Carly Rae Jepsen: The gay interview

CarlyRae4Carly Rae Jepsen is calling — and no, not maybe.

This is a real-life phone date (pegged, of course, to the release of her latest synth-pop concoction, E•MO•TION) wherein the 29-year-old is bubbly over, well, just about everything: Her career. The gays. Marriage equality. Being “the little mermaid.” And that time Justin Bieber changed her life.

Dallas Voice: Growing up in Mission, British Columbia, what was your introduction to the gay community?  Jepsen: In Canada, I had tons of friends who I grew up with who are gay or lesbian. I had one friend in particular, and I saw just how hard it was for him when his family found out he was gay — they shunned him, actually. He thought he was gonna have to make it on his own and move out — it was heartbreaking for all of us. We didn’t really understand it, and that’s probably when I began to really get angry about the pain that was caused for what I thought was no reason. Moving to the U.S. and seeing how big of an issue it is made me to want to help and bring awareness to the subject.

As a steadfast ally, that’s exactly what you’ve done. Though the group has since adjusted its policies on both fronts, you famously canceled a Boy Scouts of America gig due to the fact that gay members and leaders could not work and volunteer.  You know what, I’ve had a couple “I think I’m gonna tell my kids about this” moments. When we got marriage equality and there was a celebration for that in New York City [hosted by Freedom to Marry on July 9], it was an honor to be a part of that.

I can’t explain it. There are some performances that you do and you’re like, “That was cool, that was fun.” That one was different fun. It was so memorable and an incredible thing to be a part of. The band and I had a moment backstage where we all kind of were like, “Wow, this is really cool. This is a different kind of cool, to be a part of this.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Music legend Giorgio Moroder: The gay interview

Giorgio3At 75, disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder reemerges to once again produce some of the biggest icons of our time

By Chris Azzopardi

It’s been 35 years since Giorgio Moroder and Cher hooked up for a late-night session to produce “Bad Love,” the diva’s disco rave-up from the soundtrack of the 1980 coming-of-age drama, Foxes.

“We were supposed to start at 2 o’clock in the studio, and who comes in at 2 o’clock punctual? Cher,” Moroder recalls, tickled. “I said, ‘Shit, because with an artist like her — the big stars, you think, if it’s 2 o’clock, they come in at 5 o’clock, if you’re lucky. So she was there at 2 o’clock, and I said, ‘Cher, something is wrong — I was told you’re always late.’ And she said, ‘Yes, I’m always late… except the first time.’”

Decades have passed and music has changed and Cher has not. One other thing remains the same: Moroder still lights up at the mere thought of the ageless icon, how “I loved her” and “she was so funny.” Undoubtedly, Cher, to this day, can still smack you with a punchline. A star, an icon, the diva of all divas — her success is abiding.

Now, returning to the scene at age 75 with his first album in 30 years, Moroder can say the same for his own monumental success.

The Italy-born musical mastermind who unwittingly blazed a fruitful trail of radio hits is the father of such celebrated dance-floor relics as Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” and Blondie’s ubiquitous No. 1 hit “Call Me.” A cavernous catalog of ’70s-era paragons and Moroder’s unprecedented artistic vision became the catalyst for modern-age dance music. Between 1974 and 1984, Moroder’s creative force was a hot commodity, and everyone who was everyone — Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie — clamored for his heyday genius.

During Moroder’s most musically prolific era, the producer, composer and DJ could be found endlessly shacked up in a studio. There, he’d mix until the wee hours, never to succumb to his own burgeoning brand of sonic escapism that coaxed just about everyone but himself — the man behind those very beats — to the clubs.

“If I go back, I remember one year, ’85, when I did the [music for the] Top Gun movie,” he says. “The whole year I was doing several projects, of which most didn’t work out, but I think I had one weekend by myself. I would work like crazy.”

And even that’s an understatement. While producing for an army of iconic artists during the first wave of disco-dance, Moroder was also becoming a booming cinema presence.

