Interview: Ricky Rebel on Being Closeted in a Boy Band, Gay Musicians and Being the "New Alpha" Star
It hasn't always been easy being gay in the music industry. Though the likes of Sam Smith, Frank Ocean and even Lance Bass have made the transition easier for new stars, for dance artist Ricky Rebel, there have been more than a few slammed doors in his face.
In speaking exclusively to Music Times, Rebel opened up about his days as a closeted boy band member in the group No Authority, best known for its kitschy single "Can I Get Your Number."
"I was living the life of a pop star doing tons of press and radio interviews and shows and it was the craziest time of my life. There was lots of traveling, our schedule was insane. We would get up at 3 in the morning, catch a plane, jet off to a new town, do tons of radio interviews, perform that night for screaming girls," Rebel said.
But, underneath there was a slew of self-doubt and insecurity swelling for Rebel, then known as Ric Felix. "I was really nervous if I ever came out and said I was bisexual that they would kick us off the label. So that was a big thing looming over my head and it was hard to go through," he said.
After the swell of '90s boy bands settled down, No Authority disbanded, leaving Rebel as a gay man in a ruthlessly cruel industry. "I got a lot of doors slammed in my face. I had people tell me if only you weren't gay, you would make it," he said. "I've had a producer tell me that I'm going to hell for being gay."
But, he trudged on in the music industry. After experimenting with different styles of music, Felix was reborn as Ricky Rebel. After working with the likes of Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Rebel struggled to find his own sound, going into a "scientist lab" of sorts in the studio. "It took me a minute to cultivate my own sound and persona and kind of come into my own confidence. When I first started making music, I was like, 'Well this isn't as good as Rodney Jerkins so why am I even making it?'"
Eventually, Rebel was inspired by his friend Adam Lambert and the Los Angeles clubbing scene to make new music. Before EDM broke into the mainstream, Rebel was all about the dance music life, which he injected into his 2011 Manipulator. The boom of EDM and dance music makes him feel more at home in a 2015 musical landscape, which is captured by Rebel's most recent effort The Blue Album.
Unlike a lot of dance music, Rebel injects his personal experiences into his music. A The Blue Album highlight comes via "Rebel the Darkness," wherein Rebel chants "Don't be gay. Listen to what I say." It brings to mind his days in No Authority and almost reads as a letter from Ricky, to Ricky.
Rebel also touches on his aspirations and life in his new single "Star," which arrived complete with a remix EP. Bringing in old school '90s dance music, Rebel sings about his sky-high aspirations. "I said I want the same thing I wanted as child: I wanna be a star. Later on, I added the tagline I am a star, because I believe its very important we project to the universe, proclaim to the universe who we are that we create that in our reality," Rebel said.
And though he's a star on the rise, the music industry still looks like an uphill battle for Rebel, who wants to bring gay culture into the mainstream.
"I think that a lot of the male gay artists are out right now are still in what I call a 'straight jacket,' that they are forced, or even self-made, if it's a self-choice, they're acting in a straight manner and they're not really expressing themselves in a sexually expressive way," Rebel said. But he's here to be the new alpha, "a man who is solely realized, who's comfortable with masculine energy and the feminine side." And with a powerful persona and the right tunes, he may just be the right "Star" to do it.