Boy George, who plays the TLA Friday, has had his troubles with drugs, sex scandals, and jail time. Call it his Rimbaudesque season in Hell, if you will, a period he's well over and done with. Rather than a moment of self-actualization in which to break the cycle of lousiness, the Boy says, frankly, that he just had to become an adult.
"I honestly had to keep telling myself over and over again to wise up until I got it," George says with a laugh. "When people talk about reinventing themselves, they're normally just talking about getting a new stylist. True reinvention takes time. Plus, men take longer to grow up. Now combine that with what goes on in my business where you're stuck in a constant state of childhood. You're not living in the real world, or one where you have to be responsible. It's a nebulous existence, and that doesn't help at all."
As a young Boy, he didn't need humility or gratitude because everything fell into his lap. "Nobody ever even asked me," he says, "if I was thankful." As a 52-year-old George, things are different: "Now, having those ups and downs puts everything in perspective."
What helped George were his inherent talents as a wry lyricist and dynamic vocalist whose forays into soul and reggae - on his own or with '80s hit-makers Culture Club, with whom he'll be working in 2014 - are a proven commodity, as well as a blessing. Although he's had a second big career as a house-centric DJ since he left the Club in 1986, making lively music is his focus, with his first full-length CD in 18 years, This Is What I Do, as proof.
"I've really not been interested in making records again until recently. I've enjoyed the pop projects that I've been part of [including albums by producer-turned-artist Mark Ronson] but have honestly been so immersed in dance culture that everything else was a blur." When George got interested, he found himself relistening to old favorites of his pre-Culture Club youth - David Bowie, the Rolling Stones - and making an album of new ramshackle glam-rock songs such as "Play Me," "My God," and "King of Everything."
"You know, we were going to make this a reggae record, but that just seemed restrictive. It was these songs, coming from their grooves, that pushed off the process. The narrative usually does that for me, the lyrics, but his time out, I let the music seduce me, and went from there. I'm always looking for new ways to say things, though. I like messing around."
As a Nichiren Buddhist, George is definitely not messing around, stating instead that his faith is open and without walls or fixed beliefs. "When you put God or faith in a box, you lose it. Part of its power is in its unknown qualities, just like love. Love and faith are similar because you have to suspend belief to commit." But letting the vibe of music, past and present, seduce him is part of being Boy George, pop star, at 52. "I'm listening more. Not rushing. Honestly hearing other people. That's something that's taken me a while to figure out."