“…This was also the night that myself and Shyanne O’Shea got stuck on a subway train to Queens at like, 4 am. I would have paid good money to watch us on a hidden camera style show…”
Soooo when did we first see Dis-Charge? It was at Rubyyy Jones: Showgrrrl back in 2016… I think he was one of the final acts. It had been a great night populated with all manner of adventurers… and then out of the ether came this tall, bald, maniac in a corset bouncing onto the stage and then madly bouncing off into the crowd.
Now, what did we say at the time?
“With the song and dance moves, this performance is one epic little motherf*cker… body pyrotechnics would be a good way to describe it. It’s explosive and quick and filled with electricity.”
If you’ve Dis perform or host or have spoken to him then you’ll know that he’s full of fun and games and loaded with beautifully chaotic pyrotechnics. And we love that! But within all of that wrapping is an incredibly intelligent, eloquent, and elegant person with a really sharp mind and a righteous sense of revolution.
Dis is kind of a one man solar system – a place where different planets and stars and God only knows what else all collide and explode and ricochet around the place.
If you haven’t seen him, then you should! You can get a taster from the links at the bottom of the page. If you want to see him, then you can find him hosting and performing at The CoochieCrunch and Bristol Burlesque Festival, and in many shows across UK, Europe and beyond.
As much as Dis is great fun to listen to when he’s talking about the naughty things in life, he’s just as fascinating when he’s laying out his thoughts on the world. And I have to say, this is the part of him that we really wanted to get onto the page the most.
So buckle up, have fun, enjoy the ride, and see what he has to say about himself, drag, cabaret, show production, the British government, feminism, and ultimately, what he’d like to do to his nemesis Chris de Burgh!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dis-Charge…
How did you get started in drag, burlesque and cabaret? Had the urge to dress up and get in front of an audience been with you all along?
So as a teenager I was deeply invested in the goth and queerpunk scenes, this led me to favour an androgynous aesthetic and when I started clubbing I would always dress up and TRY to turn a look. When I first saw the performer, Squeaky Blonde, in an article about an art show at the Gershwin hotel in Los Angeles that’s when I fully began to appreciate the power of drag as performance and decided to try my hand at it.
I began as a host and DJ as a founding member and producer of the monthly alt. queer night, Psycho:Drama in Bristol, following working with a number of the local burlesque dancers on larger showcase events, I was asked to start working with CoochieCrunch and the Bristol Burlesque Festival. It was all very organic and became a process in which I was really able to explore my own femininity and sexuality as well as work on a number of my body and confidence issues.
The best decision I ever made came off the back of being invited into producing the Bristol Burlesque Festival. I really owe so much to this community.
How do you go about developing your acts and where do your ideas come from?
Typically my performances are inspired by the music I listen to or a specific theme that myself and Tuesday have been working on for CoochieCrunch, our bi-monthly burlesque event in Bristol. I listen to music that lends to a specifically visual style of performance such as Diamanda Galas or Siouxsie Sioux. When I’m singing I really love to focus on producing work that people connect to.
Of course sometimes I just have a stupid thought, like, What would it look like if Leigh Bowery had been a flower child and that is how the human flower is born!
What’s the strangest, craziest, most fun thing you’ve seen and/or done on stage?
The strangest thing I think I’ve done is probably my Flower Child act which is a classic drag mix. It begins with a lip synch to a piece of terrible beat poetry and cuts into ‘Age of Aquarius’ and the Benny Hill theme tune as I peel away a flower poncho and give carnations and daisies out to the crowd. It’s completely stupid and fun.
With touring I’ve gotten to see some hilarious and insane things onstage, I highly recommend people check out Elena Gabrielle’s DIRRTY in Berlin – that shit is CRAZY! There’s other things… but I’ll keep a few pieces to myself 😉
I’ve written about how I feel there’s a little piece of revolution going on at the CoochieCrunch/BBF in Bristol. How did the show get started? And what is the whole ethos and direction of the show? Oh, and for anyone that hasn’t been… what can they expect to see and experience?
