An­other Lana Del Rey In­ter­view Turns Sour

But we’re pub­lish­ing it any­way

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - CONTENTS -

S he goes to a dark place, in the end, and won’t come out of it. “I’m not sure if they should run this story,” Lana Del Rey will say, sprawled out on a soft brown couch in tiny denim cut-offs and a white V-neck tee, blow­ing pen­sive lit­tle gum bub­bles. She has, by this point, spent a good seven hours talk­ing with me. At times, it even seemed like it was go­ing well.

“I feel like maybe we should wait un­til there’s some­thing good to talk about,” she con­tin­ues, in an airy tone that turns plead­ing. “You know? I just wish you could write about some­thing else.”

Maybe it shouldn’t have been a shock, land­ing here. Del Rey’s brand of pop star­dom is self-thwart­ing, am­biva­lent, pre­car­i­ous: at her clouded core, be­neath the con­sid­er­able glam­our, she is more Cat Power or Kurt Cobain than Ri­hanna or Katy Perry, com­plete with a mys­te­ri­ous, Kurt-like stom­ach ail­ment that plagues her on tour. And then there’s the tat­too on the side of her right hand, just be­low the pinkie, inked in neat black cur­sive: Trust No One. (On the same spot on the other hand: Par­adise.)

Still, a day ear­lier, it all feels dif­fer­ent. On a cloud­less, of­fen­sively hot, mid-June af­ter­noon in New York, the re­lease day for Del Rey’s sec­ond ma­jor-la­bel al­bum,

Ul­travi­o­lence, she an­swers the green wooden door of the Green­wich Vil­lage town-house where she’s stay­ing. “I’m Lana, nice to see you,” she says, of­fer­ing a soft hand­shake and a big, white, hope­ful smile, one that in­stantly sug­gests ev­ery­thing you think you know about her is wrong; that you’ve read too much into the con­sec­u­tive place­ment of songs called Sad Girl and

Pretty When You Cry on the new al­bum; that you’ve taken cer­tain re­cent in­ter­view quotes (mainly, “I wish I was dead al­ready,” which earned her a Twit­ter scold­ing from Frances Bean Cobain) too se­ri­ously; that it’s a mis­take to as­sume her aloof stage man­ner has any­thing to do with her ac­tual per­son­al­ity.

Her laugh, fizzy and girl­ish, is com­ing eas­ily. She’s all but giddy over having her al­bum out, un­com­pro­mis­ing, spooky, gui­tar-laden, hit­less thing that it is: “It’s what I wanted”. To­day’s V-neck tee is pow­der blue, nearly match­ing the self­ap­plied pas­tel pol­ish on her longish nails, over pale, strate­gi­cally shred­ded jeans, cuffed just be­low the calves, that are familiar from an­other mag­a­zine’s photo shoot. She’s wear­ing false eye­lashes, but not much no­tice­able make-up. Del Rey is four days away from her 29th birth­day (for rea­sons she can’t ex­plain, she’s usu­ally re­ported to be a year younger), but looks, at the mo­ment, like a Amer­i­can col­lege stu­dent home for the sum­mer.

She seems so care­free — bub­bly, even — that within 10 min­utes, it seems safe to break the ice: “So, on a scale of one to 10, how much do you wish you were dead right now?”

Her big, brown­ish-green eyes widen even fur­ther. Then she lets out a del­i­cate snort of amuse­ment. “Ten be­ing dead?” she says. “You’re funny! To­day is a good day.” To­day she chooses life? “Yeah, to­day I choose life.” So, like a one? “Ten. Ten!” she says, in a daffy sing-song, not un­like Diane Keaton mur­mur­ing, ‘ la di da’ in

Annie Hall. “Seven. 12!” She throws back her head and laughs, pos­si­bly be­gin­ning to en­joy her­self. But when it comes to Lana Del Rey, who can tell any­thing for sure? She’s a baf­fling bun­dle of con­tra­dic­tory sig­ni­fiers, a mys­tery that 10,000 tor­tured think-pieces have failed to solve. David Nichtern, who signed her to his small in­die la­bel when she was still in col­lege, saw her as “the outer as­pect of Marilyn Mon­roe with the in­ner as­pect of Leonard Co­hen”. She may look a bit like Nico, but she’s her own Lou Reed. She’s ner­vous and self-con­scious on­stage, but fear­less in her lyrics (‘ My pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola’; ‘ I was an an­gel look­ing to get fucked hard’).

