‘Prince knew if he couldn’t make a concise musical statement with 24 tracks, he’d have to go back and rethink it’

Susan Rogers, the former staff engineer for legendary artist Prince has spoken of how the star refused to adopt new recording technologies during the five years she worked with him because he didn’t want to slow down his creative process in the studio.

Rogers spoke to Audio Media International in a wide ranging interview about her career in the music business and working with Prince between 1983 and 1988.

"There were advancements that were not helping me because he wouldn’t use them. Things like console automation. We could’ve recorded mixes if we used automation but he wouldn’t use anything that was slow, so we mixed by hand," she recalls.

Rogers says that another advancement at the time was the growing popularity of SSL consoles.

"Solid State Logic had built-in compressors and limiters and noise gates on every channel strip, that would have helped us immensely," continues Rogers. "But [Prince] didn’t want to move off of the ATI console that he was fond of at the time when I was with him.

"Eventually an SSL went into Paisley Park, but when I was with him we were using old fashioned stuff. Another advancement was this tendency to lock two tape machines together to synchronise them so you had 48 tracks, not 24."

"I asked Prince about that once but he just shook his head, he wouldn’t have anything to do with it because it was too slow. The great thing about that for him was that if you’re limited to 24 tracks, it means that your arrangement must be constrained by 24 tracks so while other people were piling up their mixes and arrangements and getting these big walls of sound.

"Prince knew if he couldn’t make a concise musical statement with 24 tracks, he’d have to go back in and rethink the track. It really makes your arrangements very efficient. Fewer instruments have to carry more and say more."

Susan Rogers is Professor in Music Production and Engineering at the Berklee college of Music as well as the director of the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory.