I had an iChat interview (of sorts) with one of my favourite U.S bloggers and music people Stephen Sears. His blog can be found here http://xolondon.blogspot.com or you can follow him on twitter twitter.com/xolondon. It’s a long chat - most of it after the break.
STEPHEN [on chat in America]: Okay, so let me guess what you are eating, Darren. Your dessert is a gluten free kale cupcake. #yums
DARREN [on chat in London] Worse. It’s a coffee frappe made from a few cubes of ice, some decaf coffee granules, a bit of agave nectar and cold water.
STEPHEN: Okay, that has to be a joke.
DARREN: No that is literally what I’m having for dessert later.
STEPHEN: Agave is the new sugar.
DARREN: In fact, as you typed that sentence, agave just became passé. I had a vegetarian chili tonight made with Quorn. Do you have that in the USA? It’s basically a ‘plant based fungus’ (whatever that means) that resembles ground beef.
STEPHEN: Quorn? Yuck! Please, no truffle babies for you…
DARREN: You would make a good therapist. Not because I’m feeling particularly well probed, but the opposite. I feel I can only just get a thought out and suddenly you’ve gone all truffle baby on me. And can someone get me a fan? Seriously it’s so hot in here I can hardly even think to answer a question. ….I may have stolen that from somewhere…
STEPHEN: And you - don’t go Madge on me. It won’t work.
DARREN: I’m not going Madge. I’ve BEEN Madge.
STEPHEN: It never takes long to invoke Madonna, does it? Anyway, you sort of backed away from twitter, but have been reemerging recently…
DARREN: I’m always amazed at the connection we have to our audiences and those we take interest in. We live in a culture where someone can be seriously pissed off with you if you don’t send them a tweet. I flash back to all those handwritten letters I sent Michael Jackson. Could you imagine if you could have tweeted Michael Jackson? Oh the things that would have incriminated me! My letters were things like, ‘Dear Michael. I just want you to know that I really enjoy the sounds of your buckles and belts that are overlaid in the video mixes of your videos. Especially in Bad. They bring this really cool texture to the songs. I also love it when you click your fingers. Sincerely, Darren Hayes (of Brisbane Australia). P.S I don’t know if you’d remember me but I was in the 4th row at your Brisbane Entertainment Centre show and I’m pretty sure when I screamed out ‘I love you!’ you said ‘I love you too’ right back at me. I was standing next to my sister who is quite a bit shorter than me and on that night was very badly sunburned’.
STEPHEN: lolz That’s [cough] sweet. But seriously, what would Michael’s tweets have said?
DARREN: Michael would NOT have tweeted. He’d be like Madonna.
STEPHEN: His people would have tweeted for him. @mj Heal the world. Or @mj Have you seen my childhood?
DARREN: Did you know - one of my favourite moments of becoming whatever it is I am - I was sitting in my publicist’s office at Village Roadshow in Sydney Australia. I was 23? Anyway we were writing the press release for our first album - and she asked me about myself and I said ‘Can you put it in there that I’m really shy? I want to be elusive’.
STEPHEN: You wanted to be elusive? You, ehrm, failed.
DARREN: I know I failed!! That’s my point!! She just about spat her coffee out with laughter, as clearly she’d met me and worked out in a heartbeat that oxygen was my truth serum. The people I admire are enigmas. Me, I’m tweeting pictures of my t shirt collections. But that’s who I am.
STEPHEN: I am FASCINATED by celeb twitpics. Like “This is my breakfast.” But I look at their china or the stuff in the background we are not supposed to look at. When I saw your album “making of “ videos, I looked at the shelves and, like, flooring! lol
DARREN: See, isn’t it funny - you would be shocked how much I hide from the world though in terms of my home, my private life - the intimate bits. It’s always the same room and very restricted angles that I show people.
STEPHEN: No one can see that large nude statue in your sitting room…
DARREN: Oh that? That’s just Richard. But I miss the connection [with the audience] when I’m not ‘out there’ and I do have more fun with it - yes. I hate to sound old or to steal GaGa’s thunder, but I embraced the internet from the very beginning of a career and always had that kind of teen-like connection to my audience. I was in chat rooms - DalNet I think it was called on ICQ. My nickname was fruitundies. I wrote ‘journals’ (they become ‘blogs’). So it’s a weird kind of mutual need in some ways.
STEPHEN: Fruitundies? Prophetic.
DARREN: Yup ;)
STEPHEN: I imagine your house with Millennium Falcons hanging from the ceiling.
