A mane of dreadlocks, a blackleather jacket, dark glasses and pistachios within arm’s reach… On this grey Parisian morning, Lenny Kravitz is playing the perfect star. At 54, he doesn’t at all look his age, has lost none of his sex-appeal, knows it, and apparently enjoys a self confidence made of steel. A self confidence that’s just as solid as the tracks on his new album, Raise Vibration, which is his best in a long while. If the general mood is still rock ’n’ roll, the 12 tracks are imbued with a contagious groove that mixes tribal echoes, funk, pop tinged with folk, and rocked-up gospel. It’s a risky but ultimately successful melting pot, which comes off thanks to Kravitz’s inimitable timbre and a renewal of inspiration that suits him well as it plunges into the roots of Afro-American culture. Those who wrote him off as forever stuck in an overly flashy FM rock rut will be revising their judgment… A talented songwriter and multi-instrument player, Kravitz is also a superb stage performer – something he proves each time he goes on tour, with concerts that are a moment of visually astonishing collective symbiosis which are impossible to resist. His most recent Parisian performance, in June at the AccorHotels Arena, was spectacular in its generosity: not the type to disdain his old hits, he gave his all on every track, played his stage effects for maximum impact, sang full throttle all the way through and added some welljudged covers into the mix (Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up) – a true lesson in entertainment.
NUMÉRO: Your most recent Paris concert in June was an extraordinary stage show, without the slightest slackening of pace. Where do you find your energy?
LENNY KRAVITZ: In the music. It transports me. The audience’s energy too. I’m lucky that they’ve always shown me unfailing love. Perhaps because that’s what my music is about – it’s very positive. People come to find a feeling of unity, of togetherness. Even if they don’t know each other beforehand, they all get along famously during my show.
How did your new album Raise Vibration come about?
Very spontaneously. I had no idea what I should do – the style, the subjects, the ambience… I just left myself open to inspiration, whatever was going to come. No filter; raw. It came to me in dreams. I dreamt at night, extraordinary oneiric stories, but also more concrete ones concerning my own life and the world around us. It’s what brings a very visual aspect to these new songs. Given that on the disc I was playing all the instruments, I got my longtime guitarist, Craig Ross, to produce it, and the result is incredible. We recorded it in my studio in the Bahamas, behind closed doors, with no distractions other than nature. It’s a good set-up for creation…
Reassure us, nonetheless – New York is still your favourite town?
Absolutely. My heart belongs to New York. I was born there, I grew up there, it’s where I honed my sense of rhy thm and colour, and where I learnt from others.
Was there one instrument in particular that seemed crucial to you on this album?
I really liked the percussion, the congas in particular. When I started out I played all the instruments because I couldn’t afford to pay the musicians I wanted, and in the end it became totally natural. Going from one instrument to the next is completely fluid for me, almost therapeutic.
“It’s difficult not to feel concerned by what’s going on at the moment. Ten years ago I couldn’t have written this album. Our times are really dark, disturbed, frightening. In 2018 people are still going to war, racism and misogyny still exist.”