Lana Del Rey is featured on the cover of Les Inrockuptibles‘s June issue. It features a new photoshoot by an unknown photographer!
Magazine Scans > 2014 > Les Inrockuptibles (June – France) x— 04 Pictures were added —x
Read the full interview below. Translation by Arwena-320!
The fear of not being able to write, doubt, chaos in her life: after Born to die, it wasn’t a good period for Lana Del Rey. But she comes back with the sumptuous and nonchalant Ultraviolence , always haunted by ghosts and misfortune.
After your last album, you said you were retiring from music. But you’re back with Ultraviolence.
I was unsure of finding inspiration back one day. And I can’t do an album without having an idea about the concept or the narration itself. But in December and January, everything has been unblocked after my first met with Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys. It happened something physical between us, something from the chemical order . When we recorded the Brooklyn Baby’s song, we felt there was something going on. The album was realised in an atmosphere very nonchalant. That was really surprising for me since I have worked with the same people and there , I was with that complete unknown man!
How do you feel in front of a white sheet of paper?
Those last years, I have known long periods when I was unable to write. I was always touring and I thought naively I would write on the road but that was impossible. Finally, in December 2013, I spent some weeks in the Electric Lady Studio in New-York , while I was recording alone my whole album with Blake Stranathan ( her regular guitarist) and a session drummer . My model of sound was the Eagles! At that moment, I met Dan and he said what I made sounds to ” classic-rock ” and then we redid everything in Nashville, in 6 weeks and most of the time live.
The Eagles ‘s influence stays evident on Pretty when you cry. You’re gonna bring back the slow and make it trending!
Nobody does slows any more, I would love to retry, it’s been so long. I love to dance. While the Nashville sessions, at the end of the day, we listened again the work we’ve done and we were dancing like crazy people. Dan made his coming from Brooklyn , we invited people we met on a local shop, Juliette Lewis or Harmonie Korine were around too: I have never worked this way before. It was also the first I met such creative people in studios, the first I open doors too. I am now able keep myself isolate from people around me in the studio when I am experimenting without chains: there is a huge universe inside my mind where I can go shelter. I may not be lucky everyday in my personal life but in my studio life, I am varnished: I am always surrounded by the good persons. The simple fact that a man Like Dan get interested by me did a lot for my self-esteem and my good mood.
How went your relationship in studio?
Dan is versatile: he can be very quiet a day and then very excited. But between us we had a lot of fun. He is a true passionate person, with strict dogmas : he refuses to do some things categorically. That made us brought closer. At the beginning, my album and the Black Keys ‘s one were supposed to be released the same day. After 4 weeks of recording for mine, he was so implied that he began to imagine my album was his and it also influenced his work with his band – he has redone some tracks he didn’t find them up to par! He loves my album, he called me very late at night just for saying : << I don’t know if I am going insane but I feel we’re doing a super disc!>> .
Did you sum up your desire with words before recording?
There it was “fire”. Dan is rather technic, concrete contrary to me , I ma in the imaginary. With him, I used all my own vocabulary to make understand what I wanted to do. I was saying for example that I wanted my album to evoke the flames, but the blue ones, the hottest… I was talking to him of electric blue with red reflects.
What did he changed to your songs?
Me, in a song, I only like the drums and the guitars and he arrived with a double bass player, a saxophonist and some old steel-guitar pro… He loves musicians, he’s a real man, surrounded by 7 guys who are his best-friends, a true alpha-male ! (she laughs) It didn’t bother me : I love men, I had very good moments. Since I am in the music, I only go around with people who are in a band and most of the time they are men. I can become very hoyden in that conditions.
And when you are in studios, do behave like a geek?
Yes, mainly while mixing. I spent 4 weeks in Santa-Monica with Robert Orton [one of the producer]. Because we recorded live in Nashville, on an old console Neve , we had to digitalized everything and it sounded like messy , every instruments were overlapping. We had to restructure, reprocess , we went from spontaneity to meticulously . In studio, I know exactly what I want to hear. Even if it takes weeks, I also end up by hearing the music I had in mind. The same for my videos: everything are there, in my story-boards. Suddenly I can make the executive producer going completely crazy as I may have done with Dan.
In you work where are your part of pleasure and your part of pain?
Pleasure begins with the conception of the album and ends with its recording. I don’t leave the mixing console until the reset of the tapes, that’s a great sadness. Then arrive the tours painful or the promotion , hard… I feel force to justify , to defend myself though I don’t feel the necessity to do it: my music is good enough for not needing that. I would prefer to keep silence.
Your songs give a strange mix between sadness and wealth, a bit like Roy Orbison…
That’s true! (she sings a bit of Only the lonely). I have the impression to make joyful songs but when I made people listening to them, they tell how sad they are… I can’t escape my life which had been enough tumultuous. I keep on being plagued by doubt, by sadness. I only have blurring and emptiness ahead of me and I hate not knowing where I am going. In my sentimental life, in my homely family, I don’t any sureness… I have now a house in California, where I take care of my sister and my brother but I can’t really talk about a home… When I come back, it’s impossible for me to be readjust to real life… This is why I hate not being able to write because for 10 years writing has been the only stable and soothing element in my life.
