THE first time I put make-up on after the last lockdown, I’d had my hair cut, beard shaved, the hairs pulled out of my nose — basic grooming,’ reveals Boy George, ‘I was like, oh, my god, I look so young. I was so pleased!’ He cackles with delight: ‘I was beginning to look like a 100-year-old tree.’
Six months on, Metro can confirm that George, at home in lockdown, looks absolutely nothing like a tree, century-old or otherwise.
Bearded and wearing a black beanie hat, he looks relaxed and is in an affable mood. He’s been keeping himself busy since March, but admits that ‘it’s very easy to get distracted. There’s no pressure so it feels a bit like you’re left to your own devices, which is always a bad idea for me. I can procrastinate’.
Frankly, it doesn’t sound like there’s been much of that. He and his producer have been working on a new solo album — first remotely and later, safely, in the studio — and he’s now debating whether or not to put out a visual album first. He’s also been writing new songs with Culture Club’s guitarist/keyboardist Roy Hay, via file-sharing and is currently collaborating with Kim Wilde on two duets — one song of hers and one of his.
‘It’s really nice,’ he says. ‘I’ve thought about doing something with Kim a lot and just never got around to it. I’ve been trying to widen my creative chain over the last couple of years.’ To that end, he’s also hooked up with other, ‘not necessarily famous people’ including French reggae artist Biga Ranx and Israeli dancer Asaf Goren, who George has enlisted for his Rainbow In The Dark track. ‘I’ve been working with really fun people and that’s exciting,’ he enthuses.
Rainbow In the Dark is also the name of a rather special event — a global live stream of Culture Club performing a hits-stacked set. Originally scheduled for this Sunday, from the Royal Albert Hall, it’s now been pushed back to the week before Christmas and has been moved to Wembley Arena — hopefully, also allowing a (limited, socially-distanced) real-life audience.
‘The good thing is, we’re not downsizing to a broom cupboard,’ George chuckles. ‘When my manager called me and said, “what about Wembley Arena?” I liked that. I’m not really a downsizing type of person,’ he adds, wryly. The show’s title was borrowed from an interview the singer read with South African queer activist, artist and filmmaker Beverley Ditsie. ‘She was talking about how when she was a kid, she found out that she was gay because she heard people talking in the playground about how “Boy George loves men”. It’s funny — you don’t think about how people accidentally hear about you and your effect on them. The idea of the rainbow in the dark is that it can come from anywhere.’
George admits that when the show was first discussed, he was sceptical. ‘I was a bit like, this is never going to happen. But then I thought, you know what, it’s a really bad attitude to have — I’ve got to be optimistic. We’ve got to try.’ However, he agrees that whether the Wembley Arena performance ends up being in front of a live audience or is a stream only, ‘it’s going to be weird.
‘But I really relish the challenge, because I think this might be the case for a while — that we have to find ways of connecting through these strange barriers. I like the idea of trying to make that work and I think your energy can come through. It’s a bit like going to another country; you’ve got to go, right, this is what the situation is. It’s like going to India and moaning that you can’t get soft toilet roll,’ he laughs.
‘Now, it’s my job to make sure that what I do really connects with everyone that’s sitting at home and I think that’s an interesting challenge.’
Even the prospect of ecstatic Culture Club fans being confined to their seats in an arena can’t faze George. ‘You can express a lot sitting down,’ he reasons. ‘I will encourage lots of inner dancing!’
■ Culture Club’s Rainbow In The Dark takes place at Wembley Arena on Saturday, December 19, culture-club.co.uk