Posts Tagged ‘Leigh Bowery’

Jeffrey Hinton

In a time when club spaces (and with them, overlooked communities) are disappearing before our eyes, Club Vada promoters Hannah Holland and Cathal O’brien are seeking to preserve queer culture and history, and share them with a new generation. As well as booking DJs who made their names in iconic queer parties of the past, at every party they present a special guest artist, performer or cultural figure to present their piece of LGBT history before the party kicks off. For their upcoming party, they welcome prolific videographer, film maker and archivist, Jeffrey Hinton whose work is focused on underground subcultures, spanning decades between London and New York city. We caught up with Jeffrey to chat a bit about his past work, current collaborations and plans for the future.

Hi Jeffrey! We are absolutely thrilled to have you join us for a pre-party show at Club Vada! Can you tell us a bit about your relationship to promoters Hannah Holland and Cathal? 

Well that’s all a kind of club blur! But Hannah and Cathal are great energies and I love what they do, we share lots of the same interests for sure.

How did you first get started as a videographer and filmmaker?

I started recording things on a reel to reel tape recorder age eight, and wanted to mess it up, so hot wired the sound through the speaker outputs on the hifi and fed it back over records and the radio (early mixing). All ways of capturing the world fascinate me, visual and sound. Then experimenting with any tech I can get my hands on and usually doing it all wrong as I have no training but I like the fucked up bits.

How have you watched the gay scene in London change over the years? 

Yes, I’ve seen lots of changes around the world but I like change!  Patterns do emerge if you’ve been around a while like me.

If you could change one thing about the LGBT+ club scene, what would it be?

Stop complaining too much or being inward thinking and get on with action (despite the obvious issues). Mind you that applies to everything. I like people to get more active and visually out there rather than behind a computer (like I’m feeling right now!!)

You collaborated a few years ago with the V&A for their Club to Catwalk exhibition; can you tell us a bit about that project?

That came a bit out of the blue as I went in for a meeting and thought I was just advising them but then they said, “We’re building you a room and want you to fill it with your films and music!” So I did!

As an observer of subcultures and the queer underground, where do you see things developing in the next few years?

We live in such media saturation all regurgitating questions till we’re numb!

The world has shifted a lot but still fails to resolve most old issues. The big rise in controlling right wing powers directly affect us all and especially any queer underground.  But I see lots of cracks are appearing and that’s always been a good time for underground activity!

2016 has been one hell of a year in terms of losing some amazing counter-cultural icons. Among all this loss, what has been a highlight for you?

I’m pretty amazed I’m still on the planet!

Who have been some of the most inspiring people you have collaborated with?

That is a never-ending list all for different reasons. I’m so lucky to know and work with amazing people – it’s why I love being alive.

 I will mention Andy Butler (Hercules and Love Affair) – I love working on ideas with him, he’s a big joy for me.  

Do you have any exciting projects in the works that you can let us in on?

From 28 November I have a big video installation running for two months covering the ceiling at BISTHROTHEQUE called Big Sky. It features clips and moments from my films covering three decades all wafting around a sky ambiance.

Then next year I’m working on a completely immersed sound and visual installation that I’m also designing the interior for and want to tour. Also I’m developing a play (never done that before!)

I’m very excited so look out for details.

Can you give us a sneak peek of what you have planned for Club Vada?

I’m screening my film Scratch Bowery that hasn’t been shown in this country.

It’s my homage cut up video to Leigh Bowery and the life that we shared including some of my visuals from the club Taboo. Then I’m talking to Max Allan about the visual side of queer language… well along those lines but were known to digress!!

 Leigh Bowery


Catch Jeffrey Hinton’s pre-club film screening & discussion with Max Allen at Club Vada from 9pm on Saturday 26 November at Dalston Superstore.

 

Club Vada

Iconic DJ, producer and true legend of the East London scene Hannah Holland has joined forces with prolific photographer, videographer and DJ Cathal O’Brien to create a new club night which is sure to send ripples through the gay clubbing scene. Having seen through thirteen years of parties together, the friends and artistic collaborators are no stranger to putting on innovative club nights, and their latest project is Club Vada. They caught up to chat about early club experiences, their history, and the inspiration for Club Vada!

Hannah: When it came to the inspiration for my own parties, the club that really blew my mind was Nag Nag Nag, at (former) The Ghetto. That’s where you would meet some very interesting club kids –  I guess it was the era’s Taboo club.  There was also Bodyrockers at Cynthia’s Robot Bar, with a music fusion of Detroit electro, techno, house and punk. Metalheadz at The Blue Note, was next level, pure energy and bass, with a proper mixed bag of London music lovers. 

nag nag nag

Nag Nag Nag

metalheadz

Metalheadz

Cathal:  I loved Nag Nag Nag and other infamous London club nights with strict  door whores and strong looks – I remember you had to get past Cormac on the door in his Air force Pilot jumpsuit first  –  I remember thinking it  was like the scene filmed at Danceteria  from Desperately Seeking Susan. 

