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Sister act's slice of night

It's a few hours into yet another hectic press day for New York's Scissor Sisters, when guitarist Del Marquis jokingly warns yours truly about asking the same old questions that have been thrown at him all morning. I wonder why it is that he and the rest of his flamboyant bandmates have never been as popular in America as they are everywhere else. He hasn't been asked that before, right?

"That's a question that we've been asked for the eight years that I can remember," he replies, "and I think that my best answer is, we don't have any problem with how we're perceived or received in America. I think we play big shows everywhere.

"We've had great shows in the States, we like touring the States, and there's nothing that we want to achieve there that we haven't already done, so, that's like a roundabout way of answering your question."


Time to freshen things up a little, so. It's been four years since the Sisters last put out a record, but let's not forget how much of an impact songs such as the infectious I Don't Feel Like Dancin' (co-written by Elton John) and Take Your Mama have had on the charts. In fact, as it stands, their 2004 self-titled debut album is one of the best-selling records of the 21st century.

Fronted by the enigmatic duo of Jake Shears and Ana Matronic, the group's unique blend of electronically charged camp pop continues with the release of third album Night Work. The fact that the cover is a photograph of a man's backside says it all, but what's of more interest is that the band reportedly scrapped up to 18 months' material before starting from scratch with the help of British super-producer Stuart Price (The Killers, Madonna, Kylie). What happened there? "There are never 'scraps'," says Marquis. "There are vaults of songs that some people will never see. Some will maybe end up on a B-sides compilation, I mean, there were so many songs written. But the album that we're getting ready to promote was written in the past year, and it really came together when we hooked up with Stuart, and that's the album that we're excited about."

As the 32-year-old musician further explains, Night Work is a celebration of nightlife, and the joys of clubbing in the city. There's also a bit of "danger" involved, too.

"It's just kind of like the scene of anything and everything that happens from dusk to dawn," he tells me, "and the life that people lead when they leave their job, or when they put on their outfit to go out at night. It's kind of everything that happens in the dark."

According to Marquis's Wikipedia entry, the guy's real name is Derek Gruen; an altogether more "calmly progressive" performer, who carries "an idiosyncratic persona that may be traditionally considered fashion-forward, best described as stoically rhythmic, quietly sensual, and mutedly enthusiastic".

"That's a lot of words!" he laughs. "I've had to learn how to be a performer. I'm generally a shy person off stage.

"When I had to actually step up and be in front of people, I had to really kind of find the elements of myself and amplify them -- things that I didn't normally feel comfortable doing in everyday life. It's still very much me, and I'm sure it saves me a lot of therapy bills!"

I ask the former furniture and industrial designer if he and the others ever tire of being labelled a 'gay band'. After all, three of the five Scissor Sisters -- including Marquis -- are openly homosexual.

"That's someone's perception," he says. "When we came out as a band, and also that we happened to be people that are openly identified as gay, at that time it wasn't so common.

"You had marginally closeted artists in the '80s, you know, Andy Bell, or Boy George -- everybody knew. And now, I mean, there are so many different members of bands that have 'come out', do people call them 'gay artists'? Not really.


"There's a difference also between 'queer' and 'gay'," he continues. "'Gay', that's, like, about sexuality. 'Queer' is like a sensibility. It's the humour involved; it's the 'camp'; it's not about sex or sexuality."

I ask Marquis if he's ever heard of Linda and Charlotte Mulhall, the convicted murderers from Dublin whom the media dubbed the 'Scissor Sisters' due to the nature of their crime back in 2005. "Oh, we dedicated -- no I'm not gonna say that!" he chuckles.

"We know about the 'Scissor Sisters', the women in Ireland. I mean, we love a sensational story, not to celebrate anyone's death or anything morbid like that, but you know you've made it when a pair of murderers are named after your band," he smiles. "You can safely retire at that point."

Night Work is out on June 25. Scissor Sisters play the Olympia Theatre on June 20