LEN­NY KRA­VITZ

Numéro - - English Text - In­ter­view by So­phie Ro­se­mont

With his in­imi­table look and so­lar char i sma, he em­bo­dies the ar­che­ty­pal rock star, on whom time has no em­pire. A one- man band ca­pable of playing all his own ins­tru­ments, Len­ny Kra­vitz is back with a new al­bum, Raise Vi­bra­tion, a groo­vy and mi­li­tant ma­ni­fes­to, the ele­venth opus in his ca­reer. Wea­ving gos­pel and Na­tive Ame­ri­can chants in­to his rhythms, in ho­mage to his black and partC­he­ro­kee roots, Kra­vi tz al­so ce­le­brates fi­gures such as John­ny Cash and Mi­chael Jack­son on this vi­brant and in­ti­mate disc. Nu­mé­ro caught up with him af­ter his stom­ping Pa­ris concert this June. A mane of dread­locks, a bla­ck­lea­ther ja­cket, dark glasses and

pis­ta­chios wi­thin arm’s reach… On this grey Pa­ri­sian mor­ning, Len­ny Kra­vitz is playing the per­fect star. At 54, he doesn’t at all look his age, has lost none of his sex- ap­peal, knows it, and ap­pa­rent­ly en­joys a self confi­dence made of steel. A self confi­dence that’s just as so­lid as the tracks on his new al­bum, Raise Vi­bra­tion, which is his best in a long while. If the ge­ne­ral mood is still rock ’n’ roll, the 12 tracks are im­bued with a conta­gious groove that mixes tri­bal echoes, funk, pop tin­ged with folk, and ro­cked- up gos­pel. It’s a ris­ky but ul­ti­ma­te­ly suc­cess­ful mel­ting pot, which comes off thanks to Kra­vitz’s in­imi­table timbre and a re­ne­wal of ins­pi­ra­tion that suits him well as it plunges in­to the roots of Afro- Ame­ri­can cul­ture. Those who wrote him off as fo­re­ver stuck in an over­ly fla­shy FM rock rut will be re­vi­sing their judg­ment… A ta­len­ted song­wri­ter and mul­ti- ins­tru­ment player, Kra­vitz is al­so a su­perb stage per­for­mer – so­me­thing he proves each time he goes on tour, with concerts that are a mo­ment of vi­sual­ly as­to­ni­shing col­lec­tive sym­bio­sis which are im­pos­sible to re­sist. His most recent Pa­ri­sian per­for­mance, in June at the Ac­corHo­tels Are­na, was spec­ta­cu­lar in its ge­ne­ro­si­ty: not the type to dis­dain his old hits, he gave his all on eve­ry track, played his stage ef­fects for maxi­mum im­pact, sang full throt­tle all the way through and ad­ded some wel ljud­ged co­vers in­to the mix ( Bob Mar­ley’s Get Up, Stand Up) – a true les­son in en­ter­tain­ment.

NU­MÉ­RO: Your most recent Pa­ris concer t in June was an ex­tra­or­di­na­ry stage show, wi­thout the sligh­test sla­cke­ning of pace. Where do you find your ener­gy? LEN­NY KRA­VITZ:

In the mu­sic. It trans­ports me. The au­dience’s ener­gy too. I’m lu­cky that they’ve al­ways shown me un­fai l ing love. Per­haps be­cause that’s what my mu­sic is about – it’s ve­ry po­si­tive. People come to find a fee­ling of uni­ty, of to­ge­ther­ness. Even if they don’t know each other be­fo­re­hand, they all get along fa­mous­ly du­ring my show.

How did your new al­bum Raise

Vi­bra­tion come about?

