Conquering the World……with Meth

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I absolutely love a queen with a brightly painted clown face. I like the style, I like the colors, and I like the social commentary it makes by poking fun at “femininity”. In case you can’t tell by that last statement, I also love gender activism. What do you get when you combine those two things and throw in some intelligent British humor? You get Meth!

 

 Let me clarify­– no, I don’t mean the substance. I mean the bad ass London drag queen! I chatted with her recently about fighting for queer spaces, branching into the international scene, and how strange it is to have scrunched up dollar bills thrown at you en masse. This was by far one of my most interesting and amusing interviews, and not just because of how she looked telling me serious facts while wearing a soggy, half dried papier mache hat.  


 

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My view during the interview (Photo from Meth’s Instagram, @do_meth)

Courtney Conquers: In my opinion, if people don’t know who Meth is by now… they should. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into drag and how Meth came to be?

 

Meth: I think it all started when I was a teenager. I was a very gender bendy, ambiguously androgynous, effeminate, kind of freaky, emo, dressed in doll-femme weirdo. I used to walk down the high street in the very tiny backwater town that I grew up in, in Somerset, wearing hot pants and fishnet stockings and eyeliner. During my college degree, which I think is what you guys call high school, when you’re 16 to 18? I did performing arts and there was a module on variety performance of any kind and I decided to do burlesque. From there, when I first moved to London in 2008, I started performing as a burlesque artist called Mr. Mistress. He/she was always very gender ambiguous and a lot of the work that I did as a burlesque artist was presenting an idea of “female” and then stripping to my, male body. I mean, I say all of these things but I don’t really consider myself as “male”. I’ve always considered my gender as gender queer. Anyways, I spent five, almost six years doing burlesque and built a fairly decent name for myself I’d say, but the burlesque scene got very over-saturated here. I’d finished my degree and I was facing the real world of having to pay rent without a student loan and burlesque just wasn’t doing it. I’d kind of begun exploring and my aesthetic as a burlesque artist had already gotten more and more drag as the career went on. What began as just a bit of foundation and eyeliner was steadily becoming more and more… and more… and more. I’d been doing things like just going out dressed in drag for fun and Meth kind of grew out of that. I decided to leave burlesque where it was and I haven’t performed as Mr. Mistress now for over a year, apart from one brief time. I brought her back when we had Bendela Crème here because I thought that was a fitting time to bring back the burlesque. In the end, Meth just kind of took over and has sky rocketed over the past three years. And that’s a brief history of how I came to be!

Mr. Mistress performing Burlesque in 2012 (Photo by David Leyland Photography)
Mr. Mistress performing Burlesque in 2012 (Photo by David Leyland Photography)

 

CC: I love it! So why “Meth”, and how did your style and aesthetic come to be? It’s very unique!

 

M: It was a slow evolution. I kind of looked like a Sharon Needles copycat when I first started doing drag. But what’s interesting is that my burlesque career and my drag career kind of did the same thing. Both started off very dark and, you know, horror-y and twisted, or kind of freaky, and then they became more and more bright and colorful and comedic as they went on. But that’s my life, quite frankly! I started off as, like, this tragic emo goth kid and then I lightened the hell up! Now I love listening to Britney and Cher and having a laugh. I mean, when I was first beginning to explore drag, my rule for myself was that every time I got in drag I would do something different. Whether that as a different eye shape, or a different color in the eye shadow, or a different sized lip, or I’d adjust my contour a little bit, I’d constantly challenge myself to try something new every time. So yeah, it was just through establishing it that way… Every time I’ve found something that I’ve really, really liked, I’ve stuck to it and played with it a bit. I think it’s probably been a year now since I’ve been really settled into what my look is. Within that I have done things that I’ve changed too, though. I’ve tried out things like dreadlock wigs before I settled on that kind of clown look. I love my bright, clashing colors. Yellow and purple are like my signature, but I still like really messing with other really bright, acidic colors. Even if you look at me a year ago, I’ve changed since. I was doing that thing where I had the eyelashes that came down [at an angle] and everyone used to say that me and Biblegirl looked exactly the same. I appreciated that reference though because there’s nothing more exasperating than being told constantly, over and over, “Oh my gosh, you look just like Bianca Del Rio”. Like, okay, yeah… but prettier! And younger! But anyways, yeah, it was just constant experimentation! And I don’t know if I’m going to look exactly like this in another year’s time either. I don’t think I’d ever be the kind of artist who would limit myself. Obviously I do feel pressure at times to present a certain style because that’s what people have come to expect from Meth. I do think that there are gigs where you just have to do what is expected of you because, you know, you’re building a brand for a reason. But I do get to do these gigs every once in a while where I get to change it up and try something a bit weirder. I’m very happy with the way she is right now, to be honest. For most of the looks I come out with, I’m usually pretty happy with them at the end of the night! I try not to scroll back on Instagram too far though because I’m quite a harsh critic of myself when I look back. I’m like “Oh god, why did Iever think that looked good!” But I think I’m feeling pretty confident and strong in her at the moment.

