Michael Jackson’s Interviews
– 2001 October 26 – Online Audio Chat –
On October 26, 2001 Michael took part in an online audio chat, answering fans’ questions via the telephone through moderator Anthony DeCurtis. The interview was sponsored by GetMusic.com and RollingStone.com
Here is the text transcript of the interview, followed by the actual audio version:
Here is the text transcript of the interview, followed by the actual audio version:
Anthony: Hello Ladies and Gentleman, this is Anthony DeCurtis. You’re on Getmusic.com and we’re here tonight for a very special event. The King of Pop, one of the greatest artists in the history of popular music, Michael Jackson, is going to be joining us. He has a new record coming out on Oct. 30, it’s called Invisible [interviewer’s error]. You can check it out at Michaeljackson.com, you can preorder it at getmusic.com.
Anthony: Michael, it’s a pleasure to talk to you man.
Michael: Pleasure to talk with you.
Anthony: Tell us a little bit about the new album. It’s your first new record in 6 years. Uh, do you still get exited when you have something come out? Obviously you’ve accomplished so much over the years. You know, do you still feel that, like, “Wow, I wonder what people are gonna think” or, you know, feel all of that kind of anticipation?
Michael: I kinda parallel it to a, uh, you know… It’s like the gestation process of, uh, birth. You know, it’s a… You know, it’s like having children, and having to raise them and bring them out into the world, and once they get into the world they’re on their own. So, it’s, it’s, very exciting. I mean, you never get too used to it, ever. It’s, uh, an incredible process. But you leave it in the hands of God, like you do when you’re having a child.
Anthony: Absolutely. We’ve got questions already beginning to pour in from your fans on the Internet. We’ve got Electric Eyes, male, writing in. Says, “Michael, you are, in my mind, the greatest artist of all time. The true King of pop, rock, and soul.” And he wants to know, “What is your favorite song on the new album?”
Michael: My favorite song on the new album. Can I pick two?
Anthony: Uh, yeah, I think you can do that. You can pretty much do whatever you like.
Michael: Uh, it would probably be Unbreakable… I’ll pick three. Unbreakable, Speechless, and The Lost Children.
Anthony: Tell us about a couple of those tracks. You know, what was it like work… I mean, were there special guests, or were you working with new producers, or how you wrote them. You know, something that gives us some flavor.
Michael: Well, the songwriting process is something very difficult to explain because it’s very spiritual. It’s, uh…You really have it in the hands of God, and it’s as if its been written already – that’s the real truth. As if its been written in its entirety before were born and you’re just really the source through which the songs come. Really. Because there is…they just fall right into your lap in it’s entirety. You don’t have to do much thinking about it. And I feel guilty having to put my name, sometimes, on the songs that I – I do write them – I compose them, I write them, I do the scoring, I do the lyrics, I do the melodies but still, it’s a…it’s a work of God.
Anthony: Samantha from Canada just sent us in a question. She would like to know, “How would you describe the sound on Invincible and have you incorporated any other genres into the album?”
Michael: Well, the sound is…sonically, we always try to make sure we have, you know, pristine, detailed, uh, you know, the best sound, the best engineers, the best technicians available. And of course, I tried to make the album a potpourri of just wonderful melodies of any style. Because I don’t believe in stylizing or branding any type of music. I think a great artist should be able to just create any style, any form, any…any thing from rock to pop to folk to gospel to spiritual to just, just wonderful music where every, uh, anybody can sing it, from the Irish farmer to a lady who scrubs toilets in Harlem. If you can whistle it and hum it, that’s the most important thing.
Anthony: Now, when you’re working do you find, are you in a mode where you like to listen to a lot of other music, or you’re listening to the radio and maybe picking up people’s CDs. Or when you’re working do you like to just kinda shut it all out and concentrate, you know, intently on what you’re doing?
Michael: I pretty much… I always know what’s going on, on the radio and in clubs, that people are listening to. Even though people think I live at Neverland — mentally I’m in Never Never land all the time — I’m always connected. I always know what’s going on in the music world, all the time. Not just in America but Internationally. You know, all over the world. And uh, when I’m working though, I don’t… I’m not in… I don’t think I’m influenced by a lot of the music today. Uh, I pretty much create what I think is in my heart. Very original. I try to be as original as possible. I don’t say, ‘OK, I’m gonna make this a great R&B song, a great pop… I just want to make a great song.
Anthony: Like the song takes it’s own form.
Michael: Yeah. Yes.
Anthony: Well, uh, Amber here on the Internet offers you lots of love and wonders if, um, it was fun for you to make the rock… the You Rock My World video.
Michael: Yes, that was a lot of fun. Uh, it was… We stayed up all night, which was very hard [giggling]. We, uh, it was fun hearing it blasted on the set on really good speakers. That’s one of my favorite things, hearing the music really loud. ‘Cause I like to play music loud. I mean, it’s, uh… If you play something over the Internet or small speakers, it doesn’t have the same punch. That’s why you have to buy it. You have to buy that CD to really hear that punch. It makes a huge difference. Huge difference. There’s no comparison. Buying the CD is the best thing. There’s no comparison. [Interruption from host]… You can’t hear all those sounds if you do it on a smaller system.
Anthony: And when you’re, uh… So when you’re out on the video set, uh, you’re able to just kinda crank it up as loud as you want?
Michael: As loud as I want.
Anthony: Very good [laughing]. Well, we have Michael Mathew from Canada. He says, “I just saw Ghosts on MTV. As always, you are awesome, Michael. Do you have any plans of releasing it as a DVD in America?”
Michael: Yes, it will be released as a DVD in America in it’s entirety, and some of the making of Ghosts. And that was one of my most favorite things I’ve ever done because it’s been a dream of mine for a long time to do something like, you know, scary but comical at the same time, and, uh, it’s all the elements, just fun. ‘Cause I don’t want to scare people to the point where they’re afraid to go to sleep. I want it to have a little twist of humor. And within the laugher there is a tear, you know? It’s fun, you know. These ghosts, they weren’t really scary, they were fun. They walked up the ceilings. Little kids were laughing at them. They were fun. You know, we don’t want to horrify them. But we gave this fat man, this Mayor, his justice, for coming into my house, which was private property, judging me. You know.
Anthony: Absolutely. We have Cloudlee2000 who writes in and wonders, “Why did you name the album Invincible?”
Michael: Well, invincible is something of… I think it’s a proper name. It’s one of the cuts on the album and I’ve been an artist.. uh, not to pat myself on the back but the Guinness Book of World Records just listed me, uh, another time, as the artist who’s had the longest stretch career ’cause since I was a little, little kid to this point with still hit records from number one records, and uh, I’m so proud and honored that I’ve been chosen from the Heavens, or whatever it is, to be Invincible, and to just continue to grow and to be, you know… serve the people. It serves the people with wonderful entertainment.
Anthony: Now, one of the, you know, the kind of conventional wisdom in the music industry is, you know, audiences don’t really have an attention span any more, you know. If an artist stays away for too long the audience wanders off and goes somewhere else. Was that a concern of yours with coming out with a record and taking a while to work on Invincible or do you, uh, are you convinced your fan base is still there and will be as strong as ever?
Michael: I’m, I’m … No, the answer to your question is that has never concerned me once and I’ve never thought of it. Because I’ve always known if music is truly great or if a movie is truly great, people want to see it or hear it. No matter where you, how long you’ve been away, or whatever the situation is. You know, greatness is greatness and if you really do a great job on what you’re doing, people want to hear it. Or they want to see it. You know, it doesn’t matter, It really doesn’t. Long as you’re an innovator and a pioneer, you know. And that’s the most important thing. Give them what they want to hear.
Anthony: Now Slimslady420US sends in a question and wonders “which song on the Invincible album do you think you personally relate to the most?”
Michael: Ummm, Unbreakable.
Anthony: Talk a bit about that track. Now you mentioned it a couple of times, I’m getting really curious about it. Could you… What could you tell us about it?
Michael: ‘Cause, uh, I’ m one of the few people, probably in show business, that have been through the ins and outs, you know, of so many different things. Um, I’ve been through hell and back. I have, to be honest, and uh, and still I’m able to do what I do and nothing can stop me. No one can stop me, no matter what. I stop when I’m ready to stop. You know, and uh, I’m just saying, you know, I will continue to move forward no matter what.
