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Pollo Del Mar

Pollo Del Mar

I Like That! House Music Diva Luciana Is Still Hot

She hooked up with your best friend. She stole your girlfriend. But guess what? Luciana’s still hot!

Indeed, the British house music singer is hotter than ever. Having racked up Top 40 hits dating back to 2007 in Australia – her biggest being the 2009 Top 5 single “I Like That,” which also topped U.S. Club charts – Luciana returns to the dance floor with a vengeance this summer.

Coming off a massive five-date tour of Australia, the diva is now promoting two hot new singles. On “We Run the Night,” she teams with global legend Tiesto. She reunites with producer Richard Vission for “When It Feels This Good.”

Guide to Gay Celebrity Correspondent Pollo Del Mar catches up with Luciana just before her last Australian gig. Together these divas discuss gay fans, the men Down Under and what it was like working with entertainment industry icons Betty White and Kylie Minogue.

How has your Australian tour been?

It’s been totally brilliant! I really do love it here. They really do know how to party! They get down. They get pissed and really get quite rowdy. I just love it! We go to Melbourne on Friday. I just love it. It’s been quite brilliant!

You’ve done five shows in less than two weeks down there!

Yesterday was really funny. I did a show in Darwin yesterday night, then left at 7am. I got to Sydney, did a show in Sydney, then left five minutes after to go to Brisbane and do a show at Family. That’s pretty hardcore, isn’t it? That’s like the most I’ve ever done.

I forget how huge Australia is. You’re traveling all over!

I’m going for this! I’m totally going for it!! I’m totally in love with Sydney. Have you ever been to Sydney?

I haven’t! What makes Sydney so special?

There’s something really gritty about it, but it’s also on the beach. You’re literally five minutes from surfing, then you’re right in the city. It’s really, really cool. There are sections of it that remind me a tiny bit of San Francisco. You’d love it! You’re from San Francisco, right?


Then you love Sydney then. 

Yes, men with accents are so sexy!

(Laughing.) That’s so true! You’d just be in heaven, wouldn’t you? Oh, my God! You’d love the club we did called “Nevermind.” Oh, you’d totally love it. You need to be here! You need to come visit, definitely!

You have not one but two singles out simultaneously?

Yes, that’s the plan! We thought, if we feel a track, let’s just put it out. Instead of staggering the releases, we decided to put it out. The Tiesto track which is out now [“We Own the Night”] started with a random meeting on my birthday last year. It was June 21 last year, I met Tiesto, and now here we are with a single, which has just blown me away! It’s such a fabulous pop track! Then we’ve got the new track coming out called “When It Feels This Good,” and that’s a follow-up to “I Like That.” It’s me working with Richard Vission again. That’s coming out next week.

The video already out.

Because I’m in Australia, the release here is June 11. It’s out in America now. That was so much fun as well! We had three girls skating in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles. At 12am, you get some strange people! Everyone is pissed out of their heads. When I say “pissed,” I don’t mean angry. I mean drunk! So, yeah, it was  lot of fun. (Laughing.) It was really good fun – so much fun. I’m really excited about this track.

Describe the relationship between your career and the gay community?

It kind of just goes hand-in-hand for me. They’ve always been with me, and they’re part of my family. I’m absolutely in love with them. It is part of me. I don’t know what else to say beside that. I’ve always had so much support, from the very, very beginning.

Your most recent #1 single, “I’m Still Hot,” is on constant repeat in my iPod.

You want me to tell you the origins of that track? My manager at the time was going out with a Russian supermodel. This is actually true! She was a Russian supermodel – the front cover of all the magazines, really, really beautiful. He said to her, “No matter what you do, you’re still hot.” He was like, “Even if you’re just getting out of bed, you’re still hot!” So we wrote this track for her. We thought it would be really fun, really tongue-in-cheek for her to sing. But because she’s Russian, she couldn’t sing it. It just sounded really bad when she sung it. (She mimics the model singing the song, then laughs loudly.) It made it really unsexy. Then I put a demo out, and she tried to sing to the demo, but it just wasn’t working. So they kept me, because it seemed to work.

As a drag performer, I love it! It’s so campy.

Someone said to me there’s a drag artist here in Sydney – actually, three of them – and they dressed as Satan. “Guess what? I’m still hot!” (Laughs.) I wish I’d have seen that. It would have been quite fun. There’s also some drag artists in West Hollywood who perform it. It’s a fabulous song for drag!

How did re-recording the song with Betty White happen?

We were in a club in L.A., and my friend David walked past this guy, and he smelled his armpits. He said, “Come smell this guy’s armpits! They’re totally fabulous!” So I went over and smelled his armpits. Anyway, this guy turned out to be a guy who worked for a company who was working on an ad for Lifeline Insurance. Then, the next day, he had a dream. He called to say, “Why don’t we try to get Betty White to sing ‘I’m Still Hot’ for this Lifeline Insurance ad, to show that even at 90, you can still be hot?” So he asked Betty White, and she loved the track! (Laughs.)

I can’t imagine meeting her, honestly. She’s a legend!

She’s a complete legend! I started crying when I met her. I was trying to be all casual and cool – “Oh, hi. Nice to meet you, Betty” – but, in reality, we’d all grown up watching Golden Girls. I was like, “Oh, my God! I met Betty White!” and started crying. You know, she is a legend. I got a bit star struck and didn’t know what to say, so I asked her if she wanted a sandwich.

Speaking of “legends,” tell me about working with Kylie Minogue?

We sent a track to the record company, but then we didn’t hear anything back. Finally, she heard the track four months later and flipped out over it. She said it was her favorite track on the album, and then it made the record. I was so excited, I did a high-kick from the kitchen table, which fell on the floor, because Kylie was just so in love with the track. That’s how it came about. Then, randomly, we met in Ibiza. I saw her sing “Cupid Boy,” which I’d written in my house, and it was the most amazing feeling. It really, really was! It was so cool, because she’s the queen!

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Pop/R&B Star Cassie: I'm a Huge Supporter of the Gay Community

“Most of the time, when it comes down to it, I feel like I’m making music for the gay community,” admits singer Cassie, “And it’s a comfortable place for me to be.”

Certainly the pop/R&B star noticed the beginnings of a massive LGBT following six years ago, when debut hit “Me & U” ruled global radio airwaves. Not only did the track take the then-teen sensation to the Top 10 in countries around the world, including the U.S. Top 5 (peaking at #12 in Australia), she jokingly admits it inspired fans to begin dressing as her in drag!

Now more than a half-decade later, Cassie returns with a new single just as club-ready and geared toward her LGBT follow. The electro-tinged “King of Hearts” debuted on Valentine’s Day, and it’s just a taste of what is to come from her long-anticipated sophomore set.

Here the multi-ethnic beauty sits down with celebrity correspondent Pollo Del Mar. They discuss the musical director of the singer’s upcoming CD, making music specifically for gay fans and the challenge of reinventing herself as a pop star.

It feels like “King of Hearts” has been a long time coming. What have you been doing during that time?
That time in-between? (Laughs.) I just spent time working on myself. When I decided I wanted to record again, I didn’t make it a big deal. I just kind of got back in the studio. I said I wanted to work with some other people, so I did what I said I wanted to do. I took my time with it, which I think was the best thing I’ve ever done, well, the smartest thing I’ve ever done, to not rush it. I’ve just pretty much been in the studio for the last five or six years. (Laughs.)