Her con­sis­tently vi­ral videos are id-in­fested pageants of creepy-nostal­gic Amer­i­cana, good-girl/bad-girl di­chotomies and the oc­ca­sional make-out sesh with an old dude. Just try to fig­ure out what’s go­ing on in her 2012 clip for Na­tional An­them, where she plays both Marilyn Mon­roe and Jackie Kennedy, dares to riff on the Zapruder footage of JFK’s as­sas­si­na­tion, and casts rap­per A$AP Rocky as JFK. She’s an Amer­i­can pop su­per­star with hardly any ac­tual ra­dio hits in the US, just a remix of her song Sum­mer­time Sad­ness that she never even heard be­fore its re­lease. And, per­haps more than any other pop star of this cen­tury, she’s been mis­un­der­stood, even hated. She was the sub­ject of a sav­age in­die-nerd back­lash — a pre-lash, re­ally — be­fore most peo­ple had ever heard of her. (Among other com­plaints, mu­sic blog­gers felt some­how duped when her on­line hit

Video Games led to a near-in­stant ma­jor­la­bel deal.) Her shaky, slightly dead-eyed Satur­day

Night Live de­but was treated like a na­tional emer­gency in the US, in­spir­ing weeks of de­bate. She had her change of name from Lizzy Grant pre­sented as ev­i­dence of de­cep­tion rather than show­biz-as-usual. She had to deny sur­gi­cally en­hanc­ing her lips’ pou­ti­ness (up close, for what it’s worth, they look pretty much like lips).

Re­leased in the wake of the SNL per­for­mance, her 2012 de­but on In­ter­scope Records, Born to Die, got scep­ti­cal re­views. The songs, and her man­nered, mul­ti­lay­ered vo­cals, seemed to be drown­ing in lush, trip-hoppy pro­duc­tion. But with the help of strong, cin­e­matic new tracks on the bonus EP Par­adise, it all turned around. The al­bum sold more than one mil­lion copies in the US (and more than seven mil­lion world­wide); her Great Gatsby sound­track sin­gle, Young and Beau­ti­ful went plat­inum. Kanye West, who takes mat­ters of taste se­ri­ously, en­listed her to play at his wed­ding to Kim Kar­dashian. “It was beau­ti­ful, just be­ing there,” Del Rey says. “They seemed very happy.” Ear­lier, over lunch, West had told her “he re­ally liked where I was com­ing from, vis­ually and son­i­cally”.

Del Rey isn’t in­clined to cel­e­brate any of this stuff, how­ever. “It doesn’t feel like suc­cess,” she says. “Be­cause with ev­ery­thing that could have felt like some­thing re­ally sweet, there’s always been some­thing out of the pe­riph­ery of my world, be­yond my con­trol, to kind of dis­rupt what­ever was hap­pen­ing. I’ve never felt like, ‘Oh, this is great’.”

The town house Del Rey is stay­ing in be­longs to some­one she calls “a friend”, 31-year-old Francesco Car­rozzini, a dash­ing Ital­ian pho­tog­ra­pher who’s shot her for var­i­ous Euro­pean mag­a­zines. He ob­vi­ously does well for him­self — “bet­ter than us,” Del Rey jokes, as she shows me around. His four-storey house is a se­ri­ously amaz­ing bit of Manhattan real es­tate, a movie-star-wor­thy bach­e­lor pad, its dark­wood walls cov­ered with art pho­tos and his shots of celebri­ties like Keith Richards. The house is on the same block where Bob Dy­lan moved with his fam­ily in 1969; Anna Win­tour lives nearby, as does Baz Luhrmann.

