This Delicate Thing He's Made

9.11.2008

By Bill Chenevert

Is it true that the album was inspired by -- or even in conversation with -- Kate Bush's Hounds of Love?
I can honestly say that I felt like I was a little bit possessed by the spirit of Kate Bush. I had a fascination at that time in my life with reminiscing, really looking back at my childhood and reconnecting with friends through Facebook and MySpace. Suddenly I was reconnecting with childhood friends I hadn't seen in 15 years and making my peace with my past and where I grew up. I had a couple trips home to Australia, where I had done everything I could to run away from the boy who I was. And I'd gone out to the world and made it, you know, I'd really made it -- and yet the happiest I've ever been is the past couple years, when theoretically I shouldn't have been. I was marginalized by being a gay artist, I didn't have a major record deal and I'm certainly not selling the kinds of records or playing the same kinds of venues that I used to play. But I guess I was just so grateful that I had learned so much. I was catching up with this decade of my life that I had given over to the pursuit of fame and the pursuit of success. A part of that was revisiting old records, and two things that I did was fall in love with Hounds of Love all over again, and the other thing was that I bought a Fairlight synthesizer, which was the instrument that she used to make that album. I kept saying to a lot of my friends, "I almost feel like I'm picking up where that album had left off." She obviously continued to evolve and become extraordinary and she left that technology behind. But there was something kind of sappy and a bit sentimental, and a bit magical, about saying, I'm going to use this technology from this particular year -- which was 1983 -- and maybe I'm going to use that as a time machine.

And yet the tracks on that record don't seem dated at all. They sound a little like fellow Aussie Kylie Minogue or Daft Punk -- dancey and electronic.
I hope so. The thing about wearing your influences on your sleeve, I think the only way you get away with it is if you're honest about where you're drawing your influences from and you do something relevant. I don't kid myself and think that I'm ever cutting edge but I think it is important to make sure that you're relevant. There's no point in making an imitation or pastiche, because then it's really just a career for the sake of your own ego -- you might as well be a karaoke artist, really. Secretly, I've always had this idea to make an album called 1983 and literally just re-record all my favorite '80s songs. But then every time I think about doing them I think, Well, what's the point? It's really just an ego trip for me to reminisce.

The videos for the album are really dance-heavy.
[Laughs] Do you know why? I'm dancing because Columbia Records never let me. It's interesting because the rumor was Donny Ida, the president of the label, saw some edits from a video that I did called "Insatiable." I was openly gay, I hadn't held a press conference about it but everybody at the label and everyone in my life knew I was a gay man. I guess I swayed my hips a little too much for him, and he freaked out. Apparently there was this internal memo, like the opposite of Elvis -- I can only be shot from the waist up, and I can't move in videos because I'd be too gay. Once I didn't have those shackles on, I thought, You know, I want to do this. And part of it is a little indulgent, really. I grew up watching Michael Jackson, Madonna and Bowie and people of that era who were performance artists, and I thought I wanted to do that. But I don't think for one second that I'm Justin Timberlake. It was really nice to be able to move and work with a choreographer to make a video as opposed to hearing, Just stand there and look dreamy.

So you've naturally always been a dancer? Or did you work with choreographers?
Oh, for sure. When I say choreographer, let me clarify: in both of the main performances in 'On the Verge of Something Wonderful' I didn't work with a choreographer. In 'Me, Myself, and I,' I'm kind of freestyling a little, but I was also doing some kind of Kraftwerk-inspired really robotic stuff. I had to work with a choreographer with those moves, because I think I've got some natural rhythm, but I'm not good with actually remembering steps. When I was 15 I used to live in a garden shed on the property for a year while we built the main house, it was not glamorous, let's put it that way. Every night I would go up to the site of the house because it was a big open space. The walls were just the wooden structure of the walls and the roof was all glass and you could see right through it. And I would dance up there, I would dance to Michael Jackson. My dad said to me one day, 'Ahhh, I've been watching you dance on TV.' I said, 'What do you mean, dad? What TV?' And he pointed to the house at nighttime, and at nighttime it's completely illuminated and he said, 'The big TV,' and I just about died.

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