What gave Ultraviolence’ s tone?
The first song of the album, Cruel world determined everything. Geographically, it puts the album: Dan’s guitar meets immediately California. There is in the beginning of the text a certain “épure”, a simplicity. And then arrives the chorus with its big drums and electric disorder… This cohabitation between normality and chaos is very symbolic of what I had gone through my life.
The album reminds the nonchalant atmosphere form the sixties and the seventies in Los Angeles, especially the community of musicians settled in Laurel Canyon…
I am very fond of that mythology, Joni Mitchell mainly because loved by my mother. When I lived in New-York, I was looking for that kind of community spirit: a bit like Jeff Buckley succeed in federating people around him in the nineties or like Dylan in the sixties…. But I never found my gang, my family. When I arrived in Los Angeles, I finally met people with whom to talk and play, musicians that have updated Laurel Canyon, as Father Misty Jones or Jonathan Wilson , with who I had begun to do the album… All I was looking for in New-York , I found it suddenly in the West Coast. I drove a house to another one, in my old Mercedes, I had the impression of going back to high-school.
You have grown up in the countryside. Were you already solitary?
I had a very gang of girlfriends, inseparable , we were very similar. That was the first time -and the last- I felt such togetherness. But at 14 , I was sent to boarding school , because we were doing bullshit as making out with older boys or running away for going to parties… And there, I found myself going up to 3 times a week to Church. Luckily, there were stained glasses, I could dream by watching them. In that school, I sympathized with one of the teachers – he was 22 ; I had 15 – and he made me discovering Jeff Buckley, 2Pac or Allen Ginsberg, he became my best-friend. When I came back to New-York at 19 , I tried to find back that lost friendship with people of my age but it was too late , they were all obsessed with their careers , their social successes… I was wondering where were the musicians ready to sacrifice everything , ready to die for their songs.
And you, you were never attracted by that achievement?
I have read a book about that subject: of the necessity for an artists to burn each bridges of every carer possibilities . During years, my life was in my brain, nobody knew nothing about it. It was almost like a double life. For a very long time, nobody else than my room-mate heard my songs. I played very badly guitar , in picking (she sings it). The first time I heard Catpower, it really reassured me because she was also playing simply at her beginnings, very simply. But there was a really spell, music felt on me, literally. Whole songs already made were rushing in my pen and on my notebook. At 20, while nothing happened I took the decision to keep on by hook or by cook , to answer that call. It sounds strangely but I was very fan of music, I have never told my parents I skipped classes, they knew after I was singing. I try to fight against music, I was terrified by the look of the people << who does she think she is?>> I was sure we would thought I didn’t deserve it. Many musicians confessed that they felt discomfort to me. The music is something very personal so we are really afraid of being rejected… Besides, I could have just been a chorister.
At what moment did you feel you were right to keep on hooking up?
When recording Born to die. I will never forget my father’s visit at the studio. He had no idea of what I have been doing while 6 years and he didn’t come back of seeing me so sure, directive and fulfilling , asking the producer to play a beat or a symphony… He was in shock, he felt my music was really my passion and he said to me it was one of the most beautiful day of his life. My parents had insisted for not dropping studies to music – I finished my Philosophy studies, I knew it would feed my songs. I had told them very early I wanted to become a singer but they didn’t know how much I was inhabited and serious. My mother was wondering what I was doing in New-York. When my father saw me, he understood ! And it kinda validated 6 years working.
Do you believe in gift , in inspiration?
More for than anything else in my life, I feel a gift for music. But that last years, with that very long periods during the ones I hadn’t writing a single that pleased me, I was praying for my muse to come back… And then last winter, Old money came in a block. Carmen went to me as I was walking down the streets, I had put the rhymes on my steps (she sings). At that time, I used to walk very much, it help me to write. Now, I drive, I go swimming in the Pacific. Inspiration come back with these new rituals, I record myself in my car.
Your music is often like haunted by ghosts and spirits…
If I would talk by myself , people would think I am completely crazy. But it is true. Life has been so hard with me those last 4 years that I looked for some reassurance in beyond… Before recording or going on stage, I was asking to ghosts to come to help me or to accompanied me. I had to face so much the analytical mind of people that I find refuge in the spiritual. I feel deeply connected to a kind of mysticism , I always look for the spirits’s company. I have always thought to death , it obsesses me since my childhood. When I understood what it was, that my parents won’t b there forever , I had an a hysterical crisis and they had to make a doctor come. I remind one day , my father was bringing me to do some shopping for the back to school and I told him : << What’s the point on buying new clothes since we’re all going to die?>> I had chosen to study the Philosophy field and I got passionate by Metaphysics, to try to answer those questions, to ask myself about my presence on Earth, to wave science to that reflection. 10 months, I went through a very hard period and I went visiting Fleur , one of the most known American mediums . She confirmed that many things were haunting. Her assistant made me wrote secretly, questions I wanted to ask to Fleur : << Am I done for this world? Am I supposed to be on Earth? >> I would have been too embarrassed to ask anybody but on another hand I felt completely disconnected from music and my peers. She answered me quickly: << Why are you looking for escape? Plant your feet on the ground and say yourself you were born here and today with a good reason. Look for comfort in the sand, the earth and the water…>> And it was at that time I began to reconnect with the fundamentals of the planet, to walk on the beach or to go to swim. She knew a lot of things about me, about my grandmother , on the jewels she demised me , on my brother for 3 years and whom I take care and on his setbacks or his passage in a specialized institute… It really shaken me because I told nobody and it reassures me in the existence of a beyond.