Meth's signature yellow and purple scheme (Photo by Cruz 101)
Meth’s signature yellow and purple scheme (Photo by Cruz 101)
One of a few dreadlocked looks (Photo from Meth's Instagram)
One of a few dreadlocked looks (Photo from Meth’s Instagram)
More locks for good measure (Photo by FD Photography)
More locks for good measure (Photo by FD Photography)

 

CC: Well I’m certainly pro-Meth.!… That sounds strange. What about the name, where did the name come from? I love your name because I get to do things like say to my parents at brunch “I have to go home because I have to meet with Meth” and then watch their reactions! It’s also amusing to randomly express my love for Meth in public. Was there intentionality behind that, or was it mostly for shock value?

 

M: Right? It was half and half, really. The true story of how I was named is that I was really stoned and my sister, Maxi Moore, named me Meth. That’s how it began, at least. We laughed about it because it was really funny at the time, but then I went home and sobered up and thought about it the next day and I decided to stick with it. Partially I liked it for shock value, but also I think drag should be disruptive. I think there should always be an element of drag that puts you on the back foot. I think it should destabilize things, even if that’s just down to your name. I love that everyone assumes that it’s a pun. They’ll say “Oh, like crystal meth!” and I’m like “No”. And they say “like methamphetamines?” and I say “No. Just Meth”. And they’re always expecting… like, they’re destabilized just by the fact that they’re assuming that if I’m going to be bold enough to have drugs in my name, I’d have to make it a pun for it to be acceptable. It’s not that I don’t like puns in other drag names, I’m all for it, but for me… I just liked that Meth even destabilized that traditional drag name formula of having to have some kind of pun. And yeah, the endless drug jokes that you can make are hilarious. I mean I’m always quite conscious to make sure that I don’t actually actively promote the use of meth because it’s a terrible, terrible drug. I have done most drugs in my life and meth is actually not one of them and I don’t ever plan on ever touching it because I know it’s gross. That’s why my tagline is “don’t do drugs, do Meth”. I know there are plenty of people who get offended by my name and get offended by the Meth Lab, but to be honest with you, they usually tend to be ex-addicts and there’s not worth than an “ex-something”. They’re always the most sanctimonious crusaders and I’m like “Great! You overcame your addiction. Fantastic! I have massive respect for you. Now if you don’t like my name, don’t come to my show or go on my Facebook page”.

Meth's tagline in action with Boyfriend Joe at the Black Cap (Photo by FD Photography)
Meth’s tagline in action with Boyfriend Joe at the Black Cap (Photo by FD Photography)

 

CC: Can you tell me more about the Meth Lab? How did that start? I know we got to see a little bit of its startup on Drag Queens of London.

M: Yeah, you saw, like… not our first actual Drag Race show, but the one where it all got really huge. It actually came about because I was hosting a different night and we’d had Jujubee over earlier on, in 2013 I think, and then we were all set to have Raja in November, but at that time I was just the host. It wasn’t my night. Unfortunately the promoter got to a point where they couldn’t continue to produce the night but it was only a few weeks before Raja was supposed to come and people had already bought tickets. While it wasn’t my night, my name was still plastered across the posters. I was still heavily associated with it, I still had loads of people asking me about it. Me and my boyfriend were kind of like “What do we do?” Things like the deposit hadn’t been paid. So we could have either just let it go and risk potential bad feelings coming towards me, or we thought “Do we take it on ourselves?” We had a little pocket of money that we were able to call on and, I mean, two weeks is no time to re-promote a show so we didn’t even end up breaking even on the Raja gig, but we had her over and it was great fun. I really enjoyed it. We did that working alongside the promoters from Glasgow and Dublin, who became part of the first ever booking group in the UK. We added Belfast shortly after as well. Since then, though, everyone and their bloody sister are booking queens in the UK right now, it’s mind-bogglingly ridiculous. But at that time it was new, and it got crazy after that Raja show because the second people we brought was DWV. We sold out two shows in a day and then sold out a third show within a week after that, and that process is what was featured on Drag Queens of London. Obviously Raja was the first one, but DWV was Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night in a row with 250 people. We were sold to capacity every single night. And we were handling three of them, not just one! So it just kind of went on from there. We kept on booking them and at its peak we were doing one every four weeks. We’ve quieted up as of late because we’re taking stock of where we’re going with the Meth Lab at the moment. Like I said, there are a lot of shows bringing them now in the UK and saturation point is reaching ridiculous levels. Some of the fees for the girls are getting borderline offensive too. I mean, I absolutely love them all but there is no bitch worth a certain amount of money that’s being asked for! So yeah, I’m not sure what the future of the Meth Lab is going to be. We’ve got our show with Trixie Mattel in a couple of weeks. But losing the Black Cap changed the feeling of the Meth Lab quite a lot. We’ve only had two since the Black Cap closed, so we’re kind of taking stock of where we are with that.

