What’s your whole perspective on hookup culture and apps and the way people are dating now?
It’s part of the modern world we live in. I think there are just as many assholes meeting the old-fashioned way as there are meeting in the new hookup culture.
Did [the Rebel Heart leaks] change anything about the way the album's tracks were sequenced?
It changed everything. First of all, it drove me insane, and made me feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. It made me second guess everything, because suddenly I thought, ‘Oh god, everyone’s heard all these demos.’ There were some demos that I actually liked the demo version of, and I thought, ‘Well they heard the demo, 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 having to just choose for myself and put it out as I would normally, as an artist. I would make that choice with a small group of people around me, hearing people’s points of view and all the people that I’m working with. I would make those choices. The way he leaked it and the way the stuff started coming out and coming out and coming out in all these different incarnations, it kind of drove me crazy. Then it started making me think I don’t even know what version I should be putting out.
Some people were like ‘Ooh, I love it! I love it!’ and I was like, ‘No, don’t love it, because that’s not the thing.” So, it was crazy-making … A lot of these things were being sold on my supposed fan sites and I kept thinking, well, my fans should be supporting me and protecting me. It’s very confusing, the whole thing confused me. Still does.
What are some differences between the gay audiences you see coming out in 2015 versus the audiences you’ve seen in 2005 or ’95 or ’85? How have you seen the community evolve around you?
When I first came up, the whole AIDS epidemic was starting, and the gay community that I experienced from the beginning of my career was mostly — and overwhelmingly — concerned with staying alive. And, also, I felt really aware of the preciousness of life and time. The gay community and people who were HIV-positive were treated so badly, and I was very disturbed by things. But I also saw a lot of love and connection in the gay community at that time.
Like all progress that is made in all marginalized communities or groups, I think after time goes by and you earn certain rights or you break through certain barriers, you could sometimes, maybe, take it for granted what you have now that you didn’t have before. And then that would lead to a certain lack of community, in a way, caring in a way, that I saw before.
Thematically and lyrically [the album] is a lot more self-referential than you have been in the past. During the writing and production, was that something you did intentionally?
I didn’t set out to write certain kinds of songs. I just set out to write good songs. And that was the mood I was in, and that was what I was channeling. Sometimes I was in nostalgic moods and looking back. Sometimes I was in a mood to write a song as if I was writing in my journal and reveal certain parts of me that I was ready to reveal.
What do you despise about pop music?
Despise? That’s such a strong word. I’m not crazy about how sort of homogenized it’s become. It used to be much more diverse. Maybe it’s just what’s played on the radio sounds very much the same. But I can’t say I despise, that’s just too much. In our house we don’t use words like ‘despise’ and ‘hate,’ we say ‘strongly dislike.’
Discuss in Exhale.