Hannah: Boys AND girls mixed, with a common motive for the music, the vibe and the people. It was very creative. One thing that I find sad now is many gay clubs are 90% men, obviously there’s a desire/need for that in gay clubland, but Dalston Superstore is a great space for both to unite. Thats definitely something that’s always been very important to me – at clubs I’ve been involved in, people come from all different walks of life and genders, with the right attitude.

Cathal: Characters you mention like Steve Strange, Leigh Bowery, Jeffery Hinton, Marilyn, Princess Julia showed us it is possible to have this life, to have a story, to have a community to contribute to and maintain. And they look great! This amazing history needs to be fostered – there are stories that need to be passed down and heard! I think that’s something we both want to facilitate right?

img-ozp-legendofleighbowery-hero

HannahAbsolutely. They are important moments in underground London, and I love the fact that it’s a talented artist like yourself recording, often it’s only the press version that gets told. 

Cathal: My heroes are artists who also ran there own club spaces and were involved with nightlife, Basquiat with his band Gray at Area, John Sex, Kenny Scharf and  Keith Haring at Club 57 – all peddling their own flyers and fanzines, transforming the spaces, getting their work seen immediately by an audience. I’ve really enjoyed pulling the artwork together for Club Vada.  –  its a no brainer to run a night where you have your work/ films playing on the walls, branding the night, designing flyers –  its all curation to me. Hannah, what made you start doing parties ?

After a few years of being resident of the infamous TRAILER TRASH (co-promoted by Superstore owner Matt Tucker, one of the clubs that kickstarted the Shoreditch scene mid 2000s), I met Mama, and joined forces to start Batty Bass along with Alex Noble. We really went to town with our imaginations. Mama came from a punk background, Alex’s art and my eclectic music focusing on bass, we mixed live vocals (and instruments sometimes) with DJ sets, Alex’s visual universe and built a loyal following. The party lasted about seven years, outgrew its spiritual home and went into warehouses. By that time we started to move out of London and back and we called it a day. It was still some of the most amazing times I’ve had as a promoter and DJ. 

Cathal: Its your Batty Bass label’s ten year anniversary – how are you celebrating it? 

Hannah: Yeah, the club started in 2006 and the record label soon after, we’re releasing music again after a little break and celebrating by getting the family back together in sound – Josh Caffe, Mama, The Carry Nation, Alex Noble and more.

Cathal: Wicked ! 
              
Hannah: Has your work always been inspired by people you’ve met in these places?

Cathal:  I primarily make portraits, photographically and in short film – I love the challenge of getting someone down on film in a way that they want to be seen and how I see them in that moment. I really returned to this thinking with the party i run with Bica, Clam Jam. Every week I took pictures of an amazing new breed of queer women – I’m archiving it all now. I want to make a book. I don’t think its evident how important this group of women are just yet, it’s a really exciting time and I felt a responsibility to record a part of it. I’m going to be taking photographs at Club Vada as well of course! I don’t want to miss it. I wanna see strong looks!

 Hannah: One of my favourite places in the early 2000s was Sundays at The George and Dragon, with Jonjo Jury on the decks. He would expertly move through the very best of queer heritage. Can’t wait to have him work his magic upstairs for Vada. Also Elles is one of my favourite East End DJs right now, she has amazing taste and a great vibe.
 
Cathal: I can’t wait to have that ‘Lovely Jonjo’  element upstairs for the first Vada. I’ve always loved what Jonjo plays – from when he played at Trash to when I remember him playing Saint Etienne at the pre-refurbished Red Lion pub round the back of Hoxton Square. 

Your tracks have consistently sampled gay icons who all made a big difference to the nightlife of their time. You’re releasing a new track – who have you sampled this time ? Does it have a name yet ?

Hannah: My new track is called Diva Bern and samples the diva legend that is Sandra Bernhard. I know we both love a bit of Sandra, I can get lost in her interviews on youtube for hours.
 


Cathal: Club Vada will be our London residency for both of us – our base – you’ve been playing a lot around Europe –  You played at the now legendary ongoing club space Berghain – was that a goal from when you lived out there? How did you find it ?

Hannah: It was always my greatest dream to play there.  I did face up to myself years ago, when I lived there, that it was never going to happen, and I was ok with that! Then… came the phone call. Put it this way, I’ve never been so excited or nervous in my life – for a good two month lead up. Couldn’t have asked for the gig to go better. Dear friends were there, we had an opening of the shutters moment… It was very intense. I also got to play in the garden with Cormac, another East End diamond, on another occasion, that was so much fun.

