Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cutting Deep Into Scissor Sisters's Jake Shears

It would be impossible to put a time stamp on the music of Jake Shears and his band the Scissor Sisters. Basically every decade of popular music has been covered in their three LP's, the latest being Night Work, a fabulous concoction of pop, disco, rock, soul, new-wave, etc., (see what I mean?) Commercial success worldwide, opening for Lady Gaga on one of the biggest tours of the year, and being the subject of a coffee table book by famed photographer Tim Hailand hasn't seemed to make the leading man lose his focus, which is about creating music and absorbing the music and words from his icons.
Mr. Shears appears to be a man who will be one day regarded the way one thinks about Elton John or Freddie Mercury: a singer/songwrtier who creates from deep within his soul, allowing him to dive deep into ours.

Eric Chavez: Let's talk a little about the book [One Day in The Life], how did this idea come about with your friend Tim Hailand?

Jake Shears: Well we've known each other for ten years, and he's a good friend and great photographer and he shot me for a few magazines. It was a little piece called “Day in a Life,” that's kind of where were got the idea for the book. We just thought that once this album campaign started we would make the book, and I talked to Elton and Kylie and they were happy to write in it. It was just a matter of picking a day and going for it.

EC:Speaking of Kylie, I know you've written for her over the years,and I must say that when “I Believe in You” came out, I had that song on a loop! You also worked on Aphrodite and some unreleased material from the X album, just wondering if you'll be working with her in the future?

JS: Yeah! Always! I hope to always collaborate with her. She's a great friend, and she's really fun in the studio. We have a good time together and enjoy being creative together. She's one of my favorite people to be in the studio with, so I would hope so!

EC: I love the stuff you guy's do together, it was after Body Language, and no one knew what to expect from her, and out came this new sound. It was awesome! That brings me to the next question, now I know you're touring with Lady Gaga: what were your expectations when you met her, and what about her surprised you?

JS: I met her last summer, was introduced to her by Elton [John] and she had the idea for us to tour together. What were my expectations? I didn't have any going into the Monsters Ball Tour because you never know what the score is gonna be. The surprise was how amazing she is, and how her crew and dancers and the whole show is a wonderful family. We really had a great time. The other thing is we got along great with the fans, we got so much love from the room every night. I think we gained some fans. Her fans really seemed to welcome up with open arms, so it kind of couldn't be better.

EC: Wow, that's amazing! But you know we wouldn't even be talking here if it weren't for your band's success. You have been massive in the UK and had tons of success here. My next question is from one of your biggest fans. He heard you guys are doing a musical called “Tales of the City” and he was just wondering a little bit about it.

JS: I'm heading to San Francisco in one week to start production. Previews start in San Francisco on May 19 and then it opens June 1 and runs through July. I've been working on it for four years and it's been a real fun project. Something to put a lot of love into. It's gonna be wicked! I'm a little overwhelmed because it's a massive undertaking. It's a big show, with a big cast, and a lot of music, and a lot of story. It's intense, but I'm excited about it and the team. I'm doing it with Jason Moore and Jeff Whitty who worked on Avenue Q, and Babydaddy wrote a few songs with us. It's been a great team.

EC: I've noticed that you've gotten a lot of press coverage about your stage presence and sexuality, but when I think of you, well I do think of those things, too, but also about your songwriting, and how, I hate to say this, you think outside the box. You're so different, but your accessible. There's no formula.

JS: If I knew a formula I would use it. I don't, unfortunately. I just hope that we can be a band that's kind of ever changing at the same time staying who were are. That's really important, and not making the same record over and over again.

EC: Well, if you don't have a formula, do you have a songwriting process? If you care to share your secrets.

JS: It's all of the above. There's no rhyme or reason. Could come from a phrase or lyrics about a subject. It could come from a lick from something else. You could always try to mimic something and what you end up with is completely different. My favorite music that we've made, what they have in common is in my mind there's always a room or vision of a place, and setting that's very vivid when I'm writing the song and singing it. It's like they have their own little bedroom.