Many of your icons are ghosts too: Eliott Smith, Jeff Buckley , Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain…
The people I admire seems to be destined to die… Luckily, Leonard Cohen shows the contrary. I don’t like that romanticism around their prematured deaths. Artists are more useful alive than dead.
You mention Lou Reed in Brooklyn Baby…
I dreamt of sharing the sing with him , I thought lyrics could amused him ( my boyfriend’s in a band, he plays guitar while I sing Lou Reed). The day I touched down in New-York for making him listening to the song, he was dead [Lou Reed died the 27th October 2013].
Can you explain the lyrics of Fucked my way on the top ?
Here is a song that won’t be played on the radio… It started with a 2 minutes orchestral workpiece that Dan heat sent me , it inspired me and I began to sing that words on it…. When it became more serious, I called him to say I loved his melody , she had turned into a song and I hope he would forgive me for the lyrics (laughs)… In a general way, the orchestral side is less present than on Born To Die, there are cords only on some songs – synthetic ones. I have considered to to do it without completely. Everybody has asked why I wanted to end Ultraviolence by a cover of The other woman by Nina Simone. Because she says everything, because I love jazz and may be because it could a door for what could be the next album. I could have signed those lyrics… I have listened to another of Nina Simone’s cover Lilac Wine by Jeff Buckley… (she sings) It reminds my apprenticeship of life in New-York.
The digital booklet scans for Lana’s new album Ultraviolence have surfaced on the internet. Be sure to check them out in the gallery!
CD Artwork > Albums > Ultraviolence x— 11 Pictures were added —x
Lana Del Rey is featured on the cover of Clash‘s The American Dream Issue. It features a new photoshoot by Neil Krug! You can find it on newsstands soon, so keep an eye out and feel free to send us the scans if you get a copy!
Photoshoots > 2014 > For Clash by Neil Krug x— 05 Pictures were added —x
Magazine Scans > 2014 > Clash (June – UK) x— 04 Pictures were added —x
Read the full interview:
California has a very direct and unforgiving steam beer called Anchor. But in Hollywood nobody drinks Anchor, because they prefer fresh peach Bellinis.
Since arriving here three days ago, every part-time actor I’ve met drinking these Bellinis, alone in the Chateau Marmont, says this feeling of dreamy detachment I’m experiencing is a spell well known to marinate your mind’s eye after a few days on the West Coast. I suppose you could call it ‘Californication’.
All around, I see the smoked glass freeze-frame of a film I once caught. The sidewalks of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, Johnny Utah punching surfers on Leo Carrillo State Beach, or Billy Hoyle in White Men Can’t Jump arriving to play basketball on Windward Avenue in a ’60s Cutlass Convertible. This must be what turned David Hockney of ballsy British portraiture into David Hockney of paradise poolsides and burnt sienna buildings.
It’s like the very geography of Los Angeles strokes you into a coma of ignorant bliss and subdued optimism, where the future always looks good because you’ve stopped paying any attention to the past. Anchor tastes like the world you’ve got, and those Bellinis like the world you want. But you can’t drink Bellinis forever.
Lana Del Rey isn’t from LA – she was born Elizabeth Grant in New York in the summer of 1986 – but her new album, ‘Ultraviolence’, is what she calls “California driven”.
“I like the idea of talking about it more and more and living here more and more, and falling into a real life here by the ocean. There is definitely an over-arching theme of finding a home and being on the West Coast.”
She’s on her backyard patio when I arrive, and as I take a seat she slopes on a recliner, bathed under the sun’s first blush. I tell her about the theme of our forthcoming magazine, the American Dream, and she laughs: “I am definitely chasing my own little American Dream.”
She’s still carrying the glow of a heavenly Coachella performance just 48 hours earlier. Standing in the crowd for that show, I saw things I didn’t expect. In a tangerine dress patterned with night-fire hibiscus, she pattered barefoot around the stage – resembling a real-life Holly Golightly – delivering tracks like ‘Body Electric’, ‘Blue Jeans’ and ‘Ride’ at a trance-inducing pace.
But, around me, people weren’t simply soaking it in. They were really letting it out: cathartically embracing the angelic poet for every line she had, responding with tears, disbelief, weird expressions of joy, and frantic attempts to touch her as she passed by.
“She didn’t really tour America for the last album,” explains Lana’s father, who I strike up a conversation with after we realise our shared affinity for tasteless (by which I mean killer) Hawaiian shirts. “This is the first time they’ve seen her live. They want to touch her. It’s like they didn’t believe she really existed.”
