BOY GE­ORGE COMES FULL CIR­CLE

NOW Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By KEVIN HEGGE

As Cul­ture Club ready their first new al­bum in two decades, we talk past and fu­ture with the 80s icon

boY Ge­orGe & cuL­Ture cLub at Sony Cen­tre (1 Front East), Fri­day (Au­gust 24), doors 7 pm, all ages. $53.50-$123.50. tick­et­mas­ter.ca.

In the years prior to the 1982 re­lease of Cul­ture Club’s de­but al­bum, Boy Ge­orge had al­ready be­come a prom­i­nent face in a post-punk com­mu­nity of artists who per­me­ated Lon­don’s cre­ative nightlife. This cross-pol­li­na­tion of peo­ple work­ing in fash­ion, film and

mu­sic nur­tured the demented, DIY ver­sion of drag that has now be­come syn­ony­mous with Ge­orge’s name and helped in­form his no­to­ri­ously an­drog­y­nous looks.

As Trump-era neo-con­ser­vatism rav­ages the planet (with our own ver­sion here in On­tario), the tim­ing couldn’t be bet­ter for the re­turn of the band who orig­i­nally scan­dal­ized the masses dur­ing the equally evil Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s reign.

On the brink of Cul­ture Club’s first al­bum in 19 years and a sold-out show at the Sony Cen­tre, NOW caught up with Boy Ge­orge to talk about how his early artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tions are still a source of in­spi­ra­tion to him to­day.

WHAT’S YOUR RE­LA­TION­SHIP TO THAT ORIG­I­NAL LOOK WE ALL KNOW SO WELL? HAS IT BE­COME AN AL­BA­TROSS?

That orig­i­nal look was an ac­ci­den­tal re­sult of cul­tural ideas clash­ing with ba­si­cally what­ever was avail­able to me. At the time, there was a lot of reg­gae mu­sic be­ing played in Lon­don, and you’d see loads of peo­ple with dread­locks and it just be­came a thing to cre­ate th­ese quasi-re­li­gious images. It sort of went from the dread­locks to the ban­dages to the hat, but it was all done re­ally blindly. You make sense of it af­ter­wards, if you know what I mean.

YOU RE­CENTLY DIS­COV­ERED THAT THE COS­TUMES FROM YOUR 2002 STAGE MU­SI­CAL OF TA­BOO (BASED ON THE LIFE OF ARTIST LEIGH BOWERY) WERE BE­ING SOLD OFF WITHOUT YOUR PER­MIS­SION. HOW IM­POR­TANT IS MANAG­ING YOUR ARCHIVE AT THIS POINT?

It’s quite funny – I love clothes, but I don’t re­ally care about them. I’ve learned as I’ve got­ten older to be a bit more re­spect­ful of th­ese tal­is­mans that we have in our lives. I was just on a UK [ge­neal­ogy doc­u­men­tary] pro­gram called Who Do You Think You Are?, and dur­ing that ex­pe­ri­ence I was able to see all sorts of an­cient ar­ti­facts that be­long to my an­ces­tors. I re­al­ized that there’s some­thing spe­cial about cer­tain ob­jects, and it can be quite im­por­tant to try and ac­quire th­ese things and trea­sure them as part of your per­sonal his­tory. So hear­ing about the cloth­ing from Ta­boo be­ing sold from the boot of a car, it was just aw­ful be­cause it ends up with peo­ple who just don’t give a shit!

HOW DID YOUR EARLY YEARS LIV­ING IN LON­DON SQUATS WITH ARTISTS AND MU­SI­CIANS IN­FLU­ENCE THE WORK YOU ARE DO­ING NOW?

Those things more than ever rep­re­sent what I am do­ing right now. Ste­vie Ste­wart (of leg­endary 80s fash­ion la­bel BodyMap) did all the out­fits for this tour, and I worked with [re­cently de­ceased renowned fash­ion stylist who helped Ge­orge cre­ate his early looks] Judy Blame again quite a lot just be­fore he died. We got a lot of stuff made specif­i­cally for this tour from him. It’s funny how some peo­ple never re­ally do go out of your life. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to work with peo­ple who you have es­tab­lished his­tory with, be­cause there are a lot of things we have in com­mon that we al­ready share.

WITHIN THE SPEC­TRUM OF QUEER VIS­I­BIL­ITY IN FASH­ION AND ART, DO YOU SEE THE HIS­TORY OF YOUR WORK MAK­ING MORE SENSE NOW MORE THAN BE­FORE?

I’m def­i­nitely not try­ing to make sense, but weirdly it’s only in the last few years I’ve ac­tu­ally be­come much more con­cerned with my own per­sonal in­di­vid­u­al­ity, and how I can cre­ate things that other peo­ple might not un­der­stand. Fash­ion now is so avail­able that you can walk into H&M and get some­thing that might look like you got it from Prada or Gucci or what­ever, and be­cause of that fash­ion and mu­sic have all be­come so generic. But in an­other way, it’s made it a lot eas­ier for peo­ple to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and re­ally stand out. [Do­ing that] shows you give a shit.

IN ON­TARIO WE’RE CUR­RENTLY DEAL­ING WITH A VERY TRUMPLIKE POLITI­CIAN IN DOUG FORD, WHO IS BRING­ING THE SEX-ED­U­CA­TION CUR­RICU­LUM BACK TO A DECADES-OLD FOR­MAT THAT NE­GLECTS SAME-SEX RE­LA­TION­SHIPS, ABOR­TION AND CON­SENT. YOU STARTED YOUR CA­REER DUR­ING A VERY CON­SER­VA­TIVE ERA – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?

That’s re­ally sad and strange be­cause the world is em­brac­ing a whole other ide­ol­ogy! It’s so amaz­ing to hear young kids talk­ing about flu­id­ity. The open­ness that th­ese young peo­ple have is re­ally beau­ti­ful. This sounds like burn­ing books, you know…. You can’t go back­wards!

WITH SO MANY SHIFTS IN MU­SIC AND CUL­TURE OVER THE DECADES, HAVE YOU EVER EN­COUN­TERED A CRI­SIS OF CON­FI­DENCE WHERE YOU HAD TO CON­SIDER THE POS­SI­BIL­ITY OF DO­ING SOME­THING ELSE?

Oh god, never! I’ve al­ways thanked god I get to do what I do and that there are peo­ple out there who give a shit! In the way that Judy can make a beau­ti­ful cre­ation out of some­thing other peo­ple threw away, that’s how I think of what I do. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I do and con­tinue shar­ing the mes­sage of in­di­vid­u­al­ity. Kevin Hegge is a Toronto-based film­maker in post-pro­duc­tion with his fea­ture-length doc­u­men­tary TRAMPS!, which looks at how the in­ter­sec­tion between art, fash­ion, mu­sic and film was nur­tured by art stu­dents liv­ing com­mu­nally in squat­ted spa­ces in early 80s Lon­don. mu­sic@nowtoronto.com | @Kev­inHeg­gs_

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