Anthony: Now we have Warful writes in, “Are you working or planning to do any more short films for Invincible, specifically for the really fast tracks such as 2000 Watts, Heartbreaker, Unbreakable, and Invincible?”
Michael: Absolutely, and she said… Whoever said that said the right word when they said said “short films.” And uh, that’s what we try to make them, short films: a beginning and middle and a ending of a story. Uh, to take the medium to a new level but absolutely. There’s like a an array of, an encyclopedia of just great short films to make from the album. It’s very exciting. I can’t wait to do Threatened. It’s a kind of scary one with Rod Serling from the Twilight Zone. I can’t wait to get my hands on that one.
Anthony: We have a question here from Nepolian3, says his name is George really, and it says, “Michael, I think this is your most cohesive and impressive album since Thriller. Or, really, Off The Wall. What are some of your most memorable moments while recording the tracks for this album?”
Michael: Most memorable moments were, it was… of all my albums I would say this one was the toughest. ‘Cause I was hardest on myself. Uh, I wrote so many songs, I don’t want to say the number, just to get to uh, how many are on there, 16? Just to get to the 16 that I think are acceptable. And, um, it’s the album where… I didn’t have children before other albums, so I caught a lot of colds; I was sick a lot. Cause my children got [interruption from host]. So we had to stop and start again and stop and start and… constantly. But I enjoyed it very, very much.
Anthony: Now, when you describe yourself as being tough on yourself during the recording process. How does that, you know… what is the process that you go to. If you think something isn’t quite what it ought to be or maybe you could do better or you know, maybe you want to move something in a new direction. You know, what is that like?
Michael: If I truly told you, I don’t know if the fans would like me anymore [giggles]. I’ve had musicians who really get angry with me because I’ll make them do something literally several hundred to a thousand times till it’s what I want it to be. Um, but then afterwards, they call me back on the phone and they’ll apologize and say, “you were absolutely right. I’ve never played better, I’ve done better work, I out-did myself,” is what they’ll say. And I say, “That’s the way it should be because you’ve immortalized yourself. This is here forever. It’s a time capsule.” It’s like Michelangelo’s work. You know, it’s like the Sistine Chapel, it’s here forever. Everything we do should be that way, you know?
Anthony: To try to bring it to the best possible standard that it can be.
Anthony: Now Sweetpea4286 wonders, “Are there any surprises on the new album?”
Michael: Any surprises? Boy. I think it is what it is, and you can interpret it the way you want to interpret it. Um, but uh, that’s all I can say about that. Other than some … we will be releasing some surprise CD singles at some point — something like that, yeah. In the future, though. That’s coming up.
Anthony: Very good. I wanted to ask you, just as… in performing… and recently you’ve done a couple of shows, you did a couple at Madison Square Garden and you did a show at RFK stadium, a benefit concert, and you know, obviously, you know, you…. live performance has been one of the things that has distinguished you throughout your career. You’ve been offstage for a while. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what it was like to be out there again in front of an audience and, you know, getting that opportunity to perform again.
Michael: It was, um, it’s hard to explain. It was quite exciting, to feel the audience and to see them and to be accepted so warmly by them. Um, it’s just an incredible feeling. It really is. They’re there to support you and to love you and to hear their favorite songs and you’re just standing there and they’re just giving you so much adulation and love and the sprit is just full of love, it’s wonderful. It’s very emotional. It, uh, brings me to tears. It’s wonderful.
Anthony: I remember in your book you describe that like sometime on stage is when you feel the most alive, that those are the moments that, you know, really are the whole — kind of the most transporting for you.
Michael: It is. It’s being offstage that’s difficult for me. Uh, being on stage … either writing music or writing poetry, and being on stage, and watching cartoons are my favorite things to do in the entire world. Um, that’s what brings me to life. I love that. That’s what inspires me to do what I do, you know?
Anthony: Excellent. We have a question from someone calling themself The best dancer in the world. Well, we’ve got you on the line, I’m not sure that uh, we might have to contest that a little bit. But anyway, the best dancer in the world wants to know, “Michaeljackson.com said that JayZ will appear with you on the new album. Is that true?”
Michael: No, but we are talking about doing something in the future together.
Anthony: Is JayZ an artist who’s worked you’ve liked, is ah.. as a person, have you spent time with him? What’s your impression of him?
Michael: I think he’s excellent. He has incredible rhythms, counter-rhythms. And he’s just one of the newer contemporary artists that the kids really love. He’s really, really great.
Anthony: We have a question here from Sweden. Tony from Sweden writes in and says, “Hi Michael. You’re the most amazing artist of all time. I just love your music. Do you want to tour, and will you do a world tour or a European tour?”
Michael: Um, gee, we haven’t thought about it much right now, but uh, I don’t want to say it’s not in the works. Um, we’re concentrating on a lot of different things right now. But I can’t quite say.
Anthony: Fine. I wanted to ask…
Michael: You know what, in the near future I’m sure there’ll be something that’ll come up. In the near future.
Anthony: People should, ah, keep their eyes open for announcements on that front. We have a question from Noria, describes him or herself as a 32 year old Spanish fan, writing from Los Angeles, would like to know if you have any plans to release any of your songs in Invincible in Spanish or any other language besides English.
Michael: Uh, as of now we haven’t but that would be a great thing to do. We haven’t written that off. We think it’s a big market, so that’s a great possibility.
Anthony: Especially for someone like your self who has a big International following — you know, for many people, their following is in England or in the US, but your following is very International obviously.
Michael: Thank you.
Anthony: Um, talk a bit… One of the things that was of kind of a little bit of a sensation this year was Alien Ant Farm’s cover of Smooth Criminal. I wanted to see if you’d paid attention it, if you… Do you enjoy it, or how you felt about it.
Michael: I saw it and fell in love with it. I loved it. I said, I just gotta have this come out. So, they wanted my permission; I saw it and I approved it and gave it a triple A, and said “go right ahead.”
Anthony: Fantastic. It must be interesting, as a songwriter, to have other people do your songs and come up with another interpretation. What is that like?
Michael: It’s a great compliment. It’s a wonderful compliment. It makes you feel worthy and that your music is reaching all the different generations. You know, and all the different, uh… I mean, everybody’s out there listening and that makes me very happy.
Anthony: Now we have a question from Canada. Gary, who is 19, writes in, “What other artists did you collaborate with on Invincible?”
Michael: What other artists did I collaborate with on Invincible…
Anthony: Do you have any special guests.
Michael: Umm, oh yeah, Carlos Santana. He and I have done, like, a duet. He plays the guitar and I sing and it’s something that, uh, we’ve written. And it’s really, really a nice song.
Anthony: Now had you known him from over time or did you meet him recently?
Michael: I’ve met him before, but we’ve been talking a lot on the phone recently. After winning his Grammy award he said to the press that he would like to meet me and he’s ready to work with me. So everybody’s been telling me that, and uh, I called him up and he said he really would, it would be his dream come true. And he was the nicest man. He’s so kind and so spiritual. I found him to be so humble, so I said to myself, “We have to make this work.”
Anthony: And so you wrote a song together?
Michael: Well, there’s a song that myself and two other people wrote and he was a part of it, and uh, Whatever Happens.
Anthony: Ok.. We have a question from Anicia. Says, “Michael are you a fan of Chris Tucker.” Describes him being in your recent video.
Michael: I am a huge, huge fan Chris Tucker. He makes me laugh so hard. um, I uh, I’ve seen all of his films, and he’s just a funny guy. I like people who can make you laugh without using vulgarity, or bad words. For the kids, they’re for all different demographics, all the corners of the earth and he’s just a funny guy.
Anthony: We have another question from Canada. Tony, who’s 17 from Canada, writes and wonders, “How long does it take you to produce a song from the initial conception to the final recording?”
Anthony: [laughing] I guess it probably varies from…
Michael: Yeah, it does vary. And for me it’s really different than most artists because I’ll do a couple of songs, they’ll be 5, 6, 7 or 8 or 10 of them; I’ll throw them all away and start over. So, that’s a difficult question to ask me.
