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Text JF. Pierets Photos Courtesy of Boy George
Needless to say we were head over heels when we heard Boy George was releasing his first studio album in 18 years. Hence all those years of dj-ing, the Culture Club singer and ‘80’s icon has never been gone, yet we’re very much looking forward to this new creative step called ‘This is What I Do’ which will be released on October 28th. We catch up at the Antwerp Pride where he’s playing a dj set at the Wave festival together with one of the most impressive international DJ talents and creatively consistent producers, Marc Vedo. The last 5 years, they’ve exclusively been playing in a duo set-up and have just released their new single ‘These Gods Will Fall’. First we meet with Marc.
How did you and Boy George meet and when did you decide on working together?
Marc Vedo When I left school I started to organize events en George was one of the first artists I booked as a DJ. At the time I did not know him as a singer. I’d never even heard of Culture Club. I only knew he was a successful DJ in the UK. At the time I only listened to house music and he was a very good house DJ. We’d made a connection and we have been working together ever since. We’ve been touring since 2001, 12 years now. My wife calls him wife number 2.
I guess the music scene has changed a lot in all those years?
Marc Vedo It used to be really underground. Clubs where very dark, you would just go there and dance. Now it has become very commercial. Clubs used to be about music and now it’s about bottle service. People go to a club, hire a table that costs 5000 euro and buy bottles of champagne. People go there because they want to be seen. You need to be very careful regarding your bookings because otherwise you could end up playing for people that are not even listening to your music.
Everybody can be a DJ?
Marc Vedo Yes, apparently Paris Hilton is also a DJ. I actually think that for certain celebrities it’s a great opportunity to stand and perform for thousands of people, yet I’ve worked all my life to get here. I always respect what people do, but for some it’s an easy option to get paid a lot of money and that’s a bit lame. Technology came such a long way that instead of actually mixing, you just have to push a button.
You are a DJ, a producer, a manager and you make music. A lot of things.
Marc Vedo I like being all those things. It would be boring if I were just one thing. I like business as well as music. Doing business deals and making a company grow is very exciting. I left school when I was 18 and went straight into DJ-ing. I was a mid 90’s to early 2000 kind of kid so I’m doing it for a long time.
You and Boy George just released a new single called ‘These Gods Will Fall’.
Marc Vedo Yes, have you seen the clip? Great, isn’t it? I’m the one with the sunglasses and of course George is the one with the hair. We have a lot of music coming out, are going to do a lot of touring and lots of traveling. It’s all very exciting.
You’re working together for over 12 years now. You still feel inspired?
Marc Vedo Always! Yet is takes months before we finish a song because of all our arguments. We’re both perfectionists so that’s not always making it easy. Nevertheless he’s one of the most talented people I work with.
Our time is up and Marc is getting ready to go on stage for a performance we will later refer to, as the best set we’ve heard in quite a while (check the tour dates!). Meanwhile Boy George arrived in the backstage. When I state that he’s even looking better than in the 80’s when I was younger and madly in love with him, he smiles and answers quickly and observant: ‘And look at you now, married to a woman with a beard. You still have the same taste as back then.’ I guess it doesn’t come as a surprise if I tell you that I felt 14 years old again.
When talking about your new album, the media covers that you are ‘back’. Yet you have never been gone.
Not really. I’ve been traveling the world as a DJ for 25 years now yet the dance scene is going through such a big transition. At the moment it’s shifted to America but Great Britain used to have the most vibrant dance scene. Now, there’s nothing. At one point in the early ‘90’s when acid house started in the UK, there wasn’t any small village or town you couldn’t go clubbing. There were clubs everywhere and sometimes we did 4 gigs a night; starting at 8 and going on till 7 in the morning. That was so crazy. Nowadays it’s completely different.
What made that kind of change?
Obviously the world has opened up and I think people have a much shorter concentration span than they used to have. When you’re passionate about music, you can steal it. It’s not such a precious commodity anymore. There’s a good side about technology because it has given a lot more possibilities for anyone to make a record, yet the problem is they’re all making the same record. All that kind of wonderful individuality seems to disaggregate with the rise of technology. What you think and how you do things, is what makes you interesting. I don’t think there’s very much you can do that’s new, but the only way that you can do them is in your own way. The future is therefore all about interpretation.
And about live situations.
Indeed, nobody can be you in a live situation. When you perform as a dj or as a musician, you can only be yourself.
Do people see you as the person you are right now or are they still blinded by the 80’s icon?
If they do, they’re living in the wrong decade. It would be the same, as if I would be hoping for a 14 year old you. It’s such a weird thing, you know, I’ve already been the old Boy George yet now I’m the new Boy George. I don’t live in the past and I don’t exist in past context. It’s really bizarre if someone thinks that I’m not like I used to be. Well no, I’m 52! Surprise!
‘There’s not very much you can do that’s new, the only way to do them is in your own way. The future therefore is all about interpretation.’
But isn’t that what usually happens with icons?
