Beto Martinez plays guitar for the Grammy-winning Latin combo Grupo Fantasma and its funk-monster alter ego, Brownout. Fantasma played with Prince in the early 2000s (blowing all of our minds), and this is Beto’s fondest memory from that time.
“This is a short story, maybe a bit anticlimactic, but it’s one of my fondest, most personal memories of any interactions I may have had with Prince:
It was August 7, 2007. Grupo Fantasma opened for Prince and played the after-party for what I believe was the fourth of his 21 nights in London At the O2 Arena. After the full experience was over—our show, then his show, then the 2.5-hour after-party show—the magnitude of it all started to sink in, and I decided to step out to the bar and grab a beer. (There was no alcohol backstage—the rules when playing with the man.)
After a reasonable amount of time has passed, I make my way back to the green room, assuming Prince is gone by this point. We were sharing a green room: his band, my band, and even Prince, himself. With my beer in one hand, I reach the door to the green room and with the other hand reach for the keypad to unlock the door. To my surprise, it starts to open before I can key in a single number and instantly, standing right before me is Prince. I swing my pint-holding arm behind my back and say, Excuse me. But he doesn’t walk past. He steps closer and, to my shock, wants to talk. To me.
Now, up to that point, besides onstage interactions and brief exchanges at rehearsals, I’d never actually had a one-on-one conversation with him and it’s happening now, after one of the biggest shows of my life and I’m hiding a beer from him behind my back like a petulant teenager!
He opens with, “What did you think?” I say it was amazing and thank him for the opportunity. He says, “Now you can come back to London whenever you want.” Again I thank him. It’s really all that’s coming out of my mouth.
Then he says something, the implications of which are enough to instantly raise my heartbeat and make me want to scream. He says, “Now you just need to record some hits.”
In my mind this means recording with him, for him, on his record, on our record, any combination of which is beyond imagination. I really just want to yell for the rest of the band at that point and tell them we’re recording with Prince. But I consider my response and say, “Well, you’re the man who knows how to make hits.”
“One hit is easy,” he says. “Y’all can make 10.”
At that point I don’t think I said anything else. At least nothing else I committed to memory. I may have just stood there while he walked away. I told everyone what he said as soon as I could, and we were all beyond excited at the prospect of recording with him.
The evening ended up with us all, his band and ours, laughing and carrying on in the green room until late. Just like countless other times—except Prince sat in the room with us. Almost completely silent. Observing, I guess.
I felt like we’d made it. We were in. We were all one band at that point, his band and our band, and the possibilities were endless. It was one of the greatest nights of my life and the highest points of my career. I don’t even remember if I ever finished that pint.”
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