Madonna Talks Filth, Wisdom And Confectionary
Documentaries, feature films, albums and adoptions welcome to a day in the life of the Madonna.
Few women have had as much pull and power in the entertainment industry as The Material Girl. Adored and revered by her legions of fans worldwide, the irrepressible Queen of Pop has had many incarnations before; changing her image like most people change their undies.
Madonna has pushed many buttons in her 26 year career from taking on the church to taking off her clothes and shows no sign of slowing down. With the release of her explosive 11th studio album Hard Candy (and the last for her old label Warner Bros), the ultimate American dance-pop singer-songwriter sat down with MTV for an exclusive interview discussing life, confectionary, boxing and sharing a 'diva space' with JT and Pharell!
MTV: So first up thanks so much for doing this for MTV.
Madonna: My pleasure.
MTV: Let's talk about last night briefly. Tell me what you were doing and also was it significant you were in New York? I would imagine that it has some memories for you, some attachments.
Madonna: Well my music career really started off out here in New York so it always means a lot to me to come here. I've done lots of gigs throughout my entire career at Rose-land so it has a historical kind of importance to me and I love small clubs, very intimate.
MTV: Indeed and doing that free gig for the fans does mean that it's just the super fans. What was the atmosphere like?
Madonna: It was alive, electric, hot, sweaty, smokey yeah it was good.
MTV: All the things you want it to be really.
MTV: So let's talk about the album now you have come really quickly off the last album to do this.
Madonna: Was it that quick.
MTV: It feels like it to me.
Madonna: Two years later?
MTV: Yeah that's pretty quick.
Madonna: Ok. Well that's what I'm obligated to deliver, one album every two years.
MTV: I was going to say were you particularly inspired to keep going or was there something in particular that made you just want to.
Madonna: Well I knew it was time to make another record and I pretty much thought, well who is making music now that I really dig? I wanted to do something different and at the time I was listening to a lot of Timberland tracks, I loved Justin's record [that] had just come out and I loved Pharrell, I've always loved Pharrell. I just said ok why don't I work with the best of the best in urban music and that's how it came to be.
MTV: Fantastic. So what were your aims in making this album? Was it about taking urban sounds and molding them with your own?
Madonna: I think that ultimately it wasn't, I didn't want it to be like, I'm going to show up and you guys are going to do everything for me and I'm just going to sing on the record. I saw it as a true collaboration and I would bring what I had to bring to the table. Which is my lyrics, the way that I write, my sense of melody and they would bring what they bring to the table. I hope that when you hear the record you don't go that's an obvious Pharrell song for instance. There are some songs that do sound more like something that Pharrell would do but then there are other songs that are quite different.
MTV: Absolutely. Where did the album title come from? Obviously it's a track as well, why was that the right one to attach to the album.
Madonna: Well cause originally I wanted to call the album Candy Shop but everyone said well you can't because of the 50 Cent song, so then I wanted to call the album Give it to Me but then they said no you cant because there is a Timberland track called that and then I was like oh well let me think of something else. I don't know I just came up with Hard Candy.
MTV: I understand that Hard Candy is one of your favorite tracks on the album tell us a little bit about that?
Madonna: Candy Shop.
MTV: Sorry, Candy Shop I'm getting confused now.
Madonna: It's just a sassy song, its fun to dance to and I love all the analogies of candy.
MTV: I also wanted to ask you about the album artwork. Because it's quite an image and while its not maybe the reinvention that sometimes comes with a Madonna album it's a different image again, why did you go with that kind of image?
Madonna: I like to create characters when I'm doing something like an album art or photo shoot, I work with Steven Klein a lot (the photographer) and we always create a character in an environment, and our reference this time was a boxer. So I was like a female boxer and that was riffing off the song Give It to Me. Which is basically you know I'm not you know, give me all you got, so it's quite a sort of tough stance.
MTV: It's tough but it's also sexy. Is it important to have that kind of provocative image in it as well?
Madonna: Well that's just me isn't it? I think I'm just being myself.
MTV: I wanted to talk to you briefly about working with Kanye [West] as well, a great person to have on any album. Was he someone you specifically wanted to have involved in the projects as well?
Madonna: Well he just happened to be recording in the hallway across from where we were working, at the Record Plant in Los Angeles and my manager said wouldn't it be great if he could come and do something on one of the tracks, and I said yeah it would be awesome if he would agree to it. So we asked and he said yes.
MTV: I think I saw you talking about working with these other guys and the fact that you kind of had to put aside your ego a little bit and I cant remember what the phrase was, something about your diva moment?
Madonna: Everyone had to share diva space?
MTV: There you go, absolutely. How does that work, does it have to do with creativity? People expressing their opinions quite strongly?
Madonna: Well I think everyone I worked with has a strong personality they are all successful in their own right, nobody needed to be there. Everybody was there because they wanted to be there. And we all have very strong ideas of what we like and what we don't like. So the air of negotiation and compromise comes in.
MTV: Indeed. Let's look at the single a little bit. First up, tell me about the track because it's obviously got a message as well as being quite upbeat. Tell me about that. What's it trying to tell us?
Madonna: Well I don't think it's important to take it too literally. I think the song more than anything is about having a sense of urgency; about how we are you know living on borrowed time essentially and people are becoming much more aware of the environment and how we're destroying the planet. We can't just keep distracting ourselves we do have to educate ourselves and wake up and do something about it. You know at the same time we don't want to be boring and serious and not have fun so it's kind of like well if we're going to save the planet can we have a good time while we are doing it?
