Go back to my first show at the Mod Club in Toronto, and I was terrified. You could see it on my face. I never thought I’d love going onstage, but I do now. I’m addicted to it. My agents will be really happy to hear me say that. The label would rather me never tour, and my touring agents rather that I do. My deal with the label is pretty much a partnership, it’s like a distribution deal. But you know they’re my label, they’re my partners, they ride for me. They really respect me as an artist. My shit is all mine. I own all my music.
How long have you been working on the album?
We started six months ago, and then we shut down the entire studio for four months.
Were you consciously going for something more pop?
Well, a lot of people think “The Hills” is pop now, but when it came out, the reaction was, “What is this?” People’s definition of pop just means whatever’s playing on the radio 24/7.
I wanted to drop Starboy as soon as possible [after Beauty Behind the Madness] just to show that this is what I love doing: making music. It’s very natural, very real. There was a lot of thought behind it, but I did it frantically, very fast, off the fumes of Beauty.
So what’s different?
I tried to find different registers that I hadn’t sung in before. I sang a lot of low stuff on songs like “Secrets” and “Rockin’,” almost like Toni Braxton. On “Secrets,” I’m a different person. I’ve played it for people, and they have no idea it’s me. I even wanted to make an entire album where it was all very “Vogue”-inspired, music like Frankie Knuckles and Chicago house. That was the initial idea for “Rockin’,” which is one of the first ones I finished for the album.
When you listen to Weeknd songs, you can hear three characters -- the selfish guy (“Often”), a guy who is romantic but guarded (“Love Me Harder”) and an empathic guy (“In the Night”). “Starboy” might even present a fourth character. Does that sound about right?
It’s almost schizophrenic, who I portray in my music. The vibe just represents how I feel, what relationship I’m going through, what friendships I’m going through, the success in my life, the failures in my life. It is all just documentation. I’m not going to sit here and just sing about making love, even though my favorite artists, that’s all they sing about.
When I was making the early stuff, I never expected it to be so big. I was in my own kind of bubble. I never wanted to tour, I just wanted to create music and make a diary I could put out into the world. And sometimes I became the characters. I like to look at it like a film -- for every director, every film is different, with different actors, different emotions, different plots. The other albums always had a theme. On this album, every song has a theme, is kind of its own cinematic piece.
The vibe on “Starboy” comes from that hip-hop culture of braggadocio, from Wu-Tang and 50 Cent, the kind of music I listened to as a kid. Bragging just sounds good, man. I was a teenager when I saw Scarface, and even though it was unbelievable, it’s kind of cool Tony Montana could survive all those gunshots and not feel them.