Page last updated at 07:20 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 08:20 UK

Scissor Sisters: Back from the brink

The Scissor Sisters on stage
The Scissor Sisters' first two albums both went to number one in the UK

Flamboyant disco-pop stars The Scissor Sisters have spoken about their struggle to write a new album, four years after their last outing.

Their first two albums sold a total of three million copies in the UK and their third, Night Work, is out at the end of June.

Singer and songwriter Jake Shears explains how they came back from the brink of splitting up, why they felt "neutered" by their last album, and lifts the lid on working with Sir Ian McKellen, Kylie Minogue and Mark Ronson.

Did you take a break after the last album [Ta-Dah in 2006]?

We kind of went straight into it. We probably should have taken a longer break. We worked on a record for about a year and a half but we shelved it. We shelved it about a year ago.

We decided to start a new record from scratch last June. So this record was written very quickly.

Why did you ditch the other one?

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.

If we put out anything sub-standard, it was curtains for Scissor Sisters
Jake Shears

When did you find the right direction?

I just ran away - I left for Berlin and was there for a couple of months. I just forgot about songwriting and had a good time and let go a bit. That was the impetus for this album.

It was more about feeling like a kid again, enjoying a certain sense of anonymity and not having to answer to anyone. I was by myself, I had a fantastic time and I think the record really reflects that.

Was there pressure to start with?

Yeah, but it was pressure on ourselves. I knew this record was really important, it had to be great. If it wasn't great, if it wasn't something we could fully get behind and believe in, I think the band was going to be over. If we put out anything sub-standard, it was curtains for Scissor Sisters.

We ended in a weird spot with the last one, I felt very neutered and sexless. I felt like the band had been a bit watered down by the time we finished the last campaign and it was really important to me to get our sexiness back.

Does that mean you felt the last album was neutered?

Yeah, totally. 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.

Scissor Sisters - Night Work album cover
The photo on the album cover was taken by Robert Mapplethorpe

Did you get inspiration from clubbing in Berlin?

Er, yes. I went out all the time. I love techno music and the clubs there are amazing. I made great friends there, and just refound my love for music, going out, taking drugs, having fun and staying out till 8am.

There's an impressive pair of buttocks on the front cover - are they yours?

No, no, no. I wish. It's a ballet dancer named Peter Reed, who died in 1986. It's a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph. He represents a time period that we're drawing a lot of inspiration from on this album - the light and the darkness, the hedonism and liberation and tragedy of the 80s.

Was it a battle to get that on the cover?

Oh my God yeah, nobody wanted it. Management, band, label - everybody thought I was out of my mind. But I knew the moment I saw it that that was the album over. There's a sense of unabashed in-your-face sexuality. It's got a sense of humour, it's playful, and it looks like someone who's just been dancing their ass off. And that's what this record's about.

Sir Ian McKellen recorded a spoken-word part for the song Invisible Light - how did that come about?

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.

I hear you've also been writing for Kylie's new album...

There's just one song on there that I wrote with her and Calvin Harris called It's Too Much. I just heard it all last week and it's absolutely fantastic.

Scissor Sisters
The band are playing festivals including Glastonbury, Fuji Rock and Hultsfred

Will fans be pleased?

I think it's one of the best records she's made. It's pure Kylie and the songs put a giant smile on your face. The lead single sounds like a pulsing Dolly Parton electro anthem. It's got a very anthemic, beautiful quality to it and it's very uplifting.

And the last song is the gayest, most loved-up track that you could be off your face and fall in love with somebody on the dancefloor to. Instantly my hands go in the air when I hear it.

And have you worked on Mark Ronson's album?

Yeah, I've got a song on there, I think, that I co-wrote with him and Cathy Dennis. I think Boy George sings it, from what I understand. I think his record is going to be very different, it's unclassifiable.

You're playing Glastonbury - do you have any other live plans?

We're doing a bunch of little warm-up shows - we're going to be playing some Brixton [Academy] shows. They are just going to be sweaty. The whole album is incredibly uptempo and full of energy. The shows are going to be really musically intense and over the top and fun. People had better get ready to dance.

Jake Shears was talking to BBC News music reporter Ian Youngs.

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