Q&A with Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters; Playing The Tabernacle, April 8

By Eric Chavez

It would be impossible to put a time stamp on the music of Jake Shears and his band Scissor Sisters. Basically every decade of popular music has been covered in their three LPs, 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.

Let’s talk a little about the book (One Day in The Life). How did this idea come about with your friend Tim Hailand?

Well, we’ve known each other for 10 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.

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?

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!

I love the stuff you guys 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?

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.

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 U.K. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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!

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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?

Yeah, I understand what you mean.

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?

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.

Scissor Sisters play The Tabernacle on April 8.


  1. […] that’s very vivid when I’m writing the song and singing it. … … Link: Q&A with Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters; Playing The Tabernacle … ← Songwriting Tips & Techniques : How to Write a Song With One Set of […]

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