June 08, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Asking Prince for a clear-cut answer to your questions about his world is like doing a random Web search: You might get lost, but you’ll wind up someplace interesting. The Purple One talked to EWi about his ambitious, recently launched subscription service, NPG (for New Power Generation) Music Club (npgmusicclub.com), and suggested that the digital music revolution has something to do with a mystical energy, the Bible, and the government. What’s it mean? Who cares: Online or off, the guy knows how to throw a party, as members of the NPG club will soon see. Video and music from a weeklong fete at his Minneapolis Paisley Park studios — called The Celebration, it runs June 11-17 and will host at least three Prince concerts — will be posted on the site, along with sneaks from his upcoming album, ”The Rainbow Children.”

During our interview in L.A., Prince, 43 — in oversize sweater and high-heel boots — explained how his site might redefine, well, the entire music business. ”You got all these big guys, all these industry heads running around trying to figure out what to do,” he said, ”and we’re up and running. We got it already.” Here’s our best shot at decoding Prince’s digital wisdom.

U R THE MIDDLEMAN The NPG Music Club is covered in purple prose — send ”emale” and download ”ahdio” files — and offers MP3 singles and Prince-programmed radio shows. It’s a one-stop Prince shop; no need for a pesky record label. ”In a utopian world, all artists would have their own geography in cyberspace,” says the artist again known as Prince. ”There’s going to be a new world order.”

DICK CHENEY CAN LAUNCH YOUR CAREER Unknown bands can’t draw cash-clasping hordes (NPG ”fams” pay $7.77 a month), but Prince insists that every undiscovered Erykah Badu should have a ”geography” like his. ”Maybe,” he says, ”the government sets them up. Maybe it’s a place for the government to step in.”

LEAVE YOUR PALM AT THE DOOR Prince surfs the Web for juice on the bicameral mind (the theory that consciousness is a learned process), but he’s no technogeek. He talks about how people would rather look at computers than each other and, with a twisted-face expression of disgust, he recounts a visit to a nightclub: ”I went into the joint and everybody in the place was looking down at their Palm Pilot.” Creepy, thought Prince.

NAPSTER’S GOOD. NO, WAIT — NAPSTER’S BAD In a go-Napster move in April, Prince released a single, ”The Work — Pt. 1,” into the file-swapping maw. So Napster and the royal renegade have lots in common, right? Subverting the system, cutting out the labels? Says Prince, scoffing, ”Come now. I’d always been talking about this.” He’s unimpressed with the newcomer and dismisses MP3 snatchers as thieves. ”How would you feel if somebody took the TV out of your home and then said you gotta go to their house and pay them to watch the Super Bowl?” Um, we’d feel confused?

TO FIND THE FUTURE OF E-MUSIC, FOLLOW ”THE ENERGY” Digital singles, parties on the Net — what’s next? Prince puts his trust in higher powers: ”Ever since I started reading the Bible, I’ve been tuned into the Energy. Following it from one person to the next. Like if [singer] D’Angelo wants me to meet somebody, I flow with it.” And wherever the Energy takes him, he’ll wind up someplace interesting.

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