When you say Boy George, most people instantly think of the classic Culture Club
songs he did back in the '80s, or some of his enduring club classic solo tracks released under his own name and as Jesus Loves You in the '90s. What most people don’t realize is that he has been DJing for more than 25 years, building a reputation that transcended the title of “celebrity DJ” and gaining the respect of the others. His DJ sets are just as unpredictable as he is, you never know what he will play or what he might say. His recent album ‘This is What I Do’ has a similar vibe – mixing reggae, pop, folk, fusion, and dance in a fashion that might be slightly reminiscent of Culture Club, but filtered through the vision of a man whose vocal and lyrical talent keep him just as relevant and vital an artist today.
RS: Let me just start by saying that you are one of my DJ inspirations – one of my personal DJ heroes. At the Winter Music Conference in 2001 where you played three gigs, you DJ'd a gay party where you played tribal, a straight party where you played trance, and you played a boat cruise that was kind of Balearic. What I got from that was that as an entertainer you know how to read a crowd.
Boy George: To a point, I think that I am lucky in the sense that I love all sorts of music. I never plan my sets, I might have one or two tunes that I think will work and I have my bag of tricks. There are certain tracks that work everywhere and all the time, and then there are new things that are exciting. I used to get criticized for not having a style. I play all sorts of music but I have always called myself a house DJ, and house music is varied. I used to joke that trance was just house with chandeliers and that really upset the tranceheads. To me a good record is as good record.
RS: You also got tagged earlier in your career as a celebrity DJ but you have gone past that because you are really respected by all of your peers. Was that something that you worked towards or did you not give a shit about that title?
Boy George: You just have to get over it; everything that I did people would say that I was only doing because I was Boy George. I got to where I am by a lot of hard work and I feel very lucky to do what I do, it’s fun and I get to be creative and travel. I don’t pay much attention to what other people say, I just try to be as good as I can and not worry about who is doing better or who is the most popular.
RS: What inspired you to make your new artist album now?
Boy George: I changed management three years ago and decided that I needed to work with new people who were perhaps able to see me now rather than who I was. When you have had a very successful career like I had with Culture Club in the ‘80s, people tend to hold you in that place and it is hard for them to think about you doing anything else. There are so many people that come up to me and tell me that I am from their era, like I don’t exist anymore... This is my era now! I have done a lot of stuff since the ‘80s and in a way dance music has been my saving grace and allowed me to avoid nostalgia. Dance music is always progressive and changing and I have been playing in underground clubs for the last 25 years, a lot of people don’t know that. It just felt like it was the right time for my album, I am very instinctual. When I perform I watch the crowds and see what works, everything is always about how I am feeling.
RS: "Feel the Vibration" has some really great remixes, how do you, as a DJ who is also an artist, choose remixers for your own projects?
Boy George: You go after people that you love, but oftentimes you can’t get them because they are too expensive or too busy. It is a little bit like young painters and artists, you have to get them just before they graduate. The trick is to hear a new dance tune and get in before they get popular and have them do a remix as quickly as possible. I used to put Hoxton Whores on Ministry of Sound compilations 20 years ago. They are great and very consistent, whenever you give them a mix you always get something slamming back. I have worked with Kinky Roland, who is a German house producer, a lot over the last few years and he is also very adaptable. You don’t always get who you want though, I am really into Claude Von Stroke and Doorly, I am trying to work with her right now. I have a dance project called RetroPhobia and we have a song out called "Meet Me In The Basement." It is not me singing it but I am producing and writing, and then we get other people to be guests on the tracks, it is a bit like Disclosure but for the older lady.
RS: Speaking about older ladies, I heard you give a shout out to Lady Bunny on the “My God” track, what is the story behind that?
Boy George: “My God” is about an incident that happened in New York. I was in a bar and a lot of those people were around, a guy came up to me and gave me a Jesus pamphlet and I wondered why he did that. Looking back I was a mess then and so he probably felt like he needed to save me. The song is really about New York and the effect that it had on me and the kind of people that I met. Obviously, once you meet Lady Bunny you don’t forget her.
RS: A lot of celebrities and singers have their own fragrance; if there was to be a Boy George cologne what would it smell like?
Boy George: That is a difficult one, I have been wearing Serge Luten and it is the best-smelling perfume on god’s earth. I actually bought it for someone else for Christmas and after I smelled it I decided to keep it. It would be a musky, masculine smell, but I would be really scared to do a perfume, what if it failed.
RS: Nothing you do will fail. If you could shag any two big name DJs who would they be?
Boy George: I am more about the residents; I prefer the unsung heroes but I can’t think of one.
RS: I can see you with Benny Benassi.
Boy George: I know Benny Benassi so I couldn’t sleep with him. I saw a Russian DJ that I liked, he was quite cute. I would have to do a survey, there are so many DJs now and I haven’t even heard of half of them. I will have to get back to you on that. I would say Carl Cox, though, just because of his skills, just to find out how he does it.
RS: Well, he bounces back and forth when he DJs so you know he has good rhythm.
Boy George: I remember back in the day giving Carl Cox a record that he had never heard and he literally put it on and mixed it in, it was unbelievable to watch.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Boy George: I just want people to start engaging in what I am doing now and move on. It’s really weird when you are doing a concert and someone is waving a record from 20 years ago. It always makes me wonder why someone would bring that to my gig, I made the record so I don’t need to see it. The other night on stage I said that I am really excited because people are going to start bringing furniture and outfits from the ‘80s to my gigs. It’s really strange the way that people do that, it would make more sense if they engage in what I am doing now. I would say just love the music, I have been doing the live tour here and it is magical when you have an audience that loves the music. In America there is a real enthusiasm that is very infectious and I love that.