18 QUESTIONS WITH BOY GEORGE
(August 4, 1998)
Q: Congratulations on the new single “I Just Wanna Be Loved.” That song really says it all–it has love, hurt, pride, it’s about walking out the door with your dignity intact. What inspired that one?
Funny enough, we wrote that song in 1990 when we reformed for a little bit and were making an album. I suppose in a way it was a closure song about me and JON. It was a huge step on from “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” in the sense that when I did “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” I was playing a victim, but this is more of a statement about what I need. If you listen to the words of the song, they’re pretty blunt: “Love has left his memory/There’s no better way to part/I will find another love/Someone who won’t bring me down.” This is a song to JON. It’s a good-bye song.
Q: You’re noted for your great stage-wear, but it’s been so hot this summer, how do you deal with is on tour while playing outdoor venues?
Heat is definitely the enemy of drag, but I defy the weather. Usually when we’re going out on stage it’s a lot nicer because it’s a little cooler, but I don’t really pay any attention to what the weather’s like. When I’m going onstage, I just wear what I want to wear.
Q: How many stage costumes are you alternating on this tour?
The headgear is elaborate but the clothes are pretty toned-down for this tour. I’ve been wearing classical suits with a little bit of glitz here and there. But the hats and the hair—everybody has been remarking that I’m eccentric from the neck up.
Q: In terms of a CULTURE CLUB reunion tour at this point, it’s like America has gone through its “grunge” thing and it seems people want to see a sense of style again. What do you feel about that?
I think that if you look at a lot of the videos from a lot of artists today, there really isn’t that much competition in terms of style. There’s only Marilyn Manson as far as I’m concerned. He’s the only one with a hot look. Madonna looks like Fiona Apple, Courtney Love looks like Bette Midler now. There’s really no one. The only video that I’ve seen recently that comes close to being like an eighties kind of extravaganza is the Barenaked Ladies video which is a great song as well. There’s some great music being made at the moment. I love that Harvey Danger record.
Q: It seems Brit-pop re-focused America on great melodies, and CULTURE CLUB always had those great melodies. What are your feelings about how CULTURE CLUB sounds today?
A lot better. I think that we’re more confident. There’s more at stake and when there’s more at stake you get a kind of hunger, a renewed hunger. Success came to us really quickly so you do tend to get blasé. What happened to us is what happens to a lot of bands when they get successful quickly, the music becomes secondary to your fabulous lifestyle. Maybe the first two albums you can get away with it because you have all of that energy, hunger, and desire. But the third album is always the difficult album because if you have been successful, that’s when you get a little bit complacent. This time around we have a lot to prove. Even within ourselves, as four individual people, we have a lot to prove to each other. I’ve continued working since I left CULTURE CLUB. I’ve continued making albums and working and I’ve been successful in other things. I’m a successful DJ now. I have a whole other life. I’ve come back into this project with a lot more confidence in my ability as a musician and as a writer because I’ve done things on my own. I’ve found my feet. I’m coming into the band with a lot more confidence and I think that’s affecting everybody else.
Q: There’s been a lot of ink about the healing process, and we know you guys have gone through it. How have you grown?
I think at the end of the day we feel differently now. We’re not so personal. We don’t insult each other personally like we would’ve done in the old days. Now it’s like “This is better for the band. It’s not a personal argument against you, it’s better for everybody,” and I think you have to do that.
Q: You mentioned a new album. What’s the timeline for CULTURE CLUB to record a proper reunion album?
Probably around January (’99). Hopefully, we’d release it next summer or spring.
Q: Is there a feeling of unfinished business with the band because you guys did break up rather soon considering how big you were?
I think there really is. I think personally, for me, doing a new record will create a creative challenge. I found while working on my own that I know what I like and what I want to do. If I can bring that focus into CULTURE CLUB, incorporating everybody else’s ideas, I think we can do something really amazing. I really think we only made one great album. There were a few tracks on the other albums, like “Move Away,” and things like that, but to me Color By Numbers was a perfectly rounded pop record.
Q: How do you feel you’ve grown vocally?
I think songs like “Time” and “Black Money” sound a lot better now because I think I’ve got a richer voice and I’ve gotten more experience so I can sing with conviction.
Q: Reviews have been talking about how your voice has more power now than it did before.
I sang from my nose before. Now I sing from a bit lower down. I guess it’s just a matter of moving out of your head and into your heart and your gut.
Q: Overall, what do you feel has been the biggest misconception about CULTURE CLUB?
I don’t know, really. I think some kinds of misconceptions can be quite valuable. I think people will always think that they know more than they really do. Even after having endless documentaries, endless interviews and even after my book, there is still so much stuff that people don’t know. There are certain things that you really can’t convey. Some people tend to kind of come to the show thinking that I’m insincere or some people can’t look beyond the way I dress. I even feel like some of the older fans look at me and you can tell they’re thinking, “God, he looks old.” I think the die-hard fans know you and see through the wardrobe. Some people come and just look at you thinking, “Why is this 37-year-old man wearing a soap-box hat and a load of make-up?
Q: After the leg of this U.S. tour is over in middle August, what’s the next move for CULTURE CLUB?
After this part we go back to London for a few weeks and then we come back and do the west coast.
Q: When is that supposed to start?
In October. Then we go back to the U.K. and then we do a new album.
Q: The west coast is really big for CULTURE CLUB, especially with KROQ in Los Angeles and your huge support in San Francisco.
The last show I did in San Francisco, on my own, at the Fillmore was just a great evening. In the early days we didn’t get such a warm reception in San Francisco. We always got bad write-ups and I never felt like we connected. Once I came out, this whole love developed in that part of the country. San Francisco is known as the gay capital of America and I think people, once I came out, really seemed to respond to it. That show was one of the best shows I’ve ever done. The only sad thing about it was the wigs were falling apart, our clothes were stinking and we were really tired. It would be nice to go back to San Francisco and give them a really good show.
Q: Is it possible to separate the previous emotional issues of CULTURE CLUB from the music?
I think there’s been a lot of talk on this tour about divorcing ourselves from those emotional issues, but those emotional issues are really important for this band. That’s what makes this band so special and if you try to deny those emotional issues or ego problems, then you miss the whole point of it.
Q: Myth is so important to rock n’ roll. If you remove myth, then rock n’ roll really doesn’t exist as a truly exciting forum.
I think myth is important for humanity when you think about things like the Bible or fairy stories. They’re people’s truths.
Q: Let’s talk about another new song, “Some Strange Voodoo.” What inspired it?
What I’m singing about is the gay obsession with perfection—the way gay people are so possessed with the physical. I sing “No happy ever after/No big dark man”—in other words, we’re so obsessed with the physical that we miss out on emotional things which are equally if not more important. Sometimes you can be attracted to somebody emotionally or intellectually without finding them physically attractive. The song is saying “Loving you is some strange voodoo,” I don’t know what it is about you that I love.
Q: As a gay man and as a songwriter, how does it feel to write a song like “Some Strange Voodoo” where it’s very clear that you’re singing about a man?
On the last album I did, Cheapness and Beauty, I did use the word “he” quite often. It was important for me as an artist. It was an important journey for me. I think the stuff I write with CULTURE CLUB will definitely lean towards personal experience. I don’t think I’m going to shy away from that. Nobody in the band is actually saying “Oh, you’re singing a gay song,” because “man” can apply to anybody. It’s a general theme. But I am saying “How can I love you, BOY, if you can’t even love yourself?” I’m singing about somebody else, but I’m also singing about me.