Ve­ry spon­ta­neous­ly. I had no idea what I should do – the style, the sub­jects, the am­bience… I just left my­self open to ins­pi­ra­tion, wha­te­ver was going to come. No fil­ter; raw. It came to me in dreams. I dreamt at night, ex­tra­or­di­na­ry onei­ric sto­ries, but al­so more concrete ones concer­ning my own life and the world around us. It’s what brings a ve­ry vi­sual as­pect to these new songs. Gi­ven that on the disc I was playing all the ins­tru­ments, I got my long­time gui­ta­rist, Craig Ross, to pro­duce it, and the re­sult is in­cre­dible. We re­cor­ded it in my stu­dio in the Ba­ha­mas, be­hind clo­sed doors, with no dis­trac­tions other than na­ture. It’s a good set- up for crea­tion…

Reas­sure us, no­ne­the­less – New York is still your fa­vou­rite town?

Ab­so­lu­te­ly. My heart be­longs to New York. I was born there, I grew up there, it’s where I ho­ned my sense of rhy thm and co­lour, and where I learnt from others.

Was there one ins­tru­ment in par­ti­cu­lar that see­med cru­cial to you on this al­bum?

I real­ly li­ked the per­cus­sion, the congas in par­ti­cu­lar. When I star­ted out I played all the ins­tru­ments be­cause I couldn’t af­ford to pay the mu­si­cians I wan­ted, and in the end it be­came to­tal­ly na­tu­ral. Going from one ins­tru­ment to the next is com­ple­te­ly fluid for me, al­most the­ra­peu­tic.

With titles like It’s Enough, which calls out the vio­lence to which Afro Ame­ri­cans are sub­jec­ted, would you say this is a mi­li­tant al­bum?

It’s dif­fi­cult not to feel concer­ned by what’s going on at the mo­ment. Ten years ago I couldn’t have writ­ten this al­bum. Our times are real­ly dark, dis­tur­bed, frigh­te­ning. In 2018 people are still going to war, ra­cism and mi­so­gy­ny still exist, it’s in­to­le­rable. And yet – and I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not – I’ve al­ways been an op­ti­mist. I work on the as­sump­tion that man can change. Meanw­hile, there are so ma­ny things that need doing on this pla­net and we have less and less time. Par­ti­cu­lar­ly where the en­vi­ron­ment is concer­ned. The least I can do is talk about it, react in my own way, heigh­ten awa­re­ness among those who lis­ten to me…

With tracks that last over four mi­nutes, you es­chew the usual pop for­mat on this disc. Was this de­li­be­rate?

Yes. The tracks on Raise Vi­bra­tion are not one- di­men­sio­nal like so much mu­sic to­day, they take the time they need. They we­ren’t ca­li­bra­ted for ra­dio or for au­diences in a hur­ry. Tech­no­lo­gy is great, but the fact that some people on­ly lis­ten to 40 se­conds of a song be­fore mo­ving on to so­me­thing else seems to me to be in­com­pa­tible with the most ba­sic idea of mu­si­ca­li­ty. Mo­reo­ver, Raise Vi­bra­tion is best lis­te­ned to on vi­nyl.

Your love of gos­pel comes through ve­ry clear­ly on the track

Gold Dust…

Gos­pel is part of my roots. And if I mix gos­pel and rock ’n’ roll, it’s be­cause both are about brin­ging people to­ge­ther as well as about being sin­cere. I grew up to the gos­pel sound of the 1950s, which my mo­ther lo­ved. It has a com­ple­te­ly unique so­cial po­wer and an ex­tra­or­di­na­ry emo­tion that we’ve ne­ver equal­led since.

It seems that your mo­ther was ve­ry im­por tant in your life, not on­ly from a fa­mi­ly point of view, but al­so ar­tis­ti­cal­ly.

Yes, she lis­te­ned to jazz, Are­tha Frankl in, Gla­dys Knight, Ste­vie Won­der, Cur­tis May­field – and I have to say that Su­per­fly is still one of my fa­vou­rite al­bums of all time. My mo­ther was al­so a wo­man who dis­played en­or­mous strength of cha­rac­ter, loyal­ty, ho­nour and de­vo­tion. And it’s thanks to her, and all those who hel­ped bring me up, like my aunt and my god­mo­ther, that I’m sen­si­tive to the fe­mi­nist cause.

And what about your fa­ther? What role did he play?

