Home Celebrity LANA DEL REY


The singer talks about her philosophical outlook on existence, her new album, plans for the future, and much more…



With the release of her sensational new album Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey has no intention of glossing over her troubled psyche. Her recent statement, “I wish I was dead already…” saw her reflect on joining the 27 Club – a group of popular rock stars like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse, who all died aged 27.

And yet, with Lana, it is often hard to separate the real woman from her controversial David Lynch-ian femme fatale public self – the stunningly beautiful singer with the pouty lips and gloomy outlook on life. She has parlayed her angst and gloriously melancholy music into a massive career. She first attracted worldwide attention with the 2011 release of Video Games on YouTube and her subsequent 2012 Born to Die album that shot to the top of the charts in the UK and other major markets and has since sold five million CDs. Her video clips have been viewed over 100 million times and her fans treat her concert appearances with fanatical reverence. However, she doesn’t particularly enjoy performing live.


“Getting on stage is the part I like least about my job,” Rey says. “I love to write and produce music, but everything that comes after that is difficult for me.” Whatever else she may be, the 27-year-old Del Rey is certainly a survivor.

Ultraviolence is already attracting enormous buzz and generally positive reviews. Her first single from the album, West Coast, and its accompanying vidclip, has already given strong indications that the new album is a strong and compelling follow-up to Born to Die and will likely debut at No.1 in most international markets.

To her credit, Del Rey – born Elizabeth Woolrich Grant in NYC – has withstood the withering barrage of criticism triggered by her now infamous January 2012 appearance on the American TV show Saturday Night Live. Suffering from a massive attack of nerves (though she still refuses to admit that), Del Rey’s vocals were strangled with fear and her body movements mimicked those of a heavily sedated Patti Smith or a deer caught in the headlights of a Mack truck.

Since then, however, she has made an extraordinary comeback of sorts. And with the release of the highly anticipated Ultraviolence, Del Rey is about to soar into the musical stratosphere once again. Coming off her narco-swing Young and Beautiful ballad from last year’s The Great Gatsby soundtrack, she was handpicked by Angelina Jolie to sing Once Upon a Dream in the trailer for Maleficent. Last month, she serenaded Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at their wedding rehearsal dinner at the Palace of Versailles, a performance that was rumoured to have netted her around $3 million. Del Rey has denied that, however, saying she would “never charge [her] friends.”


Despite the raging controversy over how contrived her sad persona may be, Lana Del Rey’s eerily nostalgic music has enthralled millions of fans around the world. Though fame and fortune have done little, if anything at all, to assuage her downbeat view of things, she has made her mark on the public imagination and Ultraviolence will undoubtedly silence many of her naysayers. But the bigger question is whether Lana herself will take any solace from her success.

You recently performed at the pre-wedding reception for Kim and Kanye. What was it like being part of those celebrations?
Lana Del Rey: It was beautiful. I’m a huge fan of Kanye’s – he’s so talented. I’m genuinely happy for them that they’ve found something so amazing in their union. When Kanye wanted me to come sing and surprise Kim, I definitely wanted to be there. So we flew from the amfAR reception at Cannes to Versailles and it was pretty much what you expected. It’s Versailles! [Laughs]

There is so much nostalgia, sadness and world-weariness in your music. Why is happiness so difficult to depict, even though in person you seem pretty happy?
LDR:That’s the ancient Greek definition. It’s not a state of rest, it’s a process.

“I haven’t yet found that easy path towards happiness. It’s been years since I’ve felt at peace. That’s been my theme in life: trudging the road to happiness. Definitely a happy destiny, but it’s trudged. For me, there are moments of pure happiness, but you can’t achieve that over a sustained period of time… you try to make those as many as possible. Happiness is not a static state – it’s an active state.”


How are you trying to find that kind of happiness?
LDR: By being a patient person, surrounding myself with those I love and by being generous and seeking serenity. In general, I have found that devoting your life to the people around you

You’ve spoken in the past about believing in alternative ways of being. What do you mean by that?
LDR: My life has gone through various incarnations, mostly transitions. Yet, I don’t consider myself to be someone very provocative or radical – I embrace a lot of traditional things. But I believe in alternative lifestyles and relationships. I think we’ve lost the kind of cultural and personal liberation that we were exploring in the 60s when people were talking about experiencing a new concept of freedom. That was a much more exciting notion than the freedom we talk about now.