I’d hazard a guess that the stateside critical reception Lana received after her breakthrough (second) album, 2012’s ‘Born To Die’, played a role in her choice not to tour America until now. While Europe generally embraced the record, a less-favourable gust blew from many publications across the Atlantic. It was a strange and personal one that often eschewed musical assessment in favour of troll-ish, chauvinistic rambles that boiled quite redundantly down to the size of her lips, how she’d changed her hair, and that she used to call herself Lizzy Grant.
I’ll admit, while observing this backlash with disdain, there was a small and shameful slither of excitement and curiosity within me, which relished the fracas. I wanted to know how someone could garner so much hate and praise in equal measure. A split-second of reticence diminishes, before Lana willingly reflects.
“It was never about the music for them. My public story is more a story about journalism; like a commentary on how modern-day journalism works. None of the stuff is ever really about me, because I didn’t even give that many interviews. Most of the stuff written was unsolicited or creative writing, and a lot of it was just wrong. I mean, there were pictures that had been f*cked with to look different. It was very weird.”
I can tell pretty quickly that though she may have risen above such clawing, some scars still remain. “When nobody has ever written about you before, you are interested in what they have to say. You hope it’s good. When it isn’t and you keep going anyway, you have to not care. You can’t.”
It’s no surprise that, through all this, Lana has become a darling of American culture. After all if you’re loved, then your lovers will celebrate you, but only when you’re loved and hated in equal measure will you get the whole world talking. The question is: at what cost?
I ask her if she ever considered giving up on music. “Every day,” she admits. “I didn’t want to do it, ever. You can make music just for making music. You don’t have to put it on YouTube, and that was definitely a viable option for me. I have a lot of passions and making music was always something I would do for fun. However, from what happened, it wasn’t worth it most of the time.”
It is interesting to consider the symbolism of Lana’s new album title, ‘Ultraviolence’, which is taken from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. In the Stanley Kubrick screen adaptation of that film, music is salvation for the deeply troubled protagonist Alex. In spite of the pain, horror and “ultraviolence” around him, music is the only true passion that can relieve him and guide him to euphoria. However, it is music that ultimately leads to his demise.
“It’s still not really worth all the bullshit,” continues Lana. “Being able to tell my story through music is totally amazing, but that is where it begins and ends.” She flashes a smile, and if there was any bitterness in there, she’s smothered it with a dominant expression of dignity. “I don’t care now, because I can’t. I already know what’s coming. It’s gonna be disastrous on some level, in some way.”
Lana might feel like she stares down a barrel of inevitable adversity, but her new album carries no sign of apprehension. ‘Born To Die’, and its eight-track ‘Paradise’ extension, was a luxurious and impressive record, a real fresh peach Bellini, enriched in ’50s and ’60s Americana, with the grandiose string sections, the beehive hairdo, and the fallen angel narrative. But it was clearly a record that had been through the tinkering mills. Shaken, stirred and thoroughly mixed.
Conversely, ‘Ultraviolence’ – released on June 16th – is a rugged beast, an unforgiving and direct steam beer, made with a band, in a room. The earnest, lo-fi approach smacks of Lana’s almost-eponymous 2010 debut album, (swapping vowels to be titled ‘Lana Del Ray’) but with a much beefier mass of modified guitars and irregular harmonic collisions. Pop, jazz, rock and a lineage of classic records colour its influences: Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’, The Turtles’ ‘Happy Together’, The Byrds’ ‘Young Than Yesterday’. It’s clear that her producer, The Black Keys’ blues-rock maverick Dan Auerbach, was the boiling water on this psychedelic souchong.
“I didn’t know a lot about Dan or his records when I first met him,” divulges Lana. “For instance, I didn’t know that the word he loved to use was ‘fuzz’. For an age, I had been saying that I needed the fuzz and the fire. When we met, he was like, ‘Well, I’m pretty known for the fuzz.’ So I knew: ‘Cool! You’re my man!’”
Before Dan, there was December (New York, 2013, cold). Lana decided she was ready to take what she’d been working on into a studio. That decision eventually resulted in a twist of fate that would ultimately ignite ‘Ultraviolence’.
“I went to Electric Lady Studios down in the East Village for a while,” she explains. “My friend runs it now, so he let me have the whole place to myself for five weeks. I produced everything myself with my guitar player and then we hired a session drummer. We had made this kind of classic rock-inspired record – 11 tracks. So, I thought I was done.”
She laughs. “And then, on the last night, I met Dan. We went out to a club, we looked at each other and we were like, ‘Maybe we should do this together?’ It was rare for me, because it was really spontaneous. Five days later, I flew to Nashville and played all our tracks to Dan. We had been talking about this ‘tropiCali’ vibe, about how I loved LA, and that it was grounding me. I felt like the energy in LA was really sexy. But being there also enhanced my love for the East Coast, in being away from it. We really had this West Coast sound in mind, but with an East Coast flavour. And then we recorded it in the middle of the country. It was an American amalgamation.”
With an album inspired by the East and West, and made in the middle, would it be fair to assume that America is Lana Del Rey’s ultimate creative muse?
