Ever since Lady Gaga released her No. 1 smash "Born This Way" earlier this year, her critics have gone stir crazy about the song’s striking similarity to Madonna’s 1989 hit, "Express Yourself."
And the comparisons haven’t stopped there. Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield also likened Gaga's second single, "Judas," to the Material Girl's catalog, and her "Alejandro" video was also compared to Madge's clip for "Vogue."
Usmagazine.com had the opportunity to ring up Grammy-nominated producer and DJ, Fernado Garibay, the musical director of Gaga's entire Born This Way album, to ask about the controversy, as well as Gaga's renowned work ethic.
Read on for the full 411, and visit fernandogaribay.com for more on Garibay.
UsMagazine.com: Congratulations on the success of Born This Way. How does it feel?
FG: It's amazing. It's been a year of making this album on the road and four months of actually wrapping everything up so it's quite an accomplishment.
Us: The album was written while she was on the road, was that difficult?
FG: Normally, we are used to making the album in the studio, not moving around, and having all of your equipment in one place so it's an adjustment but it made it a more interesting album.
Us: How did you get connected with Lady Gaga? What was it like when you first met her?
FG: I met her about four years ago, Jimmy Iovine sent her over to me. He called me and said 'I have this artist I want you to meet. She is an incredible songwriter.' So I met her that same night and we hit it off right away and started writing songs, and that's when we established our friendship and relationship and it just evolved.
Us: What is your relationship with Lady Gaga like now?
FG: She is like a sister to me. We are extremely close. We are not only musical partners but we became really good friends. It's amazing to see someone, especially of that caliber, become successful. Seeing someone grow right in front of your eyes is amazing, especially for the public. When I met her I already knew she was incredibly talented, far beyond anyone I've written with. You meet talented people and then you meet incredibly talented people.
Us: What was it like working with Lady Gaga?
FG: We have the same work ethic. We don't stop working to the point of exhaustion, where we are sick and it stops us from completing our songs. But for her, it is actually more intense because she is not only making music but she is also styling her own clothes, developing her own videos, and coming up with concerts. She is doing all that on top of making music, which is insane. This girl never sleeps. She just keeps going.
Us: What do you think of her crazy outfits? Is she always in costume?
FG: When I first met her she was in her traditional Gaga outfits, Lingerie-esque type clothing, and she just wore it so effortlessly like it is who she is. I learned early on so after that, nothing shocked me. It is who she is. It is her character and the way she expresses herself. I’ve never seen her outside of that, and I have seen her at all hours. It is innate in who she is.
Us: Lady Gaga is credited as a co-writer on the album. How much of it did she write?
FG: I would say she wrote the majority of the stuff because before, with some of the songs I previously worked on, it would be more track driven, which is when you usually come up with the music and then work on the lyric and melody. In this case, she would actually come in with complete songs. When I heard "Born This Way" the first time, she sang it to me with vocals on the piano and same thing with "The Edge of Glory." We contributed on production, and a couple of lyrics but for the most part she has been writing the majority of the album.
Us: How long did it take to create Born This Way? What went into the production of the album?
FG: Intense. There were about 20 ideas and I think about 18 were completed. She wanted to try every possible aspect, every type of version for every song. So for "Born This Way" we tried a full rock version, a full techno version, and every type of version for the song we tried until we ended up with the final product. She just wants to make sure she has made the best possible product for every song. You would think each version has to be done to a completed level. If a song only takes a week or two to do, try 50 revisions of that same song.
Us: Were there any tracks that didn't make the album that you wish had?
FG: There were ideas but for the most part, I would say 90% of all the ideas that were fleshed out made the album.
Us: The album sold more than one million within the first week and there was a lot of talk about it being the album of the decade. Did you feel any pressure when working on the album?
FG: Absolutely. Early on when I first got started on the album, she asked me to be music director of the album so that made me responsible for submitting the album to the record label, to a certain extent, and completing this album, with her vision intact. I was a little bit floored at first thinking I am going to be responsible for working on the biggest artist of our generation right now. It’s a big responsibility but I buckled up and just started focusing on the music and getting through it and trying to make it as amazing as people expected it to be.
Us: What do you make of the Madonna comparisons?
FG: Very early on, especially with "Born This Way" there were people making comparisons, but at the end of the day we are honored. I am a huge Madonna fan and just to be compared to someone of her artistry is pretty amazing. We are all fans of her. People naturally need to compartmentalize people so sometimes it is easy for critics to make that association. How many powerful, iconic blondes have been Italian and singers? We are extremely flattered with any comparison we get to Madonna.
Us: Do you have a favorite song on Born This Way?
FG: I have two that are very close to me and particularly for the impact it can make on my culture. One is "Americano," which is about Mexican Independence and gay rights. Being that I was brought up in South Central East L.A. and being of Mexican descent, that is everything for me. This is the first time you have a pop song directly about people coming to this country and being sent back. Regarding border issues, it is just such a statement, and I hope the song does great for anybody who has been through human hardship or who has to overcome a struggle, and that is very important to us.
Us: You performed "Americano" with Lady Gaga in Mexico City. What was that experience like?
FG: It was incredible. She invited my family over to Mexico City, and it is funny because she said hello to them and showed my mom how to make the paw sign and it was adorable. Then she goes, ‘hey, you ready to go on stage?’ and I was like ‘for what?’ and she told me she wanted to perform the song with me. So I literally got dressed in a vest and took five tequila shots and I was up on stage performing "Americano."
Us: What song would you choose as the next single on the album?
FG: I don't really know. The latest I have heard, they are letting the fans decide. I want to leave it to them.
Us: Besides Lady Gaga you have worked with a bunch of renowned artists, do you have a favorite artist that you've worked with?
FG: Every artist I have worked with is special. I haven’t had time to reflect, since it has been a whirlwind. I am just lucky to have had the opportunity to work with people like U2, Britney Spears, all these artists that we grew up listening to and that are now huge. It is amazing.
Us: Is there an artist that you haven't worked with but would like to work with?
FG: There are artists I have worked with that I would like to work with again. I did some things with Marc Anthony. I think he is one of the best Latin singers on the planet. He is amazing. U2, No Doubt, all great artists that I really love, so we will see what happens.
Us: Did you always know you wanted to produce and write music?
FG: I always knew I had to make music. I hate to be cheesy but it's like I had to breathe, it is something I had to keep doing. I just didn't know there was such a profession as writing and producing records for major artists as a career. Once I figured out that there is a career path such as production, I fell in love with it.
Us: How does your techno/dance background influence your work?
FG: It's my favorite pair of pants to wear. I started making techno records and dance remixes when I was around fifteen, and I just grew up inspired by that music. East and Central L.A. are very closed off. People in that area aren't very familiar with what is going on in West Hollywood, it is its own community, so when I started hearing all my DJ friends playing records and house records, they were so foreign and so interesting but it was right next door to my house. These parties would be blasting amazing music and so I wanted to know what that is and how to do that. So I started putting beats together and figuring it out. I am chasing that red dragon; you always want to capture that feeling like you've just discovered something. I do that by creating new music.
Us: What do you think is the key to writing a hit song?
FG: It is pretty simple and super complex at the same time. You know it when you hear it but you can't have a hit record without a hit song. Every great song starts with a great song. If you can play it on the piano or acoustic guitar and sing that hook, it is something you just know. Then you work backwards with production, and the production compliments the hit song you already have, and then you have a hit production.
Us: What can we expect from you in the near future?
FG: I am going to focus on getting back to DJing and possibly putting out an EP for myself to supplement the DJ stuff. I am going back to making techno records again.
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