A musical collaboration between Dundee Rep and Glasgow artists has had some good karma lately, after a cover of one of Boy George’s biggest hits led to an interview with the star himself.
3M Mixtape (as in, a socially distanced 3 metres) is a series of short interviews and music videos showcasing Scottish talent. It was masterminded by Dawn Sievewright and John McLernon, and created during lockdown in partnership with Dundee Rep artistic director Andrew Panton.
And thanks to the power of Zoom, it also includes a face-to-face chat with the original songwriter – Boy George.
“It was amazing!” says writer and co-producer Dawn of the experience. Asked how it all came about, she explains: “The actual mixtape with Martin Quinn was our second one, so we shot that way back in November 2020.
“Martin was talking about Boy George and Culture Club, and how he wasn’t a massive fan of reggae stuff, but that Boy George was this poet, he loved the music and the lyrics.
“And Andrew said, ‘Let’s dig into that. Let’s look not just at the song and what it represents, but how it was made’. So he put us in touch with Boy George!”
A Colourful History
The interview sees John, Dawn and Martin all meet the Culture Club legend – in full make-up and hat, of course – and offers an insight into the story behind the platinum-selling record.
“It was a little bit of a dig,” Boy George reveals about the hit song. “These were closeted times – you couldn’t come out and say what you wanted to say!
“My boyfriend at the time was in the band, and didn’t really want people to know. He was the chameleon. Me nagging him 24/7 was the karma!”
For director and co-producer John, the call was an inspirational experience.
“At that level of fame and success, you don’t know what to expect from someone,” he says. “But it was the most amazing conversation, because he was so open. Not only about his writing process with that track, and the history behind it, but also his writing process now.
“He was like, ‘I just write, I write every single day’. And it was quite refreshing to hear that, because I think we’ve all experience points during this where we’ve thought, ‘What do we do? How do we motivate ourselves to do stuff?’
“And I suppose, someone at that level of fame – he doesn’t need to do that. But hearing that he is still wanting to create new work on a daily basis, and still has the love for it and the energy to do it, is pretty inspiring.”
It doesn’t matter how rich you are or how famous or world-renowned you are. We were all just trying to make music.”
And for Dawn, the interview brought home what the project was all about to start with – celebrating artists at a time when there was very little work.
“There’s something about having someone who is so loved by so many people across the world, and to know that you’ve got a shared experience,” she explains.
“Like he was saying, ‘you know what it’s like, trying to write. It’s not rocket science… you’re doing what I’m doing’. Which was true, because we were all in this pandemic.
“It doesn’t matter how rich you are or how famous or world-renowned you are. We were all just trying to make music and make work at a time when you weren’t allowed to.”
Another kind of ‘culture club’
And it’s true that despite the pandemic taking away opportunities for lots of artists around the world, it opened up scope for collaboration in a way that many people, including John and Dawn, had never experienced before.
“John and I were both moving around, doing different shows and stuff, and when lockdown happened, we got locked down together, as pals,” Dawn explains.
“I went to him one night and said: ‘Isn’t it strange that we’re living in a world where we’ve got every kind of creative talent in Scotland that we’ve never worked with, and everyone’s doing nothing?’
“So that was where 3M Mixtape came from, was having basically a pick ‘n’ mix of all the best of Scottish talent.”
Praising the project’s spirit and ingenuity, Boy George said: “What an important project to be happening in these strange times where live music performance has been put on hold.
“It was a pleasure being a part of 3M Mixtape. I wish Dawn, John, Andrew and all the team at Dundee Rep the best for the second half of this brilliant project.”
The Karma Chameleon mixtape is the sixth of ten in the 3M series, which features Reuben Joseph, Eleanor Kane, Harry Ward, Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Karen Fishwick, among many others, who perform songs by such artists as Lulu and from musicals, including Waitress.
Episodes are released on Sundays at 6pm, on the Dundee Rep YouTube channel.