Elton John on Rappers and Garden Gnomes
Amazing songwriter [“Crocodile Rock”, “Rocketman”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Bennie and the Jets”, the music for “The Lion King”… and on and on], performer and producer Sir Elton John has been around since your grandpa’s day but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t see the value of young, modern talent!
We just got to join other members of the press to hear Elton talk about his music for the new Touchstone Pictures film Gnomeo and Juliet, his friendship and duet with Lady Gaga and his support of Eminem, Kanye West and a ton of other talent you might have in your i-pod. Check it out.
Q: Sir Elton, your music is so varied and you are friends with a lot of modern music artists. Can you talk about that?
Elton: When I grew up as a kid I grew up in a house that listened to the radio, bought records. When rock and roll came in I'd already had all this knowledge of great American singers and bandleaders and musicians and jazz players by the time that I was six or seven.
Then I grew to love R&B and Motown and all Black music, gospel music. I never dismiss any form of music. I listen to everything. I'm on the new Kanye West record, for example. It's a genius record. I was on the Alice and Chains record.
Q: And you are a rap fan too, right?
Elton: People who mock rap, and say, 'I don't like it,' they should go check out Kanye in the studio rapping. Or Eminem when he's in the studio. It's a phenomenon. Don't knock it until you've seen it. It may not be your cup of tea, but don't ridicule . I find that so many of my peers of my age don't listen to anything new. I love the new. There's a band called The Punch Brothers who are amazing. I embrace bands like XX. If you don't notice the young and you don't give them credit and you don't listen to all sorts of music then you're missing out on something.
Q: In Gnomeo and Juliet you do a duet with Lady Gaga. How did that come about?
Elton: The Lady Gaga duet came about really by me tying her down and hitting her over the head and saying ‘Will you do this song with me?’ She came to the house last year. We do a ball every year at the house to raise money for AIDS and she was the entertainment and she stayed at the house for two days. We just mentioned the film and the song and she said ‘I’d love to do it’ and because she has an incredibly hectic schedule, she did it I think between dates, somewhere in Scandinavia and a little bit in New York.
We did it completely separately but she added so much of her own magic to the song and gave it a new life. She’s one of my new best friends and I love her to death. It was nice that she was so excited to do it.
Q: We hear rumors. Are you or are you not playing at Prince William and Kate’s wedding?
Elton: I don’t know Kate and William so I made a joke. I’m probably busking [singing on the street for tips] outside but as far as I know, I don’t think so. It’ll probably be someone like Barry Manilow. [laughter] Someone younger and more attractive.
Q: How have you been able to build on The Lion King with this experience and what have you learned about animation as a result of producing and performing for Gnomeo and Juliet?
Elton: Well, with The Lion King I learnt to leave your ego at the door, because no matter what you write, the film can take a different course.
You have to be prepared to say ‘Okay, I’m going to fight for this song, but if you really want to get rid of it then that’s fine.’ You’ve got to do that, and you’ve got to listen to the team as a whole. This film has taken 11 years to get made. You just have to be patient and you have to watch things, how they evolve, and you have to be there for the good of [the project] as a whole and not just for you as a component of the piece.
In 1990, if you’d have said that in 1993 I’d be writing a song about a warthog [Timon in The Lion King] I’d have said, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ [He sings] ‘When I was a young warthog,’ I actually thought I was losing my mind. And look what happened. And if you’d have said in 1990, ‘You’re going to make a film about garden gnomes,’ I’d have said, ‘You’re crazy.’ So this is the joyous thing about being a creative person, things can come along that can completely surprise you that you normally would never have thought of doing.
Q: Isn’t there a version of you in Gnomeo and Juliet?
Elton: Yes. I think the scene with “Your Song”, suddenly there I am, “glam-gnome”. When Stephen Merchant [playing a gnome] sings, ‘It’s a little bit runny,’ I lost it when I saw that. That brings back very good memories of a song I’ve sung practically every time I’ve done a show so I would have to say that moment was quite funny and I love that moment.