Meth with DWV (from left to right: Willam Belli, Meth, Vicki Vox, Detox Icunt) at the Meth Lab show that was featured on Drag Queens of London (Photo by Luxxxer)
Meth with DWV (from left to right: Willam Belli, Meth, Vicki Vox, Detox Icunt) at the Meth Lab show that was featured on Drag Queens of London (Photo by Luxxxer)
Meth hosting with Jujubee in 2013, before the Meth Lab took off (Photo by Dan Burgess Photography)
Meth hosting with Jujubee in 2013, before the Meth Lab took off (Photo by Dan Burgess Photography)

 

CC: The Black Cap is where the Meth Lab started, right?

 

M: Yeah, it was always at the Black Cap up until… the last one we had there was Bendela Crème at the beginning of April, near Easter. The 18 months I had doing it were fantastic! I met so many of the girls from [Drag Race] and, you know, all but one I’ve loved. And I’ve formed some particularly strong relationships with some of them as well- Latrice, Raja, Trixie, Michelle, Laganja… We all got on particularly well. I still keep in contact with them to this day, so I don’t regret it at all and I would happily still be a part of that world. Whenever I think I want to produce a show with those girls again, I will do, but I think I’m kind of ready to focus a bit more on me and the Family. Whilst it’s great that I did get a fair bit of notoriety from producing the shows, it would be quite nice if people came to see the shows because I was doing it instead of someone else! You know, rather than just because someone who was on Drag Race is there. I was on TV too! I mean, I know Drag Queens of London was shit, but come on!

 

Meth and Bendela Creme at the last Meth Lab at the Black Cap (Photo by FD Photography)
Meth and Bendela Creme at the last Meth Lab at the Black Cap (Photo by FD Photography)

 

CC: Oh no! People loved it over here!

 

M: Oh god no, literally every single week watching it, I was just like “What have you done! What have you done!”

 

CC: Can you tell me about doing that show? Were you asked to do it or was it something you had to audition for? …How did it become shit?

 

M: Right. Okay. Well, it was filmed in January, February, and March and it came out in April, I think. We were approached in, like, late November by the production company. We had to go in for screen tests and we were told that they were making a documentary and I was like “Great! I’d love to do that!” I was happy to show my world, my work, what I do. They accepted me as one of the core nine for the cast that they had. I think there were nine of us… although to be honest, some of the core cast that were supposed to be on screen were barely there. Vanity von Glow was one of the core cast but she was seen for like all of ten seconds. I think by the end they just didn’t really know what the show was. It went from being a documentary to a docu-soap, that kind of Jersey Shore type idea. But at the same time, it never quite went that far. It never went into that “reality TV” scripted bullshit. If they’d just come to us and said “We want to do something like Jersey Shore but with drag queens”, I’d have said “Okay, what character do you want me to do? The gothic weirdo that spits blood everywhere? Fine, I’ll play a fucking character”. But they came to me saying it was a documentary. I think it just lost its way and didn’t fall in any camp and was stuck in the middle. It just never really felt one way or the other to me. It felt like they did every episode on such a tiny budget. They couldn’t afford many rights to music, so that kind of meant that you didn’t actually see us in drag very much. By the end of it, it kind of just felt like “Gay Boys of London who Occasionally Wear Wigs”. I think it is interesting, though, that they wanted to focus on the “real men” behind the makeup, which… I mean, I had a problem with that phrasing from the start, but I get it. Obviously it is interesting to see who is behind a stage persona, but it didn’t feel like there was enough drag. It was too much about, you know… Will Baga Chipz ever turn up to rehearsal on time? Will Lady Lloyd ever sober up? Will Rosie Beaver ever find love? The answer to all of those things is no! I mean… The Family Fierce were some of the first things they filmed and then I think they got bored with us because we weren’t giving them drama. They kept trying to fabricate story lines, like the really weird one where they tried to make it out like Ruby Wednesday was pissed off about working the door for the Meth Lab. Her hair changed color between shots! It went from blue to blonde to blue and they just kept trying to pull drama. Like… I get it, but surely our lives are dramatic enough! You’ve just gotten to film around nine drag queens getting fucking bollock naked for a photo shoot and we’re all quite weird, shouldn’t that be enough? Yeah, I feel like they just lost interest with us. The edit that Bougie got… I mean, Bougie is an annoying twat, but I love her. The way they made her seem in the Tranny Shack Academy competition was just, oh god; she became the pseudo-villain of the TV show. They also completely didn’t cover the fact that Ruby Wednesday was even in the competition until the final episode, when they finally went “Oh yeah, by the way, she wins”. It was just so weird! Maybe they’d have gotten it right if they’d done a season two, like they might have learned from things, you know? It might have been a more realized show, but as it was, I just didn’t think it really did much for drag. It lived up to too many stereotypes in terms of trying to make it accessible for straight people. I felt like they tried to make us too normal and, quite frankly, I have no interest in that whatsoever. I mean, obviously if straight people want to come to my show and enjoy it, have at it! But I’m not sanitizing or changing anything about who I am just to be able to fit into mainstream media like that. No. No no no.

