When you're a member of a band with as much cult prestige as the Scissor Sisters, being "just another rocker" is simply not an option. For a group known for their ability to combine electroclash kitsch with power-anthem pop, the Sisters are celebrated for their devotion to the outrageous and larger than life personas. The band's "take no prisoners" approach to life has earned them fans the world over, myself included.
As such, the Scissor Sisters themselves tend to get as much attention for their deliciously dazzling personalities as they do for their music. That said, while I have great love for the band's two front people, Jake Shears and Ana Matronic (Trannyshack/Midnight Mass alum, represent), I've always had my eye on the Sister's axe-man, Del Marquis.
Maybe it's because he's got his own brand of mysterious cool.
Maybe it's because I have a thing for guitarists.
... or maybe it's because the dude can rock like no other.
From David Gilmour to Bootsy Collins, Del Marquis has the uncanny ability to echo some of guitar's greats, even while maintaining a style all his own. It's a talent Marquis has been putting on display since his debut with the Scissor Sisters, and with the release of his latest project, Tickle, is showing he can shine just as brightly on his own.
Marquis has gone solo before, releasing several EPs in 2009 when the Scissor Sisters were on hiatus, but this latest, a collaboration with vocalist Xavier, is the first the artist feels is a fully formed endeavor.
Referring to the release as a "mixtape," Del Marquis offered the project this week for free to fans, leading with the funky single "Say Ooh Damn." The mixtape offers several other tracks, including a delicious cover of an oft forgotten Jermaine Jackson single.
With his new music bursting forth into the world, I was able to snag a few moments with Del Marquis to talk about this amazing work. From his connection to the Purple One to details of an eventual full-length solo album, this master of the Kiki and I cover all the dish on a project that has left me tickled.
Here's what Del had to say:
In 2009, you released a series of EPs while you were on hiatus from the Scissor Sisters. In conversation with Idolator, you mentioned that you didn't feel the work on those projects was fully formed. Could you maybe elaborate on your artistic evolution from those EPs to Tickle? Do you feel you've achieved with this work what may have been missing from the previous?
When I started work on the EPs, my only experience was as a guitar player. I had never written lyrics and had never produced music beyond a demo or two. I can't say I had ambition to do more until I saw Jake & BD [Babydaddy- MV] work in the studio. So with some downtime, I got a copy of Logic and went forward with blind fury, if only to prove to myself I was more than a guitar player. This time around, I knew exactly what kind of record I wanted, how to write a bass line or program a drum pattern for a specific feel... and if there was something I couldn't play well enough, I simply gave my hack bass line or drum tracks to musicians who could give it linearity.
For your backing band on this mixtape, you're joined by none other than the New Power Generation, the one-time backing band of Prince. How did this collaboration fall into place?
My engineer and mix engineer have worked with those guys on different projects; Michael Bland and Tommy Barbarella do a lot of session work, but I don't think they had actually all been in the same room recording in some time. Sonny Thompson was the missing link. I've never seen someone so gifted. He taught Prince how to play guitar when they were teenagers, and he's an even better bass player. Needless to say, I heard some Dave Chappelle worthy stories that I can never repeat!
Similarly, could you tell us how you and Xavier came to work together? After working so steadily with vocalists as a member of a band, is it a whole different dynamic working with someone new?
I've known Xavier for as long as I've been a member of Scissors. I've always loved his style. It's a soul vocal that works in pop production. He has a skill for arrangement and editing, which makes me think of how Nile Rodgers complemented Bernard Edwards in the same way in his autobiography.
Belters are great, and I have quite a few that sing on my record, but sometimes it's harder to find a voice that lets you hear the music around it, as well as commands attention at the same time. That's Xavier to me. In Scissors, I think everyone but me is on a mic. I once had a mic, but they took it away from me after only two shows. Rightfully so, it's not like we're Fleetwood Mac or CSN! They'd rather I move around.
On this new release, you not only cover Jermaine Jackson's 1982 song "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy," but I saw, via Twitter, that you purposely revolved the whole mixtape around it. I assume the track has some sort of significance to you. What about this particular Jermaine Jackson jam tickles your fancy?
Every summer my friends and I decide what the song of the moment is for us: Something new / something old. What music fan isn't digging around the dustbin of pop ? When I saw that Devo were involved with that song, it was just too bizarre to pass up. Today's equivalent is something like Florence & ASAP Rocky or XX & Solange. But 'Tickle' is just such a great song. Jermaine's only crime is that he wasn't Michael! Well, that and his odd hairline.
This past summer's lost gem was "Love Is All That Matters" by Human League. However, I have no plans to cover that.
From Jermaine Jackson to Johnny Marr, you've always been very open about your influences and inspirations. Although you seem very rooted in rock, your work, both solo and with Scissor Sisters, has taken you across a wide range of styles. I'm curious to know if there's any particular artist that inspires you that fans might be surprised to learn about.
Guitar happened because of the records coming out between 1987-1992. Ozzy, Alice in Chains, the Cult, Metallica... guitar was at the front of the mix back then. It hasn't been featured in the same way for a while. It's now more of a rhythmic element, buried in the mix. When I started writing, guitar was my least inspirational instrument, so I almost always began with drums and bass. I realized I'm more influenced by the radio pop and R&B of my youth when it comes to writing.
I will say that my favorite singer is Chaka Khan, and my favorite record of hers is What Cha' Gonna Do for Me.
You've said that this mixtape is a precursor to what you hope will be a full-length LP. As your musical influences vary, what can fans expect from a full-length Del Marquis album? And more importantly... when?!
The record is coming out under the name Slow Knights, and is decidedly R&B laced pop. I only sing lead on one song, otherwise there are a few different singers, and co-writers as well. The record will be out end of March.
To get your own free download of Del Marquis and Xavier's mixtape Tickle, visit Del's site here.