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BOY GEORGE INTERVIEW [2002]

SO RIGHT NOW YOU'RE INVOLVED IN PROMOTING THE BOX-SET, CULTURE CLUB SHOWS AT THE END OF THE YEAR, TABOO IN LONDON, PUTTING TABOO ON IN NEW YORK...

Trying to find a boyfriend...

AND TRYING TO FIND A BOYFRIEND! PLUS I'VE HEARD SOMETHING ABOUT A PERFORMANCE ART PROJECT CALLED THE TWIN...

That's kind of a separate thing though, but it is happening yes...

AND ARE YOU STILL ON THE PROMOTION TRAIL FOR YOUR 'U CAN NEVER B 2 STRAIGHT' ALBUM?

Actually I'm trying to get the album back from Virgin, I mean they did fuck all with it so I want to get it back and then put it on the internet for nothing - in fact I'd like to encourage people to shoplift it! Go to EMI and burn the buildings and steal the albums!

AND IF THAT'S ALL NOT ENOUGH YOU'RE ABOUT TO RELEASE A CULTURE CLUB BOX-SET... I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT I THOUGHT THE BOX-SET WAS GOING TO BE ANOTHER 'HITS' TYPE COMPILATION, AND IT'S MOST CERTAINLY NOT THAT... HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?

Culturally confused and why not!

HOW INVOLVED WERE YOU IN THE WHOLE PUTTING-TOGETHER PROCESS FOR THE ALBUM?

I did it all...

WITHOUT THE REST OF THE BAND?

Well people helped me to source the demos and all that, but I actually sat and did the grafting... so nothing's really changed in that department!

HOW WEIRD WAS IT TO GO BACK THROUGH THAT WHOLE HISTORY AGAIN NOW?

I think it was quite interesting to sort of hear myself try to find my voice - if you listen to the early demo's then they're very Bow Wow Wow and that was what we wanted to do... we wanted to be hip! And then we began to find our own sound you know...

THAT SOUND DOES SEEM TO HAVE VERY MUCH DEVELOPED IN PUBLIC AS IT WERE AS YOU WENT ALONG...

Definitely. My songwriting was originally very wordy and I didn't really know about the structure of songs, and so from working with the band that's how I learnt...

WAS THE SORTING THROUGH THE ARCHIVES A PLEASANT EXPERIENCE?

Yeah, you know I'm a control freak so I quite liked the idea of choosing some tracks... there was a lot of 'no not that one, no not that one...' - you may have noticed that 'The War Song' wasn't on the album... although war IS stupid, and people - some - ARE stupid but you should never tell them that!

YOU HAVE MATERIAL ACROSS THESE FOUR CD's THAT SPANS ALL YOUR VARIOUS INCARNATIONS... CULTURE CLUB, BOY GEORGE, JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO ON... HOW DO THE REST OF CULTURE CLUB FEEL ABOUT THAT?

I haven't asked them. They're going to be making money out of it so what's it to them (laughs)?

WERE YOU INVOLVED IN ANY OF THE REMIX WORK THAT MAKES UP THE FOURTH CD OF THE SET?

The fourth CD was done by the drummer from my own band, Ritchie Stevens, who I've worked with as a solo artist for about ten years, his dad was a very famous avant-garde drummer John Stevens, and he's just a little white boy - well he's not a boy he's a man - who's a black guy trapped in a white mans body so he was perfect and he knows his stuff...

AND WAS HE JUST GIVEN ALL THE CULTURE CLUB MASTERS WITH A TOTALLY FREE HAND?

Yes... Virgin were a bit sceptical to start with, but 'Karma Chameleon', the original one and the new one, well there's just no competition as far as I'm concerned...

YOU'RE PLEASED WITH THE WAY THEY'VE TRANSLATED THROUGH?

