Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"The Pleasure Principle" by Monte Moir/performed by Janet Jackson

ARTIST: Janet Jackson
SONG: "The Pleasure Principle"
WRITER: Monte Moir
ALBUM: Control on A&M Records
YEAR: 1986

I can't count the number of times I've referenced this song and accompanying music video in my life so far. This has been on my list of impossibly perfect songs since it was first released, and my appreciation for it has only grown over the years. Monte Moir would have been a legend for me if he had only written this one song and then retired. However, there are so many others . . . oh, and he also happens to be the keyboard player for a little band called The Original 7ven, formerly known as The Time. Yes, we're all cooler now.   

BA: Hello Monte! I’m so grateful for your participation here; your work has been so valuable to me, and I’m thrilled to be able ask you some questions about "The Pleasure Principle."

MM: Hello. Thanks for the interest.

BA: I’d like to personally thank you for making me a smarter person by way of this song. It introduces some incredible concepts while still maintaining a relatable message. It smacks of brilliance. I’d love to hear about your initial idea to take an element of Freudian psychology and build a pop song around it.

MM: It’s kind of funny how one arrives at things. I kept coming up with verse ideas. I didn’t have a “concept” or title for the song at first, which is not uncommon for me. As verses started to take shape, I had to step back and figure out what it was I was trying to say. I just stumbled into the title and Freudian concept and realized it fit. Lol. I’ve never concerned myself with the way a song comes about, as long as I get there.

BA: As everybody knows, Janet Jackson had a huge hit with this song. How did the collaboration with her come about?

MM: At the time I was working with my old band mates Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam at Flyte Tyme Productions and they were offered the Janet project, which I thought was pretty cool as she is a “Jackson.” I was asked to come up with a song or two. She had been on TV quite a bit and recorded a couple of albums but hadn’t reached the next level. Everyone from the label on down thought if things worked out right she definitely had it all there to become the great artist she is today.

BA: Was the song something you had written prior to working with Janet, or did you write it with her in mind?

MM: I wrote it with her in mind. I wasn’t sure of where it was going at first, other than I felt it needed to have an aggressive feel to it. I started playing around with a groove and the melody/lyrics came last.
BA: "The Pleasure Principle" has truly served as an anthem of female empowerment since its release. My praise for it in this regard is that, while the character is reclaiming some independence from her former partner, she is able to still be vulnerable in the process:
“I’m not here to feed your insecurities, I wanted you to love me”
Was it your intention to give her both qualities?
MM: It was intentional. Thanks for noticing. I usually attempt to swipe as broad of a brushstroke as possible in regard to telling a story and expressing as much emotion around it as I can, which can be tricky when you only have a set number of lines to do it. It was about being in a situation that was no longer working and that she no longer wants to be a part of. There was also the metaphor of riding in a limo in the relationship vs. her “meter running,” and taking a cab to leave. That sounds so 80's to me right now. Lol.
BA: Is this character based on someone in your own life?
MM: In form, it actually is. I should leave it at that. Most of what I do is personal. I mostly write from a place I really relate to. It was interesting and challenging for me in those days because at that time I was writing/producing for a lot of female R&B artists, so I was really attempting to write from that perspective.
BA: "The Pleasure Principle" is the only song on Janet’s album Control that wasn’t produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Did you track it at Flyte Tyme, or at a separate location?
MM: I did record it at Flyte Tyme. I remember having to record it fairly quickly as there were lot of projects going on and only one studio at the time.
BA: Musically, the song is a journey through several sections, and the album version comes in at just under five minutes long. That’s considered long by smash hit standards. Was this structure defined through the process of recording, or was it so from the time you wrote it?
MM: At the time I had a four track reel-to-reel at home where I demoed songs I wrote. I used the same structure as the demo.
BA: Dude, is that you playing that guitar solo?
MM: I wish. No, it’s Jeff Buchier. He’s a killer player up here in Minnesota. We’ve got a lot of great players here. I did play the rhythm guitar.
BA: (Minnesota seems to be nothing BUT amazing musicians, and I'm a big fan of most of them.) Anyway, who were some of your influences at that point?
MM: I’ve always listened to a lot of different music. If it’s a good song, it’s a good song. I don’t care where it comes from. I’m a huge Neil Young fan. Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jimmy Webb, Beatles, Elton John, The Police, Sade, Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Tower of Power, and Sly & The Family Stone, to mention a few. I’m not sure how those influences translated to the songs I was writing at that time. I was really just trying to keep up with what was going on in R&B, since most of what I was writing/producing was in that genre, at the time. Janet, Deniece Williams, Gladys Knight, Alexander O’Neal, Junior and Deja were some of the artists I was working with back then, as well as being an original member of The Time.

BA: What’s your favorite song right this minute?

MM: “Someone That I Used To Know” by Gotye

BA: I can’t thank you enough. It’s been wonderful to speak with you about your work. And congratulations on the new Original 7ven release, Condensate. It totally delivers.

MM: Thanks. I appreciate it. And I listened to a couple of your songs and just wanted to say you’ve really got a great voice. Best of luck with everything.

1 comment:

  1. Always my favorite JJ track. Just discovered a few minutes ago it was MM. Saw him (and The Time) not once but twice in 1996 in Santa Cruz. Brought it with REAL Oberheim Ob-8/X synths. Respect!