Yesterday, Rolling Stone published an article in which they shed light on David Bowie’s new album ‘★’, pronounced ‘Blackstar’, via conversations with producer Tony Visconti and musicians who have played on it. Here’s what we learned about Bowie’s 25th LP.
HE PERSONALLY SCOUTED HIS GUEST MUSICIANS
According to saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Bowie himself turned up at the 55 Bar in New York’s West Village last spring on a friend’s recommendation. Ten days later, Bowie emailed him to invite him to play on a track for his 2014 compilation album ‘Nothing Has Changed’ and followed up this January with a request for his entire band to work on ‘★’. “It did surprise me,” McCaslin’s drummer Mark Guiliana said. “But I feel like he’s built a career and artistic identity on surprises. It falls in line with who he is as an artist.”
IT WAS ANOTHER SECRETIVE AFFAIR
Bowie, the story reveals, instigated sessions for the album in 2014 with a demo session with producer Tony Visconti and drummer Zack Alford, then spent the best part of six months working on the music in his home studio before sessions began in December.
IT WAS INSPIRED BY KENDRICK LAMAR
Lamar’s experimental approach to hip-hop was an influence on the album, with Bowie intent on making a wide-reaching album involving krautrock, hip-hop, jazz and pop. One such example is the song ‘Blackstar’ which emerged this week, the opening track on the album that started life, unsurprisingly, as two entirely separate songs. The song was cut from 11 minutes to just under ten to adhere to iTunes rules on single length.
HE’S FIT AS A FIDDLE
How else, Visconti claims, could he sing at full blast through seven-hour sessions while also working on an off-Broadway production of a musical called Lazarus in his time off? “His vocal performances were always just stunning, amazing,” says Guiliana.
THE TITLE TRACK IS POSSIBLY ABOUT ISIS
McCaslin claims Bowie told him that the epic lead single was about Islamic State, with its talk of executions and kneeling women. The album’s lyrical content is extremely varied, from references to the 17th Century playwright John Ford in ‘’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore’ to words taken from A Clockwork Orange and British gay slang Polari on ‘Girl Loves Me’. “The lyrics are wacky, but a lot of British people, especially Londoners, will get every word,” says Visconti.
JAMES MURPHY IS ON IT
Murphy was considered as a co-producer alongside Bowie and Visconti but was too busy on his own projects to stay for more than a “brief time”. However he did bring in some percussion and synth instruments and played on two tracks.
IT GETS “LUSH”
Over its 42-minute duration, there are several “gorgeous”, “soaring” tracks such as ‘Dollar Days’, which Bowie wrote in the studio, and album closer ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’, which Visconti believes might refer to Bowie’s recent privacy issues. “What he gives away is what he writes about. I think a lot of writers feel like, ‘If you want to know about me, just study my lyrics.’ That’s why he doesn’t give interviews. He’s has revealed plenty in past interviews, but I think his life now is about his art.”
THERE’S STILL NO LIVE SHOWS ON THE CARDS
“I don’t think he’s ever going to play live again,” Visconti claims. “If he does, it will be a total surprise.”
Check out the full piece here.