The BBF was founded by Tuesday Laveau and Tiger Tiger as was CoochieCrunch. Tiger is an excellent writer and after the first festival, their book, the Nature of the Creature, required more focus and I was asked to join as a co-producer by my boo, Tuesday Laveau, who is a power-house of UK burlesque. Up until that point I had worked with both of the founding members on independent shows and was asked to participate as a performer in the very first festival. It was from there that we began working on what I think, is one of the most invigorating and exciting festivals of the current industry. I love our lineups and I love what we do. It’s connected us with some of the most incredible and inspiring performers in the world of Burlesque and I am always in awe of those who work with us.
What can you expect to see?! That’s easy…. Badass Burlesque, Go-Go and Grind in the heart of Bristol!
What are the main problems facing performers and show producers in the UK today? How can we help to get more people to shows?
I think making sure that our lineups are diverse is extremely important. We must also take steps to lift each other up and work together, especially to make sure that we aren’t in the business of supporting those in the community who put us at risk. There are a number of producers who we know are abusing their position in the industry and we need to stop working for them. They know exactly who they are.
What does the government do to support independent artists, performers and venues in the UK (if anything at all)? Does it do as much as it could? What would you tell the Govt if you had a private audience with them?
I know that a number of shows have received arts council funding for festivals and long running shows such as Hebden Bridge and Bar Wotever, which is fucking cool. However, there needs to be more attention paid to the burlesque and cabaret world by arts organisations – I do think this speaks to a certain level of misogyny that is at the root of the of the political systems and climates that direct money away from our voices and onto their more, *ahem* conservative preferences.
The government that we have hates women. It hates the LGBTQ movement and it hates people of colour. I truly believe this. We deserve to be able to express ourselves artistically, politically, socially and sexually. I think right now, that the focus is on keeping us quiet and the only way to combat that is to be louder, brasher and more aggressive than before so that they can’t deny us. Dont ask, DEMAND!
From seeing you host, I know that you’re very much a strong advocate of women’s rights. Where can society improve in this aspect?
I mean, yes, why wouldn’t you be a feminist. It’s basically like asking, do you not like breathing?
The best way to learn about feminism – Not by talking to me, I’m a cis-white queer male, speak to women, listen to their responses, don’t talk over them. Guess what dude-bro Matt Damon, you don’t know better! Read some of the incredible articles that are being distributed daily online. Challenge your own culturally ingrained misogyny. No man has escaped their privilege and we all have work to do regardless of how woke we think we are. This is the same for issues surrounding race, sexuality and gender. Also, when you get it wrong: own it, apologise, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
We all have work to do and it’s not the job of that person you have offended or upset to educate you. Be very grateful if they do take that time – it’s important and exhausting for them to have to explain why you’ve been an asshole or at least ignorant. Do better in future and keep striving to be the best ally you can be. It’s a process pretty much all of us have to go through, but one that is worthwhile.
You toured the U.S. last year and I haven’t asked you about it. How did it go? Any adventures that you can actually repeat?
Oh my god it was so much fun! This was my third time in the states performing and the longest tour I have done – just shy of a month. I was brought over by the fabulous, Austin International Drag festival as a headliner and I got to perform and work with incredible queens, kings and Qings from all over the world. It was also super fucking cool to spend time with my drag family. I belong to an international house of performers known as the #GarbageFamily, because we’re all human garbage. Because we are so far-flung it is often very difficult to see each other and this is usually the one time of year we can all get together, although we did miss our handsome, Barri Island on this occasion.
I was staying exclusively with friends such as Erin and Wes Tongay from Austin who I met 3 years ago and talk to usually once a week. They’re so fucking sweet and total badass lunatics who I completely love, whilst touring so not only was it incredible to hit stages all across the west and east coast as well as the mid-west. I got to see some of my favourite people on the planet, drink coffee, eat great food and catch-up with them which is the high of any tour.