On the sec­ond-floor, on a cof­fee ta­ble, near a Serge Gains­bourg box set, there’s a book called The Boudoir Bi­ble. “No shame,” Del Rey says with a grin. She’s sit­ting on the brown couch, smok­ing Car­rozzini’s Amer­i­can Spirit cig­a­rettes in her lan­guid way, be­low a huge blackand-white photo of a bunch of slim, naked peo­ple, piled on top of one an­other. The mid­day sun is blaz­ing through an open win­dow, and her brown hair and fair skin are glow­ing in its haze — an In­sta­gram fil­ter or cin­e­matog­ra­pher couldn’t do bet­ter. “I quit some­times,” she says, of the cig­a­rettes. “And then stop quit­ting.” She smokes on­stage, too — it’s pure crav­ing, not an im­age thing. “I find, some­times, half­way through the set, I def­i­nitely need to have a cig­a­rette.”

Within a few days, she’ ll be pho­tographed nuz­zling with Car­rozzini in Europe. But for now, she says, she’s sin­gle. Start­ing in De­cem­ber or so, Del Rey be­gan a pro­tracted break-up with Barrie-James O’Neill, her boyfriend of three years. He’s a song­writer, which al­lowed her to live out some Dy­lan/Joan Baez fan­tasies (she’s par­tial to Baez’s paean to that ro­mance, Di­a­monds and Rust, even quot­ing it on Ul­travi­o­lence). “It’s all been hard,” Del Rey says. “Yeah, my life is just feel­ing re­ally heavy on my shoul­ders, and his own neu­roses just get­ting the best of him, I think, just made it un­ten­able. Which is sad, be­cause it was truly cir­cum­stan­tial, the rea­sons for us not be­ing to­gether.”

Ul­travi­o­lence feels, at times, like a break-up al­bum, though Del Rey says all

of the songs were ac­tu­ally about pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ships. Ei­ther way, it an­swers a lot of ques­tions about her, even as it raises some new ones. If she were the cor­po­rate puppet or cal­cu­lated fraud some of her de­trac­tors imag­ined her to be, this is not an al­bum she would ever make. The main pro­ducer was Black Keys front­man Dan Auer­bach, who’s gifted at sum­mon­ing vin­tage-y at­mos­phere and Mor­ri­cone-ish grandeur, but is in lit­tle dan­ger of be­ing con­fused with Dr Luke or Max Martin. They recorded much of it live, with his Nashville crew of rock mu­si­cians play­ing while Del Rey sang into a $100 hand-held mi­cro­phone, her vo­cals newly raw, jazzy and pow­er­ful. There are a bunch of gui­tar so­los. But not one track seems even vaguely suited for pop ra­dio.

Even be­fore Auer­bach got in­volved, Del Rey knew that she wanted some­thing very dif­fer­ent this time around.

“This record was, ‘I’m go­ing to do it my way,’ ” says her friend Lee Fos­ter, who runs Elec­tric Lady Stu­dios in New York, and co-pro­duced some of the al­bum there. Fos­ter told her that Bruce Spring­steen had fol­lowed up Born in the USA with the stark Ne­braska (Fos­ter had the or­der re­versed, but close enough). “We talked about tak­ing that stance, like Spring­steen shift­ing gears and say­ing, ‘I’m gonna do ex­actly what you don’t ex­pect me to do’.”

Auer­bach ran into Del Rey at Elec­tric Lady, where he was mix­ing Ray LaMon­tagne’s new LP. “Hon­estly, we both ben­e­fited from re­ally not know­ing any­thing about each other,” he says. Af­ter she played him some of the demos she was work­ing on, he be­came a fan, lob­by­ing to pro­duce her. But he was taken aback by the ma­jor-la­bel has­sles he ex­pe­ri­enced — Del Rey is signed to two of them, In­ter­scope and the UK’s Poly­dor. “There was a lot of bull­shit I’m not used to,” Auer­bach says. “The la­bel says, ‘We’re not go­ing to give you the bud­get to ex­tend this ses­sion un­less we hear some­thing’. And we send them the rough mix and they fuck­ing hate it and they hate the way it’s mixed. And it’s like, ‘Thanks, ass­hole’.

“The story I got told,” he con­tin­ues, “is that they played it for her la­bel per­son and they said, ‘We’re not putting out this record that you and Dan made un­less you meet with the Adele pro­ducer’. And she said, ‘Fine, what­ever’. And she was late to the meet­ing, so while they were wait­ing, the la­bel guy played what we recorded for the Adele pro­ducer and he said, ‘This is amaz­ing — I wouldn’t do any­thing to change this’. And here’s the kicker: Then all of a sud­den, the la­bel guy said, ‘Well, yeah, I think it’s great, too’.”

