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Madonna Interview : Mixmag (March 2000)

Madonna - Mixmag / March 2000

The Further Adventures of Veronica Electronica

From sex dictator to ambient hippychick and beyond, Madonna rediscovers the joys of keeping it banging.
Today must be a quiet day for the hardy British paparazzi. Frozen and bored outside Sarm West recording studios on a sidestreet of London’s gracious Notting Hill, a pair of snappers are photographing anyone and evryone who presses the security buzzer. Specifically, they are photographing anyone male: the studio staff, couriers and, most desperately of all, me.
The reason is simple. Madonna is within, and we all know what Madonna is like, don’t we? Man-mad, that one. No doubt she’s pinioning each visitor to the floor and giving them a good seeing-to. Never mind her well-publicised relationship with Lock, Stock… director, Guy Ritchie. There is the lucrative possibility of a splash on tomorrow’s Sun (WHO’S MADS’ NEW BRIT-HUNK?) if a vaguely plausible picture can be obtained. Madonna standing within five feet of any unidentified man will do. After all these are the people who mostly make a living by photographing the famous getting in and out of cars.

So they snap away in hope outside Sarm’s big blue door at passers-by, curious binmen, wandering tramps and schoolboys on their way home. Because Madonna’s inside, and her fame is leaking out from under the door like fumes from a cartoon science experiment, distorting everything around it.

In the tabloid imagination – which is a more reckless, comical and lurid version of everyone else’s mindset — Madonna is locked in tlme. She’s frozen {like the song} at her moment of maximum fame and controversy, the period around the turn of the 90s which we can properly call the Conical Bra Years. The great William Orbit-assisted reinvention of 1998, when Madonna stopped trying to revive her 80s megapop blueprint and stepped into a far more interesting musical space, might as well not have happened. Her last and most fundamental image revision, when she shed the hard-edged sex tiger look in favour of a ringlets-and-hennah combination best described as ‘ambient hippychick’ was harder to ignore.
But the papers still long for the pointy-chested global sex dictator of ‘Erotica,’ who was photographed in her infamous Sex book getting it doggy-style from Vanilla Ice. They want the woman they can ogle through popart outrages or dodgy movie roles or a string of wildly erratic romances.

The problem is, that Madonna’s not here any more. And despite the fact that she’s just had her biqgest-selling album and singles in a decade, nobody quite knows where the new one is.

During the Conical Bra Years, Madonna achieved something nobody else had done before or since. In the live spectacular years from l985’s ‘Into The Groove’, where she truly hit her stride, to ‘Vogue’ and ‘Justify My Love’, she released a series of singles which staked out the rules of the following decade of music. The dancefloor would rule, and no pop music that did not acknowledge that fact would be viable.
Weirdly it there took until ‘Ray Of Light’ in 1998 for her to do something with this revolution in her own music. But it worked out in the end. Now Madonna makes expansive psychedelic dance pop with the likes of Orbit and Sasha, and her mixes come courtesy of BT, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Luke Stater, Orbital and Danny Tenaglia. During the ‘Ray Of Light’ sessions she even began using a new nickname, Veronica Electronica. For a while it was planned that this also be the name of a remix album. The record never materialised but the name could not be more Madonna.

Veronica, a Catholic saint, was the woman from Jerusalem who wiped Christ’s forehead with her veil while he hung on the cross, only to find the face imprinted with Jesus’ face and imbued with holy powers. Electronica you can work out for yourself. If we never have to hear her referred to as the Material Girl again, it will be worth it.

As Veronica Electronica, the girl who started out as an 80s dance diva has relocated herself back in the club world. Although it doesn’t get played out, ‘Ray Of Light’ became the stuff of Sunday afternoons and weeknights in, fitting in between the mix albums and the Jaxx and the Chemicals with its easy modernity. Even so, it comes as some surprise to learn that the magazine Madonna wants to talk to is Mixmag.
I’ve been on call for Madonna all day. The time of our scheduled meeting moves back and forth as if it’s being fixed by bookies instead of personal organisers, sometimes by as little as half an hour at a time. When you’re as famous as Madonna, your time is micromanaged. Apart from these minor scheduling issues and a request to “stay away from personal stuff”, the preamble is strangely uncomplicated and painless. I get the sense that, unlike lesser stars, she doesn’t feel the need to defend herself. Then again. it’s not as if anything anyone could write could harm her anyway.

