The British singer, who will perform next month with his group Culture Club at the Icónica Sevilla Fest, reflects on how music has changed in his four-decade career
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Before closing the interview with Boy George (London, 1961), his manager makes a blunt condition: no questions about the scandals in which the artist has been involved in recent years, especially his brief stint in jail accused of assault a prostitute However, the legend of the singer –whose real name is George O’Dowd– goes far beyond these events: they contemplate four decades of career, since he became known with the group Culture Club, with which he will attend on 23 September next to the Iconic Seville Fest, performing in the Plaza de España in Seville.

Although he has never stopped making music since that distant debut in 1982, Boy George has remained an icon of eighties pop, something that makes him smile. “I think people always tend to fixate on when they discover you, like, ‘I discovered you in the ’80s, so you represent this or that to me. I, for example, am a child of the 70s, the 70s were when I really began to feel interested in music, culture, fashion… That was the beginning of my cultural training, but I prefer not to go into those assessments ”.

Recalling his beginnings, when he was discovered by manager Malcolm MacLaren –the same man who elevated the Sex Pistols–, the artist explains: “I was an accidental musician, I just had to do something to try to attract attention. Only in the last ten years have I understood who I am as a musician, moreover, I have realized that I really am, and have been since day one, although over the last 30 years I have learned a lot of useful things in this field, which allow me to get into a recording studio by myself and compose very easily. It’s a shame I couldn’t use them before, but I do now passionately.”

Out of business

When asked how music has changed in these four decades that his career already includes, he believes that deep down there is nothing new “neither rap, nor house, nor grime music, nor the different types of rock”, enumerate. “I have come to the conclusion that what is really important is the arrangement of the words, what you say: that is much more important than the melody. You can take the melody from anywhere, but you have to choose the words very well if you are writing something that is going to get into people’s brains, something that they are going to listen to when they are sleeping, you know: Karma, karma, karma, karma…”, he concludes humming the chorus of his most universal hit, Karma Chameleon.

And the music business? Hasn’t this undergone a true revolution –and not always in the best sense– from the heyday of the industry to the crisis and the adaptation to the digital market? Despite having sold more than 150 million records, which makes him one of the most commercial artists of all time, Boy George today does not feel particularly involved in the music business: “I am an independent artist, I have my own record label and I avoid getting carried away by trends and I only get carried away by what I feel like, so I do a bit of everything: rock and roll, techno, jazz… Everything is already invented, you only make a difference according to your way of interpreting . That’s where the magic happens.”

In the case of Boy George, one way of making a difference was always the image, which elevated him to the category of a paradigm of sexual ambiguity. Something that, he admits, would not shock anyone today, although he clarifies: “People are now more tolerant, which does not mean that they understand it better. Now the debate has shifted to trans, but I think it’s time we assume that someone else’s life and experiences have very little to do with us. Once we understand that it’s none of our business and that we’re worrying too much about what someone else is doing… For my part, even as a kid I was interested in sexuality and I never thought of being gay as an accident or I said ‘this shouldn’t happen’. This is what I wanted to be. And if I went back to that age and had the opportunity to choose whether or not to be gay, I would choose to be gay again.”

With my boots on

The truth is that Boy George draws fans of all stripes to his concerts, and manages to touch the sensibilities of three different generations of spectators. The secret to not having an expiration date? “Perhaps it has to do with a kind of attraction to the person, to what they represent, to music too, of course… I think music is enormously important because music is a kind of glue in our lives. You know when someone broke our hearts as a kid and you hear that song, it may be the dumbest song in the world, but… And well, now it’s more fun to perform with this variety of audience. If you come to the show you will see it,” he says.

One (pen)last question should be asked of the London star: after a life of excess and the prison experience, do you consider yourself a survivor? “You know? I think that every day we wake up as a new person, and it is something common to all other human beings. We are all connected. Everyone is, in one way or another, a survivor. Being a human being is enormously complex, and yet it is also very simple. The pleasure of life comes from simplicity, it doesn’t necessarily come from money or fame”, he points out.

“The more you understand about the world, life, society and people, the more you enjoy it. Being famous has consequences. You even think that people love you no matter what you do, even if you’re horrible, but at the same time they pressure you to always give your best. Now I’ve matured and I enjoy performances more”, adds Boy George, although not enough to die on stage with his boots on: “It’s not in my plans”, he laughs. “I love to create and I love to act. The show must go on, and indeed it will go on”, he anticipates.

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