Love 'em or hate 'em, the Scissor Sisters aren't going anywhere—well, except for Japan, and then probably more Europe tour dates and even more U.K. shows. Actually, let me revise: the Scissor Sisters are blowing up everywhere. Except for the U.S.
Perhaps it's snarling, self-conscious purists still smarting over the sweet-love makeover the band gave "Comfortably Numb" two years ago. Or perhaps the new record, Ta-Dah, didn't veer far enough from the bombastic pop templates (elsewhere referred to as Elton John and Barry Gibb ripoffs) established by their self-titled debut. Or perhaps Americans just aren't ready for Jake Shears' pantsuits. Whatever the reason for the world's lopsided enthusiasm toward their music—an exuberant, floor-filling sound with feet planted squarely in the '70s and the '90s, thus straddling the '80s, appropriately enough—it certainly isn't impeding their steady rise to superstardom across the rest of the world.
Still, it's not like international fame is all that cushy. I was able to reach the Sisters' guitarist Babydaddy in London, just after coming off the set of Greatest Hits Live (where, I was informed, they most certainly did not lip-sync), and we talked about lazy journalists and dwindling coolness.
The Scissor Sisters
The Scissor Sisters perform Thursday, March 15 at the Palladium Ballroom.
Jake Shears has said in interviews that he is wary of being a band whose second record is about how hard it is to live in hotel rooms. Were there second albums that you were keeping in mind as anchors at all?
The funny thing is, I think the bar was set higher than most second albums that we knew of. We're very spoiled. A good average for bands is to have success on their third or fourth records. So the anchors for us have always been those classic albums—albums that we find to be perfect from beginning to end. In this case, I guess it would be Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, Roxy Music's Avalon...I could name a whole lot, right up through Nine Inch Nails' Downward Spiral.
Well, there are some pretty dark sentiments on the record, come to think of it. Are you some sort of closet goth?
No, but I'm a very open Nine Inch Nails and Tool fan. I just saw Tool a couple nights ago at Wembley. One of the best shows I've ever seen—and it was my fifth Tool show. I like the heavier stuff. We don't discriminate.
Ta-Dah never really gets heavy per se, but I do think there's a lot more variety than the constant Bee Gees and Elton comparisons would suggest. Are journalists just lazy or are these comparisons fair?
Well, I would say it's lazy—but fair? I don't know. Maybe it is fair. You don't get many chances to make an impression on people in the music world. Bee Gees and Elton are two artists that we do like, but there's a lot more there. The press is no stranger to accentuating the obvious, though. It's our job to go out there and prove that stuff wrong, and it may take three or four albums in the States.
You folks like to downplay the gay majority of the band in interviews, and rightfully so—but do you find that it has opened certain doors and/or closed others?
I think it's too easy to say that the gay thing has held us back at all. Who knows? Maybe it's been our mistake not to market this as an all-gay thing—well, not a mistake, but you know, from a commercial standpoint. But we're very honest people; a lot of people confuse honesty with being truthful. We're not always truthful—we're putting on a show—but the honesty is still there. The music transcends gay or straight. Our drummer once referred to us as a third sex.
I'm trying to imagine a baby Babydaddy chilling in Kentucky. What was going on there?
He was very quiet and very worried. A neurotic little Jewish kid. When I really got into music, it was all hair metal. Nothing too hard—Megadeth was probably about as far as I went in that direction. I needed a melody, which is something I still look for.
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Has any of that stuck around?
When I look back, I go before all of that. I was a child of family road trips—so it was Billy Joel. I love Billy Joel. I just saw him, and he was amazing. I know, it's not very cool ...
Oh, I didn't mean to fall silent there.
Actually, I just read this article that said he was the only successful rock 'n' roll artist who has been perpetually uncool. I guess there was a time in the '80s when he was really cool. The thing is, though, coolness has always bothered us. You're bound to go down when you're up on some cool pedestal. Lo and behold, we were the coolest band in NME for the first year we were out; now we're on top of the uncool list. I'll take it. Leave us there, please.