Madonna on the (repeated) album leak, working with her Viking Harem, and more…
Matt Kalkhoff from Edge took part to a roundtable interview with Madonna and select members of the LGBT press that took place last Monday at Interscope’s Midtown Manhattan offices.
Among the several questions, there were two subjects that will probably catch the attention of those who have been discussing them on the Madonna fansite forums over the past few months: how the album leak actually could happen, and how was it possible that the final version of the record leaked in January, when the security breach was already known, and what Madonna had to do to work on the final versions of the tracks she wrote with Team Avicii when the Swedish producer couldn’t keep working on the songs due to major health concerns.
About the leak:
Question: You were forced to change album release schedule because of the leaks that happened last year. The next time you go to create a new album or film, is your practice going to change because of the way these new tracks [were leaked]?
Madonna: Well, I’m never going to put anything on a server and send information back and forth as had been done. That was the first mistake. That’s when we first realized that the music was being hacked on the server. But then the last leak came from a mastering lab and that was just a technician’s oversight. After everything had happened and everyone knew we had to crack down and be really super secure, someone sent the record on the server – AGAIN! My hacker’s very clever, obviously. It was not up for very long, but it was snatched. So I would never do anything like that again. Hand delivery.
Question: Did it change anything about the way the album was — like how the tracks were sequenced?
Madonna: It changed EVERYTHING. First of all, it drove me insane and made me feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety, and it made me second-guess everything, because suddenly I thought, “Oh God, everyone’s heard all these demos” — because there were some demos that I actually liked the demo version of and I thought, well, they’ve heard the demo and now they’re going to be expecting other things. Then they heard the next level of versions and it kept making me think, “Should I change it or should I just leave it how it was?” I was second-guessing everything, rather than just choosing for myself and putting it out as I would normally, as an artist. It started making me think, I don’t even know which version I should be putting out!
Because some people were like [of the demos], Oh, I love it, I love it. And I was like, No, don’t love it because it’s not done. So it made me crazy.
Question: It was devastating as somebody who has always admired your work, too, I thought, wow, what a horrible thing to do.
Madonna: Yeah, and also very confusing. Because a lot of these things were being shared on my supposed “fan sites,” and I was thinking, “Well, my fans should be supporting me and protecting me.” So I don’t know — the whole thing confused me…still does. And what [the hacker] did — he’s in jail in Israel — what he’s done is considered a white-collar crime, so I don’t even know what’s going to happen to him. I hope he goes to jail for a long time. But let’s not dwell on that stuff, though [smiles and laughs].
About working with her Viking Harem:
Question: Of all the collaborators you worked with on this album, who was the biggest surprise — or was there a particular track that you felt was the most unexpected?
Madonna: Hmmm…I felt like I wrote a lot of good songs with Avicii’s writing team, and I didn’t expect that, because I ended up writing a lot of personal and very soulful songs with them, whom I refer to as my Viking Harem, who are all really wonderful, intelligent, soulful people, and they made me feel really comfortable. So I guess I felt like I was safe enough to write those kind of songs, and that surprised me.
Question: And this time you just let it rip with multiple producers. How was it different approaching it this way?
Madonna: I didn’t mean to work with so many different producers. First of all, I didn’t know that Avicii was going to have a life-threatening illness and disappear. So a lot of the songs that I wrote with him or his songwriting team, I ended up having to go out and find other producers to work on them, to finish the songs with me.
And then Diplo came along and I very much wanted to work with him, and he also wanted to work with me, but I didn’t know that he also was working with 5,000 other people and had to get on a jet and go to the other side of the world to play festivals and then go here and play that and then go here and do that — just getting him to sit still for a couple of days to finish a song was a challenge.
So I ended up working with a lot of young DJs and I naively didn’t think it through. Oh, it’s summertime — it’s the festivals, and they’re on tour, and I’ll be lucky if I get them for three days, so a lot of that had to factor in. OK, I can’t wait for three months for this dude to come back. I have to find somebody else.
Question: Who do you feel – over the years you’ve worked with so many people – who’s pushed you the furthest as an artist, a writer, and a performer? Who challenged you the most?
Madonna: Well…[long pause]…I would say as a songwriter, working with Toby Gad — he really pushed me a lot. He was constantly questioning my choice of words and sometimes I would get really irritated with him. “Just because I like it, okay? Just leave me alone. The song is finished. Stop.” And then we’d be done and he’d send me an email, What about this one little word? He’d just drive me crazy. I’d be calling him an SS Officer, which he’s clearly not — he’s the sweetest, most lovely guy ever. He really pushed me.
And Diplo really pushed me. As crazy as everybody thinks he is – “he’s a fun party boy,” whatever — he really was particular about lyrics and praising me on my vocal performances. He pushed me a lot, too. Of course I don’t like it, but it served me well on this record.
Read the full article on Edge and check them back on Monday, March 16 for part two of their Madonna interview.