Cathal: So we’ve gone all Polari with the name of the night, I’ll let you explain how that came about Hannah.

Hannah: Vada comes from the gay London slang language Polari, I first heard it in a track by the The Weebles ft. Princess Julia called Moist Womanly Needs – “Vada girl, Vada”

Cathal: When you start looking into it you realise many of the slang words have trickled down into mainstream vernacular.

Hannah: Then Lavinia Co-op introduced me to it first though a really amazing show.

Cathal: I had heard about Lavinia originally related to New York and I have many questions myself, stories I want to hear – Lavinia has given me some prose which mixes Polari and cockney slang which I will put into in the fanzine we’re making to hand out – it all relates to the talk she is giving on the night.

lavinia-co-op

Lavinia Co-op

Hannah: Lavinia has been through seventies gay liberation and been part of the fight to make it possible to have these nights and freedoms we all enjoy today. 

She was around the time that gay people had their own language, not because of shows like Ru Pauls Drag Race, but because they had to!  A secret code, Polari is a fascinating underground private slang, cockney rhyming for the queens. We’re honoured to have Lavinia do her show and have a chat with Max Allen before the party kicks off! Max will then be hosting the evening, and we will be screening the short film shot by Cathal that he stars in.

Club Vada will be all about lost in the music moments, we’ve got some quality DJs lined up for the rest of the year and next. For our launch I’ll be getting into the wormholes of house techno and beyond for a 5hr set.


Catch Hannah Holland and Cathal at the debut of Club Vada on Saturday 24 September from 9pm-3am at Dalston Superstore! Lavinia Co-op show and panel downstairs from 9pm.

Lewis G Burton

Brand new night Inferno takes over both floors of Superstore this Friday! The brainchild of club kids Lewis G Burton and Sebastian Bartz (aka Venice Calypso), the duo will be hosting a floor each with Sebastian in the basement playing techno, and Lewis holding court upstairs playing pop and flanked by east London’s IT drag queens. Ahead of the party we caught up with Lewis to find out more about what to expect

Okay we have to talk about the chicken suit first. How did that idea come into its frankly a bit nightmarish reality?

It’s a project I worked on with my friend Victor Ivanov, through coincidence we ended up being in three exhibitions with a month. During the final exhibition (Platform Six) we talked about making a mask out of chicken skin as an experiment to see how it would look. It turned out very well and we thought ‘fuck it’ lets do the full body. After a six month grueling process of Victor sewing chicken skins onto my body FLESH was born.

How did you feel about the press furore over it? You had publications like The Daily Mail and The Mirror all writing about it…

We carefully orchestrated everything so it would go viral. It was an intended part of the piece to create an online dialogue so the public who would not normally be exposed to art (especially art that’s quite extreme) and see what conversations would arrive. If anything I couldn’t help but laugh at all of the comments that were being made, Victor and myself would call and text each other funny slurs written about us. But there was around 1 in every 10 people who would get it and engage with the piece and actually figured out what it was about which obviously made us happy that we were doing something right! 

Photo by Victor Ivanov

What made you want to get into drag and performance art?

I always admired people like Grace Jones and Leigh Bowery and it fascinated me how they used there body and gender so fluidly. So one day I thought I’m going to move to London and try doing this myself. Performance Art seemed a natural route for my work as I was performing to a camera to take photos, I remember being 18 at college and making this fake vagina and doing a photo shoot. Best. Day. Ever.

My favorite artists are ORLAN, Franko B and Günter Brus. They all have extreme relationships with their bodies that I like and can relate to. I also adore drag culture and have so much love for Divine and what I love about her is how she became a grotesque caricature of what drag was back then. I wouldn’t class myself as a drag queen although there is a lot of influence from drag culture; it’s why I’m always Lewis G. Burton.   

What draws you to the grotesque?

I think the grotesque is very subjective in the same way that beauty is. I just think there’s something really beautiful, raw and organic about the grotesque.

How did your series of nights CULT come into being?

I became bored and jaded with what was going on already so I wanted to do something different with CULT. I wanted to create a platform for the next generation of performers, musicians, drag queens, freaks and misfits to give them a voice and a stage to act on.

What outside of music and performance art inspires your work?

My friends and the community.

What is INFERNO?

INFERNO is the collaboration between Sebastian Bartz (Venice Calypso) and myself. We wanted to curate a night of fun and debauchery that would leave a pleasant taste in everyone’s mouth. It’s going to be the marriage of the good, the bad and the ugly. Highbrow art and lowbrow drag. Pop with techno.

If you had a time machine and could visit any dance floor anywhere/anywhen when would you want to go dancing?

Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory!

What can we expect from this Friday night?

Eight drag queens dancing on the bar.  The dirtiest, darkest techno. A very drunk Smiley Vyrus. A man walking around with an iPad on his head. And Britney.

If you were mentoring a young queen in the art of East London nightlife what one piece of indispensible advice would you give out?

Don’t listen to me! Hahaha!

Join Lewis this Friday 27th February for Inferno at Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 3am.

Meet Princess Julia

By Martyn Fitzgerald 

London legend Princess Julia joins us this Saturday night for homosocial, Bender. From being part of the famed Blitz kids, to resident DJ at Kinky Gerlinky, Julia has gone from being at the centre of London’s underground scenes, to a leading fashion and gay icon in her own right. Ahead of the party she took Bender’s very own Martyn Fitzgerald through her personal dancefloor history…

So who christened you Princess Julia?

Oh that old chestnut!  Well, I used to do the door at the Wag club back in… er, 1981, the manager Alan called me ‘Princess’ every evening I arrived to work. I imagine he called all the girls Princess in reality though!  That’s where the idea came from but I didn’t call myself Princess Julia in the early 80s, that happened when I started DJing at the Daisy Chain at the Fridge in Brixton in 1986 which was run by Trindy Aurora (Jimmy Fox).  Jeffrey Hinton and Mark Lawrence, were the resident dj’s and I used to do the warm up. One week for fun we thought we’d give ourselves ‘proper’ DJ names as we noticed all the ‘crucial’ DJs had tag names.  So we renamed ourselves… Jeffrey Mmmmm (Taste Of Sugar), Mark ‘Fancy Pants’ Lawrence and I became Miss Princess Julia and it just kinda stuck drooping the ‘Miss’ bit though!  It started as a piss take really.  Daisy Chain was amazing by the way, we even had Eartha Kitt on there, Marc Almond, early days Take That along with go go boys, light shows and it happened every Tuesday!

So when did your clubbing career begin?

Which era would you like to start… mid-seventies?  I’d go to gay clubs like Bang on a Monday night at the Sundown, 157 Charing Cross Road, which had a light up dance floor. The legendary Tallulah DJ’d there, total disco on a Monday night… we always called it  hairdressing night, but I think that’s because I was a hairdresser at the time! Other clubs were Legends, Embassy Club (where Sylvester shot the Mighty Real video) on a Sunday night.  In ’78 Club For Heroes started at Billy’s, it was the beginning of the New Romantic era, it soon moved to the Blitz and later we became known as the Blitz Kids. 

princess julia - 1978 At Billy's by Nicola Tyson

By Nicola Tyson (1978)

But in my earlier days of clubbing I’d go to punk clubs and gigs and then of course gay discos such as the Sombrero situated on Kensington High Street, Louise’s, and bars and clubs in Earls Court such as Boltons, even the Coleherne… even though it was ‘men only’ leather man pub. In the early ’80s and after the Blitz finished I did the door as a cashier lady of the newly opened Wag club that was run by Chris Sullivan and opened in 1981.  It was integral for bringing through new music of the time. There were break dancing competitions and performers, as well as legendary DJ’s who still DJ today such as Fat Tony! I remember Sade doing an early gig down there and of course house band Blue Rondo A La Turk. It was very community based in a way. I started playing at fashion designer Steven Linard’s club Total Fashion Victims in 1982. The  Wag was seminal and I regularly worked at the rare groove night Black Market that René and Barrie K Sharpe ran. René also owned the record shop by the same name whilst being a hairdresser for Bananarama. As a testament to the Wag it lasted for over twenty years and was one of the gateways to the clubbing scene we have today.  

And what kind of music were you playing when you first DJ’d?

A mixture of hi-NRG, disco and the ‘house’ that was just beginning to come through. This was at the Daisy Chain at The Fridge in Brixton with  Mark Lawrence and Jeffrey Hinton were very inventive and used to pre-mix cassette tapes overdubbed with sound effects. Technology was limited in those days; we only played from vinyl, so the idea of having these custom made cassette tapes spliced together was totally cutting edge.  

But the DJing really took off for you?