A poster for Drag Queens of London (Photo courtesy of OUtTV)
A poster for Drag Queens of London (Photo courtesy of OUtTV)

 

CC: Isn’t that also kind of counterproductive to the point of making, as they termed it, a documentary? If you’re going to water down the content, why are you doing it?

 

M: Yep! Mhm. Yes. Exactly.

 

CC: All right! So no talks of a second season then?

 

M: Well… I mean, the problem is that a TV channel commissioned it. It was a production company that made it but a TV channel commissioned them. That TV channel has now failed miserably. It’s called London Live and it was like a London-centric channel and all it does now is re-run comedy and have really bad news shows. The good thing is, the production company who made Drag Queens of London still owns it, so if they found another channel that might want to take it up, it might happen, but I don’t know. I would have a lot of concerns and demands that I would want addressed before I agreed to do a season two. Half the drag queens that were in the fucking cast don’t even do drag anymore! To be honest, some of them weren’t even really anything more than hobby queens to begin with. I mean, most of us are still working but there was a couple of them that never even began working, really, and a couple of others that have just stopped, fullstop!

A promotional shot for Drag Queens of London
A promotional shot for Drag Queens of London

 

CC: In talking about Drag Queens of London, you mentioned the Family Fierce. Could you tell us more about what that collective is and how it started? What is that you guys are and do?

 

M: Well the Family Fierce is a collective of drag queens, bio queens, burlesque dancers, artists, singers, freak shows, dancers, comedians, weirdos… and friends! We describe ourselves as part drag family, part art collective. There is a very professional level to what we do but we are also incredibly close as a unit and we do spend a lot of time together personally. We just kind of naturally evolved in the way that friendship groups do in life. You know, people come in an out of your life through certain connections and you kind of end up in this conglomerate of people and some people will leave, some people come back. The seven members that we have right now aren’t necessarily going to be the seven members that we’ll have in a year’s time. Just in the two years that the Family Fierce has been a thing can attest to it. We’ve gone from six to seven to eight to nine, down to eight and then back to seven again. It’s evolved just as you naturally do with any friends in life. Currently, it’s me, my daughters Lolo Brow and Ruby Wednesday, Maxi More, Bourgeoisie, Scarlett O’Hora, and Lilly Snatchdragon. That’s what we always call the “core Family”. We have plenty of people that we called “extended Family” who are very, very close to the Family whilst not in the initial core. The seven of us are the ones that actually sit down and have agenda meetings, you know, the boring side of actually running a branded collective. Boyfriend Joe is our manager, of course. He’s the one that takes the minutes and goes “Why haven’t you all done this yet?”

A promo poster for the Family Fierce at Bloc Bar (From top to bottom: Maxi More, Bourgeoisie, Ruby Wednesday, Lilly Snatchdragon, Scarlet O'Hora, Meth, Lolo Brow)
A promo poster for the Family Fierce at Bloc Bar (From top to bottom: Maxi More, Bourgeoisie, Ruby Wednesday, Lilly Snatchdragon, Scarlet O’Hora, Meth, Lolo Brow)

 

CC: So do you put events on together? When you sit down and have a meeting, what is it you’re usually organizing?