I don’t really walk around and think I’m an icon. Get up in the morning, shave and think; ‘well hello icon!’ I just think of myself as a creative person. I love the fact that I get to do what I love and I’m always kind of working on new things. I got the chance to explore my creativity as a job and that’s amazing. Some people get it and some people don’t. Same as back in the days, some people got it, others didn’t.
Regarding your new album, is it autobiographical?
Let’s say it’s a reflection of me, yet less personal than the albums I’ve made before. When I was younger, I felt like I had to tell everybody everything about myself. As I grew older I realized I’m not obliged to do so. Some things are really precious, even sacred, and not for public consumption. My attitude on how I expose myself has changed dramatically because I’ve always been very careless. As a very young man I’ve been shoved in front of a camera and I really had to learn how to behave. I had to learn to protect myself a little bit and to say; ‘actually, this is none of your business.’ When I came to write this album I approached it as a very different person. I’ve been through a lot of interesting experiences in my life and I’ve done a lot of growing up in the last 5 years. I explore myself in a bit more of an inferior way in these songs. I sing about myself but maybe through the eyes of someone else. It’s not just me spitting my guts. And another important thing is that I am not unhappy. When I’ve made records in the past there was always somebody who broke my heart, some relationship gone wrong or some drama because when I was younger, I thought all relationships where about love. Everything was love. Now I realize that it wasn’t all love. Consider that a big revelation to me, and something I sing about on the album. I sing about the fact that I used to think that all of that drama and rubbish was real love, while love is something a bit more ordinary, a bit more organic. Sometimes it even smells a little bit. It’s not all fire works and police sirens.
In a few minutes you’re playing for an LGBT audience of thousands. Do you feel connected?
They’re all my brothers and sisters in various forms and I think at the moment, the subject of gay events is very important. There’s so much stuff going on in the world. It’s terrifying. I feel like it’s going backwards. When I started my journey as a musician in 1982, I really felt like I transformed the world and people were just a little bit less uptight than they are today. People are pretty tolerant in the West but that’s about the only place. I feel like there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and it’s important to do so. On the new album there’s a song called Live Your Life; ‘Now is the time to live your life. There’s no second chance, you can’t rewind’. It’s a reggae song about a young boy. A lot of people have gay children and don’t talk about it, because if they don’t talk about it, it’ll go away, it won’t develop, it doesn’t exist. But it does exist and it doesn’t change. It’s so relevant to sing about those things and the song came instinctually around the time that one of my family members came out. He was 17 and communicated in a very different way than me. He just said; ‘I’m gay, get over it’. Quite an interesting approach.
How old were you?
I was 15 so that was quite young. It was in ‘75, ‘76. As an older man, I now understand that my mother and father also had an experience when I came out. It wasn’t just about me and I realize it wasn’t an easy ride for them too. Especially when you look at how my life evolved, became so public. You look very different at things when you get older.
Do you feel it’s necessary to make statements?
I think it’s part of who I am. It’s not that I necessarily think it’s necessary, but it’s just part of what I do. Sometimes I think that as a writer, a creative person, you subconsciously pick up on things that are happening. Being a very obvious homosexual and being who I am, cuts off a lot of the smalltalk. Wherever I go, everybody knows that I’m gay so I don’t have to explain that. It kind of walks before me with a big sign. For me it cuts out a lot of the difficult stuff. I don’t have to explain anything because they already know. The problem is that they think they know more than they know because of what they read or heard about me. Some of it is true but a lot of it isn’t. Yet the only thing you can ever be is you. And life is about learning to be you. Whatever you are, whether you’re gay or straight; life is about the journey to yourself. Not as a star but as an ordinary person.
You said earlier that you are happy. Why?
I’ve grown into myself a little bit. I don’t have such a complicated relationship with myself anymore. That really helps. 20 years ago I used to say that the universe was a mirror that reflects how you feel about yourself. I really didn’t fully understand what I said back then, but I do understand it now and it makes me feel more relaxed in my body and in my soul. I invest a lot of time into being happy by celebrating things. When I was younger, I didn’t really know you could do that. I didn’t realize that happiness was a choice. Of course life throws things at you and things happen that make you sad, but generally you have a choice on how you see things. You can choose on how you react to something, how you deal with your partner, how you hear things that people are saying to you. When I was younger I always wanted to change everyone around me. I treated them like dolls and wanted to change their hair, their clothes. What I’ve learned now is that you have to change yourself, you can’t change other people.
Yet you still search for the hectic life. Marc told me your schedule and it’s amazing.
It is, but I don’t drink and I don’t party, so for me it’s a very different experience than before. You can say I’m partying in my soul. I love what I do, I love music and I really enjoy being clearheaded and not feeling dreadful when I travel. I did that for years! I wore the t-shirt, did the tour! I’ve done it all and I’ve taken it to the ultimate conclusion. Being sober allows me to concentrate on what I’m doing creatively, to be focused and to do it with respect. It’s not very good to go out on stage when you’re drunk. It’s not very professional. In some scenes it might be considered really chique but at my age? It’s just boring.
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