March 24, 2011
A recording studio on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
So is the album actually finished?
We could mix it and put it out tomorrow and it would be wonderful but we keep tweaking little bits, and I am constantly writing... Like I wrote another song just the other day. I just always make music. The idea of ‘finished’ just isn’t ever really going to happen.
Obviously the release date is set in stone but who decides when the album is actually finished?
I do. I don’t not include the label, I just make the music then play it for them. And I very early on - when the label heard songs - got the blessing of Jimmy Iovine and everyone over at Polydor. I’ve heard some of the things that have been sent my way from other people. It’s a bit strange. It’s hard not to be offended when someone says, ‘I wrote a song for you’.
What sort of thing are people writing for you? What do they think Lady Gaga should sing about?
Boys and dicks. Cocks. Pussy. ‘I’m in the club’. It’s funny because there’s not really one song on this album that’s about any of that. There’s no songs about getting drunk in a nightclub. ‘Electric Chapel’ is the closest. ‘Government Hooker’ is very filthy and sexual... But... There are no songs that are all ‘ooh I want you in my bed’, although they do feel very sexy Very soulful, but not in a ‘soul music’ kind of way. I think people are now becoming slightly blind to the outfits and they’re asking what the fuck’s underneath it. And that’s where this album cones in.
If you feel people are becoming blind to the outfits, does that make you want to make the outfits even bigger and more attention grabbing, or do you see it as a signal that you can move away from the outfits?
It’s more that I’m always a performance artist trying to more articulately relate my costume choices to my music. And that’s what I’m really excited about. It’s as if, well, ‘Bad Romance’ was great, ‘Poker Face’ was great, ‘LoveGame’ was great, all these songs were great, but it wasn’t until I wrote ‘Born This Way’ that I realised how culturally unrelatable my music had been before. I learned something so very valuable about myself putting that record [the ‘Born This Way’ single] out, and it’s that I’ve done absolutely nothing to change the world - zero - until now. It made me realise I had so much to do, but that’s wonderful for me. I don’t know how to explain it any other way than to say that it felt like I’d opened. a door to myself that I didn’t know was there. I thought I’d already shaken the world up and I only realised when I put out ‘Born This Way’ that I hadn’t started to shake the world up at all. It was like resetting my... Does this make any sense?
Maybe once I’ve heard more of the album...
But even if you haven’t heard the rest of the album. I mean, just based on ‘Born This Way’?
Well I understand how you might say that you think ‘Born This Way’ is lyrically the most important thing you’ve done. But what about beyond the lyrics? So does the importance you feel in the lyrics, does that importance win out over the melody of ‘Bad Romance’? Do the lyrics being ‘important’ make it a better pop song?
No, it’s completely different. ‘Bad Romance’ as a song was amazing and is amazing and had this giant cultural impact where it was big on YouTube and everyone learned the dance moves and made the costumes and everything. Right? ‘Bad Romance’ didn’t piss anybody off at all. Maybe it pissed off a couple of [other] artists, but it didn’t piss off any actual people. It was just a really great pop song. This [‘Born This Way’] was the first time that an outfit wasn’t what pissed people off about me. Do you know how exciting that is for someone like me? The only thing that made me controversial before was the fact that my shoe had no heel. Suddenly, I put out ‘Born This Way’, the lyrics were really literal, and there was a huge backlash in the United States. Suddenly I’m not controversial because of my shoes, or controversial because of my clothes. I’m controversial because of my music.
But why did you want to piss people off?
It’s not about pissing them off, it’s about shaking them UP. It’s the cultural shitstorm. There’s a difference between being a cultural shitstorm based on artistry and style, and being a cultural shitstorm based on the message you’re conveying. ‘Born This Way’ created a cultural shitstorm that is completely different from the cultural shitstorm ‘Bad Romance’ created. And what I didn’t want to do is give you ‘Bad Romance 2.0’. ‘Judas’ might be ‘Bad Romance 7.0’, yes, but I’m not going to give that to you first. First, I’m going to show you I’m capable of creating a different sort of shitstorm. But even I didn’t know that [before ‘Born This Way’ came out]. I thought it was going to be part of the same shitstorm. Until I saw what occurred. ‘Who does she think she is?’ I mean the gay community was like ‘who does she think she is speaking for us’. (Starling to shout a bit) The shitstorm that occurred was so massive and it was the first time that I was viewed controversially because of my music.
Well one way of looking at that is that you were doing something right, because you got a reaction out of people. If you’ve done a song about equal rights and right wing people don’t like it then perhaps you’ve done your job. But If the gay community is also going ‘piss off’, then has it still done its job?
Of course it has. I had an eleven-year-old boy come up to me after the show yesterday, crying. And he said, “Born This Way” is my favourite song’. It’s a triumph. It’s a song that asks people to look inside themselves, even if they don’t like it: ‘why am I angry about this song?’. If you’re already free, what’s the problem? Is it because you don’t want me to define your freedom? Is it because you don’t want me to represent you? Is it because you don’t believe that the kids who are eleven years old aren’t still dealing with the social situations you deal with in the 70s? I have twelve and sixteen-year-olds in my audience going, ‘free me - when I go to school I’m being bullied. Help’. And I’m like, ‘okay, this record’s for you’. And that’s it.
