More than anybody since perhaps Marilyn Manson or Madonna, Jeffrey Lynn Steininger, more famously known as Jeffree Star, has ascended from musician to brand with a combination of darkly seductive charisma and titillating shock value.
You can add runway model, make-up artist, DJ, clothing designer, songwriter and performer to Jeffree Star’s resume, but it all comes back to one truth: To paraphrase Jay-Z, this Orange County native ain’t a businessman, he’s a business, man.
The Jeffree Star brand bloomed on MySpace during the social networking site’s reign as social media king. He had a million friends and was named the most connected MySpace personality in 2006. He currently has a combined quarter-million followers between Facebook and Twitter.
Star self-released his debut album, Beauty Killer, last September on his Popsicle Records label. Following a successful Warped Tour run last summer, Star is currently on the road with Brokencyde and Blood On The Dance Floor. We spoke with Jeffree Starr in Austin about kicking out band members, tasing people in public, collaborating on hip hip projects and what he thinks about being the Web 2.0 generation’s Marilyn Manson.
So, what do you do when you’re in Austin?
Jeffree Star: Usually, we don’t have that many days off, so I just like to find the malls and go shopping. The hotels usually have pools, so I’ll go swimming as well.
Do you always look like “Jeffree Star” when you go out and do those things?
Jeffree Star: Normally, yes. When it’s hot out I don’t wear tons of make-up.
Do you get recognized in public these days?
Jeffree Star: Oh yeah, everywhere I go. The mall is really crazy. It’s usually like really young girls that recognize me the most.
We just got wind of you last year at Warped Tour. I understand that was your second Warped Tour.
Jeffree Star: Yeah, the first year I did it, I only did like seven dates. Last year I did way more.
So how is your life different now after doing a full Warped Tour last year?
Jeffree Star: I hadn’t done that many tours before, so it really puts you to the test. I fired every band member after that. People are crazy. I’ve been through eight band members now.
So how do you go about choosing a backing band?
Jeffree Star: At first, I just had an iPod with backup dancers. I got offered to play Bamboozle in 2007 and was told I needed a band, which I thought was really strange, but whatever. Back then I just asked my friends to do it and then I met people through them, but I just kept going through people.
Why is it so difficult for you to keep band members?
Jeffree Star: It’s just really hard on the road. I don’t drink or do anything. I’m actually kind of boring. I just have to deal with alcoholics and crazy people all the time. It gets pretty old fast.
You expect me and everyone reading this to believe you are boring?
Jeffree Star: I’m all about business, usually, but of course I like to go out and have fun. The other night I punched a girl and threw drinks everywhere. That’s just what happens if people are going to talk shit. I just like to go out dancing. I don’t drink alcohol, so it is hard for me to deal with band members that drink their ass off everyday. They just end up getting wasted and throw up everywhere.
So how did you put together the backing band that you have now?
Jeffree Star: Well, the drummer doesn’t drink. The guitar player is cool. I fired my keyboard player after Europe. He threw up everywhere one night and was, like, blacked-out drunk. He started shaving his pubic hair in front of 14 year olds with his dick out. That’s disgusting and obviously illegal, so he had to go. I couldn’t deal with that anymore.
Speaking of crazy, I’ve heard some talk about some pretty crazy things you were involved in at Warped Tour. Is there any truth to some of the rumors?
Jeffree Star: I don’t know, maybe. What did you hear?
Did you really taser a guy?
Jeffree Star: Yeah. I just think that not enough people stick up for themselves. People seem to think they can get away with more shit maybe because of the way I look or because I’m gay; I don’t know what the fuck. So I just set an example and that was like the fourth day. This kid kept squirting me with water in my face while I was doing a signing. There was like a thousand people there so I chased him down, tased him to the floor and beat his ass. The cops made him apologize to me. It was pretty funny. Everyday after that Warped Tour they gave me security guards.
Did that sort of harassment occur regularly on Warped Tour or was that an isolated incident?
Jeffree Star: Usually no one starts anything and I got a lot of respect. It was a really good experience. I made a lot of money. My fans are really dedicated.
Did you go by van or did you have a charter bus?
Jeffree Star: By bus. I don’t know how some bands do it by van. Like normal touring is whatever, but Warped is crazy.
So besides stints on the Warped Tour, what do you think is drawing in new fans or interest to you?
Jeffree Star: I think my music has developed a lot. I take my music more serious now and people get that. Now I’m doing more real tours and music videos, stuff like that.
What do you mean when you say “real tours?”
Jeffree Star: Like before, I would just do one-offs. Now I’m doing a lot more dates than before.
You seemed to have meshed well with Brokencyde’s audience well from what I read.
