Culture Club in Washington DC in 1983 …( clockwise from top left) Boy George, Roy Hay, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss. Photograph: Michael Putland/ Getty Images
Still, he concedes, they have their moments. Oh God, we were doing Princes club in Minneapolis, and I decided we were going to do Purple Rain, and we had the biggest row weve had in 20 years. We had a row about the arrangement, then a runner at the club said to Roy[ Hay, guitarist ]: Oh, everybody does Prince ballads when they come here, which just made it worse. I genuinely kicked off, I had to go and apologise: Oh, Im sorry, I havent said and done since 1984. Then we played it and the whole sound system broke down. I think it was Prince, up there he gestures to the skies shitstirring it.
He thinks at least one of the reasons why relations have improved is because he feels comfortable in his own scalp. He used to be much more self-conscious when he was younger, he tells: he would get dressed up as Boudicca or a geisha to run clubbing, then lose his temper when people remarked on how he appeared. Yeah, various kinds of look at me, but dont look at me thats the dichotomy of exhibitionism in a manner that is. You want people to look at you, but you dont want them to comment. You want to be a spectacle, but you dont want them to home in on you, you dont want to be analysed.
He says Culture Clubs vast success only compounded matters. He looked like someone born to be a pop starring, but often received the experience weirdly uncomfortable. Onstage, he couldnt look at the audience: I used to go and ensure Bowie or Grace Jones, who were just awe-inspiring, they had that confidence, they were in command, and I would think: I need to be more like that.
Offstage, he continued to struggle with attention. Its all fun at the beginning because youre being carted everywhere in limousines and trucks and then when “youre starting” wanting to go out in the real world, it doesnt quite run. It takes years to get your head around how to have some sort of normal life whilst also enjoying the spoils of being Boy George. I suppose Ive got that balance now. If someone comes up and wants a selfie, Im not going to be rude or hostile or arsey. I simply pull a silly face. If in doubt, pout.
He understandably doesnt want to talk about medications or prison Im nine years sober in February, merely short of a decade, so theres got to be a point where its like Move on, I have but its still pretty clear what happened in 2008 was the big turning point in their own lives. I unceremoniously fucked things up myself. There was a phase, nine years ago, where I said to myself: You actually fucked this up, and youve truly got to fix it, and you can fix it. I knew it would take time, but I really believed it.
Certainly, his career now seems to be blooming again. His recent documentary for the BBC about life in the suburbium in 70 s Britain was rapturously received. Theres talk of him launching his own makeup range and of a Vegas residency with Cyndi Lauper. Hes not returning as a judge on the UK version of The Voice; instead, hes currently a contestant on The New Celebrity Apprentice in the US , now helmed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, rather than the president-elect, alongside a lot of footbally, sportsy-type American guys and Vince Neil from Mtley Cre. There was even talk of his own US reality series, but he abandoned the idea. It was going to be about me moving to America, but I suppose I was too interesting. Im not really a fan of that whole reality show Lets create a scenario thing. I dont need to create scenarios. Seem at my life! Ive got scenarios coming out of my ears.
You can understand the seduce of primetime US TV, but it still seems a dishonor hes given up The Voice. For one thing, he was very good on it: funny and generous and engage. For another, it was just nice to see person to continue efforts to flip the usual, boring script of TV pop talent reveals on their heads. He went out of his style to pick the weirdest contestants, then dedicated them Antony and the Johnsons ballads to sing. It was as if he was trying to singlehandedly will pop music back to the style it was when Culture Club transgressed. Watching their early Top of the Pops appearances on BBC4 recently, what was striking wasnt so much how extraordinary Boy George appears, but the fact that, with the benefit of hindsight, he doesnt appear that out of place: the chart was still largely a playground for freaks and eccentrics.
It feels like the mainstream has been hijacked by hitmakers, people who are really good at writing songs that all drop in the right places, theyre all pleasant, but theres not many people who really give of themselves, if you know what I entail, he tells. When I was 19, there was still the mystery of rocknroll, there was still the wizard behind the curtain. Kids now, they know how to induce records, they know where to get their clothes. They dont have to walk to Deptford High Street to look at the platform shoes in the window, they can go online and get them from Asos, whereas we had to dream about it: is this possible? Now, its like: Yeah, you can be famous, you get on this indicate, you do that, you do this, but I believe the thing is, I dont think it inevitably means that much. Im glad I had that arousing first part of my career in a decade when you could make a culture change of kinds, you know? Theres a lot of no-neck ways around with 400 m makes and you think they dont mean anything, whereas Madonnas cone bra still has some sort of resonance! But then, maybe if youre 14, they do. I still get excited about lots of music, but its not stuff that you hear in the mainstream. I love the Knife, the Lower Dens if it was the 80 s the Lower Dens would be massive. I saw Lets Eat Grandma on TV and I fucking loved them. I can say I like Zayn Malik, hes got a beautiful voice, hes beautiful looking, but its not the same feeling as I get from looking at Jam Rostron from Planningtorock. I guess shes astonishing, so beautiful, but its a kind of distorted beauty. Appearing at her and hearing the message of her music, for me, its just the same as it always was. Its great pop music and its about something.
Despite the reality TV and the makeup range, he says he still guess of himself as a songwriter first. Hes been working with his old friend and sparring partner Marilyn, theres a new Culture Club album due next year and hes been mentoring a trio called Brando who he describes as total glam, total Roxy, massive Smiths fans. Worrying about the industry and the radio and all of that, its merely pointless, you just have to get on with it. OK, that doors shut, lets run through another doorway. Thats always been my policy. Im very adaptable. Very Darwinian.
I start saying something about his new, positive outlook on life, but he corrects me. No, Ive always been positive. I wouldnt still be here if I wasnt. I think youre always who you are, but life confuses you, particularly because of reputation everybody treats you different, therefore you end up with a distorted idea of who you are. Dont you think that lifes about growing into yourself in a funny kind of style? Youre looking for answers and I believe as you get older, you realise there arent really answers. You simply have to kind of get on with it. Life is kind of like clinging to a stone, isnt it? Were all clinging to a boulder, and some people have got a better grip than others. Some people seem bedraggled, he smiles, and other people look like Jerry Hall dressed as mermaid on that Roxy Music album cover-up.
Culture Club play SSE Arena Wembley on 14 December