The Weeknd has always let his music do the talking—dark, debauched mixtapes that changed the sound of modern R&B and profoundly influenced Drake’s sophomore album, Take Care. Now, As Abel Tesfaye prepares his debut album, Kiss Land, he’s speaking out for the first time. Listen up.
Why haven’t you done an interview until now?
I felt like I had nothing to say. I still feel I have nothing to say. I’m the most boring person to talk to.
So why now? Is your label pushing you to do press for the album?
No, labels always push. I mean, Trilogy was a rerelease, but they still said, “Maybe you should do some interviews.” Honestly, I want to do interviews now because it’s one thing that I haven’t mastered. Even Prince did interviews. Michael did interviews. And I can tell in the interviews they’re uncomfortable. Why are they doing this? Because they feel like they have to do it to be a complete artist. I felt like this was my time. And maybe I wouldn’t have done it if I thought you were an asshole. I probably would have been like, “**** this guy.”
Is the air of mystery intentional?
Yes and no. In the beginning, I was very insecure. I hated how I looked in pictures. I just ****ing hated this ****, like, crop me out of this picture right now. I was very camera shy. People like hot girls, so I put my music to hot girls and it just became a trend. The whole “enigmatic artist” thing, I just ran with it. No one could find pictures of me. It reminded me of some villain ****. But you can’t escape the Internet. There are super fans, and I was really testing their patience. At the end of the day you can’t deny the music. That was my whole thing: I’m going to let the music speak for itself. I’ll show them that this is what I do. But I’m very good at letting **** slide. If I wasn’t…
—you’d go crazy.
I feel like I’m already crazy. I just wouldn’t be able to focus on my music. If I didn’t let **** slide, I’d probably still be working on Echoes of Silence right now. But, I know how to let go of ********. And I know how to let go of unmixed and unmastered records. But not anymore. To me, this is my first album. Kiss Land is definitely my first album.
A fresh start.
Yeah, that’s why I didn’t want to mix and master House of Balloons or Thursday or Echoes of Silence. I didn’t feel like they were my albums. Those were my mixtapes.
It was a hell of a mixtape.
Yeah, man. I just wanted to make the greatest mixtape of all time, that’s all. And if I didn’t, I definitely made the longest mixtape of all time. [Laughs.]
Which of the three resonates with you the most?
House of Balloons is the most important for me because I spent the most time on it. I didn’t have a deadline for that. As soon as I put House of Balloons out, I let the world know I’m coming out with two more albums this year, so I had my own little deadline. Before House of Balloons, it was all freedom.
House of Balloons was actually supposed to have more songs than it does. I had so many records left, and then Take Care came through. “Crew Love,” “Shot for Me,” and “The Ride” were supposed to be on House of Balloons. I wanted to come out with like 14 records. I felt like “The Ride” was the last one, and it wasn’t done yet. [Drake] heard it and he was like, “This shit’s crazy.”
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