BY Jeremy Kinser
July 12 2010 5:00 AM ET
Like Scissor Sisters’ 2004 eponymous debut, the band’s 2006 release, Ta-Dah, met with moderate success in the States (though it sold phenomenally well abroad, even hitting number 1 on the U.K. charts and elsewhere in Europe). Upon completing the tour to support Ta-Dah, the band recorded a full album’s worth of material, only to scrap it. “There were some great songs,” Shears says, “but to me the album was cold. It felt callous and heartless.” Needing to clear his head, Shears fled to Berlin and surrendered to the city. “I had an adventure,” he says. “It had been eight years since I had gone anywhere by myself and didn’t have to answer to anybody.” He bought a bicycle and explored the city a little bit, but the man who sang “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” also spent a good deal of time clubbing. “I heard great DJs and went dancing and took drugs. I saw crazy shit. It was exactly what I needed to do,” he says. Shears also attended extreme sex parties—as a spectator. “All those things kept me going and gave me fuel. They made me happy to be alive.”
Then when the party was over, Shears went back to work. The quartet (Ana Matronic, Babydaddy, and Del Marquis—drummer Paddy Boom departed amicably in 2008) reconvened in London to write new material, informed by Shears’s sabbatical. The band enlisted producer Stuart Price to oversee the recording of Night Work.
Shears also spent a lot of time, mentally at least, in San Francisco, creating a musical adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. “This is a musical musical,” Shears says of the production, which is a collaboration with Avenue Q’s Tony-winning Jeff Whitty and is set to premiere in San Francisco next spring. “It’s a big show and is so complex and intricate. It’s a challenge to keep all the characters and story lines going. If anything gets knocked out of place, it can send the whole thing down.” Still, he adds, “it’s going to be a great show.”
What Shears won’t surrender to is the decadent allure of life on the road. He’s remarkably confident about his committed relationship with his partner of six years, Chris (whose last name he prefers not to reveal). “We’re deeply in love,” he says. “He’s a hell of a lot cooler and smarter than I am. He’s not into the showbiz glitz.” Yet Chris shares his boyfriend’s passion for porn—which is convenient since Chris rarely accompanies his partner on the road.
For now, Shears is focused primarily on promoting the new record and launching the band’s international tour. “Being onstage every night for an hour and half is like running a marathon, so I drink very little and don’t do drugs when we’re on the road because it’s all about conserving every bit of energy I’ve got,” he says. “Going into the eye of the storm, it’s important for me to be as strong as possible and to feel good.”