Del Marquis: OUT on his own


(All photos c/o Girlie Action)
If the lead singer [Jake Shears] of one of your favorite bands [Scissor Sisters] goes solo, you grow concerned, but when a musician in said band [Del Marquis] is suddenly a one piece, you really worry. That said, you have to admire Scissor guitarist Del Marquis for taking the risk with his just-released debut EP, "Hothouse" -- and triumphing.

As the first of five digital EP's to be issued first Tuesdays through April with guest collaborations from Joan As Police Woman and members of Basement Jaxx, the highly-personal "Hothouse" demonstrates that Marquis is just as at home on a microphone and with a writing pad as he is on guitar. Armed with an unintentionally gorgeous voice, he carries three moving mid-tempo pop tracks, "Hothouse," "Cry So Long," and "Remember Me Young" along with the rousing, classic rock-tinged "How I Lost The Plot," to victory, while struggling against homophobia, a bad breakup, and many of his own personal anxieties in the process.

As's Josh Rocker discovered during an interview with Marquis this week, he actually conquered one of his greatest fears in the making of this album, as the once shy guitarist stepped out from behind the shadow of his band and assumed the role of frontman for the very first time.

Del, what was your motivation to record a solo record?

I'm in a band with really big, fiery personalities. It was really an exercise to do something that was full-on mine and that I owned completely. It became a necessity -- especially after touring for so long -- to have something that was mine and mine alone. Other than having a basic creative need to have a project of my own, it was the right time emotionally. I never had a burning desire to express thoughts or concepts before and I never wrote lyrics, but enough happened, where it became an emotional and creative necessity. I went through a rough breakup in my relationship. I didn't want it to end that way because I still lived with them. So it was an excuse to get out. It was the one thing that gave me reason to be motivated and reason to not be around something so unpleasant.

Which themes are you exploring on "Hothouse"?

The themes were the basic sense of loss, and wishing things ended in a different way with my lover, and also what's going on in the world right now -- that overwhelming sense of fear and paranoia. I had to confront a lot of negativity personally, where it became, do I want to contribute to it or turn it into a positive experience? I was always on the dividing line, where I didn't know if I wanted the world to blow up in a fiery mess or if I wanted to do something constructive and be positive.

And which did you ultimately choose?

You know what, I see myself as an overwhelming positive person, but like anyone I have dark thoughts. There are some things that push my buttons and that make me react in anger. I'm not perfect. Nobody is. But I'm not in as dark of a place. The recording became the most constructive thing I could do and it made me realize that I want to be part of the world. I'm excited for the new president, but also know that people are still afraid. It doesn't really change anything, but it gives people an idea of hope. The concept of hope is a strong thing, and something I'm willing to believe for a moment.

Do you foresee an increase in gay rights over the next four years?

Well, I think obviously the biggest problem with being gay or lesbian or any alternative lifestyle is that until recently it was essentially invisible. But now it's a more visible thing, so people are reacting more. Now people can identify more with friends and loved ones being gay, and all the pop singers who are proud and unashamed like us, Sam Sparro, or even Mica; but I'm not saying Mica's gay. Visibility is new and gay rights are old. It's been going on for decades, but now we have major films, pop stars and actors that are gay. Now there's a second frontier mobilizing a new generation of people. People are driving around L.A. and picketing in front of restaurants that contributed to Prop. 8. There's a new generation of activism. I say, 'Keep going on and don't be disheartened,' because I do believe our president will be true to his word, unlike many politicians.

I know there's a sci-fi video narrative that accompanies each release. Talk to me about the video component of the project.

It's kind of like a double-headed monster. This video content is part of a project my good friend was working on for many years. We found parallel themes in the overall sense of fear, paranoia, and people not operating under good intentions, with a fear of the unknown, losing your house, etc. I am in a pop band, so I express this with melody and pop music. This was his expression. We wanted to have this duality. One was more commercial and one is on the darker side -- the shadow of the pop album. It's an expression of love of science fiction and horrors. Some people draw parallels and some are confused. Some just wanna listen to the pop music and some might just want to watch the visuals.

Promo2_2As the guitarist for the Scissor Sisters, you've always appeared somewhat reserved, introverted and very much in the background compared to the other members, yet as a solo artist, you're forced to shine in the forefront. How did you draw the lead singer out?

Like I said, I'm in a band with really fiery personalities. If I wasn't in that band, I wouldn't have found the performer inside of me. I looked at Ana dressed to the nines in the beginning and realized that there has to be another way to translate what you do to the stage. I saw this powerful concept of costume and caricature. We're really a pop band where each person has a caricature that's not necessarily true to our personalities. So I became involved with designing very intricate outfits and trying to transform that shy offstage person. Of course when you have two singers with two personalities that are fiery and magnetic, anyone would be seen as a wallflower next to them. That's why doing the album became a necessity. Being a caricature doesn't define me and can be a glass ceiling sometimes.

Describe for me what the experience of playing a guitar feels like for you.

It's usually always euphoric and sometimes it's channeling negativity and anger. In performances only about anger, you feel 10-feet-tall and just wanna destroy everything. Certain times there's just a euphoria and a way of connecting that's very positive. The guitar helps me tap into the cheesy concept of body electric. When playing to a crowd, when you connect, it's fucking amazing. It's a means of connection. That's why I belong on that stage and know it. From however many years I was playing guitar and even fantasizing about playing when I was younger, I understand the reason people are obsessed with music. It allows me to continue the feeling of adolescence into my adult life. I'm really glad that I picked it up.

So what was it like to sing for the first time?

It was fucking frightening, which was probably the most mortifying part of the whole process. I understand that playing an instrument has a detached nature, but when you're actually singing, and there's no middle man, it's horrifying. I actually lost my voice the first day I had to do vocals, because I worked myself into a nervous wreck. But I found a way to be comfortable when I realized my strengths and weaknesses, and just tried to have a good time. It helped having people around me that I was comfortable with, because it's a really personal process. Anytime there's something you wanna achieve, you're sacrificing part of your ego, when a voice in your head says, 'You will fail, don't do it, you're not good.' I thought I don't belong doing this. But it was a fear I had to conquer. You just have to say, 'Fuck it' and do it.

How do you feel when you hear yourself sing on the EP now?

I'm really proud of it. I'm so proud of the effort I put in it. It's an enormous amount of effort for someone to mastermind an album, just the emotional weight, but it was something I needed to do. I can't worry about how it will reflect on me, 'cause then I'm a failure no matter what. It's far from perfect, but I don't think my voice sounds half bad.

Scissor Sisters' guitarist Del Marquis has made his solo debut with the release of the first in a series of EP's on Dec. 2, entitled "Hothouse." The first EP includes the songs "Remember Me Young," "Cry So Long," "How I Lost The Plot" and "Hothouse." The EP is available exclusively at before it hits other online retailers.