Okay but what can I tell you about the full crazy… okay… Austin saw me running around hotels and clubs dancing, singing and hosting – total highlight was co hosting and performing on the twisted drag showcase with the Boulet Brothers and Poo-Poo Platter. Most of my house was in that show so it was a total blast watching Emma Sis, May May Graves and Ryan Stecken work the shit out of those crowds. Oh and Shyanne O’Shea from the UK being genuinely HILARIOUS on our night off running around like idiots of 4th street – dancing in bins – with the rest of the #GarbageFam such as Alexandria Van Cartier, Harle Quing and Smashlyn Monroe.
Dallas saw me hanging out with May May Graves and their lovely partner Scott – they surprised me when performing at Dumpster Divas with a birthday cake and presents after a day of hanging out, eating noodles with photographer and super babe, Amanda Rebholz. I felt so honoured and happy to be treated so well by their community.
San Francisco is always freaking magic, catching up with and staying at Hexate’s place, playing with their cats and running to shows together, coffee with Sue Casa, attending CREATURE at the Stud. OH! and eating in full flower face drag at the diner round the corner from the Edge after the show. SF has a very special place in my heart.
Boise, Idaho, with Frankly Frankie was next – if you ever get the chance – GO TO THIS SHOW!!!! Super fucking cool, super fucking queer, and filled with love. Franky and Dan took me in like a member of the family, treated me with such love and warmth. It was bliss. Oh, also here was where I got tattooed by Stella Sin and we all went to the hot springs. It was lots of bonding, lots of getting to know people and also lots of messing around with Big Gay Paycen for our double act of Whiskers R We which was so much fun! Oh, and hot springs! Again, Hot Springs!
New York City is where I finished things off working White Elephant Burlesque for Viktor Devonne. Super fun intimate show at Rock bar on Christopher Street. This was also the night that myself and Shyanne O’Shea got stuck on a subway train to Queens at like, 4 am. I would have paid good money to watch us on a hidden camera style show. Shyanne is such a force of nature and a brilliant performer, we got into such trouble running around together and New York was no exception. Thanksgiving was kinda the last day of my tour as well so we got to celebrate a proper American thanksgiving with our lovely hosts, Matthew and his partner, Gianni. Matthew wears white crocs… he has problems. If he’s reading this he should know that line was payback for leaving me and Shyanne in times square – Love you, Matthew!
Drag is huge and almost nearly everywhere these days… especially on television. With mainstream entertainment there’s a fair amount of dress up to the dress up. What is the reality out there in the shows and clubs?
I do think there’s a tendency for many people now only to come out to drag shows featuring the RDPR girls and not supporting their local community which can be frustrating but, that being said I have seen on the majority, very supportive and warm audiences. Please stop comparing every single drag performer you see to whichever drag race girl you know the name of. It can be a little irritating.
When hosting you’re quite often to be found sharing stories from Grindr or talking about fisting…would you care to tell us some stories and/or give the readers some tips?
Haha! If I told more stories to you now, how would I be able to entertain audiences with my terrible life choices in future?! You’ll just have to come to my next show by, for instance, heading over to Coochiecrunch.com
What are the most the important things that you’ve learned through your adventure so far?
Trust your sisters, they always have your back. Change is inevitable.
Besides the Coochie/BBF can you suggest other shows in the UK (or beyond) who are challenging convention socially and creatively?
Rubyyy Jones is leading the charge in a phenomenal way, I have a huge amount of love and respect for her and I’m hoping the Save Rubyyy Jones Revue returns in 2018! Of course you can regularly see me at Cardiff Cabaret Club run by Foo Foo Labelle or with the drag collective, Dirty Filthy Sexy in Nottingham. I love watching Sadie Sinner kicking butt all over London as well as Felix Le Freak and in Oxford, Ginger Tarte. You should also pay a visit to Hoots N Hooters in Bridgewater by Trixie Whip and Mr D (I also regularly host here), Female Trouble in Brighton and Boi Box in London are both amazing, and for dirty dancing antics, Bitch Please! in Bristol and the totally cool, Brizzle Bois drag king cabaret. ESDR also does a good job of mixing up the RuGirls with talented UK based performers which I enjoy.
