I originally covered I Would Die 4 U for Prince Uncovered, an Alverno Presents event curated by Hello Death on October 17, 2015 in Milwaukee, WI. The set-up I used to accomplish it was fresh in my mind from my solo performance at the inaugural Eaux Claires Festival during the summer of 2015, and was still assembled on my pedal boards, so when Nathaniel Heuer asked me if I might be interested in doing something for Prince Uncovered, I agreed and immediately reserved I Would Die 4 U for my performance. It came together quickly, and has been a special one for me ever since I started working on it. I was immersed in Prince’s music growing up in the 1980s; Purple Rain was one of the the first cassette tapes I ever owned. It wasn’t until I started playing guitar that I realized what a unique player he was, and it wasn’t until I started digging deeper musically into I Would Die 4 U, as well as other Prince songs on which I collaborated for Prince Uncovered, that it became crystal clear to me what a singular musical force Prince is.
Fast forward to spring of 2016, when Nick Sanborn asked me to open the Midwestern shows on his Made Of Oak tour. I thought that ending my set with a cover, especially that one, might be pretty unexpected for the audience, so I happily dusted it off and added it to the end of the set. I really enjoyed playing it for those shows; changing it and tweaking it every night based on audience reactions and thoughts about how to ramp it up as I drove around the Midwest. I performed it live for the last time on April 10, 2016 in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, MN, in the small room of the venue at which it was simultaneously premiered and recorded for the album Purple Rain: First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry.
Prince died on April 21, 2016. Within minutes of the news breaking, my friend and brother in music, Thomas Wincek, texted me. He had seen me perform the song a week and a half earlier in Madison, WI, and basically communicated to me that, regardless of what plans either of us had for the weekend, we should forget about them because we had new plans: record this song. Agreed. We contacted our friend, Ben Derickson, who runs the Tannery Recording Studio where we rehearse, and carved out the time. Tom and Ben recorded it as I played it live on April 23, 2016. Tom shined it up, added some final touches, mixed it over the next couple of days, and here it is. I hope you enjoy it.
Thank you, Tom and Ben, for helping me do this. Thank you Nathaniel, Hello Death, and Alverno Presents for asking me to do it in the first place, and Nick Sanborn for giving me a reason to do it again. Thank you to everyone taking the time to listen.
Finally, thank you Prince. Your uncompromising individuality and principles in an industry commonly consisting of homogenized compromises will always be an inspiration to me, as will your singular ability to combine the gnarliest guitar tones with the most sublime arrangements into effortlessly performed, perfect songs.
Chris Rosenau. April 26, 2016.
released April 27, 2016
My set up for this recording: One electric guitar being played live into a Boss Slicer Arpeggiator, 5 synced looping pedals, and 4 non-synced looping pedals, with the signal from each pedal able to be sent to any of three amps individually or in any subset on the fly.