M.I.A.’s friendship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is no secret at this point, but on Friday, when the singer tweeted that she had “an EPIC guest speaker” lined up for her New York City show later that night, he probably wasn’t the first person who came to mind.
Assange opened the show via a live Skype interview, broadcasting from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he’s been hiding out for 16 months. He’s currently facing arrest in the U.K., Sweden and the U.S. for leaking classified government documents, so needless to say, it was a rare experience.
“It really just happened and it was very impulsive,” M.I.A. told MTV News of Assange’s cameo in the show. “I asked just hours before and it sort of came together and it’s very rare that things come together that fast and we were able to pull it off, so it was actually meant to be.”
“For me, it was just about having information,” she added. “With what’s going on in the press and in America — in New York, especially — it’s such an eclectic and diverse place [and] has been a cultural hub, but now I think information is a little bit harder to get from the outside. So it was really amazing to expose my fans to a live feed in the Ecuador embassy and give them that moment where they can actually get direct information, not through news or media outlets, but just get something right there that no one else knew. That’s why I didn’t even tweet it.”
In his Skype broadcast, Assange spoke for approximately 10 minutes, touching on subjects that included privacy on the Internet and freedom of press, in addition to calling M.I.A., who releases her latest album Matangi on November 5, “the most courageous woman working in western music, without exception.”
The 38-year-old artist revealed that she originally considered hosting a Q&A with Assange by fielding Twitter questions from her fans but decided against it.
“In the end, I thought it should just be for the people that are there,” she said. “They should just be there and experience it, and it was a moment for them. It was really special. It nearly didn’t happen, but a lot of people asked for it and I was really inspired by that. It was nice that people were asking for it–it just happened [but] it was seemed like the right thing to do.”
M.I.A. struck up a friend with Assange after releasing her Vicki Leekx mixtape in 2010 and later had him reach out to record the theme song for his show “The World Tomorrow.”
“He’s really smart and he really defines a moment of our time and where we’re living right now, and he has a lot of interesting things to say,” she explained, going on to reference the role Assange played in 2009, leaking documents that confirmed war crimes had been committed in Sri Lanka.
“When WikiLeaks released cables about Sri Lanka, they were the first ones that said, ’This is what happened and here’s the evidence of people talking about it and this is whatever the government knew.’ No one else, not a single media outlet, had validated that with anything that they had. WikiLeaks was the first one that put out something that made me feel at ease. And reassured me that it was real and it wasn’t me being crazy.”
M.I.A.’s fourth album Matangi debuts on November 5.