Boy George first garnered international fame in the early
80’s as the “androgenius” front man of New Romantic outfit Culture
Club. With his soulful voice and dragamuffin appearance, he won over
a generation of fans with singles “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?,” “Time (Clock
Of The Heart),” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” which famously made the group the
first since the Beatles to achieve three top 10 hits from a debut album. “Karma
Chameleon” off their next LP, spent three weeks at number one and became their
signature track. The group would sell over 100 million singles and 50 million
Although Boy George eventually went solo and achieved a Top
20 hit with 1992’s “The Crying Game,” a Grammy nomination for 1999’s “When Will
You Learn,” and a Tony nod for his Taboo musical, he’d become more famous for
being infamous. News of his previous tempestuous relationship with
Culture Club drummer Jon Moss, drug problems, criticisms of other celebrities
and 2007 arrest and later incarceration for assault and false imprisonment of a
male prostitute, overshadowed his musical output in most people’s minds.
But now, after a five month stint in the slammer, a guest
spot on Mark Ronson’s single “Somebody to Love Me,” and a 35-date European
tour, a drug-free George is ready to seize the spotlight again — as an artist — with his first full-length in a decade, the uplifting, 16-track, electronic
album Ordinary Alien, out this month. There is also a Culture Club
reunion planned for 2012, which promises longtime fans a new album and tour.
recently caught up with a calmer, gentler George to discuss among other things
his new album, the Culture Club reunion, and perhaps his greatest legacy,
making it OK for young boys to wear makeup.
So what is the significance behind the Ordinary Alien album title?
Boy George: Well,
it doesn’t have a major significance, but I do think of myself as an ordinary
alien. People seem to have weird ideas of who I am, because so much crap
has been written about me, some true and some not. But Ordinary
Alien sums me up. I’m the alien you can take home to your
parents. I’m weird but not as weird as people think I am. It’s just
a cute title that explains things about me.
AE: On the album you cover Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.” With so
many Fleetwood Mac songs to choose from, why that one?
BG: What happened
is I was invited to do ‘Night of 1000 Stevies’ in New York and spent three weeks going through
every Stevie song and every Fleetwood Mac song, but couldn’t find one that I
thought I did well. There’s a lot of music that was so well done,
and I thought, ‘Oh god, do I dare do these songs?’ The night of the event, I
was a bit nervous, so I thought, ‘Why not try to do a song reggae style,’ and
the original cover was done as a reggae track. That’s how we
started and it worked like this — it suited the song and it’s such a brilliant
song. If I could choose, I would have written it as a reggae track.
AE: You also cover soul artist Terry Callier’s “I Don’t
Wanna See Myself.” Does that sentiment apply to you?
BG: I love it
because it’s a spiritual song, but it doesn’t knock you over the
head. It’s spiritual, but it’s light of mind. It’s a song about
looking in the mirror. There are plenty of times that I do that
metaphorically, but not physically.
AE: When you do look in the mirror, after the makeup is
washed off, what do you see?
BG: I never do
that. I don’t wear
makeup all the time anyway. Now I see the real difference when I’m
not, because when I put it on, that’s a responsibility — becoming that
person. Different things happen to me when I look
different. It makes people behave differently and I get more
attention. I’m becoming aware of the responsibility.
Makeup is an
amazing invention and I like what it can do, but it does not dictate my life as
it did when I was 19. Most of the time, I’m not dressed
up. I use it for special occasions, like going to a party or
performing. But I don’t feel obliged to be that
person. There is no pressure to do that anymore. Of course I don’t
like it when people stick cameras in my face when I’m not done up, which
happens from time to time. So if I go somewhere public, I paint
myself up. When I’m not, I try to lead as normal a life as I
can. It takes practice, but I do.
AE: Your ability to channel so much light and optimism into
your music might surprise fans since your personal life is often portrayed as
plagued by darkness.
BG: I think
people make mistakes, but because of a few bad headlines, they think my life is
a disaster. But I grab a smile from every corner and if there was no
positivity there, then I could not get through that stuff. With no humility or
sense of perspective, how could I survive that stuff? Even people who think
they’re not spiritual, in difficult situations, they’re praying and relying on
a higher power. People should not think that my life has always been
a drama. There is a lot of positivity. Most of the time, it’s like
that, and those qualities are important … maybe they’re my saving grace.
AE: Are you able to enter the U.S. to tour the new album?
BG: Not at the
moment, but we’re working on it. My lawyers are trying to deal with that as we
speak. I’ve paid for my mistakes, and I came and swept up New York. I could have decided
not to do it, but I did it, because I want to work and play in America. If
you try to do the right thing, you have to be able to get on with your life.
Rehab is about bringing people back to their rightful place. You
have to let someone get on with what they do. But I’m optimistic. I
hope it will be resolved.
AE: Do you miss America?
BG: Yeah, I have
a lot of friends all over America,
but now a lot come over here and that’s great. But New York is one of my
favorite places. I do miss it.