Bow down to two of pop’s biggest icons as Madonna and Katy Perry unapologetically demonstrate the power move that have taked them to the top. But millions of albums sold and the love of billions aren’t all the duo have in common. They rap about tour strategies, religious upbringings, and what it means to rule the world.
Madonna: Have you recovered from the photo shoot? Because I have a sore neck.
Katy Perry: I was sore in my upper body and my butt area from all that squatting.
Madonna: It’s good to be sore in your butt. My neck is sore from that wonderful moment when I was sucking on your heel. I kept thinking, How many bacteria do you think there are on the heel of a shoe? Then I thought, There’s no point. Do they have Purell mouthwash?
Katy Perry: Why don’t they have that? I feel like I want to live in a Purell world. This sounds very first-world problem, but we meet so many people a night on tour, and you never want to cancel a show because you caught a cold.
Madonna: Yeah. It’s something I think about. I load up on B12 shots and things like that.
Katy Perry: I actually have a B12 shot sitting outside my room, ready to jab me in the butt.
Madonna: I think you should learn to do it on your own, so you don’t have to deal with strangers coming into your dressing room. What you do is you just turn. I put my knee up on a chair and put all my weight onto the leg I’m not shooting it into and squeeze the fat together so that it goes into the fatty tissue.
Katy Perry: Right. Madonna and Katy Perry shoot up! Yeah!
Madonna: Let’s face it, the person who has the least amount of fun on tour is the artist. Because after the show everybody else can go out and party and not worry if they get a cold or whatever, but the artist has to go home and recover and prepare for the next one. So speaking of being on tour, it’s such a massive undertaking for me, but when I saw you the other day, you looked so chilled and relaxed and beautiful. A couple of weeks before my production rehearsals I look and feel like a truck ran me over.
Katy Perry: Oh, thank you, but I look like that now.
Madonna: (laughs) I want to know what your secret is. Because you didn’t look like that.
Katy Perry: Now I definitely look a little bit stressed. I’m actually sitting on the couch and I’m into my fourth day of production rehearsals. I’ve already ordered a doctor.
Madonna: (laughs) It is the ultimate immune destroyer, being on tour. Aside from long hours and dancing and singing, you’re also in places where it’s freezing cold or insanely hot or dry or the air-conditioning is crazy…
Katy Perry: Don’t do AC…
Madonna: I don’t either. It drives everybody insane.
Katy Perry: I’ve done some preventive stuff. I went to Chinese doctor about a year ago and all the vitamins I take are curated to my blood. And then the thing that I do that I really believe in is Transcedental Meditation.
Madonna: Really? I didn’t know that you meditated.
Katy Perry: Yeah. I do TM, and it saves my life.
Madonna: And you do it in morning or at night?
Katy Perry: I usually do it in morning. You’re supposed to do it twice, but I just wake up and plop right into it. The trick is to do it before you look at your phone, because once you look at your phone, you’re done.
Madonna: Yeah. Good idea. I used to do it, but I would sometimes fall back asleep.
Katy Perry: But that means you’re already exhausted. I feel a hundred times better when I do iy.
Madonna: Do you do two run-through a day?
Katy Perry: Not every day, if I’m being honest, but we definitely do one, and a lot of clean up.
Madonna: But you’re also doing a lot of tech stuff, so there’s probably a lot of stop and start.
Katy Perry: I’m doing lights. I’m doing video. I’m doing edits. I’m picking my next single.
Madonna: Oh my good. It’s too much. It’s just too much.
Katy Perry: Sometimes you wish you were a girl group, so you could delegate more, you know?
Madonna: Yeah. It’s kind of like being a single perent. (laughs)
Katy Perry: Yeah, I can imagine. You’ve got a lot of kids. They all have different attitudes.
Madonna: Oh yeah. We all went to see the New York City Ballet last night. It was fun to see my children’s reactions to ballet and the theater in general.
Katy Perry: Who liked it the most?
Madonna: Lola. She had ballet and dance training and could appreciate the discipline of everything.
Katy Perry: And I’m sure she has the understanding and the consciousness to really be able to love that kind of approach.