DARREN: Our house has way too many toys in it. But far more books. Richard is staggeringly smart and sometimes I’m shocked he doesn’t fall asleep when I speak (I imagine I appear to him sometimes like the teacher in Charlie Brown - just mouthing ‘wha wha wha’ noises). But Richard is a collector of books and I swear they are the overwhelming characteristic of our home.
STEPHEN: Are there a lot of art books?
DARREN: There are lots of film, theatre, critical theory, narrative theory and, yes, lots of design books really. I am more the coffee table book guy - his books tend to be about myths and the hero’s journey. Or quantum physics.
STEPHEN: Yeep! Should we discuss semiotics and fractals and shit like that? I think we should discuss the tour. The Tour I Am Not Attending. So now that you are in your Pop Dotage, is this your Farewell Tour before you go do needlepoint in a holiday caravan?
DARREN: Oh my god, you just went straight for the jugular there, didn’t you?
STEPHEN: mmm hmmm
DARREN: It’s not a farewell tour, because obviously I’m not about to go open up a pie shop (though I did consider owning a cool milkshake bar!).
STEPHEN: $10 milkshakes made with agave and… plant based fungus? *makes pinched face* No, thank you. The tour, though…
DARREN: It’s the end of this album cycle for sure - which is kind of sad, because it’s been an album I have loved.
STEPHEN: You love all your albums!
DARREN: I am more excited than the audience to do this tour and some of them are quite excited. I’ve seen lots of tattoos. Someone has the symbols and codes from the special edition PURPLE VINYL ALBUM BOOKLET on their torso. That is excited. Me, I’m just thrilled to be able to expand the set list a bit more and play a few more songs from this album. And to see my amazing band again - especially Shave. I do miss the audience too. It’s become a comfort to look out into the pit and see faces I’ve grown up with.
STEPHEN: I hope you will save me a piece of merch – a Battleships lunchbox or Secret Code condom packet. Surely you are making those? The tour mug you tweeted is fetching. Anyway, this is a bit of a Tourlette. Not Tourettes. Tour-lette. So is it going to have big staging? Will a battleship bust through the stage?
DARREN: This tour is really the second leg of the first run - it’s the same basic set, the same arc - but an expanded set list and new things.
STEPHEN: Do you carry that fancy “light umbrella” around London? Are you That Guy?
DARREN: No, but I had a new one made. It’s bloody expensive. It was manufactured by the people who make all the U2 stage props - they did this really cool LED microphone for Bono during the 360 tour. And Willie (Williams, the show director) decided it wasn’t bright enough for the first leg - so he’s made me another!
STEPHEN: It’s like a light saber! Darren, I wish I had saved your response when I told you peeps were arguing about whether you lipsynced on the last leg of this tour (in the “makeup” part). I had to DUCK from the Madonna-esque shade frenzy you unleashed
DARREN: Oh, I don’t remember what I said, but I was outraged, yes lol.
STEPHEN: Those bum notes are REAL!
DARREN: Haha! I’ve never mimed ever unless it’s for a t.v show that insists. And that’s quite rare these days. I think the problem with that segment of the show is I wore a tiny head microphone that was skin coloured – so from the back of the room you can’t see I’m wearing it. Also I sing a song in a very high pitched voice – “Hot Tub Blues” - and most people don’t believe it’s me on the recording, it’s so high. So when I do it live - it sounds like a woman and I guess someone less talented that I must have assumed it was being faked sips tea
STEPHEN: So there will be new songs this time? And mashups? covers?
DARREN: Yes - two huge ones. No details sorry. sips tea
STEPHEN: Mmm hmmm. Most artists have umbrella handlers, but do you have nutsqueezers to hit those notes?
DARREN: Yes those nutsqueezers are called ‘skinny jeans’ And the particular pair I wear, I kid you not, are called ‘Zero’ … which feels like the waist size. And it is the name I gave to that character with the facepaint.
STEPHEN: Zero. How Bowie
STEPHEN: He is the queen!
DARREN: Well, Madonna is the Queen.
STEPHEN: Okay, so I am not going to get much in the way of tour spoilers, but speaking of The Queen…have you enjoyed all the Anglomania this year? Did you participate? Putting up bunting, etc?
DARREN: Ok, so the short answer is yes.
STEPHEN: Here comes the long answer. sips tea
DARREN: I am by definition opposed to patriotism. I am a nut who wishes we didn’t need passports or visas.
STEPHEN: Some people say you’re a dreamer, but you’re not the only one
DARREN: I reluctantly LOVED IT ALL. Especially the day before the Jubilee. We walked all over the city - 7 hours on foot crossing bridges and passed through ‘hoods of parties in the streets. It was very sweet. I’m a lover, not a fighter. And the Olympics were kind of magical. It was like the entire city said “Put your good shirt on, we’ve got company!”