He brought me a lot too: a taste for work, hu­mi­li­ty, a thirst for dis­co­ve­ring other sounds…

What made you use Nat ive Ame­ri­can chants in the title track

Raise Vi­bra­tion?

These chants have al­ways tou­ched me, be­cause the his­to­ry and cul­ture of Na­tive Ame­ri­cans are in­ti­ma­te­ly lin­ked to those of the U. S. There again it’s about my roots: my great grand­mo­ther was Che­ro­kee. The rich­ness of my ori­gins – Eu­ro­pean, Ame­ri­can, Afri­can – is a gif t from hea­ven. I al­ways try to ho­nour them, even if it’s of ten an un­cons­cious thing when I’m com­po­sing.

Which ar tists made you want to get up on stage?

First­ly the Jack­son 5, my ve­ry first concert when I was 6 years old, in Union Square! My fa­ther took me, and I was to­tal ly ama­zed. The groove, the me­lo­dy, the ten­der­ness, their tru­ly im­pres­sive pro­fes­sio­na­lism. The fol­lo­wing year, I went with my mo­ther to see James Brown at the Apol­lo Thea­ter. That was… ex­plo­sive!

What ’ s more we get to hear Mi­chael Jack­son on the track

Low! How? And why?

I pro­du­ced the track Ano­ther Day for him, which fea­tures on an al­bum that came out af­ter his death – it’s not ve­ry good un­for­tu­na­te­ly… Any­way, I found voice re­cor­dings that mat­ched per­fect­ly with Low, a track I would have lo­ved to give Mi­chael if he were still alive. And I didn’t use his sin­ging as a sample but as a real per­for­mance.

John­ny Cash al­so ap­pears on the al­bum, al­though more in­di­rect­ly: his name is the title of a track in which you sing about the day your mo­ther died.

That day I met June Car ter and John­ny Cash, who were a couple, in Rick Ru­bin’s house in L. A. [ Rick Ru­bin was the pro­du­cer, among others, of Cash, the Beas­tie Boys, Red Hot Chi­li Pep­pers and Adele.] I was in shock and told them the news, be­cause I didn’t know who else to tell right then – I was alone. And there was a sur­real mo­ment where they took me in their arms to com­fort me. What I felt right then is what I re­count in this song.

Is there a his­to­ri­cal per­iod you would have li­ked to live through?

I would have lo­ved to be 20 in the 1960s. I think I would have had a lot of fun ex­pe­ri­men­ting with eve­ry­thing that chan­ged so­cie­ty at the time: mu­sic, art, po­li­tics maybe…

Your first al­bum, Let Love Rule, will turn 30 in 2019. What do you feel loo­king back at your ca­reer and your suc­cess?

That I’m a lu­cky man who hasn’t no­ti­ced the time pas­sing. Back then, the simple fact of re­lea­sing a re­cord was just huge! I ne­ver thought I would last so long. Of course that’s what I wan­ted, but wi­thout being cons­cious o f i t. S ince then, eve­ry­thing’s just hap­pe­ned wi­thout any real stra­te­gy, and it’s made me hap­py. Even if no­thing is per­fect. I’m not the same age to­day, but that doesn’t frigh­ten me, it’s the way life goes…

Do you have any re­grets?

None. I’ve learnt from my ma­ny mis­takes, which brought me where I am to­day, and I feel hap­py. I’ve chan­ged, in a good way I think – I’m se­rene. Mu­sic has hel­ped me get through dif­fi­cult times, has pi­cked me up in sor­row and di­sillu­sion. It’s al­so al­lo­wed me to live through some ex­cep­tio­nal­ly won­der­ful mo­ments.

What are you prou­dest of?

My daugh­ter Zoë. She’s kind, beau­ti­ful, ta­len­ted – a tru­ly beau­ti­ful per­son. Even if she we­ren’t my daugh­ter, I’d want to be her friend!

Do you have a man­tra?

Let Love Rule, fo­re­ver and al­ways. Love is our grea­test strength on earth; on­ly love can bring us peace and hap­pi­ness.

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