Scissor Sisters interview
The pop group talk sexual politics, drag queen slang and kissing girls with Kim Taylor Bennett
Nestled in the marbled, mirrored opulence of the Embankment’s Corinthia Hotel, three quarters of the Scissor Sisters – Jake Shears, Ana Matronic and Babydaddy – look relaxed and casual. Cheekily ribald and candid, they make great company, but as their sold out show later that night attests, the band really reign supreme when entertaining the thousands and peppering glitter-glam, disco-spangled super hits like ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’, Take Your Mama’ and ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’’ with sexual innuendo and high-energy choreography and high-camp antics.
Since emerging in 2004 with their falsetto electro cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, they’ve worked with Elton John and Kylie, toured with Lady Gaga, performed at Live 8 and had Bono label them ‘the best pop group in the world’. Their new fourth record, ‘Magic Hour’ is a mix of disco dazzlers (‘Inevitable’), clubland booty bouncers (‘Keep Your Shoes On’ and ‘Shady Love’ with Azealia Banks), tender tunes (‘Somewhere’) and kitsch-cute cuts (‘Let’s Have a Kiki’). Where their last record was co-produced by Stuart ‘Madonna’ Price, this album features a surprising cast including Boys Noize, Diplo, Pharrell Williams, John Legend and the ubiquitous Calvin Harris. We sat down for a rather revealing chat.
What does ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’ mean?
Ana Matronic ‘Kiki is drag queen slang. It can mean gossip or a good time. “I’ll call you back, my girl’s on the other line and we’ve got to have a kiki.” Did you go to the club last night? “Everybody was there, we had such a kiki!” There’s also the term “Kyky” which is totally different – that’s two drag queens getting off with each other.’
Jake Shears ‘I was in the most garbagey club in Barcelona a few years ago, which started at 6am and was full of South American men with plastic surgery. I walked over to the corner and there were two probably post-op trannies getting it on! That is like a unicorn! I’d never seen any such thing! It really was a sight!’
You only finished touring 2010’s ‘Night Work’ last year and Jake, went straight into working on the musical theatre adaptation of ‘Tales of the City’.
JS ‘I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, but it was wicked and we’re still doing it. Eventually we’ll bring it over to London – but I think we’ll take it to workshop in New York first.’
Was it a no brainer when you were approached?
JS ‘Yeah! It was like jumping off a cliff. When we finally did the production last year it was five years after I got the initial phone call asking if I wanted to be involved. Now it’s been six and it’ll be four more years before we make it over to London – I guarantee it! It was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done.’
Was it hard to come back together to do this album?
JS ‘The schedule for “Tales of the City” was so crazy: it previewed for two weeks before it opened, and two nights in, I’m like, “This second song isn’t working.” So in 17 hours, I have to write a song, the cast has to learn it and we have to block it for the next day! It kind of loosened me up a bit – you have to be fearless. With this record I cared but I didn’t care, I just wanted to have fun and write stupid silly songs and some sweet ones and not overthink the album.’
How do you feel about Obama finally and definitively speaking out about gay marriage in America?
JS ‘It’s great, but ridiculous too. He’s like, “Oh, I support gay marriage, but I also believe in states deciding themselves.” It was so bass-ackward.’
Babydaddy ‘He was cornered, but he did it. I do think the evolution of their thinking is really positive, understanding that not everyone knows what it’s like to be gay, realising that there are people who do different things than you and you have to be accepting of those things.’
And now of course Mitt Romney is using it against him…
AM ‘He’ll use anything because he ain’t gonna win. None of the Republicans want him to win. The Republican Party is in a shambles!’
JS ‘The last Republican primaries were hysterical. That cast of characters, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain…’
AM ‘Who quoted the “Pokemon” theme song in his speech not once, but twice! The political reporter Rachel Maddow did a whole piece about how she believed Herman Cain’s candidacy was actually a performance piece and I like to think of the entire Republican Party as a performance piece. Michele Bachmann makes Sarah Palin look like Margaret Thatcher.’
JS ‘I’d love to think it was a performance piece if it wasn’t so damaging to the people who don’t understand.’
You’ve looped the globe many times and your experiences are vast and varied, but can you remember one pinch-yourself-moment?
AM ‘Live 8. Looking around it was like being in a dream – everywhere I rested my eyes I saw someone insanely famous. Oh there’s Madonna, there's Paul McCartney.’
JS ‘For me it was probably getting to do aerobics with Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons for World Fitness Day in Atlanta in front of about 5000 housewives. It was amazing.’
AM ‘It was for the World Record attempt for the number of people working out at once. There’s footage of it and Jake has this terrified look on his face.’
JS ‘I was shitting myself.’
What were you wearing?
JS ‘I was very classy, I wore a black Comme des Garçons tank top and Y-3 trousers. I’m not going to compete with Richard Simmons who was wearing a bedazzled Smurf blue tank top. It was one of those moments though – this is what I was born to do!’
What’s New York like now versus when you first moved there?
AM ‘Boring! Alcatraz for the rich. It feels like downtown is turning into one large NYU campus and everywhere else is turning into delightful pied-à-terres for the one percent.’
JS ‘It’s a lot of money. What’s still amazing about New York is the access you have everyday to educate yourself in anything – whether it’s art shows or movies or concerts. Whatever you want is there. And there’s more going on than you could ever shake a stick at. Also I do love New York’s weird crazy house parties.’
AM ‘There’s very little nightlife. There’s a few places of note like Le Bain, and Susanne Bartsch is still there throwing parties, thank God! There’s still vestiges of that old fun sleazy NY but the fun and the sleaze is moving east or up to Harlem and the Bronx. Those places are becoming more vital.’
How was working with Azealia Banks?
JS ‘She’s cute! This sounds really twisted, but when I’m around her I totally want to make out with her.’
AM ‘I’ve known you for ten years and that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you say that about a woman.’
JS ‘Really? I am kind of attracted to her. I actually made out with a woman at a party a few weeks ago. I started kissing her and she was kind of freaked out and I was like, “I haven’t kissed a woman in a long time, just get into it!” It was kind of hot.’
AM ‘Women are amazing kissers. I’ve kissed so many boys in my life and not all of them are good kissers, and I’ve kissed a handful of women in my life and they were all good kissers – all of them! If they ain’t got it in the lips, they ain’t getting it in my hips, no way.’
‘Magic Hour’ is out now on Polydor. Buy it from Amazon.