 

M: We usually produce shows, but they can be anything from a standard cabaret, to sex parties, to DJ nights with go-go dancing. We have quite a wide range of pies in which we have our fingers firmly lodged. Like last night we did an event that we have every two months. It’s a sex party called “Play Thing” in Vauxhall. It’s not just about the sex; it’s like an artsy, naughty, kinky, playful party. Then every Thursday we’re at Bloc Bar in Camden just doing a cabaret with four of us. We’re all independent artists as well as a collective, so we all of our own scenes that we work in individually and most of our work is solo work, but we do have group acts and trios and things like that in the collective. But yes, most of it is producing our own shows. We have started to become booked as a group for other peoples shows too. It’s not necessarily all seven of us, although for the first time we were booked in Berlin at the end of July and all seven of us were flown over to do this festival, which was fantastic! But quite often it will be like, what we call the “bio girls” of the Family Fierce, which is actually what people would normally consider the drag queens- so me, Maxi, Bougie, and Ruby call ourselves the “bio girls”- and then the three bio girls are called “the lads”. I’ve never really been a fan of terms like “faux queen”, you know? I’m just like “It’s all drag! You’re a drag queen, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got any combination of the two between your legs- it’s drag!”

The "bio girls" of the Family Fierce (From top to bottom: Ruby Wednesday, Meth, Bourgeoisie, and Maxi More) in a promo shoot for their party "Play Thing" (photo by Daniel Peace)
The “bio girls” of the Family Fierce (From top to bottom: Ruby Wednesday, Meth, Bourgeoisie, and Maxi More) in a promo shoot for their party “Play Thing” (photo by Daniel Peace)

 

CC: THANK YOU

 

M: Yeah, we kind of like taking the piss out of all that by calling ourselves “the bio girls” and “the lads”.

 

CC: So is there ever a cross over between the Family Fierce and the Meth Lab?

 

M: Well, the Family have always been heavily involved in the Meth Lab. You’ll always find that the acts are probably at least 50% Family Fierce and then other people. It’s my show and I want to work with my Family, but I was conscious of not making it a completely Family Fierce-centric thing because there are some other amazing artists out there that I want to show case. Sometimes, to be honest, the Family don’t necessarily fit with the Drag Race queen that I’ve got. Like, when we had Shangela, none of the Family goes with that feel. I always try to make sure that the acts are planned so that the show feels like it makes sense. So we had all burlesque and Shangela was pretty much a Beyoncé tribute night. For Jinkx Monsoon, it was all musical comedy and cabaret Vaudeville-style acts. So there’s not always stuff that the Family can do to fit into that but most of the time there will be Family there.

The Family Fierce (Back to front: Bourgeoisie, Meth, Maxi More, Scarlet O'Hora, Lolo Brow, Ruby Wednesday, Lilly Snatchdragon)
The Family Fierce (Back to front: Bourgeoisie, Meth, Maxi More, Scarlet O’Hora, Lolo Brow, Ruby Wednesday, Lilly Snatchdragon)

 

CC: Tell me a little bit about the Black Cap. That’s where the Meth Lab started, and what happened from there? What’s been the fall out?

 

M: Well, the Black Cap is the second oldest queer venue in all of the UK. It had been gay for over 50 years, since before it was even legal to be gay in this country. The only one that is older than us is the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in Vauxhall, which has been going since, like, the Second World War. Maybe the First World War, I can’t remember which one actually. Anyways, it has been known for groundbreaking and fantastic drag its whole life. Lily Savage performed there, who has gone down into, like, drag legend history. But yeah, the Black Cap decided to take a chance on a bunch of queer weirdos about 18 months or two years ago. It wasn’t doing particularly well as a venue, still kind of booking the traditional old British drag, and things like the Meth Lab and the Family, coupled with a load of other people who came on board, gave her a new lease on life over the past 18 months. She was seeing packed out audiences again and earning more money than it had earned for the past five years. We were having a lovely time and it was really great. It was quite nice for a venue in London to take a chance on our style of drag because it hasn’t been seen before. It’s not the traditional drag you’ll find in the pubs in Soho, but it’s also not like the crazy gender fuck that you find in East London. I always like to think that we’re kind of in the middle. We’re quite artsy but we’re still very good entertainers. So yeah, it was great but then they fucking shut down and tried to sell her off and turn her into flats! Because that’s just London through and through right now. No matter how successful a business is, if you own property within the first two zones of London, it will get you infinitely more money if sold for property. It’s basic greed and gentrification through and through. It was fucking shit and they did it without telling everyone. They wouldn’t let us be public about the closing night se we had to be really sly about it. But we’re fighting and we’re winning at the moment. Before it was closed it got granted the asset of community value status, or ACV, which means that if it is opened, it has to be opened as a gay performance venue. The status has been around for a while, but it got more power this year around Easter, not just with gay bars but also with pubs and venues in a lot of other communities because so many places are being shut down due to financial greed. So a lot of local authorities are helping to protect them. We’ve been keeping up the pressure on that. The people who were going to buy it completely backed out, so it’s still owned by the same people who had it before despite the fact that they’ve closed it down. They must just be kicking themselves in the shin because if they’d just kept it open until anything was final, they would have still earned loads of money. They appealed the status decision and we had to go to a hearing, but we won. Me, Joe, and the head of the Camden LGBT board versus three lawyers, and we won, which is good. It’s gone a bit quiet again. It’s still going to be a long process I think to get it open, but we are fighting and we’re not taking it lying down, which is a really good thing about London at the moment. It is happening, it is an epidemic, we’ve lost a lot of venues and there are a lot of venues under threat still, but they aren’t being met with passivism. They’re being met with good, strong, positive activism. It’s not just a bunch of people, like, throwing their toys out of the pram. It’s organized collectives of people. Sometimes you have to play the bureaucrat’s game, so we have people that do that and then you’ve got the people who like to organize the protests and be very vocal. Whilst it’s not a very nice situation, seeing the energy that people are putting into fighting is great. It’s quite inspiring.

