Jake Shears: We write songs and make music and sing and dance.
BabyDaddy: We play rock and roll.
And with that, we begin a fun interview with the Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and BabyDaddy! Yep, Logo interviewed the talented pair of performers recently for their hosting gig on NewNowNext Music which aired last night (and which you can watch throughout this week on air). But here, in the loooooooong post, you can hear more from the duo as they answers questions about their music, how success overseas has changed them (or not), and why they’re still working to crossover into mainstream success here in the U.S. They also discuss the nature of “gay music” (and what that even means), making music videos (they hate it), and how they define their own gay identity and relate to elements of gay culture.
There’s some good stuff here (as you’ll read), and Jake’s not afraid to speak his mind. And frankly, I like Jake’s candor. When he explains how he’s “ashamed” of what he sees at a Gay Pride parade, I take that to mean that he’s displeased with the homogeneity of much of mainstream gay culture, which I can understand. But give this chat a read and check it out. You gotta figure, as gay people, we must be able to critique our own community, right?
And if somehow, you haven’t given the band’s new album, Ta-Dah! (which goes on sale tomorrow) a listen, head to MySpace and check it out. And you can visit the Scissor Sisters’ own site and hear tunes and listen to the band comment on the songs on the new disc.
ON HOW THEIR LIVES HAVE CHANGED AFTER HITTING IT BIG GLOBALLY:
Jake Shears: If anything, we've gotten a little bit more serious. I mean, yes, there have been major lifestyle changes, but not really... I think some people fantasize that or project that you're sitting around drinking pina-coladas all the time or something, and really I'm in the same tiny little postage stamp of an apartment that I've always lived in. So not much has changed. We're just a hell of a lot busier then we used to be.
TOURING — AMERICA VS. EUROPE:
Jake Shears: We'd play some huge festival over there and then suddenly see ourselves playing for 200 people in Salt Lake City. But it keeps it really interesting. I think it’s kept us pretty humble. When you're a big rock star someplace and then you're touring on a 15-person tour bus in America, it’s totally two different things. But I think it’s good for you to experience that that sort of y'know, yin/yang of the rock and roll life.
BabyDaddy: Likes how folks in the U.K. are, like, really into music.
SUCCESS — AMERICA VS. THE U.K.
Jake Shears: Well we got played on the radio over there. People ask like, "Why are you so big in the U.K. and, and not as big in America?” and I think the biggest thing is just radio.
BabyDaddy: I think it also stretches to sort of music culture in a country like England. When you go and headline a festival or play a show there, people have a reaction to it, and the word gets around.
Jake Shears: I think in America there's this strong urge to compartmentalize different genres and stuff, whereas [in the U.K.] on radio one you can hear the new Beyonce single next to a Kaiser Chiefs song. It’s all very mixed in; there mainstream music can be a lot of different things.
THE NEW ALBUM: TA-DAH!
Jake Shears: Some say it’s more of a dance album, but it’s less electronic than the first one. It’s a lot more natural sounding. It sounds a bit bigger. It sounds more band oriented more dancey, but a little less electronic. After two years of being on the road, we wanted the sound of real drums, and there's a lot more guitar on it. I think the final product is something that we can really stand behind and be proud of. I think we'll write better records in the future, but this one is pretty damn good.
BabyDaddy: And it explores different sounds
Jake Shears: There are dance songs, there are ballads, there's honky tonk, there's funky stuff, there are sad songs.
BabyDaddy: That, to us, is our sound.
MAKING MUSIC VIDEOS:
Jake Shears: Videos are the worst. Videos are the worst part of, of, of doing what we do. I think they're really, really just necessary evils. I think they're totally horrible things to have to make. They're just a real pain in the ass. You're like "All right, we've worked our tails off on making a song and now we've gotta make up like a three minute movie to go along with it that's gotta be great.”
This last video for "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" was incredibly painful [to make], just because I don't like most music videos and I don't like most music video directors either. I ended up talking to, like, 15 directors and they were all boneheads... So we went with Andy Soup who'd done a couple of videos for us from our first record. We like him, we get along with him, and it’s a collaboration to work with him.
So making this last video was really painful, but it was also really fun because it was very off the cuff, and we were really making it up as we went along. Half of what you see in the video is really made up on the spot. We were just playing dress up and being ridiculous.
BabyDaddy: I think that's probably obvious, since it makes no sense.