“I had heard about some back and forth re­gard­ing the mu­sic,” says In­ter­scope chief John Jan­ick. “But Lana knows her vi­sion and her au­di­ence, and it’s up to us to fol­low her lead.” Del Rey ac­knowl­edges a six-week pe­riod this past spring when things were in limbo: “I mean, I think there were peo­ple they wanted me to work with,” she says. “I don’t know who they were. When I said I was ready, they were like, ‘Are you sure?’ ” She laughs. “‘Be­cause I feel like you could go fur­ther’.”

“On this al­bum, in my opin­ion, you didn’t want her to try to do some­thing,” says Jan­ick’s pre­de­ces­sor at In­ter­scope, Jimmy Iovine. “I felt she hit a bulls­eye. Ev­ery­body’s say­ing to me, ‘We need a sin­gle’, call­ing me from Europe. I said, ‘You don’t need any­thing’. It’s a very co­her­ent body of work, and I thought any other con­ver­sa­tion was a dis­trac­tion. Lana, more than most, re­minds me of artists that I pro­duced” — he’s think­ing of Patti Smith and Ste­vie Nicks in par­tic­u­lar — “which are slightly dif­fer­ent than the ma­jor­ity of artists that are on In­ter­scope. Be­cause you can’t find those artists ev­ery day. She’s one of the rare things that come along in life, which is a lyri­cist. You know how rare they are to­day, out­side rap?”

Del Rey’s co-man­ager, Ben Maw­son, warned her that she’d have to an­swer for some of the new al­bum’s lyrics, par­tic­u­larly the ti­tle track, which quotes the old girl­group line, ‘ He hit me and it felt like a kiss’, then adds, ‘ He hurt me but it felt like

true love’, just in case she hadn’t made her point. She’s vague on whether this theme might be au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal. “I guess I would say, like, I’m def­i­nitely drawn to peo­ple with a strong phys­i­cal­ity,” she says with a shrug, “with more of a dom­i­nant per­son­al­ity.”

She’s not wor­ried about any mes­sage those lines might send. “It’s not meant to be pop­u­lar,” she says, sit­ting in the back­yard of the town house, which opens on to a shared gar­den, where Dy­lan had an­gered his neigh­bours decades ago by try­ing to put up a fence. She’s sip­ping hot cof­fee through a straw, a long-stand­ing habit she ac­knowl­edges is both “weird” and “nerdy”. “It’s not pop mu­sic,” she says. “The only thing I have to do is what­ever I want, and I want to write what­ever I want. I just hope peo­ple don’t ask me about it. So I don’t feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity at all. I mean, I just don’t. I feel re­spon­si­ble in other ways, com­mu­nity-wise — to be a good ci­ti­zen, abide by the law.”

But pre­cisely how does she want the public to hear those lines? “I just don’t want them to hear it at all,” she says, pout­ing a lit­tle. “I’m very self­ish. I make

ev­ery­thing for me, kind of. I mean, ev­ery lit­tle thing, down to the gui­tar and the drums. It’s just for me. I want to hear it, I want to drive to it, I want to swim in the ocean to it. I want to think about it, and then I want to write some­thing new af­ter it. You know? It’s just . . . I don’t want them to hear it and think about it. It’s none of their busi­ness!”

But, um, isn’t she sell­ing peo­ple this mu­sic? “I’m not sell­ing the record,” she says. “I’m signed to a la­bel who’s sell­ing the record. I don’t need to make any money. I re­ally could care less. But I do care about mak­ing mu­sic. I would do it ei­ther way. So that’s why it has to be on my terms.”

Del Rey has never been in ther­apy. “There’s noth­ing any­one could ever tell me that I don’t al­ready know,” she says. “I know ev­ery­thing about my­self. I know why I do what I do. All of my com­pul­sions and in­ter­ests and in­spi­ra­tions. I’m very in sync with that. It’s the other stuff that I don’t have any con­trol over, just what’s go­ing to hap­pen on a daily ba­sis. My in­ter­ac­tions.”