“Me & U” had one type of sound. Your releases in-between were more hip hop and R&B influenced. Now “King of Hearts” is light electro/dance. How did you determine that is the direction you wanted to take?
It was just one of those things where, as soon as I heard it, I felt it fit perfectly with me right now, what’s going on with my life and the sound I want to have. I base a lot of the decisions I make musically off what happened with “Me & U” and what “Me & U” sounded like, how it was simple and not overdone. It was basically for the DJs, so they could remix it and do a lot of fun stuff with it. So when I heard “King of Hearts,” it just fit that mold, and gave me a more grown up version. I’d already created a couple of dance records, but I just didn’t have that record. “King of Hearts” was that record for me.

The story I’ve heard of how you were "discovered" is Sean Combs walked into a club and heard “Me & U” being played. So obviously you have a strong history of being played in clubs.
Yes. (Laughs.) 

“King of Hearts” leans toward that as well. Is that an area you’re going to focus your attention?
Definitely, as far as sound-wise, especially as a young female artist, that’s something that’s important. You definitely want that. Yes, but there are other records that aren’t going to be played in clubs, but I love just as much.

Your success in clubs, I’d think, has probably attracted a strong gay following. Have you noticed that as well?
Yes, and I love it. I absolutely love it! 

When did you start to notice a gay and lesbian following?
Hmm… Maybe when people started dressing up as me for Halloween – and doing a better version! (Laughs.) No, I started to make records for a different audience, if you will. I went and recorded a record, which got leaked, unfortunately, but I still want to put it out. It’s with my friend, who is a dancer named Jonte. It’s called “Sell It.” It’s for my gay crowd. Maybe you can look it up after the interview. I think you’d really like it. I want to have a presence with everybody, but there is a different commitment in that community and a different type of love. It’s like a “real love,” which I really want to embrace, because they embrace me.

As a gay individual, I’m aware how much the gay community embraces artists from all genres, but some particular genres’ performers don’t embrace us back.
Right, and I’m a huge supporter of the gay community. I don’t know, I feel like most of the time, when it comes down to it, I feel like I’m making music for the gay community, and it’s a comfortable place for me to be. I didn’t really feel that so much before, because of the music I had, but now I have music that’s better fitting to be in the club and have more fun with it. I do notice that with other artists as well, so I know what you’re saying. 

I have to say, I’ve seen this phenomenon often in the hip hop community.
Yeah, I know what you mean. I think, not even as an artist, just as a human being, you have to embrace all people for people to embrace you. I have a special place in my heart for people who love my music. You have to check out that song though! (Laughs.) It’s the perfect, “We’re going to go to the club, we’re putting on our clothes, doing it up” song. You’ve got to hear it.

What is the plan to re-introduce you to fans? The downside of taking so long between releases is you have to come back and, in some ways, start all over.
Yeah, definitely. It’s kind of a process, but at the same time, it’s also kind of fun. As we were just talking about with the gay community, I don’t know how… “Me & U” was a kind of big song around everywhere, but I didn’t really have a big presence with certain audiences. So even some of the people listening to my music now is kind of “new,” so I’m gaining new fans. It’s kind of a challenge, but it’s also fun.

Is there anything specific you want people to know about you and this record?
I just want people to get excited to hear it. This record is definitely a reflection of me and what I’ve been going through over the last six years, so it’s going to be exciting for people to hear it. I’m excited for people to hear it. Keep up with me. My website is a great place!

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TV's 'Wonder Woman' Lynda Carter Debuts New Cabaret Show in SF

Every generation has icons. For gays my age -- born in the '70s -- few left a more indelible mark than Lynda Carter.

Each week I sat in front of my television, transfixed by Lynda's beauty. With baited breath I awaited the moment mild-mannered Diana Prince would do her magic spin and, in one swift, glamorous explosion, transform into her secret identity: Wonder Woman. 

Lynda recently revved up the invisible plane once again, landing March 22-25 in San Francisco. Before taking it on global tour, she debuted an all-new show, Lynda Carter: Body & Soul, filled with her bluesy renderings of pop hits by everyone from The Supremes to Adele. And, of course, it was packed with favorite memories of those three years spent as the world's favorite super-heroine.

Here I coax my idol to dish about everything from Sarah Palin to her own struggles with alcoholism, not to mention this most recent Bay Area gig. And -- Score! -- the generally composed Wonder Woman star actually bursts into loud laughter at my comments regarding plastic surgery gone awry.

PDM: You kind of made... well, my entire life... when you posted a photo of us together -- with me dressed as Wonder Woman -- on your Facebook and Twitter. I nearly died!
LC: Oh, cool! We'll have to take another picture together. You don't have to dress up this time, unless you want to.

That photo even made it in Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman, author Mike Pingel's new definitive fan book!
Oh, cool! You and me, baby. That photo is going to have a life of its own.

For Christmas, I got the Wonder Woman, Season 3 DVDs. I'm excited to relive those moments I grew up loving.
You know, I haven't watched it in a long time. It would be kind of weird, wouldn't it, watching your reruns? Occasionally, if it's on or something, I'll see it. I don't really watch them. Oops! Hold on. (Pauses.) I'm watching Game Change on HBO, with Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson. It's about the time from when Sarah Palin was chosen until the election. It's pretty interesting.

I acknowledge Sarah Palin is a beautiful woman, but I would think she could only hope to be as gorgeous as Julianne Moore!
Well, isn't that the truth?! Julianne Moore does an amazing job. This is not a flattering portrayal of her. The show is not particularly flattering portrayal. I'm a big Democrat, so it's very interesting to me. And I live in Washington D.C., so I was just watching it!

You have been very public about your struggle with addiction. What advice would you give to people struggling with similar issues?
It's about people trying to deal with stress. I think it's easier to think you can have an abandon with alcohol or drugs, but what's actually happening is your growth is being retarded. You are holding yourself back from fully experiencing who you are. There are difficulties as you're growing up, as you're dealing with your sexuality -- whether your heterosexual or homosexual -- you're dealing with those feelings and feelings of rejection or feelings of insecurity. Every time you drink or take a drug, instead of dealing with your feelings, you're not allowing your brain to let the experiences become part of you. You're arresting your development. If you hang around people who do a lot of drugs and alcohol, that's what you're going to do. Nobody's strong enough not to do that if they're in that environment, so you have to distance yourself. When you're doing that, you feel so shameful. Then you do things you're ashamed of, and so you drink more to forget. It's just a vicious cycle!

I read you didn't even start drinking until you were in your 20s. Was that fueled by public perception that you were, in some way, supposed to live up to being "Wonder Woman"?
I had a really heavy predisposition. Neither my mother or father drank, but my mother's family did. There were a lot of people who struggled with alcoholism. I just happened to get that gene. I never really drank, because it didn't really do anything for me. When I started to go after the buzz, I was drinking three times what anyone else was. Once I started to drown my sorrows -- I was in a really bad marriage, and I'd already made that decision -- and I just didn't want to handle it. It was just easier to "go away." That's part of what got me into that. And I think my predisposition was too much for my body to handle. I got out as soon as I could. It's been 15 or 16 years now.

