Adam Lambert gets up close and personal with the Culture Club icon to discuss his new Las Vegas residency and record deal, the ever-changing face of the queer scene, and his personal progressions, all on the 30th anniversary of his first Gay Times cover
The evolution of our homegrown icon Boy George has been the talk of the nation. 30 years on from his first Gay Times cover story, he sits down with Queen frontman Adam Lambert to discuss how he got from there to here as he embarks on his biest musical moment in nearly 30 years.
Boy George is a man that needs no introduction. He’s ba ed two Brits, two Ivor Novello’s and a Grammy, sold more the 50 million records internationally and is recognised by many as a pioneer of the New Romantic movement that shaped the 70s and 80s. In recent years he’s appeared as a guest coach on the The Voice (both in the UK and Australia) and has signed a new record deal with BMG — his first major label signing in nearly 30 years.
But aside from his impressive trajectory of musical hits and subsequent accolades, it’s the man behind the music that generates the bi est on-set buzz. He is undeniably a multi-faceted figure, and as we wait for him onset one Saturday afternoon in Camden, no one really knows what to expect. What really do you expect from an icon?
When we meet he’s calm and collected, but also charismatic, fun and easygoing. There’s a feeling that he’s reached a level of contentment in his life, and we’re keen to know more. Celebrating 30 years since his first Gay Times cover, Boy George sits down with his contemporary counterpart and friend, Adam Lambert, to talk Las Vegas residencies, staying grounded and his evolution from boy to man… Adam: I hear you have a Las Vegas residency coming up? That’s exciting!
George: We are going to try and build a show in Vegas. I don’t really know whether it’s going to be like an extravaganza [or] whether it’s going to be something more of a one man show. So at the moment we are meeting with various people to sort of see what the view is. I am probably going to perform with guests. So feel free to come along!
Adam: Yes! Do you have an idea of when this will be?
George: Summer or September next year! That’s the dream.
Adam: Who else would you want to come in and guest with you?
George: K.D Lang would be great – you know all the divas! Cindy Lauper. Madonna. Come over Madge! Lets do ‘I Made It Through The Rain’ by Barry Manilow. It’s our song! I can just hear it! If I had to choose a song with me and Madonna I’d choose that! [Laughs]
Adam: You just signed with a big label again, BMG. Do you have new music coming out?
George: At the moment, the next thing is the Culture Club record which we sort of half did over the last two years. We are also updating the records and this week we have been writing. It’s been such fun, I have to say we’ve laughed a lot. Bands are like families; you don’t really choose who is in your family and often you do not choose who is in your band. You end up with a group of people that you often have zero in common with and you kind of have to learn over the years to let people be who they are. It’s the trick of life! Adam: With this label signing, is it both Culture Club and you, solo?
George: I have done my own deal. The Culture club album is coming out first. The next album I do [alone], I’ll be covering all of my favourite songs! Adam: Amazing!
George: And possibly covering some Culture Club songs, like what I’d do with them now. Signing this record deal is exciting!
Adam: Congratulations, I love that! With Culture Club, why do you think you guys waited this long?
George: Oh, so many dramas!
Adam: I saw that documentary [From Karma to Calamity]
George: Oh no, that documentary! We talked at length about that documentary this week. We went to Spain for three weeks. We absolutely had the most amazing time — which you would never know from that documentary!
Adam: The documentary was all about the drama!
George: There were 2 arguments and they were basically turned into the documentary. I was like “we had fun!” I mean yes, I had rows with Jon but actually, we recorded nineteen songs... no mention of that! It just shows you that if you’re not careful, a really minor thing can appear to be a major thing. It was a bit disappointing. We had fun in Spain, but not like we have done this week, we’ve been laughing and it’s really reflected in the writing.
Adam: It comes from joy.
George: Yes, it comes from joy. Music is a thing that has always glued my life together, I’m sure it’s the same for you, but it’s the one thing no matter what has gone on in my life, music has always been a constant. There’s always a song for every situation wherever you are, however deep you are in the hole.
Adam: It’s medicine. 100 per cent. Songwriting is weird. It changes depending on who is in the room doesn’t it. I also feel like anything goes right now, stylistically, genre wise.
George: Although I’m associated most with the 80s, the 70s was my decade, that was when I discovered glam-rock, music, fashion, clothing, sexuality. I never got past Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Roxy Music, Patti Smith, Blondie.
