David Bowie’s Blackstar Was Inspired By Kendrick Lamar, Features James Murphy And Possible Reference To ISIS

James Rettig | November 23, 2015 - 4:08 pm

Last week, David Bowie debuted his 10-minute-long single “Blackstar” with an appropriately epic video. Rolling Stone spoke with some of his collaborators about his new album, and there’s some interesting stuff in there! Apparently, ★ was inspired by Kendrick Lamar, according to his long-time producer Tony Visconti:

We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar. We wound up with nothing like that, but we loved the fact Kendrick was so open-minded and he didn’t do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. The goal, in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll.

Another fun fact: The original version of “★” was supposed to be more than 11-minutes long, but they had to cut it down after they found out that iTunes does not post singles that go longer than 10 minutes. Visconti: “It’s total bullshit. But David was adamant it be the single, and he didn’t want both an album version and a single version, since that gets confusing.”

Also, the new track is apparently about ISIS? Donny McCaslin — a saxophonist who plays on much of the album — told Rolling Stone that Bowie told him the song was about ISIS, specifically in regards to the repetition of the phrase “solitary candle.” Unpack that one! For what it’s worth, Visconti and drummer Mark Guiliana say that they have no idea what the song is about.

LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy also plays percussion on two of the tracks, and was also supposed to have a larger role in the album’s production but Visconti says “he had his own projects to go off to.” (Reunion!?)

He also adds that he doesn’t think that Bowie will ever play live again — his last time performing was in 2006 at a charity event with Alicia Keys — but “if he does, it will be a total surprise.”

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: Pitchfork points out that a new Uncut feature says Death Grips were another major inspiration for Bowie’s work on ★ and that Boards of Canada’s “Alpha and Omega” was a reference point for the song “Somewhere.”

★ is out 1/8 via Columbia.