It’s arranged that l will meet her at Sarm, where she’s been working on material for a future album with Mark ‘Spike’ Stent since Ociober: lt’s in the nature of Madonna’s work that the record’s other producer, William Orbit, is presently in Los Angeles but is still considered to be on the project.

In Sarms foyer I briefly meet Lourdes Ciccone, aged three, who wears a pink scarf and dark denim jacket. She plays with a dog and does an impersonation of Madonna’s famed publicist Liz Rosenberg which consists of sticking her tongue out before saying goodbye in English and French. Then I’m ushered up a spiral staircase to meet mom.

She doesn’t look famous. But then what does famous look like? Madonna wears black, smiles in a businesslike fashion and is neither as tiny as legend has it, nor especially tall. She does look 4l – a well-preserved 41, with toned shoulders, but fil all the same. Her skin has that Michelle Pfeiffer quality of minor wrinkles held at bay by sheer willpower, and the slight powderiness which arises when someone has worn a lot of make-up in their life for professional purposes (right now I don’t think she’s wearing any at all).

She has an impossibly tiny mobile phone plugged in her ear and a just-listened-to copy of the Mixmag/ffrr ‘EssentiaI Decade’ CD from January’s issue lying on the coffee table. It’s strange to imagine her listening to Quake, Sagat and System F.
Madonna’s body language is not promising. She wraps her arms around herself and hunches over; saying she’s so tired from singing all day that she can barely speak. But when I give her a promo CD of the new Orbital single, ‘Beached’, as a weedy sort of greeting-cum-ice-breaker, she perks up instantly.

“Oh right, is this the remixes?” she asks. “Are there extra tracks? Theres one? Oh, cool… I love Orbital. I love what they can do with sound.”
She likes remixes. She likes what people can do with sound. Shes got a cool mobile. She’s our kind of people.

So how dld we get from the Madonna who, in the early 90s, said “techno equals death” to the one who christiens herseif Veronica Electronica?

Well… death is the beginning of life, isn’t it?

What you meant was that electonic music was pretty much a dead end, wasn’t lt?

At the time I did, because it wasn’t soulful. It was dry and cold and it wasn’t fun. But over the years it evolved and I started to hear things in it that made me interested again. Also, there’s a difference between electronic music that’s just about technology and the kind of stuff I do, where it’s in the service of a song, or an idea. For instance, although many
people think of William as an upbeat dance producer, ‘Ray Of Light’ became quite an introspective, down record, but done in the dance style. This new one’s going to be far more up and banging, a real dance record.

You come from a clubbing background in New York, but it must be pretty hard for you to keep going out and experience dance music the way you’re suppose to, as a communal thing.

That’s true, but I don’t feel I miss much. I have a record company so people send me lots and lots of stuff. My DJ friend throws things my way, and my best friend (Ingrid Casares) owns a club, so she has access to DJs and remixes. She turns me on to what kids are really going for now. So I don’t feel I miss out on anything.
And I do go to Urban Outfitters every weekend to hear what’s really going on. I suppose I do miss the thing where you’re out on a dancefloor and you’re just one member of a big anonymous mass. I do miss that, a little. But dance music is in my molecular structure. The girls who work with me, we’re always dancing, in my house or my office or the kitchen. We play dance music all day – dance music is what I am. And if I can’t go out and have that experience in a club, than I’ll find a way to recreate it for myself in another way.

So what records are you caning right now?

