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Confessions of an Icon

 I’m not in the mood for a ballad,” says Madonna of her first album since 2003. “I can’t be bothered – I wanna dance!” Uptempo and bristling with energy, Confessions on a Dancefloor sees the singer, whose musical career began in the predominantly gay club scene of early ’80s New York, return to her roots. In this extract from her interview with gay lifestyle magazine Attitude, she talks to Matthew Todd in the tiny home studio in London where the album was recorded. They talk initially about how she came to make the record with British producer Stuart Price, and the problems she had persuading Abba to allow her to sample their 1979 hit Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) for her new single.

Madonna: I had to send my emissary to Stockholm with a letter and the record, begging them and imploring them and telling them how much I worship their music; telling them it was a homage to them, which is all true. And they had to think about it, Benny and Bjorn; they didn’t say yes right away. They never let anyone sample their music. They could have said no. Thank God they didn’t.”

Madonna: I had to send my emissary to Stockholm with a letter and the record, begging them and imploring them and telling them how much I worship their music; telling them it was a homage to them, which is all true. And they had to think about it, Benny and Bjorn; they didn’t say yes right away. They never let anyone sample their music. They could have said no. Thank God they didn’t.”

People would be surprised to see you tucked away in the loft of a small flat in north-west London.

Oh, I love it here, it’s very magical. I’ll be very sad when Stuart leaves here. I’ve told him that he has to keep this place because so many great things have happened here. It feels historical to me. We’ve been to a thousand recording studios in New York, London, LA, everywhere, and you cannot get the same vocal sound anywhere as you get here.

How did you come to work with him?

Well, first he was my musical director on the Drowned World tour [2004]. He was just the keyboard player, but he stepped up after I fired the first one. I’m very fond of him. I love his sensibility; I love his sense of humour. He has impeccable taste in music. He’s sort of all over the place musically, and I like that about him. He’s capable of doing lots of things. I never planned to make my whole record with him. It was just going to be a few tracks.

The track I Love New York begins with a chunk of lyrics from Love Song [her duet with Prince from 1989's Like a Prayer album] and there are lots of references to your past records. It seems like this album’s almost like a retrospective of your whole career. Is that what you were aiming for?

No, I just feel like I can plagiarise myself whenever I feel like it. [Laughs] It’s all part of my past, and I’m dragging my past into the present and hopefully into the future.

Let’s talk about Live8. You did very well there, didn’t you?

I did. It was fun. Although I didn’t want to do the show. It was during the only holiday I had with my children. When Bob Geldof started writing me letters, I thought, “Oh no, I just finished recording, and I just finished my film”, and I promised my children I’d go to the countryside. They’d just finished school, and they were really mad at me. Bob was like [screeches], “Africa’s more important than your children!”

Yeah, he gets like that.

He’s really pushy, that guy. I said, “OK, let me think about it”, and the next thing, I read in the newspaper that I was doing it, and I hadn’t even answered him yet.

I don’t regret that I did it; it turned out to be an amazing thing. It’s just I don’t like to do half-arsed shows, and I didn’t have any time to rehearse. Everybody else in the show was on tour already, and they had their bands and were just stopping in to do a song. I had to think, “What am I gonna do?”

But it turned out good. I got all the paparazzi to clap their hands. That was my favourite moment. They were all at the front, and everyone in the park was clapping their hands except them. They were taking pictures and I looked down and said: “You too!”

I know one of the paparazzi, Richard Young, and I said, “Come on, Richard, do it!” and he dropped his camera and the rest of them did.

You broke your collarbone in a riding accident recently, but I’ve just noticed you haven’t got your sling. How are you?

Yeah, I took it off two days ago. My left arm is flapping around like a chicken wing, and I don’t have any strength right now.

I wasn’t even meant to be riding that horse. It wasn’t my horse. It was a gift for my birthday, and someone said try it. So I did, and I was literally on it for a minute and got thrown off. I want to get back on a horse, but my manager has said not until I’ve done all the promo stuff for the album.

I’m doing the video in the next couple of weeks, it’s very exciting. I want this to be all about dance.

How are you going to dance with your damaged collarbone?

Watch me. I’m going to invent some new dance move that doesn’t use the bad bits. I’m still a tough girl.

The new film I’m Going to Tell You a Secret [which premieres on US MTV tomorrow] is very different from In Bed with Madonna. How did it come about?

Michael Moore was very instrumental in helping me, even before I began filming. He actually offered to direct it, but he was editing Fahrenheit 9/11. He said, “Can’t you delay your tour and do it later?”, and I said no.

He said: “I’ll be there for you if you want to show me stuff, or want me to help out. But just remember one thing: you write the script in the editing room. Just shoot as much as you can.” And we did. We had 350 hours. The hardest thing is to edit.

The thing that seemed to make you cry was the part where you acknowledge that you didn’t have time to party with the dancers…

I always become very attached to everyone – not just the dancers and the band, but the tech guys who help me up on the stage – you look into their eyes every night. Anyways, I’m a big cry baby.

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