Yeah, it did. I didn’t really do it officially until ’86. There was an idea of the ‘bedroom DJ’.  Back then there were no laws around sampling so everyone was making their own records. I used to go to Black Market and Groove Records and of course the Trax record shop owned by affectionately named Tricky Dicky in Soho to get hold of the US and European imports that were coming in from Strictly Rhythm, Trax and our own home grown labels. To me they were disco with a twist and because they were so lo-fi, they a had real DIY element, some were pressed on recycled plastic and were so cranky that really added to their charm. There was this idea of making your own records where you get a dubplate pressed and go DJ with it a few times before they became worn out. We could produce our own music which was totally new, we all became vinyl train spotters. Jeffrey (Hinton) had a little four track (I lived with him and Stephen Jones the milliner at this time) and he’d record everything on cassette tapes and splice up the tapes and sellotape them back together. The ‘Summer of Love’ arrived around this time. Newcomers to the London club scene were good at branding themselves and they started to book me for their parties both in London and across the UK which weren’t strictly gay although there was some cross over.  Because of the nature of ‘house’ and its roots in the US, clubs like Shelter, The Paradise Garage, the Sound Factory,  DJ’s like Larry Levan, Masters At Work and Frankie Knuckles… to the guys on the straight scene over here these people were gods and rightly so.  The straight scene here really looked to the gay scene over in the USA for inspiration. Somehow my DJ career took off, much to my amusement, and I was a regular at Ministry of Sound playing with many of the legendary DJ’s of the day.  

So how did ‘house’ arrive over here? Was it this explosion of a new sound?

No not really. I remember in ’86 me and Kate Garner going to Fred’s in Soho, a tiny basement space, it was a midweek night and we arrived to Frankie Knuckles playing! We both said, “This is the next big thing.”  I mean, ‘house’ was akin to disco and used many samples from disco, Knuckles’ style was more soulful with a vocal gospel slant than the more brutal house sounds that were also being produced then.  To me ‘house’ was another form of disco just put together in a more progressive fashion with the technology that was becoming available.  It was easier to mix as well being produced digitally rather than early disco which was often produced in real time.  House music gradually came through, no one who booked me would say they wanted house specifically.  I’d play a mixture of disco, house and hi-NRG in those days.  

princess julia by Mike Owen 1987

By Mike Owen (1987)

So… Kinky Gerlinky.  You were a resident.  How did that come about and what was it like?

Oh right, so basically I was doing Daisy Chain and also I was resident DJ at Patrick Lilley’s Queer Nation with Luke Howard, we were the original DJ’s there at the Gardening Club. We did it on a Sunday night. We wanted to hone in on the more soulful and vocal side of house. We’d have guest PA’s: Barbara Tucker, Kym Mazelle, Ultra Nate, Candy J… this was the Ministry of Sound days so they’d have these names on the Saturday and they’d come to us on the Sunday. On bank holiday Sundays we’d have Norman Jay down and there was a door to the Hard Rock Café next door and we’d take that over too. Anyway, back to Kinky Gerlinky, around this time I worked in a shop called World with Martin Confusion and Roy Brown. We used to sell the Spectrum and Shoom merchandise and the owners Michael and Gerlinde Costiff, who were good friends with New York club promoter Susanne Bartsch, decided to do their own night.  I think Bartsch’s influence was that it would be a ‘ball’ rather than a club night and they started Kinky Gerlinky at Legends. I was the resident with Martin Confusion and Rachel Auburn who used to also sell her clothes in the shop. It was a big success and we soon moved to the old Empire Leicester Square – which was HUGE. It was amazing. It was really cavernous but it had a rotating stage and a catwalk which was great for the ball angle.  It really inspired people to do drag, the least likely people would rock up in drag… looking back maybe it wasn’t so unlikely.  

princess julia at Kinky Gerlinky 1992

At Kinky Gerlinky (1992)

And do you think this was a revival of the dressing up in the early 80’s?  Was it a bit more dress down in the early house period?

Well there’s a timeline here for dressing up in London nightclubs. I would say it started with Punk, to Blitz and the New Romantic look, Cha Cha’s and things that went on in Heaven and the Soundshaft  and onto Taboo. But the early ‘house’ scene over here as I said, was quite straight which we always thought funny given where it had come from… NYC’s gay discos! I mean there was Shoom, which was more inclusive and we integrated there, the whole dressing up thing at this time was also tied in with the Euro disco thing, you know, being on holiday in Ibiza. And then of course there was a great clubbing conversation with New York and clubs such as Danceteria and Area. A lot of people imagine the rave scene to be really dressed down but it wasn’t. You know, it was a very thought out look, if you look at The Face and i-D from there people planned their outfits. DM’s with the toe cut out, ‘hard times’ and rockabilly looks, the street style you found at Phillip Salon’s night the Mud Club which started in the early ’80s and carried on through the decade where everyone was dressed in their own individual style.

