It’s hard to believe that Scissor Sisters – our favourite glam-disco-electro-pop band, ever – formed back in 2001, and received their first Grammy nomination 8 years ago (for disco classic, Comfortably Numb). Since then their career has reached dizzying heights, with consecutive chart topping hits, collaborations with pop royalty (Kylie, Elton John) and the title of best pop group in the world, bestowed by none other than Bono of U2. To celebrate the release of their latest critically acclaimed album Magic Hour, the songwriters of the group, lead vocalist Jake Shears and Keyboard / Bassist Babbydady joined us in East London to discuss fame, their musical tips for the future, and why they hate the fashion scene. So candid, open and warm, it isn’t surprising that The Scissor Sisters are as much loved now as they were a decade ago.
WHAT WERE YOUR INSPIRATIONS WHEN WORKING ON MAGIC HOUR?
Jake: My friends more than anything. I met so many awesome people over the last couple of years, and have made amazing friends who have been so super inspiring.
IS IT NOT HARD FOR SOMEONE WITH YOUR CELEBRITY STATUS TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS?
J: Well, I definitely don’t live my life like any sort of celebrity. I just don’t. I don’t feel like that. I’m a friendly person and I’m always open to making new friends. I love other people that love music.
I was in Ibiza with some buddies of mine, and the sun was just about coming up – we were on a roof-top overlooking the ocean – it was so beautiful. I played them “Horses”, we’d been up all night, and it was such a cool, magical moment. That’s why I called the record “Magic Hour”, because that was the magic hour.
DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE TO REINVENT YOURSELF WITH EACH ALBUM?
J: I don’t really want to make the same record over and over again. But we always keep in certain motifs like a stonking piano, or an octave bass line.
ARE THERE ANY SONGS OF YOURS THAT YOU JUST CAN’T LISTEN TO ANY MORE?
J: There’s a song on our second record called “Everybody Wants The Same Thing” and I think it’s fucking terrible. It’s an awful, awful song. Although there are some fans that love it.
Babydaddy: That’s the charm of this band – we didn’t always really know what we were doing. There are definitely some B-sides that are cringe-worthy.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE COLLABORATIONS SO FAR?
J: Kylie will always be the most memorable, and our times with Elton (John). When we first wrote with Elton it was on the stage at Caesar’s Palace, Vegas, on the red piano. We were writing there every day to an empty arena. We set up a studio on the stage. That was very memorable.
WHO WOULD YOU WANT TO COLLABORATE WITH IN THE FUTURE?
B: We always say Dolly (Parton) would be really fun. Probably once a year we send her an email asking if she’ll work with us.
J: Nothing yet!
B: I’m sure she’s just really busy? (laughs)
J: I wanna collaborate with KD Lang. We’ve done some back and forth a bit. She likes us, but I haven’t quite convinced her yet.
B: There are so many exciting talented people out there.
SO WHO ARE SOME UPCOMING TALENTS THAT YOU’RE TIPPING AT THE MOMENT?
J: This last year I’ve been a big fan of what Spank Rock’s been doing. He’s from Philly, he does hip hop. And my favourite band from this last year that nobody knows is Young Galaxy. They put out a record called “Shapeshifting” and it was my favourite from 2011.
B: Another you love is Dominique Young Unique. She’s going to be playing shows with us. She’s sick.
J: She’s like 19, from Tampa, Florida, a wicked rapper.
B: And not that this is underground, but we also love 2 Bears.
AND WHAT ABOUT AZAELIA BANKS, WHO YOU HAVE COLLABORATED WITH?
B: We’ve known her for a few years. We shared work colleagues.
AND DIRTY SENSIBILITIES …
J: We do both have dirty sensibilities, most definitely.
B: She’s way dirtier than us!
J: I’m pretty dirty. I’m pretty filthy. But she’s super talented
ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS THAT YOU GET SICK OF BEING ASKED IN INTERVIEWS?
