Jake Shears has released a new single ‘Meltdown’, which heralds a return to the dancefloor after his 2018 self-titled solo album.
“I was super excited to start making dance music again,” the 41-year-old former Scissor Sisters frontman tells NME. “I put it on the back burner for quite a while. There’s stuff you can dance to on my last record, but I wouldn’t call it a ‘dance record’ by any means.”
“‘Meltdown’ is my heavy homage and deep tribute to the fabulous Sylvester who is someone whose vocal stylings have always been a huge inspiration to me,” he says, referencing the 70s and 80s disco icon. “It’s a compact, pumping, semi-sinister disco jam that’s my statement of intent for where I’m going,” he continues, “and what I’m working on. I’ve got some fucking amazing songs up my sleeve.”
While ‘Meltdown’ may take its frantic, pulsating cue from the creator of classic anthem ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’, Shears has been also been inspired by David Bowie – incidentally a famous fan of Sylvester’s old group the Hot Band – when it comes to other aspects of his forthcoming new album.
“It’s lyrically more abstract,” he explains of the forthcoming material. “Bowie will always be a touchstone for me – and those scary abstractions that he creates. I’ve definitely been looking towards [Bowie’s 1974 album] ‘Diamond Dogs’ – some of the new stuff has a creepy edge. It’s got a sinister vibe, but it’s fun.”
“I read an article about how TikTok is killing the radio songwriter because of the bitesize nuggets and specific hooks that people are using,” he continues. “It said that people are only writing lyrics that they’d say in conversation, which made me laugh because I’m like ‘fuck that!’. If I wanted something conversational, I’d just have a conversation – not write a fucking song. So that’s not what I’m doing,” he states.
“The new stuff has a poetic, abstract feel – it’s like a ‘fuck you!’ to TikTok” he laughs.
Shears has long been an admirer of Bowie – he even named his 2018 memoir ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ after a track from 1979 album ‘Lodger’ – and the Thin White Duke once contacted him after checking out a Scissor Sisters gig in New York with the cryptic email: ‘Hi. I came to your show a few weeks ago. It sounded very good from where I was sitting. Db’. After over-analysing the two sentences, Shears’ response contained the words: “Thank you so much for coming to my show, but I really hope at this point that we never cross paths. There’s not a lot in this world I keep sacred, but I would rather you just stay imaginary.” Does he ever regret not meeting his hero?
“I have a little regret,” he admits. “Speaking of meltdowns!” he laughs. “My brush with him was almost too much for me. I felt like my brain couldn’t cope with everything that was going on at the time. I’m happy we didn’t meet at that point – I’m content with that – but I do regret, and wish I could have been able to handle it better.”
There are “some collaborations” on his upcoming, as-yet-untitled record. Although he’s remaining tight-lipped about the identity of exactly who he’s worked with, Shears recently heavily hinted in our Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! feature that another collaboration with Kylie Minogue is on the way.
“I love being in the studio with someone like Kylie who you love and respect,” he says. “There’s definitely going to be more in the pipeline where that came from, so I’m excited about that too,” he said.
Asked outright if that meant another collaboration was planned, he teased: “You’ll just have to find out! All will be revealed – in due course!”
Since the Scissor Sisters went on indefinite hiatus back in 2012 (breaking it only to release ‘Swerlk’, a charity single to honour the one-year remembrance of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting), Shears has been busy with a number of projects. In the last few years, he’s released his eponymous solo record (which NME hailed as “one of the year’s most welcome and infectious comeback albums“) made his Broadway debut in the musical Kinky Boots, and even appeared as the Unicorn on the UK version of The Masked Singer. Would he ever consider reuniting his old band?
“I mean, sure,” he responds. “Yeah – I think so. Some day – as long as it’s before my hip-replacement! As long as the Botox is still looking good! But it’s sort of up to everyone else. I love what we built, and the musical vocabulary we created, and I want to carry on that legacy with the music I’m making now.”
“If Scissor Sisters did still exist, I feel this is the stuff we’d be making. ‘Meltdown’ would essentially be the new Scissor Sisters single. I look at it as one body of work. And I work with [Scissor Sisters co-founder] Babydaddy a lot on my solo stuff, so there’s still actual Scissor Sisters fingerprints all over my solo music.”
Shears recently made an appearance on venerable Australian soap Neighbours, in an episode in which the characters of Aaron Brennan (played by Matt Wilson) and David Tanaka take a trip to Sydney’s LGBTQ+ event, the Mardi Gras parade, and bump into him and RuPaul’s Drag Race alumnus Courtney Act. Did he ask Kylie – who played Charlene Robinson in the show from 1986 to 1988 – for any advice?
“No, I didn’t ask her for any advice,” he laughs. “I’ll definitely send it to her for a laugh. I’m sure I’m probably terrible! I mean, soap opera stuff is like guerrilla film-making – it doesn’t matter if it’s bad or good, that’s it, they’re moving on.”
In Boys Keep Swinging, Shears talks about the “insidious homophobia” Scissor Sisters faced in the media – right from the first ever play of ‘Comfortably Numb’ on BBC’s Radio One, introduced by Pete Tong saying they were “cross-dressers from Japan.” Does he feel that younger queer artists – like Years & Years’ Olly Alexander and Troye Sivan – face the same challenge?
“I think a lot of it’s changed,” he responds. “I think those aspects of people’s lives are celebrated more now and you don’t see it [covert media homophobia] as much. But when we were doing this, it was a completely different time. When we started out, that’s all people wanted to talk about was the fact I was gay and there were gay members in the band. And that was an aspect to us, but I don’t necessarily think it was the most important thing by any means.”
“Thankfully that’s changed a lot – and hopefully we had some bearing on that. At the time, I knew it wouldn’t always be like this,” he says. “We just had to keep going, and things would change eventually.”