Q & A With Lenny Kravitz

An occasional musician and full-time advocate of black leather pants and feather boas, Lenny Kravitz made a trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago to promote his latest album, “5.”

Those familiar with the imposing singer’s unquenchable love for classic rock icons like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page will not be disappointed by the disc, to be released Tuesday on Virgin. In songs like “Black Velveteen” and “You’re My Flavor,” Kravitz, 33, revisits the same blues-fueled riffing that made up his four previous albums. Change on the new recording comes by way of attitude.

The man who once declared that rock ‘n’ roll was dead has decided to stress positivity this time around after suffering through the death of his mother, “Jeffersons” actress Roxie Roker, three years ago. Kravitz, who is divorced from “Cosby” actress Lisa Bonet and has a 9-year-old daughter, Zoe, spoke about the loss of his mother and other matters during his visit.

Q: Your mother was ill while you were making your last album, 1995’s “Circus.” How did you rebuild your optimism after that experience?

A: It’s hard to say, but it all begins with my faith in God. My mother was dying of cancer and I was away working, so it was f– up, man. I was also fed up with the music business and the way that’s become — all business and no music. It was not a pleasant time. I took a year off after that whole episode and just got myself together and figured out a way where I could keep moving and enjoy myself. At this point, I’m just chilling out, man. I’m not tripping.

Q: Did you deliberately leave the grief off “5”?

A: Basically, I’m just trying to have a good time. It’s been so in vogue for people to be miserable. God didn’t put us here for that. We’re here to live and try and improve our state of being. I’m going to enjoy myself. You don’t know how much time you’ve got. After you witness a death of somebody close to you, it makes you put things into perspective.

Q: Have you spent a great deal of time contemplating death?

A: I thought about it a lot, but you’ve got to live as if you’re going to keep on living. You’ve got to keep on moving. My main focus on making this record was having a good time and enjoying myself, expressing myself. I’ve made several records, all positive, but with bittersweet feelings. This time out, none of that. It’s all joyous.

Q: Let’s change the subject. How is your love life?

A: I always have love around me from people and friends and a select group of folks, but I ain’t married yet. It’s very difficult to have a relationship. I spend a lot of time with my music and I travel a lot, so that doesn’t help. My personality has more to do with it, though.

Q: What’s wrong with your personality?

A: Nothing’s wrong with it. I just live, eat, sleep and breathe music. I need a woman who can deal with that, or who has her own artistic ability so she can do her art while I’m doing mine.

Q: You realize people have a lot of misconceptions about you.

A: That’s good, I like that. They haven’t figured me out, and that’s good. They can understand my music, but they don’t have to understand me. I keep moving, so it’s hard to put me in a box. When it’s hard to put you in a box, they get frustrated. When they get frustrated, they talk s– about you. It’s all good. I ain’t worried about it, man.

Q: Do you look back on your earlier albums and think some of the things you were doing were naive?

A: I do what I do and that’s it, man. People usually copy it five years later, and that’s all right. People who talk to me say that my strength is my weakness. I do things, people give me s– for it, and then everybody else starts doing it. Whatever. I’m not worried about that. I’m here to make music and enjoy myself.

Q: Do you have a philosophy you live by?

A: I just try to keep myself focused on God and that works for me.

Q: The first time you met Bob Dylan he was in his underwear. Please explain.

A: Uh, yeah, it is true. He just invited me into his trailer and his wardrobe lady was ironing his pants, so he didn’t have any on. We talked and he offered me a little drink. He said, “Hey, aren’t you that black Jewish guy?” I said, “Yeah, that’s me.”

Q: What other idols have you met?

A: Mick (Jagger), Curtis Mayfield, I’ve met a lot of folks, man. I gave them props. But when you’re making music it’s just two guys making music. You kind of forget about all that other stuff for the moment.

Q: Why do you insist on playing all the instruments on your records when you could easily afford to hire quality session players?

A: Because I can. I like playing different instruments. I get joy out of that. I do that for myself. I could let someone else play, but then I’m like, “Damn, I want to play that funky bass line.” I’m greedy, man. I ain’t giving up any funky parts.

Q: Don’t you feel bad making members of your touring band sit around while you make albums?

A: They work. They’ve got their own lives.

Q: Do you have a purpose and a mission?

A: When I was 5 I knew I was going to play music, and that was that.

Q: Are you possessed?

A: I don’t know, man. I don’t usually think about it. I’m always trying to be better. I recognize that I have a gift and I thank God for it. But I’m not even near where I want to be. I’ve got to keep practicing to get better and better.


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