It’s interesting that a lot of criticisms came from people, working in cities in the media or wherever, who’ve already sorted out their sexuality.
‘Now we’ve been accepted by society it doesn’t matter about teenagers’. I know my fans love this song. And I feel this huge sense of... To be honest the hardest thing about it was when you believe in something so much and the whole world is shooting a big arrow right through it. It’s like, it came to me while I was in a shower, when I was in Manchester. I wrote it down and we drove to Liverpool and I finished the melodies.
Did ‘Born This Way’ have to sell in order to be a success? Usually artists insist that it’s wrong to gauge a song based on its sales but if the point of ‘Born This Way’ was to spread a message then it needed to be huge in order to be culturally important, right?
What you’re saying is absolutely true... I want you to know how I think about music. Help me help myself when I’m explaining this to you. There’s a lot of really shitty songs that are Number One for long periods of time in lots of countries. But I know that Gaga fans who are 11 years old now will remember ‘Born This Way’ in thirty years.
The logic at the heart of the ‘God makes no mistakes’ line in ‘Born This Way’ was of course, infuriating to anti-gay religious groups…
Oh please of COURSE it is! If you don’t believe in anything it’s massively annoying because it’s like, ‘who the fuck are you to press you religious beliefs on me?’, but anyone who believes – and this is mostly in America… Well there are a lot of people who believe that when God is mad he shakes the earth, and I don’t believe that. Well to say God makes no mistakes, it takes the knife away from all those who are prejudiced and religious. And that’s why I did it.
Did you worry about the repercussions of that sort of line?
There were a lot of people who came into this room [the recording studio] who said, ‘are you sure you want the word to be “God” in the song?’. And I said, ‘yes’. The point is not for me to say what God is, the point is to make you look into yourself and to ask yourself, ‘if there is a being in the sky or wherever who you believe created all of this, does he make mistakes?’. You can either believe or not believe, either way the song frees you. If you were born this wav and are atheist, you were still born this way.
How did you want the song to feel?
I wanted to channel a lime in music in the 90s - when [people like] Dianne Warren, the biggest songwriters of all time [were] making the biggest songs - I wrote a big song and I put it on a disco record. It’s catchy, it’s brilliant, if you don’t feel liberated by it that’s fine but I’m not going to run to or from anything or anyone.
It seems like you feel you’ve cracked the code to get to the next level of your career. I mean if you didn’t feel that you were moving on, well, we’d probably still be sitting here talking about your new album, but I wonder what you’d be saving instead?
If I’d released any song other than ‘Born This Way’ first, everyone would have said, ‘oh, she gave us another “Bad Romance” and lots of shiny clothes and dance moves in the video’. I had to do something that reflected the growth of the fanbase and inspiration of the fans. And we got way more than we bargained for. We exposed the cultural situation that is so important… I can’t even begin to tell you – Don’t Ask Don’t Tell being repealed just as the album was being made, Obama’s anti-bullying campaign…All this stuff happening in America that’s all centred on saving young people’s lives because of how they’re treated in school. And that was the absolute whole point of the song.
What’s the point of this album as a whole?
During ‘The Fame’ and ‘The Fame Monster’ I was incessantly probed and asked questions. Like, ‘is this the real you?’. And I never knew what to say. I never knew how to answer. I’d go into an overly-intelligent explanation, or I’d have a defence mechanism where I felt I didn’t know how to answer. Perhaps because the answer was so simple. And the answer was always destined to be: I was born this way. It’s that very simple, over-arching phrase that has really set me free as an artist. It’s set me free of my insecurities as an artist, my insecurities as a person - as a human. I separate artist and human because a lot of other people separate artist and human, but on this album it’s conceived that I am fully an artist and I am fully human. And that is my destiny. It is my destiny to follow my artistic visions to their fullest. I was born this way.
And ‘Judas’ will be the next single...
Yes! ‘Judas’ sounds fucking massive. It has both theatrical and operatic parts. Me and Red went in to finish it the other day and HOLY HOOKER it sounds fucking great. I played it for Tobias, do you know Tobias? [I have no idea who she’s talking about] He’s obsessed with underground music. Like, massive underground Berlin dance music. There’s a lot of Eastern European influence in it. It feels like ‘Judas’ is my other ‘Bad Romance’, that techno rock industrial hard edge, it’s even harder now. And I sort of added this very sweet melody at the end, which is almost very sixties. I was thinking of it as blending rock with that sixties vibe.
In ‘Judas’, what do you mean about being beyond repentance?
If you were to compare me with the institutionalised idea of what a woman’s supposed to be, I’m already cooked.
What’s the institutionalised idea of what a woman is supposed to be? Describe that woman.
I guess we could talk, in the Biblical sense, it’s a woman who’s subservient and someone who obeys and does not speak in a high profile way about herself or her work, and does not show any bravery without man next to her. All sorts of things.
Particularly in the UK, it’s expected that all artists, not just female ones, are not exactly apologetic for what they do, but certainly that they don’t shout about their successes... In America talent is celebrated in a more carefree way. In the UK if an artist says, ‘my new single is amazing’, there’ll always be someone who says, ‘who’s she to say that? How arrogant’.
