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Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters | Interview

The Scissor Sisters frontman plays Chicago on Pride Sunday. The gay gods smile.

Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Photo illustration: Jamie DiVecchio Ramsay
Jake Shears

I’m told to ask for Judith Light. I call the London hotel, give the actress’s name, and then listen as the room phone keeps ringing. This happens again and again. Each time, the same British desk clerk politely insists on the name: “Uh,” I say, “Judith Light?” A few weeks later, when the person I’m actually trying to interview, Jake Shears, answers his cell phone, he’s walking outside in Manhattan’s Tribeca. On Pride Sunday, the singer born Jason Sellards leads his dance-disco band the Scissor Sisters at the Vic and then at an after-party at Berlin, in support of their fourth album, Magic Hour.

Were you really staying with the star of Who’s the Boss?
[Laughs] That’s my second name sometimes—and my e-mail address. She found out recently. She’s so lovely. I worship her as a person and an actor. I hope she wins the Tony this year. [Note: She did.]

Several years ago you said Scissor Sisters found greater success in the U.K. than the U.S. partly because Brits don’t care as much about the band’s sexuality. Is that still true?
I blame it all on The New York Times. A week after our album came out in the States—the first album, in 2004—the Times put out the headline “Hot Over There, Cold Over Here.” But our first weeks in the U.K. didn’t do very well, either, but we worked at it and built it up. It’s that fucking New York Times piece. It affected how people think of us.

One theme in Magic Hour is tested love, like in “Baby Come Home”: “I don’t mind if you’re running around.… Baby, come home to me.”
Yeah, in “Best in Me” as well. It’s the fact that you’re shocked that someone would put up with you after all this time. It’s that post–bad behavior. In “Best in Me,” those lyrics are, like, I’m a mess and I don’t really know how you are still here, but here you are.

Are you surprised your boyfriend still puts up with you?
I am. I always have been. I don’t know how he’s got the patience. I’m not the easiest person in the world to be partners with. I’m never home. I’m constantly running around the world. I can be impatient. I have a temper. I’m, like, self-obsessed. I’m irritable, self-absorbed. And sometimes I just think, Christ, I’m really lucky to have somebody that doesn’t take any of that too seriously.

And what does he say: “Yeah, you are lucky”?
[Laughs] No, I think sometimes I’m harder on myself than I should be.

Just coincidence that Scissor Sisters are playing Chicago right after our Pride Parade?
It is coincidence, but I’m so excited. I don’t know why I’m not the fucking grand marshal! No one fucking asked me! [Laughs]

When you were 15, Dan Savage advised you to come out to your parents. He’s since said it was terrible advice.
It was good advice. Dan’s one of my best friends. I’ve known Dan since I was 15, and he and Terry and [their son] D.J. are just like my family. Dan was so instrumental in my life as a teenager. I think he saw in me a smart kid that wanted to be free and live my life, and he took me under his wing. He took me to my first AIDS funeral. He let me live in his basement when I was on break from college. His mother took my mom to her first PFLAG meeting. Yes, he told me to come out to my parents. I did. It was tough for a month. But they got over it, and he was instrumental in them getting over it.

It’s one thing to come out at 15, but another to be so publicly out in your career. How has your family responded to that?
Nothing really fazes them much anymore. They love it. What drives my mom and dad crazy is if I get political. That’s what they fucking hate. They’re conservative, you know.

You had an early stint in go-go dancing, and there haven’t been many photos of you with your shirt on.
[Laughs] There still aren’t.

Are you shirtless now, walking around Tribeca?
No, but I’m pretty sexed up at the moment. I’m dressed kind of slutty. I’ve got supertight jeans on with, like, some booty, and combat boots and a sleazy little tank top. I’m a pretty sexual person. That’s definitely a way that I also like to express myself. I love sex. In some other parallel life, I would’ve been a porn star.

“Keep Your Shoes On” has the lines, “Just like a beauty queen / Poppin’ loads of Benzedrine / Acting like forever 17.” Now that you’re 33, is your relationship to the party scene changing?
That’s part of the struggle, you know: When do you stop refusing to grow up? It’s always in my brain, like, when do you start acting like an adult? And the reality is I don’t want to, but yeah, that’s what a lot of these songs are about.

Do you need to? Seems like you’ve made a career out of not growing up.
Yeah, but you just gotta keep it cute.

On June 24, Scissor Sisters play the Vic at 7:30pm and Berlin at 10pm.

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