Are you still very interested in philosophy?
LDR: Yes. I also studied theology because I went to a school where the Jesuits were teaching philosophy classes. I was fascinated by the basic question: why do we exist? I enjoyed thinking and talking to other people about basic questions like, “Why are we are here, what kind of meaning can we find in life.”

Let’s talk about your new album. Where did the title Ultraviolence come from?
LDR: I found the title before I had written almost any of the songs that are on it now. I love the idea of having a one-word title because I think that has a beautiful simplicity. I was thinking of flowers at the time and since I love flowers that are shades of blue and violet, I had this idea of ultraviolet and that kind of vibration. That was the basis for the title and of course it became more suggestive. [Smiles] Ultra is a sweet sound and completely opposite to the sense of violence. It also summarises some of the contradictions I find in myself.


That my essence is sweet but I also have this violence in my life that I’ve experienced over the last four years.
What inspired the music in the album?
LDR: I would spend a lot of time driving around by myself, and sitting in my car and just thinking. I didn’t really start laying stuff down and writing until last winter in New York. But I often would be thinking about what I wanted to do even before that, just sitting in my car. I’ve got this old 1981 Mercedes convertible and, often, I would be thinking about my music when I was in the car in New York in the cold. Now that I’m living in LA, I find myself sitting in my car at the beach a lot, so as to avoid being approached. But I’m still screwed because there’s no top on the car. [Laughs] After 11:30 pm in LA, it’s amazing to drive down Sunset towards the ocean. There’s pretty much no one on the road and you find that you’re in your own little world on this historic street and driving for miles and miles by yourself. I’ve got my own world going on.

How did this record come together for you? What are your thoughts about it now?
LDR: Above all, I’m in love with the record and I’m so happy to be able to feel that way about it. I started putting it together at Electric Lady studios in New York and I met Dan Auerbach at a club one night by accident. He listened to the record and really liked it, but thought it had too much of a classic rock feel. But when I told him that I had this idea for a West Coast fusion with an underground jazz culture for the mood, he said he felt that he could deliver that. So we went to Nashville and recorded everything there live and it had a really good feel to it.

How would you describe your West Coast signature sound or vibe?
LDR: When I met Dan, something that he really tapped into was that all of my choruses slipped into half-time beats and half-time swings and he called it “narco-swing” every time the West Coast chorus would kick in. That’s a good description of it. It has a late 70s feel but there’s also a nod to the West Coast 90s synth sound that comes in.

How do you find living in LA now as opposed to being in New York?
LDR: For me, being in LA has been an escape and I’ve been inspired by how casual everything is over here. I love swimming and going to the beach every day. And I spend hours and hours during the week driving up and down the coast listening to music. I love listening to the soundtracks of films like American Beauty, The Godfather, Scarface, but I also love grunge – Mark Lanegan, especially Nirvana. And for jazz, there’s Chuck Baker, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. Then, Bob Dylan and all the musicians of that period. I’m a pretty nocturnal creature. I write at night, outdoors, and often with a lot of noise in the background. Either with the radio in my car playing or in my house and the TV turned on, usually chain-smoking and drinking coffee…I drink tons of coffee! [Laughs]

What’s your earliest musical memory?
LDR: I remember when I was 15 or 16 years old and my parents sent me to Kent School, a private boarding school in Connecticut, so I could fight my alcohol addiction. I had a very young teacher, Gene Campbell, who introduced me to hip-hop. That kind of set things in motion for me and my music evolved over the course of the next few years, especially after I moved to New York, which was a very troubled time but also a very creative one. A lot of the music I’ve written over the last several years is a reference to the feeling I had when I was inebriated, which felt good for a while until it started to not work anymore and became very destructive.

Is smoking something that helps you relax?
LDR: Smoking helps calm me down. When I want to feel calm, I just light up one cigarette after another. That’s especially helpful to me before, during, and after I’m performing.

You’ve gone through so many ups and downs in your life and work and, of late, you’ve enjoyed great success in your career. What’s been the weirdest part of your experiences so far?
LDR: It happened in London and I actually called 911 before I realised that there was no 911 in London! [Laughs] I didn’t know at the time that 911 doesn’t work in England. I thought I saw something strange or a ghost while staying at a friend’s house and I swear to God these three apparitions appeared above this deck on Kingsland Road. I learned later that it was light coming from Chinese lanterns that people light up in the summer. It was really humiliating! [Laughs]

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