Fifteen years since her breakout album She’s So Unusual, Cyndi Lauper has reinvented herself. Her remake of The Trammps’ classic “Disco Inferno” (Jellybean) and an opening slot on Cher’s high-profile summer tour have put Lauper back in the limelight – this time in the dance community.
As the Soul Solution-produced “Disco Inferno” continued to impress DJs – dub mixes are available from Boris & Beck – DJ Times caught up with Lauper, who spoke warmly of Cher, her new label and the reception she’s received from clubland.
DJ Times: How did you end up cutting “Disco Inferno”?
Lauper: It was one of my birthing songs. During the last part of my pregnancy, my husband [actor David Thornton] was in the “Last Days of Disco” and he started bringing home the music from Studio 54. It was what I was listening to. There was this idea of doing the song for the movie, but that didn’t work out. Then my manager got it into another movie [“A Night at the Roxbury”], which didn’t do very well. It was released on some compilation and then in January it was nominated for a Grammy. So we got excited and said, “Let’s put it out.” I wanted to redo the vocal and do a dance remix. Jellybean [Benitez] heard it and liked it enough to put it out on his label. I have a single deal, not an album deal.
DJ Times: How have things been with the Jellybean label?
Lauper: It’s a wonderful label. The people you work with are great – they’re all pretty genuine. That’s really different from a major label, where everyone is so inundated that they’re never really happy to see you. At Jellybean’s label, if you talk about a bridge in a song, they understand. They’re music people. I can’t work in a corporate mindset. In a corporate and rigid situation, I just feel like I’m back in Catholic school again. Which has been great with the dance stuff because in that community it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a guy, if you’re tall or short, or fat or skinny, or white or black or how old you are. In the dance community if it’s good, it’s good. We did this club in Miami and I went out dancing with the promotion guy.
DJ Times: What club did you perform at there?
Lauper: We did the Cher show and then we went over to Salvation. It was such a breath of fresh air. I did live-to-track and I brought Val along, she’s my violin player. I did “True Colors” in honor of Gay Pride Week. I sang “I’m Gonna Be Strong” a cappella. I sang “Fearless.” For “Disco Inferno” I had these dancing firemen – it was tacky and funny. I like to be outrageous. During the Cher tour, I have 45 minutes. Let’s get in; let’s get out. You don’t want to do the theatrics.
DJ Times: What about the club dates?
Lauper: You put on a different hat and go like a diva. People are so supportive. If I don’t have it together, I know some drag queen will help me. It’s great to go on tour and feel so encourag- ed…to sing and find the space within the music where it’s a little bit of heaven, a glimpse of something more than who you are. It’s very addictive – a space where anything is possible. I guess that’s what makes people dedicate their lives to an art or a craft.
DJ Times: What kind of project are you working on with Junior Vasquez?
Lauper: I wrote a song with him and I’ve been writing with Soul Solution. This is just a way to clear my head. I’m getting a body of work together and eventually I’ll know which way I’m going. I don’t want to do the same thing, although it has been a wonderful progression since I started with the loops in ’91, mixing that stuff together in ’93 and then in ’95 that style of music became really popular. That was encouraging because I knew I was right.
DJ Times: What’s it like working with Cher?
Lauper: I’m on a bill with a woman who’s been written off and put down and ignored at an Oscar – the next year she wins the Oscar. Then she comes back and has a No. 1 song. She goes away and comes back and she’s a dance diva. She’s so inspiring. The tour’s got Wild Orchid, me, and her. We’re all very different from each other and I think that makes it an interesting, fun evening. I turned it down at first. I said I had nothing to sell – but I was quite wrong. All the other stuff doesn’t matter when the music clicks and you feel that kind of joy.