Interview: The Blessed Madonna Talks ‘Club Future Nostalgia’
While most of us have just been trying to get through 2020 with our sanity somewhat intact, The Blessed Madonna undertook the biggest project of her career. Namely, the creation of Club Future Nostalgia. The task was as daunting as it was thrilling. She curated collaborators, which encompassed the who’s who of clubland and pop superstars, and remixed multiple tracks. And that’s when the real work started. The songs then had to be edited and slotted into a continuous DJ mixtape. It’s an impressive achievement that lives up to her standing as one of the pioneers of the underground dance community.
I recently called Marea Stamper (her real name) in the UK, where she is working on new music and learning needlepoint, to talk about Club Future Nostalgia. The renowned turntablist opened up about enlisting Madonna, Gwen Stefani and Missy Elliott on the project, and explained her vision for the album. She also addressed the possibility of angering fans by tweaking a property as beloved as Future Nostalgia (it’s part of the process) and revealed that her own project is coming in 2021. Catch up with The Blessed Madonna in our Q&A below.
When did you get involved in the project?
June, maybe even May. I don’t know. Time has lost all meaning. Maybe that’s sort of a cliche at this point, but truly it has. It’s a very long time because there was the process of requesting the remixes, getting them back, getting them to master all the pieces, all the sample clearance, and then I had to make three new things. After that, I actually had to re-edit remixes and make it into one seamless thing. It was the kind of project that would normally have a whole lot of people doing it and it was pretty much just me and my dog.
Did you have a relationship with Dua before this?
Yes, I did a remix for her a couple of years ago. I remixed “Electricity,” the song that she had with Silk City. The original was so great and the remix came out really well. I guess it started there. Then we ran into each other at NYC Downlow. After lockdown happened, she reached out via her team. They said that they wanted to do a mixtape and have somebody put it all together. They wanted samples and they wanted it to have this kind of true old-school mixtape feeling to it. I enthusiastically said, “Yes, of course.” what else would I say?
What was your initial vision when you first got the brief?
Right off the bat, we needed to know that we were on the same page before it was even going to be an option. Some of the remixers had already been approached, which was good because they were on my list. When I saw that some of the people I wanted to work with were already involved, that was a thrilling moment because you don’t want to feel like you’re dragging someone into a version of underground dance music that they don’t care about. I certainly wouldn’t have been the one to approach if you wanted to have an EDM or standard pop remix album.
It’s just not who I am. I guess by virtue of the fact that they reached out to me, and certainly, we already were very aware of each other, it let me know that they wanted what I make. If they didn’t, they would have sent the offer to somebody who wears an animal head. I’m not that person. I love her, I love the album. When I realized that we were very much on the same page creatively, it was like, “Okay, that’s it. Let’s go.”
When you came up with your wishlist of collaborators, were you thinking of people that are part of your scene or were you thinking of going outside of that, and then bringing them into your world?
A little bit of both. Obviously, Mark Ronson is different than me in some ways, in others, we’re exactly the same. Even though I come from straight-up dance, we were both DJs first and then found our way into production. There are a lot of things about him that I really relate to and admire, and certainly, want to emulate at a creative and professional level. Somebody like that might seem a little bit outside of my wheelhouse, but he most definitely isn’t. It was really as simple as who makes the best remixes? Who do we love?
Paul Woolford had already been approached as were Jayda G and Gen Hoshino. Larry Heard too. Those are people that I love. At that point, it was like, “All right, let’s just figure out who else will work in the situation.” and it wasn’t hard. Pretty much, everybody said yes, and we were just delighted across the board.
How did Madonna get involved?
It was crazy. Dua and I are both enormous Madonna fans. The same thing with Missy Elliott. I think for both of us, that was the fantasy. We were like, “This is never going to happen.” I don’t think any of us really conceived that it was actually possible. It’s one of those things where you don’t get it unless you ask for it, but there’s always a level of being surprise when you do get what you’re asking for. To be able to make a record that not only had them on it, but frankly, which would be as comfortable in an underground club as it is on the radio, is incredible.