So what drives her? “Now? Noth­ing,” she says. “I don’t have any drive any­more. But I en­joy mak­ing records. Be­fore, I felt drive, but now it just feels like an in­ter­est. With the first record having re­ceived so much anal­y­sis, there’s no more room for am­bi­tion. It breaks that part down, just be­cause you sort of know what to ex­pect, and that noth­ing is go­ing to work out the way you think any­way.”

She doesn’t want to con­quer the world? “No. What I’d love to do is — Francesco has a bike down­stairs,” she says. “I would love to take a mo­tor­cy­cle to Coney Is­land and have an amaz­ing talk with you and jump in the wa­ter.” Some­how, this plan never comes up again.

Even as a small child, El­iz­a­beth Wool­ridge Grant was, by her own rec­ol­lec­tion, “ob­sti­nate, con­trary”. She was born in Manhattan to par­ents who both worked Mad Men- style jobs at the ad­ver­tis­ing gi­ant Grey, but when she was one year old, they gave up those ca­reers and moved to sleepy, up­state Lake Placid. Her dad would go on to start his own fur­ni­ture com­pany, get into real es­tate and then be­come a suc­cess­ful early in­vestor in web do­main names. But Lizzy just wished they had stayed in the city. “It was re­ally, re­ally quiet,” says Del Rey, who has com­pared the town to Twin

Peaks. “I was always wait­ing to get back to New York City. School was hard. The tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem was not re­ally work­ing for me.”

At 14 or so, Lizzy started drink­ing and hang­ing out with older kids. The sce­nario, she recog­nises with a laugh, was not un­like the har­row­ing movie Thir­teen. “In small towns, you sort of grow up fast be­cause there isn’t that much to do,” she says. “So you’re out with ev­ery­body else who’s al­ready grad­u­ated, and that’s to­tally nor­mal. But it just didn’t sit well with ev­ery­one in my fam­ily.”

‘ I’m a sad girl/I’m a bad girl,’ she sings on her new al­bum — but the sad part didn’t come un­til later. She “felt pas­sion­ate” about drink­ing, sharing bot­tles of peach and cherry schnapps with her friends. “I felt like I had kind of ar­rived into my own life,” she says, her voice turn­ing dreamy. “I felt free. Even though I loved leav­ing town, by the time I was about 15, I knew I was prob­a­bly go­ing to stay there and have a life there. I mean, I had a vi­sion for my­self, def­i­nitely, at that point. I didn’t see my­self be­com­ing a singer or any­thing. I just wanted to grow up and get mar­ried and have fun. Have my own life, my own place.” Her par­ents, mean­while, wanted her to be­come a nurse.

Los­ing pa­tience with her par­ty­ing, they sent her away to Con­necti­cut’s Kent School. The move failed to cur­tail her drink­ing, and she was mis­er­able. Her fa­ther’s ap­par­ent suc­cess aside, she says she was on fi­nan­cial aid. “I was very quiet,” she says, “just fig­ur­ing things out. I didn’t re­late well with what was go­ing on cul­tur­ally.” She wasn’t into mean girls. “The ways peo­ple treated other peo­ple, I thought was kind of cruel. The high-school men­tal­ity I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand. I wasn’t re­ally, like, snarky or bitchy.” In an early song called Board­ing School, she men­tions be­ing part of a “pro-ana na­tion” re­fer­ring to anorexia, and sings, ‘ Had to

do drugs to stop the food crav­ings’. But she in­sists that’s fic­tion. “The men­tal­ity of the pro-ana com­mu­nity was just some­thing that was in­ter­est­ing to me.”

A young English in­struc­tor in­tro­duced her to Allen Gins­berg, Walt Whit­man and Vladimir Nabokov (she has tat­toos of the lat­ter two names on her fore­arm), plus Tu­pac, the No­to­ri­ous BIG, and old movies like The Big Sleep. Lines in Board­ing School and an­other un­re­leased track, Prom Song, led fans to ques­tion the pre­cise na­ture of this re­la­tion­ship, but Del Rey says it was noth­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate. “He was just my friend.”