You are now known for traveling the world, singing. Was your show at San Francisco's Rrazz Room was a world premiere?
Yes! We had a huge replacement of songs, adding new songs every day during the stay. We're doing almost a whole new set. It's a little like walking a high wire a bit! I'm doing a kind of slow version of "Stop in the Name of Love," "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word." I'm doing a couple of Adele things, a song from Mr. Mister. I'm doing loads of new things. Bonnie Raitt. I always make them my own, though. I don't just do it as just a cover. We like to do new arrangements. And I've got a great band. These musicians are kind of amazing!

Can I just say, I was utterly blown away by how ridiculously gorgeous you are...Still!
(Laughing.) You're so sweet!

Seriously, you're the envy of any woman half your age. What's your secret?
Oh, honey, time is marching on, I have to say. I just try to do the best I can. Sometimes I'm up. Sometimes I'm down. I'm just doing the best I can. You know, I'm half Hispanic, which I think helps. I try to say things like, "Well, there are these old beauty secrets..." But the truth is, I look at myself in the mirror in the morning sometimes and think, "Blech!" I really appreciate the compliment, but you know -- women as they get older -- I don't focus on it like I think I'm all that. I take an hour-and-a-half getting ready for the stage, so I'd better look good! (Laughs.) Of course I have someone helping me, so I'm hoping I look good! If you saw me just walking down the street... I don't know what to say about it. I think it would be disingenuous to say, "Well..." All I can say is I work at it. I haven't had any work done... Yet.

Please don't! Age gracefully! I would hate for you to end up looking like a duck-billed platypus.
Oh, I know! It's terrifying. " A duck-billed platypus"?! Oh, my God, that is so funny. With that wide mouth. Or a wide-mouthed bass!

An Asian sea bass? Teri Hatcher even has almond-shaped eyes she didn't have before.
(Laughing very loudly.) Oh, God... It's very strange. These women can afford to go to the best, but nobody really ends up looking very good. 

Please, it's not just women! Kenny Rogers now looks like Joan Rivers. It's sad!
Awww... God, I know! What do you do, though? Once you've done it, you can't go back and say, "Oops! That was a mistake." It's not like, "I don't like my haircut, so I'm going to let it grow out." That's a tough one. I think it's fear more than anything that keeps me away. I don't know anybody who has done that well.

So many people in Hollywood in their late-40s and beyond wind up looking alike. It's like, "Is that Burt Reynolds or Heather Locklear? I can't tell..."
It's scary! You just kind of go... (Makes a gasping sound.) Your breath just kind of goes in, and you think, "What happened?!" The thing is, they can't go back. That's the killer!

Well, don't ever do it! You look marvelous!
"Mahvelous, dahling!" Well, thank you. You know, as we get older, it is so appreciated!

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Mystique Summers: After 'Drag Race,' Some People Are Scared to Meet Me!

altWhether for her runway-shaking splits or tense altercation with a fellow contestant, Mystique Summers left quite an impression on fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 2. 

Mystique ultimately sashayed away after only three episodes, failing the show’s “Country” challenge (ironic, for a gal who called Texas home at the time). Still, in her short time onscreen, the plus-sized entertainer certainly helped make the LOGO reality series “must-see” TV – and spawned several popular catchphrases!

Here Celebrity Correspondent Pollo Del Mar catches up with Mystique to find out how life has been since Drag Race. Despite the TV star feeling like the conversation is “getting freaky,” the girls talk about the ups-and-downs of dating, Mystique’s love for the bear community and why she lives her life with “no regrets.”

You can’t even say, “I’m from Chicago, bitch!” anymore – because now you live in Cincinnati.
I’m a God-fearing, Christian white woman. Besides, you said it all wrong. It was “Bitch, I’m from Chicago!” 

Why did you move to Cincinnati?
Just for something new and different. I like to shake things up.

They do call it “The Queen City.” Now you’re the queen in the city.
For now. If I don’t pack up and leave.

What? You’re already thinking of leaving Cincinnati?
I’m always thinking of different places to go. Always. It’s just about figuring the time to do it. When I was in Texas, it was always on my mind to go somewhere else. 

altWhy is that?
Just something to do. See the world. Change.

I live in San Francisco, and sometimes I think of going somewhere else. Then I realize how long it would take me to get established again.
I was in Texas for 11 years, then it was like, “Oh, it’s time to try something new!”

One thing that keeps me here is I’ve got 12 years of friendships and experiences. Don’t you miss out on those by constantly moving around?
Sometimes, but the real friends I have are my real and true friends. Wherever I go, they pretty much come with me. I haven’t figured out where I truly want to stay and live. I think that’s why I just travel around, see different places, to see where I want to grow old – to have that whole ‘white picket fence’ bullcrap.

I thought a good, God-fearing Christian white woman like you could settle down in Cincinnati for sure.
Oh, no. This God-fearing, Christian white woman needs a little more “oomph!” in her step. It’s too slow a pace.

(Just then, I receive a text message.)
Girl, get off the Grindr, Adam4Adam, Bear411, Scruff or whatever tricking website you’re on!

Don’t come for me! I read your Tweet saying someone at the mall recently saw you on Grindr, and didn’t believe it was really you. That got you all indignant!
Hold on, I’m on these applications to promote my show! Well, Grindr has me on it, but Bear411 and Scruff both have Mystique on it. The only website I’m really on is Bear411

Why is that your favorite?
Because the guys I’m attracted to are bears and cubs. 

Tell me about that.
Tell you about what? This is getting kind of freaky!

I could ask the same, boring questions everyone else asks, but I want the dirt.
The dirt on what?

You were on reality TV. I want to hear what dating life is like now.
Yes, I was on there, and so people know I date bears and cubs. I said that on the show. 

Does that make being on a dating site difficult?
Not really. All my profiles say I’m Mystique Summers from RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 2. Before I was on the show, some people knew about the drag side. Since then, I would get emails quite often, so I thought, “Oh, forget it! I’ll just put it on my profile.” Now all my profiles have it. Scruff. I have the featured member icon on my profile. 

altYou could become the spokeswoman for them!
Well, I’m trying. It’s one step at a time. You always have to be 12 steps ahead.

Having been on reality TV, is it hard to have a private life?
Yes. People you meet want to talk about the show – or they don’t want to talk to you because they saw you on TV. They can’t get through their heads, “This person probably isn’t exactly how I saw them on TV.” Some people are scared to meet me because they saw how I was on TV. They think I’m this crazy, angry, want-to-fight-every-ten-minutes person. If you knew how I am, though, it’s not that at all. Yeah, it’s hard dating.

I’m assuming people are afraid you’ll whoop their asses!
Well… Yeah, people are scared! They’re like, “I thought you were going to fight her!” I’m like, “Is that all you can talk about? I thought you wanted to get to know the boy side.” Now we’re just talking about drag, drag, drag. Whenever I go on a date, and we’re having a nice time, as soon as it crosses over to talk about the drag side, and drag episodes, I’ll kick in like it’s an interview. I’ll answer every question, like it’s an interview, and be a totally different person. Nine times out of ten, I won’t call them back. I feel like, are you really trying to get to know me or the entertainer?

