What more is there to say about a public figure that has transcended race, gender and musical styles while still remaining relevant over three decades? What more can you say about the millions of records sold as the frontman for Culture Club, a solo career, a newspaper column for the Daily Express, two bestselling autobiographies, a star of Broadway and West End and – yes – a superstar DJ?
Having first touched the turntables in the late 1970s, Boy George (facebook, twitter) has deep roots in dance music. He has also amassed production work under imprints such as Ministry of Sound, Sony, GU Music, Virgin, Polystar, Hed Kandi, Subliminal and EMI.
And while the media sometimes focuses more on the spectacular facets of his often colorful lifestyle, Boy George is truly and authentically an ambassador for dance music.
First off I’d like to say it is a great honor to have you in our magazine! We are a House Music magazine based out of Chicago and as I was looking at your bio I see that you’ve derived some of your earliest influences from the Chicago sound and Acid House. Tell us about that and what were some of your choice early House cuts?
After Culture Club broke up, I suddenly had this period of leisure and around the same time the whole Acid House movement kicked off. I started going clubbing to events like Spectrum at Heaven. Not long after this I formed a connection with Jeremy Healy as we both collected records – we had our first DJ gig at my friend Philip Salon’s club called Planets back in ’78, I think.
A couple of years later I bought decks and not long after had my first DJ gig at Venus in Nottingham for an old rave called Pushka. Up ’til then I had played for free but this was my first “real” DJ job. It was a bit of an old school Disco style set with stuff from CeCe Rogers all the way through to “Island in the Stream”.
My set with Pushka became a regular thing and not long after I was getting offers from other parties and clubs. At the time I wasn’t really ready but with so many offers coming in, I decided to lock myself away and practice and get myself to a level where I was confident to play other parties. I soon ended up playing for popular party promoters James Bailie, Charlie Chester and the rest is history.
What was the time frame of your DJing career before and after Culture Club? Was it something that was always there even in the midst of all the craziness during the ’80s and ’90s?
I took up DJing towards the tail end of the ’70s but it was certainly a more primitive form of the art than as we know it today.
The explosion of Culture Club meant I literally had no room in my life to keep DJing in any shape or form other than as a hobby from time to time. I did return to DJing a short while after Culture Club and in fact have maintained DJing ever since. Playing clubs actually became a refreshing experience after the madness of the ’80s.
At first it was difficult because most people saw me as a sort of “celebrity DJ” but the lack of acceptance kept me at it. I look back at that period as a time when I was earning my badges within the scene. I’m proud and very lucky to be able to have two passions in my life that some would call “work”.
Many of us have not had the fortune of hearing a live set from Boy George. Tell us what that would be like!
I pride my sets on being a fun experience, touching on good quality dancefloor favorites as well as new and exciting records. My music stretches from cool, underground electro sounds through to tough, tech grooves.
Who are the House Music producers and DJs that you look up to and are influenced by?
Artists I respect are Danny Tengalia, Todd Terry, Frankie Knuckles, Armand van Helden, Erick Morillo and Roger Sanchez to name but a small few who over the years have stuck to what they believe in. Today we have a new breed of talent from Swedish House Mafia, Funkagenda and Mark Knight who are pushing the scene to a new level, which is very exciting!
Vocals or tracky? Serrato, CDJs or vinyl? Bells and Whistles or minimal?
As a singer/songwriter, it has to be vocals!
I miss the touch of vinyl but not the hassle, so CDJs for me.
Oh Bells and Whistles – I need energy in my life, not sleep!
I saw a recent interview with you on Loose Women where you talked about all the changes in your life and how you’re now in a happy place. For those in the nightlife industry still struggling with addiction, what advice would you give to them?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I was either too proud or too stupid to admit I had a problem and much the same when it came to asking for help. Those who love you will support you.
Your schedule seems to be at a constant whirlwind! You never stop! What are you planning to do for 2011? Any chance of you stopping through Chicago and blessing us with a set?
So far 2011 is looking to be a very busy year for me. First up there is the release of my album Ordinary Alien which is due out in the first quarter of the year. The album is a collection of tracks which I’ve done with my studio partner Kinky Roland over the past 10 years but have so far not been released.
I have also just launched a new record label with DJ/Producer/friend Marc Vedo. The label, which we’ve called “VG Records” (as in Very Good records) will be used as a platform for us to promote new and exciting collaborations and artists. Our first release will be our joint single “Sunshine into My Life” with Charlene Hector from Basement Jaxx. Marc and I just completed the covermount CD mix for DJ Magazine to launch the label and the response from this has been really good already.
On the touring side, I’ve a run of live shows coming up for 2011 and will be back on the road DJing with shows expected in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America. I am also hoping to get back to North America in 2011, all being well with my visa – so a date in Chicago shouldn’t be too long away!