Monday, June 7, 2010

Jake Shears: Scissor Sisters

When Scissor Sisters first burst forth with their debut self-titled filthy gorgeous album in 2004 their brand of hedonistic dance was too hot for mainstream America to handle (the CD was even pulled from Wal-Mart's shelves). It was a different story across the Atlantic in the U.K. however, where the band were welcomed with open arms - and notable record sales. There the release spawned a total of five Top 20 singles, and became the country's top-selling album that year (and the 9th biggest seller of the decade). The band's follow up full-length, Ta-Dah, released in 2006, also fared much better outside of the U.S. It went straight to the top of the U.K. album charts, and the first single, "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'"(a collaboration with Elton John), also hit the number one spot - and stayed there for four consecutive weeks.

The wide chasm in reception and record sales between the two continents - the Scissor Sisters' first two albums each sold in excess of 3 million units across Europe - can easily be explained when looked at in the context of cultural attitudes. The more liberal Europeans have been dancing continuously since the '70s and dance-based music is ingrained in the fabric of European life. In America however, seizing on the opportunity afforded by AIDS, the disproportionately influential Christian right whipped up a frenzy of anti-dance "disco sucks" hysteria, stopping the party in its tracks and creating a deep-seated prejudice against the genre as a whole that remains prevalent to this day in significant pockets of society.

However mainstream America has started to loosen up, shake its collective booty and dance again. The success of European-produced tracks from the likes of Madonna (who enlisted William Orbit for Ray of Light and Stuart Price for Confessions on a Dance Floor) and Britney Spears (who prominently featured Bloodshy & Avant's production talents on her past two albums) has brought the dance aesthetic back to the mainstream, and paved the way for 100% domestic-raised spawn of disco to return to the fore.

So as Scissor Sisters prepare to step back on the dance floor with their much-anticipated third album, Night Work, the mirrored ball is at least proverbially spinning above middle-American heads. Though this bodes well in many respects, it does pose a new set of dilemmas for the band. Previously, against a background of overbearing earnestness as practiced by a generation of shoe-gazing indie bands, their tongue-in-cheek flamboyance seemed refreshing. Now, their once unique style has become de rigueur in pop culture thanks to the Scissor Sisters-influenced and much-imitated House of Gaga. Hence, to stay ahead of the pack, they’ve been forced to switch things up visually and musically.

I caught up with Scissor Sisters' frontman, founder and driving force, Jake Shears, to talk about Night Work, what inspired it, where his party is headed, and what he'll be wearing to it.

Read my exclusive interview with Jake Shears at

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