Anthony: I wonder if… is there a specific song on the album — say Invincible — you know, how long… when… Do you remember getting the first inspiration for that song and then maybe the day when you finally said, “This is it, I’ve got it exactly the way I want it?”
Michael: On Invincible itself?
Michael: Ummm, yes. Yes. I remember having the guys go back in and create more innovative… ‘Cause we don’t… um, this is our thing, we don’t, uh, a lot of sounds on the album that aren’t sounds from keyboards, uh, that are, you know, pretty much programmed into the machines. We go out and make our own sounds. We hit on things, we beat on things, so nobody can duplicate what we do. We make them with our own hands, we find things and we create things. And uh, that’s the most important thing, to be a pioneer. To be an innovator.
Anthony: Absoluteluy. Now we have Vernay who writes to us from Newark, Delaware, the good ole USA, and Vernay says, “I’m so pleased with the new album but I was particularly touched by Speechless. What was your inspiration for this song?”
Michael: Speechless was inspired to me by, um, I spend a lot of time in the forest. I like to go into the forest and I like to climb trees. My favorite thing is to climb trees, go all the way up to the top of a tree and I look down on the branches. Whenever I do that it inspires me for music. There are these two sweet little kids, a girl and a boy, and they’re so innocent; they’re the quintessential form of innocence, and just being in their presence I felt completely speechless, ’cause I felt I was looking in the face of God whenever I saw them. They inspired me to write Speechless.
Anthony: Well, that answer actually might touch on this next question which we have, which wonders, “Where do you look for inspiration when you write your songs. Does inspiration come from a variety of different places?
Michael: Well, the best songs that are written write themselves. You don’t ask for them, they just drop into your lap. Then there are those songs that, you know, you kind of uh, incubate. You know, you plant the seed, let the subconscious take its course, and within time you hope something comes, and most the time it does. I don’t believe in the concept of writer’s block — that is a bad word. You create it when you say it. There’s no such thing. Um, like any painter or sculptor, they paint… they do their best work when they’re in the 60s and their 70s. Fred Astaire did his best dancing when he was in his 70s. Angelo [Michelangelo] sculpted late into his 60s and 70s, doing brilliant ingenious work. But in the music business some of these great artists have become stumped because they self-abuse themselves at a young age, with all these crazy things they drink and pills and things, and uh, that’s just not good — just not a good thing. I hate to say that to hurt anybody, but we should take care of our bodies a little more.
Anthony: Naw, I think a lot of people have realized they’ve damaged themselves. You know, many people have talked about it in recent years, you know.
Anthony: We have a question from Allen here who asks if you think that Rodney Jerkins and you have created a new sound for 2001.
Michael: For the song 2000 Watts?
Anthony: He says, “Do you feel that you and Rodney Jerkins, of course the producer, have created a new sound for 2001?”
Michael: 2001? Anthony: Yes
Michael: Oh. Um, that would be a nice thought, yes.
Anthony: What was it like working with him. How did you guys meet and, you know, how did your collaboration go?
Michael: He was this guy who went around Hollywood and around the industry saying his dream was to work with me to everybody. Then at Carol Bayer Sager’s house, who’s this great song writer; won several academy awards for her songwriting, said, “There’s a guy I used to work with. His name is Rodney Jerkins, he’s been crying to me begging to meet you. I mean, why don’t you pick up the phone and say ‘hi’ to him.” And he came over that day and he said, “Please, my dream is to work with you. Will you give me two weeks and I’ll see what I can come up with.” And uh, we ended up working together.
Anthony: And what were your impressions of him, like as just somebody… What did he bring; what did you feel that his contribution was?
Michael: His contribution was he loves to create in the same kind of way that I like to create. But I pushed Rodney. And pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed him to create… uh, to innovate more. To pioneer more. He’s a real musician. He’s a real musician and he’s very dedicated and he’s real loyal. He has perseverance. I don’t think I’ve seen perseverance like his in anyone. Because you can push him and push him and he doesn’t get angry. Yeah, I think he’s a great guy, he really is.
Anthony: That is a great compliment.
Michael: And um, and Teddy Riely is just incredible. He’s innovative too. I love working with him.
Anthony: And you had worked with him in the past, of course.
Michael: Yeah, he’s one of my favorite… as a human being, he’s one of my favorite people in the world. He’s just a really sweet, kind guy. You know. And Rodney’s very funny. You laugh all day when you’re with him. He turns his music up in the studio and he starts dancing around the room. He’s fun.
Anthony: We’d like to remind everyone, you’re on Getmusic. We’re here talking with Michael Jackson, whose new album Invincible is out on Oct. 30th. You can check it out at Michaeljackson.com. You can preorder it on Getmusic.
Now we have a question from ItsJackson who is really named Rachel from Connecticut, wonders “Do you have any new dance moves that you’ve invented while you were making your album?”
Michael: For the first time working on any album, I put a halt to dancing. Because I was just so engrossed and so infatuated with what I was doing um, I did something that was very unusual. But once the music started playing, of course, I started to dance. But um, uh, it’s starting to now create itself and, uh, with the music playing I’m coming up with some new things. But that’s coming in the future with the newer short films. They’ll be seeing… they’ll be seeing all kinds of innovative things and movements that have never been seen before. We’ll go places where we’ve never gone in dance before. Cause all the hiphop things that are happening now are beginning to look like aerobics, it’s kinda getting annoying.
Anthony: [laughs] We have a question from Simon who, you know, you’ve obviously mentioned you know, all the people who have wanted to work with you. He wonders, “Michael who wold you love to do a duet with, past or present?”
Michael: Uh, if it’s past, it’d be somebody like, uh, I would say Sarah Vaughn [*] or Nat King Cole. Present, I think, uh, Whitney Houston is brilliant and Barbara Striesand has a beautiful voice. You know, those kinds of artists, they’re just wonderful.
Anthony: What’s your impression of some of the artists who’ve come on the scene just in recent years, you know, people like Britney Speares and Christina Aguilara. You know, young pop stars who are obviously hugely popular. You know, obviously, Britney participated in your show at the Garden, You know, what was your sense about her?
Michael: I think they’re a new breed that are coming out. They’re doing a very good job. And what impressed me more about any of these artists, like Speares and Christina, they’re so determined. I’ve heard about the way they work. They’ll work on a dance step, I mean, like, for months, and, uh.. to get it right, you know. Uh, they’re just so determined. And I’ve met… I’ve met Britney several times and she was very sweet and humble. She came to my room. We quietly talked for couple hours, and she was just, uh, like a Barbie doll. She was very sweet, she was very kind.
Anthony: I imagine that someone like you would be a kind of interesting and important resource for her, you know. As someone who was a star when you were so young, and then when… I don’t think people necessarily understand what a kind of strange reality that is, you know, within all the acclaim and the fame and the excitement, you know, to be a kid and have all that attention focused on you must be kind of scary also. Did you find it that way, uh, in your own experience?
Michael: Yeah, because where ever I go, um, I disguise myself, now — but now I can’t with, ’cause, you know, with what’s going on in the world — so I don’t wear a disguise. And uh, people they just go… They really go crazy. They’re very happy to see you. They feel as if they know you. You have to respond back to them like you know them. They feel they personally know you. My picture’s on their walls, you know, my music is playing in their house, so they grab you and they hug you and they touch you and they… So I usually respond back with hugs and loves and kisses. Cause I love… I love… I truly love my fans. Truly, truly from the heart. That’s the real truth. I love them. And the ones who are, um…. Like when we go to a certain country and they’re outside, and outside they’re sleeping on the street and I throw them pillows and cover and everything. And I have my security guards buy them pizza so they can all eat, and get the candles and, you know, we really take care of them. They’re very, very, very sweet and supportive.
Anthony: Sam who is 20 years old and from Texas here in the US wonders, “Will you release Butterflies as a single? That’s one of your best songs.”
Michael: Butterflies is, uh, is a single that’s released now. It’s a single now. Tell him thank you very much.
Anthony: Great. What other plans do you have, you know, when you… As somebody who’s been a kind of innovator in terms of making short films to accompany your songs, do you conceptualize all that ahead of time or, you know, do you decide, on a kinda step by step basis, you know, this is gonna be the next single and I want to make a, you know, a kind of visual statement to accompany it. You know, how does that all proceed?
Michael: All right, the short film itself?