He won his first Oscar for his music in 1978’s Midnight Express, and then two more for “Flashdance… What a Feeling” and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” from Top Gun. In 1983, he intensified Scarface with his music (he produced the soundtrack), and also contributed to the 1984 children’s fantasy classic The NeverEnding Story, for which he produced the theme song.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Hilary Duff: The gay interview

Chris Azzopardi admits: He wasn’t especially a Hilary Duff fan. And then he interviewed her.

Convert. Totally.

In their rangy interview, the former Lizzie McGuire star talks about marriage equality, her fascination with Grindr and why she took a break from showbiz.

HilaryDuff1“I’m like the dorky kid on the bus who’s like, ‘Hiiii.’”

Wait a minute. Is that you, Lizzie McGuire? Maybe? No.

It’s Hilary Duff, razzing on her cold-ridden, congested-sounding self as she does a nasally nerd impression. And though Duff is known to millennials (and their moms) for originating the dorky Disney icon in 2001 — which, she admits during our interview, has been “torturous” — the 27-year-old is ready to move on. Actually, she’s been ready. It’s the rest of the world that just can’t seem to let Lizzie go.

During an insightful and surprisingly candid conversation, Duff spoke about her career as a whole just hours following June 26’s landmark Supreme Court ruling, which granted full marriage rights to LGBT Americans. The child star-turned-music maker also talked about her latest album, Breathe In. Breathe Out., eight years in the making; the long break she took to find her true self; and not knowing how to be a “totally normal girl who doesn’t give a fuck.”

Dallas Voice: You’re a longtime ally of the LGBT community, and you also have many gay friends, so you must have been thrilled about the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. What does that momentous moment mean to you?  Hilary Duff: Oh my gosh. I’m so excited. What a big day. It’s a huge step toward equality. Everyone should be able to be who they are, love who they want and marry who they want. It’s 2015; for us to still have judgment about people being gay is ridiculous, so I can’t believe it’s taken this long. It’s definitely a big day in history, and I’m just so excited.

Considering you’re not feeling well, you probably won’t be celebrating just yet.  Actually, I do have a party happening at my house tonight for my assistant/best friend. We just worked through her birthday during album release week, and I feel so bad, so we’re finally celebrating at my house tonight. But we’ll be celebrating [marriage equality] as well, I’m sure. It definitely deserves a big toast. Do you have a partner?

I don’t have a partner, no. Is being on Tinder key to finding “the one?” Perhaps you can give me some dating advice. What are Hilary Duff’s tips for finding a husband?  Obviously, I haven’t been so lucky. No – I don’t know. I would not, uh — I would not go with me on Tinder. I don’t know! God. Geez. Maybe the right thing will be in the air tonight.

Lately you’ve been a Tinder enthusiast; have you experienced Grindr?  Well, I haven’t physically actually experienced it, like I don’t have it on my phone or anything, but it’s basically the same thing as Tinder, right? I know because my makeup artist, who’s one of my best friends, has used Grindr a lot and he’s told me all about it. I get to hear all the stories.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Mo’Nique: The gay interview

MoNique1Mo’Nique isn’t one to hold back. Take her ongoing clash with Lee Daniels, who directed her Oscar-winning performance in 2009’s Precious. Daniels said the 47-year-old’s behavior got her “blackballed;” she, on the other hand, says Hollywood isn’t “playing fairly.”

The actress’ latest film, Blackbird, rolled into theaters earlier this spring, but she remains a draw onstage — she’ll be performing at at Arlington Improv July 10 and 11. Prior to her appearance, our Chris Azzopardi sat down with Mo’Nique to discuss how the back-and-forth feud wouldn’t stop her from working with Daniels again; her belief that if she doesn’t have to come out as straight, nor should LGBT people; and the childhood mantra that brings her comfort when the media is on her back.

Dallas Voice: Blackbird tells the story of someone who’s looking for acceptance from the outside world but also from within. Have you been there? Do you know what it feels like to be an outsider?  Mo’Nique: I think every human alive understands what it means to be an outsider. We’ve all been outsiders in one situation or another, so of course I’ve felt like an outsider before. But it’s OK to be an outsider.

What situation did you find yourself in that made you feel like an outsider?  Baby, when I wanted to be a high school cheerleader and they didn’t think I could wear the little small skirts and do the kick.

