Producer Tony Visconti opens up about Bowie’s 25th album.

David Bowie will release ★ (pronounced Blackstar) on January 8, his 69th birthday, and longtime producer-collaborator Visconti has opened up about the recording process and more in an interview with Rolling Stone.

“We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar,” says Visconti. “We wound up with nothing like that, but we loved the fact Kendrick was so open-minded and he didn’t do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. The goal, in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll.”

To that end, the 42-minute album draws from krautrock, hip-hop, pop and jazz, as performed by saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s quartet. In addition, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy plays percussion on two tracks, after plans for him to act as a producer fell through.

The lead single and title track was originally more than 11 minutes long, but was cut to 9:57 to comply with iTunes’ singles rules. “It’s total bullshit,” Visconti laughs “But David was adamant it be the single, and he didn’t want both an album version and a single version, since that gets confusing.”

Visconti also comments on rumors about Bowie. “He’s in fine health… He’s just made a very rigorous album,” he explains. However, Visconti doubts that Bowie will ever play live again. “If he does, it will be a total surprise.”

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