing and preproduction with somebody else in Studio C,” says LeGere. “He’d just hop.”

When he finished, Prince would either release the results on record, or lose interest in what he’d done and store the tapes in floor-to-ceiling shelves inside the vault.

Per Rolling Stone:

Tucked away in the basement of Paisley Park, the vault lived up to its name: Accessible by elevator, it was (and still is) a climate-controlled room hidden behind a steel door straight out a bank, complete with a time lock and large spinning handle. For an extra dash of mystique, only Prince had the combination, and many employees respected that decision. “At one point, I was holding tapes and he would beckon me to come in,” says LeGere. “I said, ‘Actually, sir, I’d rather not. That is your space and your work – I will simply hand these things to you.’ He seemed to appreciate that. I think that’s what quite a few other staff did.”

According to past Paisley Park employees, thousands of hours of unheard live and studio material – jams, random songs and entire albums – still reside in that locked room, along with a similar amount of performance footage. (LeGere recalls stepping into the “pre-vault” – a small, foyer-like room that lead to the archive – and finding the floor covered with tape reels, which meant the main vault was full a decade ago.) How many of those tapes have been adequately logged and catalogued remains a mystery; some employees don’t remember seeing much in the way of detailed lists. “Half the time I couldn’t find a song because it was so hard to find,” says engineer Ian Boxill, who worked with Prince during the second half of last decade. “I’d spend a half hour just going through tapes. Prince didn’t seem to have a reaction to it. I’d be like, ‘Wow, look at all this stuff,’ especially when I saw a lot of Batman tapes. For him, it was like going through old filing cabinets.”

Now and then, Prince burrowed into that archive, releasing entire albums from it (The Black Album) or gathering tracks for later collections like Crystal Ball, Lotusflower and The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale.

Rolling Stone asked Paisley Park veterans to reveal what other treasures may exist among the vast amount of recordings in the vault. Here are just a few:

The Second Coming (1982): Live album from the fiery Controversy tour, taped during a homecoming show in March 1982 and capturing Prince and his band – including guitarist Dez Dickerson – romping through salacious early classics like “Jack U Off” and “Dirty Mind.”

“In a Large Room With No Light” (1986): Cut with Wendy and Lisa, Sheila E., guitarist Levi Seacer Jr. and other musicians, this ebullient, zigzagging track was to be included on the unrealized Dream Factory album with the Revolution. “It was a period when he was doing a lot of jazz-informed stuff – not jazz but you could tell he had been listening to it,” recalls former tour manager Alan Leeds. “It was a really interesting song.” Prince re-recorded the song himself in 2009, but the original remains in the vault.

The Flesh: Junk Music (1985-6): For several days, Prince jammed on freeform instrumentals with Sheila E., Wendy and Lisa, sax man Eric Leeds, and other players. “Prince was all over the studio, playing guitar, bass and drums,” recalls Leeds. “He would just call out a key and start playing, and sometime he would do impromptu scats. It was amazing, fun stuff.” Although Prince considered releasing the album incognito as the Flesh, with no band members listed, he changed his mind and shelved it in favor of other projects.

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