Proud Times Magazine

Jake Shears Brings His Self-Titled Solo Album to the Wonder Ballroom

Jake Shears Brings His Self-Titled Solo Album to the Wonder Ballroom

Jake Shears Brings His Self-Titled Solo Album to the Wonder Ballroom
December 02
18:45 2018

By Sebastian Fortino

The electric front-man of the Scissor Sisters, which has been on hiatus since 2012, has not been idle. In February of 2018 he released his memoir Boys Keep Swinging, which I was lucky enough to review. On Monday, November 12th he takes his latest show to the Wonder Ballroom In Portland. He was raised partially in Washington State, and went to the Northwest School in Seattle. He tries to come back to the Pacific Northwest at least once a year, he told ProudTimes.

As a writer, especially as an interviewer, the first rule when approaching a subject is not to gush. For my recent interview with Jake Shears I have no shame in admitting I broke that rule. Repeatedly, I was total in fanboy mode.

That’s because there was a generation of young gay men who came of age in Manhattan. They frequented the once-gloriously queer Lower East Side. They went to hole-in-the-wall bars and danced, despite a ridiculous ban based on some ancient cabaret law. I came of age then, and so did Jake Spears.

Proud Times: So, first and foremost. How have the crowds been? Do you think they’re coming for the Scissor Sisters or are they coming to see Jake Shears?

Jake Shears: I think they’re coming to see me. They enjoy the Scissor Sister songs yeah, but the crowds have been amazing. These have been very special shows. People have, I don’t know how to put it into words, seems they missed this kind of music and performance. There’s an almost reverential feel at the concerts but it’s been loose and fun. I’ve worked hard on this show to give it an arc. It’s sort of like a piece unto itself. Storytelling, where the story goes, it’s really has a flow to it. The crowds have been so lovely, getting face to face with everyone again. Lots of gay men lot of women in the audience, and I’m very proud to be playing to be playing rock and roll to a lot of gay people. I don’t think queer people get rock and rool in that context.

PT:Your music is–well, so much sound, just so lush. How do you keep up with it when you’re doing your music live?

JS: I do have just absolutely killer musicians on this show, mostly from Louisville my sax player is such a great guy, he is the icing on the cake for this show. The strings are underneath but the show’s definitely got a full sound. I just have some great players with me. There’s so much horn on the record and the sax rounded the whole thing out. Always my dream to have a full time sax player.

PT: You said you didn’t want to turn your back on what you had written before. Did you think you had to veer away from your style to something newer to make it personal?

JS: I think there’s that tendency for me to “Oh what am i gonna do next, what is this gonna be.” I wanted to make music but what form it was gonna be? For instance this album, and the Scissor Sisters aesthetic is what I’m good at writing. You know emotionally semi-absurd theatrical rock and roll. When I realized I didn’t need to reinvent I wanted to continue that body of work. To me I look at all this music and it feels a little bit different, but it still feels like one body of work.

PT: So, was the album like a second coming of age, or even coming out again?

JS: Definitely finding myself & figuring myself out again. I just lost track of what I was supposed to be doing. At least for me every five or six years there is a sort of reassessment shedding of the skin.

PT: Ha, but don’t most gay men do that?

JS: I think so. Especially when your identity is so attached to what you do, what you create. If I don’t pay attention to it, I kinda feel like I am gonna undergo a small change soon. It’s been a massive year for me. I’ve gotten a lot done but at the moment I need to reassess who I am, what I wanna do next, and the best way to get there. Not just float along.

PT: In your memoir, Boys Keep Swinging, you wrote a stunning love letter to the late-90s to early 2000s in New York. You talked about being a gogo boy at I. C Guys, The Cock, and Wonderbar. It was pretty definitive for lots of people. Is there anything you especially miss about that New York?

JS: OH MY GOD! I miss everything about it. The only reason I spend time in NY now is friends, and you know, chosen family, and the theatre world. The stuff that happens downtown, club cumming, off-broadway. That’s why I go there. I hope young people found something similar to what we found. At the millenium it was downtown, that was the place to be. I don’t know where it is but I am sure some kids in NY are still doing it. But I miss the freedom of being that time & that age. You know just to hustle & the possibilities. I think very fondly of that time.

