Former Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears on how love of partying inspired his new album
“I LOVE to be on a dance floor and I’m always the last one to bed,” says Jake Shears.
The former Scissor Sisters frontman is explaining how his love of partying inspired his new album, Last Man Dancing.
“I was thinking of myself at parties and how much I love to host them,” he continues. “House parties are my favourite thing.
“I’m a social beast and I love meeting new people.”
Shears, 44, is in fun, party mood when we chat via Zoom from his London home.
He is excited about his forthcoming second solo album and still on a high from his recent triumphant tour supporting Duran Duran.
Home is New Orleans, but Shears moved temporarily to London last year to work on his album, first crashing at Elton John and David Furnish’s house, with Sam Fender as his housemate.
He says: “I’ve stayed at Elton and David’s for the past 20 years — it’s a home from home. And Sam was staying at the same time.
“He’d be in the studio, I’d be out running errands, and we’d come back and talk about our days over breakfast the next morning.
“Sam is such a wonderful guy and the new music that I’ve heard of his is incredible.”
He adds of his new album: “I’m too old to go clubbing these days, so all these songs were test-driven on my Pioneer CDJ-3000 [a music player designed for DJs and producers].
“You know, with my studio monitors and a house full of people, with me at the decks.
“So this record definitely, literally, comes from my house party. This is how I shaped this music.
“I’d so much rather be in an intimate space with close friends and their friends.”
And it’s a gathering of friends, famous friends, who join Shears on the record.
Last Man Dancing features collaborations with Kylie Minogue, Jane Fonda and US rapper Big Freedia, as well as a sample from a 1970s Iggy Pop interview on album closer Diamonds Don’t Burn.
“My friend sent the interview clip to me as we’re both big fans of his,” explains Shears.
“And I love watching old interviews with my heroes. He was on Canadian Broadcasting Television being really wild on TV. He looked a bit erratic.
“He sort of espouses his personal philosophy of music and how it makes him feel, and I just thought it was so beautiful.
“I thought it was a great closing statement for Diamonds Don’t Burn on the record, and when he comes in, it moves me every time I hear it.
“I think what he’s saying in it transcends feeling — it’s like nothing else.”
Asking the man himself if he could use the sample was a nerve-wracking experience.
Shears admits: “Waiting for an answer was hard. I thought it was so special and I couldn’t imagine the song without it.
“I was nervous and really hoped he said it was OK. And, thankfully, he did.
“I’m so happy he let me use it. It was so sweet. I sent him the song and he approved it.”
Getting Kylie Minogue to duet on the futuristic Voices gives the album its centrepiece.
Shears says: “That song is so special to me. It’s our first proper duet together.
“It was a song that I had in my back pocket that I’ve always wanted to give a home. And this album was definitely that.
‘Blow my mind’
“There’s something really moody and special about it. I love that song, and I’m really happy. And I think her new single is absolutely out of this world.”
Radio Eyes is a more unusual collaboration, with Oscar-winning actress and Eighties keep-fit icon Jane Fonda, a friend of his who he first met in New York.
He says: “Jane is a Scissor Sisters fan. She would come to our concerts and we’ve been friends for a long time.
“When I was in LA she would throw wild parties at her house once a month which were amazing.
“I just couldn’t believe how many celebrities were there. It would just blow my mind.
“She and I met at Carrie Fisher’s opening night of Wishful Drinking on Broadway. It was my birthday. I’ll never forget it.
“I was with [trans pioneer and cabaret star] Justin Vivian Bond, and we were sitting across the room.
“I turned to Vivian and said, ‘If we don’t go over and introduce ourselves to Jane Fonda right now, we’re going to regret it for the rest of our lives.’
“So we both stood up and we walked across the room and introduced ourselves to her in the middle of her entourage.
“And her son Troy recognised me.
“Turns out Troy and his wife went to a Scissor Sisters concert on one of their first dates.”