Meth and co. protesting the loss of the Black Cap (photo by Paul Grace Photography)
Meth and co. protesting the loss of the Black Cap (photo by Paul Grace Photography)

 

CC: Absolutely. You guys gained a lot of social media publicity as well over this. I know countless people who were sharing your posts over Facebook and using #WeAreTheBlackCap and so on, and these are like, kids from Canada who aren’t even there. So you definitely gained some traction attention-wise.

 

M: Well you shouldn’t fucking mess with drag queens! Like, we’re social media professors and experts! It took me, what, ten minutes to Whatsapp every Drag Race girl on my phone and be like “Can you share this?” Bring it! They’re completely clueless, all the idiots that tried to close it down. Whoever advised them to try and close it down without telling anyone, they are making some of the most stupid decisions! I literally just don’t understand how these big businesses are so fucking stupid. Did you not realize what you were getting into when you bought a queer venue that’s full of drag queens?

 

CC: Especially when they’ve had it for so long! Did they think you’re just a quiet bunch that will just do what you’re told?

 

M: UH-HUH.

 

CC: So in an ideal world, the eventual goal would be to have the Black Cap open back up and become your venue again? Or perhaps just a venue?

 

M: Honestly, just opening it. She needs to come back. The Black Cap needs to be open and it needs to be providing that space for the community again, whether it’s me going back there to do my shows again, or something else that will be decided when it happens depending on who it’s owned by. There are rumors that the old owners are going to open it back up again, but do I want to go back and work for a venue owned by a company that lied to us and manipulated a situation for their own gain and then said “Oh, we were wrong! Do you want it back?” I don’t know… It’s like a catch 22 because obviously I want the Black Cap to succeed, and it was succeeding because of shows that I produced along with other people, but also knowing that by going back just to support the space, I would be lining the pockets of people that I don’t agree with… I don’t really know which way to fall. That will be something that I’ll decide when it happens. The focus right now is just on getting it back. What is done with it afterwards… I mean, I may not even be invited back! There are rumors that we’re banned from all premises that that company owns, so we’ll see! I mean they just own a bunch of fucking restaurants and pubs and one other gay bar, so I’m like “Oh noooo, I’m banned from all your venues?! What a shame!”

The initiative even has its own Instagram account
The initiative even has its own Instagram account

 

CC: So in the meantime, where has your new and/or temporary home been?

 

M: That’s been the Eagle in Vauxhall. It’s a worldwide chain, but they’re still independently owned. There are two in England; there’s Eagle Manchester and Eagle London, and then there’s Amsterdam, Berlin, there’s one in LA, and I’m pretty sure there’s one in New York as well. Maybe a few others. They’ve been really great to us. That’s also where we do our kinky night, “Play Thing”. We had the AAA Girls and Max and then we’ve got Trixie coming up. It was really great of them to take us under their wing when we lost the Black Cap. Again, though, I’m not really sure what the future is in terms of whether, if I do book anymore, will we stay there or not… It’s kind of unsure at the moment.

Promo poster for the Meth Lab's Max show at the Eagle
Promo poster for the Meth Lab’s Max show at the Eagle

 

CC: So I know all of that happened around the time that you decided to do a sort of U.S. tour, or I guess an “unofficial visit” to America. How did that impact your trip?

