A Conversation With Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears
Mike Ragogna: Hello Jake.
Jake Shears: Hi, how you doing?
MR: Pretty good. How are you doing, sir?
JS: I'm great. I'm really good, and very busy. It's been insane.
MR: You're huge around the world, but in the United States, it seems like you're still a breaking act, and I kind of don't understand that. Right now, you're on tour with Lady Gaga?
JS: Yeah, we've been on the road with Lady Gaga for a little while. We're doing a bunch of shows with her and it's been a blast. We've been having so much fun playing to these crowds because the crowds have been amazing, and really receptive and fun. It keeps things exciting. We have different levels of success all over the world, and for us as a band, we're always on our toes. We can go from playing an arena one month to playing someone's tiny, little club somewhere else, or a festival in Tokyo or something. We sort of migrate from all sorts of different stages.
MR: I guess you had some training from when you began in clubs in the East Village in New York. Now, your first album, Scissor Sisters was nominated for a Grammy, and you went from being a band that was building its presence to being an internationally recognized band. What was that like?
JS: To us, it was years of working, writing, playing, and having dreams, staying focused, and believing in ourselves. So, it didn't necessarily feel like overnight for us. It's been amazing. When I was growing up, one of my favorite bands was Nine Inch Nails--I loved Nine Inch Nails--and there are bands like The Cure or Daft Punk, or all these great bands that are one of a kind and totally unique to themselves that will kind of always be a mainstay. That's what I want Scissor Sisters to be--a band that's been our own thing. There will be no other Scissor Sisters.
MR: What's interesting is that you proudly wear your influences on your sleeve, as far as your productions and songs, and it always feels inspired.
JS: That's just what you do as an artist. I hate using the word artist-- I just think it's silly--but anyone making music is going to make music that is inspired by the things you like and have been inspired by. It's all about what different flavors you can give it and what kind of context you can put it in to make it relevant, or to make it unique.
MR: There's a story that when you guys sang at Glastonbury with Kylie Minogue, you guys apparently put on quite a show together?
JS: Yeah, she's a great friend and collaborator, and somebody that I love being with and the band loves being with. We've got a great history with her now, and she did that number with us a weekend before the record came out. She came out and did that song ("Any Which Way") with us in front of one hundred-thousand people, and it was amazing.
MR: Bono has said that Scissor Sisters was the best pop group in the world.
JS: Yeah. Yes, he did.
MR: How did you react to that?
JS: I hope that we've become just one of the best groups in the world. I don't know if we're pop or what we are, but I think that we work really hard to be a great recording entity and a great live entity.
MR: You're also pals with Elton John?
JS: He is one of my dearest and nearest friends and collaborators, yes. I've been writing a musical that opens in San Francisco in June called Tales Of The City, which is based on a novel from the '70s. It's been a real learning experience. I've been working on it for four years, and finally, we're going into rehearsals in April. It stars Betty Buckley and it's super-exciting. Elton has been a real great sounding board for that show as well, and was somebody who inspired me to pursue it and tell me I click to it.
MR: That's fabulous. Elton continues to be such a ball of energy.
JS: He is. He inspires me so much, and he gives Babydaddy and I an unconditional love. Our relationship is amazing, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
MR: Speaking of collaborations, you had one with Global Cool on green lifestyle initiatives. Can you tell us about that?
JS: Oh man, that was so long ago. It was an Internet show that we did with them--I think it was a Halloween show. It was a one off, and it was a fun thing to do and interesting. You learn a lot about ways to save energy as a band, and ways to leave a lighter (foot)print on the Earth.
MR: How do you feel about solar power? You're being recorded at a radio station that is solar powered.
JS: Exactly! That's amazing. I'm just getting a place in Tennessee at the moment, and so many of the people that I know there are living in a very interesting way off of very little energy, and it's really exciting. My friend has a farm outside of Nashville that is entirely green.
MR: Nice. Back to the tour with Lady Gaga, what are the plans for that long-term?
JS: We do like twenty-five shows with her, or something, and right when we finish that, I'm going off to the musical in San Francisco. So, my schedule is pretty crazy. Then, we go into Coachella and then Bonnaroo in June, and then some more dates later in the summer in the UK, so, it's a lot. We've already been on the road for almost a year.
MR: Now, Lady Gaga has been very supportive of gay rights and issues over the past few years. What kind of progress do you see in the LGBT world?
JS: Well, she's been very outspoken on gay rights, and having our band there as well. It's a very gay tour--it's got a very pro-gay theme to it. There is nobody else doing what she's doing, as far as a mainstream act speaking out the way that she is. There has been a trend this past year in pop music with Katy Perry, Kesha, and Pink all putting out these sort of pro-gay anthems. Alex Hawgood wrote this great article in The New York Times wondering if this is calculated, or why all these girls are going pro-gay. I think it's really great. Whether it's calculated or not, I don't think it matters to kids. Pop music, I think, is mainly for kids, and so to get these messages from major artists in the music and in the themes of their music is really great. Whether it's calculated, cynical, or not, I don't think it matters to fifteen-year-olds.
MR: There are currently many shows on television that have gay themes running through them, and the stories and acting seem more so much more natural than ever before.
JS: It's crazy. I came out when I was fifteen years old, which is now seventeen years ago--I'm thirty-two now. It does not feel like seventeen years ago that I came out as a gay kid. It's crazy to see how different is it now than it was then, you know?
MR: Oh wow, you old man. Thirty-two, wow! (laughs)
JS: (laughs) That said, I heard Henry Rollins the other day talking about Obama saying that he thought the Defense Of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. That's like a doctor saying, "Okay, we're not going to put leeches on your face anymore." Of course it's unconstitutional! There's still a long way to go, I think. It's easy for people in big cities. I live a very cosmopolitan, urban lifestyle, and it's easy to forget that when you get out of those places, you're still dealing with a really hard world for kids.
MR: I have one more question for you before you go. Do you have any advice for new--okay, we're not going to call them artists. What shall we call them?
JS: Music makers?
MR: There you go. Any advice for new music makers?
JS: Yeah, I think that the resources are amazing for people who want to make music now. It's just about time and dedication. It's a different world out there. I think we were one of the last bands in the era of the CD with our first record. Things change in a matter of months right now in the music industry, and I think the most important thing is to make good music that is true to you. The resources are there. I don't want to say it's easy to make music, but there are a lot more tools at your fingertips right now than there ever has been.
MR: Nice. Thank you very much, Jake for your thoughts putting out such fun music.
JS: Oh, thank you, that's really sweet. Thanks for taking your time.
Whole New Way
Fire With Fire
Any Which Way
Harder You Get
Something Like This
Skin This Cat
Sex And Violence
(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)