Lady Gaga is a 22-year-old pop singer who has been making waves on international dance charts with her single, “Just Dance”. On October 28 she’ll release her club-friendly debut The Fame in the US. The album has already come out in several countries, including Canada, where “Just Dance” recently hit number one.
Gaga says she owes a big part of her success to her gay devotees, some of whom turn up at her shows shirtless with lightning bolts painted on their faces. “I honestly could never have done this without the gay community, they really fight for me,” she says. “I’m always going to do a gay run around the world.”
Once a teenage New York indie scenester, she ditched hippie dippy folk music and became a futuristic pop fashionista. At 19, she signed to Island/Def Jam but was dropped from the label three months later. Down but not out, Gaga hooked up with Interscope and partnered with Akon to write songs for The Pussycat Dolls. She’s since written songs for New Kids on the Block and Britney Spears.
We rang up Lady Gaga while she was on promotional tour of Europe and chatted about songwriting, sexism and Michael Bolton. Read the interview after the jump.
What was your first big break?
My real breakthrough as an artist was this one show I played on the Lower East Side when I was 18 and I remember I was in this rock n’ roll bar and there were all these drunks hanging out and they couldn’t get anyone to shut up before I started my set so I took my clothes off.
Then what happened?
They all f*cking listened. I got everybody’s attention and that’s when I really started becoming known as an underground female pop act in New York. That was what was so cool about it. I was writing pop records but I was an underground act in a community that really frowns upon pop music.
Why do they frown on it?
In that neighbourhood everybody wears the indie patch on their shoulder. ‘I’m a real artist, pop is evil, we should be signed’ ⎯ all that crap but the reality of it is a lot of them are wasting their money on drugs and booze and not working hard enough. I really wanted to make pop music and I didn’t care whether I fit in or not. I just wanted to be different.
Do people assume that because you’re a pop star you…
Have nothing to do with the music? I actually don’t face it that much. I think people are pleasantly surprised when I let them know that I wrote the whole album and I co-produced a few of the records. I’m approached in an entirely different way in Europe. The European community wants me to be great. Me, as an artist, all the things I stand for ⎯ the fashion, the technology, the music, the performance, the do it yourself pop artist ⎯ they’re rooting for me. So they don’t challenge me in the same kind of way. I say I wrote the records and they’re like ‘yeah and they’re f*cking brilliant.’ Americans are a little less used to these powerful female artists so they’re a little bit tougher to convince… I love the United States because you have to really win their love as a real artist.
How much creative control do you have over your image? Do you get much pressure to look a certain way?
Not really. In the beginning a little bit more. When we shot “Just Dance” everybody was a little nervous with some of the things. It’s a bit raunchy. It’s really me, it’s like, this is my life! I’m not doing a video in a nightclub. I’m doing a video at a house party in Brooklyn. That’s what I know. That’s the lifestyle that I understand and want to portray. I think at first it was a bit nerve-wracking for them. I’m very sexy. I’m extremely provocative ⎯ that’s where I feel comfortable. I really, really won their creative trust with my short film.
What’s that about?
There’s a film on the Internet called The Fame: Part One and I speak French in it and it’s really gorgeous. I didn’t want to do an EPK and I didn’t want to do a mixtape. I wanted to do a really strong visual, beautiful movie that is indicative of my work as an artist. Instead of asking the label to fund it, I took the money that I’ve made as a songwriter for other artists and I put it towards this film and I built the TV glasses and the cane and all that stuff and we documented it in the movie and there’s a story and it’s got four songs from the album and then sneak peek of stuff that’s on the US record.
I filmed it without telling the label and then I emailed it to them and I said, ‘oh hey I did this over the weekend, what do you think?’ And they were like, ‘you didn’t f*cking do this on the weekend. You clearly planned this out.’ And I said this is my creative dream, but I said I won’t release it unless I have your blessing and everybody at the label went bananas. They were totally in love with it; they thought it was artistic but very pop.
The record is very club-oriented. Do you have any slow jams in your repertoire?
Well, I’m working with Michael Bolton. I’m writing for his record, it’s a huge f*cking love song. It’s very 80s, I love it. He’s so amazing and so talented and so kind and so wise. He’s become a really good friend of mine. At first I was intimidated because he’s pretty legendary in adult contemporary music and he’s really known for having the most epic love songs. He’s had so many hits and all I’m thinking is, what the f*ck am I going to write for this guy? He sang “Time, Love and Tenderness”! What the hell am I going to write for him? We actually did this totally amazing record together. I think it’ll surprise a lot of people and right now we’re talking about me singing on it with him, which I think would be awesome.
How was Paris fashion week?
I played a couple fashion week parties. I went to some parties for fun and I hung out with Patrick Wolf. He actually came to see my show one night and I was so flattered I had a drink with him. It was so weird I don’t even have a record over there yet and I was followed by paparazzi just because of the Britney stuff and the Madonna comparisons. It’s really a scary thing when the philosophy of your album is coming true. The record is not called Fame it’s called The Fame and fame is when everybody knows how you are but ‘The Fame’ is when everybody wants to know who you are.