Scissor Sisters front man Jake Shears talks pop
Not since the rise of Culture Club in the ’80s has there been a troop of troubadours who have pushed the envelope of style in pop music like Scissor Sisters. And not since Boy George has there been a dashing, flashy young front man like Jake Shears who enjoys turning it out onstage as much as he does in interviews. With only one album (their self-titled number 1 Billboard-selling debut), his five-member disco- glam squad has managed to snag the most fashionable devotees around the globe, a fab fan base that includes Elton John, who plays piano on their latest album, Ta-Dah; Montreal superstar DJ Tiga (whom Shears regularly collaborates with); and Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry, who Shears has penned songs with for their much-anticipated reunion album. In this candid chat with Shears (above centre), FLARE gets the lowdown on the Sisters’ latest modus poperandi.
FLARE: Many hit songs are created by mistake in studio. Ta-Dah’s first single, “I Don’t Feel like Dancin,” plays on that with the lyric “I just pretend/I know which way to bend.” Does second-guessing help you while you are recording?
Jake Shears: When you’re writing songs, you just can’t second-guess yourself while you’re in the middle of the process or while an idea is forming or you’ll totally paralyze your music. You really have to put that critical side on hold and let yourself write bad songs—and lord knows we wrote a whole load [to get this] record.
F: Another song off Ta-Dah, “Land of a Thousand Words,” hits on the topic of tabloid magazines. What do you think of the way pop culture is evolving?
JS: It is just devouring itself at a really rapid rate. I mean, people are buying virtual property online now! They are paying $250,000 for an online hotel that doesn’t exist so they can virtually rent out rooms to people! Nowadays, pop stars are known more for their divorces or their impending pregnancies—people have forgotten who can actually sing. If you look at Whitney Houston, it’s so sad because kids today view her as some cracked-out lady who talks rubbish rather than a woman who is one of the greatest pop stars of our time.
F: What’s your take on the way instant pop stars and celebs are being created today?
JS: We’ve got Nicole Richie—who, god bless her, I’m sure is a wonderful person—but she’s like that virtual hotel room. There is nothing there that people are paying to see. And now we have YouTube.com [a public video-sharing website]—which we didn’t have six months ago—and can’t imagine our lives without it. YouTube can make some lady who says the wrong word on TV a star in five minutes. Within 24 hours, 1.5 million people will have seen her online. It makes things interesting when you are an artist today who wants longevity and wants to make an impact.
F: So are Scissor Sisters fighting the good fight against bad pop culture or just ignoring it?
JS: We don’t ignore it. But as far as muses are concerned, I think our patron saints are very different from what the norm is. I am currently obsessed with Jane Fonda and I just bought an Andy Warhol photograph of an old lady at a party wearing a sombrero. Hedi Slimane is a friend of mine and I think he’s one of the most talented designers working, [even though] he is putting [what looks like] Pete Doherty’s face on his shirts—I won’t buy one! Hedi is inspired by musicians rather than clotheshorses, which I think is really respectable and the way it should be.
F: Who rocked your world when you first started watching videos?
JS: Lady Kier from Deee-Lite changed my life. Honestly! The first time I ever saw the “Groove Is in the Heart” video on MTV, I was 12 and became totally obsessed. I’d play that record and twirl around the house when my parents weren’t home long before I ever knew I was gay or a performer.
F: If the Sisters could rerecord any film sound track out there, what would it be and why?
JS: Definitely Beaches because it’s got the ballads and the show tunes and we’re big Bette Midler fans.