How the world’s biggest star was rescued by the dance music’s finest.
A soggy morning on an average street in West London. A dump of autumnal leaves sticks to the steps of the doorway of an otherwise unremarkable house. Around us the world battles to work through the grimneess as an imitating drizzle begins to fall and the doorbell sounds out the house’s owner.
This definitely isn’t LA. And it’s definitely not the Hamptons. Hell this isn’t even London’s impossibly posh Chelsea. For the best part of this year though, a living legend has wiaited on these steps, as wide-eyed passers-by stare in disbelief. Through the hallway, up the stepladder, and into the cramped attic, conversion is the studio that’s spawned the album that’s reinventing music’s most reinvented woman over again. At the corner is one of dance music’s most innovative producers and gifted DJs. A skinny, effervescently friendly guy from Reading called Stuart.
Under a batch of pseudonyms like Jacqes Lu Cont, Paper Faces, Thin White Duke, Les Rhythmes Digitales and Zoot Woman, Stuart’s been behind some of dance musics biggest moves and shakes. As plain old Stuart Price he’s conjured an album out of a pop music icon that could eclipse the sales of her LPs of her quarter-of-a-century-long career.
Madonna’s last album, ‘American Life’, limped out of the charts so lamely the critics figured her for a has-been. On her new album ‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’ she goes back to her dancefloor roots to coin one more pop dance gem. At 47, for the once chart-dominating erotic rebel and sex kitten (now mum and Kabbatah convert) this could be Madonna’s last chance to convince us of her sex icon status. It could even be the last album she dominates the charts with.
When you can work with any producer in the world, choosing a 28 year-old dance music nut from Reading is a nervy decision — especially on such a make-or-break album — but Madonna is certain she’s got the right man.
“Stuart is the perfect counterpoint to me because I make dance music and he’s a classically trained musician, who happens to be a DJ with excellent taste.” she told Mixmag. “The combination of our respective skills make for, in my opinion, the perfect music to make people get up and dance.”
‘Confessions..’ is unashamedly pop, but produced with a dancefloor in mind. Spliced together amid the mess and piles of records and machines in Stuart’s tiny studio it’s a return to her younger days, blagging DJ mates into recording her demos. Right now though, we’re sat on Stuart’s white couch sandwiched between a triangle of vintage synths to find out just what life’s really like inside the eye of the Madonna hurricane.
What’s your first memory of Madonna?
“I wasn’t really a fan when I was growing up. I was aware of her but the pop music I loved was stuff like The Pet Shop Boys and Erasure. Those were the people who made me go and get my first keyboard. My parents were both pianists and they taught me the musical bit but didn’t like the pop side of things. Madonna didn’t have any relevance to my life growing up.”
Have you ever told her that?
“Yeah, she knows. There was a point that I did start listening to her, roundabout ‘Justify My Love’ when it became obvious she was using these good producers and coming up with unique music.”
What do the world’s biggest pop star’s friends call her?
“Some people call her M but I just call her Madonna. Making the album was a very relaxed process. Normally she’d get round to mine around 3pm. At this time making a cup of tea is about the only thing I’ve managed to get done. Madonna on the other hand has been up all morning having meetings with her publishers, publicists and accountant, so by the time she gets to mine it’s like the end of her day. She hasn’t got time to waste so you get used to working fast You don’t fuck around.”