Right. I’m just not self deprecating. I’m really proud of the work and I’m proud of the song. In the video at the end I will be revealed to be Mary Magdelene but you don’t necessarily know until the end of the video. So I’m actually quite a powerful woman who means a lot to history, but during the video there’s an eyebrow up to what my position really is, what it really means and whether I’m valuable or not.
There’s another song about Mary on the album, isn’t there?
Yes, ‘Bloody Mary’. I’m very fascinated by her.
Because when I was young and I went to Catholic school - an all girls school - we were told to pray to God and pray to Jesus, but I always prayed to women. I guess I always worshipped a more feminine force in my life and I didn’t view God as having a particular gender. I always either prayed to Mother Mary or Mary Magdalene, or to my father’s sister Joanne who had died when he was a kid because I viewed her as an angel in the sky in the house of the Kingdom working alongside God. You know, watching over me. It must be so big up there. A lot of people. So I always prayed to women and that’s the thing that I look to now to make me strong in this very unique situation that is being a pop singer. I always pray to Mary and to Joanne. It’s very sad that in those [Biblical] times women were stoned for adultery or for doing inappropriate things. Women were always the target, so I guess I looked to my past and my faith to find bravery in myself. So on this record I thought a lot about my faith and tried to channel a lot of that into myself, and so make myself brave.
[Gaga plays ‘Bloody Mary’.]
So the lyrics are Mary sort of talking... If you listen to the lyrics and the way the cadence goes, the way I’m actually singing, I start quite sweetly then I go into these quite demonic tones, then I come back to sweetness, and then the chorus is me ultimately, publicly singing, ‘I won’t cry for you, I won’t crucify the things you do, I won’t cry for you when you’re gone I’ll still be Bloody Mary’. I’ll still bleed, is what I’m trying to say. I guess I’m fascinated by her - like I said, I worshipped women in my religion as a young girl - and in my belief Mary was in it all along. I think she knew what was going to happen. But I also believe that she loved him, and I believe there was a moment when she cried. So she says ‘I won’t cry for you’ but in the rest of the song, in the way that it feels, it’s sad and quite... Dirgic? Is that the right word? Like a death dirge... There’s that kind of quality to it. It’s about me having to be a superstar.
So it’s not completely straightforward? It seems on first listen like it’s a song specifically about one thing, rather than being allegorical…
No, for me it’s kind of…If I were to put myself in my own head…I don’t ever, ever, ever want to call my music therapy because it’s not fucking therapy for me, but I do learn about myself through the things I write. It’s not quite as premeditated as I may say it is. I guess what I was trying to say is that while the song might seem quite literal from an outsider’s perspective – like you mentioned – for me as an artist looking into the lyrics, to the way I sing, to the way I produced it, I see somebody that needs to be wholly brave and wholly a superstar for their fans, but also wholly human so my fascination with Mary is that she had to be a superstar for her religion but I know she cried. There’s no way she didn’t cry. And it’s the same for me. There are moments when I cry and there are moments when I feel like a superstar. It’s very ‘dark and light’. There’s lots of darkness and lightness on the album. There was a lot on ‘The Fame Monster’ too.
It feels like the ‘Hair’ / ‘Road to Love’ / ‘The Edge of Glory’ sound is like the heart of the blueprint or whatever of the album and the rest it is draped around it… It feels like the experience of listening to this album is completely different to the experience of listening to ‘The Fame Monster’, just like ‘The Fame Monster’ was different to ‘The Fame’.
Well, isn’t it nice to play ‘Abbey Road’ next to ‘Sergeant Pepper’? You know, when you go back - not to liken myself to The Beatles but if I’m going to try to become anything then I should go for the most legendary band of all time - The Beatles sound completely different between those two albums, but if it wasn’t for those two being different, ‘Sergeant Pepper’ being completely revolutionary and everyone hating it when it rst came out, we wouldn’t love The Beatles like we love them today. They took a tremendous risk with that album. Anyway, my point is, I think it’s in the evolution of me as an artist that people will be able to believe in me more as a true artist. And it’s that evolution which will also secure my 1ongevity (Pauses) I want to say something else! You say that ‘Hair’ is the blueprint, the hallmark of your exploration of the album, right? However, how disappointing would it be if every song was exactly the same? I could go through every song and have all of those specific elements, but I very specifically have not done that because I want the album to be a journey and I want the whole experience of the journey to be like this. So there will be moments when it will peak - like with ‘Edge of Glory’ which is a major techno rock moment, and with ‘Hair’ - but there will also be moments like ‘Bloody Mary’.
On the basis of the first single it seemed like the album would all be about sexuality and freedom, and ‘Americano’ backs that up to an extent, but of course the other side of the ‘Born This Way’ single was the religious aspect, and the religious side is the one that resonates equally through the album.
Yes. And rites of passage. Even with ‘The Edge Of Glory’ the time of death is seen as being a quite religious experience, to a lot of people. There are a lot of things like that on the record. There are also a lot of fun things that have nothing to do with any of that. Shall we do one of those now?
[‘Government Hooker’ is blasted out.]
I had a couple of notes that I made during that which I want to say... Because I, in jest, said ‘let’s play a record that doesn’t address anything spiritual’ before I played that, but actually it has a lot of meaning to all of us in the room. This is specifically called ‘Government Hooker’ for a reason and I think the humour in the record is that I’m being told by a machine what to do and I’m happily doing it as long as I can continue to get fucked.
