‘Night Work’: An Oral History of the Scissor Sisters’ Third Studio Album

The cover of ‘Night Work’ by Scissor Sisters (Photo Credit: Polydor Records/ Universal Records)

When Night Work, Scissor Sisters’ 3rd studio album, was released in June 2010, the band’s sound had a maturity to it.  Even from the album cover of Night Work, which is a departure from the whimsical artwork on the first two albums, had a more mature motif to it.  For the album art of Night Work, Shears chose a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of ballet dancer Peter Reed’s butt.

In an interview with NPR, band member Babydaddy, also known as Scott Hoffman, explained:

“What this photo, I think, represents … is a lost time, a time that was lost to AIDS, to people taking real risks in nightlife.”

During that same interview, lead singer Jake Shears talked about how a lot of creative people from that generation had died of AIDS, including Mapplethorpe and Reed.

In an interview with Digital Spy,  guitarist Del Marquis talked about how the album cover provoked differing responses:

“The way someone reacts to it will tell you a lot about that person. People could view it with reactionary homophobia, or they could view it as camp, or high art, or something beautiful.”

The original follow-up to Scissor Sisters’ sophomore album, Ta-Da, was abandoned in June 2009.  Shears explained the reason behind scrapping the album after a year and a half of work on it.

“In my heart I knew it wasn’t right. I didn’t really know what it was trying to say. It left me a little bit cold.”

Shears also expressed in the interview how he felt the second album was “neutered.”

“I felt like we’d packaged ourselves. I felt like we were stuffed animals, a bit. I felt kind of old. And we weren’t going to make good music again until that youthful energy came back into our personalities, especially with me.”

Produced by Stuart Price, known best for producing Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madonna’s tenth studio album, the inspiration for Night Work came from Shears’ retreat to Berlin after ditching the original third album.  It was in Berlin where Shears’ love for music renewed.

The first single from Night Work was “Fire with Fire,” which debuted on the Top 100 in the UK at number 11 and peaked at number one on the Billboard Dance Songs chart in the U.S.  

“It’s a different song as to the rest of the album,” Shears said in a video. “It’s super earnest.  It’s the closet thing we have to a ballad on this record.”

Night Work’s next single was “Any Which Way” which had an uncredited vocal by Kylie Minogue.  Shears revealed on Instagram how former Durham County, North Carolina Assistant District Attorney, Freda Black inspired the song.

One of the best things about “Any Which Way” is co-lead vocalist, Ana Matronic and her speaking bridge:

“You know, baby when I was taking my pantyhose out of their egg this evening, I thought: ‘I’m going to find that man that is the right shade of bottle tan.  A man that smells like cocoa butter and cash.’  Take me anyway you like it: in front of the fireplace, in front of your yacht, in front of my parents.  I don’t give a damn, baby!  Just take me!”

Kylie Minogue joined Scissor Sisters onstage during their performance of “Any Which Way” at Glastonbury.

The final single from Night Work, “Invisible Light,” featured a vocal cameo by the great Ian McKellen.  Shears revealed how McKellen ended up in the song.

“Somebody in the studio said: ‘We need a very deep British man’s voice here.’ And I instantly thought of Ian. He’s a fan and has come to lots of shows. I’ve hung out with him quite a bit.

He was fully keen to do it, so we took a bunch of recording equipment to his dressing room. He was in Waiting For Godot. We had a really long poem that we’d written. I think he got a kick out of it.”

McKellen performed his oration live when Scissor Sisters appeared on the itv 2 program, One Night Stand.

Posts to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Night Work were posted on Jake Shears’ and Scissor Sisters official Instagram pages.

View this post on Instagram

10 Years ago, this week, Scissor Sisters released our 3rd album Night Work. I’m still so proud of this record! The amazing Stuart Price produced it, and it had guests Helen Terry, Ian McKellen, and some secret Kylie vox, Running Out was co-written with Santigold. Once we really started cooking, it was so much fun making it. Most of the vocals I didn’t record in a booth, but just with a handheld mic in the control room, so i could perform it as would be doing soon onstage. The cover was a photo of ballet dancer Peter Reed by Robert Mapplethorpe. They both died from AIDS in the 80’s. There was a lot of pushback from folks who thought the image was too much, but I couldn’t let it go. I just knew it HAD to be the sleeve come hell or high water. And the Mapplethorpe Foundation graciously allowed us to used it. The album to me is a personal reminder of how important it is to follow your vision when it hits. They don’t come all that often so it’s best to not water them down. The photos following were taken by @timhailand at our Brixton gig, week of release, he compiled them in a really cool book, so definitely check out his site. If you need a pick-me-up this weekend, throw this ol baby on, and I guarantee you it’ll do the trick 😈 Love, Jake

A post shared by Jake Shears (@jakeshears) on

Do you have a favorite song off the album Night Work? Let us know in the comments or on our social media.

 

Sources: NPR, BBC, Official Charts, Billboard, Scissor Sisters Official YouTube channel, Digital Spy, Jake Shears Official Instagram, USA Today