What are we loving right now? (Thinks hard.) A great many things: I really like the soundtrack to The Beach – Orbital are on that, of course. Around the house we’re always dancing to Moby or Leftfield or Daft Punk, stuff like that. And Mr Scruff I love, that weird little album (‘Keep It Unreal’) that’s got so much personality. European or British dance music is by far the best in that area right now and I play it all the time. Trancey stuff, stuff with soul, anything with an idea and some spirit.
One of the guys I’m working with now, Mirwais, we’re always playing the record. He’s the future, Mirwais. I loved his demo and so naturally I immediatiely felt I had to have him on my record before anyone else heard him.

Madonna - Mixmag / March 2000

Who are you favourite DJ’s ?

There are a lot of them. I love, love Sasha (she pronounces his name the American way: Sar-sha). I like the way he approaches sound, as something you can move and change any way you want- Victor Calderone is great too. Have you heard Moby DJ at a party? He is damn good. I did a little work with Sasha here when I was working with William. We all got together but what we did never actually turned into a song, which is the danger of this way of working. So it’s in vaults and who knows what’s going to happen to it? He is very talented, though.
There are a lot of them. I love, love Sasha (she pronounces his name the American way: Sar-sha). I like the way he approaches sound, as something you can move and change any way you want- Victor Calderone is great too. Have you heard Moby DJ at a party? He is damn good. I did a little work with Sasha here when I was working with William. We all got together but what we did never actually turned into a song, which is the danger of this way of working. So it’s in vaults and who knows what’s going to happen to it? He is very talented, though.

London has become one of your homes now. Apart from your boyfriend Guy, what is it that you like so much about Britain? What brings you here?

What do you mean, what brings me here? This is the music capital of the world, isn’t it? All the music that I love comes from England, and all the producers and engineers that I like to work with. It seems natural and organic to come here. I did buy a house but I’m selling it because it’s not big enough. But I am renting a house, so I might as well be living here. I pay all my taxes and everything.

Do you like British telly?

I never watch “the telly.” Not at all. Is that strange? I don’t feel that I need to watch television in order to know popular culture inside out or anything. Also I really don’t have time because in my free moments I’m either with my daughter or working on music or running my record company or having a relationship. In the wee small hours of the night I’d rather watch a movie than turn on the television.

Do you feel less of a prisoner in England than you do elsewhere?

I feel a prisoner everywhere. I feel a prisoner of my body. Ha! No, actually my fans are a little persistent and irritating here. The fans are even more intense here. They’re not happy to stand outside the recording studio or my house, they have to follow me everywhere. I do sometimes stop them and say, “Look, can’t you see that if you really admire me like you say you do, you’ll at least respect my privacy? I’ll pose for pictures and sign autographs but do you have to follow me everywhere?” It bugs me.

Surely that goes with the territory. Do you ever feel bad that this may be the one time a Madonna fan actually gets to meet Madonna, and she’s telling them to f*ck off and leave her alone?

No, not at all. I do feel fuilty about that, ever. It’s my life. I shouldn’t be stalked everywhere I go. Sure, hang out by the recording studio, but don’t follow me everywhere, all day, every day – that doesn’t go with the territory.

You’ve got the Prodigy signed to your label. Are they pals of yours?

Oh yes. They just came down to the studio the other day. They are lovely young men.

Does Keith pinch your bum and that sort of thing?

Keith does not pinch my bum. I’m his boss! I’d slap his little face. Or maybe he just doesn’t fany my bum very much. Whatever. Our relationship is not like that, though. It’s actually quite professional. I love them, they are fun. We enjoy each other. they’re a bit of alright, innit? People do think they’re these naughty boys, but they’re not, they’re really smart and they have a great sense of style. They have mischievous side to them but they’re really sweet. We talk about music more than anything else.

How did you feel about the whole ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ carry-on?

I thought it was ridicilois. Loved the track, thought it was great, it’s not degrading to women and anyone who thinks it is needs to go get a sense of humour.

A lof of women will be surprised to hear you say that?

But I don’t think that record is degrading to women. First of all, a bitch is not necessarily a women. A bitch is a weak person, a bitch is a pussy, a bitch is a coward who rats their friends out. I do believe that the Prodigy are using the alng term in an ironic way. And I chose to enjoy it as such. So if you’re going to be a boring, humourless feminist then be one but leave me out of it.