As an LGBT ally, where do you go internally to play someone like Claire, the homophobic mother in this film?  I go to honesty, because I know those mothers and I know those fathers that have and are having a really difficult time accepting the babies that they brought into the world. They can’t understand, “How can my baby be born that way?”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Out in Neon: Trees’ Tyler Glenn

Neon Trees’ gay frontman Tyler Glenn is a nice guy: Funny, smart and thoughtful, he’s the kind of artist who makes the interview process an enjoyable one. So it’s not all that surprising that Tyler’s band also comes off as funny, smart and thoughtful, especially on its latest release, Pop Psychology (Mercury). A more personal effort than the quartet’s previous releases, many of the songs involve serious subject matter. But instead of getting bogged down, the music, which is buoyant and brilliant dance-pop, elevates the songs and the mood, sort of like a musical anti-depressant.

Neon Trees will perform in the intimate space of the Granada on June 18. Before the concert, Gregg Shapiro talked to Glenn about the band’s name, being pigeonholed in a genre and what the reaction has been by fans to coming out (it’s not what you’d expect).MG_6313_re-credit-Mathew-Hartman

Dallas Voice: For the few uninitiated, say something about the genesis of the name of the band.  Tyler Glenn: I was with friends in high school and we would hang at a burger establishment called In-N-Out in California. It was one of the older, more original ones. They had these palm tree lights. We thought Neon Palm Trees sounded like a cool band name. I always kept it in the back of my mind [laughs]. Unfortunately, we are kind of tied to fast food [laughs].

Were other names in contention?  There was always a list of names that my guitar player and I had, but a lot of the names were either too dark and serious for the type of music that we wanted to make or a lot of them were [the names of] smaller bands that I thought no one knew. I don’t know what I was thinking. “No one knows this band, so we’ll have this name.” It was very immature of me. I don’t think there were any viable options, really.

Neon has been a popular component of bands’ names — Neon Trees, Neon Indian, Neon Hitch, Neon Neon. Why do you think that is?  Yeah! I don’t know. That was definitely a concern. We had had our name for a long time. We had been a band before we put out our first record for quite a while. When we put out our first record in 2010, that’s when Neon Indian put their record out, and then Neon Hitch. We found out that that is actually Neon Hitch’s name. Her parents gave it to her. She couldn’t go changing her name [laughs] and we couldn’t fault her for that. I don’t know the answer; maybe the connotation with new wave music or something.

Speaking of new wave music, on Habits, Neon Trees’ full-length major-label debut, there is a song titled “1983” which is followed by the song “Girls and Boys In School,” which recalls New Order in 1983. Can you please say something about the both the musical significance of the year 1983 and the band New Order for Neon Trees?  The song 1983 is about the year I was born, but it’s not really about the year. The song’s more about maintaining that level of innocence before love gets tainted, for me anyway. I think the song definitely took a more literal approach in the music video. I think listeners looked at us and thought, “Oh, they love the ’80s” [laughs]. But I think the song was more a nostalgic thing for me, in terms of innocence and youth. New Order has always been a massive influence on the band. I love their hybrid of electronic music and the roots of it and how it started as a band back with Joy Division, when it was more guitar-based, I thought they did that really well. And Peter Hook’s bass-playing is timeless. I’ve always been highly influenced by that band, for sure.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Marina and the Diamonds: The gay interview

Marina22015“This line is so sketchy!” says Marina Lambrini Diamandis (better known by her stage name, Marina and the Diamonds). But despite the fallible international phone connection, the Welsh indie-pop artist’s refreshing truthfulness is not impeded as she promotes her latest album, FROOT.

Marina can be heard loud and clear while serving major dish to Chris Azzopardi on a variety of hot topics: lesbian rumors, Katy Perry parties, interviews she calls “complete shit” and what she thinks of artists who pander to the gay community (Hint: “It’s insulting”).

Dallas Voice: So, your new album, Marina: I cried.  Noooo!

Was the experience of creating the music as emotional of an experience for you?  Yeah. I mean, maybe in a less intense way because I was writing it for over 18 months. With everything I’m very kind of exposed, but particularly so with this one.

