Pitchfork: Two of your children are from Malawi, and I think it’s important to acknowledge the work you continue to do there.
M: Yes. My work there gives me a sense of purpose that I never really had before—it gives me a lot of joy, and it would be wonderful to invite other people to get involved. You witness extreme suffering but also extreme joy. I know it’s a cliche, but it really puts everything else in perspective. You just have to pour yourself a great big glass of “shut the fuck up” because you realize that you literally can’t complain about anything.
I love taking my kids there because not only does it stop them from ever complaining, it lets them become adults and takes them out of their comfort zone and they get to do this amazing work to help people. Being able to step outside of yourself in order to help someone else is why we’re all here, it’s what we should all be doing if we can. I don’t talk about this too much because I’m not in it so people can pat me on the back. Even when the former president there was trying to run me out of the country when we were trying to build schools and hospitals, it never stopped me, because I do this for love. It’s as important as anything I have ever done.
Pitchfork: You also really advocated for gay people—and talked openly about AIDS—at a time when not a lot of people were willing to do so.
Pitchfork: I appreciate that you’ve been so supportive of my people.
M: [laughs] Your people? My people.
Pitchfork: Are you surprised by how radically things have changed, particularly in respect to things like gay marriage?
M: Well, it’s about time. I’m not surprised really. There are too many powerful, intelligent voices in the gay community for things not to change. So, I’m happy and I’m relieved. I feel vindicated.
Pitchfork: In preparation for this interview, I spent a lot of time watching lots of YouTube videos of your past performances…
M: Oh god, you must be so sick of me.
Pitchfork: Are you still excited about being on stage in front of people?
M: Yeah. I like coming up with these spectacular extravaganzas that will, hopefully, totally blow people away. But I also like the intimacy of stopping it all and sitting at the edge of the stage and connecting with individual people in the audience. Actually, I quite like the idea doing a different kind of tour—and don’t get any ideas because this is not gonna happen right now—where I would sing songs and play guitar and just have maybe one other musician out there with me; it’s just me and a guitar and a good bottle of wine. I could talk in between each song and tell stories, or do some of my stand-up comedy, which I’m actually quite good at. I love it when I see a stand-up comedian have some amazing back-and-forth dealing with a heckler in the audience. I could really have a field day with something like that. I don’t think you understand how funny I am—I mean, maybe not right now, but in general. I do some of my best stand-up comedy during sound checks.
Pitchfork: I always thought it might be frustrating how big stadium shows don’t allow for much spontaneity.
M: I actually always try to have a moment in my show where I can just lay down on stage and talk to people for a little while. Also, I like to fuck with people sometimes. [laughs] I might be responsible for as many gay marriages as I am for heterosexual divorces, because there have been circumstances where see couples in the audience and there is a husband sitting there with his arms crossed, looking bored out of his brain, while his wife is up on her feet dancing and having such a good time. I’ll stop the show and point them out and say, “Who’s that guy sitting down right now?” And she’ll reply, “Oh, he’s my husband.” And I say, “Divorce him—right now.” And then they do! Just kidding. I hope they don’t, really.
Pitchfork: Could you imagine a time when you wouldn’t want to tour or make records anymore?
M: This might be verging on a stupid question. [laughs] You might need to take a drink for that one. You know what, I’ll have a drink too. [pours tequila shots] Cheers! Here’s to a stupid question!
Pitchfork: Here’s to apparently never retiring!
M: Here’s to never retiring!