Where were you when you knew you wanted to write a song about that?
We were in New York. White Shadow had this crazy beat then we threw it in the computer and Fernando started making Gregorian pop chants and then I wrote it pretty quickly. I mean I wrote it in fifteen minutes! Actually all the songs on the album were written in fifteen minutes! (Laughs) It’s just the process of putting it all together takes much longer. But the lyrics and the melodies come to me very quickly, and if they don’t I usually move on. But I love that record. Sonically, lyrically, it’s very simple but it has this huge massive meaning. He says ‘back up and turn around’. Besides it having tonnes of relation to the fact that we allow our Government to continually fuck us over and over again, I think it also makes fun of the plastic popstar. ‘I’m willing to do anything as long as you continue to fuck me and pay me.’ So it’s also a commentary on pop culture.
How do you want people to take it? As a political song, as something about other popstars? What’s it actually about?
Take it either way, as long as you fuck me and pay me after. That’s kind of the point of the song. The point is I don’t care how you take it. If you’d like to remove the word ‘Government’ from the title of the song it doesn’t make it any less exciting.
Is there a particular politician you have in mind?
No. I don’t want to say that. But I want to say that the Government in America right now is truly, truly disenfranchising so many people. The economy is so terrible. In term of immigration law, gay rights, the whole madness that happened in Arizona this year. All these things happened while I was writing this album so they all became part of this music because I have suddenly become a woman of the world now, where I wasn’t when I wrote ‘The Fame’ and ‘The Fame Monster’. Right now I have all these fans, I have a tremendous duty to write music that not only sounds great and has hit potential but also recognises that everyone is listening.
Okay. How does the fact that “everyone is listening’ change the way you approach writing a song?
So I could either just write pop songs, or I could so something that actually is thought provoking that makes people think about what the fuck is going on. And in America it is a nightmare. So [talking about ‘Government Hooker’] who is the hooker, is it the Government or is it us? That’s the ultimate question I’m asking. Are we just allowing it to go on? How many of you actually call your senators? When was the last time you sent your senator an email because you were unhappy about something that was going on in your district? You can campaign for democracy all you want but are we actually functioning in a democracy? The song itself doesn’t genuinely address any of those things quite as literally as ‘Born This Way’ does, but it starts the conversation. Or, it’s a fun dance record, and I quite like the idea of seeding something political into a sugary sweet dance song.
When you said you can do something thought provoking, surely it shouldn’t really be an either/or situation? The third option being something that takes in both.
Well that’s the Holy Grail. I love pop music so much. So that’s the question – how revolutionary or avant-garde can I be while also having a massive hook and tugging on your heartstrings after hearing just the first four seconds? The Holy Grail of pop music is when you create a song that means something is a hit at the same time. I LOVE pop music.
What should people be calling their senators about now? What are the big issues you think need addressing?
Yes. What are the big issues?
Full equality. They should be calling their senators about allowing people who live in this country, whose families have been here over twenty years, immigrants being allowed to go to school or into the army. The fact that kids were being taken away from their families in Arizona in the middle of the day randomly because of what Senator McCain was a part of. All the things that are happening are anti-everything America once stood for. (Sarcastically) ‘The land of the free.’ ‘Come in, we have jobs for you, come in and be part of what we do.’ ‘We will give you work, we will help you be free’. And now we’re saying, ‘get the fuck out and give us your money because we’re broke’. I think ‘Government Hooker’ would be an amazing single, I just don’t know if it would get played on the radio at all. I mean, it’s not really a question of who’d play it and who wouldn’t, it’s whether it would get played at all. I would not be interested in censoring it.
But wouldn’t there be a power in the statement of going, ‘this is my new single, if your radio station isn’t playing it ask them why’? Like ‘Born This Way’ is very radio friendly, for example, so in a sense it doesn’t challenge...
You think ‘Born This Way’ is radio friendly?
(Surprised) Well thank you.
Is that a surprise? Why is that a surprise?
It’s a big surprise. Only because the idea was to make it very radio friendly and to seed a lot of ideas that are not very radio friendly into it. So... It is the first Number One ever to have the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender in one song. Ever. It’s the first one. Let’s listen to ‘Marry The Night’.
[Plays ‘Marry The Night’]
What’s that about?
This song is about going back to New York and it’s about the courage it took for me to say, ‘I hate Hollywood, I hate LA, I hate assimilating to fame culture. I just want to live in Brooklyn and make music and not care about any of that’. And that’s what this song is about.
[Plays a bit of ‘Born This Way’]
You see ‘Born This Way’ to me, sound completely different when you listen to it right after you’ve listened to ‘Marry The Night’ – you’re noticing all the hard synthesizers, you’re noticing all the rhythms, the industrial energy of the song. Everything makes much more sense when you hear it together.
You mentioned earlier that songs are based on initial fifteen minute bursts of activity. What happens in that fifteen minutes?
Although I’m quite anal and detailed about things, I do allow â tremendous amount of regurgitation to go on in that fifteen minutes. When I say I finish a song in fifteen minutes, by the way, what I mean is that I allow myself to creatively vomit for fifteen minutes. I then honour that regurgitation and perfect it afterwards.
How frequently are these vomits successful? How many fifteen minute vomits do you need to go through for every song that’s good enough to go on an album?