How did you end up making an album that’s very much about self-confidence and loving yourself first?  I can’t really tell you. There’s not an answer for the way I got to that point. The relationship you have with yourself — you can’t really orchestrate that or make that happen. It’s more than just a point you get to in your life. It was very gradual. Obviously, I must’ve got to a point where I was inspired enough to write about it for songs like “Happy,” but that was quite late in [the recording stage], so songs like “Immortal” and “Gold” were written on the way to getting to that point, if that makes sense.

So you were working yourself out as you went along?  Yeah, totally.

The album really resonates with me in a way that I think will also resonate with a lot of people in the LGBT community.  A lot of the reason I think I have a gay fan base is because a lot of the themes, and the core of the songs, are usually stemming from something to do with identity or acceptance. I know that I always felt like that and I don’t anymore. FROOT definitely focuses on that, but I suppose, yeah, it is a lot about letting go of certain things. Anyone who feels rejection, prejudice or discrimination in some way would connect to that.

When we spoke in 2012, you were reluctant to gush too much about your gay fan base. At the time you said, “I don’t want to be a cliché pop star saying, ‘I love my gays!’” When does talking about one’s gay fan base become a cliché?  It’s not that it’s a cliché — it’s more that, perhaps, I was cynical about it. I felt that people in pop use that to express themselves in that way for calculated means because they know the gay fan base is extremely loyal and extremely expressive and is a tastemaker demographic. You know what I mean? It’s like, “Oh, god.” It’s insulting to both sides.

I kind of feel the same way now, because, yeah, of course I have a really strong gay fan base, and the fact is that it is a really enjoyable factor for me to have a really strong demographic because it makes the shows a lot more fun, for one, and because they are really expressive. But all types of people should be appreciated. I’m sure the gays would back me up on that!Do you think the appreciation of one’s following can morph into pandering?  On Twitter, I don’t really like it when I see loads of messages from an artist saying [in baby voice] “I love you guys! I love you guys! I love you guys!” because I don’t think there’s any kind of intelligence in that. Also, how can you be genuine and say that so many times? Maybe that’s when it becomes pandering, when you’re dumbing down your fan base.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Spy’ star Rose Byrne: The gay interview

SPY-01220.CR2Rose Byrne is up to no good again.

After driving Kristen Wiig further into cupcake-consuming meltdown mode during 2011’s Bridesmaids, the Australian actress goes full-on diva in Spy, which reunites her with director Paul Feig and co-star Melissa McCarthy. As McCarthy’s dead-serious, fashion-challenged Spy foe, Byrne — also known for roles in Neighbors, Damages and the X-Men movies — stars as the wickedly divine Raina Boyanov.

During our recent interview, Byrne talked about how her onscreen bouffant caused a hairy situation with the studio, the disparity between women and men in Hollywood films (“It’s discrimination”) and her caveat when it comes to playing gay.

Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I know lots of queens who’d kill for your Raina hair in this movie. Who was your drag queen consultant?  Rose Byrne: [Laughs] I’m very honored and flattered you say that. As long as I have their approval, I’m done! [The studio] didn’t actually want my hair like that. Paul and I really had to fight for it. We had a specific idea of where she was from and what she looked like — a lot of money, no taste and very Eastern European. Very Marie Antoinette. And it’s a spy film, so style is such an important element of it … even if it’s bad style!

I’m glad everyone could agree that bigger is better in this case. How did you convince the studio to see it your way?  Once it was all together and we were on camera. It just all came together: the costume, the makeup, everything. And it just needed a little more. She’s quite still as a character, and I think [the hair] says a lot! It was the stronger choice! That’s how we convinced them.

What did it feel like on top of your head?  It felt… good! I mean, it was heavy. It would move a lot, too. Oh my goodness. It was constantly shifting because it was so big, and if I was waiting around, it would start to, like, deteriorate. Sarah Love, the hair designer on the film, did a brilliant job, because it was a lot.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Reba McEntire: The gay interview

Reba2Even by phone, Reba McEntire makes you feel right at home. “Thanks for the visit; I’ve enjoyed visitin’ with you!” the singer drawls, wrapping up our conversation as if I’d just stopped by for buttered grits and a cup of hot coffee.

