When Katy Perry chatted with Out late last year about her new song "UR So Gay," a flippant kiss-off to her guyliner-wearing, H&M-shopping, metrosexual ex-boyfriend, she had no idea how listeners -- both gay and straight -- would respond. Now, in a matter of months, the once bubbling-under singer has blown up, releasing her new album, One of the Boys, rising to the top of the charts with her stupidly catchy single "I Kissed a Girl," and launching a debate over her carefree use of the G word.
We caught up again with Perry, who's currently performing at the Vans Warped Tour, to discuss making out with Madonna, Ryan Seacrest's sexuality, and how the outspoken songstress managed to release two of the most talked-about singles of the year -- all before releasing her debut.
Out:I imagine a lot has changed since we spoke last November. Are you shocked?
Katy Perry: Not really. I'm still standing in line for a shower right now. I'm on the Vans Warped Tour, and there's no favoritism on tour. I was like, "I have a number 1 song," and they're like, "We don't care. Load your shit in like everyone else." I'm glad I'm not trying to pull some silver-platter status, because I think it's cool to be grounded and sane. I'm getting a lot of flak from Middle America -- you know, "Katy Perry is an abomination! She kissed a girl!" I'm not an abomination. It's OK to love anyone. I spread my story, and I'm very unapologetic about it. I really do love the gay community. I went through a lot of the same things they did. I got the opportunity to bloom later on in life. I was raised in a strict household and wasn't allowed to do anything, then I left the nest and became the person I'm happy to be now.
You're one of the few female solo artists on the Warped Tour, which consists mainly of sweaty, aggressive punk rocker boys -- quite different from your pals Mika and [actor and Perry's "main gay"] Markus Molinari. What has the tour been like?
It's amazing because I'm on the second stage. There are two stages, and on one stage there'll be this scream-o, hardcore band, and my band will be setting up my equipment, which is all pink, of course. All the hardcore fans get stuck in my set. Markus is on tour with me now, and he is having so much fun.
Is the tour gay-friendly?
It looks like it is. I've met quite a few of my somewhat new gay fans, and they're not swayed by the piercings, tattoos, and insane hair. I do signings every single day for an hour and a half, so I think they're excited to come out and spend a couple of minutes with me.
Have any of the bands dismissed your music as pop fluff?
As much as I am a mainstream pop artist, I still do scissor kicks off the amplifiers. I have bruises all over my legs. I go out into the crowd and put on more of a rock show than a pop show. Nothing is choreographed as of yet. Maybe in a couple of years we'll do a glittery production.
In the video for "I Kissed a Girl" you never actually kiss a girl. Why not?
People would expect something like that. I always wanna do something that's not expected. I don't wanna just go in for it and kiss some random girl. If I'm gonna kiss a girl, I'm gonna save it for Scarlett Johansson or Megan Fox or Madonna. [Laughing] They weren't available quite yet. It's hard to get Madonna to make out with you, I'm sure.
I know you're a clotheshorse. Who designed that gold dress you wear in the video?
Actually, my stylist friend pulled it for me from a costume house. I used to pull costumes from big movie houses. I'd go in and pose as a stylist for people but then just pull shit for myself. He does it for me know. I think he got it from the Cleopatra era section.
Landon Bryce just released a YouTube response to your song called "I Kissed a Boy," in which he features clips from a classic gay porn All American.
Oh my gosh, I saw that! Markus and I were watching it. I love it! They need to have their cake and eat it too. Go ahead now!
Your parents are both pastors, and you had a strict religious upbringing. How have they reacted to your songs?
My parents are really cool. I think in general parents seem to grow up with their kids. They're pretty happy that I'm not strung-out or doing centerfolds. We have a great family relationship. I'm not the picture-perfect thing they may have painted when I came out of the womb, but I'm an adult and I make my decisions. I'm sure they don't condone it, but they still love me as their child. They're excited they don't have to deposit money into my account for Trader Joe's anymore.
Speaking of Madonna, "UR So Gay" received a big stamp of approval from her, which you admit has helped boost your career. What have you learned from her? Is there anything you'd do differently with your career?
You know, I wasn't raised with the option of seeing all of her changes, so now is the time I'm getting caught up with everything. I respect her so much, more now than I ever did. The woman is going on the Golden Age, and she looks better than me. She's doing it with thought and attention. She seems to keep most of her private life private, which is really cool. She's involved in things beyond her "Material Girl" ways.
Is there any territory she explored that you wouldn't delve into as a performance artist?