Do you have decks in your house?

In the house in L.A., yes, and the one in New York. Not in Miami and not here, because I’m only renting.

Have you ever tried to DJ?

ME? God! Actually… (thinks a bit) actually yes – years and years ago, when I was dating Jellybean (John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez, who was the DJ at New York hip hop electro dive The Funhouse in the mid-80s and produced ‘Holiday’).
I’d go down the Funhouse and he’d let me take over the music sometimes. And of course nobody knew it was me – they were there for Jellybean and I wasn’t really knows, so it had to be on the QT. Jellybean had turntables in his living room, too, so I used to fool round with them as well. I wasn’t very good. Come to think of it, I do DJ every couple of years, just throwing records on at a party for instance, but I don’t try to mix.

So you were the erchetypal DJ’s girlfriend. What do you think is scarier, performing in front of 100 000 people or mixing records for 200 people?

What do you think? The one I don’t do well. It’s always more intimidating doing the thing you’re not familiar with. Getting up in front of all those people is a breeze. I try not to do the thing I’m not good at in front of people. What I do is, I go away and get good at it in private, and then I do it in public. That’s the story of my life.

Our conversation is interrupted twice by calls to her mobile. “I’m so sorry,” says Madonna, flipping open the cover of the phone and plugging in her earpiece again. “But L.A.’s just waken up. They think, Oh, it’s morning, let’s give Madonna a call. But it’s good to talk, right?”
Call one is from William Orbit, producer of ‘Ray Of Light’ and now ‘American Pie.’ Orbit is excited that his ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ has entered the UK top ten. He teases Madonna, saying she’s created a monster, but she replies that it’s quite the reverse: “You’re the one who’s created the monster, wouldn’t you agree?”
The next is from actor Rupert Everett, Madonna’s co-star in the upcoming movie The Next Best Thing. It is widely believed that the picture, directed by British veteran John Schlesinger, best known for marathon man and Midnight Cowboy, will break Madonna’s notorious run of bad films. Famously, she hasn’t made a decent movie since Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985, unless you count Evita (and who does?). The Next best Thing, though, sounds like something a little closer to home. “He was smart, handsome and single,” says the tagline. “When her biological clock was running out, he was… the next best thing.”
What it doesn’t say is that he’s not only smart, handsome and single, he’s also gay. Thus Rupert Everett once again gets to play the gay man who understands a straight woman more than any straight man could. And Madonna, whose brief relationship with Lordes’ father Carlos Leon led to him being christened ‘The Sperm Donor’, and whose affinity with gay men is legend, comes to play a woman who chooses her gay best friend as the father of her child.
For the moment, the best evidence of what The Next Best Thing will be like is the theme song, Madonna’s version of ‘American Pie.’ Happily, what could have been a terrible idea has unexpectedly turned into one of Madonna’s career high points, and one of her strongest singing performances. Orbit’s sqquirly acid house production meshes with the psychedelic lyric and Madonna transforms the song from a lament for the death of Buddy Holly into – why not? – a modern elegy for the American Dream. Like ‘Beautiful Stranger,’ it hints at a new role for Madonna’s music, taking the best of the poast and bringing it into the future. Now, when the world’s biggest star wants to record one of rock’s best known standards it comes out like a pulsing, abstract dance tune.

‘American Pie’ is a strange choice for you. Most people know it’s about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly but your version has developed a slight autobiographical flavour. There’s the line “I knew if I had my chance I could make those people dance,” like someone looking back on their career. And you are, after all, Miss American Pie yourself.

Maybe… it’s just those opening lines really. Although the song is about the day Buddy Holly died, what interested me was all the wird musical references it goes into, it’s kind of auto-biographical for America, maybe, and pop culture, so I suppose it does fit for me too.
There are certain songs that do get under your skin, there is something inexplicable about them – they remind you of your past, or your innocence, and as a singer you are drawn to do them but you can’t explain why. It was Rupert’s idea to record it. I always loved American Pie as a kid, ans I knew all the words even though I didn’t know what they meant.

