Interview By David Curcurito for Esquire
It’s pissing rain in Larchmont, where Katy Perry lives, just south of Hollywood. The twenty-four-year-old singer gets out of a silver Audi A6 wearing a headband with a black-and-white bow, Wayfarers, and a T-shirt with Mickey and Minnie Mouse holding hands from behind. Pencil-thin black pants with zippers all over them. She looks like a dancer in Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” video. She takes off her glasses and she has beautiful blue eyes. Big eyes. Her lips are pink and pouty. Somehow it’s impossible to get a sense of her body. Somehow she’s hiding it. But her eyes are gigantic.
We sit down in an empty bistro. She looks like someone in her mid-twenties, but she has the demeanor of someone in her early thirties. Controlled, surprisingly. But not “media-trained” controlled. Controlled like someone who is introspective even when you don’t ask her to be. She acts like a local (she grew up in Santa Barbara, California) who’s taking a break from a long day of work (the first stop on her first world tour is the next day, in Seattle).
She gets a crepe with grapes, a pineapple slice, and a wedge of watermelon. Turns out she really likes fruit.
ESQUIRE: I thought your outfit at the MTV Europe awards was great. Your head popped up through an apple. It was cool.
KATY PERRY: My stylist is a continuous burst of “Yes we can.” He dreams just as retarded as I dream.
ESQ: What are some of your retarded dreams?
KP: I always wanted to suspend from the ceiling in a twirling banana. I’m going to be inside the banana. So the banana drops into a fruit bowl with the other sparkling, glorious fruit, and their tops pop off and dancers come out and help peel me out of the banana. I have a fascination with fruit.
ESQ: What are you trying to achieve with your persona, with your style of dress? Where does that come from?
KP: It’s Lucille Ball meets Bob Mackie. It’s about innuendo. I want everybody to get the joke, but I want them to think about it for a minute.
ESQ: What do you want to achieve? Do you want to be as big as Gwen Stefani? As big as Madonna? Bigger?
KP: I’d like to say I’d like to be as big as a Gwen or a Madonna, but I think those days of achieving that level are over. The media is bringing everybody down.
ESQ: Sorry about that. How are you adjusting to the paparazzi?
KP: I don’t ever do anything to try and bring it upon myself. There are ten thousand other restaurants besides the Ivy. I’m not obsessed with getting my picture taken. You know, there’s just so much taken out of context. There’s so much nit-picking. I turned my data alerts off.
ESQ: So you haven’t seen the shot of you in your green bikini?
KP: Well, yeah, I read Us Weekly.
ESQ: When I was listening to your album, I figured out your favorite chords.
KP: A minor?
ESQ: G, A minor, F, and C. Are you a guitarhead?
KP: I’m not a guitarhead. But I love acoustic guitars. I love Martins and Taylors. I mostly play Taylors. I can’t find my pink SG right now. All my guitars are pretty obnoxiously colored. Except my Taylor, which is just my Taylor.
ESQ: In an interview you said you were influenced by “classic No Doubt.” I almost choked on my —
KP: I’m talking classic No Doubt in the early nineties, when Gwen did “Don’t Speak” in the garage.
ESQ: That’s why I choked. What about the eighties?
KP: Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde. I’m obsessed with Freddie Mercury.
ESQ: As a showman or a vocalist?
KP: In all capacities. He was someone out there who is respected. He’s the real deal. You know how everyone has their one magical moment in hearing something they love?
ESQ: And they play it over and over, yeah.
KP: That happened with me and Queen.
ESQ: With what song?
KP: “Killer Queen.”
ESQ: What are you listening to right now?
KP: Queen, continuously. And the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. I had a relationship and that’s all we listened to. Patty Griffin. I love all the big pop stuff. I thought Beyoncé made a great pop record.
ESQ: Now that you’re single, what type of guy do you want?
KP: I have a soft spot for musicians. If a man could ride this roller coaster with me and come out alive, then I guess we’d deserve each other’s company. But I don’t really have the right energy to be with somebody right now, because when I love somebody, I love somebody. Like, I want to marry them. I don’t date around. I haven’t been on a date.
ESQ: You haven’t been on a date?
KP: Not really. I’m not into casual anything.
ESQ: Your folks are conservative. Are they supportive?
KP: People can’t fathom that my pastor parents could actually support the wild-child daughter. But they’re very moderate, you know?
ESQ: Probably made you get the Jesus tattoo.
KP: I got that when I was eighteen, on the Sunset Strip. I was with my boyfriend, and I just wanted to get something so I would always remember where I came from. My dad has four tattoos, and they all say “Jesus.”
ESQ: Who were you channeling at the photo shoot?
KP: I aimed a little bit sexy with the hair. I wanted to just grow up a little bit. I’ll be twenty-five this year.
ESQ: You’re trying to grow out of the banana?
KP: No. But I can’t always play the innocent Lolita sex kitten.
ESQ: Do you think that affects the way people perceive your music?
KP: Yep. It’s the whole package. But people who want to tag along for the ride, they’ll understand and they’ll get the joke and they’ll realize that I wrote the fucking joke.