“It definitely was. I was trying to get my loving feeling back for New York, because a lot of shit went wrong there. I had a real aromatic inclination there, alone for years, wandering the streets, feeling free and unhinged. I didn’t feel free once things got bigger. I lost that feeling. So, coming back West and working with a stranger like Dan made me feel more alive and more in touch with America.”
I ask Lana about her choice of John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis as heavenly spirits in the Garden of Eden for her short film, Tropico. “I wrote a little monologue for everyone who came to the premiere of Tropico. When I was studying philosophy my teacher told me that it’s okay to feel like the people you’re closest to aren’t alive anymore. Sometimes that is the best company to keep. It’s about the people that pondered the same questions as you did, and had the same sort of life mentality as you. I was upset and inspired by that premise.
“I knew then, really, that my closest friends would be people I have never really met before. I was different and I didn’t know many people who felt about mortality how I did. As a result, I do feel a personal connection with the icons: John Wayne, Elvis. I loved how nice Marilyn was, I related to her. Finding girls who were as loving and warm as her is hard.”
Like Lana, Marilyn Monroe wasn’t one without her detractors. “Success makes so many people hate you,” she once said, “I wish it wasn’t that way.” Similarly, some still see Del Rey’s femme fatale aura as a commercial angle aimed purely to incite lust and sell, sell and sell again. “Forget about singing,” begins a recent live review in The Chicago Tribune, “Lana Del Rey could’ve passed for a swimsuit model posing for paparazzi cameras on Friday at a sold-out Aragon”, epitomising how, to many, her enchantment will always be superficial.
But for more avid fans, her allure is artistically cavernous. Just like Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly, Charles Vidor’s Gilda, or even the original Carmen, yes, there is a surface of seduction – but beyond that image, there is deep play in action. Lana personifies a struggle between stability and freedom; she conveys expressions of escapism, a scramble for courage in the face of fatalism, a subconscious need to confess, a desire for power. This is no swimsuit competition.
This expressive storyteller springs from the darkness for the new album track ‘Money Power Glory’. It might have textured guitars and a rock soundscape, but – with a trudging beat, and bass so deep even Adele wouldn’t roll in it – this track is essentially gold-digger dub. Lana opens with her trademark rap drawl, before peaking with some soaring vocals, a good octave higher than the smoky and languorous alto depths she’s known for. “I want money and all your power and all your glory,” chimes the lyrical Medusa, “I’m going to take you for all you’ve got.”
This mood continues into ‘Sad Girl’, which might not be her most explosive or infectious song, but these lyrics are expertly vivid, and a disturbing and sadistic love song is spun into a cinematic plot. “Being a mistress might not appeal to fools like you,” she derides, “but you haven’t seen my man.” The line typifies this track’s motif: that despite the best intentions of the onlooker, sometimes people don’t want to be saved. All this Mary Gaitskill-like debased romance is sugar coated with ghostly production and racy Spanish guitar.
‘Shades Of Cool’ rises like a deathly waltz for depressive lovers, and it illustrates this turmoil with a jazz air, slow drums, a stargazing chorus and a helter-skelter middle-eight. I begin to ask Lana what her favourite track is.
“(Album opener) ‘Cruel World’,” she decides, before I’ve even finished. “I went down to the beach and I was thinking about everything, personally. The verse is thoughtful and laid back, but then the chorus falls into this world of chaotic and heavy sub-bass. The juxtaposition of those two worlds, the peaceful beginning and the chaotic chorus, it summed up my personal circumstances of everything going easily and then everything being f*cked up. It felt like me.”
On this West Coast she so fervently draws from, the one I’m sitting beside right now, even the weather is in on it. In some pact of pathetic fallacy, it stubbornly refuses to rain, ever, and instead bakes the city in a constant beam of delusional ‘everything’s fine’ sunshine. One time, in the throes of jet lag, I did catch it lightly sprinkling at 5.30am, and as I looked down from the 10th floor of my hotel, it felt like the glamorous districts of Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Westwood were recoiling from me like a girl with no make-up on yet, yelling: ‘You weren’t supposed to see me like this!’
Even now, as the idiotic sun burns down onto the patio, I swear I can hear each stone cracking in surrender. Sensing the heat, Lana asks if I want to take a walk, and for some corporeal reason that first movement in an hour – sending chemicals fizzing, blood flow rising and muscles warming – sparks a shift to deeper conversation.
“When I was 15, I had this teacher called Gene Campbell, who is still my good friend,” begins Lana. “In boarding school, to become a teacher you don’t have to have a Masters. I was 15 and he was 22, out of Georgetown. He was young, and at school you were allowed to take trips out at the weekends. On our driving trips around the Connecticut counties, he introduced me to Nabokov, (Allen) Ginsberg, (Walt) Whitman, and even Tupac and Biggie. He was my gateway to inspirational culture. Those inspirations I got when I was 15 are still my only inspirations. I draw from that same well. It’s one world I dip into to create other worlds. Like this philosopher Josiah Royce once said: ‘Without the roots, you can’t have any fruits.’”