PT: Speaking of the memoir, how long did it take you to write?

JS: It was a two-year process but it was hand-in-hand with the album. They were good to work on together. I’d be in the studio for two weeks then writing for two weeks. I like to have a lot of projects going on at once. I think that keeps things exciting.

PT: What’s it like to be considered a gay icon? And–Big Bushy Mustache–is that talking about your celebrity?

JS: Icon has so many different connotations. I hope I’d made some kind of dent or change in the world with the stuff that I make and write. I’d like to think my creativity has made some kind of a difference for people. If that’s being an icon, that’s cool with me. I was in New Orleans when I wrote it.The core of it is: fags have more fun. That song to me about straight guys sort of standing on the other side of the road and looking at us and wishing they had as good of a time as we do.

PT: Yeah, I just read something that said most straight men settle down after having only 26 partners.

JS: Yeah, and so many of us say thank God I was born gay. There’s a reason for that.

PT: On that note: You said to Seth Myers, “Wow, I’ve slept with a lot of people.”We were pretty much the first generation to come of age when HIV was no longer a death sentence, and today we have Truvada, etc. Do you think it’s your celebrity or your generation that’s allowed you be a so-called whore? But we still have slut shamers. What do you think of that?

JS: It’s not my celebrity, and I’m making a wisecrack, I was having a lot of fun. I think gay guys have always been doing it. Sex was something very different than it is today. I think PrEP is amazing, I use it, I think all sexually active queer people should have access to PrEP. It’s a different world now. I am happy that I lived in a time without cell phones, no internet and I’m happy I came from that time. I feel like a got a good glimpse of what gay men went through to get where we are now.

PT: Continuing in that vein: When I hear a gay musician singing about sex or love or heartbreak I feel pretty empowered. Would you say you’re conscious of this, that it’s going to have intrinsic value to your gay fans when writing?

JS: I don’t think about it too much when I am writing. I do my best and hopefully, inherently, that gay and queer people coming from that perspective appreciate it. But I really try to make universal music. I want my music to have a universal feeling, to have anyone be able to listen to it, and access certain feelings, even coming from a certain perspective, or sexuality. I try to make it for everybody. I think about my mom when I make this music, I think about my mom’s friends. It’s just my personality. I think, for me it’s important that my music have a strong point of view yet be accessible.

PT: I guess a lot of people turn to your music because it’s always makes you feel pretty swell. Yet, Play a Sad Song Backwards is about turning your troubles inside out. Is it therapeutic? Or does it come naturally to craft songs that pretty much get you singing and smiling?

JS: I think the therapeutic part of it, for me, is when I’m on stage performing. When it’s good, bringing it to a stage. That’s why I make this music, to go into this part of my head. That’s where you know, it cleans the cobwebs out of my brain. I like that even the sad stuff has a life-affirming feel to it. I think that’s kind of a good word. Even the sad songs, they do have this life-affirmation. Not taking life for granted, not having a sinking feeling even when it gets to be the worst.

PT: Last and loaded: what’s happening next?

JS: I don’t really take breaks. When I am writing stuff–songs or making a book–I tend to need open space, like blank days. I am doing a book outline, and starting to write more songs again, I am constantly still working. My hustle is still on, trying to create and accomplish new fun things. I have to buckle down and start again. I am really excited to start a new musical. You plant your seeds, you tend your garden, and see how it grows. That’s how I do it.

When asked about a reunion, or project with the Scissor Sisters, Jake said he’d never rule it out. “But, he added, “I’m really enjoying this though. I’m really enjoying the freedom that I’ve got at the moment. For the moment I want to keep going like this. I am sure we’re gonna make another record. It has to be about something. It has to be inspired.

The album is called Jake Shears, and it’s the best thing about 2018. Check out tickets for the show at the Wonder Ballroom on Monday, Nov. 12th. He has upcoming shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and the El Rey in LA.

Look at Interview in November 2018 Proud Times:

 

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