It depends what you think is an amazing song, but how many vomits did I go through for the album? About the same amount as there are songs. I didn’t lose very many songs during this writing process. They ail meant something to me in different places [around the world] and anytime I wrote something and... Well, anytime I don’t have a fifteen minute experience, I’m not having an experience at all. It’s not that I give up on things, it’s that I know when it comes what it is. I believe this album is brilliant based on my knowledge as a musician, just as you would write an amazing piece of journalism and say, ‘that’s a fucking amazing piece of writing’. Right? Yeah. You know what’s good, you know what’s bad. You know about analysing pop music. It’s the same thing thing with me and music.
Where were you when you recorded ‘Americano’?
‘Americano’ was our [Gaga, White Shadow and Fernando) first in-the- studio, all-at-the-same-time record. And it was when Prop 8 was overturned in California. Paul [White Shadow] had played the beat for me when we first met, and we got all the beats out when we were on the road. And Fernando started to play Mariachi guitar… Prop 8 was overturned, it was just when the immigration law was passed in Arizona and all these people’s homes were being raided. People who’d been in America for twenty years were being sent back, it was a really intense time and I remember Fernando talking about it. ‘Americano’ has a similar point to ‘Government Hooker’ but in a more literal way – this once was the land of the free and the home of the brave and now we’re telling everybody to get the fuck out. And if you’re gay you don’t have the same marriage rights as everyone else.
Do you know yet what the singles from the album will be?
The label really loves about nine different songs as singles so I have spoken with them about wanting to put them all out because I want to show the breadth of the record and just keep going with it. I believe the album will reach so many people but I don’t think any one particular song is indicative of what the whole album sounds like. You could keep on putting out singles and it would keep changing and being exciting. ‘Hair’ is really great. To explain why there’s saxophone in it - I didn’t just use the saxophone in that and ‘The Edge of Glory’ for the sake of using the saxophone - it’s an instrument that means something to me and my childhood.
What would be in the video for ‘Hair’? Do you think a1ong those lines when you’re recording a song?
Yes. In that particular song I see myself with a leotard on, with a keytar, lying in the middle of a garage, rolling around on the floor. I had a vision at one point of having all my wigs - and I keep them all, I don’t throw any away - just FLY across the screen while I’m having a really epic keytar moment. People don’t realise this about me but I’ve had to deal with a lot of shit-taking from everyone about being a white girl who wears wigs quite proudly... I don’t have one one at this very moment but I do have extensions in my hair. Whatever, but I LOVE my wigs. They are my fucking GLORY. The ability to put on whatever I fucking want is a fucking glorious moment for me as a woman, that’s why I say in the song, “I am my hair”. As a kid my parents always told me to go back upstairs and change. ‘Brush your hair,’ ‘What are you wearing?!’ ‘You can’t go out like that.’ This song is about when you’re a kid and you only have so much self-expression as a little person. And especially for me going to fucking Catholic school, I had to wear a fucking uniform, you weren’t allowed to colour your hair, you couldn’t wear fucking makeup to school, there were certain shoes I had to wear… You were told exactly what to do. So this song is me going back to that place in my life and equating it to how I feel now as the self-proclaimed avant-garde pop singer who dresses as she pleases. And nowadays I’m sort of experiencing the same thing I experienced with my parents, but with the world. I feel that I’m being told ‘you can’t wear that’ by the world now, rather than just my parents, so that’s why my fans, well, I can’t even begin to tell you the number of kids who come to my show who meet me after and they’re, like, ‘my mom and dad are so strict’, or ‘I wanna come out of the closet but I’m scared to’. There’s a huge energy of ‘I want to be free and I want to be myself’.
Was your school actually that strict, or was it just strict in the way Catholic schools generally are?
It was a particular/y strict Catholic school. I mean your skirt had to be a certain length, shoes could only be two inches tall, even down to your fingernails. I had some wonderful teachers who bridled my creativity over the years, but... I hate when people say, ‘you’re the way you are now as a rebellion against all that’. NO. I’m not the way I am now as a rebellion, I was always this way, I just wasn’t given the tools to be who I am now at a young age.
When you say you didn’t have the tools to be who you are now... Do you mean tools as in the truckload of wigs or the emotional tools?
I mean even the access to those references [that would aid] creativity. You’re taught certain things in school, you go home, you do your homework, then you go back to school... I didn’t have the social outlet of meeting all sorts of different people from different cultures and learning all sorts of things. It was a very rigid, white, Catholic school. So it was when I went to camp after school or I’d take music lessons outside school or acting that I started to meet all kinds of different people from different backgrounds and different economic situations, and I started to figure out who the fuck I was. Otherwise it’s like a sausage factory, with every one coming out the fucking same. And I never wanted to be one of those links in your sausage.
You've worked with RedOne on a couple of tracks but most of the work has been with White Shadow and Fernando, who aren't very well known for such a high profile album. That’s the sort of decision that fucks off big producers, isn’t it?
But wouldn’t it defy everything I stand for if I were to just hop over to a superproducer and ask them for a hit? I also, however, would say with as much humbleness as I can that I chose Fernando, White Shadow and RedOne because they’re completely brilliant and they’re the best in the business, and everyone in the business says they are. I want to give you so much more information than you’ve got...