She started to think that she might want to be a singer, but could hardly bring her­self to say it out loud, es­pe­cially to her fam­ily. “I just thought it was kind of a pre­sump­tu­ous thing to say, com­ing from a more tra­di­tional back­ground. You wouldn’t say it un­less you re­ally meant it.”

The sum­mer af­ter her se­nior year, back in Lake Placid, she woke up sick and hun­gover one morn­ing, and sud­denly re­alised some­thing im­por­tant was miss­ing. “I lost my car,” she says. “I couldn’t find it. And . . . I don’t know, I just lost it. And I was just re­ally sick. It was just one of the many rea­sons why my life was un­man­age­able. I didn’t want to keep fuck­ing up. And at that point, if I was go­ing to keep go­ing, I wanted to have some­thing that I re­ally wanted to do.”

She says she hasn’t had a drink or got­ten high since that year, but won’t clar­ify whether she con­sid­ers her­self an al­co­holic, or if she ever went to re­hab. “It’s just you never re­ally know what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” she says. “Things change ev­ery day.”

She had got­ten into SUNY Ge­ne­seo, a col­lege in New York’s state-univer­sity sys­tem, but de­cided not to go. She took the year off, head­ing to her aunt and un­cle’s house on Long Is­land. She worked as a wait­ress, just as she’d done over var­i­ous sum­mers. “I loved it,” she says, though her mom told one of her la­bel ex­ecs that she had been a truly aw­ful wait­ress.

Her un­cle taught her some gui­tar chords, and she started play­ing open mics in the city. Some­where around that time, she read An­thony Scaduto’s pi­o­neer­ing Bob Dy­lan bi­og­ra­phy, which she saw as a “road map” to­ward be­com­ing an artist.

The next fall, she en­rolled at Ford­ham Univer­sity in the Bronx, where she ma­jored in phi­los­o­phy, but oth­er­wise hardly par­tic­i­pated in stu­dent life. She lived with boyfriends, crashed on couches. “I was writ­ing, writ­ing, for years,” she says. “Try­ing to fig­ure out what I re­ally wanted to say and why I was con­sumed with this pas­sion for writ­ing, where it came from. It kept me up all night. So I was wait­ing to see why. That was a re­ally whole sep­a­rate world.”

She’d ride the sub­way late at night, com­pos­ing lyrics in her head. “There were th­ese nights that I en­joyed so much, just stay­ing up and writ­ing songs.” She cites a sparse, Cat Power-ish tune called Disco (“I

am my only god now,” she sings, cheer­ily) and Trash Magic (sam­ple lyric: “Boy, you want to come to the mo­tel, honey/Boy, ya wanna hold me down, tell me that you love me?”). “I felt I was re­ally cap­tur­ing my life in song form, and it was such a plea­sure. And that be­ing my whole life, you know? And re­ally be­ing happy, be­cause I was do­ing ex­actly what I loved.”

In Wil­liams­burg, Brook­lyn, a song­writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion in 2006 led her to 5 Points Records, a tiny la­bel run by Nichtern, who had, years ear­lier, writ­ten the Maria Mul­daur hit, Mid­night at the

Oa­sis. “I knew im­me­di­ately that she was gonna be a big star,” says Nichtern. “And she her­self knew, and not just by chutz­pah or bravado. On some level she knew this was what her karma was.”

Nichtern hooked her up with pro­ducer David Kahne, the guy be­hind Sub­lime and Sugar Ray hits, who re­calls lead­ing her to looped beats for the first time. Kahne was a well-con­nected in­dus­try vet­eran and she was an un­known kid, but he found her some­what daunt­ing. “She was mys­te­ri­ous,” Kahne says. “I was con­fused a lot of the time whether what I was do­ing was right or wrong, whether she liked it or didn’t. It felt, a lot of times, like ev­ery­thing could change all of a sud­den.” Like, for in­stance, Lizzy’s name.

Lana Del Rey is, she says, the same per­son — the same artist, even — as Lizzy Grant. “There’s not, like, a schism between peo­ple,” she says. “It’s ac­tu­ally just a dif­fer­ent name, and that’s sort of where it be­gins and ends. I just thought it was strange, be­ing born into this ge­o­graphic lockdown lo­ca­tion, and a name that you didn’t choose, and go­ing to school for fuck­ing 23 years. It was just un­fath­omable to me. So I think in choos­ing that name, it was just more be­com­ing who I was, you know? It wasn’t mu­sic-re­lated. It was just part of my life.” The other pos­si­ble name was Cherry Ga­lore, she says, prob­a­bly jok­ing: “You’d be sit­ting here call­ing me ‘Cherry’.”

