After thirty years of writing, recording, producing, and
performing, Lenny Kravitz is one of the most recognized and beloved performers
in the world. His latest album, Raise Vibration—his eleventh—is a socially
thematic and groove-infused triumph, and the tour in support of the album,
which began in early 2018, has been extended through late September of 2019.
On break between playing shows in Europe and gearing up for
this last leg of performances in the United States and Canada, Kravitz graciously
took some time from his busy schedule to chat with AQ about performing,
making videos, his relationship with guitarist and creative collaborator Craig
Ross, and reflected on his incredibly prolific career.
Lenny, you’re about to head out on the road again as part
of the Raise Vibration tour, which began last year. How has the fan
reaction been to the new tunes so far?
Oh, incredible, which is so beautiful. You know, we’ve been
playing a good amount of new music. We changed songs around over the last year,
and they’re reacting to them as they do the classic songs. That’s really
encouraging—it really is—because there’s a lot of cases where you see that fans
aren’t as much into the new music as they are the old music, perhaps because
they don’t have the time and the relationship as they do with the old stuff. But,
it’s just been fantastic, so I’m very grateful that my supporters have really
taken to it.
That’s great. “Who Really Are The Monsters?” seems like a fun
song to play live, with its different effects and that cool percussion
breakdown. Would you say that is one of your favorites from the current set
Oh, absolutely—and we just started playing that on tour
this summer because we swapped out “It’s Enough” for that one… it’s been
really fun to play.
I was watching a few videos of it from when you were over
in Europe earlier this summer. The crowds really fed off the energy and it looked
like you were having a blast performing that song.
Oh yeah, absolutely.
I also noticed that you’ve been revisiting some material
from the Circus album—most notably “Can’t Get You Off
My Mind,” and even “Tunnel Vision” at a
few shows last year. I know that was a tough album for you to make at the time,
and one could say that you typically shy away from those songs in concert. So,
was there anything that prompted you to revisit that album or those songs on
I love that record. It was a difficult time, you know, with
my mother’s illness and her passing—and my life was just getting crazy at that
point. But, I love the songs on that record, and with each tour, you just got to
vibe it out. I don’t really think about ‘Well, I haven’t done this, or I
haven’t done that.’ I just kind of vibe it out. [It’s] what feels right to play
now, and a couple of those songs got in [the set list] this time.
With 11 studio albums under your belt, too many hits
singles to mention, and a plethora of incredible album cuts, I was actually
curious: you spoke about vibing it out—how do you go about choosing your set list?
It seems as though you like to mix it up with each tour.
Yeah. For me, it’s a message. It’s what I want to express
now, and what do I think people need to hear now. I mean, that is the main
thing, and of course making sure there’s enough hits for folks.
Someone who’s been by your side for a very long time as a
performer and a collaborator is [guitarist] Craig Ross.
Yeah, that’s my brother.
He’s someone who I think is one of the most criminally
underrated guitarists ever. He’s so good, yet too often, for whatever reason, he
doesn’t get into the mix when it comes to conversations about the great
guitarists of our time. But, what I wanted to ask you was: what makes the bond
between you two so special, and how has it sustained itself for so many
We are musical partners. We understand each other musically
without having to speak, which is such a beautiful thing. We have a very
special bond and relationship. He’s also my best friend. It goes very, very
deep…. He and I have been working together, living in the same places, being
on the same tour bus, the same plane… you know, being together every day—year
in, year out—for almost 30 years, and he and I have never had an argument, which
is very deep when you’re being creative with somebody. You know, it’s a very odd relationship—and
beautiful. But just speaking about his guitar playing, he’s as good as the
best. And those people know—I mean, Prince knew, Jimmy Page knows. The masters
know. You know what I mean? And I know, and that’s all that matters. I think
that over time he’ll get the appreciation he deserves.
You just released a new video for “5 More Days ‘Til Summer”
and it’s a great video. You rose to fame, arguably, during the halcyon days of MTV—the
“Are You Gonna Go My Way?” video being a perfect example of the power of the
music video. I was curious, do you still enjoy making videos today knowing that
the Internet and social media is primarily the platform for that medium now?
Yeah, I don’t even think about where it goes really, I just have fun making them. Sometimes you make some good ones or great ones, and sometimes you make one that’s not so great! [Laughs] You never know how it’s going to come out. You may have something in your mind, and it comes out and it looks a little different. This was a fun video to make, and I made it with my godson, Noah Becker—he directed it, and I think it tells a story.
It was written about a gentleman that I met who was, you
know, in the system of life and had been working his whole life—didn’t have a
family or much of a life outside of his work. He worked in the night, slept all
day, and finally, after saving his money for years and years and years, he was
finally going to take his first real vacation. That’s really the plot [of the
video], about breaking free from the life that you have to live, and so many
people have to live. The video told the story very well and it’s fun and
colorful. It has a beautiful summer vibe.
Indeed. Can creating short films or music videos be equally
as rewarding as writing songs?
Sometimes. I mean, when you do something extraordinary—you
talked about the “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” video, which was directed by Mark
Romanek—things like that are monumental, where the song and the video together
work stronger and leave a deep impact on popular culture.
It’s as if the image and the song both reinforce each other.
Absolutely, absolutely… the image
really matches or enhances what is happening with the audio. It makes people
even listen to a song differently. My video for (Raise Vibration’s) “Low,”
for example, got nominated for Best Rock Video for [this year’s] VMAs, and it’s
such a simple concept… directed by the legendary director, Jean-Baptiste
Mondino, who has worked with everybody from
the eighties on up to now. He helped to create that revolution of videos on MTV,
and just that made people see a song and hear it differently, as well. So when
that happens, it’s a beautiful thing.
This September marks the 30th anniversary of the release of
your debut LP, Let Love Rule. For the 20th anniversary, the album itself
was reissued as a deluxe edition. But, I was wondering if you had any plans this
year to celebrate the 30th anniversary in a live setting.
You know, I’ve talked about that. I don’t know what is going
to happen, but it is something that I’m thinking about, most definitely.
Could you see yourself possibly performing the album in its
I could. I mean, I’ve never done it. It would be beautiful.
It would be different.
What’s the most striking difference, in your opinion,
between the artist that wrote Let Love Rule and the artist who’s now
just written Raise Vibration?
Same guy on two different ends of the spectrum. I mean, you
know, [Let Love Rule] was the beginning of where I was, and this is where
I am now. There’s a thread that connects the two. I believe that I’m a bit
wiser and more seasoned. But there was an incredible, beautiful rawness in the
beginning that you can’t even emulate now. So, you know, life is beautiful, and
it keeps moving and evolving.
On that note, beyond being an incredible songwriter, you’re
widely recognized as an international icon—not just through music, but in the
world of fashion, and in the arena of social justice. So my question to you is,
after three decades in the limelight—in relation to your spirit and your soul—how
do you keep yourself grounded as you create and put your art forward for the
I’m in a constant state of gratitude. I was raised by a
very humble mother, and I do my best to keep my feet on the ground, man. That’s
where I’m most comfortable. And, you know, when you have gratitude and you know
that it’s a gift—and it’s not just by your work and your energy, but a blessing—it’s
Be sure to catch Lenny Kravitz at The Met in Philadelphia
on August 22 and Radio City Music Hall in NYC on August 27!