GM: Are you now more isolated in your home with a daughter?
Madonna: Oh, no. I’ve never been out as much. I’ve got play groups, I go to the Discovery Center, and I’ve been to Disneyland. Now I take walks in my neighborhood. I didn’t used to do that. It makes me feel a lot more like a human being.
GM: People have said this album is New Age-influenced.
Madonna: There is a trancey, dreamy quality to a lot of the production, and if that is how people define New Age, then that’s fine. But I never think of New Age music as having a point of view. I think it’s meant to creme the effect of you not thinking of anything in particular, and the last thing I want to do is make a record that makes people not think.
GM: Even if people don’t like you, they usually concede that you’ve got great taste. Where does it come from?
Madonna: From the Catholic church to just being in the dance world. Studying ballet and modern dance for years gave me a feeling for line and balance and symmetry. And all the music you dance to, anything from Aaron Copland to classical stuff. When I was dancing, I was completely steeped in the past — going to museums, hearing symphonic performances. I’ve lived at Lincoln Center. And before that, I was at the University of Michigan, and you can always count on a nice liberal arts college to have a cool film program. Pasolini, Visconti, De Sica, Fellini, Antonioni, all of the Italian neo-realists, the French cinema of Jean-Luc Godard and people like that totally influenced me. And when I got into the music business, I zoomed forward into present-day and got influenced by the aesthetics of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and that whole downtown art scene. And traveling around the world — North Africa, Morocco, Spain. All those things have given me a real education. But you have to be attracted to them in the first place. Then your tastes get honed over time.
GM: Do you think you could ever retire from being a pop celebrity?
Madonna: Weil, I could say I’d quit the business, but I’m sure they wouldn’t leave me alone. I could say I don’t want to make commercial records anymore, but it won’t be until I give Warner Brothers all the records I owe them.
GM: Is this record designed to put some distance between you and Madonna the hitmaker? Like some of the albums by Prince and George Michael?
Madonna: Believe me, there’s nothing so calculated. When I write music. I just write from my heart, and I don’t think about what my fans want to hear. I’m not thinking about flipping off my record company. None of that. I can’t be creative if I have those intentions.
GM: How do you think you’ll take it if this record isn’t ultimately a Thriller. If it doesn’t make team, an acceptable pop form?
Madonna: I’ll he fine because I made a record I wanted to make, and I’ve played it for people I respect, and they dig it. That’s all I need. I already have a lot of money, so it’s not a make-it-or-break-it situation. A crucial thing I realized was that if I’m constantly focused on the end product, then my life is gonna be like just a series of events where I was just focused on the end product. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to affect people with it. But if it doesn’t become a huge commercial success, my future is still there waiting for me.
GM: Whom do you consider your audience these days?
Madonna: I think maybe a bit of everything, but mostly my fans who grew up with me. I’d say a big part of my audience is the gay community, all the freaks.
GM: Now that you’re a mom, do you feel any less affinity with gay culture?
Madonna: No, all my daughter knows are queens! (Laughs.)
GM: One could say that through your more risque videos and the Sex book, you made lesbians — k.d. tang, Melissa Etheridge, even Ellen DeGenercs — safe for the mainstream.
Madonna: Did I help Ellen? She gave me a Macarena (teddy) bear for my daughter, who’s obsessed with the macarena. (More laughter.) If I did that, I am very happy to have done it.
GM: I would think that knowing what it was like to miss your mother, it would be very important for you to put aside your work regularly to be there for your child.
Madonna: Yeah, but it’s also important that my daughter have a happy mother. When I was in the desert shooting my video for “Frozen,” it was the first time I spent the night away from my daughter. I was incredibly angst-ridden, and then I thought, “I’m going to give my daughter a lot by being a creative person and being happy with what I’ve accomplished.” A lot of our parents are bitter that they gave up things so they could raise us, and then they took it out on us.