Jo Whiley interviewed George Michael on BBC Radio broadcasted live on March 18, 2002.
So it’s a Monday morning, you turn up to work with the usual new week blues, and who’s on the doorstep waiting for you? It’s only George Michael!
In a rare interview, George spoke about life, love (yes, really), and the new single “Freeek!” which is out now – facing strong chart challenges to the number 1 spot from both Pop Idol entrants (and he tells us what he thinks about those as well!)
George, hello, how are you?
I’m good, I’m good
I’m really pleased that you’ve come in today because I’ve been wanting to talk to you for ages. You’re very attentive I have to say… attention to detail.
Absolutely, well you see the thing is I don’t do very much in terms of interacting with the media so when I do I like to speak to people personally.
The single, Freek! has been driving you mad – tell us why?
Really one of the reasons I’m here is because of the media. It’s not like I sit, hating the media – it’s just that I don’t like to get involved. I like to get on with what I do. I’m writing some fairly controversial stuff for this album and people are going to get the whole thing wrong if I don’t actually pop up once or twice and tell people what I mean.
So that’s what you’re going to do for us today?
I want to give people one clue. Before you write in to tell me what you think
So you’re in the studio working on the album… which is going to be out when?
No, I think the album’s going to be out November. I think for me to get it out in November, I don’t even get another week off between now and then. I’ve been working on it for the best part of 5 years. I think a lot of people think I sit round and do nothing in between making records, but actually the truth is I find it much harder to make records these days.
I honestly think that people don’t maintain a career beyond a certain point is that when you first come into the business there is something that draws people to what you do – and there’s
Have you done that? Have you lost yourself in showbiz?
I think the difference between me and other artists is that I am SO self critical of what I do, and I am so much of a perfectionist – I know those moments where you come into contact with what it is you really do become rarer as you get older. And It’s not that I sit back and wait for those moments – but I know when that spark happens and it’s happening more regularly now.
So what are you writing about?
It’s interesting. I don’t have a great deal to write about – being happy and balanced and feeling as good as I do. I have a fantastic relationship, things in my life that I thought I’d never have. So writing an album about me would be really boring. I could write a bunch of love songs to Kenny but I don’t really want to do that.
Have you done that already?
Well, he knows how much I love him…
But he must sometimes go “You never write about me!”
Madonna… you were saying that you’ve encountered her working on her album and stuff.
Yeah, she’s been down at the studio doing some demos for her album. The kids were running around, beautiful kids she’s got. If you see Rocco you would not know that was Madonna’s baby. He looks so like Guy it’s incredible. And then you see Lourdes and she looks so like Madonna.
There was a
rumour going around that you worked with Daft Punk.
We worked together last year and we met up last week and we’ll do something at some point. I knew with this album I wanted to collaborate simply because I’m bored. To be honest it’s about me having more confidence than I used to – not like the old days when my ego demanded that I did everything and demanded that people knew that. And about 15 years later I worked out that most people didn’t even know that I produced my own stuff. I’m not bored with what I do as a writer but I felt like I’ve always been a slave to my songs and I wanted to put as much into the production as I
So can you take criticism? If you do get an outside producer
Oh god, yeah. I can take any amount of constructive criticism. There are very few artists who don’t read their own reviews. People say [they don’t read their reviews] and they’re talking out of their arses. Most people will look for reviews cos you want feedback on where you’re going with your music – even though you don’t trust most of the feedback. What I look for is… anything that slates you, you can put to one side. Anything that really praises you, you could and should put to one side. But what you look for is people who have an objective opinion.
Who else are you working with on the album?
I’m doing most of it myself, but with Freek the guys I’ve been working with, we’ve spent 5 years trying to get a sound together and for me to get over my mother to be really honest. In the last
You talk about after your mother – was that it, it just completely changed your view?
I think what would have misled my fans is that when I did Parkinson after the whole arrest business I looked so on form again but with hindsight, I did it to myself and I tried to work out why.
Did what to yourself?
You mean you made it happen?
I was sunbathing for God’s sake in a park opposite the Beverley Hills Hotel and I was trying to work out why I would do that to myself. It certainly wasn’t because I wanted to be
You’ve got a minute on Oasis…
Oasis is the most amazing band that I’ve ever seen live with the possible exception of U2. The critics made one member of Oasis feel that they were the whole of Oasis and he promptly wrecked the best band we had in 20 years – when really it was
George describing the video:
It wasn’t inspired as much by the internet as by watching late night TV. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been working solidly for years, and I’m just like everybody else. I get stuck in front of my Sky Digital box and you can watch reasonably good rubbish all night. I’ve had a very quiet life making this record and watching the telly! And the truth is that when you watch late night TV culture, you feel at my age like the world’s gone mad. When I thought of the song, I wanted it to represent the victory of commerce and certain types of commerce around sex over all of us. In other words, there’s so much money involved, I wanted “Freeek” to sound like this kind of steamroller of sex that you couldn’t get out of its way. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for adults…
Because it’s enlightening people up?
Yeah! It’s amazing how the attitude of some miserable old cow in the 1900s – Victoria – her husband dies and the rest of the country has to go into mourning with her and we all suddenly are not supposed to enjoy sex in the slightest because she can’t. My mother had some very Victorian ideas that I know, looking back, affected my views on my sexuality and it seems ludicrous to me that it takes hundreds of years to work its way out of the culture but the truth is that’s what’s happening now. And in the last 5 or 10 years since the
Giving them lots of opportunities… and that’s negative?