The rave scene in a sense brought in a casual but thought out approach to dressing. I did have a bit of a dressed down moment… briefly, my idea of dressing down was wearing trainers! But never for Kinky Gerlinky. The whole designer thing came in then too: tags and logo’s became a look of their own. When I worked in World in the late ’80s we’d stock MCM rip-off track suits and bum bags, the massive gold jewellery and stuff from NYC’s 14th Street mixed with original Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and London club t-shirts such as Schoom and Spectrum as well as our own brand World t-shirts. Neneh Cherry often borrowed stuff for her videos styled by Judy Blame mixing it all up with his own jewellry created from ‘ready mades’. It was all dress up, it was also Thatcher’s Britain so some people had a bit of money, and if they didn’t they could still customize their outfits. 

princess julia early 00s photo by William baker

By William Baker (early 00s)

London doesn’t really have those big nights with big personalities any more.

I disagree with you there, big clubs and events are hard, a lot of hard work to put on, but they do happen.  Even if you do one every now and again, it’s hard. And as for personalities, well look around you, everyone you know is a personality, especially in our world. The ’90s was the era of the ‘superclub’, and I actually think there is more diversity now. Possibly because we’re better informed through social media and knowing what’s going on. Also the spaces have changed, they’re more multifunctional now. Places have to be ever more inventive. Look at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, it’s brilliant. We’ve got very used to going to places where there’s a lot of colour: people dressing up, showing off, having a good time and that’s really infectious and inspiring. Look at Sink The Pink. Look at Dalston Superstore, itself which is really a landmark for clubbing, with a bar upstairs that is also a restaurant, a disco downstairs, an art gallery and in a lo-fi sort of way, a performance space with people getting up on the bar and do PA’s which is charming. The George & Dragon, which even though is fundamentally a pub has different DJ’s every night of the week, let us not forget Radio Egypt which started at the George & Dragon on a Sunday night with Jonny Woo and Jonjo Jury DJing, which really set a precedent for the reemergence of the East End gay scene as we know it, and that was ten years ago. Things are really flourishing with new places opening and creating further outlets for self expression.

You still go out a lot…

Well, I have this thing of not wanting to miss out although I can’t go everywhere, thankfully I keep tabs on things through social media. Having said that there’s nothing like experiencing nightclubbing in the real world. There’s also that thing of not knowing where the night’s going to end, who I’m going to meet; it’s an adventure. One thing I love about clubbing is that you get people from all walks of life and I think that’s even more important now: bringing different people together.

princess julia by 2014 Louie banks

By Louie Banks (2014)

Who have you met who you’re really loved (or hated!).  Who’s inspired you?

Ooh, well there’s a checklist of people who have inspired in regards to the way we club. Phillip Salon who encouraged people to explore their own creativity and give them a bit of confidence to do that. Leigh Bowery obviously, who arrived in London in the early ’80s quickly became instated in both club land and the music and art scenes. When he died he was really on the precipice of doing so much more amazing explorations.  Thankfully we do have his legacy. Then there the people behind clubs I find inspiring, people like Wayne Shires who pulls things together and organises the most amazing events, I’m very inspired by his passion for clubbing. He’s been running clubs since the late ’80s and has been so prolific, I used to DJ at many of his club nights including SEX at the Cafe de Paris, Monster at Substation, through to the present day at East Bloc. He makes things happen and I think that’s a great talent. Dan Beaumont,  I remember talking to him at that bar he had in Islington (the Warwick) when I used to drop off a fanzine I used to make, he was very passionate about what he wanted the space to be. That was the precursor to Superstore I guess. Then there’s a whole new generation of DJ’s and club promoters, including yourself Martyn, who are continually pushing and exploring club life to its full potential. 

Join Princess Julia this Saturday 27th October for Bender from 9pm – 4am at Dalston Superstore.

Imma/Mess

New York performance artist Imma/Mess joins us here at Superstore this Friday to make his London debut at, of course, Dirty Diana. We sat down with the enigmatic artist to find out more ahead of the party…

Who is Imma/Mess?

Imma/Mess is kinda like this mix-up of who I long to be and my childhood references and memories. I grew up around majority women… and when I say “grew up” I don’t mean in physical presence. I was always listening to Tina Turner and watching ‘80s TV. So “women” in the broad sense of what a woman could be. Even down to my grandmother, just watching her cook, and things like that.

Imma/Mess is kinda like a combination of all those memories piled up into one and then me, now, the journey that I’m on. So I kinda use childhood memories to manipulate the present.

What can you tell us about your performance this Friday?

Since I’m new to London it needs to be about me introducing myself. A lot of performances are dependent on space, and so here at Superstore it’ll be about having fun… a lot of body haha showing a lot of body… a lot of make-up… but other than that, just a good time.

You lived in NYC- are you from there originally or did you gravitate towards there because of the richness of the performance art scene and the avant-garde scene?

I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama but I have always been drawn to New York. Even as a child I would draw the city’s skyline… then one day I was moving to Atlanta and my teacher was like “You should audition for Alvin Ailey.”

Who is that?

It’s an African-American dance troupe, artistically run by Robert Battle, and Judith Jamison was the director but now she’s not.