Is it the case that other people in the business won’t admit that they think those producers are great?
Yes. In Fernando’s case in particular. yes. It’s going to piss a lot of people off that he’s even on this album at all.
What will your next tattoo be?
A cross, I think. The infamous ‘God’ tattoo.
Why have you waited so long? That’s often one of the first people get...
I don’t know, perhaps my faith is stronger than ever.
Does it make more sense to you now in the light of having done this album?
Maybe... I think the most exciting thing about this record is that I’ve barely written about myself for the 35 songs that my fans already have, but I’ve written about ME here. Is that what it sounds like to you?
In terms of you not having written about yourself before, we’ve talked about this in the past but people say that you discuss ail these issues in your interviews then when it comes to the music there’s nothing there. Obviously the ‘Born This Way’ single was a moment where you put your money where your mouth is, and it feels like the rest of the album pulls that into focus and perhaps uses less broad strokes.
The rest of the album is less invasive, I think.
What do you mean by ‘less invasive’?
It’s [‘Born This Way’] invasive! It’s a big booming track. If you sing ‘God makes no mistakes, I was born this way’, it’s invasive.
It’s a song that it’s hard to listen to without hearing the lyrics. With a lot of songs, you don’t really hear the lyrics...
Well, including my songs. Like ‘Just Dance’.
Perhaps, although the first time I heard that song the lyrics seemed unusually descriptive of a night out. It seems like a long time ago now, but there was a directness about the lyrics that wasn’t common in 2008. But anyway...
That’s part of the reason I was so excited to put ‘Born This Way’ out. If it had been hidden in a bunch of metaphors it would have been atrocious and boring and it would have meant nothing. I wanted to create a truly amazing song that... (Sigh, long pause) That refuted the trendiness that has become being yourself.
Can you explain?
It’s become trendy now - and it’s my fault - or cool, to be avant-garde. Or be daring in everything you do. I’m speaking specifically about pop music here. I wanted to make something that - although the track is quite forward - I didn’t want it to feel trendy. The minute you start hiding the message of the track, or use stupid metaphors, well then all you get is ‘Just Dance’ with a soul, and it already had a soul.
What sort of emotion does the album feel like?
It’s like meeting someone. It’s like love.
[We relocate to Gaga’s split level hotel suite at the MGM Grand. The place is enormous. Upstairs there’s an office space and various rooms including one full of clothes rails. For our interview we’re downstairs in be kitchen area she perches on one of the work surfaces.]
Sitting in the studio with you it was quite overwhelming to hear the album...
...as I’m throwing song after song at you, expecting you to fall in love with them in three minutes?
Well exactly. Something slightly surprising about listening through the tracks earlier was a reference to Mother Monster in one of the tracks, but apart from that not a whole lot of talking about monsters and your fanbase. Was that conscious? You’ve recorded the album on tour so it seems perhaps more separate from your fanbase than I’d expected…
REALLY? (Looks troubled)
I was expecting more banging on about monsters, basically.
Well they are in there, a little bit, but they’re more in there in the sonic and emotional sense rather than in the literal (mimics voice) ‘banging on about monsters’ sense. I am at a place now where I don’t feel I need to bang on about my fans being my fans, because they’re my fans. And we’re so close now that I know when they listen to my songs they’ll shed all the tears I’ve shed with you today. Because they’re going to hear themselves in the music. Do you know how exhausting and wonderful it was playing ail that music to you? We weren’t on a stage but it was completely emotionally draining and I feel like I just did a five hour show. Not because I wasn’t being myse1f but because I was being artistic and human at the same time.
You’ve said that you want to put something out that people weren’t expecting. Surely putting something out that you want to surprise people is basing your actions on what expectations are? You’ve said that you can’t run from or to expectations, but if you want to surprise people then you’re not completely independent of outside influence?
No, it is. I believe that my fans and I share the same interests. My fans all want me to do something that I haven’t already done.
Weil I’d like to hear another ‘Bad Romance’... Did you feel that ‘Born This Way’, opening the campaign, had to perform a certain function?
When I wrote ‘The Fame’ I had to hit people over the head with a sledgehammer in order to get it played on the radio. With ‘Born This Way’the idea was to bring the sledgehammer out again. What will keep not only me excited artistically, but my fans excited too, is that I will always have to fight for my spot. ALWAYS. I’m always defending my championship. I can’t redefine pop music if I recreate something I’ve already done before.
Does it worry you that one day you won’t be able to do it?
No, because we just did it. Isn’t that exciting? Do you ever get afraid you won’t be able to write?
There’s always the question of what happens if or when one day it is ail suddenly boring. What if you just run out of things to say? And that’s the point where journalists just...