I don’t think it’s negative. Sex is not a negative to me. Everything is about sex, and a good approach to sex is central to so many things. But to be shown areas of fetishism and extremes of sex when you are young naturally means as you get older your ideas of extreme are going to be more extreme. So we have this huge sexual revolution and even one generation down, people that are 10 years away from each other will think totally differently about the extremes of sex. So in my
But George, you’re pretty raunchy yourself, the stuff you’ve done in the past – pushing boundaries.
Yeah but none of it has been unhealthy. I think the things I’m being accused of – the
What do you make of the Gareth Gates single?
The guy’s going to have a fantastic week. I did send him a bottle of champagne. Of
Were you surprised when Will announced that he was gay?
About as surprised as people were with me probably and they had 18 years to work on it!
Let’s talk about Pop Idol
I’m not half as horrified as a musician that most people would think I am. I don’t think it’s got very much to do with the music industry, it’s to do with Saturday night entertainment.
Do you worry about the people who take part in Pop Idol?
I’d give them one very strong piece of advice which is that it is possible to weather the storm but you need to make sure that the advice you’re getting is disconnected completely from the people
Can you imagine if I released a song going “This is for my people, my ecstasy people!”
You’re sounding hard done by, do you think people just like to stick the boot in?
Yes, but the people that complain are always the ones that I want to wind up and they do me a
So you don’t think we’re more enlightened than say 10 years ago?
No, I think we are but I think there are still things to worry about in the gay community. I do think we’re only accepted on a certain level, on the Elton and David as long as you’re being nice and acting like straight people
As long as you’re not having sex…
As long as we can’t imagine you having sex you’ll be fine
What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
Kenny, music, equally important
You’re offered cameos in Sex and the City and The Simpsons but the network say you can only do one, what would you do?
That’s hard. I’d have to say Sex and the City cos I might get to meet Mr. Big!
The Office, Rock Profile
You see some of your stolen items on ebay. Would you bid for them?
I had 5 years worth of work stolen on the computer. They have my entire album on a G4. Luckily it was all backed up.
Kenny says he really wants to go on celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, the couples edition winning money for charity
That’s not gonna happen. Oh, for charity I think I might.
‘This Is Your Life’ ask if you’ll appear as a guest for Geri. Would you go on?
No, cos I went on for Martin and it would look like they’d roped me in again, otherwise yeah.
Is she still a mate?
The truth, the real truth is Geri’s a lovely girl and in some
The rumours were that you felt you were being used by her.
No, absolutely not. If I’d been worried about what she would have got out of publicity with me than I would never have approached her.
Why did you approach her?
I approached her when she left the Spice Girls because I’d met her a couple of times and we’d both recently lost a parent and she’s good company. I was drawn to her. The truth is we don’t see much of each other – she’s off all over the place and I’ve been making this record for a year. She’s come down to the studio a few times. The press would love to think that she has no friends, but she does have friends. One thing I would like to make clear is that Geri has never listened to one piece of advice that I’ve ever given her! You can imagine Geri coming to me and saying I’m going to turn up at The Brits walking out of a big fanny and it’ll have a Union Jack on it…
How often do people ask to duet with
I’ve had incredible offers over the years, I’ve said no to lots of people, not because I don’t admire them but because I don’t think our voices would fit together.
I couldn’t even tell you – it would be embarrassing for them.
A female friend who wants kids but is single asks you to be her donor. Would you?
Do you not want kids?
I’m very aware of what I’m missing but the truth of the matter for me is that I think a child should grow up with two parents, whether they… I’m not sure about the whole issue of gay adoption and I would have no justification of talking about it cos I haven’t thought about it. But I do know that I’m missing a lot by not having kids but I have a lot in my life to make up for it. I tell you one thing – if you’re never gonna know the joy of children then make sure you know the joy of sex.
What’s the most you’ve ever spent on an item of clothing?
The truth? The most I’ve ever spent on a piece of clothing is 17 hundred pounds and you know why I did it, because I was staying with Gianni Versace, right, as you do – I’d been invited there, I didn’t know them – and I was invited there while I was on the Faith tour. So Gianni came to some shows and I was there with him and Donatella and they kept saying to me you’ve gotta come down to the showroom and I thought “Oh I’m gonna get something free”. But I didn’t take advantage and run around picking up things. I just picked one really nice thing which was a suede jacket. And they gave me like a 20 percent discount and I’d picked this 2 grand jacket and I was like “I don’t need a discount I thought it was a gift!” So having spent this 17 hundred quid, the next day I’m walking through the airport and the woman at the immigration desk asked me for my autograph and I was wearing this lovely pale suede jacket and I sign her autograph and stick my arm in a pad of red indelible ink and ruin the jacket forever. So I brought it under duress for 17 hundred quid and ruined it the next day.
When are you gonna be performing live?
Next year, I’m gonna be performing live and do a live show that’s gonna blow everything you’ve seen recently away.
So keep those Freeek! outfits then?
I’m actually thinking about that – I’ll have something for the encore, that’s actually like a more wearable version of the big red suit.
Don’t forget to get Geri’s advice on how to make a great entrance!
Thank you very much for coming in.
Thanks, I’ve had a really nice time.
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- ‘Souled Out: George Michael’ Published in Interview Magazine (1988)