Aside from his filthy gorgeousness, Scissor Sisters singer Jake Shears strikes fans as unusually sincere in an industry where many musicians are still closeted.
His personal songs about sex, relationships and good ol' clubbing from his five piece band's disco-fried cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," and self-penned singles "Take Your Mama Out" and "Filthy Gorgeous" off their 2004 self-titled debut and the popular single "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" from their 2006 worldwide smash sophomore effort "Ta-Dah," are matched only by his immense openness onstage. Commanding our attention with his provocative -- and often scantily clad -- posturing, Shears has become a sex symbol to legions of fans not only for his sculpted body and pretty boy face, but also for his refreshing frankness, self-assuredness and even sanguinity about his physicality and sexuality.
In a recent interview with Gay.com's Josh Rocker on the eve of the release of the band's new DVD, "A Year of Ta-Dah," out Dec. 4, and featuring a 90-minute concert shot at London's new O2 arena and a 60-minute documentary following the New York-based pop band on tour, promotional appearances and video shoots, Shears was equally candid about sex, stripping and why success is still so scarce on this side of the Atlantic.
It's the first time fans have seen us on our own terms, in our natural environment. And it's a really great picture of what it's like on the road. I think there are some preconceptions about us that will be demystified. I can only speak for myself, that people might have preconceived notions of what I'm like personally. It could be different than what people actually might think. Some people think I'm on 100 percent of the time, but that's only 50 percent true.
What was that year on the road like for the band?
2006 was a hard year. We went out and really felt like touring too early in 2006. And it made it harder when the album was released, because we were already on the road for five months. It was difficult because we had just started our first set of arena shows, and getting those together was a brand new experience. It was really challenging, and finishing our second album was hard. The anticipation was really stressful, and it was really scary putting "Ta Dah" out, because our first album was a really hard thing to follow up. But when "Ta Dah" came out and found more worldwide success than the first album, we were happy, because a weight had been lifted off our shoulders.
Why are the Scissor Sisters so much more successful abroad?
The biggest challenge was that if we did become a greater band in this country, we'd end up in a landscape where we'd really be outsiders. It would really be difficult. I watched this year's MTV Music Awards and don't know where we'd fit into that picture, and we're alright with that. I don't think on the major mainstream landscape in America there's left to say where there's a place for us.
Is that because you're a primarily gay band?
I don't think so. I don't think that's necessarily so. I think it's the general aesthetic more than a sexuality issue. I have no doubts that Americans can handle it. We can definitely deal with lesbians. They're all over daytime television.
Sexuality is a major component of your music and stage shows. In fact, you spend a lot of time onstage with your clothes off. Why are you always stripping?
If it doesn't involve a specific outfit, it's usually being swept away in the moment. We played a festival for 60,000 people once, and it was raining and people were out in the mud. So I just took off all my clothes and sang "Filthy Gorgeous" in a puddle of mud. I felt like what I was doing was wanting to be closer to the audience. It's usually just the whim, why Morrissey still takes his shirt off when he sings.
Knowing you're a major sex symbol, are you giving the boys a show?
But I think more people are attracted to Del and Babydaddy. There's a mystery about them that makes them more sexy than I am. I am too accessible. My sex is so in your face. But they don't do that.
In a world where gay men are meant to feel ashamed of their orientations and even their bodies, are you making a statement about sexual freedom?
We're very pro sex, and put sex in a really positive light, and that's a conscious thing we do to go against the grain. Especially with female singers in major pop music, it gets very dark -- like they're being puppeted by men -- so they use sex in a negative way. But we use it with exoticism. We do our best to make it less of a deal, as it should be. No matter what sexuality, we want people to think of it in a good way.
In line with challenging people's views on gay sexuality, you've managed to maintain a three-and-a-half year relationship.
His name is Chris, he's a fantastic artist and we're close to the same age. We love each other a lot and get along amazingly. He's the love of my life. There's a lot of press that we're gonna get married, which is kinda silly, because we have no marriage plans. But it feels like we're married.
Being on the road so often must present its own set of challenges.
It's hard on the road -- it's tough, we miss each other a lot -- but it keeps it fresh, to get to see someone that I miss so much. I hate being away and love the return.
And let's not forget all the temptations that artists face when touring.
I don't know how people get the weird notion that there are groupies everywhere. It really doesn't happen. I'm never hit on.
Talk to me about the new album.
We're interested in making something we think is fantastic. We want an insanely fun record, to reach further sonically than we ever have before. We want to be different, but still keep that same thing that makes us a great band, which is great pop songs. And something different, not just a pop band, but a pop band with multiple angles and different angles from the norm. Sonically, the music has to expand. If it doesn't expand, then there's no reason to make another album.
Being an openly gay artist, your continued success remains unique in the music industry. Would you say the Scissor Sisters tore the hinges off the door for gay acts?
I hope so, but there are certain people, the musicians that you know are gay, that I know are gay, that aren't out about it. It gets under my skin, because we work hard to get doors open. But people keep shutting them.