Adam: I think music in the 70s was all stuff that hadn’t been done before. It was all new. People were creating their own thing.
George: I feel like nowadays everything’s a little bit of a formula. I think also attitudes towards things; everyone gets put into a category.
Adam: There’s too many categories!
George: Growing up in the 70s, I always felt like a bit of an outsider and I quite liked that! But when I get into a lift with business men and I’m dressed up I still get a little bit uncomfortable and I’m happy with that! [Laughs]
Adam: You’re getting into lifts with businessmen... that sounds exciting! Do you think those “outsiders” still exist today?
George: Yes, there’s loads! I mean especially in London, you go to Dalston and Hoxton, there’s these young kids doing their version of that, and I think it’s really important not to be too cynical, because really there’s nothing that hasn’t been done, so all you’re left with is interpretation, and that is just as valid.
Adam: I feel like there’s a new movement going on with the kids today, it’s sort of echoing what was going on in the 70s with this sort of gender neutral, fluid, people are being more androgynous!
George: I’m interested to know how you feel about all of that, because I feel like I’m a little bit old fashioned, I’m kind of like — how many flavours can there be? I feel like there’s girls and boys and there’s people that like both. What else is there?!
Adam: I don’t like all the labels.
George: It is an interesting time because we have so much more freedom in some respects in the way that we communicate with each other, and that’s fascinating I think!
Adam: Random question; you’ve said that you have an unreleased track with George Michael, is that true?
George: I did a show with George for Capital Radio for some sort of charity and we did a version of a song of mine called ‘Freedom’ because I had a song called “Freedom” on my album. We had this opportunity to go in and re-voice it for broadcast and George wasn’t happy with how he sounded, although he sounded amazing I have to say, but it never happened and it got shelved.
Adam: Are there any other collaborations that you’ve created that we, the public, have not heard yet?
George: No. I’ve had some amazing experiences in that respect. I’ve sang with Luther Vandross, I’ve sang with Stevie Wonder. Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick. I mean when I was younger and much more fearful, I would love to get the opportunity to do these things now.
Adam: And these are live collaborations?
George: Live collaborations and the most terrifying! You can only imagine what it’s like singing with Luther Vandross. I wish I could do it now, because I was so young and inexperienced and didn’t know who I was, I didn’t really know my voice. I was terrified! I approach my work with such a different attitude now, whereas when you’re 19 you think “this will go on forever.” Adam: You’re kind of caught up in other things!
George: Yeah! The levels of clarity that I have in my life now. I don’t know how I crossed the road! [Laughs] I don’t know how I became sensible.
Lambet: Would you say that the lifestyle you were living is part of that?
George: Yes! I practice Buddhism now. I have a daily ritual that I do that is very grounding and gets me focused on what’s important. I do a lot of meditation and if I’m in a situation where I maybe lose control or get a little bit fearful, I just go and sit somewhere. I suppose it’s called mindfulness. I make a choice and go “I don’t need to do this.”
Adam: I think it comes with age too. You know your limits and when you need to get ahold of yourself.
George: I don’t know about you but I love to be on my own. I like my life and I like being with people, but I love that opportunity to go home and have rubbish TV and UberEATS! [Laughs]
Adam: What do they call it? It’s like extroverted introvert.
George: That’s very Gemini.
Adam: I think I’m one of those people where I can be super social and chatty chatty chatty, but then I have to be able to have my turn off time. So still on the music kick, what contemporary music have you been listening to?
George: That’s always a difficult one. I love Planningtorock. It’s quite electro. She wears this prosthetic nose so you know, obviously I’m going to be in love! I love Spotify because you get that thing every week, like release radar, and they really cleverly pick up on what you play.
Adam: I love Spotify because I feel like yes, they’re working with the major labels and the whole commercial system, but it seems to me like all the people running things love music.
George: My other obsession is Pinterest. I’ve got boards on everything; food, soups, drinks...
George: Hats, fashion, anything that I see, I love photography and I like to keep images so I literally have hundreds all under a different name, so no one knows! I was on YouTube and I saw a version of “Creep” by Chrissie Hyde, and it’s always a mistake to read the comments but I can’t help it! So I’m looking down and someone wrote “this is quite a good song considering it’s old” so I replied and I said “well, you’re older than you were yesterday and you’re still valuable.” I don’t know about you but I randomly go on and someone’ll say something about me and I’ll be like “what the fuck do you know.” [Laughs]
Adam: Back to the contemporary music thing, do you think music was better or worse in the 80s?