Over in Berlin, check out Ginger Synne’s badass venues, Zum Starken August and Toast Hawaii, make sure to visit Dirrty by Elena Gabrielle and the Full Moon Cabaret by Lolita VaVoom and Viva Lamore, as well as Night Shift with the stunning, Ghost! Also head over to Schwuz for Jurassica Parka and Ryan Stecken at Popkicker as well as the super cool Harle Quing kicking butt in a huge industrial warehouse club.
In Vienna I highly suggest you get tickets to the Vienna Boylesque Festival by Jacques Patriaque and go party like a rockstar at the Imperial Madness club night!
Stateside: Dumpster Divas with May May Graves and Frida Monet in Dallas, Oil Can Harrys in Austin to watch Emma Sis and Alexandria Van Cartier in action, or, I think, Elysium to catch the Poo Poo Platter creatures! the Oasis in San Francisco as well as CREATURE! at the Stud, or any Peaches Christ show or event at the Oasis such as Heklina’s, Mother. The Frankly Burlesque show in Boise, Idaho, is world class, and I am desperate to go over and experience one of the Jeezy’s Juke Joint shows as well as watch the fabulous, Willy LaQueue, perform in Chicago. It’s also totally worth getting your butt to LA and visiting Dragula by the Boulet Brothers, especially if Squeaky Blonde is on the lineup.
There are so many more shows but I literally would go mad if I listed them all – special shout outs to Bar Wotever, the Old Market Assembly and DTYM (Which is one of my favourite nights out in Bristol) as well as ESDR, PunkA and Psycho:Drama, the Monster Show in SF and anything that Vinsantos Defonte or Bella Blue get up to in New Orleans. OH! and Cha Cha Boudoir in Manchester, Dr Sketchy’s Bristol by Lou-Leigh Blue and make sure to keep an eye on what the #GarbageFam are doing – They have some serious projects coming your way.
If you had an unlimited budget and you could create and host a show featuring any line up, any scenery, design and venue, and perform at any place in the world at any point of time (including the past), what would you do, what would it look like, where would you perform it, and finally, what would you wear!?
I mean… If I had an unlimited budget etc I would love to perform a whole live sung show with my friends from Nasty Little Lonely in a huge venue featuring performances by a bunch of my favourite people throughout – it would be a fantastic experience to do something where I could work with the circus events producer, Incandesence and their crew – Satya is an INCREDIBLE producer – and in the process, feature the talents of the Burlesque crew like Tuesday and Ophelia Wilde alongside my Drag House, and performers from across the world, OH! and the fabulous aerialist, Lyn Routledge and Cabaret performer, Hazey Hoop.
Finally, what is coming up next for you this year?
This year will be a riot! CoochieCrunch returns on February 16th with a Simpsons Vs Bob’s Burgers theme. I’m also running a show called DisGraceful Behaviour with the Old Market Assembly on April 7th featuring performers from across the UK and Europe including the fabulous, Ryan Stecken. In addition to this, the Bristol Burlesque Festival returns for it’s 6th Year in September which is super exciting!
Hopefully more travel, especially within Europe as I will be splitting my time between Berlin and Bristol for the foreseeable future as I become resident host for Zum Starken August! I’m super excited about this as Berlin is where I was born and I am in love with the city. There will also be a mini-tour in the UK with a super cool crew of badass performers TBA!
Ohhhh…Bonus Question: [We should explain… Dis really doesn’t like the singer Chris de Burgh… something to do with childhood audio memories.]
Is Chris de Burgh the devil, and if he is, where in the universe would you banish him and by what method? You can be as elaborate and as torturous as you like 🙂
Chris Deburgh IS THE DEVIL! I would force him to listen to his own terrible music until his head filled with saccharine tripe and exploded!
MG: We definitely think we’ll come back to this one later in the year… perhaps with some beautiful insanity…
Neil Roberts, Tony Barrett-Powell, Vonalina Cake Photography