Lenny Kravitz: Mystic, Mimic, Father, Lover
Religion permeates Circus so thoroughly, in fact, that there has been speculation that Kravitz has become a born-again Christian. Even in “Beyond the 7th Sky,” when Kravitz gets slow and funky to whisper sweet nothings to a lover, Jesus intrudes. “Let’s take it to the place where life was formed/And to the place where Jesus Christ was born,” Kravitz sings, getting immaculate with his lover.
“That song is just me taking it to this infinite place where it’s beyond everything,” Kravitz says. “This house is going to crumble, and everything’s going to go away, but the spirit is eternal. It’s always been here and always will be here, and you can’t get rid of that energy. When I say,’The place where Jesus Christ was born,’ it’s just a place with no beginning and no end.”
Does that mean Kravitz is born again? “I believe in Christ, but I’m not a part of any particular church,” Kravitz says. “I like to have a completely personal relationship with God. I don’t think you need to go to an altar or a church to worship him. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with church.”
Kravitz pauses and laughs. “Well, there is something wrong with a lot of churches, though I actually went to one a few weeks ago in New York because I hadn’t gone in a long time,” he says. “A friend took me over to this Times Square church. It was pretty cool. It was laid-back. The doctrine seemed to be in order.”
LENNY THE SCREENWRITER
DESPITE THE ULTIMATE PICKUP LINE in “Beyond the 7th Sky” as well as Kravitz’s new tattoo, which says, MY HEART BELONGS TO JESUS CHRIST, Circus is an aborted attempt at something far different from a sermon.
“You’re the first person I’m telling this to,” Kravitz says, scooting his chair forward. “When I was thinking about this album, I wanted it to be kind of like a rock gospel. When I was younger, there were all these great plays like Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and I saw the music taking on a very theater-type vibe. So I started writing, and I called my manager halfway into the album and said, ‘I want to make a movie.’ And he basically hung up on me. So that didn’t happen.”
Kravitz pauses while a couple of his many house guests sit down at the patio table. Currently crammed into his two-bedroom pad are a pair of childhood friends and two lucky girls he met while recording in New Jersey.
Kravitz continues explaining his electric gospel. It’s hard to piece together a plot by listening to Circus, he says, but it was supposed to go something like this: “It was kind of like a surreal rock & roll fantasy thing –– like The Wall but with a Clockwork Orange kind of feel. It was basically about this rock star who is the biggest rock star in the world, huge beyond compare. He has had everything, done everything –– every pleasure –– and cannot go any further. And then one night in the middle of a drug feast and an orgy, he has a spiritual awakening. Then it goes back into the past and shows everything that happened, how he got to where he got and the characters around him: His manager [and] his girlfriend, Magdalene –– there’s a song about her on the album. There’s a whole new world order involved in the story, but you don’t know whether it’s past, present, future or what. The government at that time doesn’t allow you to have any concept of God because they’re pushing this antichrist-type character as being God. And through him they manipulate all the people on the earth.”
The idea for this Orwellian rock fantasy came to Kravitz in an Italian hotel. As soon as it did, he shut himself in his room and spent three days writing. He had the scenes, the camera angles, everything figured out. Even the stars: Kravitz would, of course, play the megalomaniacal rock star turned messiah. Samuel L. Jackson would play his manager, whose story (that of a cutthroat ghetto kid who gets into the music industry by selling cocaine to record labels) is told in “Thin Ice” on Circus.
“I might finish this whole thing later,” Kravitz muses. “Then again, maybe I’ll be doing something else. It’s the Gemini part of me. I’m so damned schizoid.”
LENNY THE RIFF ROBBER
ROLLING STONE: “This might piss you off, but…”
KRAVITZ: “Go for it.”
RS: “That song ‘Rock & Roll Is Dead’ begins with this riff that sounds exactly like Led Zeppelin’s ‘Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman).'”
KRAVITZ: “You mean the first line in the song?”
RS: “No, the guitar part and then that Robert Plant yowl you do. I was wondering whether you were making a joke by singing, ‘Rock & roll is dead,’ in a song based on a Led Zeppelin riff that everybody still steals.”
KRAVITZ: “No, it’s just a riff that I came up with.”
RS: “You came up with it on your own?”
KRAVITZ: “Yeah. I mean, you know.”
RS: “I suppose people are always thinking your riffs came from elsewhere.”
KRAVITZ: “That’s all right. How many riffs are there? Every riff you could say sounds like something else.”
RS: “I suppose, but some riffs sound more like past riffs than others.”
KRAVITZ: “It’s just the blues, really.”
RS: “So you don’t think the introduction to that song sounds anything like ‘Living Loving Maid’?”
KRAVITZ: “No, I mean, I think it has a Zeppelin-type quality. Oh, I don’t know. Let’s not talk about it.”