Originally published on So So Gay on 30 August 2015.
Following on from his successful collaboration with Röyksopp earlier this year, Jamie Irrepressible has had another busy 2015 that’s included working on the third studio album for The Irrepressibles. Elliot Robinson caught up with the singer to find out more about this new album, what it was like working with the Norwegian duo, and the importance of being an honest and openly LGBT artist.
So So Gay: Hello Jamie, how are you today?
Jamie Irrepressible: I’m good… I’m back in Berlin, the sun is shining and I’m up very early because I’ve just been in the US and my body doesn’t know what’s going on!
What are you up to at the moment?
For the next couple of weeks I’m working on The Irrepressibles’ third album – a few recording sessions in London and Berlin – then I’m back on tour with Röyksopp at the end of August.
You recently featured on their track ‘I Had This Thing’; how did that collaboration come about?
Svein and Torbjørn really liked the song ‘In This Shirt’ from my first record, so they remixed it. When creating their recent album release, The Inevitable End, they asked me to come into the studio to do some vocals. I jumped at this idea! As soon as I got to the studio we started recording and this was the first track we worked on.
What was it like working with them?
I was fairly nervous to meet them – I’m a huge fan of their music. There are a lot of unnecessary egos in music. The boys are the opposite. They are focused on the music with a huge amount of passion and skill – I would in fact say they are wizards! They are hugely inspiring. They made me feel very positive about my voice and gave me a lot of good energy in the studio – I felt like I could fly in their presence – I also felt able to be sensitive to my emotions and open.
How do you go about choosing your collaborations and who would you like to work with next?
It really comes down to who wants to work with me. The collaboration I did before this was as a composer creating music for a Danish Opera companies multimedia opera, made in Latvia, set in Japanese. I’m quite happy to scare myself, it seems, and learn quickly! I’m also rebellious when it comes to sticking to a genre. I’d love to work with many artists in different medias and genres. I’ve just created some orchestral music for a fantasy film with a similar instrumental set-up to [The Irrepressibles’ debut album] Mirror Mirror, that was like stepping back in time but it allowed me to work with old ideas and songs that haven’t yet been released, which was interesting.
It’s been a few years since the last Irrepressibles studio album; can you tell us anything about your plans for the third offering?
I’ve written the new album; it’s a different world sonically from both Mirror Mirror and Nude – my first and second records. I’m working in new ways and expressing aspects of my personality I’ve not really expressed before. It’s exciting and intense, but in many ways more earthy. At the moment, I’ve been recording parts with musicians that will make up the line-up for this album. I’m also working with a lot of musicians I’ve worked with for many years because they’re brilliant and I love them – but there are some different instruments used and some instrumentalists featured on this record.
You’ve previously discussed how one of your earlier songs, ‘Tears’, touches on how gay men are expected to be like a ‘happy doll’, society’s clown – do you still feel this is the case? Do you think the fairly commonplace superficiality of the gay media is partly to blame?
I think it’s often a way we can be accepted in a social circle; a way of making light of prejudice. As we’re growing up, we feel we have to work harder to be liked. I think the superficiality of the gay media isn’t always helpful to the LGBT cause. Gay culture used to be the place of everything cool, stylish, new and cutting edge… hetero people came to the clubs to hear it, be part of it. I think all too often the gay scene is manipulated by commercial brands, pop acts, etc – I suppose it’s another way to be accepted rather than be different. I think accepting difference and finding our own voices is important.
You recently performed at Berlin Pride – what was that like? Do you enjoy the Pride experience?
It was great! More edgy and with some actual gay artists on the bill (for some reason this element isn’t always given credence at Pride) as well as allies! I was performing alongside Robyn, Karen from The Knife, and Zhala – all amazing artists and awesome people.
You also performed earlier this month at Stereoleto Festival in St Petersburg, Russia – arguably a country at the opposite end of the spectrum for LGBT rights to Germany. You’ve previously said how as an LGBT artist ‘you’re immediately being political, just by being honest’, so performing in a country like Russia where homosexuality is very contentious. Were you aware of the hostility while you were there?
Yes, definitely. But we went to support the LGBT people there, a lot of whom were in the audience. We met many people after, and they felt empowered by our presence and confidence. It was very important to go and be there for them. Also, Russia is a beautiful country with incredible people. It’s worth mentioning that the police at the recent Pride march in St Petersburg held back anti-gay demonstrators – it isn’t cut and dry. I am hopeful and positive.
With this disparity in LGBT rights across the globe, do you feel now more than ever that it’s important for LGBT musicians in the public eye to use their platform and voice to help promote equality – even if it’s as basic as using the correct pronouns in lyrics rather than more ambiguous terms like ‘baby’?
Definitely. It’s one of the main reasons I began making music. We have a responsibility. I also feel it’s important to say that, though being wildly controversial or sexually provocative can be interesting artistically, if you want to change people who are opposed to gay rights it is important to move them emotionally rather than offend them. Connecting with people who are homophobic, to change their minds, is the most important thing you can do for the LGBT in countries where there isn’t acceptance. Changing people’s minds and hearts is a beautiful thing to be a part of.
You also sang at the first UK gay marriage; how did you become involved with that?
We were asked by the then ‘gay mayor of Camden’ and the two grooms – all of whom were fans of our track ‘Two Men in Love’ from Nude – to perform it for the wedding ceremony. So we did!
Ireland has recently voted to legalise gay marriage, with the US following suit shortly thereafter – what was your reaction to this?
I stood on a bridge in Berlin and kissed my boyfriend, who’s American, and we actually both cried; the news was so overwhelming.
When we at So So Gay finally get hitched, can we hire you? We’re lovely but poor, so would you accept payment in cake?
Of course, but make sure it is gluten-free because I can’t eat gluten! [laughs]