Michael: Well, I let the song pretty much speak to me and I get in a room and I pretty much start making notes… You know, I’ll speak to a writer — like Stephen King and myself, both of us wrote Ghosts, the short film Ghosts, and we just on the telephone started writing it and let it create itself and go where it wants to go. But we try to do things that are very unusual. And it’s… it’s not an easy thing to do because you have to time it with the song, and you can’t spend too much time, and the special effects can take 5 months sometimes to execute. So, it’s just .. .it’s kinda difficult thing and the record company’s saying, “Come on, come on, come on, we have to go, we have to go.” So, I understand. So we try to do the best we can in the amount of time that we can execute it in.
Anthony: We have a question now, uh, Helen from Scotland says, “If you could only perform one of your songs for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?”
Michael: Ooh, it would probably be… if I could pick more than one, up to two or three?
Anthony: yeah, I think we can go that far.
Michael: Heal The World, Speechless, um, and that’s a difficult one… I think, uh.. huh… ummm, You Are My Life.
Anthony: So, you went for the ones that are the… the kind of, uh, the biggest statements, in a way, it seems to me.
Michael: Yeah, because, uh, the point is that they’re very melodic and if they have a great important message that’s kinda immortal, that can relate to any time and space, you know.
Anthony: One of the things, actually, I wanted to ask you is, you know, we’ve had these, you know, horrible terrorist attacks here in New York City and in Washington, DC. What is the role that you feel, you know, artists can play in the wake of something like that. You know, I mean, you did that benefits show in Washington. You know, is there… In music and in… you know, can artists do something to help people get through what for many of us has been a very difficult time?
Michael: Yeah, you give of yourself. You give of your talent, of your ability… The talent that was given you by the Heavens. That’s why we’re here, to bring a sense of escapism in time of need. And, uh, if you’re a painter you paint; if you’re a sculptor, you sculpt; if you’re a writer, you write; if you’re a songwriter, you give songs; if you’re a dancer, you give dance. You give people some love and some… some bliss and some escapism, and to show that you truly care from the heart, and be there for them. Not just from a distance, but show you really care. You know, take the long mile and be there for them. And that’s what I did, and many others who cared and helped. And it’s an important thing.
Anthony: We have a question now from Chili Boy who wonders, “I’ve always wanted to know, how do you come up with a dance move, and how long does it take for you to put the choreography for a song together?”
Michael: I pretty much just get in a room and I start to dance, and uh, I don’t create the dance, the dance creates itself, really. You know, I’ll do something and I’ll look back… I’ll look back on tape and I’ll go, “Wow,” I didn’t realize I had done that. It came out of the drums. You become…. Dancing is about interpretation. You become…. You become the accompaniment of the music. So when you become the bass of Billie Jean, I couldn’t help but do the step that I was doing when the song first starts, because, uh, that’s what it told me to do. You know, if I turn around, spin, stop, move my legs to the side and then lift up the collar of my shirt, that’s for that moment is an accompaniment.
Anthony: I remember watching that moment on television and just leaping out of my chair. It’s so extraordinary.
Michael: Thank you very much.
Anthony: That was really one of the great, great moments.
Michael: It’s all spontaneous movement. Nothing in that piece was, on, uh, Billie Jean, was planned but the Moonwalk. Everything else was just, you know, improvising, really.
Anthony: We have a question from SJ Chams who wonders, “Do you think you’ll do another duet with Janet?”
Michael: I would love to! It depends on the song, the time. When she’s in one corner of the Earth, I’m in another place. It’s very rare that our ships pass in the night. So it’s not easy to do ’cause we’re both very busy. But that would be very nice. I love working with her. She’s a true real professional and a wonderful sister.
Anthony: Excellent. Ah, we have Sheik 33 who wonders, “Who was your idol when you were a child?”
Michael: I always went nuts for…. I mean, I could be asleep… In Indiana, at like 5 years old, I’d be asleep and it’d be late at night, like 1 in the morning, some show on, I remember seeing my mother run to my room, “wake up , wake up! James Brown is on! James Brown is on!” Or “Sammy Davis Jr.’s playing” or “Fred Astaire! They got a good Fred Astaire movie on.” “Gene Kelly’s on right now!” And I’d sit there with my eyes just… I’d be awe-struck, just watching. So when videos came out, I had a collection. [giggles]
Anthony: Yeah, I understand that you have a, an extraordinary collection of a kind of old movies of all of the performers that you like and, oh, the music performances of the artists that you admire. You know, talk about some of those, and some of the stuff that you’ve got that you like to watch.
Michael: Well, I .. I like to, um, before I do anything, it could be any situation, I love studying the whole history of it before I take the first step to innovate. So, um, I love studying any Vaudevillian, you know, who came from that era, even though they didn’t have T.V. Uh, but they, uh, they transcended into television later on. I love people like Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, I’m crazy about the 3 Stooges, uh, anything Walt Disney… And far as performers, uh, I love Anthony Newley, you know, like I said, Jackie Wilson, James Brown. So.. They’re incredible! I mean, when James Brown was “James Brown and the Famous Flames” he was so incredible. I would watch him and cry. I’d be crying and watching. I’ve never seen a person perform like that, ever.
Anthony: You know, it must have been extraordinary for you, as a … you know, when you were young and making records and getting to meet some of your idols, you know, that must have been such a powerful experience.
Michael: Oh, it wa… It truly was. And to have them tell me that they … they thought I was incredible, and all my life I thought they were, like, the best. It was the best…I mean, it was the best compliment I could get, and no award could be given to me that could top that. You know. When Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, who I knew very well, or Frank Sinatra, told me I .. they think I’m amazing and I have an amazing career ahead of me.. As a child they would tell me this. ‘Cause they were my neighbors. They lived by me. And uh, I felt very honored and happy to hear those kind of words from these legends.
Anthony: That must have been very encouraging.
Michael: Yes, very.
Anthony: Now we have Mhagrice who is actually Margaret from the Netherlands, a 26 year old woman, says, “Is it true that you’ll star in Men In Black II, and will you record a soundtrack for that film?”
Michael: Uh, I don’t think we’re doing a soundtrack, but I did a .. a guest appearance, like a Cameo, for Men In Black, uh, 2, and we’re expecting to do part 3 as well. And it was a lot of fun, and exciting. Um, and it’s one of my favorite films of all time. Uh, I’m a big Men In Black fan. I love it very much.
Anthony: Well, weren’t you .. Now, I understand you’re also doing The Nightmare of Edgar Allen Poe. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Michael: Yes, that one’s coming up. It’s about the great prolific American writer, Edgar Allen Poe.
Anthony: Kind of a scary guy himself, too.
Michael: He’s very diabolical, and very dark, and .. But he was a genius and it’s… But his own personal life was very interesting, and that’s what it’s about, you know. How he was, you know… What he had to go through to create such ingenious work. It’s a great story. But… and by the way, make sure the fans know, all tabloids should be out. Do not believe anything you read in a tabloid. It’s garbage and it’s junk. We should have a tabloid burning, like a big mountain — just set it afire.
Anthony: You heard it first here from Michael Jackson.
Michael: Don’t waste your time with it. It’s stupid.
Anthony: Now we have Rapmaster JA writes in, who is actually Jason from Illinois. He says, “Michael, you are undoubtedly the greatest artist in the history of the world. How do you do the Moonwalk. It’s the coolest move I’ve ever seen?”
Michael: Gee, it’s hard to explain on the phone [interruption from host]. I love moves and dancing. I’s like walking forward and backward at the same time, but not just walking, but as if you’re on a conveyer belt. And it’s, uh, it’s hard to explain. If he was in the room with me, I could show him how to do it with my fingers, or with my feet, but. Maybe he could see at the end of the Jam video where I’m trying to show Michael Jordan how to do it. Only time I think I showed it.
Anthony: Now we have a Mark the Shark, uh, who asks, “How do you do that lean on the video to Smooth Criminal?”
Michael: Oh, Smooth Criminal, well. That one happened … it was in the middle of the shoot and it wasn’t .. I choreographed it right at the moment. Took us an hour to execute it. It’s a special effect that we kind of lean as far as we can and, uh, we let the conveyor belt do the rest.
