Lady Gaga interview
As she releases 'Born This Way', the woman who beat the bullies and conquered pop talks to Peter Robinson
Most Lady Gaga interviews go to great lengths to explain how what you are reading is a glimpse of what Lady Gaga is really like to meet, but one thing they rarely grasp – because she rarely reveals it – is her sense of humour. It’s dark and dry and very English, and it makes you realise that not only does she fully grasp the ridiculousness of the situation she is in, but half of what she says is with her tongue firmly in cheek.
Chat with Gaga and she’ll also talk about relationships, and she’ll talk about her experiences meeting other artists. If you’re lucky, she’ll act out the time Liza Minnelli appeared in her dressing room, threw her jacket on the floor, froze in profile and demanded, ‘Shoot me from THE LEFT!’ (Gaga as Gaga: ‘That’s quite an entrance.’ Gaga as Minnelli: ‘I KNOW!’).
Turn on a tape recorder and Lady Gaga has a habit of becoming quite serious. Conscious of the media’s relentless cynicism, she will end up protesting too much. It must be hard for her to make sense of critics who slam most popstars for thinking too little, then criticise this one for thinking too much.
Aware, as she is, that anything she says is a potential headline, she won’t go on record talking about many other female artists; mention of one act prompts an unhappy grimace that hovers somewhere between ‘I am going to punch you’ and ‘I am going to be sick’. She also insists that the tape recorder is turned off before she talks us through one theory she has about a conspiracy against her. An unnecessary measure, as it turns out, since the claims would have been unrepeatable in print.
If in doubt, she’ll talk about how everything she does is for her army of fans. Of critical acclaim, she says at one point that she’d ‘rather be critically acclaimed by my fans’. It’s interesting that she thinks her fans could, and should, be critical (they’re not), and it explains her slightly obsessive approach to that fanbase. Many acts take their fans for granted; Lady Gaga is worried they might start booing.
‘I never cancelled a single date,’ she says of the 201-date ‘Monster Ball’ tour that finished earlier this month. ‘Anything that was ever cancelled was down to the weather, or in Paris when the government wouldn’t let us into the city. [Pulls a face] I had food poisoning during my whole last O2 show. It was a nightmare. I was so sick.’
Were there any close calls?
‘There were a lot of close calls.’
I explain that the question I was trying not to ask, but must, is: ‘Did you shit yourself on stage?’ Lady Gaga laughs at this question in a way her peers probably would not. ‘I was only vomiting!’ she says. And then she leans forward, her voice dropping to a whisper. ‘I don’t have a colon.’
It was disappointing to see you describe Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ as genius.
‘[Conspiratorially] I hadn’t even heard the song.'
Oh. It was self-evidently awful.
'Here’s what I will say. I hadn’t even heard the song; I was merely commenting that she had been trending on Twitter for seven days, that she had all these hits on YouTube. But I hadn’t actually heard it. I hope that soothes your sadness.’
There's a lot of religious imagery on your album. Who or what do you think God is?
‘I see God in my fans. I worship my fans. I don’t believe we know what God looks like, but you have faith in what He, or She, or It looks like. I have no scores to settle with Christ. That’s not at all what this is about.’
What is it about?
‘It’s more about my relationship to being taught something pretty vigilantly for years – being taught that God looked a certain way and did certain things and should either be loved or feared.’
What don't you like about your own work?
‘I can’t even watch the “Telephone” video, I hate it so much.’
What's wrong with it?
‘Beyoncé and I are great together. But there are so many fucking ideas in that video and all I see in that video is my brain throbbing with ideas and I wish I had edited myself a little bit more. It’s funny because I know a lot of kids on the Popjustice [the interviewer’s music website] forum didn’t like the “Alejandro” video, but that was my favourite of all my videos.’
Because there's a lot less going on in it?
‘[Nods] It’s not busy. But maybe that’s my own monster. People love the chaos in my brain, but I’m terrified of it.’
Perhaps you're not the best judge of your own work.
‘I’m certainly not the best judge. I know when I do my best, though.’
It seems, as she plays us song after song in the studio, that Gaga’s best may be on the album that is finally released worldwide this week. ‘Americano’ is about Mexican immigrants (‘told in the metaphor of a lesbian love story between myself and a girl I meet in East LA’); ‘Marry the Night’, Gaga says, is ‘a very pure, unmediated love song’. She talks me through each track in extraordinary, passionate detail and seems frustrated when her manager suggests that it might be time to wrap up.
‘We need some BOOZE,’ Gaga decides. ‘I’ve poured my heart out to you. Let’s have a drink and pour it back in again.’
This has – we say – been an unusual sort of playback session from such an established artist. Most advance album listening opportunities tend to happen in airless label offices, any song descriptions courtesy of a few sanitised quotes on a photocopied press release. ‘You get everything you want today,’ Gaga says. She pauses for a beat, then roars dramatically: ‘Tomorrow… NOTHING!’