What was the last thing you couldn’t afford to buy?

A house in England. They’re so expensive.

Madonna - Mixmag / March 2000

Come on. You could absolutely afford to buy any house in London.

Yeah, but I’m not gonna spend my life savings on some damp house! What is up with your real estate here? Eveeywhere is cold!

What’s the silliest thing you’ve bought?

I don’t buy silly things at all. Actually I don’t buy many things. If I buy something and regret it I always send it back. I never think, ‘Oh, it’s only money and I’Madonna, I can afford it.’ I’m far too puritanical to be like that. I abhor waste. I can’t stand having things lying abhor waste. I can’t stand having things lying around on purpose, or things in my closet that I don’ wear. Clothes I give to my nannies and assistants and friends instead. Every six months or so I have a clean-out-closet party. Everyone comes over and we get rid of stuff, and I am so relieved. I’ve got to make room for all the new frocks, don’t I?

You could always buy another house.

Yeah, and that’d be a waste too. I hate too much stuff. Also, I am always thinking, ‘Hmm, I think I’ll wear this item of clothing today,’ and I’ll look all over for it and then realise, shit, it’s in Miami or somewhere. So I call up and make them FedEx that shirt right to me.

In the early 90s you often said, “i’m being punished for having an opinion, for having a sex life, for being a woman who gets by without a man,” and so on. And most people thought, what is that punishment? She’s one of the most powerful women in the entertainment world, she’s rich, she’s got loads of houses, a string of men… did you honestly feel this was a period of punishment? Those were the years when you could do whatever you liked.

With hindsight it was mostly about the media and their attempts to undermine what I was doing. They presented me as someone who was only interested in advancing myself through publicity. That felt like punishment.

But the Sex book and the ‘Erotica’ album looked very much like that. How do you feel now about that time, when it felt like you were on every TV screen and front page?

(Carefully) I look back on it as a painful but incredibly growing experience. Everybody who interviews me, by the way, brings up that area of my life and says, “Do you regret it?” Well, no, no, I don’t regret anything. I embrace it as much as I do any other period of my life in retrospect, because I learned so much from it. Everything I have done has led me up to now. I wouldn’t change any of it. I am opinionated and strong-willed, and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions. I also still have loads of insecurity about my singing, my acting, my writing, being a mother. In everything I do, there are moments when I feel I’m not good enough. I have cynical and melancholic sides – I’m Italian, what can I say?

What makes you happy?

Hearing great music, spending time with my daughter, buying an excellent pair of shoes. Simple things.

What’s the worst thing about being Madonna?

That I can’t cook. Really. I feel very guilty about it because I’m Italian and we’re supposed to be able to do it instinctively. But I can’t, so I don’t try. But one of the good things about being me is that if you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to.

And the best thing?

You get to meet a lot of interesting people.

What’s your most treasured possession?

My daughter.

She’s not a thing.

But she is my most treasured possession. I intend to possess her, ha ha! For the rest of her life! You mean an inanimate object? I don’t really care for things, you know.

What’s your favourite journey?

The one I’m taking right now. I don’t think I’ve had it yet.

Do you ever wish you could talk to people without them knowing who you are?

I guess so, but I’m not really conscious of it. If they can’t get past the Famous Me then they’re missing out on me on whole different level.

What do you want most in life?

To finish my record. To get a pizza. And to get a good night’s sleep.

