Boy George really doesn’t want to hurt you. Really.
Before Boy George, the ’80s music icon, sits down for an interview, his handlers offer specific instructions: Fill out this form. Do not discuss his most famous decade. Do not discuss his personal life. Or his Grammy-winning stint in the band Culture Club. They could have just summarized it with this admonition: “Don’t piss him off.”
In the shadow of his dramatic and impressive weight loss, as well as a new album, my date with Boy George (and cohort Marc Vedo) put me on eggshells before it began.
After fumbling for several minutes with Skype, eating into our brief interview window, I learned that, while Boy George has earned diva status, his reality was anything but. Both George and Vedo were a tag-team of humor and professionalism, but mostly they were two good friends getting to hang out all over the country playing their music.
George and Vedo discuss who’s on top and bottom, their friendship and the flip side of fame to George’s second career. And to not totally ignore the Culture Club era, questions can be sung in the tune of their biggest hits. You’re welcome.
— Rich Lopez
Dallas Voice: It’s a miracle, it’s a miracle and dreams are made of you coming to Dallas. Boy George: Well, we were put at the mercy of our promoter to go on the road [laughs].
Marc Vedo: We’d been planning an American tour for quite a while but it was a long process for his visa to get approved. And when we decided to hit America, the [electronic dance music] scene had exploded. Now we’ll be playing this now-famous club [It’ll Do] in Dallas. It’s exciting!
Time don’t give you time, and did time make you feel a place in the current dance music scene? George: I don’t think we do, but we’re not the stereotypical sound that is engulfing America right now. People think we’re playing very European stuff, but what we’ll be playing is early Chicago disco and house music. It’s very soulful.
Do you really want to hurt your audience, do you really want to make them cry? George: We’ve done three shows [so far], and all of it has been an experiment. We play stuff we think is great. You know, it’s funny when we played in Boston because the promoters thought we were gonna attract a totally gay crowd — but it was a straight crowd!
You know all there is to know about the crying game, you’ve had your share. George: It’s an interesting time for me. It’s been about seven years that people don’t recognize who I am and it’s great! John Travolta walked right past me recently. But being under the radar and looking different, I’ve been working hard and loving what I do. Whether my sound works over here from a DJ perspective or in terms of my new album, it just feels like endless possibilities.
First there are kisses, then there are sighs, then before you know where you are, you’re saying goodbye. George: It’s the flip side of fame. In the beginning, I had a hunger for attention but then I grew up a bit and finally I’m back to the thing I do where the job is fun.
Who’s the man without conviction? Who’s the man who doesn’t know how to sell a contradiction? Vedo: Well, I’m the one who sets the mood so I like arriving early and get the crowd grooving to what our sound is like, what the club is about and check the system. Then George comes and we’ll have a chat and I fill him and he ignores everything I tell him. At the end of it he realizes he should have listened to me [laughs].
George: Yeah, right! I guess I am a bit of a diva that way. But he gets me on my toes. You know dance music in America, what you call EDM, is very white and kids get carried away these days by what’s popular. What we’re requiring is for people to shake their hips from these pioneering sounds of Chicago and Detroit.
Vedo: I know. I’ve talked to some younger folks and they think dance music started like five years ago!
George: And let’s not forget disco. America has this rich dance history. I grew up in ’70s and then the ’80s with the early part of acid house. It’s important to stay on the times but respect the legacy like Daft Punk. I think Daft Punk has this advantage of being uber-cool, you don’t know who they are and they and Pharrell are in this moment.
Would you give everything you own to the Dallas gig? George: My sets are eclectic and I don’t know what I’m gonna play. I’ll have some ’80s references and I’m always buying new things, but these days, to be an interesting DJ, you gotta be different. I’m not like all those people playing the same records. Although, I believe I do have a Rihanna song in there. Hmmm. But you can’t program me! And there’s always the request for a song that you’d never play originally.
You never wanted to be a hero, you never wanted to be a man? George: I’m a good DJ and I love it and have been doing it for 25 years — since the late ’70s. Obviously I had the band, but I don’t see why I can’t be both. Maybe it confuses people, but I’m a Renaissance man. I do art. Make clothes. I don’t see why I have to do one thing. I now have a second career and I’m able to do the pop/rock thing as well. I felt like the big fish in a big DJ pond, but Mark looked after me. He took the screws out of me, this broken doll in the gutter of life and put me back together.
You know we’ve missed you, you know we’ve missed you blind.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 18, 2013.