Interview with Babydaddy of Scissor Sisters
ALSO: Check out David's review of Ta-Dah.
The world needs the Scissor Sisters now the same way we needed Chic in the ‘70s. Gas prices were shooting through the roof, unemployment was rampant, and Iran was getting feisty. (Wow, that sounds a lot like…) And there was Chic singing “Good Times.” Of course, the band knew those were anything but good times, but that didn’t change their tune any, and the world loved them for it. Flash forward 30 years, where the musical landscape is littered with over-the-top divas and whiny, self-absorbed suburban white kids who want to talk about their “problems.” The Scissor Sisters couldn’t have come at a better time.
But can they keep the party going? Bet on it. Their new album, Ta-Dah, is even better than their first one, and Bullz-Eye leapt at the chance to talk with bassist/keyboardist Babydaddy (taking calls before the band’s appearance at the Virgin Music Festival) about Sir Elton, Sir Macca, and Sisters Pointer.
Bullz-Eye: How’s the weather holding out at the fest?
Babydaddy: Oh, it’s nice! I think it’s gonna be good. Was it supposed to rain or something?
BE: A friend of mine who’s going said it’s supposed to rain all weekend, but it sounds like…
BD: I think there’s been storms in the region, but it seems quite nice, actually. No complaints yet. Oh God, it’s loud around here. I’ll get into a quieter spot. So how’s it going?
BE: Good, but I would like to apologize up front for keeping you from seeing the Brazilian Girls.
BD: I know, right? But I really want to see the Killers. I haven’t been able to do that.
BE: Have you gotten a chance to see anybody today?
BD: No, we just got in about a half hour ago, and we’ll leave after our set, so…
BE: I saw that you’re playing at the same time as the Who. That’s a drag.
BD: No, I don’t think so, are we?
BE: Yeah, your set overlaps with theirs for about 25 minutes.
BD: Oh, my God. Everyone’s gonna go to the Who just to say they did. Dammit! Well, you do what you gotta do. We’ll get up there and give it our best.
BE: I’m sure there will still be plenty of people watching you.
BD: (Laughs) Yeah, we have a huge overlapping fan base.
BE: When you started the band, did you ever think that you would be rubbing shoulders with Elton John this early in your career?
BD: I had no idea. That’s a really funny one, isn’t it? When the comparisons (to Elton John) started, on the first album, it was funny because it wasn’t an intention of ours. I mean, it really wasn’t an intention of ours to sound like Elton John. That wasn’t even in our vocabulary. We loved him, and we knew the songs, but it was just like…”Take Your Mama” was sort of our failed attempt at sounding like Steely Dan. But the comparisons (to John) started to be made, and we hadn’t heard from him, and I wondered, “Oh, shit, I wonder if he does like this album,” after everyone was talking about him. But then he finally made the call, so yeah, it’s funny.
BE: I hear a much more theatrical element in the new record.
BD: Sure. Showbiz.
BE: I get the impression that a couple guys in the band are probably Rufus Wainwright fans.
BD: Well, it’s funny, Jake (Shears, lead singer) actually knows Rufus quite well, and I’m a huge fan of his music. But directly as an influence? I don’t know. I think we probably have the same influences as Rufus. I know Jake and he have a lot to talk about in terms of musical history and similar tastes.
BE: I’m not saying that he rubbed off on you, that influence was in your music from the beginning. It just seems to have presented itself more this time around.
BD: Yeah, I can see that. The piano balladry, maybe. But we had a little of that before. There’s a little musical theater in us.
BE: And then there’s “She’s My Man,” which I think is the naughtiest Pointer Sisters song ever written.
BD: (Laughs) We have been compared to the Pointer Sisters on a couple songs, which kind of scares me, but we love it. It’s another (artist) that we haven’t been listening to…I’m pretty proud that half the time, people pick up the right influences, and half the time, they have no clue that we were referencing what we were referencing. But it’s all a compliment. As long as we’re not being compared to two things, constantly, we’re happy.
BE: How did Carlos Alomar come to work on the album?
BD: Carlos was Del’s (Marquis, guitarist) guitar teacher. Jake met him through that, and said, “Hey, let’s try to write with Carlos.” We knew of his history, besides the Bowie stuff, like Paul McCartney, and all this really cool stuff. We also found out that his wife was singing for Chic, so we just got into the whole Carlos thing. We love him, we love hanging out with him, he’s awesome. He’s recorded songs for 30 years, so it was a big educational experience.