A music, television, film and theater superstar with a trove of prestigious awards, Reba is enormously famous, but talking to her, you wouldn’t know it. She comes across more like a friend. Fancy? Not so much. And she certainly won’t let her rabid gay following down – she has delighted in a friendship with the LGBT community since the beginning of her 40-year career.

Now, as she releases her 27th studio album, Love Somebody, the country icon’s ready to take some serious stands.

In a chat with Chris Azzopardi, Reba stresses the importance of gay marriage, how sad it is to know that some country artists feel they can’t come out, and her message to parents who can’t accept a child who’s not straight.

Dallas Voice: You grew up in a town with, like, 16 people and lots of cows. I imagine there weren’t a lot of gay people in Chockie, Okla.  Reba: Nope, nope. Not at all that I know of, or in high school. I guess in college was the first time I was around any gay people, and they became my friends first and then I found out they were gay, so there ya go! Didn’t change my opinion of ’em; I still liked ’em a lot.

One was a very dear friend of mine who helped me a lot with my singing and my music, and he was just a super sweet, gentle man who loved music with all his heart. I’m pretty sure that was my first introduction, the first time I met anyone who was gay.

As a longtime ally, how important are LGBT equality and same-sex marriage rights to you?  Very important. I just went to my first gay wedding a couple of months ago in California for Michael and Steven, my two great friends. They’ve been together for 20 years! I thought that it was not fair, and I didn’t understand why they couldn’t get married. It wasn’t because they just wanted to get married. If one of them had gotten injured and gone to the hospital, the other one couldn’t make decisions for them. It’s very upsetting. It’s not only for convenience or for romantic reasons —it’s for practicality. For practical reasons! I get a kick out of what Dolly said: “Why shouldn’t they get married and be as miserable as the rest of us?” 

You don’t seem so miserable in your marriage, though.  No, not at all. But I don’t understand why people have a problem with it. I’m a very spiritual person, but I don’t judge. I try not to; I’m only human. To each his own, and everybody is different. God did not make us all the same. So, I just pray for an open mind and a loving heart, and I think that’s all I can do.

In your four decades as a country musician, how much progress do you think the genre has made when it comes to embracing LGBT fans with open arms?  Well, I’ve always embraced gay and lesbian fans with both arms. I have a huge gay following!

Absolutely. But country music as a whole — do you see progress when it comes to LGBT equality?  Yeah, I do. There are more [artists] speaking out about it, but I can’t really speak for anyone else other than myself.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Josh Groban: The gay interview

JoshGroban4 JamesDimmockChris Azzopardi talks to the sexy singer.

It all began with the bears. “I’m like, ‘Are you a baseball team?’” says Josh Groban, recalling an early-career encounter with a man who informed the crooner about his growing number of gay bear fans. Nearly 15 years later, members of the LGBT community — even the non-hairy ones — are still feeling struck and soothed by Groban’s elastic range. Stages (which drops April 28) is yet another swoon-worthy set from the singer. His first collection of songs from Broadway musicals, Groban takes on some of Broadway’s best for the album, which includes “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel and The Phantom of the Opera showstopper “All I Ask Of You,” a duet with Kelly Clarkson. While discussing the release during a recent interview, the 34-year-old also highlighted the significance of performing with the Washington, D.C. Gay Men’s Chorus during Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration, the validation his younger “awkward” self felt after being named Sexiest Newcomer and how Ryan Gosling put the singer’s sexuality to the test.

Dallas Voice: I saw you in Toronto for Rufus Wainwright’s If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway – An Evening of Love Duets last summer. You really got your gay on.  Josh Groban: [Laughs] I’ll always put my gay on for Rufus.

During an interview you did regarding that performance, Rufus referred to you as a “dreamboat.” At this point in your career, are you used to that kind of attention from gay men?  Yeah, it’s happened from time to time. Look, when Rufus Wainwright is complimenting you, musically or otherwise, it’s a great honor. Something that was surprising to me that happened when I first got signed at 19, 20 years old: I was at some kind of shop, and I was walking around with someone — it was probably my girlfriend — and this guy comes up to me and goes, “Hey, I just want you to know, the bears love you.” I’m like, “Excuse me? What?” And I didn’t know what that meant! I’m like, “Are you a baseball team?”