By the time Lizzy be­came Lana for good, 5 Points had al­ready re­leased an EP from the Kahne ses­sions un­der the name Lizzy Grant — and iTunes had se­lected Lizzy as one of the best new artists of 2008. “As we’re putting the al­bum to­gether, she says some­thing like, ‘I re­ally want to change my name’,” re­calls Nichtern, who had been tak­ing Lizzy and her al­bum around the in­dus­try. “If we’re mak­ing the movie, you’d see a spit take. We’d just got­ten that far with Lizzy Grant.” But Del Rey had found new man­age­ment, dyed her hair from blonde to brown and was ready to move on. They ended up all but scrub­bing the LP’s ex­is­tence from the in­ter­net, which made it look like they were try­ing to hide Del Rey’s past, con­tribut­ing to con­spir­acy-mon­ger­ing later on.

“We didn’t want the old al­bum to be avail­able just as we were try­ing to launch a new thing,” says Maw­son, her co-man­ager. “And if that cre­ated sus­pi­cion in the eyes of weirdos on the in­ter­net, then fine.”

Del Rey went off to Lon­don for months of writ­ing ses­sions, one of which yielded an ele­giac ode to a boyfriend who liked to play World of War­craft, though she knew sim­ply call­ing it Video Games was a lot more po­etic (“Some­times a girl’s just gotta gen­er­al­ize”). She had started mak­ing videos us­ing iMovie, mix­ing self-shot we­b­cam seg­ments and YouTube clips —

“Just putting things to­gether, build­ing a lit­tle world”. She per­fected the ap­proach with Video Games, cre­at­ing a ca­reer-launch­ing vi­ral video. Even as she faced le­gal ac­tion for ap­pro­pri­at­ing footage, peo­ple ac­cused her of not ac­tu­ally mak­ing the Video Games clip her­self — The New

Yorker, of all places, called it “al­legedly home-made”. “I def­i­nitely wouldn’t say I did if I didn’t,” she says with a sigh, show­ing me the soft­ware on her MacBook, which has a badly cracked screen. “That would be weird.”

It’s a clair­voy­ant, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, who gives the first hint that some­thing will go wrong on the sec­ond day. “I was try­ing to think of shit we could do,” Del Rey says, greet­ing me again at the town-house door. “The only thing I could think of is we could see a psy­chic to­gether.” In any case, she needs cig­a­rettes, so we head out into the heat. She’s wear­ing cheap, gold-framed sun­glasses with peach-coloured lenses. “They’re so ugly,” she says, strid­ing along Bleecker Street. “Rose-col­ored glasses. Just what the doc­tor or­dered.”

Del Rey was raised Catholic, but she has a mys­ti­cal bent. “I’m def­i­nitely a seeker,” she says. While she was wait­ing for the Kahne al­bum to come out, she got in­volved with an “East Vil­lage guru” who “had an abil­ity to see into the past and read into the future.” But she left his or­bit af­ter de­tect­ing some­thing “sin­is­ter” about him.

We end up pay­ing a visit to a store­front psy­chic next to a bodega, in a creepy, red-walled room. The mys­tic turns out to be an un­ex­pect­edly fresh-faced woman in

‘I’m signed to a la­bel who’s sell­ing the record. I don’t need to make any money. I re­ally could care less’

a match­ing red sun­dress, who en­forces strict rules about “en­ergy.” Del Rey asks her to do our read­ings to­gether, but the psy­chic de­murs: “Can I talk to the young lady alone?” The out­ing is be­com­ing com­i­cally point­less. Del Rey is laugh­ing as we re­turn to the house, though maybe slightly ir­ri­tated. “Fuck,” she says. “I should’ve thought that one out. I don’t think she had the gift. It’s always sort of a men­ac­ing vibe un­less you go to some­body who’s, like, world-renowned.” The psy­chic told her that this is her year for love and hap­pi­ness — Del Rey jokes that there’s still six months left. She’s amused to hear that the psy­chic told me that I’m spir­i­tu­ally sen­si­tive. “She could prob­a­bly tell that you thought she was be­ing a fuck­ing bitch.”