With Madonna, I was thinking of the record “Physical Attraction.” It evokes that period in her career. Then, of course, Missy is basically God. The first time you hear those Missy vocals come in your email, it’s like, “I can’t believe this is actually happening or that she’s talking to me.” She was just so nice. She was just so nice and so supportive, and really loved the remixed genuinely. That was crazy because at first, it had been made to exist without either of them.
It was originally just Dua and then Madonna hopped in and did the second verse. Later on, Missy added hers. I was like, “Oh, hold on, there’s something I think you’ll both like. I just made it.” Then they were like, “Yes.” That is, of course, shocking and terrifying.
Dua has said that Gwen is her idols. How was she approached?
For sure, Gwen is one of Dua’s absolute idols when she first started to think about making songs and singing. I love Gwen. Her first solo album is amazing. I was a No Doubt fan and all of those things. I love what she did on Mark Ronson’s remix. That just gets in my head and stays there for a week at a time. The way that it happened was we wanted to clear a sample from Gwen, which she agreed to and then said she was open to something new as well. I was actually sitting upstairs in my house, embroidering because that’s what we do in lockdown.
I took up embroidery and I was sitting upstairs doing this little needlepoint. My phone rang and it was Dua. She was like, “Hey, I know we’re done, but Gwen wants to do be on the record. Do we have time? Can we make it happen?” I rushed to my computer and made another verse for her. There was a lot of that kind of thing. Like, “Oh my God, people really want to do this.”
Was there a lot of pressure? It’s such a popular album and fans can be very defensive.
Here’s the thing, every fandom likes things as they are. There is a sense that no matter what you do, you’re going to take somebody’s favorite song and break it. There’s a little bit of Kathy Bates in Misery to it. “You ruined it.” I’m like, “It’s still there, you can still listen to it.” For somebody whose favorite song is one thing or another thing, any change is going to be a kind of transgression. In popular culture, the remix has come to mean just the same song with a feature on it. That’s not a remix, It’s a feature.
I was being asked to do things more in the sense of how they were done in the ’80s and ’90s when you had a Shep Pettibone or Frankie Knuckles, figures from underground dance, remixing songs that are extremely popular and they lived side by side. That’s what I was asked to do. That is indeed what we did. It’s going to be a new thing, so there’s going to be a moment of shock, and that is totally okay. You make records because you want to push things forward. The only thing that matters is that Dua and I love it. The experience has been a total joy for both of us.
How hard was it to keep under wraps?
Oh, honey, I was dying. I was dying because, of course, you’re isolated and the world is going to shit. Even though we’re all facing the same storm, we don’t all have the same boat. I do understand that. I was very lucky to be at home with my husband and my dog. I have a garden. But then some of the things that I was experiencing are universal. Having those moments where I missed my mom. On top of that, I was putting together Club Future Nostalgia but couldn’t tell anybody. I was just a ball of emotions. I wanted to be like, “Guys, Madonna is in my email!”
I would have lost it.
I was losing it enough for both of us.
Is there a cut on the album that you’re particularly proud of?
I’ve seen a few people say, “All the tracks are so short.” I’m like, “It’s a DJ mix.” [Laughs]. There are full versions of these that exist, but the only one that we let play out completely was Moodymann’s. I think it was because, for me at least, he is such an important figure at every level. In dance music, there’s nobody that I hold in higher regard than him. His was, I think, the last remix that we got. It was, “Okay, we’re just going put this on the end and let it play out because Moody deserves it.
What’s next for you? How do you top this?
I’m working on other people’s stuff. My album is almost done too. I’ve been working on it for quite a long time. It’s very different than this. It’s coming out next year and the first single from it has finally been mastered. The main thing is, I’m just loving writing with other people and entering that role a little bit more. That’s something I wouldn’t have had the time or the opportunity to do when I was touring like a madwoman. It’s nice to have that breathing room and to have been pushed into a place that I had not been before.
Thank you so much. Congratulations on the album.
Thank you. It’s so great to talk to you. Thank you so much for the call and for your interview.