Boy George has put his troubles behind him and returns with a new album of original music and a new enthusiasm for the dancefloor.
It’s been almost 10 years since your last album. How has this space of time informed and influenced the end result that is Ordinary Alien?
The 10-year gap was more of an accident than anything deliberate or planned.
I’ve been working solidly as a DJ for such a long time, travelling the world, spinning in clubs. I did make an album called Yum Yum under the guise of ‘The Twin’ but I released it myself and it was very alternative and crude compared to what
I usually create. I’m still very proud of it but this new album has a more commercial feel, it’s closer to pop than Yum Yum.
I’m excited about working with a proper label again and having my music heard. I suppose I’ve learnt that being organised and professional is the way forward and it’s the only way things actually get done.
I’ve suffered from a fair bit of procrastination over the past few years, what with my troubles with drugs and the law and other such demons but right now my head is screwed on properly and I’m ready to get down to business!
What can you tell us about the title of the album? You’re one of the least ordinary people currently working in dance music.
Usually, you think of an interesting title then try and create a story around it. I’ve been joking that I’m the kind of alien you could bring home to meet your parents! I guess people have assumptions about me being some kind of major weirdo and my idea of myself is quite sane and ordinary and yet I know I’m slightly odd too.
I’m an outsider in spirit and that informs much of what I feel about the world around me.
What can you tell us about your collaboration with Kinky Roland and the influence he has had on the tracks here?
Kinky is one of those rare and precious dance producers who is very musical and can work with vocals and that makes it easy for us to communicate. He has that intrinsic melancholic streak that runs through most artistic Germans and he gets what I’m about.
Kinky produced most of my electro album Yum Yum and we have done various remixes together. I have worked with him on and off for about 15 years.
There’s a real Jamaican and reggae-dubs sound on this album. What can you tell us about the overall sound?
Actually, songs like Turn to Dust and Look Pon You deal with the homophobia that is sadly rife in ragga and some reggae but I also have a passion for both genres.
I open the album with the line “Chi chi man everywhere you turn, you say burn dirty Babylon burn” because homophobic Jamaicans call gay men ‘chi chi men’ or ‘batty boys’ so I’m sort of reclaiming the terms and saying get over it! You hear those terms such a lot in ragga tunes but most people don’t notice or realise that these terms are offensive.
There are some amazing messages of hope on this album, nowhere more apparent than Turn to Dust. What can you tell us about this sense of hope, and is it a newfound vision?
Strangely, I’m the eternal optimist and I guess these songs are written from the point of view that things can only get better. Lots of people have commented on the positive nature of the songs on Ordinary Alien but I wasn’t completely conscious until it was pointed out.
I’ve had a few dark moments over the past few years but there have also been large pockets of sanity and I guess these songs were written at those crucial moments.
You recently completed the sell-out Night of the Proms tour where you played to more than 15,000 fans a night. What can you tell us about this?
The Night of the Proms event is an institution in Europe and it’s basically a 140-piece orchestra playing classic pieces with a few pop or rock acts thrown in for good measure.
The mix of artists they have is astounding — imagine Boy George, Grace Jones and John Fogerty! On paper it seems insane but somehow it works and I got to perform Proud Mary with Fogerty which was out of this world.
The Orchestra Il Novecento is the hippest and most versatile orchestra I’ve encountered and I would kill to do a night of the Proms again in the future!
Do you see a need to reinvent yourself as an icon of popular culture in the same way somebody like Madonna does or do you see yourself as slowly evolving?
You could say every time you change your lip colour it’s a kind of reinvention but it’s just a media term and it means very little. Artists don’t reinvent in the way that the likes of David Bowie did both visually and musically — that’s proper transmutation.
As an artist it’s completely natural to progress but fans don’t always like change so you are always struggling against what you were or how people originally saw you. Madonna has kept her crown because she’s dedicated to success and has a keen eye for the latest trend or producer.
I’m very lucky because I have always worked and while I’m not as commercially successful as I was in the ’80s, I do very well and I’m known outside the UK.
My idea of success has changed and I’d rather be a successful human being, happy with my life then what I was in the ’80s. My career in the ’80s was a happy but very bizarre accident, I had no idea that little girls and mums would like me.
I’m very proud of what I have achieved but I enjoy what I do in a very different way these days and I realise how lucky I am to make a living out of doing the thing I love!
There’s a world tour touted for the reformation of Culture Club in 2012 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the group. What can you tell us about this tour?
2012 is Culture Club’s 30-year anniversary and I felt it was an important milestone and worth celebrating. We are going to record a new album and tour the world and beyond that I can’t tell you much.
I just want it to be fun. Above and beyond that I have no real expectations except that I want to put on a great and exciting show!
What’s the thing you loathe the most about the music industry at the moment?
I don’t really loathe these days. I used to be opposed to so many things but even the most puerile pop music just floats by me these days.
I think pop music has become a formula. There have always been manufactured artists back to the ’50s and probably beyond that but now it’s out of control. Technology has allowed almost anyone the chance to create music and while it has created some very interesting and revolutionary ideas it has also thrown up so much drivel.
All the mystery has gone and everyone can now get involved plus the audience is dictating the artform with all these talent shows.
Mind you, great stuff still happens. Amy Winehouse, for example, a rose that grew through the cracks in the concrete! I wish the industry would invest in real and honest talent instead of re-creating the same ideas over and over.
What’s the thing you love the most about the music industry at the moment?
I love my independent label MN2S because they are getting things done and it’s nice to be back recording and releasing stuff.
I don’t know about loving the industry but I love music and always will. It’s been my salvation and I thank the heavens for it every single day.
info: Ordinary Alien is out now.
PHOTO: Magnus Hastings
By SCOTT-PATRICK MITCHELL