Pink Floyd fans may not have liked the irreverent (some would say sacrilegious) approach, but Roger Waters and David Gilmour apparently did, Shears says. "When it charted in England, they both contacted Polydor and gave us their blessing . . . and asked for albums and pictures. We never asked permission or anything, we just put it out. I think they appreciated the fact that we did something to their song that they probably never expected."
Speaking of something never expected: "Comfortably Numb" earned that Grammy nomination for best dance track, where it's up against Basement Jaxx, Chemical Brothers, Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue.
Still, it's Scissor Sisters' sharply crafted originals that have driven sales in England, leading to such encomiums as "Ween meets Wham! in a hot tub with the Bee Gees" and "The Bee Gees, Beck and B-52s in a blender." They've had Top 20 hits with the southern fried "Laura" and the funky piano-driven "Take Your Mama." That it's the most Elton John-ish track on the album is entirely accidental, Shears insists. "Now I'm a huge fan, but I discovered Elton John after we wrote all this stuff!" Scissor Sisters have since opened for Sir Elton and he's said he wants to work with them.
As for Shears's onstage flamboyance -- be warned, there's still a bit of the stripper in him -- it's decidedly outside the mainstream. "I don't like watching myself perform on tape," he admits. "When I do, I'm shocked! I'm very, very loose, to put it mildly, and I'm not even conscious of that!"
As for the fashion flurries, "we're just trying to keep a tradition alive," Shears explains. "I was just in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Walking through all the wardrobe exhibits, it really spoke to me and made me excited and totally reassured me that what we're doing is part of a long-standing tradition. Dressing up and wearing crazy stuff and going for it and putting on a show, that's what rock 'n' roll is all about and what it's always been about. And I think that somewhere in the past 10 or 12 years, that's gotten lost a little bit, it's gotten a bit more casual, pedestrian. A lot of the time the person on stage looks no different than the person standing next to you in the audience. I think there should be an element of putting on a show, of dressing up and becoming larger than life."
Which is what Scissor Sisters did in bringing Halloween to England in October, asking fans coming to their Brixton Academy concert to glam up for the evening, which they did in a mix of standard horror costumes and more imaginative original outfits. Scissor Sisters did their part dressing up as characters from their favorite film, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"It was magical, I'm telling you," Shears gushes, "and went beyond my expectations. They don't dress up for Halloween over there -- they don't even really celebrate it -- but 5,000 people showed up decked out and it was so much fun."
Scissor Sisters recently hooked up with John Cameron Mitchell, co-creator and director of the cult film "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Mitchell directed the video for the band's new single, "Filthy Gorgeous" but it may never see the light of day. Shot in New York's Zipper Theater nightclub (transformed into "a utopian whorehouse"), it features band members being spanked, ridden by a midget, and exposed to a vast array of breasts and sex toys, as well as some steamy same-sex kissing. The song is about transvestite hookers, so all that may be appropriate, but even the normally liberal British video outlets are holding off.
"The video is amazing," marvels Shears. "I think 'Filthy Gorgeous' is going to be our biggest single over there." It may be included on later versions of a Scissor Sisters DVD coming out this month, a concert-documentary directed by Julien Temple.
Maybe that will help kickstart some stronger stateside support.
"Something's up with America," Shears says. "It's like teenagers here aren't even interested in being bad or walking that line. 'Rocky Horror' was the movie my mom did not want me to go see every weekend, and God knows I did my damnedest! And John Cameron Mitchell is a man with a vision. Times have changed, and American tastes have gotten really boring. People settle for a lot less than they used to."
SCISSOR SISTERS -- Appearing Wednesday at the 9:30 club. To hear a free Sound Bite from Scissor Sisters, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8101. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)