Jake Shears and Ana Matronic on 10 years together, a crazy prank and having sex to their songs
Never ones to take themselves too seriously – their new video, “Baby Come Home,” has them camping it up in nun gear – Jake Shears and Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters let loose in our recent interview. Who’s gayer? Jake has the worst table manners? The band thought Ana was murdered and tossed in the trunk of a car? Check out what the Sisters, who just released their fourth album, Magic Hour, revealed about life on the road – and life with each other.
Does this album have as high of a libido as Night Work?
Jake Shears: There’s sexy music on it, but it’s not sexually aggressive. The last record was very aggressive in a certain way; this one is much more romantic – about relationships and friendships. The stuff that’s sexual is pretty funny; this record definitely has a pretty strong sense of humor.
Ana Matronic: Night Work, in addition to being really sexual, was about Jake finding his creative footholds again. Sex and creativity come from the same place; they’re instincts that you can hone but they are intrinsic to you. You can really only control them. You can’t pick who you fall in love with or are attracted to, and you can’t pick aesthetically what you’re attracted to or into. You can only develop it. That’s why I think it was not only a desire to talk about desire but a real tapping into that creative force.
The last album took nearly four years to release; this one only took two. How were you able to get this album out so quickly?
Jake: This one we made in six months. It was a pretty laid-back process, and I wasn’t feeling wound up or stressed out and wanted to make music that wasn’t over-thought. I just wanted to make a happy record that was fun to write that meant something. It was super natural and the creativity was definitely flowing, which you can never take for granted. It came really easy.
Ana: For me, songwriting is never very laid-back; that’s the thing that I really fret about. When I get to relax is when the show is together and we’re performing. But from my perspective, and watching Jake in the studio, this is his most confident moment in the studio, I believe. He had a really clear sense of what he wanted and where he wanted to go with things.
What’s the weirdest inspiration for a song off Magic Hour?
Jake: There’s a song called “The Secret Life of Letters” about creative block. I don’t know if that’s the weirdest inspiration, but it’s weird, because the song itself is about not being able to write a song. When I wrote that, it was the only way I could write a song, so that’s a special and interesting song to me.
Ana: “Let’s Have a Kiki” was directly inspired by an experience I had of going to a party; it was raining and the cops had busted it and it was in a loft downtown. It was partly inspired by that and it was partly inspired by the fact that Jake and I love to have house parties. That really is our favorite way to have fun. Put on a mix, get our friends together and have what we refer to as a “Micro Rave” at my house.
Do you have hotel parties on the road?
Ana: Sometimes. More often than not we have them in the bus. We have what we call “Back Lounge Raves” or “Front Lounge Raves” and, since we’re almost always traveling with Sammy Jo (their touring DJ), we just put him to work and dance on the bus.
What’s your favorite line on this album?
Jake: One of my favorite lines on this album is, “Love your mama’s Cadillac / Had it since the dawn of crack.”
Where did that come from?
Jake: Out of my ass. Look, all these songs just come out of my ass. I seriously make it up as I go along. (Laughs)
You’ve said people in your life inspired this album. Does that include your husband, Chris?
Jake: Chris always plays into it. I wrote him a song when we started dating and he told me it sounded like it had been written by a 12-year-old girl, and I told him, “I’m never writing you a song ever again.” (Laughs) I never stuck to that.
But yeah, of course: There’s “Best in Me.” We’re going on our ninth year, and I don’t know how he has the patience. It amazes me and I really feel like the luckiest man in the world to have him. I don’t think it could be anybody else.
Are you saying you’re a difficult person?
Jake: Yeah. To be with and to be a partner with, I think I’m probably very difficult because I’m never home, and it does get really hard. It can really bum me out sometimes – I know it bums him out sometimes – and it’s tough to live apart for extended periods, but then you also don’t take for granted the time you have together when you are together. On the other hand, I don’t think I’d be in a relationship with somebody that I’d have to live with 365 days a year. I don’t think I could be that. It’s about striking a balance.
What’s a song of yours that turns you on?
Jake: Ew, none of them! Gross. I can’t even imagine. No, no. There’s not one that exists.
You’ve never had sex to any of your music?
Jake: No! Years ago I remember I was making out with some guy – this was, like, 10 years ago – and one of my songs came on shuffle and it was awful. It ruined the mood.
How did the passing of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb, who’ve been very influential on Scissor Sisters, affect you?