Well yes, because they work... and I think also that Ritchie is very respectful of people's work, I mean... some remixers can really be quite insulting and they take your record and it comes back with maybe one line in it! But I think Ritchie just likes working with vocals and has the same respect for me as a writer as I have for him as a producer... he's as mad as a box of frogs but that probably helps in the scheme of things!

DO YOU HAVE ANY PERSONAL FAVOURITES ACROSS THE FOUR CDs?

That's a difficult one... (long silence)

I SUPPOSE THAT GIVEN YOU'VE COMPILED IT THEN KIND OF ALL OF IT IS A FAVOURITE OF SOME SORT?

Well I like some bits more then others... I don't know really, yeah I do like it all and I think for me that it kind of reflects what I grew up with - I mean the seventies and the very early eighties were kind of an eclectic time for music - you had reggae and you had punk, and you had disco and you had everything going on at the same time... The Goombay Dance Band and The Sex Pistols... and The Wombles!

AH THOSE WERE THE DAYS! BUT MORE SERIOUSLY, WE HAVE LIVED THROUGH ALL SORTS OF MOVEMENTS IN MUSIC... DO YOU THINK WE'LL KEEP SEEING NEW SORTS OF MOVEMENTS COMING THROUGH OR HAVE WE SEEN THE BEST OF IT NOW?

My theory, which I've had for about three years, is that the next big musical explosion will be female led - because you know, already people like Peaches and Miss Kitten and all those sorts of acts are using language that is not palatable to daytime radio play which allows them for a while to become best kept secrets, because everything is just swallowed up so quickly now, and that's the downside of the information age... 'whoops, it's gone!' - if punk happened now it would be a B&Q advert in two weeks... which is what happened to jungle! I think that's what's happening now is that there are pockets of resistance and people are interested in just doing there own thing... I mean I will never sign a record deal again, ever. Anything I do in the future will be licensed and I think that's going to happen with a lot of people... and while we're on the subject - Robbie Williams, eighty-million dollars? I just think that's disgusting, it's just taking money away from little bands that need the money...

LOOKING BACK AT CULTURE CLUB... DO YOU SEE THE CAREER TO DATE AS ONE BIG STORY OR IS IT A SERIES OF SMALLER STORIES?

I think we all have very conflicting ideas of what we want to do, and somehow we work it out - and I don't know how we do that...

I SUPPOSE CONFLICT CAN HAVE VERY POSITIVE AND VERY NEGATIVE EFFECTS...

Exactly, when we started the band Bow Wow Wow were our obsession and we had to sound like Bow Wow Wow, and then sort of gradually and as we found the right people to be in the band it gradually began to form its own sound and it did pretty well!

...ON THE FIRST CD OF THE BOX-SET THERE'S A TRACK CALLED 'SHIRLEY TEMPLE MOMENT'...

Well it's not really a track, it's an argument!

IT'S VERY ENTERTAINING!

It is isn't it? It made me laugh! I think it's important to have a sense of humour and I had heard about that tape for years and it was almost one of those urban-myth things - everyone kept saying there was this tape going round of Culture Club rowing and when I heard it I thought it was hysterical, and I thought it was hysterical that we were trying to perform this beautiful song and it was all 'you're a cunt!' and 'you fat bastard!' ...what came out of it was just so funny, but that was always the way - you fought all the time and then something really magical would happen!

SO WAS THAT A FAIRLY TYPICAL CULTURE CLUB MOMENT?

Oh my god, that was the least of it! It's kind of like going home for Christmas being in a band it all starts with what you're going to watch on the TV, the Queen's speech or Top Of The Pops... in my house growing up was volatile to say the least, especially at Christmas!

IS CULTURE CLUB STILL A RECORDING ACT?

Well... myself and Roy have been writing in London, so it is a possibility, but with the last album we did there were a lot of arguments because Roy - I shouldn't be saying this but I will anyway - Roy was kind of trying to be in control of everything and fucked it up! We're working with other people now which I think is a good thing to do because it takes you away from the obvious things that you'd always do, and I think that if we're going to do something new then it has to be totally different from what we've done before...

