Elton John sat down with Eminem for an in-depth and rare conversation for Interview Magazine. The two talked music, his forthcoming album Revival and his sobriety. He also talks a bit about politics, his BET Freestyle performance and much more. Take a look at some of what he had to say below and read more here.
ElTON JOHN: You must be pretty excited to have a new album coming out. Tell me about it.
EMINEM: I’ve been working on it for over a year. You know how it is—you make songs, and as you make the new ones, the old ones get old and you throw them out. The album is called Revival. It’s a reflection of where I’m at right now, but also I feel like what I tried to do was diversify. I’ve tried to make a little something for everyone.
JOHN: You’re very good on collaborations. We first met through the Grammys, when you asked me to do “Stan.” It was an amazing event for me that I’ll never forget.
EMINEM: I’ll never forget it either—and I was on drugs.
JOHN: You were on drugs?
EMINEM: Oh, I was for sure on drugs when we met.
JOHN: I couldn’t tell. I was just mesmerized by you and your performance; it made the hairs on the back of my arms stand up. It was like seeing Mick Jagger for the first time. I hadn’t really been exposed to that kind of rap in live performance before, and it was electrifying. And when that shit was thrown at you—about you being homophobic—I just thought, “I’m not standing for this. It’s nonsense.” I had to stand up and defend you. That Grammy performance was the start of a lovely friendship and I’m grateful for that.
EMINEM: Likewise. That was a crazy time for me. I don’t know if I was actually on drugs when we met, but that was right around the start of my using.
JOHN: You’ve been clean for a long time now.
EMINEM: Yeah, nine years.
JOHN: Your sobriety day is in my diary. I’m so proud of you. I’m 27 years clean, and when you get clean, you see things in a different way. It makes your life so much more manageable. It seems to have made all the difference—I can tell when I speak to you.
EMINEM: Getting clean made me grow up. I feel like all the years that I was using, I wasn’t growing as a person.
JOHN: Me, too. If I had to go through that to get where I am now, then I’m very, very grateful. But I just can’t believe I did some of that shit. Anyway, tell me about your life now. Every artist these days is on Instagram or Facebook, is taking selfies, is in the paper all the time, but you’re not like that. You live a pretty simple life. You’re not a lavish person. People think they know everything about you, but they really know nothing about you.
EMINEM: I studied Dre a lot. I don’t know if you’d call it a mantra or what, but he believed that if you never go away, it’s hard for someone to miss you. And I realize that some people see going away as, “Oh, he’s irrelevant now,” but I feel like if I don’t go away, I get sick of myself. It’s never been my thing to be in the spotlight all the time.
JOHN: People think of you as aggressive because of how you come across when you rap, but under that I think you’re quite a shy person. Let’s go back to the beginning, to The Slim Shady LP. Who were your big influences at that time?
EMINEM: It had to be Dre. I remember one of the first times I went out to L.A. I met Dre and Jimmy [Iovine] at Interscope, and it felt so ridiculous and so far-fetched that this was happening. When Dre walked in, it was like an out-of-body experience. Nothing in my life had been going right for me, but he put me up in the Oakwood apartments and paid my rent so I could record with him. There was a period when I stayed up writing for 48 hours straight and ended up crashing at, like, six in the morning. I wanted to be prepared for Dre because I thought, “If I’m not ready for every aspect of this, this could be it for me.”