I don't think I'll ever get too S&M like she did. I'm a bit more of a tease. I'm not going to put out because I'm a little shy. I talk a big game, but I'm shy at the core. And I know some of my stuff is taboo and cheeky and sassy and fun, but there's no hidden motive. It's just me. If you hung out with me for a day, I think you'd understand that is 100% me. I'm very, very sassy and probably a smartass most of the time.
You must have gotten flak for having released two blatantly gay-themed songs. Has anyone confronted you, claiming that you're simply trying to market yourself to the gays?
It's definitely not a marketing ploy. I remember when we were talking about options for the first single, and I was like, "Let's go with what is obviously the catchiest song, 'I Kissed a Girl.'" I know people are going to be like, "That's the only theme you know how to sing about," but I think in due time people will see I have a couple of more cards in my deck. I'm excited to make a more energetic video for "Hot N Cold," probably the next single. I'm very involved in my career -- too involved. The MySpacing is the biggest problem in my life right now. People think it's not me, but it's really me, and it takes four fucking hours to approve all of these comments! I love my fans so much, but I'm going to die! I'm really involved. People that think that I walked into some major label naked and came out with a set of American Apparel clothes and a shaggy haircut are totally wrong. I've been playing guitar for 10 years and gone through three labels. There's no silver-platter status.
You've said you're not in the music business to be a role model, but your music has major appeal to young listeners -- the, dare I say it, Avril Lavigne set.
All of my songs are written from my perspective. They're my stories about my life. I understand that music is influential. I mean, sometimes I take songs off [Alanis Morissette's] Jagged Little Pill and adapt them to my life, but these songs are definitely my diary, and I've always said I'm not here to necessarily be a role model. I'm in the business of rock n' roll. I don't have a whole lot of apologies. I know I'm gonna make mistakes in the public eye. I'm going to try to do everything I can with integrity and character, but I'm human. I think people sometimes make the mistake of trying to be a role model and therefore flawless, and it comes back to bite them in the ass. Miley Cyrus can be the role model.
We had very mixed responses to the interview we ran with you back last November, when "UR So Gay" was surfacing. One of our readers said, "I honestly think that her debut will work to desensitize the masses to such 'taboo' words, topics, and communities." Others had a very negative reaction. One said: "Using the term gay as a put-down in any way is just plain offensive, and while Katy might do this amongst her clique, reinforcing this phrase for the masses only makes it OK for people to continue to associate being gay with something negative, or at the very least, to be laughed at. Katy is no darling of the gay community, and displays this by referring to her 'main gay' [Markus] as if he's some kind of pet. This song perpetuates prejudice, and so does Katy."
I didn't mean 'main gay' in a negative way. Markus is my main best friend. It doesn't matter what orientation he is. I think people don't understand the background and story of the song. The fact of the matter is it's a real subject. Girls date very metrosexual guys this day and age. The song is about this guy, who was probably gay in another lifetime but not this one. He just happens to turn out as my boyfriend. I don't mean it as a negative connotation at all. It's like if a gay guy went into a bar and met another guy and thought he was gay and he wasn't, but he was giving off a gay vibe. It's like, "That's not fair! You're teasing me and flirting with me, but you're not gay." That's all the song is supposed to say.
When I asked you if you were concerned about reinforcing gay stereotypes, you replied, "No, I think gay people have a wonderful sense of humor." A reader said that you even answered that question with a stereotype.
Well, I'd hope that anybody would have a good sense of humor, especially the people I hang out with. I might be a little bit politically incorrect, but anybody can take words and make an ad-lib game out of them. It's very easy to do if you don't understand, but I'm not running for president. I'm just telling my story -- about the ex-boyfriend, being dumped, heartache, love, and fun times. If people take it the wrong way, that's unfortunate.
You said you'd dedicate "UR So Gay" to Ryan Seacrest. Does that mean you don't think Seacrest is gay?
No, he's not at all. He is the definition of metrosexual. He should be gay, but he's not. I had an interview with him about a week ago. He's meticulously manicured and beautiful and glowing and, like, gorgeous. He has some sensitive, feminine qualities. He definitely fucks with my radar.
So you are officially together with [Gym Class Heroes singer and fellow Warped Tour headliner] Travis McCoy? You have a promise ring?
It's a diamond.
Will wedding bells be chiming soon?
No. Fuck no. I've got too much business to take care of. I think he wanted to do something very sweet for me, and he did. We're on tour together all summer. I'm on his bus now.
What's the strangest moment you've experienced during the Warped Tour?
Travis blew his knee yesterday. There's been a lot of grabbing. There's not a whole lot of security on the tour. I'm very into hugging my fans, and they all want kisses. I'm like, "I'm gonna go away with some kind of junk on my lips if I keep kissing my fans."
One of the Boys (Capitol) is available now.