 

M:  Ah yes it was a “holiday”! Oh border control. Yeah, it was really unfortunate timing. The AAA Girls show was coming up as well and I always knew I was going to be away for that but I just thought it was going to be at the Black Cap where we’d been doing shows for so long and we had a perfect routine. It was pretty nerve wracking sitting in my hotel in LA getting text updates. There were some really unfortunate technical difficulties on the first night that were just beyond anyone’s control, which was frustrating when, you know, you’ve had to go through this big move already. Some people kicked up a big fuss that it was in Vauxhall and I was like “Well, if you’re that precious that you can’t be asked to travel the same distance in a different direction, you obviously don’t really care that much about the shows”. Like that was their biggest concern, that it wasn’t in Camden anymore. Literally, Vauxhall is the same distance that Camden is from Central London, just in South. It really does not take that long to get there and it’s got great late night transport links as well. Don’t even try it, Miss Thing. But yeah, it was weird leaving my baby at home. Joe manages it and Lily stage manages the Drag Race girls and they’ve been doing it alongside me the whole time, so I obviously trusted them to do it, but it was very nerve wracking getting texts when things weren’t going particularly great. But the AAA Girls were fantastic and really lovely to them, which is good. We’d worked with Alaska and Willam before, so thankfully we had a good relationship with those girls, but it was strange!

 

CC: So tell me about your U.S. holiday! What spurred you to actually go for it, and how’d it go? Where’d you go? What’d you do?

 

M: Well, I’ve been promising myself America for like four years because I kept wanting to go and do the New York Boylesque Festival for ages, but it never worked out. Money was always a bit tricky. Then I got asked to be an ambassador for the Austin International Drag Festival, so I was like “Right. This is a firm offer of something to do while I’m there. This gives me a date that I have to anchor myself around”. At that point in time, I mean, we don’t make a fortune off of Meth Labs, but we make enough. We’re not the kind of promoter that charges ridiculous amounts just to make loads of profit but obviously we put a lot of work into it so we make sure we get paid decently from it. So I had a fair bit in reserve to spend on flights and I just decided to do it! I have a really good friend in New York so I was able to stay with him and I knew I wanted to go to LA because I was asked to do Transformations with James St. James there. A friend of mine who’d just done it put me in touch with them and they were like “Yep, come do it”. Sadly, I did have to cut the trip short by a week because it happened just as all the Black Cap stuff went down and I did had to get home and fix that. I did spend a while there going “Lalala, nothing’s happening, everything’s fine!” But yeah, I loved every single second of my trip. Even in LA, which wasn’t necessarily my favorite place. Like, I could never live in LA and I don’t think I could spend too much time there but I still enjoyed it and had a great time. New York was everything. I would move to New York in a heartbeat. I loved Austin as well. I didn’t expect to love Austin as much as I did but it was really fucking fantastic and that’s what was amazing. So many phenomenal queens, so many headliners that weren’t Drag Race girls which was so nice! I mean, over here, we will never get the chance to see people like Heklina because I couldn’t afford to pay her flights to come here. People don’t know about her because she’s not been on Drag Race, which is the unfortunate double-edged sword of what I’ve done! I’m like “I think it’s great that so many of you come to see these shows, but there are so many other amazing drag queens in America that I would love to bring you and I never can!” Jackie Beat was there as well, and Kevin Aviance. I went on after Kevin Aviance, I had to follow him which waspressure! It was a really great festival. The amount of queens and kings that were running around that city that weekend was insane. Hopefully they’ll ask me back for next year. I’d like to come back around that time again, especially because Drag Con is a week earlier next year, so I’d be able to tie it all in easily enough I think. We might also come to New York again soon, Joe and I, because he really wants to see it. A lot of his research back in his MA and his undergrad looked at the scene in New York in the 70s and 80s, so he’d like to see it. I figure, you know, if I go on holiday there, I can’t not take a couple of wigs with me, right? Maybe do a number or two?

Watch Meth on Transformations with James St James here (Photo and video courtesy of World of Wonder):
Watch Meth on Transformations with James St James here (Photo and video courtesy of World of Wonder):

 

 

CC: I mean, if you happened to find a dress in your suitcase…

 

M: Right?

 

CC: And you did this entire “holiday” on your own, right? You traveled solo?

 

M: Yes, I did. I’m used to traveling alone because back in my burlesque days I was traveling all over the country and sometimes into Europe to do gigs by myself. Obviously that was the first time I’d ever flown that far. I’d never been to America before. I’d never flown further than, what, four hours to Greece? That was probably the most I’d ever done in my life before. Immigration was a right terrifying prospect! I actually got through really fucking easy, even though I had to queue up for two and a half hours before I got through.

 

CC: I remember you telling me in Philly that you had your drag clothing packed between your muggle clothing!

 

M: Oh god yeah, I even deleted my Facebook app off my phone so they couldn’t look on it and see that I’m a drag queen! I mean, when you’re traveling alone, it does look a bit suspicious but thankfully it was fine. Hopefully when I go back with Joe it’ll just be like “I’m on a romantic getaway with my boyfriend!… Only I occasionally like to dress up! Yay!”

