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Weekend: With an upcoming Culture Club gig and solo album in the mix, Boy George is busy

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THE first time I put make-up on after the last lockdown, I’d had my hair cut, beard shaved, the hairs pulled out of my nose — basic grooming,’ reveals Boy George, ‘I was like, oh, my god, I look so young. I was so pleased!’ He cackles with delight: ‘I was beginning to look like a 100-year-old tree.’

Six months on, Metro can confirm that George, at home in lockdown, looks absolutely nothing like a tree, century-old or otherwise.

Bearded and wearing a black beanie hat, he looks relaxed and is in an affable mood. He’s been keeping himself busy since March, but admits that ‘it’s very easy to get distracted. There’s no pressure so it feels a bit like you’re left to your own devices, which is always a bad idea for me. I can procrastinate’.

Frankly, it doesn’t sound like there’s been much of that. He and his producer have been working on a new solo album — first remotely and later, safely, in the studio — and he’s now debating whether or not to put out a visual album first. He’s also been writing new songs with Culture Club’s guitarist/keyboardist Roy Hay, via file-sharing and is currently collaborating with Kim Wilde on two duets — one song of hers and one of his.

‘It’s really nice,’ he says. ‘I’ve thought about doing something with Kim a lot and just never got around to it. I’ve been trying to widen my creative chain over the last couple of years.’ To that end, he’s also hooked up with other, ‘not necessarily famous people’ including French reggae artist Biga Ranx and Israeli dancer Asaf Goren, who George has enlisted for his Rainbow In The Dark track. ‘I’ve been working with really fun people and that’s exciting,’ he enthuses.

Back in the club: George has been working on new songs with Culture Club compadre Roy Hay PICTURE: GETTY

Rainbow In the Dark is also the name of a rather special event — a global live stream of Culture Club performing a hits-stacked set. Originally scheduled for this Sunday, from the Royal Albert Hall, it’s now been pushed back to the week before Christmas and has been moved to Wembley Arena — hopefully, also allowing a (limited, socially-distanced) real-life audience.

‘The good thing is, we’re not downsizing to a broom cupboard,’ George chuckles. ‘When my manager called me and said, “what about Wembley Arena?” I liked that. I’m not really a downsizing type of person,’ he adds, wryly. The show’s title was borrowed from an interview the singer read with South African queer activist, artist and filmmaker Beverley Ditsie. ‘She was talking about how when she was a kid, she found out that she was gay because she heard people talking in the playground about how “Boy George loves men”. It’s funny — you don’t think about how people accidentally hear about you and your effect on them. The idea of the rainbow in the dark is that it can come from anywhere.’

George admits that when the show was first discussed, he was sceptical. ‘I was a bit like, this is never going to happen. But then I thought, you know what, it’s a really bad attitude to have — I’ve got to be optimistic. We’ve got to try.’ However, he agrees that whether the Wembley Arena performance ends up being in front of a live audience or is a stream only, ‘it’s going to be weird.

‘But I really relish the challenge, because I think this might be the case for a while — that we have to find ways of connecting through these strange barriers. I like the idea of trying to make that work and I think your energy can come through. It’s a bit like going to another country; you’ve got to go, right, this is what the situation is. It’s like going to India and moaning that you can’t get soft toilet roll,’ he laughs.

‘Now, it’s my job to make sure that what I do really connects with everyone that’s sitting at home and I think that’s an interesting challenge.’

Even the prospect of ecstatic Culture Club fans being confined to their seats in an arena can’t faze George. ‘You can express a lot sitting down,’ he reasons. ‘I will encourage lots of inner dancing!’

Culture Club’s Rainbow In The Dark takes place at Wembley Arena on Saturday, December 19, culture-club.co.uk



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Finding health insurance a headache for gig workers | Mid-Missouri News

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COLUMBIA – When Amy Crousore decided to become a full-time musician 3 years ago, she never imagined a pandemic would dry up her business.

Now, 8 months into the global health crisis, Crousore is reflecting on the struggles of the gig industry.

“Everything shut down and there was just no back up for us,” she said.

She said many of her colleagues were already taking day jobs before the pandemic just so they could receive health insurance.

Crousore has also taken up a job as a caretaker to make ends meet until venues reopen.

“We compared about 12 different healthcare plans,” she said. “I considered whether I would have to take a loan to pay for a more expensive plan.”

Health insurance is a headache Jason Gruender and Jen Wheeler know well.

Gruender manages Liberty Family Medicine with his wife, a doctor.

Wheeler manages Big Tree Medical Home with her husband, also a doctor.

Both clinics operate through unconventional business models that are less reliant on traditional insurance plans. Instead, you pay for a membership or one-time fees.

“We believe in our model, and it’s working well across the nation, and it’s working well here in Columbia,” Wheeler said.

Gruender is also confident in his clinic.

“I think we have a broken health care system,” he said. “The clinic is not a complete solution to that problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

As the world navigates a pandemic, the path to affordable health care has been riddled with troubles.

Crousore worries necessities like health care will alter the landscape of the music industry.

“Do you want there to be nobody you can call to play for your wedding because everybody is working 40 hours a week to get insurance,” Crousore asked. “What kind of world do you want?”

Gruender and Wheeler also said choosing a health insurance plan is an important decision that should be given lots of thought.

