Among all the artists that have had the oppotunity to share
their talents with the Queen of Pop and that MadonnaTribe
had the priviledge to interview, no one has had such deep
involvement into the creative process of some of the most
amazing Madonna performances of the last ten years like
Mr. Jamie King.
From their first collaboration on the set of "Human
Nature" to "re-Invention", Jamie has directed,
choreographed and conceptualized videos, tv performances,
world tours, helping creating those strong images and unforgettable
feelings with which Madonna keeps inspiring us each time.
So here we are, meeting Jamie King, who shared some of his
time with M-Tribe for an exclusive interview, in which he
tells us about his story, the best moments of his career,
the behind the scenes, the creative processes and the different
level of interpretations of many memorable perfomances.
And of course about his relationship with the woman we all
MadonnaTribe: Hi Jamie,
welcome to MadonnaTribe. How did music and dance come
into your life?
Jamie King: Music and dance have always
been in my life. It started with dance because ever since
I was a little kid I was always dancing around the house
and it was something that was in my body.
I didn't really have a choice, that was the way I expressed
myself. It had more to do with dance rather than speaking.
And then music came later because, you know when you dance
you need something to dance to. So I became quite a huge
fan of music, collecting music and knowing everything,
all about music.
MT: One of the artists you worked with
is Prince. What were the most useful things he taught
JK: Well, that's a very interesting story
I was just talking about this the other day with a friend.
It's just so interesting because when I was a kid I was
a huge Prince fan, huge.
And it's just so interesting how life works because I
ended up working with that man for three and a half years
and it was so strange.
I was a dancer with Michael Jackson at the time and Prince
kind of found me and said "You should not be dancing,
you should be hanging out with me" and I was like
"What?" and he said "You should be with
me and you should be directing, choreographing and telling
people what to do".
see something in you, you have vision".
And I remember that so clearly because I was like: "I
do? Really? You think I have vision? but you're Prince!?!
You know what I mean".
So the next three and half years he took
me under his wing and really taught me everything about
the music business, everything about what I do now. He
was my guide. He is really the person that got me to
the place where I am now.
MT: When did you and
Madonna first meet?
JK: Interestingly enough I was working
for Prince, I was doing the American Music Awards. I was
doing a tribute to Prince, a twelve minute tribute and
she was sitting in the audience because she was gonna
sing that year... that song with Babyface...
JK: Yes, "Take
A Bow" with Babyface, she was dressed like chinese.
So she was in the audience and I did this tribute and
I came out as Prince for the first half. I played Prince
for the first six minutes of the 12 minute tribute and
he was himself in the last 6 minutes of it but he didn't
want to play any of his old songs so I did them.
So I came out wearing his clothes.
I had bleached blond hair and Madonna was sitting right
there and I remember seeing her in the audience.
Well a few days after the performance that got us a standing
ovation, Madonna called and was like: "Jamie this
is Madonna" and I was like: "What?" She
said "I saw you in this performance I thought it
was really good".
When Prince first
came out, which was me really, she thought that he
had really changed his style and she really liked it.
She said "I liked his hair bleach blond then I found
out it was you, so I wanted to know who you are".
she went on to tell me she had this music video coming up.
"Human Nature" was the name of the track and she
wanted to work with me. And all this kind of stuff came
MT: It is really nice and interesting to hear this
as an evolving story...
For me it was like another dream coming true I was a huge
fan of Madonna also as a youngster and I loved everything
that she stood for and everything she was about. I was blown
away when she called me to discuss my bleach blond hair
I though it was so cool. And she wanted to meet me.
MT: So how was your experience
on the set of "Human Nature"?
JK: Well actually, nobody really knows
this story, I just remembered it right now.
Actually when she first called me she wanted to work with
me. She wanted me to choreograph the London... I think it was
in London... some award show in London when she had a really
long hair like Donatella Versace...
MT: Yes that was the "Bedtime Story"
performance at the Brits Awards in London.
JK: Yes, and she wanted me to be one of the
guys, there were two boy dancers and you know what I said?
I said I didn't think I was right for that job. Can you
JK: She wanted two guys. She wanted me
and a guy named Sebastian. She wanted sort of twins.
And I said I don't think I look like Sebastian, I don't
think that's right for me and I think I suggested Luca [Tommassini].
