No matter how adorable Scissor Sisters guitarist Del Marquis looks in high-trousered pants, hes usually getting upstaged. Such is the life of being in a band fronted by a playful vocalist -- the flamboyantly magnetic Jake Shears -- who has a thing for stripping on stage. But now all eyes are on the oft-sideburned Marquis. After releasing two EPs in the last year, hes debuting the third disc, Litter to Society, a collaboration with visionary videographers Embryoroom, from his four-installment solo project. Out caught up with Marquis, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and got the 411 on his ego-driven disc, the upcoming Scissor Sisters LP, and why, lately, he feels like a whore.
Out: What are you up to?
Del Marquis: I just came back from the gym and Im just working. I have a home studio in my house.
Havent you done enough in the last few months?
[Laugh] You would think. Im involved in the production and distribution of the music that Ive been working on, so its the after-the-fact business thing thats time consuming and less gratifying.
With this solo project, the attention is all on you. As part of Scissor Sisters, its obviously not that way because Jake gets most of it. So how does it feel to be the attention whore now?
Whore is a good word, because I really do have to [laughs]. Unfortunately, you really do have to know that what you did is worth something. You can believe in it from the get-go, but its really about convincing other people, and you kind of are wearing all these hats. Its like, Look at me! and trying to find a way to get peoples attention without being just a complete whore, and sometimes the attention is nice and sometimes its negative. I think that I recognize my role in Scissor Sisters now by being at the center of a different project. Its just such a different world. Its a different set of responsibilities. So I dont know how Im handling it. I think I still want more attention for this project, thats for sure.
I fell for I Believe in You immediately.
Its kind of the odd song. Its actually a Bob Dylan cover. I did it for a specific reason, but I dont really want to -- I feel like its kind of evolved beyond that, so I dont want to nail it down to why I recorded that song. Im not the biggest Bob Dylan fan. Not that I dislike him, but I wasnt as familiar with the original, so it was kind of easier for me to record my own version. I think that gave me a bit of freedom.
How did it feel to work without the groupies?
I didnt do this project by myself completely. I had a co-producer who was integral in getting the sound, and Im really happy with the production. I think it sounds like a really big and expensive record -- and it wasnt. It wasnt cheap, but I think we made it sound really big and really expensive [laughs]. And then as far as the production end, the post-recording, I have some friends Im working with on the video aspect that also helped me. We distribute directly to iTunes, and we do the artwork, so Im not alone. But its definitely a smaller machine, and the energy it requites to keep it moving is kind of intense.
And youre also not working with the people youre used to working with, the Scissor Sisters.
No, and I miss them [laughs]. Not that I dont see them, but it makes me miss that experience in that Im really happy I was able to do this, and Id still continue love working on it, but it made me appreciate my role and what that band is about. Being in a band is a really special thing; its not an easy thing to just make and make happen, and I truly enjoy the company of my band members.
Why did you want to make a solo project in the first place? Was it to fill in the gap between Scissor Sisters albums? Musical withdraw?
Just so many reasons. For the first time I felt like I had something to say. I had never really written lyrics and I just felt like I had to do this. I dont know what concrete reason there was, but I was compelled. It was like, I have to do something, I have to do something with my name [on it] and a statement from me. Its a bit of an ego fulfillment, but its necessary.
Theres a real 80s vibe to the album. Who were some of your influences from that era for this album?
There are so many. For this record I had a few touchstones -- Trevor Horn productions, like ABC and Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Welcome to the Pleasuredome. Also, Tears for Fears records, [like] Songs from the Big Chair -- its a great album, its a big sounding album, its really melodic. Theres surprisingly some really experimental sounds on there, but it never scarifies melody. Thomas Dolby, a lot of blue-eyed soul, like Style Counsel and Prefab Sprout. I was a bit all over the place, which is why I kind of decided to group them as EPs, because I ended up with a collection of songs that I wasnt sure made an entirely cohesive piece. There were like 16 or 17 songs and I was like, I think this will make better sense in smaller segments.
How is your alter-ego Viz -- seen in the digital shorts that accompany the music in the series -- different from you?
Hes kind of like the id. His songs are very humanistic and very heart-on-sleeve, and you kind of see this character before he goes through this transformation and I think that, in a way, it was a parallel to why I started this music. I felt like I was going through a transformation of my own, and in order to kind of capture that and help me understand it I recorded these songs. So in a similar way youre seeing this character whos kind of an emotional, fully dimensional human go through a transformation and become a negative conveyor to society, and hes not really sure how he got there [laughs]. And so thats the to be continued ....
So theres more coming?
Yeah, its an ongoing series, and eventually itll lead to a digital feature that well put out.
Are you working on anything right now with the Scissor Sisters?
Weve been working on our third album, and theres a lot of really good songs -- theres a ton of songs [laughs]. Jake and Babydaddy cant stop writing. I think they have a disease. Weve just got a ton of great songs, and hopefully well be wrapping it up soon, but I dont like to speak out of turn.
Whats it been like working without Paddy Boom?
Hes a friend of mine; I see him whether or not hes in my band. We have another drummer [Randy Real Schrager] and hes really great. It was relatively seamless only because we had worked with this other drummer on the end of the last tour when Paddy was sick, so for better or worse it was a seamless transition. I like both people immensely, and just because Paddys not in the band doesnt mean -- hes definitely still doing music and I definitely hang out with him.
Jake is pretty notorious for getting naked on stage. Are you a little more modest?
I -- I guess Im more modest. I dont know. You know, if I was the front person of the Scissor Sisters, which Im not, and I was performing to an enormous -- [laughs]. I dont know. Who knows? Sometimes when youre performing youre possessed. I know that its in his DNA. He just likes to get naked. Its probably not in my DNA. I think clothes irritate him. He seems to be the best and most natural when he has the least amount of clothing on.
We enjoy it anyway, so why not?
So, your facial hair -- underneath that youve got quite a baby face.
Is having that baby face a curse or a blessing?
I have no problems. If I want to look a little bit older, then I grow this beard. Its also because Ive just been lazier and I dont wanna shave.
Do you get carded when you shave it?
I havent shaved it in a while. You know, people card you anyway these days. Ive got gray hair growing in and they still card me.
You dont dye it?
No. I dont wanna do that rinse; I think that looks really strange [laughs]. That George Hamilton kind of like weird rinse? Not for me.
Del Marquis digital-only album, Litter to Society, is out May 26 on iTunes and at www.delmarquis.com.