So it was pretty crazy for my teacher to suggest that I audition there as my aunt had just taken me to a performance there a week before. And that’s what took me to New York. 

Where has your art provoked the biggest reaction?

I will say that race comes up a lot. And racism comes up a lot, and all that. Because sometimes I will do blackface… but I don’t want to call it “blackface”. Sometimes I will use all black make-up or all-white make-up and people want to say “Oh my god why is there a black guy putting on black make-up?” and then they call it “blackface” or “Why is this black guy covering his whole body in white?” I think in the art world, sometimes, a sense of humour can be lost, or diluted down a bit…

ImmaMessmakeup 

Or maybe they don’t have the same drag references?

Right. I love performance art; it’s allowed me to get to where I am now. But I feel like a lot of times when my art comes up it’s always in reference to someone who is maybe not even medium-wise close to me…. But like the closest thing. So like Nick Cave because he’s an African-American performance artist who does these amazing, beautiful Soundsuits. And a lot of people, just because I use dance, are like “Oh Nick Cave.” And it’s like “No. What about Leigh Bowery? And all these people that ARE my references?”

Leigh Bowery

I guess the closest thing that is my reference is Grace Jones. That’s it. Okay, yeah maybe you’re right. Maybe they don’t have the same book of references as me.

You mentioned studying at Alvin Ailey- have you always studied dance?

My training background? I originally began studying gymnastics. Then my gymnastic teacher TRICKED me into doing dance because she used to do dance competitions and I was the only boy- actually it was me and her brother. He was four years older than me. She got both of us to do a duet- Mortal Kombat- Oh my god, and she was like “It’s gonna be the coolest duet! If you guys do it you will win the trophy.” And all I cared about was the trophy…

Did you?

And we did! It was called I Love Dance and we went, and I was so into it! I was so into it because I was thinking Trophy Trophy Trophy… And I got the trophy. Anyway, that’s where I started. And then I went onto a performing arts high school in Atlanta. Then it was onto Alvin Ailey, then I went to a Conservatory in Connecticut- in the middle of nowhere- some of the best years of my training life. Then after that I went to Holland and then I was offered a training position with Atlanta ballet so I went back and I grew up in the ranks pretty quickly. The director was so amazing. After the third year there I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to dance anymore. I wanted to do more with my voice. So I applied to school in secret and went to Parsons where I graduated with honours. I just recently applied to CSM (Central Saint Martins) so I’m going there for my MA in fine arts.

Besides Leigh Bowrey who you already mentioned, which artists- of any medium or method- inspire you?

I am drawn to people who I feel I can take something away from. I love Cindy Sherman. I love Nick Cave. George Condo. All art-wise. I’m kinda conflicted with Grace Jones, between performer or artist… for me I feel like she’s an artist, so she’s one of my biggest references. I LOVE John Waters. And from that I love Divine. And all his movies. So that’s where I’m at reference-wise.

Nick Cave

I love beauty but I love… beautifying the grotesque. I LOVE grotesque. The nastiness. Like how Divine is. It’s so amazingly ugly. It’s like wearing Prada: it’s so ugly it’s good. It’s like who puts those colours together and that crazy fucking goat fur and when you see it all together you’re kinda like bleurghh, but then a little bit down the road you’re like huh, this is not so bad.

Can you talk us through your style a bit… how would you describe it, do you make your own costumes, who are your favourite designers to wear?

In my normal life I wear all black. I wish I could afford Comme des Garçons. I’d wear Comme des Garçons every day. The avant-garde pieces. The womenswear. Rick Owens I would love to wear. Gareth Pugh… oh my god I LOVE. But right now, what I can afford is Y3 and pieces I find in vintage markets.

In my normal style I like a little bit of the crazy, but since I wear all black it’s easier for me to put it together. I can focus more on the texture, shape and form and all that. But, as Imma/Mess… I love glitter. Oh my god. I LOVE glitter oh my god. I wanna paint my nails glitter, my face glitter… I’ve yet to get a glitter bodysuit… I need to meet Manish Arora or Ashish. I need to meet one of them because they just do glitter and sequins haha and I like it. But I need it slutty. Y’know, less is more. As Imma/Mess I just glitter and fake eyelashes. I always end up losing my lashes by the end of the night and then I go to take off my bra and they’re both in there! Oh! There you are!

What has drawn you to London?

I feel that here I am able to be myself, and I don’t mean to just do whatever, I just feel that London is so open to opportunity, compared to New York, where opportunity is there- don’t get me wrong- but it’s such a dreadful journey to even just find the door of opportunity, let alone getting inside. And then once you are inside, there are so many subdivisions of opportunity but I feel like in London, opportunity is so readily available. The community here is always on the search for something new. Just London in general, just walking down the street, people are curious… and not to make fun of you, but are interested in you as a person. In coming to London I am finding out more about myself through engaging with the people that are here.