Jake Shears: It's total nonsense. But it's fun. What I do love about our videos is that they're always janky. And I was very proud of the fact that umm that our first video from this record still looks like we don't have any money. [They both laugh.]
STYLE, FASHION; THE ROLE OF:
Jake Shears: Personal style is really important to us, because it's like, what've we got to lose? We want to wear what we like to wear, and what feels fun. I think it wakes people up. I mean, we always end up on the worst-dressed list but I 'd rather be there than on the best dressed list.
BabyDaddy: Or right in the middle...
Jake Shears: Putting on my outfits before we go on stage is a ritual that brings out the best in my performances, I think and it's part of a tradition. It's been going on since Little Richard came out on the piano and freaked everybody out with his like crazy mascara. Or Diana Ross from the Supremes... Talk about glam rock. That was glam rock.
I mean, the music always comes first, but we often like to say that we express our music through what we're wearing, too. This is, after all, theatre to some degree.
ON INSPIRATION, OTHER BANDS & MUSIC:
Jake Shears: There's always new music that comes out that's really exciting to us. And it's also exciting when a new album comes out that we get jealous of, because that spurs us on to make music that we think is better. I mean, when the last Goldfrapp album came out we were freaking out just because it was one of the best dance-pop albums ever. It's an amazing album. So there are always new bands, like The Knife or The Raconteurs new cd or, or, um....
BabyDaddy: The Killers.
Jake Shears: The Killers—their new album is amazing! So it's fun to feel competition. You gotta feel competition and feel jealous of other bands because if there's no competition, then you don't have anything to like work against. Like when we were first starting out in Brooklyn playing shows at Luxx we were in heavy competition with all the other bands that were playing, and you always wanted to top somebody. You'd go see somebody play and they'd bust out a great new song that was amazing and you’d be like, "we gotta come back next week with something better!"
Otherwise, we also love the greats. We love Neil Young, Tom Petty. Anybody and everybody... Black Sabbath.
Jake Shears: I'm a Bowie fanatic. I love artists who have created amazing bodies of work that you can get into and explore and really take your time with them. We're just music heads.
BabyDaddy: I would say I think our fans are pretty smart. We've met a lot of really interesting, interesting people.
Jake Shears: We've made friends with a lot of our fans. We try to be as accessible as possible... Sometimes you have no choice but to like y'know, run away, but we definitely try to talk to as many people as we can. And we've made lots of friends with fans. There are some really wonderfully weird people. There was a really scary, scary, scary trannie that used to chase us around England.
BabyDaddy: She loves Paddy.
Jake Shears: She loved our drummer, Paddy Boom. And she's really frightening. She had this hoarse "Where's Paddy?"
Jake Shears: And she was an alcoholic; and she’d be at a show, like "Where's Paddy?" And we'd be like "Paddy's just down the hall and he can't wait to see you."
BabyDaddy: (laughs) And give her a backstage pass. Most of our fans are really nice.
Jake Shears: Yeah. She was great. I loved her.
BabyDaddy: We like the scary ones too.
Jake Shears: Yeah, we love scary fans.
Jake Shears: "Bring on the scary fans!"
AND ABOUT “GAY MUSIC”...
Jake Shears: Well... Babydaddy, me and Del are all gay in the band. And it's good. Sometimes it feels like a burden.
BabyDaddy: I think the phrase "gay music" follows us around a lot.
Jake Shears: Yeah, it drives us crazy. In America sometimes it feels like a stamp that's just like placed like kind of in front of your name at all times.
BabyDaddy: America loves the stamp.
Jake Shears: They love the stamp, and it also seems like it's almost like”gay” means you’re like Grade-B beef, y'know? It's like sticking “gay” in front of our names is very much like y'know... It's very second-tier, which is frustrating. But we're also part of a tradition of gay pop musicians. Look at Pet Shop Boys or Georgia Michael or Erasure or, who else? Frankie Goes to Hollywood...BabyDaddy: Or Elton. Or Queen.
Jake Shears: There's an emotional resonance in all of those artist's music that makes it different than other people's music. And I'd like to think that we have that resonance. And then there are also bands that have that that weren’t even gay. Take a band like ABBA; there's something in their music that can stand next to Pet Shop Boys or some of George Michael's biggest pop songs. I don’t know what it is and I'm not sure if you can really put your finger on it. But there is, I think, a trajectory of groups with gay people in them that have a certain emotional quality that's not necessarily seen or heard in a lot of other music.