Anthony: Now Glenn from Toronto Canada asks, “Do you feel a special spiritual energy when you’re performing; do you feel you are connected to a higher force? Cause this is what you make many feel when they see you live?”
Michael: That’s exactly what it is, you’re connected to a higher source and you just go with the moment and you become one with, you know, the spirit. Not to sound religious or anything, but it’s a very spiritual… very much like religion, and it’s a God-given gift and you just go with it. And I’m honored to have been given it. And, uh, as fun to become one with the audience. It’s a one-ness, you know?
Anthony: I was reminded of, ah, some of that when you were talking about the way you would work out your moves, you know, listening to … just listening to the music and kind of disappearing into it. You know, it has like a really mystical feel.
Michael: Thank you.
Anthony: Now Charlie sends in a question and says, “What achievements in your life are you the most proud of?”
Michael: Boy, uh, one of my biggest dreams since I was really, really little… I think around 7 years old, I use to always buy the Guinness World Book of Records. [Giggles] You know what the answer’s gonna be right? I said, “Hmmm, I love to dance and sing. Hopefully one day I can be in this book.” And I believed that it was possible. So when Thriller became the biggest selling album of all time, and it was enlisted in the Guinness Book Of World Records, and, uh, there’s so many other lists… You know, they’ve enlisted me in there like 7 different times now. It was my happiest time of my life. I was so happy.
Anthony: To what do you attribute that level of ambition and possibility you felt when you were a kid. You know, I think it’s sometimes hard for people to feel… You know, you weren’t, obviously, rich as a kid or from some kind of fancy background, but still somehow you were able to envision a life of success. What do you attribute that to?
Michael: I attribute that to my parents who always taught us to persevere and believe in yourself, have confidence, no matter what you do. Even if you’re sweeping floors or painting ceilings, do it better than anybody in the world, no matter what it is that you do. Be the best at it, and have a respect for others, and be proud of yourself.. and to honor; be honorable, you know.
Anthony: Absolutely. Now, you’ve been making records for a long time, you’ve been a force on the music scene for many years. What do you think are the biggest changes in music that you’ve seen?
Michael: Biggest changes?
Anthony: Yeah, what’s changed about the music industry or about, you know, the music that’s out there. What do you think is different?
Michael: Well, I think.. Ah, I don’t think people thought the Rap music would last as long as it has. And it has gone through evolutional stages — there’s more melody in it now, it’s more acceptable, because melody will never die. Will never die. And the rhythm– things are a little more rhythmic now. Because people want to dance. It’s part of the human condition; it’s part of our biological makeup. Our cells dance when we hear beats. You notice a.. a one year old child will start moving hearing music. How do they know to move? ‘Cause it’s biological. It’s not just hearing of the ear, it’s feeling, you know. And playing music, the grass and the trees and the flowers… They’re all influenced by music. They become more beautiful and more vibrant in how they grow. Music is a very important and powerful substance, and all the planets in the universe make music. It’s called music of the spheres. They all make a different note; they make harmony. So there’s harmony even in the universe as we speak.
Anthony: Now we have a question from Holland, uh, Femka from Holland writes, “I love the special editions from Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous.” She loves you. And asks, “Why does Invincible… Why will Invincible be coming out in different colors?
Michael: Because we wanted the fans to have some fun with it and collect them and, uh… It’s a, uh, a Limited Edition, I think. And, uh, there’s albums that I love and I will buy them 5 times, even though I have the same cover. Like, 5 times ’cause I love that album so much. So, imagine if they did a different color or just changed the color, I would buy it 5 more times. We just wanted the fans to have some fun with the pictures and with the colors and… Just to try something a little different. That’s why we did it.
Anthony: Now we have TJ who’s 17 and from Australia, wants to tell you that, “You are still my hero,” and says, “How do you explain your ability to inspire so many people all around the world?”
Michael: I just do what I do and I love doing it. And, uh, I love art. I love anything, any art. And, uh, if they’re inspired by it, I feel I’m … I pray that I’m doing my job; what I’m here to do on Earth. Because I love the fans, I love the kids, I love the babies, and that’s what give me my inspiration, the children, the babies, the fans. I love them very much.
Anthony: Now Michaela from Pennsylvania, who is 14, writes, “Michael, I’m only 14 but I’ve been a fan since I was 10. You’ve accomplished so much more than any artist ever. I was just wondering if you could change one thing about your life, what would you change?”
Michael: I would like to be able to go out in public and just be normal sometime, without people recognizing who I am, and to get a little bit of a feeling of what it’s like to, you know, be of the regular norm. To see how things are done; to learn what people speak about when they’re just casually talking. Cause soon as they see it’s Michael Jackson, the conversation changes; it all becomes about me and not about the situation — the moment, that’s happening at the moment. That would… I would learn a lot from that. I don’t get to see that unless I disguise myself and put on a lot of things, and then they stare at me, then it’s even different; it’s not the same even then. So, it’s a difficult thing to pull off. Tell him that’s a very great question he asked.
Anthony: That’s a really interesting question, actually. We have an interesting answer, as well. We have Greg from Glasgow, Scotland, wants to know, “When do you plan to release the charity song What More Can I Give?”
Michael: Well, it’s being, uh.. We’re putting the final voices on and, uh, it’s coming very, very soon. We’re putting it together now; the final touches. It’s a very important song for the world. To give some feeling and some loving and some caring to those people who were thrust into orphanage, uh, or just within a matter of seconds they lost their parents and their loved ones, you know?
Anthony: Absolutely. Um, what are some of the things you are looking forward to; what are your hopes for you know, the new year. You know, we’re coming down to the end of the year, you have this album coming out, we’ve had a lot of tragedies and crisis that we’ve all faced. Everybody’s trying to keep their spirit up. When you start thinking about 2002, what .. what kind of things come to mind for you?
Michael: Um, film. I love movies. To do more movies; to integrate the songs with the film. Dancing. And more peace into the world. I pray for peace all the time. And the most important thing I pray for is protection for children and babies. That’s the thing that concerns me the most, I like them to be protected and to have more children’s rights in the world, where children, you know, where there’s a day for children; a celebration for children. Give them a little more attention and love.
Anthony: Now Sergei from Russia writes in, says, “Michael, sing a cappella for us.”
Michael: [laughs] You know what, I would love to do it. But believe it or not, I’ve been sniffling since this interview, I woke up with laryngitis, I caught a cold from the children the other day. My children were sick and I caught their cold. So, tell her I’d love to do it when I visit their town in concert. And Speechless opens a cappella, on the album, the song Speechless. It’s one of my favorites.
Anthony: Opens in an a cappella part?
Michael: It opens and closes a cappella.
Anthony: Now we have a question here from Karen who says that you’ve helped her since she was a little kid. You’ve always been one to think about other people; to care for children around the world. “What could we do for you,” she wonders. “We give you all our love, but what more could we give to you?” Obviously one of your great fans here.
Michael: When I come to town, I would love to see a children’s festival, to hear children’s choirs, uh, you know, pretty much present when I come to different countries, singing some of their favorite songs of mine. Uh, we should forge and create a children’s day, a celebration Internationally, where children are honored. Where parents can take their children to the movies or to the toy store or to the park. And that, alone, will create a bonding. Because the family bond has been broken. They don’t eat with their children or speak to their children much anymore, or mother their children. And I would love to see a celebration for children. Children’s Day; a holiday. We have Mothers Day, Fathers Day — no Children’s day. And, uh, I would love when I come to town just to see them sing songs, or a parade or something. I would love that.
Anthony: Michael, we have one last question. It was a great pleasure talking with you. We have Emanuel, who is 16, from the US. Says, “Mr. Jackson, what would say to all your fans that have dreams and goals of being a star like you?”
Michael: No matter what, the most powerful thing in the world is the human mind and prayer, and belief in your self and confidence and perseverance. No matter how many times you do it, you do it again until it’s right. And always believe in your self. And not matter who’s around you that’s being negative or thrusting negative energy at you, totally block it off. Because whatever you believe, you become.
Anthony: They say that the thing that most affects people, or the way that you can really tell someone’s had a successful life is the way that they deal with success or the way they deal with failure or challenges. That sounds like what you’re saying.