We go back to talk­ing, with Del Rey blow­ing cig­a­rette smoke out the win­dow, into the light. We fi­nally touch on Satur­day

Night Live, still a dan­ger­ous sub­ject. The per­for­mance, she main­tains, “wasn’t dy­namic, but it was true to form”. But the re­ac­tion was ag­o­nis­ing. She felt mu­sic- busi­ness friends pulling away from her. “Ev­ery­one I knew sud­denly wasn’t so sure about me,” she says. “They were like, ‘Maybe I don’t want to be as­so­ci­ated with her — not a great rep­u­ta­tion’.” Iovine says they sim­ply “got caught speed­ing” with the early per­for­mance, and that he spent time in the stu­dio after­ward, coach­ing Del Rey on us­ing in-ear mon­i­tors.

I ask her about Ride, a song where she sings about feel­ing “fuck­ing crazy” — not an iso­lated sen­ti­ment in her cat­a­logue. “Well, I feel fuck­ing crazy,” she says. “But I don’t think I am. Peo­ple make me feel crazy.” We talk a lit­tle about the “I wish I were dead” thing, which she blames on lead­ing ques­tions. “I find that most peo­ple I meet fig­ure I kind of want to kill my­self any­way,” she says. “So it comes up ev­ery time.”

Then, re­ally with­out warn­ing, her mood shifts. It’s a pow­er­ful thing, pal­pa­ble in the room, like a sud­den mass of threat­en­ing clouds. Her eyes seem to turn a shade darker: Trust no one. I ask, per­versely, about Fucked my Way up to the Top, one of Ul­travi­o­lence’s best songs, which at­tacks an un­named imi­ta­tor who didn’t have to go through the gaunt­let Del Rey did. It may be about Lorde, who crit­i­cised Del Rey’s lyrics but has a not-dis­sim­i­lar vo­cal style.

She just re­leased the song, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. “Now you are an­noy­ing me,” she says, half-try­ing to sound like she’s kid­ding. She lights a cig­a­rette, look­ing mis­er­able.

We be­gin an ag­o­niz­ing, end­less meta-con­ver­sa­tion about our in­ter­view and her re­la­tion­ship with the press. “I find the na­ture of the ques­tions dif­fi­cult,” she says. “Cause it’s not like I’m a rock band and you’re ask­ing how ev­ery­thing got made and what it’s like tour­ing in are­nas and what are the girls like. It’s about my fa­ther. It’s about my men­tal health. It’s fuck­ing per­sonal. And th­ese ques­tions all have neg­a­tive in­fer­ences: It’s just like, SNL; ‘Do you ac­tu­ally want to kill your­self ?’ Maybe I’m sen­si­tive. Do you think?”

That’s when she says she doesn’t want to do the story any­more. She also says, “What you write won’t mat­ter” — mean­ing that noth­ing will change her de­trac­tors’ minds about her. It goes on and on. “You hit all my more sen­si­tive weak­nesses, all my Achilles heels. You’re ask­ing all the right ques­tions. I just re­ally don’t want to an­swer them.”

Ev­ery at­tempt to talk her off this rhetor­i­cal ledge seems to make it worse. Del Rey stands up, in a dis­tinct time-togo ges­ture.

“I def­i­nitely pre­sented my­self well, and that’s all I’ve ever done,” she says, walk­ing me down­stairs. “And that’s never re­ally got me any­where. I’m just un­com­fort­able, and it has noth­ing to do with you.”

Step­ping out, I try to con­vince her that her cri­sis of con­fi­dence over the in­ter­view is no big deal. It is, again, the wrong thing to say.

“It’s not a cri­sis of con­fi­dence, it’s not,” she says, stand­ing in the door­way. “I am con­fi­dent.” Her eyes are ablaze with hurt and pride. “I am.” She says good­bye, and shuts the door.

Lana Del Rey and ru­moured boyfriend Francesco Car­rozzini in Portofino, Italy

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