My beloved Macbook was repaired today - it had been away for a week at NYC's Tekserve having its topboard replaced - and while transferring some tracks and CDs to iTunes I listened to a few tracks from Jamiroquai. For a while I was totally obsessed with the dance versions of tracks like "Space Cowboy" and "Alright," and I had the chance to interview him when 2005's Dynamite came out. Not the artist one thinks of as super-gay, but I think he's pretty fantastic and definitely pro-gay. Even with the hats.
So here's that interview, since I'm gonna post more about Madonna if I don't put other stuff up!
Tip of the Hat
By Lawrence Ferber
Handclaps, meaty bass, plucky guitar notes, spacey synth, and a smooth disco beat. Listening to this song, “Dynamite,” you’d swear you were in the hottest gay disco in town circa 1975. But you’re actually just listening to the irresistible retro-disco title track of the latest album by Jamiroquai. Fronted by the boyish, giant hat adorned Jason Kay, the super-groovy UK outfit has whipped up flawless funk and dance hits – including “Space Cowboy,” “Alright,” and “Canned Heat” - for over 12 years now. Dynamite (Epic), their sixth studio album, gives the likes of Sylvester and Stevie Wonder a boogie for their money with groovy confections like “Starchild,” “Don’t Give Hate a Chance,” and “Seven Days in Sunny June.” One track, “World That He Wants,” infuses politics and a scathing indictment of Dubya’s warmongering into a ballad (“He’s a menace,” Kay scoffs). And the album’s first single, “Feels Just Like It Should,” entails a dirty little Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque ditty - its video, included on the DualDisc version of Dynamite, features Kay gussied up in surprisingly sultry drag.
Co-produced by Kay and Mike Spencer, Dynamite was recorded in a variety of locations including the UK, Italy, Los Angeles and New York. To discuss Dynamite, politics, and the importance of proper fitting pumps, I spoke with the pro-gay, politically aware Kay by phone.
Have you been a fan of 70’s disco your whole life?
“For the bit I can remember, yes. Because it’s a Studio 54, get down everybody have a better time than you did before vibe. But bear in mind I was only 7 years old when the disco thing was in!”
What clubs did you used to go to as a teen?
“I used to go to [London’s gay club] Heaven quite a bit. When I was about 18, 19, because the music was good. It was banging. And we were all pilled-up. Or tripping. Or pilled-up and tripping. Those were the good days.”
Was that your first exposure to gay people?
“No, not at all. My mom’s a [cabaret] singer and every hairdresser and guy in the biz was gay. Leonard, a hairdresser, was super camp. Which was really great. He used to fluff around [my mom] all day. Funny. But in terms of the gay scene, yeah I suppose it was.”
What about these days? And what are your thoughts on gay unions, which are about to become legal out there in the UK?
“Well, my stylist is gay. My publicity guy is gay. Where does the list end? People should be allowed to do what they want to do, know what I mean? As long as we get along, that’s the thing. But the bottom line is this – you should be very worried over there in the states. That sort of right wing Christian thing and your president doesn’t bode well. That’s something you need to watch out for. [Bush] is ruthless. A big thing’s going on, a lot of hypocrisy in regard to the church and homosexuality.”
What’s the gayest song on Dynamite?
“The gayest sounding song is ‘Love Blind.’ ‘All black leather like a disco bitch/ five feet nine with your ruby lips.’ I mean, you know.”
What did you want to bring to this album that you didn’t on 2001’s A Funk Odyssey?
“I wanted it to be a snappier, dirtier sound. The last album felt like a mish-mash in places. I wanted it to be tighter and better constructed. The grooves work a bit better than they did on the last one. It might be more cohesive.”
You’ve been outspoken on the topic of legalizing cannabis. Where are things legally in the UK?
“It’s been downgraded to a Class C drug, so you can pretty much walk down the street and have a spliff if you want to. It’s not much of a big deal. But it is still technically illegal. I’d like to see legalization but with a reasonable limit on supply and without the government taxing it. The reason it’s a difficult problem is you have the whole issue of people working and driving on marijuana and using machinery, etc. This whole thing where you can give someone a breathalyzer but to give them a ‘have you had a spliff in the last couple of days’ test? It’s a bit difficult isn’t it? It stays in the body so much longer, it’s a difficult thing to monitor. And if they can’t monitor and tax something they won’t let it be legal. That’s why they want to do 24-hour drinking here. A crazy idea. You’ve got half the nation drunk as skunks, including me, and they’re wobbling about listening to Tony Blair on the radio. They want to make it 24-hour a day drinking. Instead of 24-hour puffing. Or of both.”
Have your politics ever gotten you in trouble? The video for “Space Cowboy” was banned in the states because it had images of spinning marijuana leaves.
“Yeah. I don’t really know what all that was about. It’s not like it’s in the face like it is most times these days. It wasn’t particularly controversial.”
Now tell me about how the hat thing began.
“I always wore hats. When I was a kid I was skating and I always had a hat on. They gave me a bit of security, I can hide behind a hat a little bit.”
How many hats have you had made?
“Quite a few. I’d put it at about 100. A lot of them are made by Rod Keenan.”
Have your hats ever caused property damage? Any hat disasters?
“(laughs) No, I haven’t had any hat disasters. The spiky ones tend to poke people’s eyes out if they get too close. But apart from that no, not really.”
Are you married?
Do the gay boys have a chance?
“I’d love to say yes but I have to say no. (laughs) The boys have never had their chance. I’m keeping [the women] busy. Think of me as someone separating all the extra luggage for you.”
You do seem to have many gay fans, though.
“Fantastic! I should wear tighter trousers in the future. I shall wear a slightly tighter fit next time I don those hot pants.”
How about a skirt? You’re in drag in the “Dynamite” video. You look great!
“Yeah! Have you seen the ‘making of’? I step out onto Hollywood Boulevard like that and that’s where the trouble really begins! I don’t think my legs look too bad, actually. But I couldn’t believe we had a shoe problem in West Hollywood. We couldn’t find women’s shoes in my size! How the fuck - I’m only 8 1/2! My feet are hurting. Can’t get the fucking things. Nobody could get me the shoes! We’re in West Hollywood – go get them!”