God Control is about US gun laws. What would you like to see enacted?
(Sternly) I would like guns to be illegal in America and I feel very strongly about that. And I think that what’s happening right now in America is just crazy. We have a President who’s consumed with building a wall between America and Mexico because he’s concerned for our safety, but he doesn’t seem to be concerned about how easy it is to buy a gun at a Walmart. An automatic weapon can be purchased in three days, if you are 18 and you have a driver’s licence and no criminal record. That’s really scary. He should be paying attention to that and not walls. I feel extremely passionate about this subject and I want to speak out about it. So I’m doing that in God Control.
Some people say, “But why a disco song?” Because shootings happen in discos! Nowhere is safe any more – places where we used to go to dance and escape and have fun… or pray, or go to school… No public gathering is safe. But I was struck, specifically, by the paradox of: go to have fun/go to get shot. I was thinking about Studio 54, because I caught the end of that wave – I moved to New York in 1979 so that was the last year that Studio 54 was sort of in existence before [co-founders] Ian [Schrager] and Steve [Ruben] got arrested. And so, just the idea that those kinds of places, that used to bring people together, are no longer safe, is a really scary thought to me. And sad. People feel like gods when they have guns in their hands.
There’s a song called Extreme Occident -another bonus track – that’s very much about your journey through fame. You sing an odd thing in it: “The thing that hurt me most was that I wasn’t lost.” Why ‘wasn’t’?
I’m saying that I’d been told I was lost, that I was confused and I didn’t really know what I was talking about. I paid for the things I said and did and spoke out against or fought for, and I listened to too many people telling me that I was wrong or that I should be quiet, that I should go away or that I didn’t know what I was talking about, or that I was making the wrong decisions. Too many voices of too many people convincing me that I was ‘lost’. And then I realised I wasn’t. So that hurt me because I realised I had wasted so much energy beating up on myself for no reason when I should have just listened to my voice and believed in myself.
It was a slow-dawning realisation?
Yes. It’s taken me years to realise that.
Twenty-one years ago when we last sat in a room together, you said to me that it hadn’t been much fun being a rebel.
Ha! Well, nothing’s changed.
But have you learned new tactics for survival in the public eye?
It’s not fun being bullied and beaten up on. It’s never fun being the outspoken person, but you know, I walk in the footsteps of giants. People who changed history and made the world a better place and fought for change all say the same thing: that they had to be willing to be unpopular and willing to speak up, even though everyone said, “Don’t do it, you might get in trouble”; “Don’t do it, you might get hurt” “Don’t do it. It’s a mistake.” But then like Martin Luther King said, you know, “If I don’t do it, I’ll never forgive myself – I might as well just toss it in right now.” And that’s how I feel.
You also told me 21 years ago that you remember your father telling you not to put your finger in a flame…
(Amused) A cigarette lighter, yes…
But you had to do it. Because otherwise you wouldn’t really know…
…that it would burn me…. Yep. And it did. Ha! That’s me. Still sticking my finger in the cigarette lighter. But hopefully for better reasons,