It’s arranged that l will meet her at Sarm, where she’s been working on material for a future album with Mark ‘Spike’ Stent since Ociober: lt’s in the nature of Madonna’s work that the record’s other producer, William Orbit, is presently in Los Angeles but is still considered to be on the project.
In Sarms foyer I briefly meet Lourdes Ciccone, aged three, who wears a pink scarf and dark denim jacket. She plays with a dog and does an impersonation of Madonna’s famed publicist Liz Rosenberg which consists of sticking her tongue out before saying goodbye in English and French. Then I’m ushered up a spiral staircase to meet mom.
She doesn’t look famous. But then what does famous look like? Madonna wears black, smiles in a businesslike fashion and is neither as tiny as legend has it, nor especially tall. She does look 4l – a well-preserved 41, with toned shoulders, but fil all the same. Her skin has that Michelle Pfeiffer quality of minor wrinkles held at bay by sheer willpower, and the slight powderiness which arises when someone has worn a lot of make-up in their life for professional purposes (right now I don’t think she’s wearing any at all).
She has an impossibly tiny mobile phone plugged in her ear and a just-listened-to copy of the Mixmag/ffrr ‘EssentiaI Decade’ CD from January’s issue lying on the coffee table. It’s strange to imagine her listening to Quake, Sagat and System F.
Madonna’s body language is not promising. She wraps her arms around herself and hunches over; saying she’s so tired from singing all day that she can barely speak. But when I give her a promo CD of the new Orbital single, ‘Beached’, as a weedy sort of greeting-cum-ice-breaker, she perks up instantly.
“Oh right, is this the remixes?” she asks. “Are there extra tracks? Theres one? Oh, cool… I love Orbital. I love what they can do with sound.”
She likes remixes. She likes what people can do with sound. Shes got a cool mobile. She’s our kind of people.
So how dld we get from the Madonna who, in the early 90s, said “techno equals death” to the one who christiens herseif Veronica Electronica?
Well… death is the beginning of life, isn’t it?
What you meant was that electonic music was pretty much a dead end, wasn’t lt?
At the time I did, because it wasn’t soulful. It was dry and cold and it wasn’t fun. But over the years it evolved and I started to hear things in it that made me interested again. Also, there’s a difference between electronic music that’s just about technology and the kind of stuff I do, where it’s in the service of a song, or an idea. For instance, although many
people think of William as an upbeat dance producer, ‘Ray Of Light’ became quite an introspective, down record, but done in the dance style. This new one’s going to be far more up and banging, a real dance record.
You come from a clubbing background in New York, but it must be pretty hard for you to keep going out and experience dance music the way you’re suppose to, as a communal thing.
That’s true, but I don’t feel I miss much. I have a record company so people send me lots and lots of stuff. My DJ friend throws things my way, and my best friend (Ingrid Casares) owns a club, so she has access to DJs and remixes. She turns me on to what kids are really going for now. So I don’t feel I miss out on anything.
And I do go to Urban Outfitters every weekend to hear what’s really going on. I suppose I do miss the thing where you’re out on a dancefloor and you’re just one member of a big anonymous mass. I do miss that, a little. But dance music is in my molecular structure. The girls who work with me, we’re always dancing, in my house or my office or the kitchen. We play dance music all day – dance music is what I am. And if I can’t go out and have that experience in a club, than I’ll find a way to recreate it for myself in another way.
So what records are you caning right now?
What are we loving right now? (Thinks hard.) A great many things: I really like the soundtrack to The Beach – Orbital are on that, of course. Around the house we’re always dancing to Moby or Leftfield or Daft Punk, stuff like that. And Mr Scruff I love, that weird little album (‘Keep It Unreal’) that’s got so much personality. European or British dance music is by far the best in that area right now and I play it all the time. Trancey stuff, stuff with soul, anything with an idea and some spirit.
One of the guys I’m working with now, Mirwais, we’re always playing the record. He’s the future, Mirwais. I loved his demo and so naturally I immediatiely felt I had to have him on my record before anyone else heard him.