An automatic thing?
“Self-doubt? Yeah, for me it is.”
Apart from music, there’s the movie career (which, so far, can be most politely described as chequered, although Evita may change all that) and her record company Maverick, which, she insists, strives to maintain autonomy from its parent company Warners. This latter venture, she frankly admits, is only just beginning to prosper.
“We’ve wasted a let of money,” she says, rolling her eyes, “but that’s the way it goes, you learn from your mistakes.”
The Maverick acts Madonna seems most proud of are Alanis Morissette and R&B chanteuse Me’Shelle NdegeOcello. But since its inception Maverick has fought and lost big bucks bidding wars, and failed to lure the likes of Hole, Rage Against The Machine and, most recently, Echobelly.
You seem quite interested in British acts.
She smiles “Well, most of the artists I really like are British. Like… Well, Bjork’s not British but that where she emerged.
She’s an original, completely unique, adorable. I can’t put my finger on what she’s got and that’s probably a good thing. She’s just one of a kind, incredible. I love PJ Harvey, too, I think her lyrics are brilliant. She’s real tortured and I’m drawn to people who are tortured. I’m a huge fan of hers and of Sinead’s. I’m a big fan of all tortured female artists.”
Part of Madonna’s notoriety springs from the fact that, unusually for a mainstream pop star, she has a big ‘rock’ mouth. Personality-wise, she has far more in common with ballsy, outspoken rock women like Christie Hynde, Janis Joplin and Patti Smith than the gutless, homogenised likes of Whitney and Mariah. While this is due, in part, to her desire to stand out (she is the archetypal attention junkie, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Madonna stood up to be counted on many Issues (sexual empowerment/the Church/AIDS) long before Middle America slapped on a red ribbon and stopped pretending it had a headache every bedtime.
Not least, Madonna has made fag haggery something of a political statement. The world asks – is she really a bisexual? But far more interesting is the fact that, even if she isn’t, she openly delights in her icon status, despite the fact that this is still tantamount to career suicide in many areas of the States. No wonder most gays worth their salt would commit hari-kari on the points of her coned bras if she asked them to.
Why don’t other successful women in pop – the Whitneys and Mariahs – speak out for the things they believe in?
“Well, pop is short for popular and to remain popular you can’t have a point of view or be outspoken. To remain popular you can’t go against the grain. Janis Joplin, at this time, in this world would not be a popular artist. Chrissie Hynde does not sell as many records as somebody like Mariah Carey. And that’s because Manah Carey and Whitney Houston don’t have a f**ing point of view.”
Whitney had one about you, didn’t she – she said that she’d kill her children if they turned out like you.
Madonna arches her brows coolly. “I’ve never heard either of them say anything horrible about me. But if they have, it’s completely transparent why. It would be based on jealousy of the fact that I have a point of view. I think that its an artist’s responsibility to have a point of view. Society takes its cue from popular art. People need something to look to, something to provoke them into questioning whether they completely hate something or completely love something. Perhaps somebody like Mariah Carey wishes she could make that happen. On the other hand,” she smiles nastily, “if you’re not terribly bright I suppose that you don’t really give a damn.”
You’ve said that certain of the next generation of female artists, in particular Courtney Love. have denounced you only because. “they want their independence… like a child does from a parent”. Why should they see you as this Big Bad Momma figure?
“Because I paved the way for them, I absolutely paved the way for people like Courtney Love and Liz Phair. Just as Debbie Harry paved the way for me.”
Did you ever denounce Debbie Hurry?
“No. But I’m not a drug addict and I don’t hate myself.”
Madonna sighs. “At that particular time the whole alternative scene, the Generation X scene was saying. ‘F*** success, f*** the ’80s, f*** people who are making money, f*** the establishment! But in the end it’s completely false. Courtney is not anti-establishment at all. She’s got her Charles Jourdin shoes on, she goes shopping at Prada. Its all bullshit but it sounds good.”
One would have thought that Courtney of all people would have felt some kind of empathy with you?
“Yeah, but Courtney is such a miserable person. When I met her, when I was trying to sign her, she spent the whole tame slagging off her husband. She was saying, ‘Oh. Hole are so much better than Nirvana’ and just going off on a tangent. She just loves to hear herself talk. She doesn’t even mean half the things she says, she’s just incredibly competitive with people and anybody who’s successful she’s going to slag off. That’s all there is to it.”
Were you irritated by her comments about you being a vampire who would bleed her dry?
“Absolutely! Because she was the one who was calling me up at 3am going off on all these tangents about how women have to stick together and how she really admired and respected me for all I’d been through. Then she turns around and says all these things and I’m like, ‘My God! This woman is completely Insane!'”
Have you any sympathy for the way things have gone for her?
Madonna ponders for a moment. “Do I have sympathy for Courtney?… I suppose I feel bad that she’s lost somebody that she obviously loved, but it’s not like it was a great surprise to anybody. When you take that many drugs it’s only a matter of time, you know what I mean? And let’s face it, she’s where she a because she put herself there. She’s not a victim. Everything that’s happening to her she’s brought on herself. So, it’s quite difficult for me to feel sorry for her.”
You feel that she could have carried herself with a bit more…