Michael: Yes, and after all that, the most important — most important: Stay humble. The humbleness that a child, like a new born baby has. Even though you become powerful or have power with people, with your talent .. like with what Michelangelo did with sculpting, you know, underneath all that be as humble as a child, as a baby, and be as kind and as giving and loving. They don’t become puffed up with pride.
Anthony: I think we’re gonna sneak in one last question here from someone called Invincible103, “Halloween is coming up. Do you have plans to, uh, kind of dress up; do you have plans for a Halloween party?”
Michael: Uh, no. I was going to just go trick or treating. Go out, knock on some doors and get some candy. I love trick or treat. It’s one of my favorite ones. I love dressing up like some kind of monster or something and knocking on the doors. No body knows it’s me, and I get candy.
Anthony: Now if Michael Jackson turns up at your door, people.
Anthony: Sure, wouldn’t it be nice to have some nice things on hand for him. Well, Michael it was great, great pleasure talking to you. A lot of fun, and uh, everybody wishes you the best with your new record. We’re all looking forward to it.
Michael: Thank you so much and God bless you. Thank you.
Anthony: Thank you very much.
Interviewed by Anthony DeCurtis on a live online internet audio chat.
– 2002 – Vibe Magazine Interview:
I first met Michael Jackson some 33 years ago when Diana Ross introduced the Jackson 5 – then a brand-new Motown act – to 350 music and media folk at the Daisy Club in Beverly Hills. My husband, Ken, and I were then publishing Soul, one of the first national black-entertainment newsmagazines.
Ten year old Michael already knew how to charm a crowd. Acknowledging Diana’s support, he said, “After singing for four years and not becoming a star, I thought I would never be discovered – this is, until Miss Ross came along to save my career.”
Just four months later, the Jackson 5′s first single, “I Want You Back,” soared to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts, followed two months later by “ABC”. Thousands of letters from across the country poured into our mailbox. Responding to the Jackson’s first tour, one reader wrote: “Those youngsters performed in a manner that could be harmful to one’s health. The heart can only stand so much soul, and their performance was definately an overdose.”
Over the next decade, Soul kept up with the Jackson family as a guest at parties, weddings, and concerts. We were also regular visitors to the family home, where Michael – soft-spoken, polite, curious, and quiet – was usually off by himself, drawing or playing with his snakes and other pets, while his older brothers, cousins and visitors played basketball. But when Soul stopped publishing in 1980, I lost touch with the family.
And then Michael became a pop-culture superstar, changing the face of music, dance, fashion, and music video with hit after hit. He was idolized and chased by fans and media wherever he went. He took an art form, refined and packaged it, and became an international icon. The American Music Awards recently named him the Artist of the Century. When it comes to the King of Pop, the world is insatiable.
You can tell a lot about someone by the people who work for him. Arriving at Michael’s 2700-acre Neverland Valley Ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., north of Santa Barbara, I’m greeted by some of the 70-odd members of Michael’s exceedingly friendly staff, which helps the self-proclaimed King of Pop maintain the comples and welcomes busloads of visitors a year, mostly kids who suffer terminal illnesses.
Dressed in black slacks, white socks, black loafers, and a soft yellow shirt, Michael greets me with a warm smile hello and a big hug. He then excuses himself to see about his son, Prince, 5, and daughter Paris, 3, who have just returned from a long walk and are excitedly chattering to their dad about their day. The governess, who closely resembles Michael’s mother, Katherine, suggests I have a brief look around the ranch before dark. So I take off in a battery-powered golf cart, while Michael spends some time with his babies.
I discover an amusement park, playground, train station, arcade, swiming pool, Jacuzzi, bumper-car tent, and various areas where anumals roam free. I spot a llama, a parrot, a cheetah, a pony, and several deer.
Michael is ready to talk when I return 45 minutes later. I’ve brought along a bound volume of Soul, and he looks at the old photographs and laughs at himself, his brothers and a picture of Diana Ross. “Do you remember interviewing me when I was little?” he asks, reminding me of the time Soul talked to him through his “interpreter,” Janet. “It wasn’t a game, it was real,” he says. “I felt afraid. I felt that if my sister was there, the person would go easier on me.”
Often very animated, Michael goes from a whisper to raucous laughter in a split second. The only matter that he refuses to address is his plastic surgery. “That’s a stupid question,” he says. “That’s one reason I didn’t do interviews for years.”
At a time when stars routinely boast about their Bentleys and blingbling, Michael is singularly modest. He brushes off a question about his financial health – there have been recent reports of trouble – saying only, “I’m taken care of fine.” Michael makes money when he sleeps. He owns half of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which includes most of the Beatles catalog as well as songs by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Babyface, and Elvis.
At 43, Michael is indisputably back. Invincible, his first album in four years, was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. His two sold-out tribute shows at Madison Square Garden last September (just before the terrorist attacks) were later aired as a CBS special watched by more than 25.7 million viewers, making it that network’s highest-rated music special of all time.
As we resume the conversation that began so many years ago, I discover that, in spite of all the flash and tumult of Michael’s time in the spotlight, he’s remarkable unchanged – still caring, inquisitive, and sensitive.
* The Interview:
VIBE: How is it to be competing for sales with the likes of ‘N Sync and Britney Spears, children who were basically born at the height of your fame?
MJ: It’s a rarity. I had No. 1 records in 1969 and ’70, and still entered the charts in 2001 at No. 1. I don’t think any other artist has that range. It’s a great honor. I’m happy, I don’t know what else to say. I’m glad people accept what I do.
VIBE: What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B?
MJ: I don’t categorize music. Music is music. They changed the word R&B to rock n’ roll. It was always been, from Fats Domino to Little Richard to Chuck Berry. How can we discriminate? Its what it is – great music, you know.
VIBE: Are you feeling hip hop?
MJ: I like a lot of it, a lot of it. I like the music. I don’t like the dancing that much. It looks like they’re doing aerobics.
VIBE: How did you decide to feature Biggie Smalls on “Unbreakable”, off Invincible?
MJ: It wasn’t my idea, actually. It was Rodney Jerkins’s, one of the writer/producers working on the album. It was my idea to put a rap part on the song, and he said, “I know just the perfect on – Biggie.” He put it in, and it worked perfectly.
VIBE: Why did you choose Jay-Z for the remix of the first single, “You Rock My World” ?
MJ: He’s hip, the new thing, and he’s with the kids today. They like his work. He’s tapped into the nerve of popular culture. It just made good sense.
VIBE: What was it like for you to appear at New York’s Hot 97 Summer Jam concert as Jay-Z’s guest?
MJ: I just showed up and gave him a hug. There was a tumultuous explosion of applause and stomping, a lovely, lovely welcome, and I was happy about that. It was a great feeling – the love, the love.
VIBE: Does it bother you to see people emulate you, such as Usher, Sisqo, Ginuwine, and even Destiny’s Child?
MJ: I don’t mind it at all. These are artists who grew up with my music. When you grow up listening to somebody you admire, you tend to become them. You want to look like them, to dress like them. When I was little, I was James Brown, I was Sammy Davis Jr., so I understand. It’s a compliment.
VIBE: Did you know that you were creating timeless classics when you were recording Thriller and Off The Wall?
MJ: Yes, not to be arrogant, but yes. Because I know great material when I hear it, and meoldically and sonically and musically, it’s so moving. They keep the promise.
VIBE: Do you feel there’s a greater acceptance of black artists these days?
MJ: I think people have always admired black music since the beginning of time, if you want to go back to Negro spirituals. Today, the market is just accepting of the fact that that’s the sound. From Britney to ‘N Sync, they’re all doing the R&B thing. Even Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees he always tells me [immitating a British accent], “Man, we do R&B.” I say, Barry, I don’t categorize it, but it’s great music. I understand where he’s coming from. I love great music – it has no color, it has no boundaries.
VIBE: You seem to be enjoying life as a single parent.
MJ: I never had so much fun in all my life. That’s the truth. Beacause I’m this big kid, and now I get to see the world through the eyes of the really young ones. I learn more from them than they learn from me. I’m constantly trying things and testing things on them to see what works and what doesn’t. Children are always the best judges to monitor something. If you can get the kids, you’ve got it. That’s why Harry Potter is so successful – it’s a family-oriented movie. You can’t go wrong there. We want a wide demographic, and that’s why I try not to say things in my lyrics that offend parents. I don’t want to be like that. We weren’t raised to be like that. Mother and Joseph [Michael’s father] wouldn’t say stuff like that.