How involved are you in the bear community?
In Texas, I was very involved. I performed at TBRU – Texas Bear Round-Up. You know, it’s like a ‘bear run.’ Picture a weekend of bears in a hotel. It’s mostly just bears, getting together, partying and having fun! I sent emails to many different round-ups, because I’m the only girl on Drag Race to say specifically that I’m attracted to bears and cubs. I’d love to perform at those.

We joked about it earlier, but people definitely do know you from the altercation with Morgan McMichael.
Oh, yeah. The fight scene… She and I started pretty much the first fight scene for all Drag Race. If she and I didn’t do it, I don’t think Mimi and those guys would have done it on Season 3. If I didn’t talk about “2 piece and a biscuit,” I don’t think you’d hear other people talking about it. It’s crazy how little things I say and do end up nationwide. I guess I was one of those “addicting personalities” and hard to forget.

Your look has changed so much since you were on Drag Race.
I’m always trying to grow and evolve. Besides, when you’re on the show, you only have a certain amount of time to get ready. You can only bring so much with you. Here, I’m at home, I can take the time I want. If I need something, I can go out and get it. On the show, I didn’t have that luxury. The thing is, I love gowns! In most of my pictures, you’ll see me in nothing but gowns. I’m a self-proclaimed gown bitch! Anything outside a gown is weird to me. I’m that classy, glamorous girl.

You were one of the first bigger competitors on Drag Race, a trend we’re seeing continue in greater numbers. Do you feel plus-size entertainers are judged unfairly on the show?
Larger performers are judged unfairly anywhere – at shows, on Drag Race. That’s why to be a larger entertainer, you have to have the tricks and the gimmicks. If you can’t dance the house down, then make sure you can beat your face to a bloody pulp and look better on stage than some girl who can dance. Or if you’re a big girl who can dance, then be sure to work all the dance things you can do, just to put yourself higher than the other entertainers. When places look at entertainers, they’ll look at the big girl as “lower” than the normal-sized girls. It’s stupid, because I have a lot of friends who are all size. The people who bring the most to a show are the plus-sized girls. They have the most to prove.

I have to ask: Do you ever regret not going more “country” in the challenge where you were eliminated?
Nope! I live by everything I do. I don’t regret anything. If you regret anything in life, you miss out on life. I live life 100-percent. All the decisions I make, I stand behind 100-percent. Live life to the fullest!

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altAustralian Fans of RuPauls Drag Race can catch RuPaul LIVE in her own show GLAMAZON at Sydney's Metro Theatre, March 4, 2012. CLICK FOR INFO

Pop Singer Dev: "I'd Like to Think the Gay Community Has My Back"

For the last two years, Dev knows people have seen her primarily as “the featured girl.” To some degree, perhaps that’s even been true. After all, it was her vocals that brought life to the infectiously poppy hook on The Far East Movement’s global smash “Like a G6." So when she finally released “In the Dark” six months ago, Dev knew her time had arrived.

With no other names, no producers, no featured acts attached, only hers – so any success it experienced was all hers. Ultimately, “In the Dark” landed Dev in the Top 10 on Billboard’s pop radio chart, hit #11 on the “Hot 100” and spent a week atop the Hot Dance/Club Play Chart. It’s only the beginning for Dev, whose full-length debut The Night the Sun Came Up drops in early 2012. 

Here the singer checks back in with Celebrity Correspondent Pollo Del Mar to discuss the sexual nature of “In the Dark,” her collaborators on the new CD and her LGBT fans.

It’s got to feel different when it’s just your name on the credits, not…
A whole list! (Laughs.) It’s amazing. I couldn’t really ask for more. [“In the Dark”] was one of the first songs we recorded for the album, back in January, so it’s funny that it’s evolved the way it has. It feels good for it to only have my name. Being a featured artist allowed me to be part of some big songs and work with amazing artists, which I wouldn’t trade for anything. But it feels good for it to really be “my time.” I couldn’t ask for it to happen with a better song. It’s very sexy, but very musical at the same time.

Is “In the Dark” as dirty as people say?!
(Giggles.) Uhm, it depends on what people are saying, but…It pretty much is. It was my time to make a tasteful, yet sexual song, which we did.

We met. You’re sweet, bubbly, fun…

We all have a sexual side, but I didn’t expect a song about masturbation!
That’s exactly why I wanted to make a song like that! It was time. The songs I had before, even though they were explicit to an extent, they were just fun. It was time when we just wanted to make that sort of record, and we did. It’s probably one of the sexier songs on the record, but I think it needed that! 

Is all of The Night the Sun Came Up so sexual?
There’s different stuff. A couple songs are really upbeat. There are a couple personal ballads, some are R&B-based. There are a couple that are more sexual than they appear at first, that’s for sure, without being too overboard. As you said, I’m generally not like that as a person, but that’s the fun of being able to be an artist and do whatever I want and express whatever I want. “In the Dark” definitely holds that sexual side down more than any other song on the album, though.

How has your LGBT audience changed and grown since we first met?
I’d like to think that it has grown, and that’s the only way it’s changed, which is cool. From blogs I see and kids who reply to me on Twitter and Facebook, I’d like to think the gay community really has my back and supports me, which is awesome. I really support them a lot as far as the shows I do and things. Yeah, I’d like to think we really have each others’ backs, which will only get bigger, because I think it’s a really positive thing.

In our very first interview, I asked why a primarily hip-hop artist was interested in doing The Dinah, the world’s largest lesbian party. You asked, “Why can’t a hip-hop artist appreciate lesbians or gay people?”
(Laughs.) I remember. It’s true, but it was a very real question you asked me. I’ve always been so open. My parents raised me to be like that, so it caught me off-guard. I’ve never thought of it to be any other way, and hopefully my fans can tell that. I think once they get to know me better, they’ll be able to tell even more.

Who do you collaborate with on the album?
Actually, I have no outside features or collaborations. It’s all just me, produced by The Cataracs, which was important to me. Like I said, I’ve spent the last year, working with other artists and kind of being “the featured girl” on hooks. This is my time to make my album and introduce myself to the public. So yeah, it’s just me on all the tracks.

Congrats! I asked because I was listening to “I Just Wanna F,” your song with Timbaland from David Guetta’s album. I thought one or both might be on your CD.

I got fortunate enough to work with Timbaland for quite a few days in the studio, and he’s absolutely amazing. Initially, going into this album, I just wanted it to be me. That it worked out like that was exactly what I wanted.

Does it blow your mind to think three years ago you were unknown, then featured on a #1 single and now spend weeks in the studio with Timbaland?!
(Long, drawn out pause. Dev does something akin to snorting.) It’s so cool hearing you say that! Yeah, it’s been a crazy ride, but it’s been really good. I’ve worked so hard. The fact that I’ve been able to work with these artists and people are able to hear these songs and notice is cool. It’s definitely been a complete 180 over where I was about three years ago. You need to go through those times where you’re not making any money. You can’t even buy a hamburger. Nobody’s listening to you, and you’ve got to beg to play shows for free. You need to go through those times, because it makes it so much easier to appreciate times like these, and so much easier to celebrate!