Well let me put it to you this way. Like you said that you would love another ‘Bad Romance’, right? But the reality of it is that ‘Bad Romance’ already exists. And will never go away. And if I were to give you a bunch more ‘Bad Romance’s, perhaps vou would have less and less to write about. Some artists concentrate on releasing a better version of what they’ve done before. That’s not what I ‘want to do If I create a better version of ‘Bad Romance’ that’s new and sounds different but also has industrial influences like ‘Bad Romance’ did then that’s okay, but I just.. (Thinks a bit) I find it to be very strange the way pop music is right now. And I also want to encourage my fans and peop1e all over the wor1d to stop seeing music as singles. Because ‘Bad Romance’ isn’t evaporating into the air and going away. Neither is Poker Face’ or ‘Just Dance’. They are still here. I ‘will be playing them for the rest of my life. Contrary to certain other artists you might review on your site, I have arena tours that I do. So I have this huge tour that I put on and 20,000 people come to party. When I write this album I’m not just thinking about the album as it’s sold on the internet or in stores on CD, I’m thinking about how theatrically this music will fit into the party that is my show. If I was to create things that I’ve already done before then the show would be quite boring and I’m quite certain that people would stop buying tickets. What’s so exciting now is that with this album I believe we have an incredibly dynamic and amazing pop-techno-rock-opera.
It was odd hearing these songs sober today, I’ve been shouting drunk when you’ve played them to me before…
The album is really fun when you’re drunk. It’s a party album in that respect. It’s going to work quite well in nightclubs for people who are completely sloshed and hammered. When ‘Born This Way’ was Number One for the fourth week I was so excited and happy that I got so drunk by myself, and I want out to my car and I listened to the album. The music was so loud. I was alone, hammered, dancing in the passenger seat. Listening to my new record. I’m excited to know what young people think.
What’s a young person? Why are you thinking about what they will think?
For example the saxophone in ‘...Glory’ and ‘Hair’. I want to know what they think of that, a sound they maybe haven’t heard before.
What’s Bruce Springsteen like to meet?
Everything he represents, he actually is. We might be in a fancy hotel room now but if I took you to my apartment, it’s a walk-up in New York City and it stinks, and there’s mice in the kitchen. I put my money where my fucking mouth is and I always will. And meeting Bruce, Elton, Sting, these are the people who’ve had a real effect on me. The people who were in real life truly as legendary as they are in their artistic life, or in the albums. You’ve no idea how fucking heartbreaking it is to meet someone you’ve worshipped your entire life and have them be nothing like you imagined them to be. That can never happen to a little monster. That can never happen.
Has that happened to you?
A few times. But I don’t want to say.
Can you listen to their music now?
Yeah Yeah. But it’s like... My best friend had the opportunity to meet his legend be didn’t want to. I said, ‘whv?’. He said ‘what if they’re not amazing’. And I understand that now. Another one [who’s good to meet]: Kiss, Paul Stanley, you’d think he’d put his first single out yesterday. He’s the shit
What can we learn from Kiss?
There’s a lot of Kiss influence on this album, lyrically… “Sometimes I want some raccoon or red highlights, just because I want my friends to know I’m dynamite”. That’s a line from ‘Hair’. Those were inspired by Kiss.
But in terms of marketing your music. They sort of wrote the book on modern music exploitation…
They did eventually, yes.
Do you think people have unfair expectations of you, or are they just responding to expectations you’ve created? Like if people are disappointed, is that your fault?
Everyone speaks to me as if I’ve been releasing for twenty years. So the expectations for me as an artist are based on that. But I’ve only been alive for about twenty years! The reality is that I’ve only done one arena tour, a club tour and a theatre tour... The expectation for me when... Well, for example they asked me to play stadiums on the next tour and I don’t want to. I need to use my energy to be great at what I do - I can’t run from other artists, just like I can’t run to them.
If you were to have a day off around the house what would you wear?
I might wear a vintage Motley Crue t- shirt and some cotton pants like leggings. No makeup.
What would you wear if you needed to pop out for some milk?
A leather jacket over that, and some boots, and I’d run out of the house.
What’s the greatest song ever made?
The greatest record I’ve ever made, which you didn’t hear today because it’s still in production, is ‘You & I’. It’s the greatest song I’ve ever written, for sure
How long should pop songs be?
URGGH!!!! I HATE that! (Pulls face) Well many would say that the perfect pop song should be three minutes and thirty seconds. And that the chorus should come in before the first minute. I, however, don’t believe that.
What do you believe?
I believe the chorus definitely needs to come in before the first minute, if not the first thirty seconds, or before the song even begins as in ‘Bad Romance’. But other than that the chorus should come in quite swiftly without any fuss. But I have also been playing as much as I can on this album without constraining myself too much by always having the same structures. I don’t want the album to be plastic or boring. I found myself getting a bit bored with my own structuring on the Monster Ball. There was and is a formula that I have been using that I’ve used on some songs on this album and not others.
Who’s good at the moment?
Who else is good at the moment… I dunno, why don’t you name a few people and I’ll…
Let’s see… Adele is Number One at the moment. What about her?
(Instantly) I LOVE Adele. I love her. She’s herself. I love that you can tell she’s singing the sort of music she wants to sing. And she’s very sweet. I always feel like that when people seem like good people. I’m sure you meet a lot of people but I’m also sure that people put on quite an act for you when you meet them. It’s very rare that you meet a truly lovely person in this business.
What’s your worst song?
I hate ‘Telephone’. Is that terrible to say? It’s the song I have the most difficult time listening to.
Because it was offered to Britney first?
Well that’s not exactly what happened, but I don’t want to delve into that. I could delve into it if you turn that (motions to recorder) off... But ultimately the mix and the process of getting the production finished was very stressful for me. So when I say it’s my worst song it has nothing to do with the song, just my emotional connection to it.
Okay. So which of your actual songs don’t you like? What would you listen to and think, ‘that’s pretty shit’?
