Paradise Lost: An Interview with Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey: I haven’t talked to an American journalist in, like, forever.
Really? I don’t count, though, because I’m an expatriate.
Me too. I think America is amazing for its landscape and its history. California is beautiful, New York is beautiful, but when you’re a gypsy at heart, it probably suits you to be traveling.
You think you’re a gypsy?
I don’t feel that way as much as I used to. I actually don’t feel that way that much anymore, but when I was younger I used to really want to have an unpredictable life where I could feel free and travel anywhere I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. I actually really like California now, although I’ve never lived there before. I like the idea of living in one place now.
So how important is it to have total control over your image, especially today?
It’s important—really important. It’s hard, though. It’s gotten totally taken away from me. I don’t have that much control because things go viral really quickly. I went from having no real fan base or interest to having a lot of really skewed interest and criticism. But for the majority of eight years before that in New York, I sang to the same people in the same bars and had a pretty comfortable experience doing that. That’s not really possible for me anymore, because bloggers are really influential and people are really influenced by reviews and five star critics. And those people are really influenced by images, and what they see quickly. Also, a lot of what’s been written about me is not true: of my family history or my choices or my interests. Actually, I’ve never read anything written about me that was true. It’s been completely crazy.
When did you realize that it had gotten out of control?
The first day that anyone ever wrote about me, as soon as I put “Video Games” up. Everything they wrote was fucking crazy. Like about my dad, about me, like having millions of dollars, and all this shit. I was like, “Really? I thought I was supporting everyone!” [laughing] Everything was not true. As soon as the first person wrote about me, the articles became just blatant, all-out lies. I consider it slander. If I cared more, I’d kill them.
Obviously you will know that in preparation for this interview I read a lot of that stuff.
Yeah, but none of it’s true.
Because there does actually seem to be a disconnect between your public image . . .
And who I am?
And the private life you talk about.
There is a disconnect, yeah. I spent the last ten years in community service and writing folk songs. I don’t give a fuck about what I look like. Saying I came from billions of dollars is crazy. We never had any money. I feel, as a person who grew up reading about and being inspired by other figures with integrity, to kind of be turned into the antithesis of that is not what I planned. It’s the way it’s going right now, but I deal with it as it comes.
Let’s go back to what you said about doing community work. Social work involves working with people that society has forgotten or left behind, or who simply can’t function in normal society. It usually involves reintegration . . .
I’m not a trained social worker. I’ve been sober for ten years, so it was drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It was more traditional twelve-step call stuff. Just people who can’t get it together, me and groups of other people who have been based in New York for a long time working with people who need help and reached out. It was about building communities around sobriety and staying clean and stuff like that. That was my focus since I moved to the Bronx when I was eighteen. I liked music, but I considered it to be a luxury. It wasn’t my primary focus: the other stuff was really my life. But no one ever . . . it’s not interesting.
No, it’s really interesting. So your social work was based on your own experiences?
Yeah, because I was an addict who got clean.
As a teenager?
So obviously it must have informed your music.
Yeah, it’s been my main influence, I would say.
Well, I watched the video for “Ride”, and I was truly fascinated. To me, it felt so ‘wrong’ on so many levels, but that also made it truly transgressive because mere hedonism or being rebellious is no longer transgressive.
Yeah. Like, I remember it was the San Francisco Chronicle or whatever who wrote this huge thing about me being an anti-feminist. But the thing is, I don’t really have any commentary on the female’s role in society. It was the same with my first song that got big, “Video Games”. People had criticisms about it being submissive and whatever, but nothing I ever wrote had a message. It was just my own personal experience, and it’s the same with “Ride”. I believe in free love and that’s just how I feel. It’s just my experience of being with different kinds of men and being born without a preference for a certain type of person. For me, that is my story in finding love in lots of different people, and that’s been the second biggest influence in my music.
I was taken aback by how affected I was by the “Ride” video, because I felt it was really saying something important, in a sense. Talking about internal darkness, but not only accepting that within yourself, but the line in the monologue where you talk about actually being in a position to explore that—it’s very brave, actually.
Thank you. Well, one thing you learn when you do get sober is that complete surrender is the foundation for all good things to come. And I feel like that idea translated to all aspects of my life. When you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen to you or what your career’s going to end up like and you’re just really open to anything, then you don’t really have anything to lose. A lot of different people come in and out of your life. And it’s really fun to say yes, and it’s really fun to be easy about everything and just let songs come to you and let people come to you. And it is free, in a way.
Let’s go back to what you were saying about not necessarily having a message, because American themes and imagery, like the American flag, feature prominently in your videos and your music. Although to my mind, it could be seen as a dark side of America.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love any fucking film or book that wasn’t based around the underbelly of society. I’ve always loved that. But on the other hand, I’m kind of simple in the way that I love the movement of a super-eight flag waving in the wind. The same with the palm trees and that sepia color of the fifties film. Like a lot of my choices had to do with the grade of the film. It was that simple, purely aesthetic. Same with my interest in photographers and things like that. A lot of it is just the look of it. I just like it.
Do you consider yourself patriotic?
You were still living in America when Obama took over. Did that change things for you?
The first election? I was happy for the American people because he was a symbol that they needed to feel better.
Do you have opinions on healthcare reform or . . .
I have a lot of political opinions.
Yeah? Let’s hear some of them.
I get a lot of grief for just talking about my own musical choices. I don’t usually talk about my views these days that much on politics.
Do you consider yourself to be political?
Well, it’s complicated because everything has changed for me. Before I had no money. And now everything I make, I lose. So I don’t have money again, because I lose half. Healthcare reform—that needed to be addressed. I still don’t have health insurance because I haven’t been back to the United States since the time when I couldn’t afford healthcare because it was seven hundred dollars a month.
Okay, let’s talk about feminism. What’s your take on feminism?
To be honest, I don’t really have one. I have a great appreciation for our world’s history. I learn from my own mistakes, I learn from the mistakes we’ve made as a human race. But I think we’ve gotten to a good place as women and we’ll just keep naturally progressing. That’s kind of how I feel about it.
Is it true that you left the US because you felt oppressed and unloved by the American media?
[laughing] Well, no one was really asking me for interviews, so there wasn’t really a reason to stay. Musically, I wouldn’t really work there because I wouldn’t know where to sing. I had a million shows lined up here, so that’s kind of why I went. And I didn’t really have any shows there. I mean, I could play on Sunset Strip and stuff. I could go back to New York . . .
I’m sure you could line up some shows now. How does moving abroad affect the way you feel about America or being American?
I think that my love for America has now become contained to the more specific things I appreciate about it. Like driving up the coast from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara—simple stuff like that. In terms of what I maybe thought it stood for, I don’t know.
You’ve already said that a lot of the imagery was driven by aesthetic choices, but how did exploring the dark side of America affect the way you explore the theme of Americanism?
That’s a good question. I actually find myself not going back to those themes in my writing in the last thirteen months.
So I suppose that’s something we’ll see the result of soon?
Yeah, definitely. I think it’s kind of pushed me back to really early influences. I still love the way I felt when I first found Allen Ginsberg and how much he painted with his words. And he was influenced by the American underbelly, but now, rather than me being influenced by my passion for the country, I just feel good when I listen to Jim Morrison. I feel good when I go back and read some of the Beat poets. But other than that, I don’t feel like, “Rah, rah, America!” Fuck that shit [laughing].
OP Note: I just included interesting tidbits because the full interview was rly long. Interviewer in red, interesting LDR quotes in large print. The whole interview is worth a read and disappointing as an American Lana fan, tbh