How are you planning to really ‘break out’ as an artist?
Generally, my biggest goal was to just put out a really good, fun, personal but youthful album which reflected these last three years of my life, which have just been insane compared to the first 19. That was my big thing! I really wanted to put out an album which speaks for itself. Then, of course, world domination would never hurt! I just want to keep putting out good music. I always want that to be #1. Things like great shows and great videos are all fun things I love, and I love it’s part of my job, but it’s really important to me to learn to make really great records which can give me longevity. “Breakout”-wise, I think it’s just important for me to get out this album.

There are always people around telling new artists, “This is what to do” – while others say “This is what not to do.”
(Giggles.) MmmHmmm. Yeah.

Does that ever get confusing?
It can, but I’m fortunate to be a complete brat – and have the team I do, who likes me for who I am. When it came to making the songs I wanted to make for the album I wanted to make, that’s exactly what I got to do. Universal [Records] has never been like, “You have to grow your hair out, lose 10 lbs. and take dancing lessons!” They’re like, “We see Dev for who she is.” They kind of let me do my own thing, and I’m pretty fortunate for that. A lot of artists don’t have that. They’re like, “Here are your words. This is what you’re going to sing. You’re going to be massive.” 

The unfortunate part is, those artists often are massive.
Of course!

Five songs into their career, they’re like, “Who the hell am I – and how did I get here?”
Totally! There’s a good side. Then there’s the artists who do their own thing, but it takes five times as long. There’s a plus-and-minus to everything. I try not to think too much about that and just enjoy it day-by-day. I set my own little goals and reach them. If I didn’t do that, I’d go completely insane. The music industry’s nuts. It’s a jungle! I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by good people who let me do what I want.

Give me some insight. What kind of “little goals” do you set for yourself?
This past year, I will say the number of artists who sign record deals versus those who actually put out debuts is insane. That was my biggest thing. I really wanted to write these songs. I wanted to go on a really solid tour, and I did with Usher and Akon. I really wanted to get into the studio with artists I could really learn from, going into making my own debut album. I got to do that. I got to work with Timbaland. I got to work with David Guetta. I have these weird little things, which will probably sound weird to people, but they’re things which will allow me to grow as an artist. I’ve been fortunate, even if it’s writing with someone. I know it will help. Maybe it’s a really massive show I really think I should do, so it will help me get more comfortable. I set these little things and make sure it happens. These last three years, I’ve been really fortunate to get these opportunities, to take them, and not be scared. It’s made me feel really comfortable as an artist and as a woman in general.

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Andy Bell: We Gave Frankmusik 'Carte Blanche' on New Erasure CD

For a while now, singer Andy Bell admits, pioneering synth-pop group Erasure has faced something of a dilemma.

The trouble extended beyond the common perception that Erasure is exclusively a “gay pop act” -- a label garnered, obviously, because Bell’s been largely open about his sexuality since the group’s 1985 debut. While that can annoy, he jokingly admitted during a recent telephone interview, the bigger issue is musical.

Bell and bandmate Vince Clarke have steadfastly refused to step away from the synthesizers which cemented their legacy. Many of the same electronic flourishes found on 1986 favorite “Oh, L’Amour” and back-to-back 1988 Top 15 hits “A Little Respect” and “Chains of Love” remain on the duo’s 14th studio album Tomorrow’s World, out last month.

To bring their sound into the now, Bell says Erasure had to do something he never thought possible. The once trend-setting duo turned the reigns over to 26-year-old hitmaker Frankmusik. Here Bell and Celebrity Correspondent Pollo Del Mar talk about everything from giving up control on the new album to Bell’s health and Madonna’s (apparent) pact with the devil.

Tomorrow’s World sounds classic – largely because of your voice – yet contemporary. As a pioneering artist, how do you manage to make that happen simultaneously?
What happened was, I wanted to work with Frank(Musik). He was an interesting choice really, and rather championed by Erasure fans. I think we’ve come to a point where Vince and I were prepared to let go, and kind of let him do what he wanted, let him manipulate my voice and Vince’s music, some of the melodies of the songs. Kind of give him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to do. It needed someone with a vision to make it sound fresh. What happens is, because of our history and because Vince always uses synthesizers, people always associate it with being an ‘80s sound. There’s no escape from that. It’s just how people hear things. All it needed was some kind of fresh input was from someone who was a synthesizer fan himself but could see what embellishments needed to go into the music.

It must have been an interesting working with Frank, who actually cites Erasure as an influence in his own music.
Yeah, he was really sweet. Vince worked with him for one week in the studio in Maine. I was with him at his studio in Los Angeles, doing vocals for about 10 days. We were in London about just over a week, just before it came down to doing the mixing. We really weren’t together for too long, but he really brought it together. I think he was just really, really happy to be working with Vince, and Vince – I was really surprised he handed over the reigns to Frank, really. Ultimately, we’ve been doing songwriting on this for about two years. We came down to 12 songs in the end, and they were Frank’s choice.

With this being your 14th album, how do you feel about this becoming the next step in Erasure’s legacy?
I feel fine, really. It’s quite frustrating when you have albums out, and people don’t notice them, really. But we’ve always done unusual things. I love Nightbird. I love Love Boat, which was quite ‘indie’ for us. Then there was the Erasure album, which was kind of our studio, Pink Floyd-ish kind of album. Sometimes you feel they fall by the wayside, in terms of media, but all those things are the stepping stones to your next things. I think even doing the two solo albums, then Vince building his own studio in Maine, was the build-up to this. I think you can kind of feel it from like Nightbird onward. The last album, The Light at the End of the World, was nearly there but didn’t have someone like Frank working on it.

That album felt more “classic” than “contemporary.” This feels like a step forward, more in-tune with today.
Sure. It comes down to, I suppose, with people’s tastes and what’s current. It’s kind of a fashion thing, really. It’s weird. I love doing remixes and stuff, and when you’re doing them, you think how it’s making things sound really understated and stuff. Then when you hear it, maybe a year later, you think, “Oh, it’s really not.” Sometimes it takes an outsider to come in.

This is your first tour in five years. What’s it like to be back on the road?
It’s very exciting. The last time we toured, I think we were on tour for more than a year. It was like the 13th hour. I felt like we’d kind of been banging it, really, and just forcing it down people’s throats. I said to Vince, “Let’s take a break. Let’s take a time out and really let the people come back to us, so they’re anticipating something coming out.” I think that’s worked in our favor. I think I was also prepared for this tour, in terms of being in shape, but I don’t think you can ever be prepared for how much hard work it is. It’s very, very fun, but it’s also very physical.

None of us are getting any younger!
(Laughing.) No, no we’re not. All hail Madonna, that’s what I say.

I do wonder how Madonna continues to do it! She’s incredibly physically fit.
Well, she’s been a dancer her whole life and practices yoga, all sorts of things. I wish I was as disciplined as she is.

I’m sure her fitness was included in that Deal she made with the Devil years ago. (Both laughing.)
Yes, perhaps.

I often ask celebrities about gay followings. You’re different, since you’ve been “out” your entire career. Based on that, do you ever feel you’ve become simply a “gay artist”?
Uhm, you do somewhat. I think definitely you get pigeonholed. It’s very hard to get any steps in the straight fraternity, the kind of rock fraternity, which we’ve never really been included in. Sometimes you think, “Where’s our share?” At the same time, sometimes it makes you put your head down and just get on with it. Sometimes you feel kind of against the world, or that the world is against you, but at the same time, you can’t really think in those terms. It’s kind of a victim mentality. Sometimes you’ve got to just hold your head up, and get on with it. You can’t be concerned. It does get on your nerves slightly.