George: I think it’s really dangerous to start saying things were better because then you start to sound really old! If you want to find something that’s really truly unusual, you probably won’t find it on the radio. All my friends are music obsessed, so if something happens I will get a call. With Major Lazer and “Pon De Floor”, when that video came out, my friend sent me that and said “you’re going to go mental when you see this” and I did.
Adam: That’s good for inspiration!
George: I went out last week to get some [coat] hangers. I got off my butt and I went to get a box of hangers. I went on the tube and I came back with them. And I was thinking as I stood there in the rain and waited to get on the bus... I could have sent someone to do this for me, but no, it’s really good to be out in the world. I think if you’re in an ivory tower, at some point you’ve got nothing to write about.
Adam: Some artists are just so insulated that they’re losing touch with what people want to hear about.
I think in our business, having self-control is such a revelation.
George: You have to go out and listen to what people are saying and observe and for me, as a writer, I write my best stuff when I’m trawling around. I don’t have to be on the bus — I could get a helicopter [Laughs] but I like that mad contradiction. One night you’re doing a massive gig to 20,000 people and then you’re on your way to Waitrose to get some pickled gherkins!
Adam: Is there anybody that you haven’t worked with yet that you wish you’d worked with?
George: Well Bowie was the big one. That was a real big dream of mine. I met him a few times and he was adorable and he knew that I was a massive fan. He was very respectable, he was always lovely! I like the idea of doing things with people that you don’t expect. I’d like to work with Eminem or Dr Dre, or something that that just shouldn’t happen. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work.
Adam: Out of all the music that you’ve recorded, what’s your magnum opus?
George: Taboo: The Musical is my most complete moment. Ironically, when I was selling records I was never really having good reviews. I come from an era where critics used to really slag you off and it was kind of a sport, so I never really expected anyone to say anything nice about what I did musically, but when I did Taboo, I got a [positive] review that made me cry. It was about something that meant something to me. I was writing about characters that I knew very well [and] that I wanted to kind of play tribute to; people that had influenced me, that were part of my teenage experience and it was just so nice to go “right, I’m going to write a song about this person.”
Adam: You were part of the Blitz Kidz. You were kind of [on] the original club kid scene, and looking at the culture here in London now, where do you see club kid culture kind of going?
George: I feel like one of the most exciting things about the political climate right now is that I’m hoping it’s going to create more creativity. Sometimes you have these really dark political periods and it sort of makes the flowers grow, and I’m kind of hoping that that’s what is going to happen.
Adam: Sort of as a rebellion?
George: As a reaction. I feel like obviously I don’t go clubbing really, I go here and there, whereas when I was younger I couldn’t stay in, I just HAD to go out, so because I’m not immersed in that world I don’t really know what’s going on. I hear things, apparently Dalston is the place to go. I always smile when I see anybody making an effort. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen it 100 times before, it’s if like blue dreadlocks and fucking monster mash boots it just makes me smile.
Adam: Because you know that they’re enjoying themselves!
George: And there’s nothing wrong with also fitting in. It’s about tolerance. It’s like one thing isn’t better than the other, but I, as an artist, want to encourage people to express themselves. That can also be jeans and a t-shirt!
Adam: I like what you said about times of turmoil, in present it seems daunting, but I think it’s planting seeds for people to react to it.
George: I have grown up throughout a few different decades and political climates and I’ve never looked at any politician and thought “you really inspire me”. I’m going to find them in a point of paint and pot of glitter...not in politics. [Laughs]
Adam: Over the rainbow! When this issue goes on sale, it will have been thirty years since your first Gay Times cover story. Finally, how has your life changed since your first cover?
George: Well, it’s got better! It’s taken a while, but it’s definitely got better. I feel that life is about growing into who you are. You know Quentin Crisp used to say “you have to push your neurosis around in your body until it can sit somewhere that you can live with it” and I think that’s so true. I don’t feel like I have a lot of neurosis. I’ve got a different type of confidence now that I didn’t have when I was 20, or 25, or 30 or even 40, where I just used to be so controlled by outside forces...inside forces. I also work harder, I eat well, I exercise, I’m very conscious of what I do to myself, I don’t drink, I don’t take drugs, so my life in that respect has improved. I think in our business, having self-control is such a revelation. It’s like “I didn’t do that, isn’t that amazing!” so I kind of enjoy that feeling of self-control, being in charge and just getting shit done!