EC: This is a hard question. Let's say you were to select one song to show to people who have never heard you to represent what your band is about, just one song that was released, or even unreleased. What would it be and why?

JS: I would say probably “Mary.” I don't know that it really sum everything up, but it's my favorite and it has a great universal message that might still mean something in a hundred years if anyone were to listen to it.

EC: That's a great track, but my favorite song is your new single “Any Which Way.” I love the bass line. Music doesn't have a bass line anymore! There is dance music out there by Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, they're stuff is electronic but it doesn't have a bass! I appreciate you and a few other artists for putting a bass line in!

JS: When we were making that song, Babydaddy put that bass line in and it's just one of those great little songs that we wrote in the afternoon and a great song to play live.

EC: I read that you worked for Paper Magazine as a music critic, what kind of critic were you? Tongue-n-cheek? Harsh? Fair?

JS: I didn't do much critique, I would more interview people and things that interested me. When I actually started getting into things I cared about and interviewing people I was interested in, my tone changed a bit. I still like to do interviews with people that I like and that interest me. I had a terrible interview with Stockard Channing once that was really horrifying. That would be really funny to go back and find it. I kind of thought that's what I was gonna end up doing. It was a great way for me to meet creative people that I admire and interrogate them about their work and hope that a little bit of that rubbed off on me.

EC: I think it did. Now with all these things going on, when can fans expect album number four?

JS: We've been making music and yeah I think we'll put some stuff out too, I don't know if it's an album, but there will be music out sooner than later, but I'm not sure what form it's gonna take. Some really different stuff.

EC: Speaking of different, I respect you guys for not selling out.

JS: Oh listen, we have no problem selling out! Lord knows I've sucked a devil dick a few times. But I think you can do that and still keep your integrity.

EC: Whatever you do in the other ways in fine, but you don't sell out in the big way, like to corporate propaganda, you know?

JS: Yeah, I understand what you mean.

EC: One more thing, I know you've done countless interviews, but has there ever been a topic of subject you've wanted to talk about, but were never asked?

JS: I always love talking about bands that I listened to when I was growing up. There's a little bit in the book about a singer named Lux Interior who goes with The Cramps who really meant a lot to me. I love going back and thinking about all my favorite music memories and bands. It's pretty incredible to meet all those people sometimes.

The Nine Lives of Kat DeLuna

Back in 2007, club music was nowhere to be heard on mainstream radio, but with her first hit single "Whine Up" Kat DeLuna changed that. It was THE summer-anthem of that year, making music generally made for the clubs, something that maintain radio fans were beginning to crave. Since then, the sound has exploded, and like disco and house music before it, the club-rave-techno sound Kat helped to create has taken over. Her first album, 9 Lives, spawned other hit singles "Run the Show" and "Am I Dreaming," and since then, fans have been waiting anxiously for her followup LP. Inside Out, which has seen its European release, is still awaiting the time when it is to hit the shelves in the United States. Her last single "Party O' Clock" has woken up the world and gotten it dancing, and now, just in time for summer, Kat's upcoming single "Dancing Tonight" will surely set the dancefloor on fire once again, in the US and around the world.

I've heard Inside Out, and it's a wonderful cd. A great step forward from 9 Lives. This album has been pushed back and pushed back so many times. When can fans expect for a US release?

Right now we don't have the exact date chosen. It's been pushed back because things are being changed and done to make pure it has the perfect beat. It is scheduled to come out during summertime. Very Kat DeLuna! The European version is a lot of dance tracks, upbeat, party, party, party! But when I'm here at home, besides the party, there's also the beautiful ballads. That's the difference between the European and the American version is it has a little bit more of Kat DeLuna, not only the pop/dance music artist but it has the singer, so I'm really excited about it and I can't wait for everyone to hear it!

Just curious. Is there going to be a lot of Latin influence on the US relase of Inside Out?

Kat Deluna you know has a sound, is a mixture of a lot of things. It's pop, a little bit of house, metro and Latin flavor, so no matter what I do, it always has that Latin twist to it.