How did you figure out what type of bears he was referring to?  I think some Googling had to take place. And it was like, “Oh. Ohhhh!” [Laughs]

And you’re like, “Not the bears in the forest.”  Yeah, and not the Chicago Bears.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gwen Stefani: The gay interview

GwenStefani3Editor’s note: More than 15 years ago, I drove over to Fort Worth to see No Doubt in concert. I was glad I went — not because of No Doubt, which gave a kind of programmatic concert that felt robotic and uninspired — but because that was my first introduction to the opening act: Cake. I’ve been a huge Cake fan ever since. No Doubt? Not so much. Gwen Stefani has never stood out to me as any kind of icon worthy of gay devotion … and I have to say, I feel even more strongly about that after reading Chris Azzopardi’s interview with her, below. What are your opinions about Stefani? And are they changed after reading this?

From bed in her Los Angeles home, Gwen Stefani insists she doesn’t mind doing her first gay press interview in a decade on her day off. “I love talking about myself,” the No Doubt frontwoman says, giggling.

Set to release her third solo album this spring, Stefani rang to open up about her “late in life” introduction to the gay community, the lesson she’s teaching her boys when she paints their nails and how hubby Gavin Rossdale has broadened her worldview.

Dallas Voice: You were raised Roman Catholic in infamously conservative Orange County. Considering this upbringing, what was your introduction to the gay community?  Gwen Stefani: That’s a really good question. I’m going back in my brain. When did I get introduced? I think my first friend that I had was Mathu Andersen — that was pretty late in life. He’s a makeup artist that I met doing the “Ex-Girlfriend” video [in 2000], and he was with this guy Zaldy, a designer who’d eventually work on L.A.M.B. with me. Then Mathu introduced me to Danilo, who ended up being my hairdresser, who introduced me to Gregory Arlt, my [current] makeup artist.

These guys have become some of my closest friends over the years, and also the team that have helped me creatively on so many levels. It’s interesting how it feels. All the people that I’ve met in the gay community in my particular life have just been very creative people and people that have just been friends to me in a way that I haven’t had in my life before that. It’s hard to put into words. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s interesting because we can talk about so many things that we are all interested in and yet it’s different from having a guy friend or a girlfriend. It’s like having a creative partner.

When No Doubt first hit the scene, you were known for your tomboy image. Because of your style, were there times you were mistaken as a lesbian?  I don’t remember there ever being too many rumors about that. I think everybody knew my story, because when Tragic Kingdom came out I had broken up with Tony [Kanal], so everybody knew that “Don’t Speak” and all those songs were about that, so I think that’s probably why [there weren’t rumors]. I was so young when all that started. I mean, I started the band when I was 17.

The way you’ve personally subverted gender norms seems to have influenced your three boys. You’ve gone with your oldest, Kingston, to get manis; also, he wore a tutu on his birthday. As a parent, what importance do you place on showing your kids about self-express?  It’s one of those things where, it’s not like I don’t think about it, but they’re used to being around me, and I’m always doing my hair, makeup, nails. Their whole life is, like, sitting on my lap while I’m doing that surrounded by three gay men who are on me the entire time. [Laughs] It’s just normal for them. What I like to say is that being unique and original is what makes me happy, and I think that rubs off on them. My sons did nails just the other day, and the only reason was because their nails were so disgusting! Like, they were in the mud and I was like, “We have got to do your nails!

I literally have 400 bottles of nail polish, so they took them all out and put them all over the bathroom. We … did tiger stripe nails. I said to Kingston, “Are you sure you wanna do pink, because you’re gonna go to school tomorrow? Are you sure you’re not gonna be embarrassed?” He said, “No, I don’t care; it’s a cool color.”

I just love that. It’s really important more than anything else to not be talked into something, to stand your ground and to be able to be strong about what you feel. That’s what I like and that’s what I want them to learn — that being individual and being unique is important. Don’t be scared of that. I don’t want them to try to be like everyone else, and at that age, everybody just wants to have the same shoes everybody else has, and I don’t really like that. If they do want to, I’ll support that as well. You just want them to be happy. It’s a short life and it goes by so quick.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones