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Lady Gaga's Monster Ball tour is gone but not forgotten -- and will surely be on her mind when she puts together a fresh show to support her new "Born This Way" album, which she says will launch "sometime at the end of this year or the beginning of the next."

"What's most important to me is that the spirit of the Monster Ball is not dead," Gaga tells Billboard.com, "that the Monster Ball kind of lives on through the new show, and that the idea of the Monster Ball is what my tour is always called -- we just do sort of evolving variations on this theme, sort of beautiful idea of all of the fan getting together and rejoicing in their identities, which is what the Monster Ball is all about.

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"It's essentially like a painting that we've created together, so I don't want to make a new painting. I just want to create the next in the series, if that makes any sense. I'm never gonna be the kind of artist that just slaps the name of my album next to my tour."

Monster Ball, which ran from November 2009 to May 6 of this year, grossed a reported $227.4 million and 2.5 million attendance in 201 shows. Gaga also won the Breakthrough Performer Award and the Concert Marketing & Promotion Award at the 2010 Billboard Touring Awards. Gaga, meanwhile, recorded "Born This Way" while in the midst of the Monster Ball tour.

"I had a bus with me that we put all of our vintage equipment on," she says, "and we just soared down the highway and made records all night long, into the night. And in the morning we'd listen back and it would either be really great or we'd go back and change it again." Because of that, she adds, the Monster Ball shows had a marked impact on what "Born This Way" became.

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"The fans and the show were what propelled me into 'Born This Way'," Gaga explains. "The fans are so wild and so free and so full of excitement and joy, and I knew when I made this album that the most important thing was that I pushed myself musically and artistically so that I could evolve into a new place musically. I wanted to make an album that could coexist and enhance the epic-ness of the Monster Ball and write hit songs that I knew they would all love and want to dance to at night clubs and on the radio and party with their friends. But more importantly...I wanted to sort of refute the idea of being a trend and start to procure my legacy as a musician."

So far things seem to be working out. "Born This Way's" title track was the fastest-selling single in iTunes history, moving a million copies in just five days, while the album is on target to debut atop the Billboard 200 chart with projected first-week sales of 1 million copies. About the only thing that's caused a stir is the album's cover, the half-human/half-motorcycle image that's been the subject of considerable commentary in the blogosphere -- and not all of it positive.

"Well, I think that a lot of the things I've been doing lately have been very polarizing -- not intentionally," Gaga notes. "The overarching theme and concept of the record is that I'm a woman in a moment of journey that is eternal. That is what the album cover represents -- me half the motorcycle and half the woman... always in a moment of transformation. I was quite certain everyone was going to love that cover, but you never know. You have to be willing to take the darts and take the bullets for what you believe in, but my heart is still beating very strong, so I can take all the bullets."

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