WHICH IS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION - WHAT WOULD BE THE NEXT THING FOR CULTURE CLUB?

Ummm... a bit Missy Elliott, with a bit of Nirvana, a dash of Ziggy... a potent cocktail, a potpourri!

CULTURE CLUB HAVE DATES COMING AT AT THE END OF THE YEAR... WILL THEY INVOLVE NEW MATERIAL?

Well, there's a lot of new material on this record and there will be yeah... I mean it'll be next year before we can record anything, if Taboo goes to Broadway then we'll be there for eight months...

DOES THE IDEA OF TAKING 'TABOO' TO BROADWAY FILL YOU WITH EXCITEMENT OR DREAD?

Both... I don't know, but you can't not do things because you're worried about what people are going to say - you can't make everyone love you. It took me years to realise that! (implores) Love me please... I'm nice!

HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU BEING BOY GEORGE THESE DAYS? YOU SEEM TO BE A VERY DIFFERENT PERSON TO WHO YOU WERE IN THE HEADY DAYS OF CULTURE CLUB...

Well I'm older, and more lived in! I don't know really, I think you have to make a choice to change if you know what I mean - you can be sixty and be a retard, or be two years old and be a genius and I think that kids have that knocked out of them when they're growing up. In my case my father was always telling me to shut up so now I'm making up for lost time!

WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS THE APPEAL OF CULTURE CLUB BECAUSE IT WAS SO BROAD?

Me (laughs)! I think we wrote good songs, I think we looked good, and I think that a lot of misfits connected with us and there were a lot of them out there, gay, straight, overweight, with braces, whatever...

MY GRANDMA LOVED YOU... 'THAT LOVELY BOY GEORGE'...

I know! I don't know what my appeal was for old ladies - how little they knew! But you know people of all ages come to see 'Taboo' and it's quite a racy show - I would have made it more racy - but people don't seem to be that offended. We've had a couple of people walk out... a few uptight grannies going 'they're walking around in underpants! what are they wearing!'. In fact there was one lady who went up to the manager of the theatre and said 'I've cheated! Boy George isn't in this show!' and he said yes he is - he's the lead! And I found her in the audience and said 'It is me you know!' and she said 'I know - and you're spoiling yourself!'...

LOOKING BACK AT EVERYTHING YOU'VE ACHIEVED, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU'RE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF?

Um... yes there's a few songs I think are great; 'Unfinished Business' - I like that, 'If I Could Fly', 'Il Adore', 'Bow Down Mister'... I mean you have to write one happy song in your life!

YOU MUST HAVE WRITTEN MORE THAN ONE!

Have I? Name three...

WELL KARMA CHAMELEON'S QUITE CHIRPY ISN'T IT?

Yes, on the surface... we're talking about the undercurrent here which I think was always the irony of the band anyway... we had this kind of very brightly, shiny, colourful surface, but underneath there's this sort of dark melancholy - which I like! But you know, people just don't listen to words which really shocks me - I have the whole of Bowie's catalogue in my head and he forgets the words!

DO YOU FEEL THAT CULTURE CLUB EVER REALLY GOT THE RESPECT DUE TO THEM?

Difficult question to answer really, the media sort of disrespected us, but the people who bought the music - the fans, they loved it and there are faces that have been around for twenty-years that I still see at gigs...

YOUR FANBASE IS CERTAINLY PHENOMENAL - THERE'S SUCH A DEDICATED HARDCORE...

There are some really quite amazing people, but I wonder sometimes where they get their money from... when I was into Bowie when I was growing up, the option of flying to America to see him play was just unthinkable so when I see fans in Brazil or Singapore it like 'My god, it's Dawn and Julie!"

DO YOU HAVE ANY UNFULFILLED AMBITIONS?

To sleep with David Beckham!

ANYTHING ELSE?

To carry on doing what I do on my terms and getting paid for it...

NOVEMBER 2002

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