Photos by Rony Alwin.

Last week, Katy Perry and Alesso joined forces on When I’m Gone”—a perfect pop banger that marks a return to the dance floor for both stars. The collaboration, which is currently topping charts in the U.S. and U.K., marks the dawn of a new era for Perry: her new Las Vegas residency, Katy Perry: PLAY sold out in the blink of an eye, prompting the star to tack on a string of new dates in Summer ’22. Alesso, for his part, is no stranger to Sin City. In fact, he’s been a staple in the Vegas’ electronic music festival circuit for years. On the occasion of the duo’s new song—and Perry’s upcoming appearance this weekend on Saturday Night Live—the duo hopped on the phone to discuss their next collaboration, the thrill of performing for a rowdy Vegas crowd, and what really happens when you make it in the industry.

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ALESSO: Katy, hi!

KATY PERRY: Hi! I saw your TikTok about how you made the new song—the beat, and stuff. It was dope.

ALESSO: What do you think?

PERRY: Not to be offensive, it doesn’t look complicated.

ALESSO: It’s supposed to look simple, but it’s more like a breakdown that reveals what’s really inside of the song. I did two of those TikToks, and the fans seem to really be loving them.

PERRY: It’s like giving the kids a Casio keyboard and being like, “You can do it, too.” Readers, for background, Alesso sent me “When I’m Gone” back when it was in a very different shape. That was a year ago. I had just put out a record called Smile, and I had just given birth. I wasn’t doing anything new, but he sent it, and it was undeniable. It didn’t have my spin on it at that time, but I could already see it—even in its rawness. I get sent all kinds of crazy things all the time, whether it’s beats or fully-produced songs. I get sent hundreds each year, and typically I’m like, “No thank you, god bless you on your journey.” With this one, the brakes stopped and I was like, “This is dope.” I’m obviously an Alesso fan, and I thought we could take this song to the next level. I was ready to put out something purely dance—especially because I knew I was going to begin a residency in Vegas, so I wanted to give the kids their fix for a hot second.

ALESSO: I love that. It’s definitely a club banger, but it works at festivals and shows. I played it on New Year’s, and even though it’s just been out a little while, it just fits so well. It’s made to help people let loose, have fun, and dance—and it’s sexy.

PERRY: It definitely is sexy. I gotta tell you, I’m feeling like a sexy hot Gen Z-er, even though I’m Gen X. It makes me feel so alive.

ALESSO: Did you see the premiere of our halftime show on ESPN?

PERRY: It was wild. We did a really unusual premiere—we collaborated with ESPN during a huge football game. We figured our fans would eat it up. To me, the song is a big, gay club banger and we thought, “Okay, the kids are gonna know that it’s out there, but you know who’s not going to know it’s out there? People who watch football.” I mean regular people who listen to Ed Sheeran. We wanted it to be on their radar, too, so we were like, “Football! And a club music video directed by Hannah Lux Davis, let’s go. Let’s take this opportunity.” It definitely went more mainstream because of the halftime launch.

ALESSO: I got hit up by so many people about it. I was in Sweden at the time of the halftime show, and it was on too late for me. I’m getting old, so I woke up at 5 a.m. to watch it. It was really cool to see the football and the music together. It felt like a movie. 

PERRY: You gotta be a little bit innovative these days—especially because like 20,000 new songs come out every day on streamers. There’s so much to digest. You have to have a game plan, and our game plan really worked.

ALESSO: I agree. So let’s talk about your outfit. 

PERRY: My outfit?

ALESSO: [Laughs] Let’s jump straight into it. What do you think of the video, and your looks and everything? I want to hear it.

PERRY: I loved it. I love our look together. It was really fun. We curated a lot of really cool looks—everything from Vivienne Westwood customs to vintage John Paul Gaultier, a custom Dolce and Gabbana look, some Chrome Hearts jewelry which was fun. My stylist Tatiana Waterford did it all, and I basically just told her that I wanted the video to have a near-future look. I was pretty specific about our scene being in a data bank, because who doesn’t wanna look sexy in a system server area?

 

ALESSO: You did such an insane performance in that video, and I just had to do a couple of walks. I looked pretty cool walking through that computer room. 

PERRY: It was expensive.

ALESSO: Yes, we know, the label told us. [Laughs]

PERRY: It was definitely a moment to double down, for sure. We shot that music video in a day—we were doing dance scenes until about 3:30 a.m. This was the first time I went heavy into choreography with Sean Bankhead—he does Normani and Lil Nas X, he does all the greats. I’m nowhere close to anything that they do body choreography-wise, but I put in the old college try.

ALESSO: You killed it. I can’t believe you were there for what—20 hours?

PERRY: More or less. It’s funny, everyone says that after you make it, you retire to, like, an island in the Bahamas.  That’s just not me yet. To me, after you make it, you work harder than you’ve ever worked.

ALESSO: Twice as hard. Live performance is exhausting. I mean, it’s what we do, it’s my passion to make music and then play it, but still. “When I’m Gone” works perfectly in my sets. That big chorus already feels like a classic… it sets a tone. It’s so much fun playing live again after the last couple of years. Katy, how long has it been since you performed? Is Vegas the first live show in a while?

PERRY: In this moment where things have become a little shaky, people are like, “Fuck it. We’re on the Titanic, let’s just all go down together.” The show that I’ve put together in Las Vegas is one of a kind. It’s the wildest, most fun and humorous show I’ve ever put together. There’s been a lot of talk about it, and I’m giving it my all. I’m 37, I’ve been doing my thing for over 12 years, and people are still showing up and giving love. I take nothing for granted, and it makes me really grateful. I wake up every day knowing that I still have to give it my all—even if I’m not feeling 100%. I shake it off and give them a show. A Vegas audience, as you know, is different from any other audience. It’s raucous and full of people that are definitely peaking. They’re either there for a bachelorette or a 21st birthday. The first few shows were amazing, but the latest show was the best one I’ve had so far, everybody was on their feet. It wasn’t my hardcore fans—it was a Vegas audience. It was pretty dope to see. 

ALESSO: I have to come and check it out.

PERRY: Well, you gotta leave Sweden.

ALESSO: I’ll be back soon. I think you should do more dance records. Not just with me—well, maybe just with me. [Laughs]

PERRY: Alright, deal.