For over 30 years, out musician Boy George has entertained fans as a singer, songwriter, DJ and author. With the birth of his group, Culture Club, he had a string of hits starting with "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" then progressing into "Church of the Poison Mind" and "Karma Chameleon."
George O'Dowd eventually went solo and landed back on the charts with "The Crying Game," from the soundtrack of the same name. After a long hiatus he returns with a new album, This Is What I Do, released this year in the United States.
Windy City gave the bloke a call on St. Patrick's Day to discuss his upcoming tour that brings him locally to the House of Blues.
Windy City Times: Happy St. Patrick's Day. Do you have Irish roots?
Boy George: My name is O'Dowd and my parents are both Irish. I was brought up with some Irish traditions. They may call me a "plastic Paddy," but I feel very Irish and have always felt that way.
WCT: What is a "plastic Paddy?"
Boy George: If you weren't born in Ireland then people from Ireland think there is a difference. I don't really understand the term but it is saying you are not really Irish, basically.
WCT: It sounds like you are pretty Irish to me.
Boy George: Since I grew up with the name O'Dowd I felt very Irish. I grew up in the '70s with a lot of troubles there going on. I have always been aware of my Irish-ness or Irish roots.
WCT: The last time we met face to face was at your DJ event at the Evil Olive in Chicago.
Boy George: Oh, yeahthe Sunday night thing. That was a strange night...
WCT: It was a late night.
Boy George: But it was really odd. This time in Chicago will be very different! [Chuckles]
WCT: Tell your fans what you have planned for House of Blues in Chicago.
Boy George: We will be showcasing the new record. Hopefully they will have bought the record and listened to it a few times before they come to the show. We will be doing a lot of the new record This Is What I Do and then some of my hits. We are not 100-percent sure what we are going to do yet. We know we are going to play some of the record but in terms of what songs we do we don't know. We start rehearsing next week. I have a few ideas on what we are going to do.
Generally, when you do a live show you want people to go home in a good mood so we will try to make people happy.
WCT: On the new album there are many reggae-sounding tracks.
Boy George: I've always done a bit of reggae. Reggae is something I have loved since I was a kid. There's always been a bit of that in my music. Reggae has worked really live as well.
WCT: Can you talk about the track "My God?" Is it about religion?
Boy George: It is not really about religion. It is more about a story that happened to me in New York. When I was living there I was in a bar and a guy came up to me to give me a religious pamphlet. I followed him and asked him why he had given it to me. The song is a complete narrative of that event.
Usually if people ask if you believe in God it generally means, "Do you believe in my God" or "Do you believe in what I believe in?" People don't like to have fluid conversations about faith or religious ideas because people get very stuck in one thing. It is not that I don't believe in everything but I kind of believe in everything. I believe in the wizard behind the curtain. For me the song is a celebration of faith. Love and faith are very similar in a sense because you can never a hundred percent prove that they exist. They take a certain amount of suspension of belief. If you think about it that way it's quite an optimistic song.
WCT: There is a lyric about Lady Bunny on the record?
Boy George: Yes; it was a reference to New York so I threw in some of those colorful characters that shaped me when I was living in New York. I was trying to paint a limerick of the things that were going on when I was living there.
WCT: I am sure she was very flattered to be a part of your song.
Boy George: She is! [Laughs]
WCT: Do you watch RuPaul's Drag Race?
Boy George: I have watched it but I am friends with Bunny so I don't need to see her on TV. I bump into Bunny all over the place. A couple of years ago I saw her in Poland, Miami and various other places.
WCT: I ran into her at a DJ gig she was doing in Canada. Are you doing more DJing this year?
Boy George: I am doing a few things but for this kind of tour I am not doing a lot of DJing. This tour is quite a lot of work.
WCT: What music are you listening to right now?
Boy George: At the moment I'm listening to Disclosure. I don't listen to much pop music these days but more dance music.
WCT: I saw Disclosure play at House of Blueswhere you are playingso it is all coming together.
Boy George: Were they good?
WCT: Yesvery visual with the huge face projections. With this being the first [studio] album in 18 years, what inspired it? [Note: Ordinary Alien, released in 2011, was a collection of dance recordings from 2001 to 2009.] Is this just the right time in your life?
Boy George: Yeah, I just thought it was a good time to start again. That is what it feels like, going back to the beginning and starting fresh. It is repainting the picture I have of myself and the picture other people have of me. It felt like a good time. I think as an artist you just follow your instincts. That is what makes us people. Right now I am the man with the plan!
WCT: Even from seeing you at the house party in Chicago it was obvious you are in a good place right now.
Boy George: I've been to hell and now I am back!
WCT: Do you change music for American audiences when you release it here?
Boy George: No, it is just the same but there are a few extra tracks on this record because people thought it might be nice to have some bonus tracks. The album is pretty much the same album. I did write a new song called "Turn On a Little Light for Me" that I think is on this American record but I haven't changed anything directly. It is the same with more tracks.
WCT: Have you seen any musicals recently?
Boy George: The last thing I went to was a revival of music of Taboo about a month ago. Oh, I did see Matilda when I was in London, which I thought was great. I don't have much time to go to the theater. Is there anything that you could recommend?
WCT: Sting is debuting a musical in Chicago called The Last Ship.
Boy George: Wow. I saw some concerts he did recently on the TV and they were really good. Good luck to him.
WCT: With this live show, there is a group of regular musicians performing with you?
Boy George: I have a band that I have worked with since Culture Club, really. There are a handful of musicians that I have worked with over the years. We have added a few people over the last two or three years. I have always done live gigs. I have never stopped playing live. I have always had a core of musicians around me. I do have a really strong band at the moment. They are all friends of mine and people that I love. It is nice experience being on the road with them.
WCT: There will be Culture Club songs at the House of Blues?
Boy George: There will be some but it is not an '80s revival show. Don't get your heart set on that. The '80s are over and I am so glad they are.
WCT: There must be a song from the catalog that you are sick of performing.
Boy George: You know what? I have been involved in dance music for the last 25 years so I haven't had to deal with nostalgia for one second. Dance music is really progressive. I have a pretty healthy relationship with my past because I haven't had to live in it.
George Tumbles 4 Ya at House of Blues in Chicago on April 26. Pick a ticket up at www.livenation.com .
In love with the Boy? Visit boygeorgeuk.com to follow his fabulous life.