Madonna: Yeah. Totally. So getting back to the rehearsals and the process, the fact that you even have the patience to do the interview is amazing to me, because when I start doing rehearsals and my manager comes to me to stop for a photo shoot or an interview, I’m like, “Get out! Get out of here!”
Katy Perry: That’s what I did last night… I never said that in my life. I’ve never blown off Madonna.
Madonna: I get it. I’m sure you’re very involved with your lighting design and your rear-screen projections and the costumes. All of it is so time-consuming.
Katy Perry: Oh yeah. I’m picking the shoes for dancers!
Madonna: Of course you are. You have to. You can’t leave that up to other people, because then when you see them on stage and you don’t like them, it’s too late and you have no one to blame but yourself.
Katy Perry: Do you have little things that you carry around for protection? Like, I have crystals and little tchotchkes around my dressing room.
Madonna: Yes, I do. I carry 22 volumes of the Zohar with me everywhere.
Katy Perry: Oh wow.
Madonna: That’s one thing that I do. I’ve been studying Kabbalah for 18 years. And I feel like it protects me. So wherever I go and they set up my dressing room, I have a bookshelf with the Zohar. But I also take miniature copies of one of them and my crew guys tape them up inside of every lift and any mechanism that has potential to fail.
Katy Perry: Really ?
Madonna: Yes. I’m so superstitious and don’t trust stages. You know, people are human, they make mistakes sometimes. They don’t set things up properly. So I drive everyone insane, because if there are mechanisms and moving parts in the show, I make them test everything and show it to me during the sound checks.
Katy Perry: All the serials and stuff.
Madonna: Absolutely everything, and I drive people nuts. But, you know, that’s manifestation of OCD and just having things go wrong in the past and having people get hurt. I can’t afford that.
Katy Perry: I’m so OCD I want these letters in alphabetical order. C-D-O would be my preference.
Katy Perry: God is in the details. I really appreciate people being the best they can be in whatever field they’re in.
Madonna: Speaking of people who are the best. You have the best dresser. I love Tony.
Katy Perry: Oh, Tony! He’s such a great, hard worker. I don’t know if Lisa was ever on tour with you as well? Because he brought her.
Madonna: They’re a great team. I hope they’re both dressing you in your quick change. You’re in very good hands with those two.
Katy Perry: I love that that’s exactly what they do and I can yell at them and at the end of the night there are no hard feelings.
Madonna: They got thick skin. I’ve had some major temper tantrums in my dressing room.
Katy Perry: Having your flesh zipped up in your boots before you’re supposed to go act spritely on stage is the worst thing ever.
Madonna: Yes. So many things can go wrong. It’s all about the quick change. It’s kind of like in Formula One when the drivers stop and the crew takes the car apart and then puts it back together again. You better hope and pray that they do it in right order.
Katy Perry: That’s great analogy.
Madonna: Okay, who’s your director ? Do you work with the same person every time ?
Katy Perry: Yeah, I do. His name is Baz Halpin. He did Pink, Taylor Swift, Cher.
Madonna: Pink’s show was great.
Katy Perry: Amazing. That’s excruciatingly hard looking show. I don’t know how she does it.
Madonna: She’s a little toughie. She’s an athlete.
Katy Perry: When did you start dancing ?
Madonna: When I was in junior high. I’m sure that’s what saved me. My dance training and my super catholic upbringing. The combination of discipline and rigor and stick-to-the-plan and don’t be a flake.
Katy Perry: Are you always on time then ?
Madonna: No, no. Unfortunately. I expect everyone else to be, of course.
Katy Perry: Sure! I understand.
Madonna: But I’m only a few hours late. (laughs) I want to be on time. I try to be on time.
Katy Perry: There are many variables.
Madonna: Well, when you have four children, everything goes out of window. They slow me down enormously with their surprises. But in terms of my show, we got major aggro from my management for being late. But I have this set amount of time between sound check and the show. I need exactly three hours to get ready.
Katy Perry: That’s about as much time as I need. Even if you are a little bit late, it’s not like you’re sitting backstage drinking champagne and watching your favorite TV show.
Madonna: Right. I’m not partying. I’m not being frivolous or lazy. there’s no time to waste.
