Boy George- Fighting, Fashion & Fun- Punk Is Just A Word
Author: Jonty Skrufff
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Like his great hero Davie Bowie and erstwhile contemporary Madonna, Boy George remains both iconic and a genuine global superstar, famed as much for his gender-bending seminal pop star persona as he is for his music. Unlike Bowie and Madonna, he's increasingly returned to his underground, club scene origins, establishing himself as a top mainstream house DJ in recent years, and more interestingly, becoming a key player on London's new electro scene. A fixture at Nag, Nag, Nag (his Taboo costume designer Mike Nichols is Jonny Slut's long term best mate) he's virtually come full circle, following the DIY punk ethics of the 70s that first made him rich.
"You either have that punk attitude or you don't," says George, chatting across a table in his ultra-comfortable Hampstead mansion.
"It's about the idea being more important than thinking 'what am I going to get out of it-' Lots of people say to me 'You're only like that because you've got money' but I was always like that in the past and have never been any different. The fact that I've got money makes no difference, whatsoever."
Putting his words into practise he's currently pouring time, energy (and considerable amounts of his own money) into a myriad of DIY projects, including starring in a new Broadway production of his stage show Taboo, a series of 7" own label electro singles by his new band The Twin, plus launching his own fashion collection Y. The samples for Y are scattered around his house, as are his regular team of make-up artists, designers and support staff, beavering away on photo shoots, garments and the like, as he chats to Jonty Skrufff. The samples themselves are also distinctly DIY in style, cut and pasted handprints decorating mini skirts, shirts and 70s style ties. Not that they're intended as particularly serious statements of intent.
"What I always found was that the people who really, really believed in their clothes, who went round really acting the part, were the ones who ended up in suburbia with six kids," George laughs.
"Because punk is just a word. What happens with those types is that they end up becoming defined by their clothes, so ten years later they're following a different style and they've become something else, with another label."
Skrufff: What does punk mean to you these days-
Boy George: "In the beginning, punk was just another form of showing off- the people that used to be into Bowie moved into punk, simply because it was another wardrobe and another form of exhibitionism. People like me were quite young back then and the only real political aspect to it was the idea of being anti-social and a bit nonchalant about everything- it was all about being bored and hating the world. But it was also exciting and such fun. But like most things it soon became everything it set out not to be, and started adopting all these student concerns and all got a bit political; there was too much theory chucked at it which pushed out the fun. People started going round stamping on flowers and kicking over fences, which wasn't what it was about at all- all that 'let's spit at each other and punch people' attitude came in."
"I remember when punk started getting really mainstream being at ULU (London University's concert hall) for a Gang Of Four gig. The Goth thing was just starting and I was dressing with more makeup and frilly stuff and I remember somebody tipping a pint of blackcurrant and lager on my head. It wasn't good; my hair was ruined! You started to get that hostility, with the serious punks looking at you with your make-up and liner, giving out all that 'what are you doing here-' attitude. That's where the New Romantic thing came from, because we moved on and found our own clubs."
Skrufff: You famous Tags