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Madonna Interview : Mixmag

Madonna - Mixmag / March 2000

The Further Adventures of Veronica Electronica

From sex dictator to ambient hippychick and beyond, Madonna rediscovers the joys of keeping it banging.
Today must be a quiet day for the hardy British paparazzi. Frozen and bored outside Sarm West recording studios on a sidestreet of London’s gracious Notting Hill, a pair of snappers are photographing anyone and evryone who presses the security buzzer. Specifically, they are photographing anyone male: the studio staff, couriers and, most desperately of all, me.
The reason is simple. Madonna is within, and we all know what Madonna is like, don’t we? Man-mad, that one. No doubt she’s pinioning each visitor to the floor and giving them a good seeing-to. Never mind her well-publicised relationship with Lock, Stock… director, Guy Ritchie. There is the lucrative possibility of a splash on tomorrow’s Sun (WHO’S MADS’ NEW BRIT-HUNK?) if a vaguely plausible picture can be obtained. Madonna standing within five feet of any unidentified man will do. After all these are the people who mostly make a living by photographing the famous getting in and out of cars.

So they snap away in hope outside Sarm’s big blue door at passers-by, curious binmen, wandering tramps and schoolboys on their way home. Because Madonna’s inside, and her fame is leaking out from under the door like fumes from a cartoon science experiment, distorting everything around it.

In the tabloid imagination – which is a more reckless, comical and lurid version of everyone else’s mindset — Madonna is locked in tlme. She’s frozen {like the song} at her moment of maximum fame and controversy, the period around the turn of the 90s which we can properly call the Conical Bra Years. The great William Orbit-assisted reinvention of 1998, when Madonna stopped trying to revive her 80s megapop blueprint and stepped into a far more interesting musical space, might as well not have happened. Her last and most fundamental image revision, when she shed the hard-edged sex tiger look in favour of a ringlets-and-hennah combination best described as ‘ambient hippychick’ was harder to ignore.
But the papers still long for the pointy-chested global sex dictator of ‘Erotica,’ who was photographed in her infamous Sex book getting it doggy-style from Vanilla Ice. They want the woman they can ogle through popart outrages or dodgy movie roles or a string of wildly erratic romances.

The problem is, that Madonna’s not here any more. And despite the fact that she’s just had her biqgest-selling album and singles in a decade, nobody quite knows where the new one is.

During the Conical Bra Years, Madonna achieved something nobody else had done before or since. In the live spectacular years from l985’s ‘Into The Groove’, where she truly hit her stride, to ‘Vogue’ and ‘Justify My Love’, she released a series of singles which staked out the rules of the following decade of music. The dancefloor would rule, and no pop music that did not acknowledge that fact would be viable.
Weirdly it there took until ‘Ray Of Light’ in 1998 for her to do something with this revolution in her own music. But it worked out in the end. Now Madonna makes expansive psychedelic dance pop with the likes of Orbit and Sasha, and her mixes come courtesy of BT, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Luke Stater, Orbital and Danny Tenaglia. During the ‘Ray Of Light’ sessions she even began using a new nickname, Veronica Electronica. For a while it was planned that this also be the name of a remix album. The record never materialised but the name could not be more Madonna.

Veronica, a Catholic saint, was the woman from Jerusalem who wiped Christ’s forehead with her veil while he hung on the cross, only to find the face imprinted with Jesus’ face and imbued with holy powers. Electronica you can work out for yourself. If we never have to hear her referred to as the Material Girl again, it will be worth it.

As Veronica Electronica, the girl who started out as an 80s dance diva has relocated herself back in the club world. Although it doesn’t get played out, ‘Ray Of Light’ became the stuff of Sunday afternoons and weeknights in, fitting in between the mix albums and the Jaxx and the Chemicals with its easy modernity. Even so, it comes as some surprise to learn that the magazine Madonna wants to talk to is Mixmag.
I’ve been on call for Madonna all day. The time of our scheduled meeting moves back and forth as if it’s being fixed by bookies instead of personal organisers, sometimes by as little as half an hour at a time. When you’re as famous as Madonna, your time is micromanaged. Apart from these minor scheduling issues and a request to “stay away from personal stuff”, the preamble is strangely uncomplicated and painless. I get the sense that, unlike lesser stars, she doesn’t feel the need to defend herself. Then again. it’s not as if anything anyone could write could harm her anyway.