BE: I must ask about the performance on Jews harp by Gina Gershon. I had no idea she was such an in-demand session musician.
BD: (Laughs) Actually, that is probably the one direct connection to Rufus Wainwright on this album, because she played Jews harp on his album. And Jake met her, found out she played Jews harp, and was really excited about it. So we had her over, why not? A lot of people might say, “She’s on the album because she’s famous,” but she’s the only person I’ve ever met that plays the Jews harp. She came in with a whole kit, it was like 12 of them, for all the different keys. It was amazing. She’s got the lips for it, for sure.
BE: That is true. You had mentioned Paul McCartney earlier, and that song on the new album (“Paul McCartney”), ironically, reminds me of Robert Palmer, and his song “Looking for Clues.”
BD: You know what? You hit that nail on the head. We were listening to that song – Paddy (Boom), our drummer, introduced us to that song – and it is part of the genesis of (“Paul McCartney”). It’s a genius song. I’m glad you got that! Hopefully, it’s not too direct (a rip-off of “Looking for Clues”), it was just that groove, and picking up on that groove. Who knew that Robert Palmer had it in him?
BE: He did some funky stuff back then, like “You Are in My System,” if you’ve ever heard that one.
BD: (intrigued) No! Okay, I’ve gotta delve into the catalog.
BE: I’ll whip up an .mp3 and send it to you.
BD: That’d be awesome. Thank you!
BE: So is that song actually about McCartney in any real way?
BD: It is. Jake had a dream about Paul McCartney, and in typical Jake fashion, felt that Paul McCartney had given him the song. You know, I would have just said, “I had a weird dream about Paul McCartney,” but no, this was a “proper vision.” I think (McCartney) actually gave him one of the lines in the song. So there ya have it. I think the song ended up being about inspiration. We got really into the Paul McCartney catalog while making this album. That song is probably one that references him the least, but the idea of having a connection to people through music was where that came from.
BE: “The Other Side” feels like a tribute to some band from the ‘80s, but I can’t exactly place which band. It reminds me of “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” from the first album, which reminded me of Nik Kershaw.
BD: This one reminds me of…I don’t know who.
BD: We’ve been told (it sounds like) Japan and…someone mentioned this Duran Duran side project from the early years.
BE: Oh, Arcadia?
BD: Yeah! I don’t even know them!
BE: Oh, that’s a good record, if you’re a fan of Duran Duran’s
BD: I know, I need to check it out. But we’ve been told that, but I don’t really know, there’s some Roxy Music in (“The Other Side”). And there’s some Duran, as far as I’m concerned.
BE: The first band that came to mind was Icehouse, but I didn’t know if that was accurate.
BD: Who was it?
BD: I don’t know…
BE: (Their sound is) somewhere between Bryan Ferry and David Bowie.
BD: Oh, cool. This is the way we discover a lot of new music. Someone will say, “God, you sound just like this thing.” It happened on the last record with 10cc. We had never listened to 10cc before that last record, and then when we were compared to them, we thought, “Well, maybe we’ll like them.”
BE: Who would you most like to work with on your next album?
BD: I’ve often talked about Jeff Lynne, and I think there’s a lot of E.L.O. on this record. I’m really obsessed with E.L.O., sort of that “Magic” sound. Xanadu is one of my favorite albums. So yeah, Jeff Lynne would be amazing, but I’ve heard he’s kind of a hermit, so I don’t know if that’s going to happen.
BE: With regard to the lyric in “Laura,” does anyone in the band have any connection to Cincinnati, or did you just use it because it rhymes with Babydaddy?
BD: You know what, it’s definitely a Jake question, but he’s come to visit me in Kentucky. I’m from Lexington, which is very close to Cincinnati, and we used to go there to see shows all the time, because my favorite band wouldn’t be in Kentucky. We, as a band, have never been to Cincinnati. I think we played Cleveland once. I think Babydaddy ended up rhyming with Cincinnati, in the end. So I don’t know where Cincinnati came from. These things just come to (Jake), I have no explanation for them.
BE: Speaking of “Laura,” why exactly don’t you give Jake he love?
BD: (Laughs) He’s not my type. He needs to eat a little bit more, I’ll break it down for ya.