Hanging With k. d. lang

ATN Toronto correspondent (and Toronto Star staff writer) Peter Howell

reports: Canada's k.d. lang is hugely amused by rumors of her lusting after

other women. "Anne Murray?" she says, laughing uproariously during a recent

Toronto interview, when told the rumor mill had named fellow Canadian Murray

as the

unrequited love inspiration of lang's 1992 breakthrough torch album,

Ingenue.

"I've always had a crush on Anne Murray, since I was like 9 years old. But

no, it's not about her."

I tell her I won't print that.

"No! You should print that!" lang insists. "That's so funny. I've always

been in love with Anne Murray, but that's not it! No, my God, no. Oh, you

should definitely write that!"

While we're at it, lang also knocks down the tabloid rumors of her alleged

flings with Madonna -- who once claimed to have lustful thoughts about lang

-- and with tennis ace Martina Navratilova.

"I think I'm actually lucky with the tabloids," lang says, sipping straight

water as she stretches out in her Toronto hotel room.

"I mean the Martina thing and the Madonna thing?" she says. "Whatever.

That to me is

just nothing. It's just stupid. I know the truth. I didn't sleep with

Martina or Madonna.''

She is definitely in a tell-all mood, as one might surmise both from her

candid mood and from the title of her new album, All You Can Eat.

The title is meant to be taken two ways -- she has had her fill of fame, yet

she craves more "real" artistic and life experiences -- but there's nothing

arbitrary about the way she's approaching her art and her life.

At 33, having forsaken the celebrity nuthouse that is Los Angeles ("The O.J.

Simpson trial did it to me") for a return to Canada and the slower pace of

life in Vancouver, lang is more sure about things than ever.

Unlike Ingenue, in which her sad longing for the love of a married

woman was

couched in surreal poetry ("The tears of love's recall/Like blood to

chocolate fall"), All You Can Eat is a sensual banquet, presented on

a pop

platter by lang and her songwriting partner, Ben Mink.

"C'mon, kiss away the ones who say the lust you feel is wrong," she sings

in "Sexuality," in a voice that could turn rust into gold.

The disc is about sex, lang says, but more important than that, "it's just

about getting older as a woman, and just being more comfortable with life and

love itself. "I don't think you can pinpoint it as one thing or another. I

think it's a

combination of a lot of things moving forward, progressing."

She's in a happier frame of mind, after 12 sometimes difficult years in the

music industry. "I feel really, really good, really liberated. I feel like

I'm starting

again."

At the time of Ingenue's release, a record that established her as a

singer

first and foremost, lang was suffering from the peculiar artistic rejection

of being a critic's darling, a country cowpunk big in influence but not in

sales, despite a 1989 Grammy win for her duet with Roy Orbison on the

latter's "Crying."

She was also reeling from intense criticism she suffered in her home

province, Alberta , for her militant vegetarian stand against eating meat.

Her "Meat Stinks" campaign slogan lost her many fans in cattle country.

And she's convinced many Canadians still don't like her. "Canadians don't

love me," she says flatly. "I think that I am less liked in Canada than in

any other country in the

world, because I think I'm controversial here. Also, young people (in Canada)

don't think I'm cool, because they've seen

the whole country thing, and (because) their mothers like me.

In America, young people kind of like me," she continues. "But here,

because they've seen

my whole career, they think their parents listen to me and they don't want to

listen to me. So I think I'm most unpopular in Canada."

She had platinum sales in Canada for Ingenue, which yielded the

Grammy-winning hit "Constant Craving," and also for her less-successful

movie soundtrack, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.

Even so, lang squeezed most of her Canadian press interviews into two days in

Toronto, including the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday (Oct. 9), while she'll

soon be spending two weeks in L.A., a week in Tokyo and two weeks in Sydney

talking up her new album.

The sky's the limit for All You Can Eat, which the world's rock press

is

treating as one of the major releases of the fall season. She really is "the

queen of popularity," despite her ironic suggestion to

the contrary in "If I Were You," the lead track and single from the new

album.

So popular, she's a top pick for celebrity duets -- she helped Tony Bennett

get his Grammys this year -- but lately she has been turning down such

offers, including ones you aren't supposed to say "no" to. People like Frank

Sinatra and Johnny Mathis. Also Bette Midler, whom she

wanted to sing with but "I just couldn't fit it in," she says.

lang was also asked to do something with Seattle alternative rock band

Soundgarden, which is a real left-field idea, but she hasn't been able to

make that one happen, either -- not yet, anyway. "I would like to work with

Soundgarden," she says. "I would like to do

something where I was just a singer in the band."

lang says "no" more often now that she says "yes," because Ingenue

taught

her that fame is fun, but ultimately unsatisfying. "I feel like I was

tempted," she says. "After Ingenue, I feel like I kind

of got sucked in by the fashion. I get asked to do duets 20 times a day. But

like the fashion things and

the going to movie premieres and the getting invited to parties, it's all

superficial. I did some of it. It's a drug. It's tempting, it's exciting,

but I do find

it extremely draining on what exactly is the core of my soul, which is to

make music.''

lang has four criteria for judging a good album and they have nothing to do

with being a celebrity. "A record has to be good in four instances," she

says, rhyming them off. "You have to be able to listen to it in the morning,

first thing in the

morning. You have to be able to cook and eat to it. You have to be able to

drive to it, biking or driving.

"And," she concludes, pausing for effect, "You have to be able to fuck to

it. If you can do all those things, then it's a good record."

The last criterion seems to lead us back to gossip again.

Does lang test all of her records this way?

"In all four categories?" she says, laughing mischievously. "No, I

don't."

But you just know she would tell us about it -- or sing about it -- if she

did.