Who would you most like to collaborate on your art with- from contemporaries to up-and-comers you’ve got your eye on?

Boychild, I also love FKA Twigs, Zebra Katz, Angel Haze, and this new girl, a rapper called Dominque Jones Unqiue… but, I just wish I knew more people in the nightlife here.

Come get to know Imma/Mess at Dirty Diana this Friday 28th March at Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 4.30am.

Photo Credits: Lee Morgan Photo / Tyler Dean King / Imma/Mess

Jeffrey Hinton

This Thursday sees night of girl-heat JERK! expanding into the lazer basement as they takeover the two floors of Dalston Superstore for the first time ever. Not only have they created (in their own words) “farsh garms to be distributed (thrown) at the best krumpers, boglers, two steppers, dutty winers and general fierce bitchizzz” but they’ve got Queer Nation legend Jeffrey Hinton playing over both floors! We caught up with Jeffrey to find out what he’s been unleashing on the world and what we’ve got in store for JERK!

What can we expect to hear from you at Jerk?

I will dig deep into my ‘90s r’n’b archive plus mix it all up as I normally do- new and old, bit of UK garage, 2 step, Moomba, swing beat… who knows? But it’s always a party!

Tell us the one track that hasn’t left your record bag lately.

Hmm, well I like it if a tune can stand the test of time! My friend played me Azealia Banks – 212 back in September last year. I always like a good mash-up and she sings over the Lazy Jay track. I thought then that it had a fresh edge- very east London. So it’s no surprise it’s become a bit of an anthem.

What’s your most unusual musical influence?

Most of my influences come from travel, but I guess an unusual influence is lighting. I used to love lying flat out on the dancefloor with my friend Space at the Heaven Club (circa ‘80s). They used to have the most amazing disco lighting rig and we would just look up and bath in music and lights, while people danced and stepped over us. I used to do the same at The Saint in New York, which for me was the best-designed club I’ve ever seen… well, so far! Music is best when you are drowning in a visual experience too. Even if it’s just in the mind!!

Your DJ career has spanned from the ’80s to now- what’s been your favourite decade for music so far?

I don’t really think like that as all music is connective and has its place. I wouldn’t say it always evolves as it often devolves. But that’s okay. If it frustrated you then that’s good as it pushes you to create.

What was on the first mixtape you ever made?

I was probably making them in my head aged two but I didn’t get a tape recorder until I was seven and then I just taped every sound I could. I found a way to feed it back through the hi-fi we had and mix it over music or the radio. It would sound mental but I loved it.

Tell us a bit about your work with the National Portrait Gallery!

Well, as you say I have been around a while(!!) so I have collected archived most of my life: filming and photographing club stuff. It’s a very big collection with a lot of behind the scenes bits. I didn’t keep it for showing as such, more to celebrate the friends that I love. But it does document moments in time that are of a different mood to now and also completely unique.

It has lots of people that have become a bit iconic like Leigh Bowery, plus it features a lot of underground London culture. So the British Film Institute and the National Portrait Gallery are into showing it and archiving it, which is lovely. In fact, on 26th April at 7pm at the National Portrait Gallery Theatre I’m showing some of my archive plus there’ll be a bit of a chat.

What’s been your weirdest DJ experience?

Well this has probably been mentioned before due to me being well known for my approach to music at Leigh Bowery’s club Taboo. I loved sound effects at that time (I still do) so I would chop and mix up videos (video scratching they named it, I didn’t though). I edited everything together: porn, Abba, operations, tv and film from around the world and my own stuff. I would project it over the dance floor and mix it in with the music. Also I would have tape cassettes playing sound effects and mix that into the music as well. The music would be quite random too. The whole effects was nuts, but then the club was nuts too.

So one night I was happily playing the slip mat as I was on acid and the grinding sound seemed normal! As they were so used to unusual sounds everyone kept dancing anyway. I did think I was at home though and not actually there, that when Princess Julia came over to see if I was okay, I asked her make me a cup of tea!

And your worst?

I think I’ve had a few sticky moments!! One was working at a club called Rock. I was rushing and on arrival I noticed I’d picked up my record bag full of r’n’b music. The problem was it was a house music club! Really had to wing that one!!

What do you like about playing at Dalston Superstore?

I love working at a place where the people that own and run it have a passion for what they want to create- it makes such a difference. Dan Beaumont and all the gang are amazing. Plus east London gives me more freedom and we all need more freedom right!!

Jeffrey Hinton plays Jerk Gets Two Floors at Dalston Superstore this Thursday 12th April from 9pm – 3am.