STEPHEN: I had tea and scones on the big Jubilee day.
DARREN: It’s such a funny thing - I have grown to love England because of Richard. I confess to never being an Anglophile prior to meeting him. I never in a million years thought I’d end up in London. I was always obsessed with America and especially California.
STEPHEN: Obsessed with the mess that’s Amereeeeka. So which parts of the ceremonies did you like? I loved how the industrial age part belched all that stuff onto the green grass in the Opening. Smokestacks etc. And I loved that it was a tribute to cool things like… national healthcare!
DARREN: I preferred the much maligned closing ceremonies. I burst into tears when it opened with all of these iconic buildings that are essentially my view everyday living here - and that song “Waterloo Sunset” is so, so sad. It’s what the English do best in song - it’s melancholy defined. It sounds happy, but it’s essentially the author saying, “Look at those two people in love - I’ll never have that.”
STEPHEN: You are very right about the melancholy. The lack of sunny days seeps in.
DARREN: I’ve become an Anglophile because of the incredible forward thinking liberal attitude to humanity here. So many cultures thrust together and thriving. I hold a British passport because my relationship means something here. The national health care is a triumph. It’s a wonderful place to be a minority because you mean something. Everyone means something.
STEPHEN: When you leave London, what do you miss most? We’ve discussed that I love the sense that you are just one tiny part in a never-ending, grand story. The old buildings where people like us stood HUNDREDS of years ago.
DARREN: I love that the house we live in is almost as old as the modern history of some countries. I love the architecture and I love the Tube! I think my sense of humour clicks in England and I miss that when I leave here. I also love seasons - I know you live in DC and you have seasons. I grew up in paradise, but with really a choice of two temperatures: hot or not.
STEVE: Increasingly the world seems to be losing its seasons. But that’s another story. We need to discuss music for a hot second…
DARREN: …OK, so let me do a quick pop run down.
DARREN: SNAP! I am obsessed with great pop songs of late - it’s bizarre but the climate reminds me so much of when I first appeared as a vaguely pan sexual dark haired nymph singing ‘ooh I want you…’ It feels like big lush pop songs with gorgeous melodies are back.
STEPHEN: They flutter in and out.
DARREN: Songs like Jessie Ware’s “Wildest Moments” remind me of the production of some of my favourite pop songs.
STEPHEN: It is amazing. Lush songs and lush singing. Everyone who sees me tweet has heard it ad nauseum: GET JESSIE WARE.
DARREN: I do love that new Lawson song, I do love Jessie Ware. I love the Calvin Harris remix of Florence’s “Say My Name.” I even love that One Direction song.
STEPHEN: What is the One Direction song?
DARREN: “That’s what makes you beautiful…” just the chorus
STEPHEN: Fair enough. Harry Styles has great floppy hair.
DARREN: I do love - and I’m just gonna say it - CALL ME MAYBE. I am in fact obsessed with it.
STEPHEN: I adore that song. “I know it’s crazy. We just met….”
DARREN: See, what made me fall in love with Carly Rae was the hairy man with lipstick video thingy
DARREN: The Chat Roulette version of “Call Me Maybe.” Tell me you’ve seen it
STEPHEN: Oh, hon, I am too classy for Chat Roulette
DARREN: Everyone’s seen it sips tea
STEPHEN: I have not!
DARREN: *SENDS STEPHEN THE YOUTUBE LINK FOR..*
Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen (Chatroulette Version)
STEPHEN: Oh look it’s playing right now!
DARREN: Anyway it’s hilarious. Anyone on to your job of being a tastemaker…
STEPHEN: I am not a tastemaker! I hate that term. OMG this video – the guy in the bathing suit…
DARREN: mm hmmm sips tea
STEPHEN: This video is sick. You are quite deviant.
DARREN: No I’m not. It’s actually quite endearing because he wins everyone over with his smile. They are initially repulsed or scared and the song and his smile just win them over.
STEPHEN: Part of it is the song. My girlfriend who obsessed with me over “Teenage Dream” got me hooked on Carly Rae.
DARREN: It’s impossible to be sad and listen to that song. I was obsessed with “Teenage Dream“ too. I do fantasise about having written “Call Me Maybe.” That feeling - imagine when you listen to it - that you had just finished recording that. Wouldn’t you know - you were sitting on gold?
STEPHEN: I hope so. Those songs do embody something very sunny and American. Although Carly is Canadian. Oops…
DARREN: North American… there you go
STEPHEN: You know your map.
DARREN: Random tangent: Cher on twitter.
STEPHEN: LOVE HER
DARREN: ME TOO!