Jake: I feel bad for the families and their loved ones, but I don’t get as sad about death when it’s someone who had experienced and had such incredible lives as Robin Gibb and Donna Summer, who have gifted the world with so much outrageously incredible work. I just get reflective. The band’s been talking about this a lot, and Babydaddy and I have always been massive fans of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb and the Bee Gees and the crazy direct influence it had on us – it’s just something to celebrate.
Ana: It’s not often that I get teary over the passing of celebrities, but Donna did make me shed a few tears because she did mean a lot to the gay community. The day she died we played a show in London, so I took some time to pay tribute to her. In New York City it was illegal in the ’60s for men to dance alone together in a space, so men had to be with women dancing. That was one of the many laws that inspired the Stonewall riots. The ’70s were the first time that men could be on a dance floor with other men, and the soundtrack to freedom was Donna Summer. We’re talking people who couldn’t be out at work, walk down the street feeling safe and hold the hand of the person they love, and they’re rejected by religion. The one place they can be free is the nightclub, and Donna Summer’s voice was the voice of gospel. She made dance music spiritual.
What’s your idea of a magic hour?
Jake: The best hour that I’ve ever had in my life is always that hour before sunrise – that’s kind of what the album is named after. There’s nothing that makes me happier than having been out all night with my friends or with my husband and then the sun’s about to come up and you’re at someplace really beautiful. Those are my favorite moments. It could be the hour after sunset, like right when the sun is setting or right before sunrise. It’s the time when there are no shadows.
What are your tour essentials?
Jake: Usually my Kindle, which I don’t have on this trip; I’m actually reading real books. I’m a book lover, but the Kindle is a fucking godsend for me when I’m running around. My PlayStation Vita is always with me. I’m a pretty light traveler. I can exist off very little. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for so long that I don’t really bring a ton. I’m a bit of a hippie like that.
Ana: Oh, I have about 50 pounds of tour essentials. (Laughs) I am not a low-maintenance gal by any means. I do my own makeup and hair and the whole nine, so I have to carry around a lot of stuff. If we have one show, I have two bags. And I’ll show up and people are like, “You know, we’re only gone for a week.” And I’ll go, “Do we have a show?” “Yes, we have a show.” Then I have two bags. That is the rule.
Jake: We’re both pretty gay. I think I’m probably gayer than Ana. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. Maybe because I’m gay. (Laughs)
Ana: Good question. It’s a tie, to be honest. His sex is a lot gayer than mine.
Tell me about the best prank you’ve pulled on each other.
Jake: Oh god. She was in Florida and she called me and Babydaddy and said there was a stalker that had been showing up at the gigs and she was really freaked out, and then she forgot to finish the prank for some reason and didn’t call us again for a week. We couldn’t get a hold of her. We thought she was dead in the back of somebody’s trunk.
Ana: And they got me back for it. Because they were really concerned and they were going to file a police report, they in turn had our manager write an email to me and say, “Oh, by the way, we’re sending cops by the person’s house.” And I was like, “Oh my god, no! Don’t do that!” I’m making frantic phone calls and nobody’s picking up. They fucking got me back. And that cured me of wanting to play any pranks. But he’s way better at this shit than I am. I don’t really tease people that often because it makes me feel really guilty.
Something we don’t know about the other?
Jake: God, that’s hard. Ana has the craziest memory of anyone that I’ve ever come into contact with. She can remember dates, or something you were wearing one afternoon before some concert in, like, Russia. She has a really crazy memory.
Ana: Do you know that he writes just about one piece of fiction a year? He studied creative writing, and every year he writes something other than a song.
What’s your biggest pet peeve about the other?
Jake: Of course there’s a gazillion, because we live on top of each other and we’ve literally lived on top of each other for 10 years now. You learn to take the pet peeves and laugh at them – and laugh at them when the other person’s not listening. (Laughs)
We don’t fight that much anymore. We used to bicker much more than we do now. We’re a lot happier now on the road with each other. It’s not so intense.
Ana: Oh yeah, totally. We’ve grown up a lot. And touring with him and being confronted with people on a daily basis in a very small space – i.e. the tour bus – will get you dealing with things in a very direct and quick way. We’re very good at arguing now.
But that doesn’t answer the question.
Ana: Do I really have to say this? You’re stirring a pot. He has horrible table manners. Just terrible. That’s all I’m gonna say. (Laughs)
Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.