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Tickle Torture talks Prince: 'He’s the constant purple fire lit under my ass'

Tickle Torture

Tickle Torture Swim Agency

Editor's note: Earlier this month, Twin Cities/L.A. electro-sex force Tickle Torture and collaborator Velvet Negroni dropped a musical love letter to Prince, the amorously funky song/video "Full Court Press." We reached out to Tickle Torture (aka Uncle Tickle aka Elliott Kozel) to ask how Prince inspired him as an artist. Here's what he had to say.

City Pages: What does Prince mean to you? 

Uncle Tickle: Well, there’s the obvious: He taught me a lot about music. 

Things like, it’s OK to let a pop song have a four-minute jam out section at the end, and it’s OK to sneak the phrase [in a CB radio voice] “He’s definitely masturbating” somewhere in there. 

He taught me it’s OK to have a pop song with no bass line at all and people will still dance to it if the song itself is so dope no one even notices. ("When Doves Cry" is one of the many songs that makes me cry -- I really like to bring up what songs make me cry on first dates with girls and try to get them to tell me which songs make them cry; it gets a mixed response.) And it’s OK to have a “pop” song that makes no sense at all and is a total mess of scratching, sampling, and slap bass and it can go to No. 1 as long as it’s in a Batman movie.

But aside from all the music, mostly Prince is one of the many towering figures I keep in the back of my mind that, at least once a week, peeks out to remind me that my life accomplishments, in comparison, have been completely useless, boring, and insignificant. He’s the constant purple fire lit under my ass burning beneath me as I sweat to catch up to his 39-studio-album discography. Just 38 to go, Uncle Tickle LOLOLOL.

He’s the eccentric ghost that haunts my mind in high heels and a black thong, chasing me down a smoky sewered '80s alleyway with a phallic Flying V guitar spraying confetti on me that only reminds me of my mortality. His life’s work is more fuel for the anxiety that I wake up with every few nights, whispering in my brain to make more, make more, make more, make more.

For me, creating music is like bailing water out of the sinking rowboat of my mind, and Prince and David Bowie are standing at the helm yelling orders to keep bailing. A lot of people say you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, but I think that’s bullshit. I think it’s supposed to be used as a self-motivational tool, and if my brain is wired with this anxiety, I might as well try to use the energy in some positive way. You think Prince wasn’t working his ass off to beat Michael Jackson for '80s pop supremacy?

Well, in any case, they’re gone now, so I’m gonna do my best to fight in the sub-underground for weirdo-sex-pop supremacy in 2016, 2017, 2018, and as long as this body will go. The thing about me and my rowboat is this: I realized long ago that I have no option but to keep bailing water, even if no one is watching.