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frank ocean talks life, career, art in new interview

April 19, 2019
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Frank Ocean does not give a lot of interviews. So when he does — especially when he really opens up — they are deservedly worth clicking through. As it was when, earlier this week, Gayletter magazine published an extended conversation with the singer. Ocean dropped nuggets that were quickly gobbled up by the tabloids — he’s in a long-term relationship, he loves Drag Race — but he also went long on topics that actually give an insight about who he is as a person and as an artist.

On Being Considered a Recluse:

I think the whole idea of me as a recluse is absurd ’cause I’m in the streets like all the time. I’m outside all the time, I’m traveling the world all the time. It’s funny to me that that’s the perception, but I understand what people mean by it in this new paradigm.

On How Social Media Affects Us:

People have been the same for millions of years. I think the social media thing is kind of amped up. One could argue that people don’t actually get information more than half the time. They browse information. I don’t know if they really ingest it.

On Photography and Queer Art:

My interest in [it] began at home in New Orleans. Listening to Katey Red and Big Freedia at parties as a youth. It continued to grow as I got into photography, from the photographs I see a lot of in magazines, like Alasdair [McLellan] and Collier, to the other heads like Wolfgang [Tillmans] and Walter Pfeiffer….My time in London was when I really started not just my own photography work but working alongside or commissioning a lot of other photographers to work on things for the magazine. Anytime you’re working in that space, around a lot of artists, they’re showing you what moves them, what formed their voice over time. And it’s that ritual of sharing that puts you on a whole bunch of other shit you’ve never seen.

On How He Guides His Career:

It depends on what you want. A lot of people I talk to about careers in the music industry, their ideas of success have to do with nostalgia. They have to do with tropes of success, things they’ve been shown over the years that represent what a successful career is. I think that helps you become prey, because somebody can manipulate you with those things. Then you may get to a point in your experience where you become disillusioned with those things. So anybody having a clear idea — even if it’s as crass as “how much money do I want to make, specifically?” — I think that’s much clearer than some of these other things that represent success, whether that’s X amount of spins or streams or plaques. Even sold-out venues. If those things don’t help you reach your defined priorities, then what are those things there for? That’s how I try to make decisions in my life and career, and, if asked, I share that philosophy with anybody who asks. For me, it’s about “Why am I doing this? What exactly do I want from this? And how do I get those specific things I want out of this? And what does success look like on those terms? And what does failure look like on those terms?” That’s how I think about it now.

On Intuition:

Trusting it more, more — that has been the trend for me. Trying to access that place as much as possible, because a lot of the decisions in my life — the day-to-day and the creative choices, even how you assemble a song — it’s a bunch of choices in a row. Each line succeeds the line before it; each note succeeds the note before it. It’s all a lot of choices, and you have infinite possibilities, infinite ways to take a melody, a whole lot of ways to take a chord progression, infinite ways to take a turn of phrase. And as meaningless as some of those decisions are, even those are moments where I try to access that place.

There’s much more there. Read the entire great Gayletter interview with Frank Ocean HERE