What would I like, skip over? Nothing on ‘The Fame Monster’. I think that’s pretty great. ‘The Fame’? I would probably skip over ‘Money Honey’.
[During one portion of the interview published in the Time Out piece, I ask Gaga about her comments regarding Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’. It was disappointing, I say, that Gaga described it as ‘genius’. She explains that actually she hasn’t heard it at all and what she meant was that it was a genius move for Rebecca and ‘Friday’ to have been trending on Twitter for so long.]
Well you just give ‘Friday’ a little listen when you get a moment.
I will. You look angry! I’ve never seen you this upset! Not even during the saxophone earlier! [During the journey from the studio to the hotel we’d discussed my usual aversion to sax breaks] And now I’ve converted you to saxophone. You see now you will be saying, the same way you talk about ‘Bad Romance’, you will be talking about saxophones. You will be saying, ‘I love the saxophone, the saxophone in ‘The Edge of Glory’ is so genius’. You will compare every saxophone you ever hear to the one you hear in ‘The Edge of Glory’.
Are you saying you have redefined sax breaks?
It redefines the saxophone in modern, digital-era Top 40 pop music. TO BE SPECIFIC.
Basically, ‘let’s not upset people by treading on any toes’.
To put it very Peterly, yes.
Do you plan to do anything outside recording music?
I’d like to be in a movie at some point but it would have to be something independent.
Why would it need to be an independent film?
I mean if the right role came along I’d do a big movie but I’m supposing that an independent movie might have more of the sort of script I’d be looking for. Something John Patrick Shanley-esque.
What’s the wrong sort of thing?
Just... I dunno. Anything that has nothing to do with me as a person. I obviously want to play characters that... I want to play a really great character. A lot of roles get sent my way but nothing is really exciting. If the right script came I’d do it. I went to acting school, so I’m itching to do the right role.
Is it true that you ran out of money while ‘Bad Romance’ was out?
You know I was completely bankrupt during the  theatre tour, right? I was three million dollars in debt. I had no money and nothing to show for two albums. I had this big single out - ‘Bad Romance’ - and one shot. The Kanye/Gaga tour imploded. I was very blessed that Live Nation believed in me. I said, ‘just keep me on the road. Whatever you do, just keep booking shows’.
But you weren’t personally three million in debt, though?
Yes I was. I saw an article that said ‘Gaga is broke’. I called my dad and said, ‘it’s so ridiculous isn’t it, everyone’s saying I have no money’. And my dad went, ‘you don’t have any money. I’ve been trying to tell you for six months’. Everything was self funded – so when I was saying ‘oh I’ve put all my money on the stage’ it was not some ‘woe is me’ hoopla. It was fucking real. Then Live Nation saved the day and told me they’d bet everything on me. They gave me a big deal and told me they’d pay for my big stage. I put all my poker chips in one basket and it all worked out.
Would you consider having your IQ tested?
I hate things like that. It refutes being a musician or being an artist when you look at things that are mathematical like that. Someone mentioned to me how in advertising, companies can see what people are drawn to by moving colours around in adverts And it’s, like, what would Picasso say if ou fucking moved the eye around on his painting?
He’d say, “FUCK OFE That’s not where it’s supposed to be I don’t care if more people like it there, that’s no where I want it to be”.
Do you have conversations like that with your label?
I used to. On the last album they wanted... (Drifts off) I still have them with my manager, but not with my label. The label didn’t want me to use the ‘crying’ cover with the black hair for ‘The Fame Monster’. I chose two covers, both shot by Hedi Slimane, and put the one I wanted on the Deluxe version. Which was over-ordered and sold like crazy. They’d say to me, ‘it’s not beautiful’, and I’d say ‘yes it is’, they’d say, ‘it looks scary’, I’d say, ‘the last thing anyone needs is another fucking beautiful woman in a bikini rolling around on the foot next to a palm tree’. Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have said that... I don’t want to be rude. The album wasn’t about being beautiful, it was about being afraid of things, so I thought the photo was better related to the music. Back then we were still at a point with the label where relating album art to music meant nothing to them. We’re now in a different place.
How did the prosthetics go down?
It was fine. I mean I got a little bit of a fist in the air at one point but I have to say that I have a truly wonderful record label that really loves me. If only they could make more of me. Except I can’t be replicated.
Can you burn me a CD of the album now?
That’s never going to happen. It will be more fun for you to be able to listen along with all the other fans.
That is a bit like a parent saying ‘your present will be more fun at Christmas’.
I can hear you writing that as you’re saying it. It’s true though.
Have you played the album to anyone who’s gone, ‘hm, not so sure’?
Not one single person. Not one person.
But have you only played it to people who you think will like it?
(Thinks) Hm… No. I haven’t And there will be some people who just loved me for all this (waves arms around to signify extraneous isn’t Gaga-outrageous stuff), and there will be some people who love me as an artist, but I can tell you that there will be 20,000 people in that audience who aren’t there for this. I sing my face off and leave my soul on the floor every fucking night.
What else would you like to go on the record and say?
The bigger question is, can I listen to all your tapes after I’ve just vomited into your recorder for four hours? May I edit this interview? (Laughs) I haven’t been diagnosed as having multiple personalities, but I’m certain they must exist somewhere in my DNA…