I bet so. (Both laughing.) A few years ago, you became extremely open about having HIV. How has that openness continued to connect you to your audience?
Well, I think that’s just how I kind of am. I wear my heart on my sleeve. What you see is what you get. I’ve never been very good at keeping secrets for very long. I just really feel like it gives you a really great connection, kind of a spiritual connection, to the audience. I think it’s great for being creative, you know?

Definitely! Is Erasure benefiting from the resurgence of ‘80s influences in popular music now?
Oh, definitely! Lady Gaga has had a huge influence on the scene, people like La Roux – bands like that. I think just from Vince sticking to his guns and using his synths, what I think makes you a really good band is kind of waiting out your time, waiting until the favors come back kind of thing. Sometimes it takes forever! It’s kind of a discipline type thing. It makes you appreciative of what you have.

Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark said in the ‘90s – if there were such a thing as an ‘expiration date’ for a band – it seemed they’d achieved theirs. Now, they are experiencing a resurgence.
That is true as well. We do interviews with many people, and some ask things like, “Why didn’t you break up years ago?” Like we should have broken up. We felt like part of our commitment to being in the band is just keeping your head down and working really hard. It seems like you’re always doing groundwork the whole time, and if you’re lucky, something will come up and something will come out, and you will be popular again. It’s like something in the stars! (He says the last two works with dramatic flair, for emphasis.)

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Former Pussycat Doll Jessica Sutta Soars Solo

When Jessica Sutta cracked a rib on tour in late 2009 during one of the Pussycat Dolls’ tightly-choreographed dance numbers, more than just a bone that snapped. “It was like it broke open something inside of me that had to come out,” she shares. “It was something that was holding me back.”

After seven years with the multi-platinum girl group – and touches of solo success, including the 2007 #1 “White Lies” with Paul van Dyk, beween PCD albums -- Sutta knew it was time to finally fly alone. To date, the pay-off has been huge! “Show Me,” Sutta’s first release on Hollywood Records, landed atop Billboard’s Hot Club/Dance Play chart and heads to pop radio within the month.

As Jessica prepares for the 2012 release of her full-length album Sutta Pop, she sat down for a chat with celebrity correspondent Pollo Del Mar. Like old girlfriends, they discuss Sutta’s strong conviction for LGBT equality, why she chose to make dance music and, yes, how it feels to go head-to-head on the charts with her former PCD compatriot Nicole Scherzinger.

You told me years ago, your high school friends were gay men because other girls were so competitive.

(Laughing) That’s very true!

So, you have a long-time understanding of gay men?

Yes, I do. It’s like all my closest friends. Before this, I had an interview, and we were talking about gay rights and gay marriage. I get so heated! I’m sweating after talking about it, because I get so angry. People are just so ridiculous in not allowing full rights for everyone, for every human being. Who are we to judge who others fall in love with and spend the rest of their lives with? It’s so stupid to me! Oh, there I go, getting heated again.

Is that why you participated in the NoH8 Campaign?

You know, I was bullied as a teenager. My friends were bullied; a lot of my gay friends were bullied. That’s why we became so close. That’s all we had in life, those friends, and I got a better understanding of their lives. There would be times when my one friend went to school, beat up by his parents, and it was just so emotional. It was so awful to actually see my friend going through that. It was a hate crime, and it’s despicable. Just because of the idea that something’s wrong or different, it’s just the same as when black and white were segregated. The fact that we’re in 2011, and we’re still living with that same idea…it’s beyond me. I don’t understand it, and it needs to change.

Hollywood Records seems like a great fit for you. They have a strong understanding of dance music.

Yeah, the people I work with there understand dance music. They understand remixes, the same way DJs do. They’ve actually introduced me to people. I went to this convention a couple months back where I got to meet Morgan Paige. Dave Aude was there. There’s that underground world of music, which I have really tapped into, which I really enjoy and is what I personally listen to. It’s expanded my whole world of music. It’s expanded my whole mind, which is brilliant. You know, there are elements of everything in my music.

“Show Me” is your first solo single – no other names attached. How does it feel to watch it climb the charts?

Honestly, I feel like I’m dreaming. I love the track, but the way it’s being received in the clubs, it’s like a dream come true! It’s like – oh, my God! I can’t believe it.

I don’t want to bring it up – OK, I do. You’re not the only Pussycat Doll in the Top 5! You’re #1 and Nicole’s #2!

I know!

I don’t mean to suggest you’re one-upping your friend, but it must be satisfying to know you’re both doing your own things – and you are doing it successfully?

Yeah. I respect Nicole. I think she’s an amazing vocalist, and I wish her all the best in her career. I learned a lot from her in the Pussycat Dolls. Now I’m doing my own thing, I’m describing who I am as an artist and learning to stand out and do my own thing. It feels really good.

Does “Show Me” represent the rest of your upcoming CD?

It’s interesting. I have a studio session in an hour to do a song that has a more R&B flavor with an 808-bass. It’s not necessarily dance. My album, Sutta Pop, has all different varieties of music. Music isn’t just one genre any more. In my album, there’s the influence of R&B, dance, I have my ballads, things that are connected to me. I’ve also been writing on it, too, so everything is viscerally connected to me and everything I’ve gone through in my life.

Even after the Pussycat Dolls, I read you wound up “homeless”?!

E! had a hey-day with that! They did this whole thing called “From Hollywood to Homeless!” For 24-hours, I was getting calls from my family asking, “Are you ok?” I had to tell them I didn’t even know what [E!] was talking about. Basically, what happened was when I left the Pussycat Dolls, I was in a relationship for four years, and it ended. When I came back from tour, I was staying briefly on my girlfriend’s couch. That’s where they got the whole “homeless” thing. It was an interesting thing, though. On tour, I broke a rib, and it meant so many things for me. First, it broke open part of me that needed to come out. It was something I was maybe holding back. It was me as a solo artist. I had a great time with the Pussycat Dolls. I grew. I traveled the world. I had the best time of my life, but I knew it was time to move on. It was kind of a transitional phase for me. It made me stronger. It made me independent. It made me into a solo artist, and I’m writing. I’m on my own, and it feels awesome!

It must be hard leaving something as successful as Pussycat Dolls. Despite not being professionally fulfilling, at least it was “safe.” How did you finally make the decision to fly solo?

It wasn’t easy. It’s funny you say “safe.” Sure, I was secure and comfortable in something, but I wasn’t 100-percent happy. I feel like we do that often. We find ourselves in relationships where we’re maybe not 100-percent happy, but we’re “comfortable.” But when you take that leap of faith, when you go forward and follow your dreams whole-heartedly, you’re going to get your life out of it. As hard as it was to leave the group, looking back now, it was the best decision because I got so much life out of it. I’m grateful for that. I don’t know. For me, I’m a normal girl. When I walk onstage, yeah, I’m an artist, but off-stage, I’m a normal girl. Within Hollywood, I understand the façade, but I’m not fake. I’m here for a purpose. My music’s here to inspire. I’m here to be of service. Maybe it’s to help gays achieve equality with the celebrity I’ve achieved? That’s why I’m interested in this life. If you’re in this industry, and you’re just doing it for the success, that’s selfish. If you’re doing it to be of service and help people – which you do -- you can help people – then that’s worthwhile.