VIBE: What do Prince and Paris listen to?
MJ: They listen to all of my music, and they love classical, which plays all around the ranch. They like any good dance music.
VIBE: How would you feel about your children becoming pop icons, based upon your experience?
MJ: I don’t know how they would handle that. It would be tough. I really don’t know. It’s hard, since most of the children of celebrities end up becoming self-destructive because they can’t live up to the talent of the parent. People used to always say to Fred Astaire Jr., “Can you dance?” And he couldn’t. He didn’t have any rhythm, but his father was this genius dancer. It doesn’t mean that it has to be passed on. I always tell my children, You don’t have to sing, you don’t have to dance. Be who you want to be, as long as you’re not hurting anybody. That’s the main thing.
VIBE: Which artists – past and present – inspire you?
MJ: Stevie Wonder is a musical prophet. All of the early Motown. All the Beatles. I’m crazy about Sammy Davis Jr. , Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson – the real entertainers, the real thing, not just gimmicks, showstoppers. When James Brown was with the Famous Flames, it was unbelievable. There are so many wonderful singers – Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis. Real stylists. You hear one line, and you know who it is. Nat “King” Cole, great stuff. Sam Cooke – they are all ridiculous.
VIBE: How involved were you in selecting the artists to perform in your 30th anniversary special?
MJ: I wasn’t involved at all.
VIBE: How were you able to let go of something so big and so special?
VIBE: What was your experience on September 11?
MJ: I was in New York [after performing at Madison Square Garden on September 7 and 10], and I got a call from friends in Saudi Arabia that America was being attacked. I turned on the news and saw the Twin Towers coming down, and I said, Oh my God. I screamed down the hotel hallway to our people, Everybody get out, let’s leave now! Marlon Brando was on one end, our security was on the other end. We were all up there, but Elizabeth Taylor was at another hotel. We all got out of there as quickly as we could. We jumped in the car, but there were these girls who had been at the show the night before, and they were banging on the windows, running down the street screaming. Fans are so loyal. We hid in New Jersey. It was unbelievable – I was scared to death.
VIBE: On another tip altogether, what do you do for recreation?
MJ: I like water-balloon fights. We have a water-balloon fort here, and we have a red team and a blue team. We have slings and cannons, and you are drenched by the time the game is over. There’s a timer, and whoever gets the most points is the winner. If I’m going to do some kind of sport, I have to laugh. I don’t do anything like basketball or golf. Basketball is very competitive, and so is tennis; they make you angry. I’m not into that. It should be therapeutic. I also like to go to amusement parks, hang out with animals, things like that.
VIBE: Do you have a fantasy of something that you’d like to see in your lifetime?
MJ: I would like to see an international children’s holiday to honor our children, because the family bond has been broken. There’s a Mother’s Day, and there’s a Father’s Day, but there’s no children’s day. It would mean a lot. It really would. World peace. I hope that our next generation will get to see a peaceful world, not the way things are going now.
VIBE: Has singing ever stopped being fun and become work?
MJ: It’s always been fun. Unless I get physically sick, it’s always fun. I still love it.
VIBE: Many of us see you as a historic figure, an innovator who has set a standard that still exists in music. Where does Michael Jackson go from here?
MJ: Thank you, thank you. I have a deep love for film and I want to pioneer and innovate in the medium of film – to write and direct and produce movies, to bring incredible entertainment.
VIBE: What kinds of movies? Are you looking at scripts?
MJ: Yes, but nothing has been finalized yet.
VIBE: Are you ever lonely?
MJ: Of course. If I’m onstage, I’m fine there. But you can have a house full of people and still be lonely from within. I’m not complaining, because I think it’s a good thing for my work.
VIBE: Tell me about the inspiration for “Speechless”. It’s very loving.
MJ: You’ll be surprised. I was with these kids in Germany, and we had a big water-balloon fight – I’m serious – and I was so happy after the fight that I ran upstairs in their house and wrote “Speechless”. Fun inspires me. I hate to say that, because it’s such a romantic song. But it was the fight that did it. I was happy, and I wrote it in it’s entirety right there. I felt it would be good enough for the album. Out of the bliss comes magic, wonderment, and creativity.
VIBE: Do you collect anything?
MJ: I like anything to do with Shirley Temple, the Little Rascals, and the Three Stooges. I love Curly. I love him so much that I did a book on him. I got a hold of his daughter, and we wrote the book together.
VIBE: Is there anything that you would like to say to VIBE readers?
MJ: I love Quincy Jones. I really do. And also, I want to tell the readers not to judge a person by what they hear, or even what they read, unless they hear it from the person himself. There is so much tabloid sensationalism. Don’t fall prey to it, it’s ugly. I’d like to take all he tabloids and burn them. I want you to print that! Some of them try to diguise themselves, but they are still the tabloids.
VIBE: Finally, how do you channel your creativity?
MJ: I don’t force it, I let nature take its course. I don’t sit at the piano and think, I’m going to write the greatest song of all time. It doesn’t happen. It has to be given to you. I believe it’s already up there before you are born, and then it drops right into your lap. It’s the most spiritual thing in the world. When it comes, it comes with all the accompaniments, the strings, the bass, the drums, the lyrics, and you’re just the medium through which it comes, the channel. Sometimes I feel guilty putting my name on songs – “written by Michael Jackson – because it’s as if the heavens have done it already. Like Michelangelo would have this huge piece of marble from the quaries of Italy, and he’d say, “Inside is a sleeping form.” He takes a hammer and chisel, and he’s just freeing it. It’s already in there. It’s already there.
– 1999 Mirror Interview:
– 1997 Interview with Barbara Walters Sept 7, 1997
_ 1987 Ebony Jet Interview:
– 1982 – INTERVIEW MAGAZINE:
By Bob Colacello and Andy Warhol
Interview, October 1982
In August of 1982, Interview’s executive editor, Bob Colacello, interviewed Michael Jackson, then 23, at the condominium in the San Fernando Valley that the singer was renting with his family while their house nearby was being redecorated. (Andy Warhol called from New York midway through their conversation.) Jackson, of course, was already famous for his work with his brothers in the Jackson Five, but his first adult solo album, Off the Wall (1979), released three years earlier, had made him a star in his own right. When this interview took place, he was at work on a storybook companion record for the Steven Spielberg film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)—hence the E.T. references—and was fielding an array of film-role offers. He was also finishing up recording Thriller (1982), which would go on to become the best-selling album of all time. The following is an excerpt from their interview as it originally appeared as the cover story of the October 1982 issue.
BOB COLACELLO: Did you like performing as a child? Did you always love it?
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always did. I always enjoyed the feeling of being onstage—the magic that comes. When I hit the stage it’s like all of a sudden a magic from somewhere just comes and the spirit just hits you and you just lose control of yourself. I came onstage at Quincy’s [Jones] concert at the Rose Bowl and I did not want to go onstage. I was ducking and hiding and hoping he wouldn’t see me hiding behind people when he called me on. Then I went up there and I just went crazy. I started climbing up the scaffold, the speakers, the light gear. The audience started getting into it and I started dancing and singing and that’s what happens.
COLACELLO: How do you compare acting to performing on the stage?
JACKSON: I love both. Acting is the cream of the crop. I love performing. It’s a phenomenal getaway. If you want to really let out everything you feel, that’s the time to do it. With acting, it’s like becoming another person. I think that’s neat, especially when you totally forget. If you totally forget, which I love to do, that’s when it’s magic. I love to create magic—to put something together that’s so unusual, so unexpected that it blows people’s heads off. Something ahead of the times. Five steps ahead of what people are thinking. So people see it and say, “Whoa I wasn’t expecting that.” I love surprising people with a present or a gift or a stage performance or anything. I love John Travolta, who came off that Kotter show. Nobody knew he could dance or do all those things. He is like—boom. Before he knew it, he was the next big Brando or something.
COLACELLO: He hasn’t done much lately.
JACKSON: I know. I think he’s choosing scripts and stuff. It’s always difficult for anyone trying to compete against their past achievements…
COLACELLO: It seems that what really motivates you is your desire to entertain people, to please people. What about fame and money? Could you imagine not being famous or does being famous bother you?
