Katy Perry interview: ‘I'm all hopped up on this prism shit’

The world-beating pop queen talks Tinder, afternoon tea and costume chafing

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Sat in her hotel room in Belfast, two days before the opening night of her ‘Prismatic’ world tour, Katy Perry – arguably the biggest pop star in the world right now – offers me her elbow. This isn’t some sort of faddish new greeting from LA, but rather a way of protecting me from the severe cold that means our conversation is littered with tissues, sinus spray and, at one point, the image of Katy Perry with a neon green bogey dangling from her nose. Pop don’t stop, however, and the steely determination that’s seen the California gurl transform from unsigned acoustic troubadour to chart queen is never far from the snotty surface.

In a pop landscape dominated by goddess-like perfectionists (Beyoncé), tabloid-baiters (Miley Cyrus) and tribe leaders (Lady Gaga), Katy Perry comes across as relatable, self-aware and magnetic. Head down to her 'Prismatic' show and you’ll see her mix bangers (‘I play every song that’s ever gone Number One or close to it’), with excess (light-up outfits, indoor fireworks, ancient Egypt) and huge dollops of camp and kitsch.

Latest single ‘Birthday’ might be packed full of innuendo (‘it’s time to bring out the big balloons!’) but it would be a mistake to dismiss the singer as silly or throwaway. She’s not the world’s most-followed person on Twitter for nothing. ‘The definition of me is to be continued,’ Perry says, stuffing sinus spray up her left nostril. ‘Give it five more years and you’ll see the plan that I have in my head. It’s not all by chance, you know.’

When people refer to you as the biggest pop star on the planet do you think, ‘Yes, I am, aren’t I?’
‘It kind of embarrasses me because I don’t feel that way. I have pinch-me moments, sure, but Beyoncé is the biggest pop star in the world so don’t be blasphemous.’

But she’s on a whole other planet, almost. You’re more of an empathetic pop star.
‘I hope so. I work really hard; I work myself into this state. But Beyoncé’s an icon and bionic, almost. I bet she doesn’t get sick ever!’

Obviously, pop isn’t a competition. But at the same time it sort of is, isn’t it?

‘Anything is a competition. I mean, if you write a good story you want it to be better than other journalists’. I can’t do a lot of things those other girls can do and they can’t do a lot of things I can do. We all have special idiosyncrasies about us that mean we can all exist at the same time.’

What are your main pop star strengths?

‘My relatability, I think. That and my openness to vulnerability. And just the general good-time fun. And, possibly – not to keep going on – the kind of inspirational zest you can get from the songs.’

Do people lump all pop stars in together?
‘Well, yeah, because nobody really fucking cares; everyone’s busy with their own lives, you know what I mean? We’re entertainers, we’re not like patriarchs… Matriarchs? Is that the right word? No. Popes? Am I saying anything right?’

Pop’s entertainment, basically. You’re not here to be people’s guide through life.
‘Exactly. Time Out is your guide for life.’

Amazing. Are you quite a spiritual person?

‘I’ve got my rose quartz [opens hand to reveal a heart-shaped pink crystal]. You keep this one on your heart because it’s for healing and attracting love – all kinds of love. Just good energy.’

What kind of energy will these shows have?

‘Well, I kick off the set with [Number One single] “Roar”, so don’t be late. The stage wraps around the whole arena; it’s triangular because I’m all hopped up on this prism shit.’

And because you’re part of the Illuminati?
‘I wish I was! I don’t know what it is or if there is a club, but I want in. I’m trying to go into that secret bunker at the end of the world. Doesn’t it mean I’ve sold my soul to Satan? We have a whole Egyptian section in the show, so I’m sure we’ll get a lot of those sorts of commentaries.’

The tour outfits look tight. Do any of them chafe?
‘No chafing as yet. I wish I could take a bunch of people into my quick change because it’s insane in there. It’s like Formula 1! And if you don’t change it right, well you don’t recover from that. You have to hobble along.’

Rony Alwin, © Katy Perry

Is there a moment when you’re flying above the crowd when you say to yourself, ‘I’m just a normal girl from California: this is madness’?
‘Yes! Every day when I take off my make-up I’m totally normcore. I’m so normal. I’m trying to do something abnormal and extraordinary and it’s obviously killing me but I’m going to push myself. When I first played London it was Water Rats: this isn’t Water Rats any more, you guys. That was a fun show, but this is a bit different.’

You mention ‘big balloons’ in ‘Birthday’. Are there any in the show?
‘There are lots of big balloons [spits a massive globule of phlegm into a tissue]. My mind sometimes thinks in euphemisms and innuendos and I don’t know why. Secretly I’m a dirty birdy.’

Is it true you’re on Tinder?
‘No. I’m not on Tinder. One of my good girlfriends is on Tinder and sometimes after we’re done gabbing about everything we’ll just scroll through it. I’ve only gone on it with one of my girlfriends who uses it to just sideswipe people. Do you have it in the UK?’

Yeah. Grindr too.
‘That’s always been there.’

Then there’s Scruff.
‘What’s that? For men with beards? Hairier men? Hmm. Well, you know, keeping us all connected in 2014.’

Could you ever see yourself living in London?
‘I’d like to if I wasn’t attacked every time I stepped out the door. I’d love to live at Claridge’s – it’s like sleeping in a Tiffany’s box. I always go there for high tea and scones.’

Do you put the jam or cream on first?
‘Er… cream? Yeah, cream first.’

Apparently Beyoncé and Jay Z are moving to west London, so maybe you could rent a room with them?
‘I’ll be their babysitter. Seriously, I’d love to do that.’

What do you like to do when you’re in London? ‘
We have an activities coordinator on tour, so her job is to find the best stuff that we can do. I like to go out in the cities I visit. You have so much more legitimacy when you’re on the stage than if you go out and say, “Hi London!” but you’ve never seen anything more than the spaghetti bolognese at the hotel. You seem kind of fraudulent. I want to get deep into the Natural History Museum because I’ve never been.’

They do sleepovers there, you know.

‘What? I’m on it. Are you serious? We can sleep with the dinos? I’m so thirsty – in all the best ways and uses of that word – for information at all times. I wasn’t privy to a great educational system growing up, so I’m just absorbing everything. I’m such an experience junkie. Like at the end of my life I just want to say that I lived and that I did all of it.'

Read our review of Katy Perry’s latest album ‘Prism’



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