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kd lang's new album Makeover is a collection of her dance hall classics from the 1990s.Estelle Massry

Thirty years ago, remixes of kd lang’s hits were the soundtrack to a pulsing club scene. Not that she was totally aware of that. Back then the angel-voiced icon in the making was too busy building her career to spend much time on the dance floor. (And even if she could have – she’s big on getting to bed early). During lockdown in Calgary, lang took the time to discover some of her own material. Here, she tells The Globe and Mail about why Makeover (out May 28) is the perfect pandemic album, what it felt like to see her mom vaccinated and the secret to a good DIY haircut.

I know from research that you are an excellent home cook, you have been cutting your own hair for years and you have described yourself as an intense introvert. Sounds like you’re better suited to lockdown life than most.

With respect and acknowledgment of all the people who aren’t as fortunate as I am to be self-sufficient and able to not work, yes, pandemic life has been suited to me. I actually really like the quiet and now that my mother is healthy and vaccinated, everything is fine. That happened back in January because she is in a seniors’ facility and it was such a relief, just an instant weight off my shoulders.

Were you able to visit her beforehand?

No, for a long time I was just going to the window and then I could call her, we would talk through the glass. Things opened and closed and opened and shifted. It’s been a moving target and tough as we all know, but fortunately I had some really cool experiences with my mom. We did bedtime phone calls which I had never had in my entire life.

Before her bedtime? Your bedtime?

Ha! We have a similar bedtime. I go to bed very early.

The new album Makeover is a collection of your dance hall classics from the 1990s. Were you able to participate in that scene or were you already too well-known?

I wasn’t really able to participate. Mostly because I was already working too much to have the time to go to a club. But I spent a lot of my youth as a budding lesbian in the early eighties, so I totally understand the allure of club life.

Who were you dancing to in those days?

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kd lang says she didn't realize the impact her music had on the dance club scene until just this year.Jeri Heiden

Donna Summers, Grace Jones, the Commodores, Gloria Gaynor, Evelyn Champagne King. I love disco and I always have.

I feel like dancing right now –

Well that’s what’s perfect about this new release is that you can dance to it anywhere and any way that you want, in any attire you want without any self-consciousness, so it’s really a perfect record for the pandemic.

The press release says “kd lang is dusting off the vinyl.” I’m picturing literal records sitting around your basement in old milk crates.

That’s probably a bit too literal, but I like the image. The reality is I don’t think I realized the impact that my music had on the dance club scene until just this year when I started unearthing the goods. Ingenue came out in 1992 and we had a big hit with Constant Craving. The club scene was so important at that time and with me having recently come out, the record company saw a correlation and they started remixing my music. I had two No. 1s [on the dance charts] and I had no idea.

What is the creative process involved in making a compilation album like Makeover?

To be honest, I kind of left the music and the sequencing up to somebody at the record company who has a better perspective on dance music than I do. For me, the creative part was coming up with the concept and then pairing it with visual cover art, the David LaChapelle photo that was part of my Mac “Viva Glam” photo shoot. It never saw the light of day, but I always remembered it in the back of my mind as something that I wanted to revisit.

Your fans tend to associate you with a more androgynous suited look. Do you have a personal preference?

I would say I naturally feel more comfortable on the butch perspective, leaning toward masculinity. But it doesn’t preclude my understanding and appreciation of femininity. I wore skirts and had fun playing with boy/girl imagery in my country days. For me it has always been a very fluid, conceptual thing – an extension of my music that has tendrils in all sorts of aspects of art.

You have said that Makeover reflects on the time before mobile devices and dating apps changed human interaction. Is that change for the worse in your opinion?

As a Buddhist, it’s always both – the idea of opposite truths. I think for the worse because it’s very immediate and removed and part of what I loved about being gay [in a pervious era] was that it was all very cryptic and you had to search things out. There were all of these symbols and signs, almost like a treasure hunt or a vein you tap into. And then once you found it you were swimming in this universe and just immersed in this world of people being themselves. Of course I’m happy that we’ve come to the point where things can feel less secret. I don’t even know if gay clubs exist so much any more which is both a recognition of headway and at the same time it’s a sacrifice that feels sort of lamentable, if that’s a word.

Have you ever used a dating app?

Ha. No, I haven’t.

Is that because it’s not your thing? Or you haven’t been single? Or because you’re too recognizable?

It’s probably all of the above.

In 2019 you announced a semi-retirement saying the muse was eluding you? Did she happen to visit during COVID?

Nothing has changed. I’m still feeling like it may be over.

That makes me sad. Does it make you sad?

I’m at peace with it. I have experienced forcing the muse and I learned very quickly that it doesn’t work either spiritually or in terms of success. I feel like I have dedicated a lot of energy in my life to music. I am a Buddhist practitioner and right now I feel like that’s the important place to put my energy.

Presumably that’s been a pretty important part of your pandemic experience?

Oh man, I can’t even get into it. I have been really focused on that stillness and mindfulness, containing ourselves physically and mentally is so powerful.

What does that mean, exactly?

I’m not a teacher, so I don’t know if I have that capacity, but I would just say being mindful of ourselves as physical and mental beings.

Okay, here’s an easier question. As a competent home hairdresser, what’s your best tip for anyone considering the DIY chop?

I don’t know if I’m competent or neurotic. I would say that the key is to look at your hair in different lighting and in different places – hallway mirror, bathroom mirror, car mirror. And the other thing is go slow. I cut a little bit every day.

I remember hearing that Jay Leno gets his hair cut once a week and thinking that was a lot.

Ha. Oh yeah, that’s nothing, that’s lax.

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