Jeffree Star: Yeah, we fit well together. It’s just hard to place bands like me and them. A lot of people are not ready to take risks, it seems, with a lot of these acts so it gets really frustrating.
What would you give to people then, who aren’t familiar with you at as a first impression? Which song, video, album, etc and why?
Jeffree Star: I would just give my new album because all the old shit was just like me fucking around and being funny. I mean I really didn’t take it serious until the first album came out. Then it became legit for me.
This is all through your own label?
Jeffree Star: It’s through Atlantic Records. They give me funding and I get to do what I want and make more money than a lot of artists, so it’s pretty cool.
Was that surprising to you that a major label would do that for you?
Jeffree Star: They saw my vision. I had a lot of meetings with people. I already had this little empire, making money on my own merchandise and all that other stuff. I didn’t want to sign a contract like these other bands that have 360 deals. They are just selling their lives. For me, I had a built-in audience which was easier than starting from scratch where no one knows who you are.
What new music are you currently working on and when can people expect it to be released?
Jeffree Star: I am working on new music to see what direction I want to take. I am going to put out a few singles throughout the summer and fall to see how it goes. I have more touring planned after this one. I am working with a new rap artist that Gucci Mane just signed named Muffy and she’s really legit. We have a new song coming out called “The Size of Your Boat.” We are performing it in Atlanta for the first time. No one has ever heard the song yet, so I’m pretty excited. It will be in iTunes and we might do a video. We’ll see.
Musically, what are you looking to do differently this time around that you haven’t done yet?
Jeffree Star: Maybe a country album? [laughs] I’m only kidding. I do like to listen to a lot of hip hop, so I’d like infuse together some of those elements. I think it’s kind of cool to mix the dance world, looking the way I do and working with hip hop artists. It’s really never been done before.
Are you thinking about changing anything about your appearance as you progress and come out with new music?
Jeffree Star: I did cut off my hair recently. It’s shorter now and I look like I’m a lesbian, like Tegan and Sara. I was thinking about experimenting with purple hair, but we’ll see.
I saw a couple mentions of you and Pink in the same sentence. I don’t see it, but I assume it’s because of your hair.
Jeffree Star: That’s fucking annoying. I don’t look like a fucking dirty lesbian, but yeah I’ve heard that.
While we are on the subject of comparisons, one I have not read or found about you is Marilyn Manson. The last time someone pissed off or scared people this much was when he first came out. Now you seem to be the one people are scared of or whose looks piss off old people the way he once did. Would it be accurate to call you this generation’s Marilyn Manson?
Jeffree Star: He really had a good thing going and he kind of ruined it. He got too obsessed with reading about what other people had to say about him and all that kind of shit. I think a lot of times, people get too caught up in what people expect out of them. I just don’t think anyone wants to take risks anymore.
No one takes risks? Can you elaborate on that?
Jeffree Star: Last year on Warped Tour, most of those bands had the same guitar moves, same shitty haircuts and gross neon shirts. It’s all the same contrived bullshit to me. Where are the people that are willing to say “fuck you” and make art, just have fun and enjoy it?
In my opinion, you and bands like Brokencyde are doing what punk rock did when it first came out.
Jeffree Star: Oh my God, exactly. People talk shit about them and Blood On The Dance Floor. Who cares about the way they look? A lot of people say their lyrics are dumb or think their music is shitty? They say the same shit about me, but at least they are having fun, making money and touring. I respect them a lot.
So outside of music, what are you looking to accomplish? I know you have your hands in other area like being a make-up artist and such.
Jeffree Star: I want to expand on my clothing line. We are going into stores in Europe now. We just got back from our European tour and it was so big. Me and Brokencyde combined put on a really good tour. It was mostly all sold out. I also want to expand and get my album out in other countries.
Word on the street is that you are working on getting a TV show?
Jeffree Star: I’m shopping around a reality show right now. I always have great ideas, but it just takes longer to execute them than people want.
When are you getting your next tattoo? What is going to be?
Jeffree Star: When I get home. I do get funny tour tattoos on the road. If it is something legit, then I have my artist in California do it. Last summer on Warped Tour, the bus driver drew a bus on my leg and I got that tattooed. You know, just some funny shit. I have like a yearbook leg, all my friends names are on it.
Before we wrap up, I just wanted to address another rumor about you being pregnant. Who is your baby daddy?
Jeffree Star: I have too many to name. The other night, this guy came to hang out and he had a one year old he had to drop off to his ex-wife before coming back to hook up with me. That was pretty fun. I do like those prison guys that carry guns. I don’t hang out with gay people really. Most gay guys are like women, they’re fucking annoying. There is so much drama and cattiness. I stick with the “bros.”