Interviewer: There seem to be a lot of references to your earlier records on it.
Madonna: Really? Please tell us which ones. We listened to a lot of other people’s records when we were making this – obviously Abba and Giorgio Moroder – so to me it’s more of an homage to other people’s records than mine. If there are references to earlier records it’s probably done unknowingly, part of our molecular structure, it comes out again and again, hopefully not too boringly and repetitive.
I couldn”t have made this record anywhere else but up here. Where you record is very important. It can’t be too nice, it can’t be too expensive, it can’t have a view to an ocean or a field. I”d rather be in a prison cell with Pro Tools. I don’t want to know what’s going on in the rest of the world. I want it to be exactly as it was when I wrote my first song. In a small space with hardly any frills, I want it always to be straightforward. I can’t deal with the pressure of how much things cost. Otherwise I think, “Oh God, I’ve got to turn out 12 number one hits to justify how much the space costs.”
Interviewer: If I heard that from anyone else I might believe it.
Madonna: What can I say? That’s how I think. I loved lying on that couch with my notebook writing stuff and then crawling over to do the vocals. Every vocal I did here we also tried somewhere else and it didn’t work. Other people who contributed to this record, we”d meet in this much larger, characterless space in Primrose Hill, and I would be totally missing the vibe that was necessary, and so I”d take what I did there and say “thank you very much”, and then run back here and say, ‘stuart, You’ve got to help me fix this. Help me”.
All the songs are to a lesser or greater extent biographical. “How High” is obviously asking the question, how important is fame and how much does it matter? And what really does matter?
Interviewer: These are questions you must have asked yourself for 20 years. Have you reached any conclusions?
Madonna: Sure, although my point of view and philosophy continues to change and grow. As the years go by you go through this evolution. You think, “Oh my God, having a song on the radio and being number one is the most important thing in the world”, and then that happens for a while and then you get the shit kicked out of you and you think, “I can’t deal with this”, and you go into introspection mode and then you come through the other side. You realise that having a number one record and being loved and adored isn”t the most important thing in the world. But at the same time, I don’t have a problem with it. What I’m trying to say is, I’m not a reluctant pop star. I’m very grateful and happy for everything that I have and for things when they go well. On the other hand, I’ve had enough of the other side to know that if it doesn”t, I will survive that and life goes on.
At the end of the day when I’m standing at the golden gates, I’m sure God doesn”t give a shit how many records I’ve sold or how many number one hits I’ve had. All he gives a shit about is how I behaved, how I treated people. So understanding that, and still doing my best making records, is the conclusion I’ve come to. I think about that more now than I used to.
Interviewer: Do things hurt you still? You’ve had…
Madonna: Anything and everything written about me. Honestly, I don’t read newspapers, magazines, whatever. They’re just not part of my lexicon. I don’t want to be manipulated, or manipulated about other people’s work. I don’t want to be told how I should think or how I should receive things, and even when you know that the press writes a lot of shit about people, you’re still tainted and influenced by it. I’m trying to remove that from my life. Also, I don’t want to see pictures of myself with sarcastic quotes underneath. Even if it just pinches me for 30 seconds, I don’t want it.
Before doing any interviews I like to know who I’m meeting with and get a bit of an idea of their sensibilities, so consequently I’ve read lots of reviews of my last tour, and all of them were really negative. They were, “Oh it’s not very good, not very exciting, not anywhere near as good as Blonde Ambition”, which I’m sure they slagged off. Now I couldn”t give a shit, but thank God I didn’t read it when I was on tour.
Interviewer: Elvis Costello said that the worst thing would be to read something by an influential critic and then let it affect what you do. So if they don’t like a particular direction you’re going in, you think, “Well, maybe I shouldn”t be doing it”. And then you realise: why on earth is this guy deciding my career path?
Madonna: Exactly. You have this inner struggle within yourself all the time, this pendulum that swings between you caring [what people think] and not caring. It’s not important, but on the other hand the media is something that affects a lot of people, so you’re constantly trying to strike a balance between respecting something and not caring about it. Let’s talk about economics: I know there’s a lot of competition in the world of magazines and newspapers and we have to make headlines and be sensational and sell, and saying bad things about me is going to sell more papers than writing good things about me.
Interviewer: But does it have an affect on you still?
Madonna: It used to have a huge effect, but I’m so used to people slagging me off. Since the beginning of my career I’ve been told I have no talent, I can’t sing and I’m a one-hit wonder. That was 22 years ago.
Interviewer: You really seemed to surprise people with your performance on Live8.
Madonna: Lots of people called me. I was kind of surprised. I mean, it wasn”t the first time I’ve ever done a show.
Stuart Price: It was the only time the backstage area cleared out to watch someone.