J: The one that I get sick of the most is, “Why do you think you’re bigger in the UK than you are in America”. The reason is because this question keeps getting asked! It’s like a self-perpetuating problem. I’ll never forget…you know what made that happen? Right when we put our first record out, we were building a fan-base in America, and it had really taken off over here, and I remember the New York Times, the fucking cunts, in a little arts blurb they put the headline “Hot Over There, Cold Over Here”. We hadn’t even had a chance yet.
AND YOU THINK THAT HAD AN IMPACT?
J: I think it had a major impact and it created that line.
IS IT TRUE THAT YOU MET ANA AT DISNEY LAND?
J: No – that was an early lie!
B: It is still all over the internet.
SO HOW DID YOU GUYS MEET?
J: She doesn’t remember this, but I met her at a loft party in 2000. She has no recollection!
B: Me and Jake both knew each other before. Ana invited us to perform at this party. That night, she was hosting, and she then joined the Scissor Sisters.
WAS THE BAND NAME YOUR BRAINCHILD?
DID YOU WANT TO CAUSE SOME CONTROVERSY WITH THAT NAME?
B: Our original name was actually too controversial.
J: But we’re not going to even repeat that. You can find out on the internet. We came up with the logo once we came up with the name, and that was it.
HOW IMPORTANT IS FASHION TO YOU?
B: I mean, we love wearing nice things. We don’t really go to fashion shows.
J: To be quite honest, I fucking hate fashion. I do. Not in an awful way, but one of my least favourite places on the planet is a fashion show. They stress me the fuck out!
B: Ana often says we love clothes and we love style, but we don’t love “fashion”.
J: New York fashion parties, and that world… I have no fun around it. Music choices in fashion shows are really interesting though.
B: I like to meet people that make clothes, and when we get our own clothes designed we love that.
J: I love in a photoshoot experimenting, and when you take an item of clothing and do something unexpected with it.
B: Just like any industry, fashion can become a bit of a rat race, and if we get really obsessed with fashion it will become about who wore that before us, and we’ve been trying to avoid that. That’s why plenty of stuff that Jake will wear is vintage.
J: Although I do like dressing up for the airport!
FOR THE PAPS?
J: Oh please! (laughs) I do like wearing some crazy shit on an airplane. I have these rainbow PAM sweats.
DO YOU NOT GET FOLLOWED BY THE PAPS?
J: Hell no! Nobody gives a shit!
B: When you look like a hippy bag lady it’s hard to be recognized as Jake Shears.
J: We’ve never courted it. It’s like herpes, it’s like once you got it, you got it. You can ask the universe for it but once it comes, you gotta live with it.
B: It’s the prime example of a double-edged sword. People really, really work that angle so they can get famous but the other side is that you’re life is miserable. We never want to court controversy to sell records.
MAYBE JUST OCCASIONALLY PUTTING A TOPLESS PICTURE ON YOUR TWITTER WILL SUFFICE?!
J: Occasionally? What do you mean occasionally? All the time!
B: But you know what? Whether he was playing music or not, that’s what he would be doing!
B: It’s about the “Jake Shears brand”.
J: He’s saying that with sarcasm…
WHAT DOES THE JAKE SHEARS BRAND REPRESENT?
J: I think fun, freedom, passion and joy.
YOU’VE LASTED A LONG TIME AS FAR AS BANDS GO. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
J: I think we work well together and we love each other.
B: We’ll get in a fight sometimes and Jake will say, “you know how much worse it could be?” We’ve seen other bands and we’ve seen other problems. We are pretty much a little family.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE AT THE MOMENT?
J: I think she is done. It’s finished. It’s fucking over.
B: I’m not quite as cynical …
J: I don’t think music is going anywhere, but I think the music business as we know it is over.
B: I think it had too long of a run as it was anyway. The idea of huge corporations controlling all of it lasted for longer than it should of.
J: I have a feeling that eventually that Universal and Sony are going to combine, like one’s going to buy the other out and it will be one record label that will go until it can’t go any more. I think publishing, movies, music, porn, all of it is getting turned on its head. Anything we consume for entertainment. It’s very, very hard now, and will remain more difficult to make any sort of a living on creative pursuits.
Interviewed by Holly Rubenstein for IDOL Magazine (www.idolmag.co.uk)
Photography by Elliott Morgan