Katy Perry: Right.
Madonna: So… the thing about touring is that it’s the one thing left that nobody can mess with. People can download your music and you can make a video and create a whole new version of yourself, but when you get on tour, you have to pay your piper. When you go on stage, you have to do it, and there’s no faking. You could lip-synch, that’s true, but I feel like there’s something about live performance where it’s the one thing left for an artist that’s living on the edge and there’s no way to cheat it. It’s the one risk we’re still allowed to take. Do you feel like that too ?
Katy Perry: I feel like that’s where the true connection with music comes from. I still believe that you reap what you sow on tour. If you’re touring, you’re really planting personal seeds in the fans. I’m very one-on-one.
Madonna: Do you stop during your sets sometimes and talk to them ?
Katy Perry: Oh, yeah. There’s nothing more boring than an artist coming to a city and saying “Hi, City Center” and that’s the only thing they say. I like to go outside the palace walls, put on a hat, get on a bike. being a real observer and ingesting the vibe of a city so that when I walk on the stage I have something to say. Otherwise it feels like you’re just using the fans in some ways.
Madonna: Yeah, I think it’s super important. Does it bother you that you can’t just think about making music and being an artist? You have to think about branding and selling products as well?
Katy Perry: I am a healthy percentage left- and right- brained, so I can dream dreams and be very pragmatic and that has server me well. Everything has to pass through my eyes and my ears, but I think that’s why in a time of short-span pop-up careers I’ve had a longer one than most people would have bet on for me.
Madonna: If you get down to betting, no one’s going to bet on you. Unfortunately we don’t live in a world where people support or encourage longevity or people doing well. You have to manufacture that yourself.
Katy Perry: I’ve done things for creative reasons and also to make sure that I can have the type of tour that I want. I have to pay the bills, because there are a lot of them to pay. We’ve got over 120 people on this tour, not counting our openers. I always say, I’m the biggest domino and if I fall then everybody falls.
Madonna: It’s a huge responsibility, when you think about how it used to be and how it is now.
Katy Perry: It seems everybody expects so much transparency these days. Like when someone at the photo shoot was talking about Google contact lenses, I just thought, I’m never leaving my house when that thing comes out.
Madonna: It’s too much. I don’t want everybody to know where I am all of the time. I don’t understand people who say “I’m here now” and how they leave bread crumbs and say “I’m in the city and now I’m on the plane. Now I’ve landed.” Like, Okay, alright, stop telling everybody.
Katy Perry: We get it!
Madonna: I don’t want to see the inside of the plane you’re on.
Katy Perry: We live in a really self-important time. People want complete transparency, but I don’t think we understand that when we get it there are all kinds of faults that I don’t think we want to see. It’s weird saying this, because I like to be an encouragement and a light, but everyone is in a state of self-indulgence. I think it’s a by-product of social media. Everybody is encouraged to…
Madonna: …to just put their shit out there.
Katy Perry: Yeah. I’m at fault for it too, so it’s hard to even comment about it.
Madonna: We all are, to a certain extent. The internet is the greatest invention of all time. It’s incredibly helpful and you can start revolutions with it, but it’s also absolutely the most dangerous thing in the world. The same amount of darkness and the same amount of light are in the same place.
Katy Perry: All just made out of zeros and ones.
Madonna: (laughs) Okay, another question. Can you think of situations or people that inspire you or inspired you to begin with or that keep you going? It could be anyone from your parents to some artist or a teacher.
Katy Perry: An artist? Oooh.
Madonna: My big inspiration when I first started out was teachers. Teachers that believed in me, or painters, or writers, or people who don’t have anything to do with the business that I am in.
Katy Perry: I would say it would be the love of music that I had when I was really young. It was like finding another language. Music touched me, like I had someone that I could finally speak to like a therapist or a friend. It was finding solace in lyrics.
Madonna: So you found words…
Katy Perry: Words are so powerful to me. There was a real connectedness with lyrics, so I picked up a guitar at 13 and started writing my way then.
Madonna: So I imagine reading and writing were important to you when you were growing up. That method of transporting, transmuting, transmitting information.