Getting to know Fonda was a dream for Shears, who had grown up watching her workout videos as a child.
“I was obsessed with her when I was a kid,” says Shears. “I’d watch her on Betamax again and again.
“It was a real tell-tale sign for any mum. You know what I mean? If you don’t know your child is gay, and all they want to do is watch Jane Fonda’s Workout, then you’ve got some major blinders on.”
In 2013, the friends worked together on The Future Of Flesh, a space-age short film for Prada’s autumn/winter collection.
It was Jane’s talk for the film that appears on Shears’ exhilarating track Radio Eyes.
He says: “Jane is such an amazing person and she was so sweet to let me use the extras from the film we did.
“I sent her an email asking what she thought of her being added to this climactic techno moment and she was up for it. I think this track Radio Eyes might be a first for her.”
Shears says he uses writing music “as an antidepressant”, often during difficult periods.
He adds: “Music is what gets me through. Writing and producing pulls me out of dark times. I’m so lucky I have that to help me.
‘Little bit weirder’
“I Used To Be In Love is one of those songs.
Originally, I liked the chorus but couldn’t get the verses right. Then I was sitting alone and I’d just broken up with my boyfriend.
“I was about to explode but that song came from that moment. It makes me so happy to make a good song.”
Last Man Dancing can be described as a record of two halves. The first part is full of upbeat disco brilliance, including first single Too Much Music, the title track, Voices and I Used To Be In Love.
The second half is a wild ride of a night out inspired by Scissor Sisters’ cult 2010 album Night Work.
It features production from Boys Noize (Skrillex, The Black Eyed Peas), Ryland Blackinton and Vaughn Oliver, who scored a massive hit with Latto’s Big Energy.
Shears says: “You get the pop songs and then I definitely go a little bit weirder.
“There are 180 tracks on the second part of the record. It’s maximalist music.
“And the funny thing about this being a dance record is it also digs into my prog rock side.
“I love Pink Floyd, I love the epic rock music that takes you on a journey.
“And I feel like I’m really tapping into that on the second side of this record.
“And I’m a production freak, so I love detailed work. It’s really important to me — I’m such a production stickler.”
But one technical development in music technology that Shears isn’t a fan of is AI. “It’s gross and really depressing,” he says.
“There is a lot of cheerleading right now, strangely, for taking away creativity from humanity, which is one of the main things that makes us human. And I find it very unsettling and a bit weird.
“A lot of DJs, and ‘producers’ who are saying that AI is the best thing since sliced bread don’t have a lot of talent in the first place. I think it will be an amazing tool for the lazy and the talentless.”
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Scissor Sisters’ self-titled debut album. What does Shears’ time in the band mean to him today?
“It doesn’t feel like that long ago,” he answers. “But then I think about how much has changed and it feels longer.
“It both feels like yesterday, and it feels like a long time ago. But so many memories which I’ve tried to keep alive. I write a lot and I’ve kept all my friends from that time.
“As for the band, I saw Ana in Brighton in August for the first time in a long time. It was great to see her.
“I phone Babydaddy and talk about video games and movies every one or two weeks. Then Del came and stayed with me here in London last summer and we had a great time.”
On Tuesday Shears begins his headline UK tour in Glasgow — and he’s looking forward to playing his new songs.
He says: “I had a good old time on the Duran Duran tour. It was crazy to play larger venues as I hadn’t done it for a while and I feel pretty competent as a support act going out with all those songs.
“I’m looking forward to playing my own shows now. We are really experimenting with the flow.
“There’s a big chunk of the show that just doesn’t stop, which is really fun.
“Making this album is something I’ve always wanted to do. I wanted it to be a ride. It’s always been a dream of mine to experiment and be a little more indulgent with it.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this and I’ve never really quite done it.
“I didn’t fully do it with Scissors so now it’s a joy I have with this.”
- Last Man Dancing is out on June 2.