Michael Jackson Ebony/Jet Interview 1987 conducted by Darryl Dennard backstage during a ‘Bad’ tour rehearsal
Daryl Dennard: It’s been almost 4 years since you’ve come out or recorded a new album. How do you feel that now that the album is out?
Michael Jackson: Ummm… I feel rejuvinated kind of because after working on it so long – it’s so much work – alot of people they’re used to umm just seeing the outcome of work, they never see the side of the work that you do to produce the outcome and I feel rejuvinated and happy. It’s a jubilation really, that’s what it is. It’s like a celebration “we’re done!”
DD: How long did it take to come up with – I guess almost wrote 8 songs or 7 songs on it. How long did it take to come up with that creative process?
MJ: I don’t remember. I don’t even count the hours or anything. Every song is different. Sometime it happen quickly, sometime it happen slowly. No one can quite say what the creative process is because I have nothing to do with it almost because it’s created in space, it’s God’s work not mine.
DD: You know talking about that, God gives us alot of gifts alot of times and you’ve been really blessed with a tremendous amount of gifts and yet it seems as though a lot has been required of you. Do you sometimes regret being so famous?
MJ: (laughs) No! Sometime, only sometime. Sometime I wanna sneak into places and not have any hoopla you know and it doesn’t work all the time because people start and they crowd around, which is sweet and I shouldn’t complain but ….
DD: But you have a right to complain because everybody has a right to go out there and just be alone but it seems like that right isn’t really given to you.
MJ: It’s part of the work I would say.
DD: Mhm!… How do you feel about the song “Bad”? We talked earlier and I told you I liked the song “Bad” because it’s really all about you. You’re the baddest when it comes to the record industry.
MJ: Umm!. Well… (laughs) It is quite different than anything I have ever recorded before or ever written. It’s a bold statement to say but I mean it in all good will you know don’t take it too seriously. Yeah I’m saying, it’s like a way of saying “you’re cool, you’re alright, you’re tough” I’m not saying I’m criminally bad, of course that’s how people would take it. It’s a bold statement to make.
DD: How about the video… another thing on this album is that alot of songs make social statements and the video also does that to with “Bad. I know you probably didn’t experience anything like that but my name is “Darryl” and I grew up in Harlem in the South Bronx and I went away to school and I also had to deal with peer pressures. How did you come up with that whole idea of doing something like that.
MJ: Well it wasn’t really my idea it’s actually part of a true story where this kid..
DD: It’s my story.
MJ: Yeah, it’s your story but the truth of what really happened to this kid …. (starts to laugh) don’t look at me Frank (DiLeo) (points and laughs) don’t make faces.
DD: Ok hold on for a second.
DD: Now I know that you didn’t write the video but you’re telling me.. but the story is almost like the story of my life, but you’re telling me it’s based on another person.
MJ: Yes it is, this kid who went to school upstate, in the country whatever, who is from the ghetto and he tried to make something of his life and he would leave his old friends behind and when he came back ummm on Spring break or Thanksgiving break his friends became so envious, jealous of him they killed him but in the film I don’t die of course so it’s a true story that we had taken from Time or Newsweek Magazine. Me as a black kid, it’s a sad story. (DD asks a question) Pardon?
DD: How do you feel when you see those sad stories?
MJ: Something like that is very sad because it’s all negative, it’s wrong. I think that’s life, to want to grow and become more, like you plant a seed and it grows into something beautiful and it never dies really. I think people should be that way.
DD: You know what my favourite song on the album is “Man in the Mirror”
MJ: Oh yeah, I like that a lot.
DD: That’s my favourite song. I tend to hold the feeling that no matter what you do in the world it really has to start with you.
MJ: Yes, it’s my philosophy too that if you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.
DD: Is it hard to do?
MJ: Yeah, well people don’t look at themselves honestly. They don’t look at themselves and point the finger at themselves, it’s always the other guy’s fault or somebody else’s but you should change yourself, look at yourself, make better of yourself (laughs)
DD: When you look in the mirror are you happy with what you see?
MJ: In what way?
DD: Just when you look in terms of that sociophilosophy?
MJ: Ummm I’m never totally satisfied. I always wish the world could be a better place… ummm.. no, not at all. Hopefully that’s what I do with my music – bring happiness to people and to bring joy and bring peace in their lives.
DD: Are you a prayerful person?
MJ: Oh yeah, I pray a lot, yeah. I see a beautiful sunset and say “God, that’s beautiful, thank you” or a baby’s smile or butterfles wings or anything like that you know?
DD: You know on the album version of “I just can’t stop loving you” you make some very strong, sensuous remarks to a woman that you’re lying next to.
MJ: I was in a bed when I was doing that.
