Lenny Kravitz has maintained a true rock ethos through the 90’s. When music was fragmenting to the extremes of techno to hard core metal, Lenny continued being Lenny.
From his first album, Let Love Rule in 1991, Kravitz kept alive the heritage of classic rock by building one of the most exciting new releases of the year on it’s foundation. His sound has evolved through the decade to the point where he has become a sound unto himself. His credibility was established with the consistent quality of the next CD Mama Said, and then his commercial viability was realized with Are You Gonna Go My Way. As we near the end of the 90’s, Kravitz enjoys his position of one of the innovators of the last 10 years.
His final studio album for this century is a compilation of all of his sounds coming together with his life experiences to give you 5. Kravitz has also become a personality, much to his dismay. His personal life is often more publicized than his professional life, but he tells us later that that’s all part of the job.
Lenny Kravitz caught up with Paul Cashmere to talk about why he lets love rule.
Paul Cashmere: So why did you cut off all your dreadlocks?
Lenny Kravitz: They went back to the earth. They got removed. It was time to shed them and grow some new ones. It wasn’t a big thing. It was just a natural thing that I thought needed to happen. It was one of those things. You just know when its time.
PC: Since Circus you’ve been through many highs and lows. The sad passing of your mother and finding new love in your life. Have all of these experienced formed the template for the lyrics on 5.
LK: Some of it does. Some of the things that I think about that I wanted to express are there. But life is a constant learning thing. It’s been very interesting for me.
PC: There’s a beautiful song about your daughter titled Little Girls Eyes on the new album. That was a great gift to her.
LK: I just wanted to write something for her and it was her birthday actually. It just felt like the right thing to do. I didn’t want to buy her something or get her something material. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her. It’s important to express those things.
PC: Thinking About You for your mother is a very touching song. It must help to have positive thoughts of her when you hear or perform that song.
LK: The good thing is it’s a happy song, so when I here it, it makes me feel good because it’s a happy song because it’s dealing with the fact that I had a great mother and what a blessing it was.
PC: Your mother was known worldwide as a TV star. Growing up, did you find it strange when people would stop her in the street to ask for autographs?
LK: I think it was something I got used to. She was very natural and she was good with people. It wasn’t strange to me.
PC: There’s talk of you moving into acting.
LK: I would say probably in the next year or so, I will begin acting. It’s something that I always wanted to get back to. Again, you have to do it when the time feels right. It will be a film role. I have been offered film roles in the past but I haven’t taken any because I didn’t feel it was the right thing. The roles I’ve been offered have been fairly typical stereotype roles for someone who looks the way I do. It just wasn’t interesting to me. I want to play an interesting character. Someone who isn’t so obvious.
PC: Having two parents in the entertainment industry must have given you a solid base and understanding of acting.
LK: Well I was around a lot of theatre growing up in New York City and that was incredible at that time especially. In the early 70’s New York was just booming with theatre. There was a creative high going on, lots of great artists and like I said, I was very fortunate to be around these people to see it. It was something that was just in my blood.
PC: Watching you live, you are pure musician. The “star” thing is obviously something the publicity machine likes to write about.
LK: It’s not so much my publicists. There’s a perception out there about me. I guess there’s many perceptions. They never really want to see me for me, just Lenny the musician. There has to be all this drama and hoopla and hype and all this rock star shit, which I understand, but I am just a musician and I don’t think that until people come to see me live that they get a sense of that. Even though I play and I write and I produce, people just don’t grasp that. They are more interested in the way I look and who I go out with, the rumours and what’s going on, the clothes. It’s very strange. They just want to know about all that rock star stuff.
PC: You must be in a position now where you could have anyone you want playing on your albums. Why do you continue to choose to play most instruments yourself?
LK: I really enjoy playing those instruments. They give me a lot of pleasure, so I do it. At some point that might change and I might want to invite more people in. Up until this point, I really enjoy doing the majority of it myself.
PC: Is it difficult then putting a live band together made up of people who have to learn every song because they weren’t part of the studio recording?
LK: I have people that are really good at that. Some of the them, like the guitar player and the trumpet player have been with me since Mama Said. The rest have been with me since Are You Gonna Go My Way.
PC: Does Are You Gonna Go My Way feel as special to you as to the crowd hearing it live.
LK: Yeah it’s one of those tunes that will never go away, which is good. It was fun to play. In fact, when we did the show the other night there was no rehearsal. We hadn’t played together in two years. We had done some TV shows in Europe, but that was mimed. The show the other night was just a loose jam with no rehearsal at all. When we get it together it will be nice and tight.
PC: What about Let Love Rule. That seems to have become one of your personal favorites.
LK: That was my first record. That song has kind of turned into my anthem. It’s such a special song. It’s very simple. There is something to it.
PC: Songs evolve differently over time. There must be some songs you are no longer happy with.
LK: That happens. The moods change but I try and do the best I can on a record so that I can live with them. This year on this tour we are going to try and play a lot of things that we haven’t played before. And we are going to do all the hits too. You have got to give your supporters a good amount of that they want to hear as well as playing the new songs.
PC: I read about you going to see the Jackson 5 when you were a kid. That’s obviously one of your most memorable experiences.
LK: I used to go to a lot of concerts as a kid. I remember my dad taking me to Madison Square Garden and not telling me who it was going to be. The Commodores opened for them. That’s pretty funny. I remember I was about 7 years old. I remember Aretha Franklin being there in this white mink outfit. She sat near us and I was blown away. Then they came on and they blew my mind. It was incredible.
PC: Who else sticks in your mind?
LK: James Brown at The Apollo when I was 8. That was amazing, with Bootsy and all those guys in the band. It was hardcore funk. Duke Ellington at the Rainbow Room in New York, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davies, I’ve been very fortunate to see some of the greats. I saw Ella Fitzgerald, I’ve met a lot of them.
PC: One of your recent tours had Robert Plant as your support act. That must have been a bizarre feeling.
LK: That was pretty strange. I mean Led Zeppelin was a pretty big machine. It was a monster. And he came out and he was supporting his solo record at the time. This was just before Page and Plant got back together. He came on the road with me. It was pretty amazing. To see that in writing – Lenny Kravitz with special guest Robert Plant. It was pretty surreal.
PC: You must have felt like the character in Wayne’s World – “we’re not worthy”
LK: Yeah it was in that key. It was definately in that key. He was a real cool guy. He was very cool to me.
PC: So what do you talk about when you are in the presence of someone like Robert Plant?
LK: Stuff, life, he’s seen and done a lot. He’s like a story teller. Great Stories, Great Experiences.
PC: Your body has become a work of art with your tattoos and piercings. How old were you when you got your first piercing?
LK: I was in high-school when I got my first piercing and I remember my mum not being to thrilled about it. But then you know, she had to get used to it because it got a little out of hand. I have it and I think about it when I do it. But it’s just like clothes or jewelry or whatever you like.
PC: You get as much press for your personal life as for your music. That must piss you off.
LK: Yeah, well you know, what can you do, it’s part of the game. You get chased, but you have to live your life. Then people get more out of it than is really there and make up things and don’t tell the truth. That’s part of it too. People like reading that stuff. It’s odd to me.
PC: The Australian press reported you were engaged to Natalie Imbruglia last week. That must have been news to you.
LK: That was completely not true. They want to make a good story and people listen. It’s just the way it is. It’s not so much embarassing, it’s funny. I laugh at it. I hear these rumours and go “woo, I didn’t know that”.
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