EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters – “I’m very pro-sex work”

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Despite rats backstage, despite the fact that we’ve gotta move ‘cos opener Casey Spooner from Fischerspooner needs his dressing room back and despite heavy Vancouver rains, Scissor Sisters singer Jake Shears is in a buzzygood mood.

The energy is the first thing you notice about him… well, okay, after the fabulous Tom of Finland shirt, ripped build and insane blue eyes. He’s happy. The Scissor Sisters have wrapped a huge tour, released a fine new album and he’s in love with it and kind of wants to lick it all over. That and Josh Homme. And Rentboy.com. You know, the usuals.

Let’s skip the exhaustive lead in. Follow along folks, as Backstage Rider goes backstage with Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters for an exclusive interview and photoshoot. Jake Shears, photo by Kris Krüg

Backstage Rider: Night Work is SO much more fun than Ta-Dah. What went…better this time around?

Jake Shears: I refused to put out a record until we had a great time making one. I love Ta-Dah, I’m proud of it, it’s a little melancholy, but it’s a bitter little record. And I love it for that. But it wasn’t a joyful experience making it, I was really depressed. And you know, I went through that again on this last run, but I knew we could reach a point where there would be a burst of inspiration and that we could have a good time doing it. I just knew it was more important in long run – even if it was going take longer – that we had fun and that we made the record we dreamed of making.

Because you did actually record and play live a bunch of songs for this album that you threw out, didn’t you?

Yeah! There’s an amazing two shows we played at the Mercury Lounge in New York and those will be legendary shows, because we played 12 songs that nobody will ever hear again.

How does the “ditching” process work for you, then? How did you determine what songs lived and which were killed?

There was a day when I just woke up and realized that we had so many songs and we’d been writing for a year and a half. And I realized that though we had this huge bulk of songs, though there was great stuff in there and stuff that I loved, the songs were just a big weight on our shoulders. So I just said ‘cut it’. I’m sure some of those songs will find a cool home one day. It’s always fun to revisit stuff but I was, like, we’re going to have a much better time if we just throw this behind us and start fresh with a nice new perspective. It makes sense that these songs were recorded and written over time, because how the hell do you capture THAT much fun in one sitting or recording bout? But we did! That was the coolest thing! And that’s exactly what I wanted…

The BackstageRider and Jake Shears, Kris Krug photoWas this in Berlin when you fucked off there to find yourself?

Post-Berlin. I went to Berlin by myself and didn’t work at ALL there. I mean, I did some computer stuff and I taught myself some stuff on Logic but I wasn’t writing. I had such a good time and learned so much and my life opened up a little bit that the record just happened real fast once we got back on it. I wanted something that represented a window of time and not sprawling. I didn’t want to put out a record that had been going for a year and a half. I wanted one that to me makes me think of last summer, which is when we wrote it and having a blast…

…and hanging out with Jane Fonda.

That was last spring but it’s really kicked off and it’s been a great year and a half. That moment when I decided to leave and change things? It’s been magical since then. It’s where you want to be. Yeah. My attitude changed. Or maybe it’s just getting older. The success of the last two albums… I hate living with that pressure of that having that gun to your head. From yourself, the record label, everyone being, sort of, ‘where’s the hit?’.

There comes a point where you have to just say fuck off to everybody. I hate using the term ‘artist’, but we started out making music that we wanted to hear, that we wanted to make and that we thought was fun to play and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.

Jake Shears, photo by Kris KrügThe thing that I love about Night Work is that you’re playing with your voice a little more.

Yeah!

I detect a kind of darker new wave thread coming through.

Totally, there’s a couple of new characters that pop up on this record. Who are they? There’s a real kind of sadistic streak that runs through this album that’s not nice. It’s somebody that you do not want to do end up in a dark alley with at a certain point of the night [laughs]. You know what I mean? There’s a couple of really scary people. There’s a bit of danger on it. And I love that. Like “Sex and Violence” is really moody. The stuff we’re writing now is either really moody or upbeat and fun.

How ridiculously cool to have Ian McKellen on it – he’s certainly one who knows how to use his voice for characters. And then there’s a Vincent Price “Thriller” laugh too….

No! No! That’s Ian McKellen, too, on “Any Which Way! We got him to record his crazy laugh. Jake Shears and Casey Spooner, photo by Kris Krüg

Really? It sounds so much like Vincent Price. So how did that McKellen loop come about?

On “Any Which Way”, okay, this may sound totally weird, but that moment with his laughter, I wanted it sound on the record like someone being raped by a synthesizer. So that whole section is keyboard rape.

Primal.

You hear that grindy sound and Ian laughing and me screaming…  and I really wanted to go there. So then with the soliloquy – sorry, oration – BabyDaddy and I wrote it together and someone once asked if it was from Shakespeare and I was like ‘Work!….Uh yes!!’  I like the music to have a phantasmagoric feel. I always to have our albums sound like that. I hate to use the word ‘theatrical’ ….but it’s almost more cinematic.

The album could be a film, really.

Yeah! That’s actually a really good point and contrast to our other records. We have made a lot of theatrical records and Night Work IS more cinematic.

So, speaking of Night Work, a friend found your profile on Rentboy.com and wants to know if you will offer a discount on your hourlies.

No, I go full, full price. I love Rentboy. I know the guys who run it and own it and I just think it’s great. I’m very pro-sex work and have a lot of respect for sex workers and this album also has a lot of love for those who do that as a profession.

Nice. It was a sexy profile indeed. You’ve got a nice ass. And speaking of sexy, Ana’s been working with Duran Duran for their new album. Have you heard the track she’s on?

No! I can’t wait because from what I hear, it sounds amazing! I’ve heard some of the Duran Duran tracks from Mark Ronson, because he’s producing it, and it sounds…….awesome.  It actually sounds like Duran Duran. It doesn’t sound like Timbaland or whatever….it sounds like a great Duran record. Jake Shears, photo by Kris Krüg

So who would YOU kill to work with now if you had a chance?

[Doesn’t miss a beat] Josh Homme.

Really?

Oh yeah. Josh Homme, Trent Reznor and Dave Grohl. All three of them are massive fans of our band too, so…Trent came to see us in LA and they’re awesome. Dave flew his wife to an Oakland show on a jet.

Oh [groans ecstactically]…I mean, Josh. He’s a GENIUS. He seems like tortured soul, maybe, but he’s a fucking genius.

It would be kind of fucking amazing to hear a you-and-Josh collaboration.

Oh my god, can you imagine? It would just be SICK. So ballsy and fuckin’ awesome and I loooove him.

It’d be…controversial. A term that continues to follow you around in almost every reference. Does that word bore you to tears.

No, I don’t mind it! That’s cool. If people think we’re controversial, then fine.

To me, it’s just the Scissor Sisters out there having fun, doing what they do best.

Bono said this once and I heard this from multiple people, but it’s that the most important stuff that you can write and the most important music that actually changes the world is when you are reflecting and writing about your own life and the times that you live in and your experience. And we do make shit up but it comes from a really real place. We’re real people with real lives and we’re not ashamed of it. No-one can dig anything up on me because I’ve already fucking said it all myself.  I have no apologies for any of it. And that’s rock and roll. \m/

All photos by Kris Krüg, exclusively for Backstagerider.com


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