MJ: Yeah, I was laying in the bed (laughs) with a cover and everything when I did that whole rap thing in the dark.
DD: And the lyrics go “people don’t really understand it”
MJ: I say “a lot of people misunderstand me, because they don’t know me.” I guess thats true people believe alot of crazy stories they read, some is true, some is not and… (shrugs shoulders)
DD: Does it hurt when you read those stories?
MJ: Sometime, but it’s part of the work.
DD: Do you every want to lash out in any type of way and say hey that’s not rue?
MJ Yeah, alot of times but why bring more attention to a thing.
DD: Is there…. another favourite song of mine is … not as much as “Man in the Mirror” but “Liberian Girl”. is there a Libierian girl in your life?
MJ: No, I wrote that at my house in the game room, I think I was playing some pinball or something and the song just popped into my head and I think I ran upstairs, put it on tape and it became “Liberian Girl”. Same thing with “We are the world, we are the children” (singing). I didn’t really, I mean I don’t know why those words came, they just came as that – “we are the ones to make a brighter day so let’s start giving” (sings again) I didn’t think about it, it just comes, it just comes.
DD: How about, it’s like you said it took so long to come up with all the different songs on the album and every song is different. You have calypso influences, you have reggae influences, you have a cool sound with one, you have heavy metal with “Dirty Diana”
MJ: I love “Dirty Diana” that’s one of my favourites.
MJ: Because it’s a life story of a groupie. I hate to say the word groupie but that’s what it is and it’s something that I’ve experienced and alot of people who grew up on the road experienced. Like me, I don’t remember not performing and umm….
DD: Do you feel like you have missed on something by not performing?
MJ: Of course, but I’ve gained a lot too. Alot of people never get out of their hometown to see other wonderful places. Alot of kids read about things that I get to see in person, all over the world in different places so I’m so happy about that because you never can have everything.
DD: How does it feel when you to into do a concert somewhere and literally there are tens of thousands of people that are rushing over to you just to get a glimpse?
MJ: It’s a wonderful feeling, especially when you see them smiling (MJ smiles) and I love the fans and I think it’s very sweet. I felt thankful is how I feel, I really do I don’t take any of it for granted.
DD: What would you say what interests you most about lfie?
MJ: What interests me most about life is learning, finding out new things, exploring different worlds. I’m so interested in the human anatomy right now, the brain and so many different things like that, the bones and everything.
DD: I know that, this is a sensitive area but you’re very much interested int he bones of the Elephant Man, John Merrick (MJ: Yes) Is that because of your anatomical interest?
MJ: Yes, I’ve been to the “London School for Doctors” twice and I visited John Merrick’s remains who I feel a closeness to, I love the story of the “Elephant Man” a very sad story.
DD: Would you like to one day maybe do a remake of the movie or play?
MJ: Maybe. Maybe, but I feel it’s been done so well already by David Lynch and I think it was John Hurt who played John Merrick that I don’t think I could contribute any better than what they’ve done.
DD: The part that I like best was when after he gains confidence and then he’s back on his way after having gone to the carny when they stole him out of the hospital and he’s inside the subway station and then finally he has to yell a sigh of…
MJ: Oh yeah “Leave me alone”
DD: “Leave me alone, I’m not an animal”
MJ: “I’m a human being”
DD: “I’m a human being” Do we as human beings treat people as animals too many times?
MJ: I think so, man’s inhumanity to man. That’s what war is all about so many problems in the past.
DD: Are you scared of war?
MJ: I don’t think anybody likes war in truth, I like peace. I’m a peaceful person.
DD: Do you ever think about ever being an ambassador or anything like that? The fact that you’re accepted around this whole world do you ever think of being some type of ambassador?
MJ: I feel like I’m doing that already with my music and what I’ve done with music because it breaks all barriers. I don’t have to make a political statement I do all of that with music. It breaks all language barriers and everything to all races of people. It goes all over the world and it’s fun to see a kid from India or whatever country you’re in who know about the music.
DD: Okay. Last question sure…. this will be about the tour, I appreciate the time. Why did you decide to start you worldwide tour in Japan and not really give your fans in America a chance to see you until the end of the year?
MJ: Well, remember the Victory Tour was all American and the rest of the world didn’t get anything so it’s good to be fair you know and actually I think it’s more fair because the show will be much better when we get here. The worst thing to me personally is to see an opening show because it’s not as tight as it can be and it was something that my manager had done and the people that work for me. Wherever they book it if I like it I’ll go and I like Japan I’ve been there before.
DD: Any apprehension of you touring by yourself for the first time?
MJ: I’ve done so much solo work, even when I was little, thirteen… solo albums, solo appearances on TV shows and it’s just another road of course you always feel things like “I don’t see Marlon next to me, I don’t feel Jermaine (laughs)