Those two guys look more alike you should use them.
I said do you want me to choreograph the song and she ended
up not using me for the choreography for that or the performance
and I was devastated.
But she called me later for "Human Nature" and
then when she called me I went to meet with Alek Keshishian,
who shot "Truth or Dare", and gave him all of
my ideas for the video.
She liked all the ideas I talked her about so she said go
meet with him and I gave him all my ideas.
But after the meeting I got a phone call from her saying
"You know we're not going to do the video anymore"
so I was devastated again.
JK: Ahaha, then like a month later she called me
back and said "Jamie I really like your ideas so I
now want you to meet with this other director, Jean Baptiste
Mondino, and this time we're gonna do it."
So I said "ok" and that's when it kind of started.
I went to her house for the first time and I remember going
up the elevator in this castle she was living in. I remember
she smelled so good.
always smells so fragrant and amazing and that was her in
her living room, on the floor and we looked at old books
by this famous illustrator, his name is Stanton, who inspired
a lot of "Human Nature", the kind of visual and
the kind of images that we used throughout that music video.
me to see somebody who is so much like me in the way they
collect visuals, they are inspired by magazines and different
I was so into it because that's what I do.
we sat down and we were able to throw out ideas and look
at pictures and talk about costumes, right there we hit it
off. And I left that meeting feeling really positive about
what it was going to happen and not to mention she really let
me have my freedom. She was like: "Just go for it Jamie,
just go crazy" and I did.
She let me go crazy.
MT: So your relationship
with Madonna really started as a meeting of ideas and
talents. It's really cool.
MT: Then the next project you worked
on with her was the "Don't Tell Me" video or
was there something in between?
JK: Oh that's a good question (laughs).
Yes it was the "Don't Tell Me" video.
MT: And it was Mondino again.
JK: Yes it was Mondino again, the relationship
was cool, the three of us together again. It was such a
nice sharing environment and it's really great
when you can find that on a set. It's a beautiful collaboration
that we three have and really he's like the master photographer.
We know that he's going to shoot everything we come up
We sit down
and he really doesn't write a treatment so much. He may
have an idea and Madonna and I really have lots of ideas
and then I usually come up with a treatment style thing
that Mondino ends up executing and Madonna agrees to it.
It's just a really great collaboration.
After that came the "Music" promotional tour,
also known as the "Rock N Roll Circus". Did you
have a feeling that you would go on directing the following
world tour or that came up unexpectedly?
JK: Absolutely, first of all I was so excited
when I was called in to work on this "Rock N Roll Circus",
I was really happy but I was mostly excited because I knew,
I felt, that she was gonna do a big tour and I really wanted
to do that, I really
wanted to direct her tour because I had so many ideas of
how I wanted to see her presented.
obsessed with how I want Madonna to be presented next, it's
my obsession (laughs). She's had so many incarnations so
it's like a challenge to me what is the next thing I can
show people through her.
MT: Has your role of director and your involvement
in the creative process changed from the Drowned World to
The re-Invention tour?
JK: It's just more involvement really.
From that first promotional tour which was just really fun,
throwing concepts together and having a great time. Did
you see that tour?
JK: For me seeing Madonna back on stage
again for that mini tour was so great.
She's just had a baby and it was so great to see her just
MT: Yes she was really fabulous.
JK: Oh man yes, it was
so great and everyone was so happy and then when it came
to "Drowned World Tour"... it was darker.
It was a darker phase in the relationship which is what
I always like. I'm always really attracted to the dark side.
Her music for that moment was really kind of introspective
and dark so that tour had to really reflect that phase.
And I thought it was really important that Madonna didn't
sell out and that she didn't do the hits, just do the hits,
but that she did really cover her new material because that
was who she had evolved into and that was really who she
was much discussion because there are managers involved
and the record company.
People worry about the fact you have to do the hits. And
what it's so great about Madonna is that she knows that
she has to do what's right for her and doing that she makes
I feel that the "Drowned World Tour" was a statement
of who she had evolved into and you had to had that dark
version, a very introspective and heavy version of her,
to be able to get to this next place which was the re-Invention
Do you understand what I mean?
MT: Yes, perfectly. Actually in one of
the next questions I wrote down about the "Drowned
World Tour" I had used those same words "dark"
and "introspective" to describe the show.
JK: But there was no forethought.
