It was a moment of truth that Scissor Sisters’ Babydaddy won’t soon forget.
With band vocalists and co-writers Jake Shears and Ana Matronic, the multi-instrumentalist — born Scott Hoffman — had spent 18 grueling months composing a third record, the followup to 2006’s Elton John-assisted “Ta-Dah.”
So who better to judge the work than Sir Elton himself, Babydaddy reasoned? This is how he found himself at John’s home in Atlanta last year, squirming in his seat as they listened to an album’s worth of demos together. Twice.
His benefactor was, to put it mildly, unamused.
“I wanted to get feedback on where things were going,” says Babydaddy, who brings Scissor Sisters to the Bay Area on Sunday. “And I kind of knew. I knew that Elton was going to have a lukewarm reaction, and I knew he was going to kick our asses into shape. And that’s what he’s good at — he doesn’t like to lie to the people he loves. So the first thing he said was, ‘Do you want the truth?’ And that sinking feeling I had at the time was more of a general feeling that we were just not finding our way.”
That was all Babydaddy needed to hear.
He scrapped the entire session, insisted that the overworked Shears take a break and gave serious thought to John’s advice — that what the formerly self-engineered Scissor Sisters really needed was an outside producer.
On R & R in Berlin, Shears met the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, who suggested their concert director, Stuart Price, as a possible producer.
“We’d actually known Stuart for years, because he did our first-ever tour of the U.K.,” says Babydaddy, 34. “It was serendipitous.”
With Price’s objective ear, Scissor Sisters got their groove back on the new “Night Work,” in trashy dance-floor percolators such as “Skin Tight” and “Harder You Get.”
Even the album’s cover is risqué — a Robert Mapplethorpe close-up of a male ballet dancer’s buttocks. “It’s a very sexy photo, but it also comes loaded with history and sadness because the dancer is no longer alive — he died of AIDS,” says New Yorker Babydaddy. “And Mapplethorpe himself represents a time for us, a time full of debauchery and sexual freedom, things that came at a price.”
He waited nervously while John previewed — then approved — “Night Work.”
“The only comment he had was, ‘Change the cover because you’re not going to get this album to everyone who should be hearing it,’” Babydaddy says. “But this record wasn’t about placating people. It was about us being us!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Contact: (800) 745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com