Abel Tesfaye, bka the Weeknd hasn’t been too revealing thus far in his career, but for the August/September ’13 issue of Complex, the singer has done his first ever interview. Speaking to former staff writer Damien Scott, Tesfaye opens up about his work with Drake, his own music, and Toronto. Check out excerpts below.
On material his contributions to Drake’s Take Care:
House of Balloons was actually supposed to have more songs than it does. I had so many records left, and then Take Care came through. “Crew Love,” “Shot for Me,” and “The Ride” were supposed to be on House of Balloons. I wanted to come out with like 14 records. I felt like “The Ride” was the last one, and it wasn’t done yet. [Drake] heard it and he was like, “This shit’s crazy.”
It seems like your work on Take Care was similar to the way Kanye West enlisted Kid Cudi on 808s & Heartbreak.
Or when Jay-Z hit up Kanye for The Blueprint.
Do you think Drake tapped you to give Take Care that feel?
Yeah, he told me he wouldn’t be able to do the album without me. You can read it on the credits that he thanked me. I don’t know if that’s him being generous, but I gave him a lot of records. I made “Practice.”
What did you do on “Practice”?
That whole hook was me. That’s probably the only song I wrote for Take Care. The rest of it was just shit I was going to have for [House of Balloons]. He really wanted to incorporate my sound, which was inspired by his sound. It’s not like, “Oh, I had the ‘new sound.’” It was just easier for him to relate to me, because it was his sound with an edge. It was that Toronto sound. So yeah, you’re right. I feel like I could have been that for his album.
On his upcoming LP Kiss Land:
Where do you see yourself in the world of R&B?
The only thing R&B about my shit is the style of singing. My inspiration is R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, and Prince, for the vocals anyway. My production and songwriting, and the environment around those vocals are not inspired by R&B at all.
I heard Portishead drums on “Belong to the World.”
Yeah, that was the inspiration behind that. I wrote a letter to the producers of Portishead and let them know this album is inspired by them.
The entire Kiss Land album?
Most of it. I find a sound and run with it. It varies from Stevie Nicks to Genesis and Phil Collins. The production is very cinematic for me, and R&B was never cinematic like that.
The song “Kiss Land” has a new level of musicality and thoughtfulness that seems apropos for your first major label release.
I’m all about evolution. I’m the first person to judge myself. I listen to my music and I’ll be like, “This is shit.” Everyone around me is like, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
On finally leaving home:
I’m not here to change or lie about what I’m going to do. What I sing about is what I sing about. But there’s a lot of cool twists with this album, because this album symbolizes everything that I’d never experienced in the past 21 years of my life. I’d never left Toronto. I’d driven to Montreal, but I’d never been on a plane before two or three years ago.
Wow. That’s crazy.
From when I was born to when I was 21, I never left Toronto. That’s why I’m such a city cat. Trilogy is my experiences in those four walls. Kiss Land is me doing the things I did in Trilogy in different settings. [Laughs.]
Read the whole thing at Complex.
Kiss Land is out this year via Republic.