In the studio
‘New Killer Star’ was recorded during the Reality sessions, which took place between January and May 2003.
The sessions took place at Philip Glass’s Looking Glass Studios on Manhattan, New York City, where producer Tony Visconti rented studio B.
I’m very proud that Philip Glass is my landlord. He’s a smashing guy, and when we were recording he’d occasionally poke his head into the control room, have a listen and offer very encouraging advice.
Sound On Sound, October 2003
Bowie and Visconti recorded a series of demos before the other musicians arrived at the studio. Elements from some of the demos, including ‘New Killer Star’, made it to the final released version.
Before the band came in, I’d played bass on all of the demos, and some of my bass parts eventually made it all the way to the album in preference to Mark Plati’s. This was the case on ‘New Killer Star’ – Mark had a go at it, but there was some kind of personality in my bass playing that David preferred, and the same applied to ‘The Loneliest Guy’, ‘Days’ and ‘Fall Dog Bombs The Moon’.
Sound On Sound, October 2003
The driving rhythm, meanwhile, recalls Little Peggy March’s 1963 version of ‘I Will Follow Him’. Furthermore, elements of Bowie’s vocal melody are reminiscent of his own ‘’87 And Cry’ from Never Let Me Down.
They had me play with this really odd sound, a kind of bass wah-wah. I remember not really being into it, like, ‘All right, if this is what you want I will do it. I’ll play it straight too, if you like.’ I found out a few weeks later, when I was already off in England, ‘Oh, we had to do it again.’ ‘Told ya!’
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
David Bowie’s Reality album was released on 15 September 2003, with ‘New Killer Star’ the opening track.
I led off the album with that song because I realized that if I opened with the wrong track, it would set the album up as being negative, which it is not. The one thing I tried to muster all the way through was a sense of positivism. ‘New Killer Star’ is built around a rather corny idea – that in all our troubles, there are things that are clear and bright and beautiful. It’s a very simplistic thought, decorative in a way because there’s a bit of wordplay in there. But, essentially, it’s just something to hang on to. You see, as much as the album is trying to create anchors that I know actually aren’t there, there are also these devices that I need to put into my life so that my daughter has the impression from her dad that she has some kind of future. I can’t talk about negativity in the same way as I would have done before she was born – every time I say, “The world is fucked up and not worth living in,” she’s going to look at me and say, “Well, thanks for bringing me into it.” I’m morally obliged to find whatever out there is worth living for.
Interview magazine, October 2003
The ‘New Killer Star’ single followed two weeks later, on 29 September, with a cover of Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s ‘Love Missile F1-11’ as the b-side.
The single was not widely released. The CD single was issued in Canada, and European countries including Austria and Italy.
The cover was a photograph of Bowie playing his 1956 Supro Dual Tone guitar, one of two such eBay purchases which he played throughout A Reality Tour.
The photograph was taken by Frank W Ockenfels III. The single for ‘Never Get Old’ used the top half of the photograph for its cover, presenting the full image when the two were aligned together.
A DVD single of ‘New Killer Star’ was also issued in several countries, including the UK and US. This contained the shorter 3:42 video edit of the song, and also included an electronic press kit for Reality. This was disqualified from chart placing due to the DVD format, meaning the song failed to chart anywhere in the world.