Litteraly when Madonna and I had the first meetings on the
Drowned World Tour, I had a bunch of ideas, she had a bunch
But when we started playing the music and getting into "Ray
of Light" which was so trancey and so moody and there
was also a song about suicide. And there was "Mer Girl"
which is a song about death. It was really dark we just
had no choice but to really explore that side.
And Madonna for so many years has been so... everything is about beauty, about beautiful art, great light, powerful, positive images. So it was interesting to see her kind of transformed into this sort of darker character. It was really intriguing.
Madonna was also obsessed at that moment with the whole
Gheisha theme and that's also a very dark place to be. Although
it's one of the most coveted positions to be, believe it
or not. The thing that you are prostitute makes no sense.
But with that comes a really dark side to it that carried
into the tour.
MT: A lot of people had the feeling that
the "re-Invention" show, unlike the "Drowned
World Tour", was created with the fans in mind. How
do you see that from your point of view?
JK: I think that Madonna
first and foremost is always going to do what she feels
is right for the time, for her.
She's an artist. Madonna is a true artist.
She has to be able to explore and become what she is at
that moment. She was the "re-Invention Tour" at
the time of the "re-Invention Tour". She was the
"Drowned World Tour" at the time of that tour.
I don't think Madonna, although she loves and adores her
fans, does ever anything for them specifically at a request,
if you know what I mean. She's more about inspiring them
and inspiring the world.
So with that you can't always do what you're told.
You have to be a leader not a follower. She has to do what
she feels inside at that moment. Which I think is why she
is greatly respected and hopefully the fans will follow
along and learn that that's what you must do if you want
to be a true artist.
Yes, absolutely. And speaking of re-Invention how was the
name "re-Invention Tour" chosen?
that was Madonna's idea. She came up with that name because
for years everyone has been always saying she re-invented
herself. And in typical Madonna fashion she played on that
and used it against... the users.
MT: You also had a big involvement in the
concept of the re-Invention tour stage, we heard stories
about how you once went to Madonna's house holding a box
and saying this is my idea...
JK: Oh yeah, how do you know all that stuff
my god (laughs).. wow...
Well Madonna calls me "Crazy", that's my nickname,
because in the promotional tour I wanted her to stage dive
so she was like "you're crazy", but she did it.
I wanted her to do a kiss on the Mtv awards, kiss Britney,
kiss Christina, and she was like: What? I said it's a marriage
and at the end of marriage you kiss...
MT: Of course, she was the groom.
JK: But I do show up to her house quite
often with crazy materials and I had a Gucci shoe box from
one of my assistants and I actually transformed that box
into a stage.
I just had this idea of the stage and she had some ideas
throughout last year that she had emailed me and I just
put them together into that little shoe box.
I'm not a stage designer but each year, each time with Madonna,
each incarnation I try to do more because I'm excited to
do more and she always pushed me to do more as she always
pushes herself to do more and so I designed the stage this
last time as well as everything else that went along with
it. A hugely consuming job, from setting the song order with
Madonna to doing the costumes and all the sections and all
the concept as well as designing the stage and constructing
and designing and conceptualizing all of the the screen
elements that you saw.
MT: Yes, the screens were huge, probably
the biggest available at that time I think?
had them made, custom made, yeah. It was outrageous. And
what we had done and what I chose to do has never been done.
it's very technical, led screens are quite common, people
use those but they are obtrusive, kind of blinding and bright,
they can be so overpowering and with the size of those screens
it would have been too much.
what I did was to put a skin, like a movie theatre screen,
over the leds and what it did was to diffuse led screens
and made it look more like a projection rather than a vibrant
led, which is very cool.
Did you conceptualize or direct something that was seen
on the screens?
JM: My friend Dago Gonzàlez is
the video director, he's been with me on every tour, Christina
Aguilera, Pink and so on. Madonna and I always have the
ideas for the screens, Dago brings a lot to the place and
shoots what we want. But I'm there because all the choreography
and the visuals and the concepts are mine and the set is
I know what it's gonna take to make the visuals look right.
So I work with Dago very very closely, he might tell that
I'm very irritating and I spend many many hours in the editing
room, editing video with him when his people have gone fast
MT: Sounds great...
Jamie King photos by Kimopix.com: KPI permission granted
solely for use on madonnatribe.com