The idea of “sculpting your own world to live in” is a priority to Lana, and it is from this inherited inspiration that she irrigates Planet Del Rey. We find an exaggerated form of this world in the visual art that accompanies her music, just as much as the tracks themselves. She raises a finger that beams to me ‘hold that thought’, and scurries into the house only to return with a large hardback photography book under arm. The cover reads Pulp Art Book, and carries the image of a naked woman wearing a Native Indian warbonnet while lighting a cigarette.
“A friend gave this to me as a present, but for some reason they thought the photographer (Neil Krug) was dead,” explains Lana. Krug’s work is bold, and comes across like that of a spaghetti Western surrealist with an eye for finding the artistic merit in ’70s American schlock. This book in particular is a collection of sublime moments captured through ancient Polaroids, which portray kaleidoscopic acid fantasies, B-movie sexploitation/violence, and Middle American subculture.
“I was so heavily influenced by it, always thinking he was dead,” says Lana. Fortunately, the information was duff: Neil wasn’t dead. He was alive, well, and managing both very nearby in Los Angeles. It didn’t take too long for the pair to hook up some long-term plans, and his visual impact on ‘Ultraviolence’ has been prominent.
“For some reason, he has been really life changing for me,” admits Lana. “He loves painting Polaroids and making little 8x10s. I saw one of the shots he took of me, and I felt it had to be the album cover. That photo influenced me to change the track listing.”
Only yesterday, I watched Neil shoot Lana on a beach location in Malibu for Clash. When the camera stopped, and nobody was adjusting a fringe, summoning a pose or straightening a collar, she paused alone in the ocean, splashing lightly, seizing a tranquil moment while throwing an endless gaze at the Pacific horizon. It reminded me of a line by the Californian writer Joan Didion: “Here, beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.”
I ask Lana if she remembers it. “I’m like a little fish,” she proudly declares. “When you get to that water, and you’re not from here, it feels like you’re as far as you can go. You have your feet in the ocean and you’re at the edge of the world.”
I ask if her spirituality resides purely with sublime nature, or is there some religion in there? “I got to a point 10 years ago where everything was so wrong in my personal life that I let go and stopped willing my way into life. When I let go of everything and stopped trying to become a singer and write good songs and be happy, things then fell into place. I was surrendering to life on life’s terms. It was this very real experience with a life science that nobody had taught me. You let go of everything you think you want, and focus on everything you love, so it’s the only vibration you’re putting out there.”
So, when you cease focusing on your desires, the things you’ve always wanted come naturally to you?
“No. It’s feeling like you’re already there; that you are where you wanted to be the whole time. You just have to imaginatively let it already be so.”
It’s that idea of decorating reality with elements of fantasy that lines ‘Ultraviolence’: this marriage of an orange-blossomed West Coast dream with bleak and difficult East Coast realism; the idea of seeing the blue pill and the red pill, and choosing to double dunt both. It’s ordering a fresh peach Bellini, and pouring in a can of Anchor.
Lana Del Rey is featured on the The New York Times. It features an article by Jon Pareles and a new photoshoot by Kurt Iswarienko! You can find it on June 14, so keep an eye out and feel free to send us the scans if you get a copy!
Photoshoots > 2014 > For The New York Times by Kurt Iswarienko x— 02 Pictures were added —x
In October, before starting an international theater tour, the songwriter Lana Del Rey consulted a clairvoyant. She was instructed to write down four questions in advance and sleep on them. The first question on the list, Ms. Del Rey said in an interview in May at her house here, was “Am I meant for this world?”
It’s probably not the kind of question most multimillion-selling pop singers would ask themselves with their careers clearly ascendant. This year, Ms. Del Rey was called on to sing a spooky remake of “Once Upon a Dream” for the Disney film “Maleficent,” and she sang at Versailles for the pre-wedding party of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
But doubt, regrets, obsessive longing and self-destructive impulses are often at the core of Ms. Del Rey’s songs and videos. “I wait for you babe, that’s all I do/You don’t come through babe, you never do,” she sings in “Pretty When You Cry” on her new album “Ultraviolence” (Polydor/Interscope), due for release Tuesday.
Since her emergence on a major label with the single “Video Games” in 2011 and the album “Born to Die” in 2012, Ms. Del Rey has drawn passionately opposed responses. Her songs and video clips demurely step into cultural minefields, exploring eroticism, mortality, power, submission, glamour, faith, pop-culture iconography and the meaning(s) of the American dream. She has faced, in reviews and online discussions, shifting accusations of inauthenticity, amateurishness, anti-feminism and commercial calculation (although her only Top 10 single in the United States was unplanned: a dance remix by Cedric Gervais of her wistful ballad “Summertime Sadness”). But she has also, largely through YouTube, gathered an adoring worldwide audience that takes her every lyric to heart.
“Ultraviolence” will doubtless stir up more disputes. But one thing the album should immediately eliminate is the notion that Ms. Del Rey is only chasing hits. The album reaches deeper into her slow-motion sense of time, her blend of retro sophistication and seemingly guileless candor. It also moves gracefully between heartache and sly humor, sometimes within the same song.