JACKSON: It never has bothered me except sometimes when you want peace. Like you go to the theater and you say, “Nobody’s bothering me tonight, I’m wearing my hat and glasses and I’m going to enjoy this film and that’s all there is to it.” You get in there and everybody’s watching and staring at you and at the climax of the film somebody taps you on the shoulder for an autograph. You just feel like you can’t get away…
COLACELLO: You’re very close to your parents. Do they live out here in L.A.?
JACKSON: Yes. My mother’s upstairs. My father’s at the office.
COLACELLO: What’s your typical day like?
JACKSON: Daydreaming most of the day. I get up early and get ready for whatever I’ve got to do, songwriting or whatever it is. Planning the future and stuff.
COLACELLO: Are you optimistic about the future?
JACKSON: Yes. I always like to plan ahead of time and follow up…
COLACELLO: Do you care about fashion much?
JACKSON: No, I care about what I wear onstage. You know what I love, though? I don’t care about everyday clothes. I love putting on an outfit or a costume and just looking at myself in the mirror. Baggy pants or some real funky shoes and a hat and just feeling the character of it. That’s fun to me.
COLACELLO: You like to act a lot just in everyday life?
JACKSON: I love it so much. It’s escape. It’s fun. It’s just neat to become another thing, another person. Especially when you really believe in it and it’s not like you’re acting. I always hated the word acting—to say, “I’m an actor.” It should be more than that. It should be more like a believer.
COLACELLO: But isn’t that a little frightening when you believe it totally?
JACKSON: No, that’s what I really love about it. I just like to really forget.
COLACELLO: Why do you want to forget so much? Do you think life is really hard?
JACKSON: No, maybe it’s because I just like jumping in other people’s lives and exploring. Like Charlie Chaplin. I just love him to death. The little tramp, the whole gear and everything, and his heart—everything he portrayed on the screen was a truism. It was his whole life. He was born in London, and his father died an alcoholic when he was six. He roamed the streets of England, begging, poor, hungry. All this reflects on the screen and that’s what I like to do, to bring all of those truths out…
COLACELLO: Do you sometimes feel as though you missed out on childhood because you’ve always been performing in the adult world?
COLACELLO: But you like people older than yourself, experienced people.
JACKSON: I love experienced people. I love people who are phenomenally talented. I love people who’ve worked so hard and been so courageous and are the leaders in their fields. For me to meet somebody like that and learn from them and share words with them—to me that’s magic. To work together. I’m crazy about Steven Spielberg. Another inspiration for me, and I don’t know where it came from, is children. If I’m down, I’ll take a book with children’s pictures and look at it and it will just lift me up. Being around children is magic…
COLACELLO: Are you interested in art?
JACKSON: I love to draw—pencil, ink pen—I love art. When I go on tour and visit museums in Holland, Germany or England—you know those huge paintings?—I’m just amazed. You don’t think a painter could do something like that. I can look at a piece of sculpture or a painting and totally lose myself in it. Standing there watching it and becoming part of the scene. It can draw tears, it can touch you so much. See, that’s where I think the actor or performer should be—to touch that truth inside of the person. Touch that reality so much that they become a part of what you’re doing and you can take them anywhere you want to. You’re happy, they’re happy. Whatever the human emotions, they’re right there with you. I love realism. I don’t like plastics. Deep down inside we’re all the same. We all have the same emotions and that’s why a film like E.T. touches everybody. Who doesn’t want to fly like Peter Pan? Who doesn’t want to fly with some magic creature from outer space and be friends with him? Steven went straight to the heart. He knows—when in doubt, go for the heart…
[Andy Warhol calls from New York.]
ANDY WARHOL: Hello?
WARHOL: Gosh, this is exciting. You know, every time I use my Walkman I play your cassette on it…How have you been?
JACKSON: I’ve been in the studio a lot, writing lyrics and working on songs and stuff.
WARHOL: I might go see an English rock group at the Ritz tonight called Duran Duran. Do you know them?
WARHOL: I went to see Blondie at the Meadowlands last week.
JACKSON: How was Blondie?
WARHOL: She was great. She’s so terrific. Do you know her?
JACKSON: No, I never met her.
WARHOL: Well, when you come to New York I’ll introduce her. Going on tour is about the hardest thing to do in the world.
JACKSON: Tour is something—the pacing. But being onstage is the most magic thing about it…
WARHOL: Did you ever think you’d grow up to be a singer?
JACKSON: I don’t ever remember not singing, so I never dreamed of singing.
WARHOL: Do you go out a lot or stay home?
JACKSON: I stay home.
WARHOL: Why do you stay home? There’s so much fun out. When you come to New York we’ll take you out.
JACKSON: The only time I want to go out is when I’m in New York.
WARHOL: Do you go to the movies?
JACKSON: Oh, yes. We’re going to be working on the E.T. album. I had a picture session with E.T. and it was so wonderful…He’s hugging me and everything.
WARHOL: I like Tron. It’s like playing the video games. Have you seen it?
JACKSON: Yes. It didn’t move me.
WARHOL: Well, thanks a lot. See you soon.
JACKSON: I hope so
– 1978, Interview Studio 54 –
Michael Tells: ‘I’m A Girl Watcher!’
Tiger Beat; September 1972
Have you ever had that weird feeling that someone was staring at you—watching your every move? If you have, you might discover that the someone is none other than Michael Jackson!
He was leaning against the tree, whistling a nameless little tune. The sky—so blue that it hurt the eyes to stare up too long. But that was all right because he wasn’t looking at the sky. His eyes were busy elsewhere!
Michael grinned to himself. There was nothing that could top what he was doing right now! Standing here so casually, with his thumbs stuck through his belt loops, no one could guess that he was practicing an art.
Michael always says it with a smile but he’s serious when he calls girl watching ‘an art’!
When asked, he’ll explain that it takes a lot of practice to ‘eyeball chicks’ without being noticed. For one thing, Michael knows that it’s very rude to stare at a person openly. That’s why he’s perfected a technique that never gives him away.
Why did he go through all this trouble?
‘Because I really don’t want to offend anyone by watching them. Some people really get uptight if they know someone is looking at them. But I have this weakness—I love looking at girls!’
‘Just watching a girl can give me the best reason to smile. Girls are something very special and you got to treat them that way. That’s why I always say don’t stare right at a chick. She’ll begin to fidget, wondering if her hair’s messed up or if her make-up is smeared. It’s kind of like going to an art gallery to see beautiful paintings. If you look at a painting just the right way, you get the most out of it!’
It’s very normal for a young, healthy, and great looking guy like Michael to enjoy girl watching. Every guy his age has put in time standing around just enjoying the lovely view of girls passing by! But, some guys like to look at girls and then rate them according to the way she’s dressed or how pretty she is. Not Michael. He has his own reasons.
‘The guys who are doing the rating are missing the whole point. They’re so busy counting up the scores that they’re not looking—I mean really looking at the girls.’
‘The way a girl walks. You can tell a lot from the walk. If she’s happy or sad—if she’s proud of being a girl. And then, there are the chicks that look so helpless that I want to rush over to them and put my arms around them!’
‘And if I’m lucky enough to be close enough to see her face—well, that’s like your favourite dessert after a fine meal!’
‘The eyes—do they wink at you? What makes them shine like they do? Love? Or just happy at being alive?’
‘And the mouth. Is it smiling at some secret? Or is she just doing her best to spread a little happiness by smiling at every person she sees?’
Michael’s list goes on and on. He can spend hours on a windy day seeing how the wind plays with long hair, short hair, dark hair, light hair. Or he can stare at the girls’ hands. Does she hold them still when she sits? Or are they part of her communicating methods? Do her hands come alive in conversation—gesturing wildly to emphasize her words?
But mostly, Michael just wants the time to watch and see the whole picture—the whole person. He likes everybody but the girls are still, for him, ‘something very special!’
If he was one of those guys who rated the chicks he saw, Michael would be spending all his money on paper to add up the high scores for each girl. Because to him, each girl is a winner—simply by being a girl—by being someone special—by being the very girl he might be staring at this very moment—with a smile on his face.
Michael Jackson: Master Girl Watcher!