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Madonna Interview : Pitchfork

Pitchfork: It’s cool to hear you talk about your days in New York City in the early ‘80s on that song. I was thinking about you and that era when I saw a recent show of artist Greer Lankton’s work here in the city and there were these photos of people like David Wojnarowicz and Keith Haring, all of these major downtown people.

M: All of whom are no longer with us. [sighs] Don’t even get me started…

Pitchfork: It’s interesting to see how often you pop up as part of that scene—in Danceteria flyers, in David Wojnarowicz’s biography, photos of you and Keith. Do you feel nostalgia for that time?

M: Yes, I do, especially now. I think about Keith coming over and saying, “I heard you are doing a show at the Paradise Garage, I want to paint a costume for you. What are you wearing? Can I just paint on it?” And I’m like “Yes! For sure!” Or then to have Basquiat and Warhol come to the show and then everyone goes out afterwards and just talks about art. Or to go to Basquiat’s gallery and see his work and talk about it. I can’t even explain what an amazing time that was for all of us. We were all excited about each other’s work and jealous of each other’s work and cheering each other on. It was the beginning of something truly amazing—and then suddenly everyone died. All these amazing people just wiped out almost all at once.

Madonna - Pitchfork Magazine / March 02 2015

Now I think about how artists come up and, well, there is no community, really. There’s social networking, but it’s not real connection between people. It just feels like pop culture is very separate from the art world now, whereas before they used to be one and the same.

Pitchfork: You don’t strike me as someone who trades in nostalgia.

M: No, but it feels like the right time to look back. You know, I got to hang out with William Burroughs. It’s crazy. I got to meet some amazing people, and those kinds of characters—that kind of art—just don’t exist anymore. Well, I’m sure it does, but it just doesn’t seem to be a part of youth culture. When I think about popular culture now, I can’t help but think that we’re living in the age of loneliness. There’s this illusion that we all have instant access to each other, but we actually have no real connection. You’re just…

Pitchfork: …alone at home staring at your phone.

M: Yes! Just think about a time when you actually had to leave your house and go get on the train and see somebody in person to interact with them. You had to go to their studio. You had these visceral experiences with people that actually involved a certain amount of planning and physical interaction, and those interactions have so much to do with the building of one’s character. I fear that we are getting further and further away from that. Also, I have teenaged children and I’m really seeing the world through their eyes. I’m thinking, “What a drag that they don’t really get to experience that.”

Pitchfork: What has inspired you recently in the realm of pop music?

M: To be honest, pop music isn’t exciting me too much right now. I mean, do you consider James Blake pop music? I love his music, some of his songs just kill me. He’s a great songwriter. It’s the kind of thing that makes me jealous, like, “Oh! I wish I’d made that!”

Pitchfork: You’ve talked about how having kids is like the best A&R, because they keep you up to date on what’s happening in the world.

M: Oh yeah, they’ve certainly turned me on to lots of great music.

Pitchfork: Are they harsh critics as well?

M: Yes. They’re like, “Please, Mom, no. Please stop. Oh, here she goes again…” And then I say, “Shut up, this is paying the bills!” [laughs]