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.
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!