The New Cue #286 May 22: Jake Shears
"Kylie has always been sweetly open to my bananas ideas..."
Let’s get this week started right! Let’s get it started good! Seize the day and be the best version of you! You can do this! But before you do, why not just sit on your arse for a few more minutes, have a biscuit and read our interview with former Scissor Sisters man Jake Shears all about his new solo record. All those exclamation marks at the start of this paragraph have actually made me feel a bit tired. I might go back to bed now.
Enjoy the edition,
Ted, Niall and Chris
Start The Week With… Jake Shears
Next week, Jake Shears releases his second solo album Last Man Dancing. The former Scissor Sisters frontman’s career has been paved with dancefloor gold, all the way back to his old band’s disco reworking of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, but Last Man Dancing ups the BPMs. It’s a brilliant collection of club bangers and a sound that melds Shears’ pop melodiousness with a French house thump. Last week, Niall spoke to the now London-based singer about its creation, the 20th anniversary of Scissor Sisters’ debut and more…
Hello Jake, how are you?
I’m good, enjoying the fact that we can walk outside in T-shirts on some afternoons.
Yeah the drab weather was starting to bum me out a bit.
Yeah, it was too much. It was not good. I just wanted some warmer weather.
Does shitty British weather not make you reconsider relocating to London?
No, but in coming years I'm going to try to be in New Orleans for the winter, for December, January, February. We've got great winters down there but this winter, it just wasn't possible. I don't think this next winter it's going to be totally possible so we'll see.
Congratulations on the new record. It’s an absolute banger. Where did it start?
Thanks, I'm really happy to be putting another record out. It started with a couple of older songs that I really wanted to give homes to and do something with them. Then I started building songs around those songs and then I got the idea for the second half of the record to be kind of one continuous piece that ended up blending together. I had my head set on that for a while and finished that up in Lisbon and then I wrote Really Big Deal, on the first half of the album, for a musical that I was writing and I loved the song so much I was like, 'I really want to put it on this album'.
Which period are those older songs from? Were you doing much clubbing at the time because that is very much the vibe of the record…
Well, Do The Television was a Scissor Sisters idea from a long time ago and it just never really became a song, so I wrote new sections for it and fleshed it out. Voices, the song with Kylie, was one that I really cared about, I really love that song, but it never really had a home and I wanted to build a bit of the record around it. I love that song so much. They were dance songs I was writing and I was enjoying it and I was like, ‘why don’t I make just a whole dance record that's conceptual and unabashedly dance, no ballads, just really make a party out of them.’
And I’m guessing at the same time you were balancing that with writing the Tammy Faye musical you did with Elton John that came out last year?
They were very separate things. The Tammy Faye musical, I worked on that for ten years. With musicals, you write in fits and bursts, you can work on a musical for a chunk out of a year and pick it up again in seven months or whatever. It's a very different kind of writing than what I do with studio records but sometimes it all happens at the same time, things stack on top of each other but they're definitely very different creatures.
You mentioned Kylie singing on the track Voices, how did that come about?
I originally wrote that in LA, she was in Los Angeles and we were hanging out and it occurred to me, ‘Ah, I think there's a song that you'd sound amazing on’ and she was down to coming to the studio, we recorded her vocal on it. I always thought it was a magical song, there's just something really special about it but I didn't want to just throw something out there, you want to have something be part of a bigger piece and it spurred me to keep writing songs that would sound good next to it.
What’s Kylie like in the studio?
A lot of fun and she's always been sweetly open to my bananas ideas. I can get a little goofy in the studio, I like to do stuff that's maybe a little left field or off the beaten path and she's always been very sweet to humour me in those moments.
My favourite song is the closer Diamonds Don't Burn, it’s epic.
Thank you for that, I'm so happy you like that song. I'd been listening to a lot of Achtung Baby and Zooropa over the past couple years and I was also thinking about Batman Forever, James Bond, early 90s U2, getting a breakbeat in there and like putting in some like very mysterious epic lyric. I love how it turned out, I wanted it to be intense, cinematic breakbeat glam. Then there's an old monologue, words of wisdom from Iggy Pop thrown in.
That track sounds like you auditioning to do a Bond theme.
Well, there is an old Scissors Sisters song, Land Of A Thousand Words, that’s on Ta-Dah and is definitely another one done in that style. I've always been a big fan of that epic, cinematic romantic feel.
Your first solo record came out in 2018. What did you learn out of that experience that you took into this?
I learned that I could make it one piece. The nice thing about doing solo stuff is I don't really have to make too many compromises as far as other people's opinions or thoughts, I can really streamline it into what I want to make. That's for better or for worse because it means that I've got to really come up with a lot of those concepts and ideas myself. In Scissor Sisters, me and Babydaddy had great a great collaboration going but I think the first solo record and this album are the most cohesive things I've ever made. From beginning to end, they stand alone as pieces.
Is there a flipside to that, where you feel like, ‘ah shit, I’ve gotta do all the heavy lifting myself now’?
I feel it sometimes onstage. I just did the Duran Duran tour, which was so much fun. I had a blast and it was great to tour with those guys again, Scissors toured with them 20 years ago, but playing a full set is a heavy lift when I'm the only singer on stage. It can be a bigger lift at moments, definitely. Especially promo-wise, promoting a record. You can't necessarily split it!
Have you ever reached a point where you’ve wanted to stop making music?
I think I've had a couple of moments where I've run away, where I run away to New Orleans but then I get there and start living there and I start making music. There's been moments where I run away from my life and then end up finding music always pulling me out of it.
It's the 20th anniversary of Scissor Sisters’ debut next year. Where was your head at 20 years ago from now, the year before that first record?
I was just so ambitious. I would do anything, I just worked myself to death. I was prepared to do whatever it took for our music to reach as many people as possible, for better and for worse. I think I'm much more aware of human limitations now. Oftentimes, I love biting off more than I can chew and you got to be careful when you do.
That first record especially was absolutely huge. What do you think of when you cast your mind back to that period of craziness?
The freedom on stage to just let loose, let go, have a blast. There was hard stuff about it, it was exhausting but at the same time the most fun one could ever have. If you're into that sort of thing, getting on stage in front of tonnes of people and throwing yourself around and being silly and wearing wild outfits and taking your clothes off and all that stuff, it was really fun.
On that note, talk to me about the cover of the new record.
I had a really hard time kind of figuring out what the album cover was gonna be. Finally, when I was just like, ‘I'm gonna call it Last Man Dancing’, I paced around my place and brainstormed and had the idea that it's the end of a house party, I'm the last one up, I've won the trophy, I've won the night, my dog's chilling in sunglasses, everyone's passed out. Does that sum it up?
It does. Did you ever win any trophies at school?
I never won any trophies at school! But definitely if there were some house party awards. I think there's been times in my life where I would have won.
Scissor Sisters had I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’, now you’re saying you’re the Last Man Dancing. Come on, which is it?
You know, I think both things are true, it just depends what day you catch me.