You have an amazing voice and I'd love to hear you do some more opera.

In this album you guys are going to hear that. The American version has more vocals. I've done more opera, too.

You have worked with RedOne, who is getting a lot more press lately for his work with artists like Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and of course yourself. What is it like in the studio with him?

Well RedOne is a very talented guy. In 2007 he was just starting as well as I was. And we worked on a very wonderful album, my first album 9 Lives. He's so worldly because he's African, speaks Spanish, speaks French, and I'm this American girl of Dominican decent, and I speak Spanish and English and I have this dancehall background. All these elements together made this sound [of my debut]. After that sound was given birth, he worked with other artists and evolved into building new things which I am so applauding him for that. On this album [Inside Out] he has worked on a couple of songs. When you guys hear "Dancing Tonight" the US version, you're gonna know that Kat's back! You know I think in life it's not about the hype of things, it's about being able to work with someone that you and that person together can comfortably create magic and just be there for the art of music.

You know, your influence and image for women is wonderful. You're sexy, but you're not putting yourself out there for men, not exploiting yourself for fame. Tell me about your image now.

I'm bringing back the essence of Kat DeLuna, the girl, that pop artist, not only that, but represent girl power, that's what I wanna be. I've always gone for that, but this time I'm definitely ready for that 100%. I just feel like a lot of artist don't like to admit it because of the pressure behind it, I know I am a role model. There are little girls looking up to me, more even in the Latino community. I'm the first Dominican pop artist to ever make it big in the international scene. Through my music I wanna give them an example of how to make it in life, no matter what. It is a very hard task to make it as Latino women in the world, I've been so blessed. For example, I just came back from Madagascar. I went to do a show there. I was scheduled to do a 30-minute set. But when I get to the stadium,which was made to hold 50,000 people, it had 30,000 more people there, so it had 80,000 people! I made a 30-minute show into a 2-hour show and I don't have a 2-hour show! It was so emotional that show, that if tomorrow, I'm not here, I think that i've done a little bit of my job here.

I know that your sound have been incredibly influencial. You were one of the first to bring the club sound to the mainstream back in 2007, but who are some of your influences?

Yes. I was the first artist to bring that sound, that very electro house, Latin world beat sound. I took a risk in 2007. I feel the person who opens the door, isn't always the one who gets the success, it's always the one who comes seconds. That's why me, I'm coming back even more evolved. Inspiration wise? I love Gloria Estefan, I think she was a big important role model for me, especially as an American Latina, she was the first to do that Latin sound with an American beat to it. I love Selena, I love Beyonce, Aretha Franklin, Juan Luis Guerra, amazing talent. I love people who are able to create big things out of nothing.

Lady Gaga: Born this Way To Express Yourself

After months of anticipation and time in the delivery room, Lady Gaga has finally given birth to her premiere single, “Born This Way,” from her upcoming album of the same name. In mere hours, the song reached the top of the iTunes singles charts and has already received thousands of mix reviews from her “monsters” and casual fans. But now that her new baby is born, in what way will this change music, as the singer-songwriter claimed.

The lyrics follow a recent trend of self-love. Recently, artists from Pink, with her track “Fuckin' Perfect” to Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” have made major hits of a similar theme. With Lady Gaga on board, it seems that in pop culture, it is cool to be you. That truly is a positive image to portray, and it is something that has been missing in music since Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” topped the charts.

The song is infectious, though, showing that Gaga still has a good ear for a strong rhythm. With its up-in-the-air-club sound, this track will undoubtedly be the gay anthem for the upcoming summer, but does it compare to staple gay anthems such as “I Will Survive” like Sir Elton John claimed? No. It wasn’t born that way.

Mainly the reason the track probaly won't be on any top ten best gay anthems ever any time soon is that it kind of sounds like another classic gay anthem, Madonna's 1989 hit single, "Express Yourself." Similar is the key word here. Gaga does throw in some of her own flavor into the song, but one can't help to imagine her listening to "Express Yourself" on a loop as she wrote the song.

