Pat Leonard has co-written songs with Madonna (and Michael Jackson), he’s playing keyboards for her on this tour and leading her band. Max Bell spoke to him about pop’s favourite lady.
How much of the attention Madonna gets rubs off on you?
None of it. It doesn’t affect us at all. People don’t recognise us or care either. That can be frustrating. It’s difficult to read all the press and see all the praise Madonna receives and not be mentioned when I’ve done a lot with her in the last three years.
What were you doing previously?
This is my third tour ever. I began as musical director on the Jackson’s “Victory” tour. That was like winning a lottery until you actually got on it. Then during “The Virgin” tour I had a party at my home in Los Angeles and Madonna came. She went into my studio and heard some stuff she liked. That began our collaboration. In fact Madonna came up with a lyric on the spot — “Love Makes The World Go Round”. She listened to my piece and decided that was the song. We followed up with “Live To Tell” for Sean Penn’s picture. Madonna was going to help me write it for another film called “Fire With Fire” but that never took off. Madonna said it would be perfect for Sean’s film, “At Close Range”. I said, fine, go ahead. She left with the song and I went back to working in another studio with Michael Jackson where Sean called me up and asked me to come over and meet him, Madonna and the director right away. Madonna said “Who will we get to sing it”, which was kinda funny. I told her “you sing it”, but she didn’t want to. She thought it had to be sung by a man because it’s so low and unlike anything she’d attempted before. It didn’t stay an issue because she agreed.
With The Jacksons and Madonna, you don’t exactly work on turkeys. What else is in the pipeline?
I’ve done five songs on the new Bryan Ferry album. When that comes out is a mystery to all of us. Johnny Marr did two tracks for that. Then I co-produced and wrote a song with Dave Gilmour on the new Pink Floyd LP, “Just Another Movie”. I’ve co-written and produced the next Jody Watley single “Most Of All”. I did that with Gardner Cole who wrote “Open Your Heart”. After this tour I’m working with Kenny Loggins and an artist called Peter Cetera. Other than that it’s been a slow year.
What drew you to the attention of the Jacksons?
A friend of mine called Hawk Wolinski was offered the job but couldn’t do it. He recommended me. Randy Jackson liked my songs which helped. That was how I met Jai Winding. He and I hit it off and now we’re both with Madonna, so the “Victory” thing was a lucky break. Mind you after nine months of it I didn’t think it was so lucky. The Jacksons reolly kept us in total obscurity. They refused to let us talk to the press. We weren’t welcomed with open arms as individuals. Madonna isn’t like that.
Is Madonna interested in the Jacksons?
No, she’s a very focussed and self-contained person. She isn’t curious about people steeped in crazy controversy. Actually there has been some conflict. Michael Jackson wants to use this band you see. Madonna just gets to hear about the conflicts, which are all over the top, ridiculous.
How do you get on with Michael Jackson?
You don’t get on with Michael. You can’t get close enough. It’s not even him but the people around him who construct the barrier. They’re hired to do that. God knows by whom. Any quality time I spent with Michael was enjoyable. He’s a brilliant guy and I’ve enjoyed working with him. I worked at his house in Encino with him and Quincy Jones. We did that a couple of times and that was a religious experience. Amazing. To be in the room with those guys and just me. That was at the beginning of the new album “Bad”. I also heard new music he was doing during the “Victory” tour. We worked together in Denver for a while and he was coming up with great material which I thought was better than the new single.
What’s Madonna like to work with in the studio?
Easy, very nice. She’s got a good attitude.
Is she demanding?
Only when she’s not getting what she wants. It’s usually painless.
How does she cope with the myths surrounding her?
She’s not lightweight emotionally. It happens and she takes it in her stride. I didn’t even see her react badly to the nude photos in Penthouse and Playboy. The Marilyn Monroe comparisons as well, she has a defence mechanism when it gets crazy. She just says, they’re talking about someone else, that’s not me. There’s Madonna the person and the star Madonna, two different people. She’s very intelligent. I’ve seen her have tantrums but only like anyone else does.
What did you buy Madonna for her birthday?
My wife and the girls on the tour bought her a massage kit. Nothing fancy. It would be silly to go and spend a lot on a gift for her. No matter what you buy you can’t buy her the $50,000 jacket made from dog skin in Bulgaria. People go nuts buying her things you wouldn’t believe. You can imagine. I won’t go out and buy her an engraved gold net cover for her Mercedes. Why compete with that? So I gave her nothing. I gave her a card and a kiss on the cheek. That was about all I could do. Gifts are irrelevant. She didn’t give me anything for my birthday y’know. F*** her. (Laughs).