OKP Exclusive: Lenny Kravitz Speaks On 'Strut' + New Photo Book
Lenny Kravitz set out on his own when he was just 15 years old. Since that time, both fans and critics can most likely agree that he has remained unapologetically true to who he was during every phase of his life.
“I was nurtured in a family that allowed that,” he says. “I left the house very early; left home and just started doing it. Finding my way. Exploring. Learning about the streets and people and music and life.”
That early education served him well. Long regarded as one of the preeminent rock musicians of our time, Kravitz has built a long-standing -- and respected -- career by transcending genre, style, race and class. His talents as a writer, producer and multi-instrumentalist have resonated through nine studio albums, four Grammy Awards and 38 million albums sold worldwide.
Much of that life has been captured by the camera's lens over the course of his 25-year career (see gallery above), but now Kravitz' life is receiving a more comprehensive visual retrospective through Lenny Kravitz the new oversize photo book from Rizzoli Publications. With contributions from Pharrell Williams, Marla Hamburg Kennedy and acclaimed music critic Anthony DeCurtis, the book contains some 250 images of the rock star.
“I was surprised by how many different versions of myself there have been,” Kravitz said, describing the process of looking back over his life via phone from Paris, where he is rehearsing for his upcoming tour. “But it’s not forced,” he continued. “It’s not really anything I think about. It just happens organically, the way people naturally evolve and change.”
Those versions of himself have included singer-songwriter, record producer, designer, actor and most recently, record label owner. He currently finds himself wearing the hat that fits best however, as he is focused on Strut, a 12-song LP that finds the rocker channeling a set of early '80s influences (note the "Heart Of Glass" references on "The Chamber") that put a fresh spin on his trademark sound.
As he gears up for the accompanying tour, Okayplayer took the rare opportunity to ask the rock icon a few questions about music, the interweb, his famous offspring...and what comes next (hint: there might be a funked-up Beatles cover in our future). Read for a selection of the most surprising things Kravitz revealed about himself:
He Wasn't Planning To Make New Music:
“I had no idea this was coming,” he says, speaking of Strut. “I wasn’t ready to make an album.” As the story goes, he was on the set of Hunger Games when the music forced him to pay attention: “I hear things in the air.” In this case, he listened closely and got to work. He tells us of “The Chamber” (see our debut of his behind-the-scenes video for the single), “the song wrote itself.” The track, which he calls a “classic heartbreak song” about an “emotional bullet” is among the 11 songs he wrote and recorded in just a two-week span, the 12th being a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo, Baby, Baby.”
'Strut' Is Kravtiz' 1st Independent Record:
“It was time,” he tells us. “I did it the standard way with great success, but I felt it was time to be independent after 25 years. I was in the right headspace to do my thing. Very happy I did.”
LK Has Seen Better Concerts Than We Ever Will:
“Earth, Wind & Fire in ‘75, the Prince1999 tour, Pink Floyd, James Brown at the Apollo...”
Kravtiz adds that he was just 7-years-old (circa 1971), when his family took him to see The Jackson 5 at Madison Square Garden, a moment that was undeniably life changing. It’s an enviable early music education, to say the least.
LK Is A Reformed Social Media Junkie:
When asked if he pays attention to social media, he tells us “I share certain things,” and does the “basic stuff” like posting pictures to Instagram. But when asked if there was anyone he follows, he quickly replied “Not anymore! I used to. I spent a lot of time doing that, but then my life got really busy. Now I just follow my daughter. That’s it. She’s enough.”
Young LK Had Impeccable Taste in Music.
Kravitz grew up on NYC’s Upper East Side (spending weekends with his grandmother in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy), already recognizable as the son of Roxie Roker (who starred as Helen Willis on The Jeffersons.) He started off telling us that young Lenny spent his time “listening to a lot of Bowie, a lot of Prince, Miles Davis” and continued the list with: Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Clash and The Ramones. But the most notable moment was when he paused to consider Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions album and “Jesus Children of America” as the song that most immediately takes him back to his childhood. “That was a song I used to play a lot, listening to that album with my mother.”
We Might Still Get A Lenny x Zoe Kravitz Father-Daughter Project?
“She inspires me,” Kravitz says of his 25-year-old daughter Zoe (the child of his famous marriage with Lisa Bonet). The younger Kravitz has become a star in her own right, with multiple acting roles and fronting her band Lolawolf. When asked if he would ever consider recording music with his only offspring, he didn’t hesitate to say, “I really don’t know what that would look like. I’m very careful to stay out of her way. To let her be her.” He also added -- with a bit of a question in his tone -- “maybe something for a soundtrack? --if it came up. But it would have to be the kind of thing that happened organically.”
LK’s Long-Awaited Funk LP Negrophilia Is Definitely Next --& Includes A Beatles Cover!
Reports of the project Kravitz calls a very “raw, jagged-edged album” have been swirling since Black & White America was released in 2011, but Kravitz confirms it’s definitely next -- and will include a cover of the Beatles song "Dear Prudence," -- reportedly written by John Lennon about Mia Farrow’s younger sister.
“I was having a conversation with someone about Woody Allen and they started talking to me about the story behind 'Dear Prudence' and how the lyrics dear Prudence, won’t you come about to play? are about how she would never come out of her room.” The song stuck with Kravitz from that moment and eventually found itself -- in funk form -- as a cover for the next project.