Usually it’s, “Money, money, more hits, make it big…”

Right, and that’s all great, but at the end of the day, what do you have? You think you’re going to be happy, but you’re not. I know some of the richest people in the world, and they are the unhappiest people. They’re complaining about everything! When you have a purpose in life, that changes everything. It’s like abundance! It’s like you’re a millionaire, but it’s worth so much more.

You’ve been toying with this album for almost five years. What was that journey like?

Wow! There’s been a lot of life lived. It was the height of success for the Pussycat Dolls. Being part of that – especially looking back – man, it was just one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I got to make these amazing relationships with the girls. Every time I think of the girls or talk to them, it’s like family. They’re like sisters to me. Of course, I also had heartbreak. I also grew as an artist a lot. Basically, you look back and see it. It was fun. It was amazing. It was hard. But, it was all worth it! That’s the thing I feel like I’ve learned in the last five years. Everything happens for a reason, no matter what. Life is here for you, and when you grow with it, you become so strong! It’s the best gift in the world.

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Skylar Grey: "It's Hard to Be Accepted & Seen For Who You Are Inside"

It's entirely possible to have a chart-topping song and yet feel...well, invisible. Just ask Grammy-nominee Skylar Grey. 

When the singer/songwriter debuted five years ago under her given name -- Holly Brook -- she shot up Billboard charts as a featured vocalist on Fort Minor's hit "Where'd You Go." After landing in the U.S. Top 5, she was gone as quickly as she came.

In 2010, Grey returned in a big way. She not only cowrote Rihanna and Eminem's acclaimed #1 single "Love the Way You Lie," as a vocalist she hit the Top 20 with Diddy-Dirty Money's "Coming Home" and joined Eminem and Dr. Dre in the Top 5 on “I Need a Doctor."

Still, she never forgot that painful experience of “disappearing.” It inspired Grey’s debut solo single "Invisible." Drawn from her upcoming CD Invinsible, her feelings of failure in life and the music industry reach out to under-dogs everywhere – and have given her a Top 20 Billboard Dance hit all her own!

How much thought went into changing professional identities after already scoring a Top 5 hit under your previous name?

Well, having a Top 5 hit doesn’t really mean anything if it doesn’t give you a career. (Laughs.) I kind of fell off the map after that happened. I was trying really hard. I made and album, and nobody cared. I didn’t feel attached to my old identity in any way. I felt like I needed to change my identity because I’d changed so much. After going through that experience in the industry and failing – or feeling like a failure – then moving up to a cabin in the wood, and having that empowering experience of being in isolation, it changed me. I wasn’t even thinking of just changing my name for artistic reasons but also personal reasons. I was feeling like I’m a completely different person, and if I was going to really take control of my life for the first time, I may as well start by naming myself so I could have a rebirth. That’s where that came from. It helped in music too.  People in this industry tend to be a little bit jaded about things, and if they were to hear, “Holly Brook is writing new music now and looking for a record deal,” they’ll just go, “We’ve heard her name before. That’s just Holly Brook. Whatever.” Coming out with a new name tricked them for a second into thinking there was this new person. It’s really not, but it is to me. It was very helpful.

How is Skylar different from Holly?

Well, Holly Brook was the girl who let people walk all over her, fought for things for the wrong reasons. I used to fight for my friends to work on stuff with me, to be my producers, stuff like that. I wasn’t thinking about what was actually going to be best for me artistically. I ended up trying to take care of everyone around me instead of myself. Eventually, that was just kind of my demise. Now, after proving to myself that I can survive in the wilderness and make music on my own, without having to rely on a producer or anything like that, I had a totally different perspective on how to live my life basically. I feel like if I don’t take care of myself and do what’s best for me, then all the people around me are going to suffer from me not taking care of myself. That’s kind of my new perspective, having my own visions and fighting for what I want, not what someone else wants for me.

Is it naïve to think after a hit like “Love the Way You Lie,” you don’t struggle to get people to work with you now?

I get phone calls every day from people who want to work with me, but I turn a lot down, because it’s not what I want to do. It’s not about just another check. I’ve never been in this industry to make huge amounts of money. If I wanted to make huge amounts of money, I actually wouldn’t be in this industry. (Laughs.) I just want to be creative and make great art and be able to do that for the rest of my life without having to get another job. That’s my goal, you know?

“Invisible” brought to mind people in my community -- young, gay kids we hear about taking their own lives. Who did you have in mind when you wrote your new single?

I wrote it about me, having that feeling about trying really hard to have people understand me, and still being misunderstood -- like nobody really knew who I was, and I couldn’t relate to anybody. That’s something I felt so many different times in my life! It kind of comes in phases. Middle school was a crucial time. I would cry every day after school because I was bullied or people made fun of me. I was the weird girl who didn’t really have any friends. (Laughs.) I was artistic and different and living…where people didn’t seem to have as open of minds as I had. My mom was an artist, so I grew up with a mom who was a ‘weirdo,’ too, which I’m really grateful for now. At the time, it was difficult. That was a hard time. Then, in high school, I started feeling all these girls around me were so pretty and getting boobs. I felt totally undesirable, like nobody was interested. I struggled with an eating disorder. That was another time I felt invisible, and I went to extremes to try to get people’s attention. I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but looking back, that’s what it was. Then, a couple years back, when I failed with my music, I had spent almost 20 years working toward this music dream, I found myself broke, eating fruit off the trees to stay alive. Nobody cared, and nobody got it. I think that is something everybody can relate to, and I would imagine the gay community especially. It’s hard anyway to feel accepted, and to be seen for who you really are inside. That’s what “Invisible” is about.

Do you feel being “different,” “artistic” and on-the-fringe has attracted gay people into your life?

Yeah, I guess it has. I think anybody who is feeling something a little bit different or they appear a little bit different than the traditional – I grew up in Middle America, so I related to that all the time. People who got out of my small town and are actually doing something, we kind of all unite in a way. We’re doing something different, but we’re proud of it. So, yeah, my friends are people who are allowing themselves to be themselves and be proud of who they are.

You’ve been extremely successful writing and singing hooks on hip-hop hits. That’s a community not so open to and accepting of LGBT people. Has there been a culture clash?

Well, for me, no. I never bought hip-hop music growing up. I was raised in folk music and rock of the ‘90s and totally independent stuff I got into. Working in hip-hop was a totally random thing I did not plan on happening. One of the things I wanted to do with hip-hop was mix it up a bit. I was sick of all these rappers always trying to act so tough and act like they didn’t have any problems or their problems. Well, not that they didn’t have any problems, but that they didn’t have any emotional problems. There problems were always like cops and money and bling, stuff like that. That’s not really real. I wanted to bring vulnerability and a softer side to hip-hop, and that’s what I did, you know? “Love the Way You Lie,” for example… That’s a pretty emotional song for hip-hop. I think I’ve been able to tap into a different part of that world. I would by no means call myself “a hip-hop artist.”

You describe Invinsible being “sonically different.” Tell me about the sounds we’ll hear.

