Hermione Hoby: You’re re-forming Culture Club, nearly 30 years after the band’s first release. Does three decades seem like a long time?
Boy George: Well, I never thought I’d be doing records a year after I started — I had no idea it would last as long as it did. We just wanted to be heard and we felt like we had something to say, but certainly, the mechanics of the music business were irrelevant to us. If you’re a creative person, you’re driven by that and you don’t think about the obstacles. Having said that, I don’t cave in easily, which is just as well really; I’ve been through a lot of crap in the past few years.
Hoby: Does it surprise you that you’re still so well-loved?
Boy George: I know that there are some people who don’t like me and that kind of surprises me more than the people who love me. I mean, I don’t dislike anybody, really. Sometimes, my friends are so judgmental and critical and I’m just grateful I’m not in that space.
Hoby: Have you always been this easy-going?
Boy George: No! [Laughs] No, I was awful, the worst. I kept reading all these nasty things I’d said about people. I think it’s about how you feel in yourself: If you’re concentrating on someone else’s drama then you ain’t got to deal with yours. A lot of it is from being younger and feeling you have to defend yourself and that can become a bit of a uniform.
Hoby: You still take on the haters on Twitter.
Boy George: But playfully! I’m really not taking any of it seriously. There’s nothing I haven’t been called; it’s like, “Whatever!” I went to prison, I dealt with that shit. There isn’t very much that winds me up any more. Social injustice, yeah — I get really passionate about things like that. But silly, bitchy comments posted on Twitter? Please ...
Hoby: What do you remember of prison?
Boy George: It’s such an unknown situation ... If you’ve never been there before you don’t know how things run, so you’re just trying to get through it. And then, of course, you come out and it feels like it never happened. I remember when I got out, being in a petrol station and having money in my pocket. It’s so alien. You’ve been away for so long and then suddenly you’re out and can do normal things. The first thing I bought was a Ginsters cheese and onion pasty. I remember joking: “This tastes of freedom.”
Hoby: What prompted you to stop taking drugs?
Boy George: The weird thing was that it was just a Monday ... I woke up and thought: “I’ve had enough.” My best friend, Tony, dragged me along to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and when I got there I kind of knew it was where I wanted to be. I’ve stayed clean since.
Hoby: Is life more boring without drugs?
Boy George: No, not at all. I used to think it would be. The first time I got clean in the 1980s, I said to myself: “I don’t want to talk about recovery because it will make me look a bit naff.” But not any more. And you only have to look at the way people behave when they’re pissed to kind of not want to do it again. Also, it’s very different now. There are some horrible drugs around that make people really messy. It’s a huge problem, especially on the gay scene. When I see that, I’m just glad it’s not me.
Hoby: You’ve described the 1980s as the last experimental phase in culture. Does that mean you despair of pop today?
Boy George: I would describe myself as feeling “progressively nostalgic.” There’s always great music being made, but things have changed, the landscape has changed, and there’s no point trying to compete with Tinchy Stryder. I don’t really feel part of the pop scene. I do what I do and I have an audience and I work a lot, and thank God for that, but I’m not trying to recreate what I had. I do have a lot more downtime now and there is a separation between what I do for work and what I do in my private life, and I like that. Because there wasn’t always, you know?