The Brand New Boy George

The Brand New Boy George

Musician Boy George has released an album -- “This Is What I Do” -- is wrapping up a North American tour and is set to play a summer’s worth of music festivals throughout Europe. It’s been nearly two decades since his last full album, but the pop culture phenomenon was doing anything but quietly hanging out at home in the intervening years. He’s been a DJ for the last quarter-century, traveling much of the time, to clubs in Asia, Australia and Eastern Europe.

“The DJ world is kind of a parallel universe,” he said. “If you don’t go to clubs, you really won’t know what I’m doing or even half the music that I play.”

Boy George said his new record ended up being quite reflective, a change from his earlier music which was “a diary of my life, the dramas of my existence.”

In the early 1980s, as lead singer for the band Culture Club, he literally became successful overnight, when the single “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” became an international chart-topper. Though Boy George’s dreadlocks and over-the-top makeup arguably drew as much attention as his music, he described the fame “as a hoot” to start with.

“But then, fame gets a bit like too much cake,” he said. “There’s only so much cake you can eat. It’s not like a normal existence at all. I’ve always wanted the kind of fame that comes with an off button.”

These days, Boy George finds he can easily do that, saying “I can pretty much disappear” when he removes his makeup, and wears a beanie or hoodie.

Now 52, he said he has mellowed considerably over the years as well. And he’s been sober for six years.

“The difference between me now and back then is that I wasn’t able to see myself at all,” he said. “As you get older, in my case I find that when I behave badly, it’s almost like I’m watching myself so I can’t quite get away with it. I think I’ve become much more aware of my behavior.”

He continued: “It’s a lot easier to be nice. It takes a lot more effort to be a mean person.”

ABC News' James Duran and Brian Fudge contributed to this episode.