What’s the problem, one asks? Well, for a woman who prides herself on originality and her uniqueness, to release a song so similar to such a famous song, written and performed by Madonna, who Gaga has been more than influence by in the past, leads to the question how original and unique is Ms. Gaga? She certainly has had her creative moments in the past, on album tracks such as “Paper Gangsta” and “So Happy I Could Die,” but her sound and look have been heavily influenced by the likes of Madonna, Cher , Grace Jones. Not to mention the remixers of the past 15 years.

Interestingly enough, blogger Perez Hilton has called “Born This Way” Lady Gaga’s “Like a Prayer,” perhaps because the melody is so similar from the single Madonna released right after the classic? In comparison to Gaga’s other tracks, musically “Born This Way” doesn’t have the same fierceness of “Telephone” or the iconic punch of “Bad Romance.”

Now that Lady Gaga has let the world see her new baby, finally the months of hype and hysterical can be put to rest. Will this change music and be the song for the generation? Probably not. Will it be a #1 worldwide smash? Probably so.

The end result: “Born This Way” has come out to be the love child of Madonna, circa 1989, and a Madonna remix from 2000.

Listen to the song here

“Born This Way” was released on iTunes and on Atlanta radio on February 11, 2011.

Inside Aiden Leslie

Sex appeal, a smooth voice, and his suave ways combine to make the next big pop star. Influenced by acts from Elvis to Erasure, Aiden Leslie has been in love with music from his early days, and it shows in his art. His sound blends pop, hip-hop and lets a little bit of dance influence sneak in to make pop perfection. His past hits such as “Please,” showed great promise for this performer and his new single, “World’s Away,” which has gotten its share of play on Atlanta's dance floors, features the talent of female rapper Farrah Burns, whose flow matches that of early 90’s rapper goddess’s such as Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and Jazzy P. Now back for another round after a short hiatus, Aiden Leslie is better than ever.

I saw the new video for “Worlds Away”. Great stuff! What gave you the inspiration to bring in a female rapper? I know that today there is Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, but Farrah [Burn] reminds me of an early 90’s female rapper.

Rap and hip-hop is something that I love very much, so in my mind, as an artist I wanted to bring that element to my new single. When I first started writing “Worlds Away,” I didn’t really write it thinking that I was going to have a rapper, but after we started writing the song, we came to the bridge and we were listening to the break down and it just came to me: this is the perfect opportunity for somebody to come and do 16-bars. At around the same time I had met Farrah Burns. I was like the universe came together.

Can fans expect a full studio album in the near future?
Absolutely. This is my single for getting back into the game. I’m working on the follow-up single and album now.

I know you have been taking a break from music from the past two years. What made you want to write again?

What really inspired me to come back is that I was so low for so long. When I say low, I mean not happy, and I was not feeling fulfilled on many levels. When I put music out of my life, that was definitely a conscious decision, but as time went on, I realized how much it was a part of my life, and just the fact that I didn’t have it anymore really changed me. It brought me to a bottom in many ways, but that’s not a bad thing because it brought me back to what I love, which is my music.

Your new video is now on VH1 along with so many artists, but who inspires you?
I really love Erasure, George Michael, of course I love Madonna. I love pop music, so I’m heavily influenced by pop music. People that are artists that are also songwriters really influenced me.

And what about today’s music, who are you listening to today?

I mean, I love Rihanna, I love Brandy, I love Jay-Z, I love Eminem. I think they are doing really cool work right now.

Lots of songs on the radio right now are very monotonous, with that electro-r&b-dance sound, but your song definitely sticks out, congratulations on that.
Well, that makes me feel good. For me, yes I listen to music out there today, but I also start from a place, a kind of dancey place out there. For me, I love hip-hop beats. So that was a starting point for me. Then I also love organic songs as well. It evokes a lot of emotion. .Of course pop music is a big influence so when you put the clear pop melodies against that, you know, that’s what’s really inspiring me now. I call it “hip-pop.” That’s the term that I’m coining. Yes, I have a rapper in my song, but certainly that’s not, I’m not trying to be a hip-hop artist.