STEPHEN: I was obsessed with Cher as a child and I would put my mom’s winter scarves on my head and pretend to be Cher… ON THE FRONT STEP
DARREN: That. Is. Adorable.
STEPHEN: And very, very gay, Darren. I could do the Cher lip lick at like 4 years old.
DARREN: I’m glad you didn’t say you put that black thong outfit from the “If I could turn back time” video on.
STEPHEN: Oh dear. I love all incarnations of Cher: “Gypsies, Tramps…” to disco Cher to “We All Sleep Alone.” You know what I love most? That Cher has said that because she has money and does not have to think about how she gets food on her table, that it is her job to consider that for those who do.
DARREN: Isn’t it interesting - I know it’s commonly spoken about how gay men love these women because they are aspirational, etc. But it hit me then with the transformative nature of people like Cher or Madonna - this ability to reinvent yourself to the world - it’s a similar journey to being gay in some ways.
STEPHEN: Because at some point you must break a mold that has been set for you?
DARREN: Yes or similarly - just survive.
STEPHEN: I’ve never felt I had to survive, but I think we all have this desire to be someone else at times.
DARREN: Maybe I relate to the idea of creating a facade for the world
STEPHEN: Everyone wants to do it, but they are constrained by their own lives. Performers are not.
DARREN: And being a popstar is the best superhero costume you can put on for a while
STEPHEN: So it’s vicarious….
DARREN: That’s so true.
STEPHEN: Let’s end this by talking about one magical thing that I have already told you I think is extraordinary and a window into who you are. Do you know what it is?
STEPHEN: Your hairy pec tank top twit pics… KIDDING! No, it’s actually the day you hugged half of London, Darren.
DARREN: Aww that just made me a bit teary!
STEPHEN: When was that? Last fall?
DARREN: Yes - it was cold. And I got a terrible TERRIBLE FLU afterwards. But it was worth it.
STEPHEN: I want to know how you feel about that now, aside from flu. Lol #contagion
DARREN: How I feel about it is very multifaceted. It was an extraordinary privilege to be able to make so many people smile. A bit of a backstory with me and hugs: I have a terrible immune system and I get sick all the time. I am a naturally huggy person but I really can’t be like that on tour or I’d end up cancelling shows. I spent the first few years of my career hugging anyone who was near me until we started touring and I got so sick and you just can’t do that because you catch every cold going. So when I really want to connect, when I really want to give out that kind of energy, is often when I can’t. The day I decided to give out hugs - I was not putting on my marketing hat or thinking it through. I did what I sometimes try to do with twitter - I put something out there in the universe that I thought would be a good thing for the universe. An offer of a free hug. I sat in a cafe opposite and I had no idea if anyone would turn up. It turned out - people had travelled from all over the world.
STEPHEN: Yes, I know some of them! And I know that it meant a lot to them.
DARREN: Some had grown up with me - perhaps had moved on from me musically, but I occupied a place in their childhoods and they had a chance to tell me - so they flew to London to do that.
DARREN: I can’t describe to you how religious it felt - there was a hush - and a kindness. I was treated like glass - people were so protective and respectful and grateful and it profoundly affected and touched me. I was blown away by the civility and the gentleness of the situation.
STEPHEN: There is a family that has built up around your music. Incredible friendships…
DARREN: I know I’m just some guy from Brisbane Australia - I know I’m not ‘magical’ or in possession of some special DNA - but what I do have is this enormous amount of emotion that pours out of me - and it hit me that day how many people appreciate that about me and why they like my music. It drained me afterwards - if I’m honest. But it also invigorated me. It was like I walked in to a room full of unlit light bulbs and said ‘plug in to me’ - which was a joy. But it hit me this symbiotic relationship the audience has with the performer - how much I get from them and they me.
STEPHEN: It’s like a wedding or something, where the occasion brings everything down to the essence. The hugging day did that.
DARREN: I realise that the people who love me are on the same journey as me…. There are cliches about your audience - GaGa has a beautiful one about seeing tiny mirrors reflecting back - but they are cliches based on truth. I see myself in my audience. They know me like my family do in so many ways. They can tell you if I’m sad, if I’m distant - if I’m faking it. And I realise that I owe it to myself and to everyone to be the person I try to inspire others to be: to be brave and true…
STEVE: I think that’s clear… it’s understood. I hope the tour is another amazing experience for everyone. [looks at time].
STEVE: …OMG, it is the crack of ass there in London…
DARREN: … it has been really lovely talking, but wow it’s late.
DARREN: So have a lovely rest of the evening…
STEPHEN: Okay, go on. God knows, you need beauty sleep.
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