From his time bending genders as front man for the MTV pioneering Culture Club, through a periodic solo career and unexpected rebirth as a DJ, Boy George is unquestionably one of the most prominent personalities on the planet. Now back with his first individual studio album in 18 years, the flamboyant favorite catches IE’s Andy Argyrakis up to speed on his recent whereabouts, why he never reads his own press and some exciting reunion rumblings.
Illinois Entertainer: What brought the bug back to do a new solo studio album?
Boy George: I’ve wanted to make a record for a long time, but I haven’t been with a label since ’95. [The delay came] just from the idea of “do I want to try to go out and find a record deal?” You just think “oh my God.” It’s a bit like trying to find a new boyfriend or something! It all came together when I changed management a couple of years ago and we talked about the different ways of doing this. I decided just to make it myself, pay for it myself, and then I did the deal with Kobalt [Label Services], who thus far have done a really good job. I like the situation because it means I own the record and I also had the creative [freedom].
IE: This is a very fresh sounding record, but it’s different from some of your pop hits. Was that a conscious decision or just where your muse was at the moment?
BG: I think it’s a mixture of things. I didn’t want to try to make a record that sounded like the records I’m hearing on the radio because I wouldn’t really know where to start. I think you can only ever do what you do, and at this point, I’ve got a way of writing and a way of thinking that’s unique to me. I think I’ve always used my music as a diary and [a reflection of] the way I see the world. For this record, I’ve gone back to all the things I’ve loved as a kid, from Bowie to reggae to the ’70s – it’s really amazing.
IE: What inspired the title, This Is What I Do?
BG: I was actually doing an interview on a TV show in the UK in advance of my album, but I didn’t have a title. I was asked on the spot and I just said ‘I’m going to call it This Is What I Do.” It just came out and felt like the right title, I suppose in a way because the last few years a lot of stuff has been written about me that’s got nothing to do with music. This is a statement of intent for me. This is what I do, let me do it.
IE: Do you ever pay attention to what’s written about you anymore?
BG: No, I don’t. When I was younger, I would consume everything and was really diligent about it. The more you read about yourself, the more you kind of lose who you really are, so these days, I tend to not read stuff unless it’s lying around or somebody forces it on me…I think if people love you, they don’t really care what’s written about you. It’s just the bitches that kind of want to retweet stuff and make silly comments!
IE: If you were a new artist today, do you think the whole aspect of your sexuality would be easier or do you think you’d get the same questions you got in the ’80s?
BG: In terms of being a gay person in the public eye, it’s all about what kind of gay person you are – if you’re somebody who kind of blends in or somebody who’s provocative. It’s really all about your relationship with yourself and not just your relationship with the world. There are all types of gay people and ways they carry themselves. I was unique and I still am unique in a sense. I don’t think of myself as a gay artist. I don’t think everything I do is about my sexuality. It’s part of who I am, but I feel like my message is about being different on any level, whether it’s not being the prettiest person in the room, not being the thinnest or the tallest. I always felt like my message was about anybody who felt outside. There are a lot of gay people I’ve got nothing in common with- I would say the majority (laughs). The only thing is I fancy guys…I just think [popularity] is an all encompassing thing. Was it the way I looked, the way I sang, the way I talked? I don’t know. I think sometimes your energy is powerful at certain times of your life and things work – and sometimes they don’t work- but it’s just the nature of the culture. I think it’s impossible to pinpoint any reason why something’s popular because I’m always hearing things people are going crazy about and thinking “really? Is something wrong with me that I don’t get this?”
IE: What can we expect from your solo show these days?
BG: We’ll do stuff from the album, obviously and some things that people know, obviously. I’m not going to be coming and doing torch songs – I’m coming to have a good time! Their will be a few hits, a few new things and some interesting covers. We want to try to keep it interesting for ourselves on stage and don’t want to do a robotic show every night. We do a lot of acoustic stuff and can just throw things in at the last minute, so it keeps it fresh for us as well.
IE: Do you feel like solo artistry is going to be your exclusive future or do you feel like there’s room for a Culture Club reunion?
BG: There’s definitely room for Culture Club. We’re all going to do something this year. We’ve been writing and will be recording at some point in the next few months. It’s gonna happen– it’s the next thing on my shopping list!
IE: What were your proudest moments from the group’s first go around?
BG: That’s a really difficult question. I felt like we always needed to settle the score with each other in terms of the music because we hadn’t really resolved that. The celebrity side of what we were doing overtook what we were doing as a band, so I think what I’m really proud of is coming. I’m able now to appreciate what I do in a way I couldn’t do when I was younger. I was on this roller coaster ride in the early ‘80s. One minute I was just a normal person in the street who looked a bit weird, and the next thing I knew I’d been on TV and was famous all over the world. I was just really young and unable to absorb what was going on. There were some great moments, like playing Madison Square Garden or getting to number one with “Karma Chameleon,” but my ability to enjoy those things is much better now. It’s a different thing because I’m much closer to what I do now than what I did then and I realize how lucky I am to do what I do. To get paid to do what I love – it’s kind of crazy!
Boy George appears at House of Blues Chicago on Saturday, April 26. Q&A conducted by Andy Argyrakis.
Tickets available HERE