Enrollment through the Affordable Care Act is open right now and closes Dec. 15. There are other enrollment periods for special life events, such as getting married.

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Pendulum swings back to break lockdown lull with hometown New Year’s gig

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“During the whole lockdown thing it’s been kind of hard to put an original stamp on a set or a piece of live music; everyone’s been playing from their living rooms, everyone’s playing next to the f—ing fridge, so we had to come up with something new.”

The end result, an hour-long live-streamed performance at Spitbank Fort, was broadcast in October and also heralded the drum ‘n’ bass outfit’s first new material in a decade; the double-A side Driver/Nothing For Free.

Not being able to perform live has other pitfalls; even with their show at Spitbank Fort and a well-received global release, the group’s new material still hasn’t been tested in front of crowds.

“When we’re getting ready to release something always a huge component of it is playing it to small audiences, or sometimes even big audiences, and getting a lot of feedback from that, especially when it comes to Rob doing final mixdowns and stuff,” McGrillen said.

“That’s one thing we’ve definitely missed.”

Pendulum will be able to break free from the bonds of live-streaming soon and give crowds a full dose of new music with a homecoming headline slot at Perth’s Origin Fields New Year festival.

Billed as ‘Pendulum Trinity’ the group’s founding members – Swire, Gareth McGrillen and Paul ‘El Hornet’ Harding – are the first headliners announced alongside Australian house heavyweight Dom Dolla.

Based in the UK, McGrillen and Swire are very much ready to “do the whole quarantine thing” and fly to Perth to join Harding, who lives in the group’s hometown. With coronavirus cases soaring around the world, it seems there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.

“Perth’s the safest place in the world right now,” McGrillen said.

It’s been a long time between drinks on the new music front, with Swire and McGrillen splitting off to form the electro/bass-driven Knife Party after Pendulum’s last album, Immersion, was released in 2010.

Pendulum shows continued, primarily driven by Harding, and when live shows returned in 2016, so did the ideas for new music under the Pendulum banner.

As with anything released in 2020, it’s tempting to read into the new tunes as inspired by the trash-fire year that was, but Swire said the roots of Driver/Nothing For Free came as early as 2016.

“I think current events might have added 20 per cent angst to the sound,” he said.

“Ten years is a nice round number and I sort of feel if you get away longer than that, you may as well not bother … we’d been doing the Knife Party thing for about 10 years, we always feel like switching it up.”

And while 2020 marks the first new Pendulum music in a decade, it is also another milestone; 15 years since the group’s explosive debut album, Hold Your Colour.

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The release still holds a special place for fans and the group alike – “the tracks on it still feel kind of magic,” Swire said – but at the time the trio didn’t know whether they had a hit or a flop on their hands.

“It was a weird time for us, we’d only been in England for about two years when we wrote it. In retrospect, it’s kind of the sound of culture shock and sleep deprivation,” Swire said.

“I think the first time we knew this whole thing had some longevity to it was when we made the next album (2008’s In Silico).

“We sort of switched the style and it still works and we thought, ‘Well, we’re onto something’, because we’ve brought all these new fans in who don’t even like drum ‘n’ bass.”

There’s a temptation, listening to Driver/Nothing For Free, to draw parallels between the tracks and the distinct styles between Pendulum’s earlier releases.

Driver, as the name suggests, is a fast-paced drum ‘n’ bass anthem; a heavy, rolling beat setting the pace for buzzsaw basslines interspersed with breakbeat clatters. Nothing For Free, on the other hand, features sing-along hooks rising to a rocking, headbanging crescendo, reminiscent of the outfit’s later albums.

So, is this a conscious effort? Or a by-product of almost two decades producing forward-thinking, genre-blending electronic hits?

The latter, largely.

Swire and McGrillen agreed they never intended to follow their earlier work too closely, but when inspiration strikes, well, sometimes it just pans out that way.

“It somehow just organically falls into either [style]; you get a sense halfway through, you get a sense like, ‘This sounds like kind of a Hold Your Colour tip’, or you can tell it’s a new style,” Swire said.

Pendulum will perform at Langley Park on Perth’s foreshore on New Year’s Eve. Tickets and information at originfields.com.au.

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This Maltese Rapper Has Landed A Gig Producing Audio For Mike Tyson

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From partying at Dan Bilzerian’s mansion to hanging out with Instagram Influencer Alexis Ren, Chris Birdd is living the celebrity lifestyle – but nothing compares to his latest project.

The Maltese rapper has just joined forces with Mike Tyson’s team (yes, the legendary boxing champion) to mix and produce audio for his upcoming commercials. 

“My close friend became his videographer not too long ago and asked me to do all the audio engineering for Mike’s adverts,” Birdd told Lovin Malta. 

The project has been in the pipeline for some time with Birdd sworn to secrecy until the first advert was released which, in fact, was just a few days ago for a Thanksgiving special which has since been aired on TMZ and Fox News.

“The video was shot and edited by my close friends Mike Angel and Dray Millz,” Birdd continued. “At the moment I’m working project by project.”

Despite continuing to work with Tyson’s team, the Maltese rapper has yet to meet the boxing champion who is set to make his first appearance in the ring after over two decades this evening against Roy Jones Jr.

But he’s hopeful that one day he will, once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. 

Tag someone who loves Mike Tyson



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