The music on “Ultraviolence” sets her further outside whatever passes for current pop mainstream. While radio playlists are full of futuristic electronic dance beats and Auto-Tuned testimonials to self-esteem, Ms. Del Rey, 28, has taken a contrary path, melodic and melancholy. Much of her music has been lush and downtempo, invoking vintage movie scores and echoes of the 1950s and 1960s; it opens quiet spaces. Her voice sounds human and unguarded, offering sweetness and ache even when she sings four-letter words.
The tracks on “Born to Die” drew on hip-hop, with grunted samples and hefty beats, but now, she said, “I’m not crazy about some of that production.” The hip-hop influence was already receding on “Paradise,” the EP she released in 2012. And “Ultraviolence” is more languorous than ever. Its first single, “West Coast,” actually downshifts to a slower tempo for its chorus, where standard radio formula calls for a big buildup.
Continue reading the main story
In a throwback to a less-computerized era, many of the tracks on “Ultraviolence” were built around Ms. Del Rey and a seven-piece band recording together and responding to one another. The songs often float in a psychedelic haze that she described as “narco-swing.” Dan Auerbach, the Black Keys’ guitarist, produced and performed on the album, and said, “She was watching us and swaying while we were playing.”
Mr. Auerbach was drawn to her songs because, he said, “They felt old and new at the same time.” Ms. Del Rey freely cites inspirations including Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Cat Power, Nirvana and Eminem, but none of them emerged in this century. “Think of what’s going on now,” she said. “Where am I going to get my inspiration? I couldn’t think of a thing today that I would really genuinely want to be a part of.”
In conversation, Ms. Del Rey isn’t the low-voiced chanteuse of songs like “Video Games” or “Blue Jeans”; her voice has a girlish, soprano lilt, punctuated with giggles. Wearing a blue mini-dress and clear sandals that revealed toenails painted a pearly peach, she sat on her couch here, sipping coffee and smoking through a pack of cigarettes, under a painting of cherubic angels. She showed off a recent tattoo on her right arm: “Whitman Nabokov,” two authors she has quoted in songs. She had just returned to Los Angeles to finish her North American tour, with a show at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall.
After living in London and touring the world, Ms. Del Rey bought her house here, an elegant English-style residence in need of repair, seven months ago. The walls are newly painted in the blues and greens that were also the palette of “Video Games,” the homemade video clip — she edited it on her laptop — that catapulted her career and has now been viewed more than 119 million times on her two YouTube sites alone. The paintings in her living room are of icons — the Virgin Mary, Elizabeth Taylor — and a book on the coffee table had Marilyn Monroe on the cover.
“I have strong relationships with icons,” she says. “They’re probably my most meaningful relationships. They feel personal to me, but maybe that’s what being an icon is. Maybe everyone feels like they have that special relationship that’s different from everybody else, like you love them and you think you understand them more than anyone else, or you get them for who they really are.”
It’s not a position she aspires to for herself. “I wouldn’t really know how to shape myself as an icon,” she said earnestly.
Many of the accusations that were leveled at her major-label debut were inaccurate. She wasn’t a pretty face serving someone else’s concept, or a dilettante. As Lizzy Grant — born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant — she had worked at being a songwriter since her teens, and playing in small clubs on the Lower East Side and in Williamsburg. She grew up in Lake Placid, N.Y., and came to New York City with, she said, “a Dylan-esque dream of a community of writers,” but never found it.
In 2007, she got her first recording contract when she was a senior at Fordham, studying metaphysics. She recorded a debut EP in 2008, and briefly released an album in 2010 — “Lizzy Grant a.k.a. Lana Del Ray” — before it was withdrawn while she renamed herself Lana Del Rey. The songs on that album were already exploring the tarnished innocence and dangerous compulsions that she would return to on “Born To Die.” The production would change with her collaborators, but her perspective did not.
As many songwriters do, she works with more trained musicians who supply foundations for her melodies and lyrics. Sometimes they offer chord progressions while she improvises; sometimes she brings finished words and tunes for them to harmonize. “She’s very clear about what she wants and doesn’t want,” said Rick Nowels, who wrote “Young and Beautiful” and “West Coast” with her, and who has collaborated with Madonna and Dido. “She is the captain of her own ship.”
Ms. Del Rey describes her songwriting simply. “I want one of two things,” she said. “I either want to tell it exactly like the way it was, or I want to envision the future the way I hope it will become. I’m either documenting something or I’m dreaming.”
On “Ultraviolence,” that means songs like “Cruel World,” in which she breaks away from a long failed relationship — “Shared my body and my mind with you/That’s all over now” — and “Sad Girl,” a bluesy reflection on “being a mistress on the side”; she also sings “The Other Woman,” a song recorded by Nina Simone.
Already braced for disapproval, she said: “If you really do want to analyze me, if that’s maybe something you’re interested in, let me tell you my story and you can look at that.”
The recording of “Pretty When You Cry” is built around the original writing session: chords from her band’s guitarist, Blake Stranathan, a fluctuating tempo and words she was making up on the spot. “I’m stronger than all my men,” she sings, “except for you.” A more conventional approach would be to redo its shaky, scratchy lead vocal with something prettier. “I didn’t even think to go back and fix it,” she said, “because if you know the story behind it, then you can tell why it was sung that way.”