Because I came from such an eclectic background, I have so many different influences. I don’t really think about it when it write, I just write what I feel. What comes out of me is a weird mixture of things. There’s elements of, as I said, I love rock from the ‘90s, so there’s guitar that’s influenced by that. Songwriting-wise, I have more of a folk-y style lyrically. Drum-wise, I love beats in hip-hop music, because they’re kind of janky and not totally on the grid. They have a feel. It’s kind of a combination of those things. Then, there’s one song on the album which is a cinematic piece. It’s like a movie score, it’s not even a “’song’ song.” There’s another track called “Weirdo” which is more of an up-tempo, fun song about being proud to be a weirdo. It’s really fun, then right after it is a song that’s really soft and emotional. It takes you on a journey by listening to the whole album back-to-back.

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'80s Synth Icons O.M.D. Still Value Gay Fans

By Pollo Del Mar

“What is amazing for us is the huge percentage of our fans in America who are gay and lesbian,” says Andy McCluskey, lead singer of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. “It’s always been that way for us.”


Well before “If You Leave,” the career-defining contribution to Molly Ringwald’s iconic 1986 movie Pretty in Pink, introduced global audiences to the band and shot O.M.D. into the U.S. Top 5 – and worldwide fame -- McCluskey says LGBT audiences embraced their music. Even more people, he recalls, wrote the trend-setting electronica act off as a group only of interest to gays.


“When English synth bands first arrived in America in the ‘80s, a lot of media and American rockers who were like, ‘What’s this faggot English music?’” shares the singer, who played San Francisco’s legendary Warfield Theatre Mon., Oct. 3.


“We were like, ‘You know what? The ‘faggots’ do love it,’” the Brit says, laughing, “’So fuck you!’”


After the success of “If You Leave,” and as other similar acts exploded in popularity, O.M.D. had the last laugh. Unfortunately, as the decade came to a close, so did that chapter in the group’s history.


“In the mid-‘90s, nothing seemed more out-of-fashion and past its sell-by date than a group perceived as an ‘80s synth band,” McCluskey shares, giving insight into why members called it quits nearly two decades ago.


After doing solo projects and producing for others throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, McCluskey and primary collaborator Paul Humphreys started to feel the time was ripe for a reunion. According to McCluskey, “the musical landscape was fertile” for O.M.D.’s return.


“As the new millennium dawned, electro music was starting to become fashionable again,” he shares. “A whole new generation had rejected the rock ‘n roll clichés of all the guitars which came back in the ‘90s. Other bands – young bands, a totally different generation – were citing us, using lovely words like ‘iconic’ and ‘seminal’ and ‘influential.’”


In 2007, O.M.D.’s “classic” line-up of McCluskey, Humphreys, Malcolm Holmes and Martin Copper reunited. While he admits the quartet was so rusty they often had to listen to their own records to remember how to play certain things, they were soon on the road, winning rave reviews, and considering a new CD.


“All the European gigs had been brilliantly reviewed, even by journalists for a change!” he points out with a laugh, “We didn’t want to fuck that all up by making a crap album.”


To the group’s pleasure, the resulting History of Modern arrived to impressive reviews in Sept. 2010. O.M.D. has been on the road supporting the set ever since. The original four members are now promoting the release throughout North America. ARIA award-winning Australian act Washington is opening the tour.


O.M.D. was originally slated to play San Francisco Oct. 4, but the group moved its performance date after significant audience outcry. It appears that even many years later, McCluskey and crew still value their LGBT fan base.


“Until tickets went on sale, we had no idea who else was in town that night – Erasure,” McCluskey says with a chuckle. An outpouring of emails from frustrated fans, most LGBT, led to O.M.D.’s decision to not go head-to-head with their ‘80s synth-pop compatriots.


“We specifically moved our dates because, let’s face it, there are going to be an awful lot of gay people going to see Vince [Clarke] and Andy [Bell],” says McCluskey, “We didn’t want to lose half of our audience!”


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Gay Brother Raised Me, Says 'GLEE Project' Star Emily Vasquez

By Pollo Del Mar

“This might sound funny, but I don’t just ‘like’ the gay community,” says Emily Vasquez. “I live for it.”


Only hours after her debut single “Slow Motion” hit YouTube, Vasquez is sitting, discussing her career and life-long connection to the LGBT community. For many, the new song is a first glimpse at The GLEE Project star since she wowed judges with a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” – only to be cut from the Oxygen Network’s search for the next star of TV’s GLEE.

For the New York native, though, events leading to the song’s official video release provide an opportunity to reflect on just how involved she is with the gay community.


“I realized today, I don’t even have many female friends,” says Vasquez, who headlines an Oct. 1 fundraiser for LGBTQ youth at San Francisco’s Mission High School. “I have a whole bunch of gay friends, and my brother, who practically raised me, is gay. I just love the community.”


And, of course, the director of her new video – Sage Rivera, stage name “Vivika Westwood Mugler” – just happens to be a drag queen. “She got it all together for me,” says Vasquez, laughing. “Vivika was like, ‘Dahling, I can do this for you! Let me help!’ She turned it out!”


Vasquez relates having connections to the gay community from an early age. She attended the performing arts high school which inspired the film and TV show FAME, where she says LGBT students were common and open about their sexuality. Her older brother, whose coming out was kept secret from her for many years, has also been instrumental in her life.


“Without him, I don’t even think I would have been on [The GLEE Project],” Vasquez says of her 31-year-old sibling. “He’s so brave and out there, so funny. I kind of copy him.”


The teen admits there was a time when she did not admire her brother’s decision to live openly. When he first came out, it put a tremendous strain on her family. A Latino with strong Catholic roots, she says her father stopped speaking to her brother for a while.


“My brother had it rough,” she recalls. Being young, Emily felt stuck in the middle and occasionally resented him for creating an uncomfortable dynamic. “It was really hard, and sad,” she admits.


Now many years later, Vasquez says her brother and father are patching things up. Meanwhile, her relationship with her brother is stronger than ever.


“I spend so much time with him, it’s crazy!” she says. It wasn’t until she went on national television that Vasquez says her eyes were opened to how different her life experience is from others’, especially where gay issues are concerned.


“Being from New York, I thought everyone was more open,” she admits, “Then being on [The GLEE Project], I realized there are still people who aren’t aware. There are kids that need help.”


That’s why Vasquez signed on so quickly when upstart Bay Area nonprofit Queens of the Castro – – contacted her regarding an upcoming benefit called High School’s a Drag - But It Doesn’t Have to Be. She joins RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2 star Jessica Wild, a plethora of San Francisco’s drag favorites and the faculty of Mission High School in raising money and awareness for LGBTQ youth. Afterward, she is scheduled to perform two songs at The Café.


“I love my brother. I love all my friends. Gay people are the most amazing, talented people I know, because they’re always thinking outside the box,” Vasquez shares. “That’s what makes them so special.”


“I need to do my part,” she says of giving back to the community she feels such a part of. “Whatever I can do, I will.”


High School’s a Drag – But Doesn’t Have to Be Featuring The GLEE Project’s Emily Vasquez and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Jessica Wild, Sat., Oct. 1, Mission High School Auditorium, 3750 18th St., 7:30 pm. $15.


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