BabyDaddy: Into singin' his music, be it gay or otherwise.
ON BEING OUT GAY PERFORMERS:
Jake Shears: I could never imagine holding that side of me back. Because even more than just being gay, I think it's who I am. The way I move my arms when I talk or the way I shake my hips when I dance, it's just how I am and so I can’t imagine really holding that back at all. I think if there was something that we were going to hold back, then we wouldn't be giving audiences the full picture, it wouldn't be fully an honest presentation.
BabyDaddy: And who would want that burden throughout their career? I mean, it could really overshadow the music. I think by putting everything forward at the beginning, we sort of allowed ourselves to present it with complete honesty. We are going to be honest about who we are and we're going to say listen, "We're here to make music. If you want to out me, well too bad, because we've done it first.”
Jake Shears: It gives us tons more freedom that way. I can say, like straight up, "I've had tons of sex with men and I've taken a lot of drugs and I've loved every minute of it, and no one can attack me for that.”
BabyDaddy: I would.
Jake Shears: You would? [They laugh.] I think just being straight up about it just gives you tons of freedom.
BabyDaddy: I'd like to think it's the reason that we’ve stayed out of any tabloids much in the U.K.
Jake Shears: Yeah, there's nothing to uncover about us.
BabyDaddy: He showed his ass in a nudie magazine and...
Jake Shears: I showed my boner in a nudie magazine...
BabyDaddy: That's true
Jake Shears: And it’s like, who cares?
ON COMING OUT:
Jake Shears: I came out when when I was going to school. I was 15 years old. And I came out at school a year before I came out to my parents, and there was this really strange moment in my life where I was living this secret life every time I walked out of the house every morning and went to school. It was really, really, really stressful and horrible. But I’m happy that I came out at a really young age because it enabled me to be a teenager who could date people. So, I felt like I had a really normal teenage life. And people ask, "Oh was it, did you go through a lot of hardships just because you were you're gay and you came out?" But I think every teenager goes through a lot of hardships; mine were just a little bit different. And I'm really glad that I came out when I did, because by the time I reached my twenties I was like raring to go and didn't feel like I had a lot of baggage.
FINALLY, ON GAY IDENTITY & COMMUNITY:
Jake Shears: I do find it strange as I'm getting older and I, I've got a boyfriend who I've been with for a couple years and I feel like when I felt the most gay in my life was when I was um going out all the time and trying to get laid. To me that was, that's what gay is. Y'know and like, the heart of, I the heart of being gay for me was looking for sex and having sex. And now that I have someone that I am in love with who I sleep in the same bed with every night, I'm not trolling around looking to get laid. And I feel more just like myself now.
BabyDaddy: I think it is a shame to be defined only by one’s gay identity, or to define yourself by whatever the gay identity is. You shouldn't let what's out there dictate who you are, how you dress or what you do. Of course, there are elements of that which we consider gay culture that we still do appreciate. [To Jake] You love going out to gay clubs and...
Jake Shears: Totally. But at the same time I think there's like this lowest common denominator of homosexuality that's rampant in America, that I don't identify with. I can't go to a Gay Pride parade and feel proud about anything. I feel rather ashamed about it. I think it's embarrassing.
BabyDaddy: What's embarrassing about that is not, if I can speak for you, is not the element of Pride itself or people going out and being out but, it’s sort of the same-y-ness of it, of everyone wanting to wear a tank top...
Jake Shears: It's same-y. I think the Gay Pride parade looks the same as it did in 1991. It hasn't changed. It hasn't gone anywhere. I feel like it's archaic and kind of behind. I feel a lot about the gay rights movement is, like, a lot of rich white gay people who want to get in a power position, and I think that that is just as bad as anybody else trying to seek power and powerful positions. There are a lot of horrible things going on in this world, and we're a world that's really war-torn at this moment, and I don't feel comfortable with sticking my fist up in the air and being like, "Gay people need to get married!" I'm more concerned about constitutional rights, like privacy rights and stuff in America than I am about whether or not I can get married.
BabyDaddy: Like terrible violence against gays. That we've...
Jake Shears: Exactly. I think that there are things that are more important at this moment.
Jake tells it like it is: Loves gays; loves being gay; not so sure about the direction of the community and this whole "Pride" thing.