The interview winds down Madonna phones to check on Lourdes, then makes dinner arrangements at the sort iof restaurant I’ll never get near. Her tiredness has given way to mild fractiousness- When I ask her how came up with the name Veronica Electronica – reasong that nicknames are usually thing other people give us – she replies sharply that she did, of course. As if to say, Who do you think did, you dummy? Who do you think needs to make up names for me?
At the back of my mind, I’m surprised that the thought and opinions of the one-time global sex dictator were so comfortingly normal. She subscribes to all that modern conventional wisdom, such as, Everybody’s got to go on their own journey, Everything she’s done so far is what brought her to where she is today, so she wouldn’t change any of it. Her life is better than other people’s in some ways and worse in others. And so on.
Maybe it’s analysis, maybe it’s the pick’n’mix spiritual rebirth of ‘Ray Of Light,’ maybe she’s just over the whole convinction thing. But what else can you do except retreat, when you’ve revealed so much of yourself, even down to publishing a two-pahe black and white picture of your well-combed vagina breaking the surface of a swimming pool?
On the way out, I give her an envelope which was supposed to be my way of breaking the ice. It contains a list of dance acts that Mixmag staff thought Madonna might be interested in working with: Faithless, basement Jaxx, Future Shock, Armand Van Helden, Fergie for a long shot. And just like she did with Orbital CD, she suddenly livens up. “Danny Tenaglia… mmm-hmm… Sander Kleinenberg, Layo and Bushwacka, we’ll find out about them. Who are Cassius? Groovy French people? Oh, we like groovy French people.”
She runs through the list with a practised, enthusiastic eye, and I feel a little ashamed. Because the strangest thing about this woman is also the most obvious. It’s the one we still can’t accept, even though she’s been in this gamne for 16 years, sold millions of records and still holds herself to standards long abandoned by her contemporaries in the pop stratosphere. It’s this: she’s in it for the music.
I step out of Sarm and into a knot of fans who have materialised from nowhere. They’re giggling in the twilight, like they can’t believe they’re really here. Or that she is.

M people: Sasha
Mr Alexander Coe spills the beans on Madonna’s great lost trance epic
THE MAN Like Sasha has just returned from a diving holiday in Bora Bora and he suspects it might have changed his life. “I was floating off this reef with 20-odd black-tip sharks swimming round me,” he rhapsodies. “It was amazing. And the Manta Rays too. Big as an Audi, they are. They could fit you in their mouths.”
Luckily the rare ‘DJ-eating shark’ was away in its breeding grounds, leaving the lord of progressive trance to fill us in on his working relationship with Madonna.
Sasha fact: he used to play ‘Vogue’ in middle of his sets at the Hacienda, back in the day. “It was a fantastic record,” he says. “You heard it and you couldn’t help but be a bit of a fan.” So how did he come from playing her records in the ‘ironic’ slot to mixing them?
“It was William, really,” he says. “I signed a couple of William’s tracks to my Excession label. He was always one of my heroes, right back from when he was doing the ‘Strange cargo’ albums. The Guerilla progressive house sound was always a real inspiration to me, and lots of those ideas are surfacing again. Anyway, he sent those tracks over to Madonna as part of his demo package, and she liked them.
“So I got drafted in. It was really exciting to meet her – I told all my mated about it beforehand. She was such a calm, focused person, so in control of her environment.
She could have taken the Celine Dion route and gone for horrible ballads, but she really pushed herself.”
The result was a series of new versions – of ‘Substitute For Love,’ ‘Sky Fits heaven’ and ‘Ray Of Light’ – which relocated Madonna in the giant, rolling, ten-minute soundscapeland of ‘Xpander.’ By the time work began on the current record Sasha had been promoted to the small corps of producers making, rather than remaking, the music.
“She and William had cranked out lots and lots of stuff but it was mainly downbeat,” he says. “I wanted to do a real euphoric, 135bpm, classy trance record – I’d love to hear Madonna’s voice in that environment. She was in the room next door doing voice and the guy I work with, Charlie May, and I started work on this track next door. The reason it didn’t get finished was more a metter of time than anything. She and William had to finish vocals on the existing tracks. I was really pleased with it, though. I may use it myself or maybe we’ll get it onto a Madonna record in the end.”

