BLAINE: Would you say that thinking is the most difficult part of what you do?
MADONNA: No. Sleeping is the most difficult part of what I do, relaxing afterwards. Letting things go. Thinking isn’t something you think about. It comes naturally. Thinking involves many things. It involves being an observer. It involves analyzing things, taking in what’s around you in the world and finding how to make it inspire your work or turn it into a lesson to teach your children; it’s paying attention to details. That’s what thinking is: processing.
BLAINE: Which is why it’s important to have time.
MADONNA: We spoke about this earlier—setting aside time for prayer. The ritual of prayer isn’t a religious thing as much as it is having a ritualistic moment to acknowledge things and not take things for granted. For instance: the fact that you wake up and there’s air in your lungs; the fact that you have a job to do; the fact that you have friends; the fact that you have your health. You’re going to do something that’s going to bring you joy. We take these things for granted. And, you know, I think it’s important to call angels to you to protect you.
BLAINE: You have to explain that.
MADONNA: Well, that’s part of the ritualistic moment. The calling of angels.
BLAINE: What does that mean? What angels? Like, my angel is my mother.
MADONNA: Your mother is going to be with you regardless. There are other angels that exist besides your mother. My mother is protecting me, too. But she’s not the only one.
BLAINE: Would you say that your mother is part of the driving force behind you, a little bit?
MADONNA: Well, that’s another question. I’m sure that, to a certain extent, she is, but actually, her lack of presence would be the driving force.
BLAINE: She passed away when you were very young. Did it make you think that life is short?
MADONNA: I became very obsessed with death, and the idea that you never know when death will arrive, so one has to do as much as possible all the time to get the most out of life. That would be a motivating force. And death was a big part of my life growing up. I went to lots of funerals … But you digress. [laughs] We were talking about Henry Ford. We were thinking about thinking.
BLAINE: I’ve asked some of my favorite artist friends to come up with one question. Darren Aronofsky asked, “Do you think people are intrinsically good or evil?”
MADONNA: I think intrinsically good. Yeah. So there. [both laugh] We’re all good, intrinsically, just covered sometimes in filth and darkness, and our job is to get rid of it, to peel back the layers and reveal our goodness.
BLAINE: How did your early years in New York City around great artists influence the choices that you make in your art today?
MADONNA: I remember having conversations with Keith [Haring] and with Basquiat about the importance of your art being accessible to people. That was their big thing—it should be available to everyone. It was so important for Keith to be able to draw on subways and walls. And Basquiat used to say to me, “You’re so lucky that you make music, because music comes out of radios everywhere.” He thought that what I did was more pop, more connected to pop culture than what he did. Little did he know that his art would become pop culture. But it’s not like we really had discussions about the meaning of art. I remember hearing them talk about those things.
BLAINE: Did you hang out with them together?
MADONNA: Always. Martin Burgoyne, my roommate, who was also an artist, Keith Haring, and Basquiat. Sometimes Warhol would join us, but Warhol didn’t talk that much.
BLAINE: So you were surrounded by the best artists in the world. You were way ahead of your time.
MADONNA: Well, I survived. [laughs]
BLAINE: But you knew what was great before everybody else knew what was great.
MADONNA: I was attracted to creative people. You don’t want to be the smartest person in the room; you want to be the dumbest in the room. You want to be surrounded by other thinking people who are going to say something that makes you think, “Oh, my God, that’s an amazing idea. Why didn’t I think of that.” And somehow we found each other in Manhattan. That’s the crazy thing. We found each other and we connected to each other and we moved around the city together. They supported my shows. I supported their shows. We were a unit. And I don’t even know how it happened. It just did.