MTV: And obviously Justin's on the track.
Madonna: Yeah and he's amazing.
MTV: Yeah he is great. Tell me about working with Justin.
Madonna: Really it was fantastic working with him. He is a great song writer, he likes playing with rhythms and I like words so we wrote well together he would sort of go off in a corner and listen to stuff and come up with concepts and have shrike sessions and talk about what we want the song to be about and we would get off the subject and get back onto the subject. It was like a think tank and he is really creative; I enjoyed working with him.
MTV: I saw a couple of behind the scenes pieces from the video shoot, it seems that the two of you get on really well and have a really good chemistry. Was it quite fun working with him and also working on the video with him?
Madonna: Yeah well, he is fun. He is confident he doesn't take himself too seriously. He is easygoing.
MTV: The video treatment, I'm not sure I entirely understand it. Can you explain it?
Madonna: None of us did. It was just, you know, it's very conceptual. We basically gave the song to the two French directors and they came up with the only concept that I thought was interesting, with this black sort of amorphous graphic line slowly eating up the world. I just liked that as a concept.
MTV: Fair enough. I understand your going to take the live show out on the road later this summer.
MTV: The production last time was huge. It sort of blended all these different forms of art together; is it going to be the same sort of thing again?
Madonna: Yes only better.
MTV: Well, tell me about it.
Madonna: I don't know yet, I was just going to start planning it in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.
MTV: So a similarly huge production.
Madonna: Similarly huge, yes.
MTV: I also heard a rumour that you might be playing Glastonbury this year in the UK, is that true?
Madonna: Glastonbury? No, not that I know of.
MTV: Watch this space.
MTV: The other thing you have been doing lately is working in the film medium can you tell me a little bit about the documentary you made?
Madonna: Yeah. I produced a documentary called, 'I am because we are" which just premiered at the Tribacker Film Festival. I have been working on it for over two years and it primarily focuses on children who have been orphaned by aids and Malawi and Sub Sahara and Africa in general and it follows some of the stories of these children and their families. Very intimate journeys sometimes quite painful and emotional and basically brings the audience into their world and gives people opportunities and chances for them to help. Get involved and be part of the solution.
MTV: What was it that made you want to embark on that project because it's obviously something that is, I can imagine, quite time consuming.
Madonna: Just hearing about their story really moved me. So I felt compelled to do something.
MTV: And you have also directed your first feature. Tell me a little about that as well because I haven't seen it.
Madonna: Well I hope you do see it.
Madonna: It's called Filth and Wisdom. It stars Eugine Hutz who's in a gypsy punk band called Go Go Bordello, have you heard of them? Have you seen them live?
MTV: Eugine is a character.
Madonna: Yes, he is a character; he is a character in the film as well. So I wrote the part for him cause I had seen him in a film and I'd heard his band and he basically plays a broke musician in a band in the movie, but it's about life's paradoxes it's kind of like Hard Candy, Filth and Wisdom, its like you can find wisdom in the darkest places and you can no matter how righteous you are there is always going to be a part of you that wants to be decadent and naughty its an interplay about those two aspects of humanity.
MTV: Obviously you have acted a lot, what's it like being behind the camera kind of orchestrating?
Madonna: It's way better. It was great because I got to use everything I do. I have a good visual sense, I got to play with music and work with actors. I wrote the script and rehearsed with them and am involved with the production design and editing and scoring and everything kind of got to use all the things that I love.
MTV: It's close to being a musician in a way
Madonna: Yeah much more an expression of who I am and what I want to say.
MTV: Is that something your thinking about? You still looking for, roles?
Madonna: No not in the slightest. Much more interested in directing.
MTV: Fair enough. I am dutied down by MTV to ask you about the Europe Music Awards (EMA's) because we have got them coming up again. At the EMA's you performed a number of times, the last time the amazing performance of Hung Up was when you came out with the glitter ball. Tell me what is it like to perform at the EMA's? Is it a particularly good crowd?
Madonna: It's an amazing crowd, really great crowd. It was good fun last time.
MTV: You always bring such amazing performances, the outfit and you did stuff with Ali G, is it something you look to do? Is it a kind of like a marquee performance like you got to bring your a game to the Music Awards?
Madonna: I like performing. I love theatre; I like the idea of a memorable performance that people in 5 minutes time won't forget.
MTV: Yeah absolutely your Hung Up performance is still one people talk about.
Madonna: That was my dream, I always had a dream that I would come out of a disco ball.
MTV: Fantastic. I suppose I should ask you one of those questions about being in the limelight.
Madonna: You suppose.
MTV: It's on my list so therefore I'm going to ask you it. I read in the Guinness Book of Records that you are now the most successful female artist of all time and there is a huge spotlight on you. Are you still enjoying that or is it something that is increasingly wearing you?
Madonna: I'm enjoying being an artist and being creative. Immensely, being in a book of world records isn't really relevant to me. But I'm happy I've had all the success I've had, and I'm glad I still feel inspired.
MTV: Is it better in a way not to think about that in case you become too comfortable, does that make any sense?
Madonna: I'm not really interested in numbers and lists I'm just interested in being creative.
MTV: What ambitions have you got left, obviously more music and you have just signed a new record deal, a completely new type of record deal. So what's next?
Madonna: Well I'll make more music. I'll go on tour. I would love to direct another film. How's that for a start.
MTV: That's a fantastic start.