Katy Perry: Reading and writing were important, but I didn’t have the formal education to continue that into the end of my teenage years, when things were supposed to be really developing. I was homeschooled sometimes. I was always being taken out of school. I was in quote-unquote Christian schools, which weren’t always focused on the education. I never really went to high school.
Madonna: You didn’t? You didn’t go to high school, but you were homeschooled to get your GED?
Katy Perry: Yeah, I only ever went to one semester of my freshman year of high school, but now more than ever I’m thirsty for education in any way, shape, or form that it comes. I’m soaking up information constantly. I want to know more. I never want to stop learning.
Madonna: I think you have to, in order to stay relevant and continue to be creative. I’m a big ballbuster about people reading and asking questions. I don’t see how there can be any other way. It’s about information and digging deeper and investigating. Pending back the layers. Speaking of Christianity. Like where it started or how it began.
Katy Perry: My dad is very Pentecostal and emotional and excited and dramatic with his preaching, but my mother studied at Berkeley and speaks French. The approach with her style was more educational, and I was always more drawn to that. I liked knowing the true hard facts, because it took more than just the idea of faith for me. I wanted more.
Madonna: There needs to be a balance of both, and I think that works in all areas of life. You need the heart and the brain to be married. At a certain point you have to have faith. You can’t explain everything. Some things are inexplicable. You need to intellectually understand things, and I think that’s a big problem with religion. The idea of religion and science. People feel like there has to be a separation.
Katy Perry: No. I wish they would be married.
Madonna: I agree. I think if they were married and if people did understand that there was an interface between religion and science, we wouldn’t be in the situations that we’re constantly in. Wars over religion. I believe that the evolution of our species can coexist with the story of Genesis, Adam and Eve.
Katy Perry: When people don’t know the facts, they feel inferior and get defensive. Then they react in a way where they’re more passionate about something they don’t understand.
Madonna: I agree. So are your parents supportive of your work?
Katy Perry: It’s very strange dichotomy. They love me and support me, of course. But I think they do a turn bit of a blind eye and don’t necessarily agree with everything I do. Thankfully we have come to a wonderful place of agreeing to disagree.
Madonna: Yeah, that’s where I am with my dad too. He spent many years just freaking out. Being a very traditional Italian Catholic father and not really understanding why I had to do the things I had to do. I would always say, “Dad, I’m an artist, I have to express myself. You don’t understand.” I think he finally come to terms with it. It’s only taken 30 years. He’s like, Do you have to simulate masturbation on the bed? Do you have to? Yes, Dad, I do.
Katy Perry:I haven’t gone that far yet, but maybe under your great mentorship I might reach that point.
Madonna: [laughs] Well, one doesn’t discover these things until becoming a parent. Now I have huge amounts of admiration, respect, and sympathy for my father. So the last question, which is kind of connected. Obviously you were the curator for Art for Freedom for a month, which I hugely appreciate. I don’t know how much of a dent it is making on the world, but I do believe that we are responsible as artists to not only reflect what’s going on in the world but also to shape it. I believe that wholeheartedly. Do you agree ?
Katy Perry: I do. I think that it’s something that you realize along the way. Sometimes that’s the initiative for becoming an artist, and then sometimes you are… what’s the word… a messenger, and you don’t even know it.
Madonna: You’re the channel.
Katy Perry: Yeah, you’re channeling and you’re not conscious of it and then suddenly you become conscious of it. I feel that my music is more on the inspiring-joyful-light front. Not light as in lighthearted, but bringing light to a dark world. I believe that we can offer light, love, inspiration, and equality through these songs.
Madonna: I think of all the art forms music is the most accessible and healing and universal.
Katy Perry: One hundred percent healing.
Madonna: Alright, let’s end on that note. The healing energy and capacity of music. Whilst looking at pictures of the heel of your shoe in my mouth. I love the paradox. I really enjoyed working with you on the photo shoot. People always expect when two divas get together that there might be weird vibes or a strange competitiveness, but this was nice and easy and fun.
Katy Perry: If you ever come to the show, there’s a little wink for you. I’m paying my dues!
Madonna: I’m looking forward to it.
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