Tunde Adebimpe: Avoiding the Cosmic Side-Eye from Prince

In a July 2015 encore at First Avenue, TV on the Radio commemorated the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain by covering the album’s title song. Less than a year later, Prince passed away—too young, at age 57. Returning to the Walker this month, the band’s front man, Tunde Adebimpe, offers a new multimedia experience that touches on similar themes: mortality, grief, and the afterlife. Commissioned by the Walker, A Warm Weather Ghost combines lives music and vocals, narration, and projected drawings and animations by Adebimpe to follow a hero’s journey through a psychedelic fever dream. A Warm Weather Ghost is copresented with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series and 89.3 The Current. Here, on the eve of its May 18–20 world premiere, Adebimpe discusses A Warm Weather Ghost, his art, and his return to Prince’s hometown.

Chris Cloud: A Warm Weather Ghost is a multidisciplinary endeavor. What are your thoughts on 21st-century artists like yourself heading towards being more than just a musician, animator, or filmmaker? Why do you think this is?

Tunde Adebimpe: For me, it’s just what I’ve always done. When I’m writing a song, I’m seeing images, and, if I have the chance and the time to, I’d much rather make the video or album art for that song myself and just get it done. I think if you can wear those different hats and it makes sense to time and effort wise, you should. It’s all part of the same expression, and it’s a more dimensional presentation of the idea or feeling you’re trying to put forward.

Cloud: This has been a very collaborative project, as you’ve worked with seven musicians: Money Mark, the producer best known for his collaborations the Beastie Boys; vocalist Mia Doi Todd; and others, including Aaron Steele, Sean Okaguchi, Morgan Sorne, and Tracy Wannomae. What does the phrase “Do-It-Together” mean to you?

Adebimpe: Always get people who you admire and are better than you at what you do to help make your projects way better than you could have imagined.

Cloud: What advice do you have to artists who working on creative projects like yours?

Adebimpe: Plan, make lists, and do the things on the lists. We don’t have all the time in the world!

Cloud: Given the work’s themes, has your awareness of mortality grown as you’ve progressed in life?

Adebimpe: Yes. It’s all downhill from here, which is fine.

Cloud: During the time you’ve been working on this project, Minnesotans and the whole world experienced a huge loss with the death of Prince, a multidisciplinary artist in his own right. The last time TV on the Radio was in Minneapolis—at First Avenue in July 2015—you sang “Purple Rain” in honor of the song’s 30th anniversary. Did you reflect back on his passing and that moment during the development of this work?

Adebimpe: Well, now he’s everywhere, right? I think “What would Prince think of what I’m doing/thinking/feeling right now?” is a good barometer for how wisely you’re spending your time on the planet. I bet a lot of people are getting the cosmic side-eye from Prince right now. I will try my best, in all my actions and endeavors, to evade that side eye. Especially while performing. Especially in Minneapolis.

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