Culture Club makes long-awaited return to Atlanta

Back in the early 1980s, gender-bending Boy George and his band mates stormed the New Wave scene with some really big hits and some even bigger ideas about gender, sexuality and diversity. Now, 34 years later, the band is touring the United States (after a 15-year hiatus) during a time when our culture seems to have caught up with them.

The Georgia Voice's Shannon Hames caught up with Culture Club bassist Mikey Craig and drummer John Moss to speak with them about touring, the changes they've seen and their upcoming album, "Tribes."

Georgia Voice: You guys haven't toured in the States for 15 years now. Why did you decide to tour now?
Craig: I spent some time working on my own record label, but then I started trying to get the band back together. I reached out to our old manager, Tony Gordon, who has now been "let go," shall we say, by (Boy) George. But Tony helped to get us back together.

The truth is, we had to wait until George was in the right frame of mind and in the right space within his own self before we could actually put the whole thing together. Of course, George will give you another version. But the truth is, we all really wanted to get back together. We knew there was a great unfinished story with Culture Club.

When you first came out with "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" in 1982, I was 13 and very shocked to see not only a racially diverse band, but one led by someone who was really androgynous. I remember for the first time in my life, I couldn't tell if the person singing was a man or a woman. It was kind of exciting, but a bit unnerving. Now, it seems that my country has finally started to come into a time when we accept diversity and androgyny and homosexuality—things you guys were doing 33 years ago. How does it feel to finally see us catching up?
Craig: I'll let you know how George feels about it. He wishes that all of the sweeping changes that are going on right now had happened 33 years ago so that he could have benefited from living in a world with more liberties and more freedom—in a world where you're not conscious of your sexuality or gender identity. But nothing ever happens before its time, as my dear old dad used to say. I'd like to think that Culture Club paved the way for the Caitlyn Jenners in this world.

Caitlyn came to one of your shows recently, right?
Craig: Yes, she came to our show at the Greek in Los Angeles. She introduced us and when she came out, the crowd just went nuts. They were surprised, but then they made the connection of the fact that Caitlyn was paying homage to us and thanking us for paving the way for her to go public about who she really is.

From your last U.S. tour 15 years ago until now, have you seen changes in your audience?
Craig: The audience hasn't really changed at all except for the fact that we now have some younger generation who come out. They're obviously curious to see what all of the fuss is about. The fans on this tour have been really pumped and enthusiastic. If they're reading this, I want to thank them for coming out and supporting us like that. It has been absolutely amazing; it really has, the way they've been screaming and carrying on like some type of teen mania.

Your latest album, "Tribes," is set for an early 2016 release. I heard the single, "More Than Silence" and was really surprised how much George's voice has changed, yet still sounds so good. Tell me about the record.
Craig: We recorded it in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain. It was a wonderful setting. We couldn't help but make brilliant music. It united us as a band again. It allowed us to be who we are as a band. Sometimes, George tries to bring in other writers or we try new technology and we try this and that. But up in the mountains, our producer just stripped it all away and we got back to basics. It's how it worked when we were kids and it really worked brilliantly for us on this record.

Moss: Putting out a new album is really hard but we can't keep mucking out "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" in our 50s. The thing I like about the album is it's quite fresh. It was recorded well. It was done the old fashioned way—just four guys in a room just bashing it out. Nowadays, you've got computers and stuff. This was all played live, no programming or anything.

When I want to find out if something is good, I play it for my friends. I don't tell them that it's me. Do you know what I mean? I watch them. They tap their feet and sometimes they'll say, "This is really great. Who is it?" Then, I know it's okay. This is how I knew that this record would be brilliant.

Culture Club 
Wednesday, August 12 at 8 p.m.
The Fox Theatre