Interview: Ke$ha

The multimillion-selling party girl takes some time out to chat.

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ANIMAL COLLECTIVE Amateur tooth collector Ke$ha brings her rowdy crew to Long Island.

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE Amateur tooth collector Ke$ha brings her rowdy crew to Long Island. Photograph: Patrick Fraser

Sure, Ke$ha might gets her kicks out of making necklaces from fans' teeth and licking rock stars' faces (the proof awaits below), but the hard-living pop star is no dummy. On a break from her European tour, the "Tik Tok" hit-maker talked with us about life on the road, in advance of her Get $leazy blowout that's coming to Jones Beach on Saturday 20.

You've just finished touring the U.K. Did you find it rougher there than here?
[Laughs] Oh, God! Yeah, in Scotland everybody was wasted by three in the afternoon—it was awesome! And last night I played here in London and we definitely got into messy, rowdy after-parties.

What's the most bizarre thing you've seen in the past year of craziness?
Oh, you know, I've been all over the world...the most bizarre thing? I just played Glastonbury and I brought all my trannie friends, and we were all walking around and they were in thongs, with big fake boobs and giant wigs and wellies on. And one of them fell in the mud, so we all decided to just roll around in it together. So by the end of the night there was a bunch of trannies in thongs and wellies covered in mud, all drunk, singing along to U2. It was pretty good. 

You strike me as being very hardy—you Tweeted that you actually like sleeping on the tour bus...
Well that's definitely the image that I try to uphold, that I am tough, and I am confident. Because I think that that's a good role model, to let things roll off your back and not take any negativity too seriously, and to really not give a fuck. Of course there are certain things that get to me, but I try and lead by example and show people that, especially with haters, that you should just ignore them.

Do you ever have to take quiet time?
[Laughs] I try to get in quiet time and book time, but really, the only time I ever get that is when I'm on an airplane—I have a fear of flying, but I actually love flying because it's the only time I can sleep, and it's the only time I get to read. Right now I'm reading Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins. He's one of my favorite authors; he wrote Still Life with Woodpecker and he's great.

You write your own songs and work hard. Do you ever feel like people underestimate you?
I mean, yes—but I'm living my dream. I'm so thankful every day I get to wake up and play music to people that show up to my gigs. So is it hard, is it a grueling schedule and do I work my ass off? Absolutely. But that's not what I'm going to focus on, because I just feel so lucky, and it seems a little bit pretentious. And the party-girl image—it's true, I do drink whiskey. But to maintain the kind of schedule I have and to work on all of my songs—and I play almost every instrument if you come and see my live show—there's brains behind that. I write for other people, and I am a smart person. I don't think you could be dumb and be conquering the world.

What makes a hit song? Is there math to it?
I think anybody would have a different answer to this, but for me what's really important for my songs is that they're honest [Emphatically] and they're real. I can tell when someone's singing a song and they don't mean it. I write every song. It's coming from me and my life and my experiences. So it's all real. And when I can connect with somebody and I believe them, I think that makes the song more tangible to me and, you know, a hit.

What music is believable to you?
Well, for Animal, I'd always listened to Licensed to Ill, the Beastie Boys record. It was just so funny and irreverent and youthful and no matter what, when you put on that record it makes you wanna destroy and party and it puts you in a great mood. And I always wanted my record Animal to be like that. Just 'cause I believed them. They were out of control and running around New York City. And I loved it. But another song? Iggy Pop, "Nightclubbing". I believe he goes nightclubbing at all hours and is kind of just lurking around, slithering around like a weirdo in the night. I believe him when he sings that.

Tell us about your Hands On Nashville project. That sounds pretty noble....
Well, I've snuck into shows since I was 13 years old. And I know there are people who don't want to break the law, but I thought I could give kids a way to get into my shows, by giving back to the community—they can earn their way into the show. I know when I was younger I couldn't get a [break], so this is a way for them to do something good and get a free ticket to a dance party.

Your fans are so devoted, they've started sending you their teeth.
Ah! [Laughs]. They are devoted. One fan sent me one tooth, so I made a necklace out of it. But then I found a bunch of my baby teeth, and started realizing I would love to wear a piece of my fans' bodies on me. I mean, it sounds kind of weird, but I'm very much into wearing gemstones and natural pieces of jewelry 'cause it makes me feel grounded. And I started thinking, maybe I could make some sort of garment out of my fans' teeth. I have almost 500 and I'm still collecting more. I got four yesterday.

Are you at all grossed out by it? Or is it just, Yep, got the teeth?
No! That's, like, the animal inside. I love bringing that out of people.

Is your mom a bit of a hippy chick?
Yeah. I mean, she's definitely a hippy—she lived in a school bus, and then a teepee for part of her life. So I guess I get the free spirit from her. And then I get a little bit of the rowdiness from my brother.

There's a messiness to what you do—a critic remarked on the fact you did a cartwheel onstage that was not very good but really joyous...
[Giggles] Well yeah, that sums up my message pretty accurately—that what I'm doing is messy and imperfect, but it's really fun. And it's just a big celebration of life, and nobody on my stage takes themselves very seriously. We're good musicians and we play a good show, but we act a little bit like jackasses. I never want to be pretentious.

You recently licked Slash on the face.
Ah! Yeah. I was playing the Oxegen festival, and I'd just gotten off stage and I was on this high. So I get out of my car and see Slash doing an interview, and I try to go kiss him. But I couldn't reach 'cause he's really tall, so I just decide to lick him. [Laughs] It was a good one.

Is Ke$ha onstage a persona like Ziggy Stardust, or is that straight-up you?
I think it's like me times ten.

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