Lana Del Rey: "I don't play the role of a lolita" (Interview with German Zeit Online, translated by sbk5)
DIE ZEIT: In your videos, you often come accross as the tragic heroine of a Hollywood melodrama in the early Sixties. With sultry strings, your songs are satisfied fantasies from another time. Does Lana Del Rey live in the present?
Lana Del Rey: I like things from the past because they take me back to that time. Nevertheless, I don't take as much inspiration from that as you may think. The Hollywood cinema is just one of many influences, a tragic make-up I wear. But I like how these movies are made: so epic, captivating. I wish the real life was that way.
ZEIT: Isn't it that for you? In Germany alone, your debut album "Born to Die" has sold 400.000 copies.
Del Rey: Whenever I come to Paris or Berlin, I do catch my breath and think: It's wonderful here, the people like me and my music. And yet I thought for a long time that nobody cared about them. Again and again they said: These songs are too strange to be invested in, too bizarre to be played on the radio.
ZEIT: And now even the luxury brand Jaguar is advertising with one of your songs.
Del Rey: Yes, "Burning Desire" is a very manly piece, it's about driving fast.
ZEIT: In the Sixties, James Bond drove a Jaguar. Would you like to sing the theme song for a Bond movie?
Del Rey: That probably would've been fun in the past and most of my songs are suited for that. But since then, these movies have become tremendous spectacles. To get to sing the theme song, you have to be very prominent, not controversial.
ZEIT: Do you like being controversial?
Del Rey: No, I don't like controversy. I'd be happy to be a normal singer. But in America, of all places, journalists have been sending me hate mails since the release of "Born to Die" as if they had been waiting to lambast me.
ZEIT: But you also received postive reviews - from the New York Times for example.
Del Rey: Yes, but there was also an author named Jon Caramanica there who dragged the entire album through the mire. The things he wrote about my family were outrageous and false!
ZEIT: So, you're suggesting there's a conspiracy against the pop singer Lana Del Rey among American journalists?
Del Rey: You can see it that way. One part of the journalists later contacted my press agency and apologized: They'd been bored and were looking for an exciting topic. This campaign is rather a comment on journalism in the USA than on my performance. It wasn't about a wrong key on the TV show "Saturday Night Live" - it was about something else.
ZEIT: Maybe on the revealing manner you deal with the USA? "My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola" it says in "Cola", a song on your recently released EP, "Paradise".
Del Rey: So what? I think the line is funny. My boyfriend is Scottish, he deems American girls very exotic. He once told me: "You American girls walk around as if your pussies tasted like Coca-Cola, as if you'd wrap yourself into an American flags to sleep." He deems us all very patriotic.
ZEIT: The American flag is rarely missing in one of your videos, in photos you sometimes even cuddle yourself up in one.
Del Rey: Yes, because it just looks good. But I also like the meaning behind this flag: the idea of the American dream.
ZEIT: When one watches the video for "Ride", your American dream resembles the radical maverick stories, which were told by the American independent cinemas in the Sixties. In a long monologue, it says in the beginning: "I was in the winter of my life, and the men I met along the road were my only summer..."
Del Rey: That's autobiographical! There was a time in which I asked myself: What will you do if your dreams don't all come true? I really did seek safety in men. But "Ride" isn't the story of a victim. And it's not supposed to be a comment on prostitiution like the American media assumes. It's about my own life: What happens if you want to be a great singer but your own home country says: "No, you're not"?
ZEIT: The men in the video look like members of the Hells Angels...
Del Rey: I've always felt like an Outlaw and Biker - I've been riding on the back of motorcycles since my fifteenth birthday. I've also been dating significantly older men since then. I had discovered writing for myself early on and was confident that I would become a successful author. But it came differently. After I stopped driking at age 18 - i had an alcohol problem - I was rather looking for contact to people who were leading established lives.
ZEIT: A lot has changes in your life in 2012.
Del Rey: The things around me have changed. There are now people who listen to and like my music.
ZEIT: You cite American freethinkers like Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg as important influences. Are Beat-poems like "Howl" still current?
Del Rey: To met they are, I always carry "Howl" by me, in my wallet! After I read Ginsberg, the world changed for me. The way he painted with words overawed me. I dreamt that people would say the same about my texts: My god, what a beautiful picture she painted there!
ZEIT: How do you get along with feminists? A lot of people had a problem with you lolita look in the video for "Ride":
Del Rey: I don't play the role of a lolita! I just like the text! Lots of popstars play with the lolita thing, barely wear clothes. It's different with me, I wish I knew how to explain it...it's not about being a lolita, it's more about an additude, as if one was choosing polygamy, free love or whatever. It's my choice! It's not about the women's movement for me, and my songs aren't a comment on today's pop music either.
ZEIT: More a mix of a diary and personal confession?
Del Rey: I Just want to describe the world from my perspective. Actually, it's always the same pattern: Let's take the song "Born to Die": The autobiographical verse is about not giving up on being a good person. I was with a man back then who just let himself float. We both made a decision together to lead a drug-free life. But then he more or less ran away. And everything I could do for him, was pray. In the chorus it all opens into a passionate fantasy: (sings): "Come and take a walk on the wild side. Let me kiss you hard in the pouing rain." Ultimately, it's an escape into romanticism.
ZEIT: If your songs are so autobiographical: Is there even a difference between you, Lizzy Grant and your fictional character Lana Del Rey?
Del Rey: No, it's just a different name. To me, it both feels the same.
ZEIT: One expects a certain type when one listens to your music...
Del Rey: I believe that...
ZEIT: ...a character from a film noir possibly.
Del Rey; I have outdated values. I like things that were made to be beautiful. And to sing is as natural to me as to speak. That's why it's not like I turn into a completely different person when I go on stage. I'm always the same.
ZEIT: Even when you're modeling for H&M?
Del Rey: Oh well...
ZEIT: Are you even interested in fashion?
Del Rey: No. I mean, you can see what I'm wearing (flannel shirt, tight jeans, mocassins). Jewelry is the only thing I occasionally buy. Sometimes I find a few pretty second hand things.
ZEIT: Is your jacket from a second hand store?
Del Rey: No, it's from K-Mart, a five-and-ten. When we were recently in New York, I was freezing and because there was a K-Mart on the other side of the street, I went inside and bought this jacket. I'm sorry if I don't look very glamourous in it.
ZEIT: But the Hollywood wardrobe, the dramtic hairstyles, the opulent make-up - who thought of all of that?
Del Rey: I'm always under way with the people that are responsible for that: Anna always does my hair, Pamela takes care of my eyes and lips. And then there's Johnny Blueyes, which is what he's called in the broad world of fashion. He's the one who always provides the right wardrobe. For example if I want a dress like Marilyn Monroe used to wear them.
ZEIT: In the video for "National Anthem", you don't just play Marilyn Monroe, you also play Jackie Kennedy - two icons at one sweep.
Del Rey: I like these women, that's why I wrote a video in which both appear.
ZEIT: Because they're two of your role models?
Del Rey: Sure, who except for Marily is a star even decades after their death? There has to be a reason why she still hits a nerve with millions of people. I like how nice she was!
ZEIT: Are you also one of the nice ones?
Del Rey: Yes, I think I am. I'm not as sad as I sound in my songs. I'm trying to be upright, to do the right things. I've been singing since I was 17 years old and most of the time, nobody cared about it. To be honest, I don't know why that's different now. I always went the straight path, showed continuity. But recently, people have been seeing as a person who has changed everything about themselves. That probably just promises more commotion.