M People: William Orbit
The English chap from Shoreditch who “didn’t reinvent Madonna at all”
THE MAN once knows as William Wainwright lives in a nice house in the woods north of Los Angeles, where bears will come to your window if you leave food around (this is not a good idea). A multi-tasker by nature, today he’s thinking about Madonna music, dealing with rising US interest in his classics-on-synths album ‘Pieces In A Modern Style,’ and mulling over the consequences of the recent Time Warner-AOL merger.
Madonna has already set up The Madonna Channel on AOL. Orbit is a Warners artist too. “There are some very, very interesting business thngs we’re about to do,” he says, “but I can’t tell you about them yet. I’m dead excited, though.” Quick, everybody – buy shares in williamorbit.com.
So, Mr Orbit, did you reinvent Madonna as the dance diva we always wished she was?
“I didn’t reinvent her at all,” he says. “She’s much, much more of a self-directed person than that. It was more that she produced me producing her. She turns me on to far more stuff than I do her. When we went to heaven to see The Aphen twin, that was her idea, not mine.”
The Madonna/Orbit connection predates ‘Ray Of Light’ by years – in 1990 he remixed ‘Justify My Love’ into a sexier-still electroid filth-fest. But it was ‘Ray Of Light’ which finally recording his ‘Strange Cargo’ series of ambient albums and remixing artists as diverse as Kraftwerk, The Shamen and Betty Boo. He attributes this to Madonna’s anything-goes approach to music, similar to his own.
“She is one of those artists who you really do not know which direction she’s going to go in next,” he says. “They’re the kind of people I like to work with. Beth Orton and Blur are the same – you go intro the studio with them and they have an idea, but that idea will change enourmously in the making. I prefer that to simply realising an idea that’s been prepared elsewhere, and I think Madonna does too.
“She brings an open attitude and a lot of broader knowledge. She’s a great conversationalist, very well-read – she can talk on any subject, from history to religion to art to pop culture, and she almost always tells you something you didn’t already know.”
In December, Mixmag noted that “‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ is hardly going to get Orbit’s name back in the charts.”
Sorry about that – it went into the charts at number two and clearly has a future as the Mixmag reader’s calm-down music of choice. Now Orbit has a “big, boshing, banging” pop album on the go. next he wants to work with US wear-rock stars like Korn and Limp Bizkit. “I enjoy the hard-rock aesthetic,” he says. “Arsehole rock! I reckon I can do that.”
And what’s his motto in life? “You’ve got to get into the groove. Without getting into a rut.”

M People: Mirwais
The French guy who provides vocoder psychodisco
Never accuse Madonna of following the flock. Instead of recruiting Daft Punk, Air or Cassius to add a dash of Francais to her album, she’s gone to the man they learnt their French tricks from.
Back in the late 1970s, Afghanistan-born Mirwais Ahmaezai formed a band called Taxi Girl. They tried to mix punk, disco and Kraftwerk-style electronics, but after initial success in France, they blew it all. Drugs were the problem – the drummer died of an overdose aged 20 and the singer was on heroin. “People liked us because we weren’t in it for the money,” says Mirwais. “And we proved that we weren’t in it for the money because we destroyed a brilliant future.”
After ten years in wilderness, making acoustic pop music with his ex-model girlfriend, Mirwais got into dance muisc in 1994. “The dance scene reminds me of punk,” he says. “It’s only less violent. At the end of the 70s, we were so bored of everything, we were suffocating. There was no teenage culture, like there is today. Music was the only way out, the only way to express yourself.”
His first UK release, ‘Disco Science’, sounds like Flat Eric at Studio 54 – a deep, acid-fuelled groove with a poppy vocoder melody over the top. It founds it’s way to Madonna via Stephane Sedanoui, the Parisian photographer who briefly went out with kylie Minogue, and directed Madonna’s Fever video. He also made the incredible sexy-geisha-in-psychedelic-orgy video for ‘Disco Science’.
“Madonna just picked up the phone and called me,” he says. “I was… very happy. She knows when she has to do something for herself. That was important for her, and for me. It wouldn’t have been the same if it was just a guy from record company.”
Mirwais is working on four tracks for her. “It’s surprising to myself working the most famous artist in the world. But in the studio you forger. She’s a simple, normal, sociable person, with a really good sense of humour.”

© Mixmag

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