Like her mum, then? You’ve always been accused of being a control freak.
What artist isn’t a control freak? If you are doing a lot of things, you learn to let go of control in many details. I keep my eye on things and make sure that people who know what I want are staying in the room after I leave, because I can’t take care of every little detail.”
And, forgive me, an explosive temper?
“I used to have an explosive temper – I named my production company Semtex after French producer Mirwais, who I worked with on many records. gave me the idea. He used to call me ‘Semtex girl’ because I used to go to the recording studio and explode. I don’t explode in that way now but I have a dynamic personality.”
You’re going on tour in August and turning 50. How do you feel about that birthday?
“Not only does society suffer front racism and sexism it also suffers from ageism. Once you reach a certain age you’re not allowed to be adventurous, you’re not allowed to be sexual. I mean, is there a rule? Are you supposed to just die? I’ve never been conformist.”
Is it important to be defined as a strong woman?
“I don’t think strength is gender specific. I know a lot of strong men and women, and I know a lot of weak men and women. I think that most people underestimate their own strength and don’t really tap into the reserves that they actually embody, to be able to know that it is there and to not abuse it and to use it in the right places.”
How do you mean?
“Well, sometime, what we define as strength is not strength. Sometimes to be strong is to do nothing and site versa. Sometimes to do too much but to use your strength is weakness, so there is a contradiction there, but I do admire people who have emotional and mental strength, and use it wisely.”
Do you still hanker after an acting career?
“Absolutely not, because now I’ve tasted directing. It’s like Eve and the apple. I have to have a second bite. If you’re an actress, its not your vision. The director tells the story, you are the chess piece that is moved around. That doesn’t suit my personality.”
Your documentary is very moving. Did you ever shed any tears yourself?
“Yep, I cried during the movie, seen it a thousand times and I still cry. In fact, I’m a big cry baby – actually cry all the time.”
Did your own experience with HIV/AIDS sufferers in your early years in New York influence your interest?
“Well, going to Africa was like experiencing it all over again. I remember being in Manhattan in the early 1980s and meeting one of my friends who was HIV-positive. We didn’t know what it was then. He was a musician, and suddenly he was wasting away and nobody understood what was going on. Then more and more people got sick, and there was this realisation that it was a disease and they finally put a name on it. Back then, the gay community was marginalised and ostracised, and the disease was stigmatised. To watch that happen to so many people I loved, and to watch them die and feel helpless to do anything had an enormous influence on my life.
How has your humanitarian work changed you?
“You cannot be unchanged by it. I went there [to Africa] thinking that they had it so bad and that we had to come to their rescue and, partly, that is true. But at the same time – and this is the irony of it all – we are all messed up in the West. We all have so much, yet everyone’s complaining and everyone’s depressed because their lives are in a state of chaos. You start to put things into perspective in realizing that having a lot doesn’t necessarily mean you will be happy…”
Do you prefer making movies to music?
“Yes, because you have more time to tell a story. You have an hour and a half or two to save the world.”
Are there any writing or directing projects on the go?
“Yeah. I am writing a script but I’m not giving away what the movie is about.”
What do you still have to achieve?
“Well. I’d like to become a better human being. I’d like to learn more than I already know. I’d like to be a better parent. I still have my children to raise and that is a big responsibility. I’m not done with that. I’d also like to write and direct more films. I’ve only done one, so to me that is the beginning of that career. And I want to make more records because I love music.”