In Advance of This Week's Hard Rock Live Show, Pop Star Boy George Explains Why He's a 'Work-in-Progress'

click to enlarge COURTESY OF PMK BNC
Courtesy of PMK BNC
Boy George and Culture Club recently dropped the reggae-pop single “Let Somebody Love You,” the band’s first new material in 20 years. Rolling Stone calls it “infectious,” and it’s likely that the beachy track won’t remind you much of massive ’80s hits “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and “Karma Chameleon.”

The tune is simply a much-needed musical chill pill that teases the great things to come from the band’s forthcoming album that’s set to be released on Oct. 26.

Boy George, 57, calls himself a “work in progress” in a recent phone interview, but with the soothing new music and his approach to happiness, he seems to have it all figured out. He performs at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at Hard Rock Live.

You told Forbes earlier this year that Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell were the beginning of you realizing that you could write about things that were “real and political and important.” Is music as important today for shaping social movements as it was during that time period? Times of protest and resistance seem to be awakened in a similar way today.
Well, I don’t think that it's the same. I think rap music definitely has more of a political voice. It’s not the same as Dylan or Sam Cooke. I think that music is definitely a reflection of the kind of social times that we live in. I think that we live in an age now where people get upset about almost everything. Do you know what I mean? [laughs]. So how do you work out what’s important? [laughs]. I was having this conversation last night with some friends. We were talking about this very subject and how everybody is just so prepared to get so upset about everything. So how do you work out what’s important? It’s that whole throwing the baby out with the bathwater thing. We were all talking about how much we fear people losing their sense of humor, you know, freedom of speech is being really attacked. So, no, I don’t think people are using music necessarily to say political things. Maybe rap music is probably the one exception. It’s a strange time for pop culture because there’s no one doing that, but that’s not to say it won’t happen. You know what I mean? I think it could very well come back.

You also mention to Forbes that The Power of Now is one of your favorite books. The author Eckhart Tolle describes how to fully live in the moment. Are there aspects from the book that you've brought with you to the stage in some form or another?
The thing about the Eckhart Tolle thing is it’s shocking how easy it is to get back into what you always do. I think it’s really difficult to kind of be in “the now.” What I’ve started to do in the last few months is to watch things that replenish that point of view. You know, beautiful things on Netflix like On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace. There’s just so many great things online that you can watch that sort of feed that part of your psyche rather than watching TV which I think is a great manipulator. The thing about the internet and the TV is that you really don’t know who is telling the truth. So, you have to seek out things that kind of help you get to that place of “nowness” and “mindfulness” and all of that. I think that’s really important. But only if it’s important to you. Not everybody wants to do that. It’s hard when you meet people that really resist it [laughs]. Like the idea of being “still” is so absurd to some people. I meditate a lot and some people can’t do that. They can’t be quiet.

True. It’s probably important to try to be still occasionally especially since things move so quickly today.
There are a lot of people doing it.

You have always one of the most recognizable people with a long string of hits. Years later, how has Boy George changed?
I think that I’m a work-in-progress. I think what we just discussed a minute ago… it’s easy to slip back into how you see yourself. I think what I try to do is work on being happier and I think happiness comes from really simple, mundane stuff. I don’t think happiness necessarily comes from the smell of the grease paint and the roar of the crowd. It comes from sometimes sitting in a café in Paris having a cup of coffee, watching the world go by. Or spending time with friends laughing, watching a good movie, reading a great book. I think it’s obviously different for everybody. I certainly think that the real happiness comes from very basic things. It’s not the sort of special effects that give you the most pleasure. It’s the sort of simple stuff. I think that’s sort of where I am really. I’m always looking to be happier. You know, what’s gonna make me happier? What’s gonna make me more at peace with myself?

You’re traveling with the original band now. It's a long tour, too. Does it feel like when you were first starting out?
No. It’s one of those things that is constantly evolving. You know, there are the four of us, and then, there’s an additional musician and being on tour is a very interesting experience for everybody. Some people aren’t built for the road, and you don’t know it until you do it. Some people struggle; some people love it. I quite like touring because it provides a sort of schedule that I don’t always have in my life. When you’re on tour, you know exactly what you’re doing. It’s kind of a massive family. I always say, “We’re in it together but there’s always room for one less.” [laughs].

Your fashion has always been iconic. I’ve read that you said your style is based on what people are not wearing; you like to wear the opposite of what’s trending. But are there any pop figures or influences whose fashion you admire? Is anybody killing it right now?
No [laughs]. I mean I look at magazines or on the internet. and I see things that are, “Oh, that looks beautiful!” Do you know what I mean? The problem is, with fashion, fashion is created for perfect people. I’m not a perfect size, I can’t walk into a fashion store and just pick things out. Most of the stuff I love doesn’t fit me, isn’t made for me [laughs]. Also, I think fashion now is so available. Years ago, there was this sort of incubation period where something would appear in this very high fashion shop and then maybe two years later it would hit the high street. Now, it’s all there. Do you know what I mean? I think that’s brilliant. There’s this sort of style that exists. I think that’s also reflected in music. Everybody feels like they’re making the same records to me. Do you know what I mean? I think with the internet, I see it with my nieces and nephews and younger people, they’re so intimidated by other people’s point of view, that they’re terrified to be individual. So, I feel that the only way I can really express myself is by feeling that I’ve made myself, I’ve designed myself. I look for people to work with – and I suppose I do come across those people through fashion, through the internet, through friends, but I am always to try to create something with humor. Something that is completely individual. The worst thing ever is when you go to a party or to one of these functions and they say, “What are you wearing?” and I’m like, “If I have to explain what I’m wearing then I’ve failed on every level.” What does it look like I’m wearing? [laughs]. I feel like what they really want to say is “How much are you wearing? How expensive was that?” I’ve never been turned on by the whole “My bag cost 10 grand…” Do you know what I mean? I’m not interested in wearing other people’s brand. Walking around with someone’s name on me… unless they’ve given it to me for free [laughs].

Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to being back out on the road?
You know what, it’s really exciting to have the new record out and to be playing some of the new songs live. We’re getting a great reaction from the audience. I mean obviously, what I try to do when I introduce a song, I always explain what they’re about, and I try to give some sort of narrative. That does help people. I think what you learn is there are people who come to shows who want to listen to the music. They don’t necessarily want to jump up and down or go mad. They’re quite happy to sit in their seats and listen to the music and appreciate it. So, you have to let people have the show they want to have. You mustn’t ask them to jump up and down [laughs]. Some people go crazy but just because they don’t doesn’t mean they’re not having a great time. You’ve got to be careful when you’re on stage to just let people enjoy it and trust that people are – they’re listening.

Trust that the audience is “in the now.”
Exactly. I always say, “Have the show you want to have.”