The angry responses to “Born to Die” left scars. “Carl Jung said that inevitably what other people think of you becomes a small facet of your psyche, whether you want it to or not,” she said. Her new album includes a retort: “Money, Power, Glory,” which claims, with deep sarcasm, that those are what she’s after.
“I learned that whatever I did elicited an opposite response, so I’m sure ‘Money, Power, Glory’ will actually resonate with people as being what I really do want,” she said with a shrug. “I already know what’s coming, so it’s O.K. to explore irony and bitterness.”
A recurring criticism was that her songs about being swept away by love were anti-feminist in their passivity; she contends that she was writing about private, immediate feelings, not setting out doctrine. “For me, a true feminist is someone who is a woman who does exactly what she wants,” she said. “If my choice is to, I don’t know, be with a lot of men, or if I enjoy a really physical relationship, I don’t think that’s necessarily being anti-feminist. For me the argument of feminism never really should have come into the picture. Because I don’t know too much about the history of feminism, and so I’m not really a relevant person to bring into the conversation. Everything I was writing was so autobiographical, it could really only be a personal analysis.”
She has also been denounced for video clips that culminate in her death: by drowning, by falling, by choking. The video for “Born To Die” ends with her in a boyfriend’s arms, inert and covered in blood. She agrees that her videos have often been “exploring ways to die,” she said, adding: “I love the idea that it’ll all be over. It’s just a relief, really. I’m scared to die, but I want to die.” The title song of “Ultraviolence” ventures into precarious territory. In an arrangement that melds Baroque dirge and wah-wah guitar, the singer describes herself as “filled with poison but blessed with beauty and rage,” and goes on to quote a fraught 1962 song from the Crystals, “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss).”
The lyrics also mention a “cult leader,” and Ms. Del Rey said the song looked back to a time soon after she moved to New York City, when she considered following a guru who “believed in breaking you down to build you back up again.” “It sounds kind of weird,” she added, “but that is what it’s about, and having romantic feelings entwined with the idea of being led and letting go and surrendering. That’s always a concept to me, like I’m wavering between independence and falling into lifestyles and being led.”
There’s an underlying pattern to the songs throughout “Ultraviolence”; Ms. Del Rey’s voice appears alone and often fragile in the verses, then is swarmed by instruments and multiple backup vocals. “Each tune fully represents the ebbs and flows, the periods of normality mixed with this uncontrolled chaos that comes in through circumstances in my life,” she said. “It’s your story. If you’re the one writing it, you want to tell your story right.”
The next night Ms. Del Rey was at the Shrine’s Expo Hall before a packed, standing audience. There were high-pitched screams when she strolled onstage, and from the front to the back of the hangarlike hall, voices were raised to sing along. It wasn’t, like some concerts, a social occasion; this audience was devotional, sharing every word, sometimes close to drowning her out. Onstage, Ms. Del Rey just stood there and sang, swaying occasionally; when she did her one planned bit of choreography, a single hip flip in “Body Electric,” the whole room roared.
“The energy is so much higher in the pit than it is onstage,” she noted afterward. She strolled twice down into the photo pit, trailed by a video camera, as fans reached for her with offerings and hugs; one fervent embrace looked like a half-nelson. “I’ve lost a lot of hair on this tour, I will probably have to get a hair transplant nyc once tour is over” she said later, backstage. “The audience has been an unexpected well of comfort that I’ve dipped into recently. It was never something I even thought to go to for strength or affirmation.”
But the adoration hasn’t quite broken through the solitude of her songs. “Yes, I’m in a different place today than I was four years ago,” she said. “But I’m some ways I’m still in the exact same place. I’m still on the periphery.”
The upcoming new album of Lana Del Rey will be out on Monday, June 16. Listen to four tracks below:
BROOKLYN BABY (audio) – http://goo.gl/2rmKD4
ULTRAVIOLENCE (audio) – http://goo.gl/jwLHIx
SHADES OF COOL (audio) – http://goo.gl/r3gx6q
WEST COAST (video) – http://goo.gl/ImEiYL
7 million albums sold to date. 12 million singles sold to date. 1 billion video views on YouTube globally.
‘BROOKLYN BABY’ shot straight to number 1 on iTunes in 59 countries after going live yesterday.
Lana will be releasing her new album “ULTRAVIOLENCE” on Monday 16t June on Polydor. Recorded at Dan Auerbach’s (The Black Keys) Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville and produced in the main by Auerbach himself, “ULTRAVIOLENCE” follows Lana’s stunning debut album “Born To Die”. Fresh off the back of a sold out tour in the US, Lana is coming to Europe for a number of festival dates including Rock En Seine, Vida, Bravella and Glastonbury.
‘ULTRAVIOLENCE’ will be available in standard and deluxe editions on download, CD and vinyl. A Collectors Box edition is also due for release. The box will include a Deluxe LP Picture disc – 2 x LPs on heavyweight vinyl, a Deluxe CD digipack and 4x12x12 art prints.