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Jake Shears Expresses Gay Sexuality in Music

Scissor Sisters front man Jake Shears has made no secret of his homosexuality, and cover of his new album Night Work features the clenched butt cheeks of a ballet dancer  Peter Reed.  Shears spoke with After Elton about the controversy over the cover and the sexy gayness of the album.

AE: You did a recent interview with BBC where you mentioned your management wasn’t really crazy about your album cover that you fell in love with. Was it the gay part that worried them about that, or would they have reacted to a woman’s backside the same way?
JS:
It wasn’t just the management. It was the band and the record label, too. It was everybody. I had to fight like hell for that picture. I had one of the guys from Universal call me up and tell me it was going to be one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my whole career. He said it with respect and love, and I understand where people are coming from, but I just thought if it was going to pose any challenges for us, then those are challenges we can transcend.

AE: What was the objection to it?
JS:
Possibly that it was too… Using the male form as a sexual object is still kind of taboo in certain ways. Maybe not completely, but there’s something about it that is still hard for some to swallow.

The other thing is people didn’t like it as a black and white image. I got a lot of “Oh, your band is so colorful. You’re so colorful. A black and white image doesn’t represent who you are.” I think it’s a very colorful image. [laughs]

AE: Straight male singers have frequently used their sex appeal to sell albums, but it seems like with this album you’re being one of the first out artist to be as in-your-face about your sex appeal. Between that photo spread you did with French magazine Têtu and the album cover, you’re very much treating your sexuality as something normal, the way any other artist would use their sexuality. As a gay man, I’m looking at this and thinking, “Hey, it’s about time.”
JS:
Yeah, I love it. I love that you’ve picked up on that. I love feeling sexy and being a sexual creature. I felt like on our last album campaign that we’d gotten a little too stuffed-animalish, that we’d become a little bit sexless. When we finished our last tour, I wasn’t feeling extremely sexy. It was important to me to reclaim that sexuality.

AE: Does it mean something special to you to be able to sing a song like “Harder” from a gay perspective, and when you do that, are you aware that even in 2010 that’s still pretty groundbreaking for a major act?
JS:
I don’t know if I’d call it groundbreaking, [laughs] but of course it means a lot to me. I feel like I’m one of the luckiest men in the world. I get to be completely honest about who I am and what I get up to, and sing to a shit load of people, and pass that energy on, and make a living off of it. To me, that’s a pretty profound thing. [laughs]

Yeah, it’s intensely meaningful to be able to not beat around the bush about who I am personally and still speak to so many people. It’s pretty amazing.

AE: That’s what I thought was really interesting about “Into the Light” where you have Ian McKellen doing some spoken dialogue. Here is this great, out band with world wide appeal and who are very frank about who they are, and then you’ve got Ian McKellen who is truly one of the pioneers who helped us get to this place where we are today. Was that a conscious choice? And how did you get to know Ian?
JS:
I got to know him through parties in London. He’s friends with Armistead Maupin, who I’m co-writing the musical Tales of the City for, and he’d come to shows. He’s a fan of the band. He’s a lovely, lovely man. I think it was an unconscious decision. I just knew he’d be perfect for that moment on the record.

But yeah, I definitely think that’s a link between him, and you could even go back to Mapplethorpe again. Ian is a pioneer as far as pushing the gay movement forward, and Mapplethorpe was as well. The model on the cover was a ballet dancer named Peter Reed who died in the mid-80s, and was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful young man.

Ian McKellen is one of the survivors. The two other men were not so lucky. To me, they’re all pioneers. I want this album to be made in their honor. Without them, we wouldn’t be who we are. They’re the ones who really opened the door to what we are.

E: That’s what I thought was really interesting about “Into the Light” where you have Ian McKellen doing some spoken dialogue. Here is this great, out band with world wide appeal and who are very frank about who they are, and then you’ve got Ian McKellen who is truly one of the pioneers who helped us get to this place where we are today. Was that a conscious choice? And how did you get to know Ian?

JS: I got to know him through parties in London. He’s friends with Armistead Maupin, who I’m co-writing the musical Tales of the City for, and he’d come to shows. He’s a fan of the band. He’s a lovely, lovely man. I think it was an unconscious decision. I just knew he’d be perfect for that moment on the record.

But yeah, I definitely think that’s a link between him, and you could even go back to Mapplethorpe again. Ian is a pioneer as far as pushing the gay movement forward, and Mapplethorpe was as well. The model on the cover was a ballet dancer named Peter Reed who died in the mid-80s, and was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful young man.

Ian McKellen is one of the survivors. The two other men were not so lucky. To me, they’re all pioneers. I want this album to be made in their honor. Without them, we wouldn’t be who we are. They’re the ones who really opened the door to what we are.

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ENTERTAINMENT Himan is the Man

story by John Chambrone

erichimanVery few artists have touched my soul quite like Eric Himan. When I first heard about this ‘folky, out, rock’ singer covered in tattoos in 2003, I needed to know more. Having teamed up with Border’s Books and Music shortly after that, the artist did several shows in the Tampa Bay area and I finally got to see what all the hype was about. I have had the opportunity to interview him several times over the years and have to say that one interview in particular was my favorite hands down. Several years ago, I got to interview Himan where he also performed a few songs on ‘Out in the Open,’ when he was a guest of the Tampa, Florida based gay and lesbian radio program. It was one of my favorite shows and I was loving my private concert. That was a few years ago. Since then I have continued to actively follow his career.

His music has been heavily rotated on LOGO, and the 30 year old has been touring the country like mad for almost a decade. For years it has been just Himan, his guitar, and a microphone appeasing as many fans as he can. The former Fort Myers, Florida resident moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma a few years back when he fell in love. Searching for employment in the music scene of his new town, he quickly got a job. Their only requirement being that he needed a band. Enter the Adams, a local duo that fit like a missing puzzle piece upon the collaboration. Since then, Eric and the Adams have been touring the country. Their debut gig outside of Tulsa came about when the trio performed at 2008 Market Days in Chicago. Tulsa has been very good to Himan. The community named him the Artist of the Year and the Best Male Vocalist.

With each release, Himan matures as an artist. “Resonate”, his latest release, touches upon a variety of subjects including being annoyed at gay protesters, “Protestor’s Song,” his disdain for reality TV, “For Me,” a song that was inspired by a transgendered youth, “Little Boy Blue,” and his first upbeat love song, “Only.” “Resonate” also includes the single, “There’s Gotta Be Something,” that has been featured on LOGO, along with “Little Boy Blue.” Although I have loved every cd the singer / songwriter has released, I have to say that I can honestly not choose a favorite one. I like each of them for different reasons. Having seen him perform in support of most of his cd’s, there are only a handful of songs that I have not heard him perform live. His concerts are a lot like the old VH1 series, ‘Storytellers,’ where he talks between songs about the inspirations behind them. One such inspiration helped me choose my favorite Himan song of all time. From his release, “Dark Horse”, it is a song called “Stranded.” Himan said that he gets a lot of feedback from gay youth who see him as a positive role model. One such letter came from a boy who was living in a small town and struggling with his sexuality. Being a touring musician means spending a lot of time on the road. On one occasion, Himan flipped his van and was stranded in it for a while. He merged these two events to create the beautiful song “Stranded.” Himan is also a huge fan of female musicians and can often be heard doing cover versions of songbirds such as Tori Amos, Patti Griffin, and Tracy Chapman. The dynamic performer has garnered national acclaim and has been featured in The Advocate, OUT Magazine and several others. Be sure to check out his website for more information, including tour dates and all things Eric. www.erichiman.com

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