 

CC Nothing to see here! How many cities did you end up going to this time around?

 

M: Including the brief foray into Philadelphia where you saw me, I think that makes it four! New York, LA, Philly, and Austin. In LA though, some of my gigs were in Riverside and that felt like I was traveling to another city because it was so bloody far away. It’s insane how spread out LA is.

 

CC: Whether it was a city, a show, or even just one performance, what was your favorite piece of the tour?

 

M: Well, New York was my favorite place. I did Pixie Aventura and Bob the Drag Queen’s show in New York which was fantastic! I mean even to see them; they are just amazing and the response they got was unbelievable. The best response I got was in Austin during the daytime drag event actually, when I’d gone on after Kevin Aviance, as I mentioned. I did my “Roar” number following his very ambient, atmospheric stuff, which everyone was loving. Then I came through being an absolute loon to Katy Perry, pretending to ride a fucking horse around the stage and the roar from the crowd at the end of that was fantastic! The Frodo bit seems to really bring out people’s need to ball up money and throw it at me. Pretty much every time I did “Roar” in America there was just this sea of dollar bills that people had scrunched up and thrown like “Take my money!” Which, as a British queen where we never get tipped, I was like “Yes please!” We’ve tried doing shows here before where we like, sold dollar bills for tipping or really just given them out for the fun of it. Putting buckets out sometimes works, but again, tipping isn’t really part of the culture here. I found that a lot of the shows in America were free entry though, which is a lot more common over there than it is here, so I guess if you don’t pay, you should tip. Here, formost of the show that you see, you pay to get in. You tend to find with a lot of the old traditional venues that have had an act going on every Sunday since forever, they’ve got a following so the venue just pays them outright. We get paid a lot more as drag queens here than you do over there by far. I think the very first gig I did there I got $30. I haven’t been paid that little for a show since, like, 2009 when I first started. The cheapest gig I do is still twice the average amount I got paid in America. Then again, when I add the tips onto it, it probably equaled out the same.

 

Watch Meth perform her "Roar" number in Philly here (Photo and video courtesy of Drag Coven):
Watch Meth perform her “Roar” number in Philly here (Photo and video courtesy of Drag Coven):

 

CC: So you can see the return of Meth in America in the future?

 

M: Oh yeah. I mean, the ultimate career goal would be to spend half my time here and half my time there. That’s absolutely what I want. That trip was only phase one of the plan.

 

CC: Good. We talk about the show we saw you at in Philly all the time. There are three Drag Coven sisters, but only two of us were there, so as soon as we got back, Jamie and I sat Meghan down and made her watch the entire thing. We’ve been to a lot of drag shows, but that was literally one of the funniest shows we’ve ever seen in our lives!

 

M: I had such a good time at that show! Those girls are amazing too, the Haus of Ham! They’re a fantastic group.

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CC: Yes, we love them! If funds allow it, do you see yourself doing Drag Con next year as well?

 

M: Yeah, I’d really like to. A couple of us here spoke about doing a stall there together, so it’s definitely in the cards. Even if I don’t do a stall, I’ll still go. I’ll be like “Hey Trixie! Do you need someone to flog your shit to people?” Just see if one of them needs help with stuff and go and enjoy it myself, because I was really gutted that I missed it. I’m not sure I’d participate in any of the meet and greet type stuff, we’ll see! I’d really like to see it, and to do Weho just to enjoy it. I’d also really like to see San Francisco next time I come back on tour, so LA will probably just be for Drag Con and then I’ll go there. San Francisco is where I was supposed to be for that week that I had to cut my trip short. I really, really, really want to see it. I feel like I would just love the drag there.

 

CC: Okay, now can you confirm or deny that you might team up with World of Wonder for a YouTube series? Or is that B.S.?

 

M: Oh, no. I mean I’ve said that I’d happily do it if they would, but I don’t know where that came from otherwise. The only British queen they’ve featured so far is Jodie Harsh, I believe. No, I’ve had no offer yet. We are working on a Family Fierce YouTube channel soon though. I have really good connections at YouTube and Google here in London and we were doing YouTube’s Pride party this year and one of the guys said “I want to work on a channel with you!” and I was like “Great!” We don’t know anything about filming or editing or how to do the YouTube magic that makes people follow you and shit like that, but I said “We’ll come and be really funny in front of the camera for you!” So… Coming soon!

 

CC: Now, there are always rumors about Drag Race UK and bringing the franchise over there, and they did have the Drag Race UK Ambassador competition. You did not try out for that, correct?

 

M: I wasn’t involved in that one, no.

 

CC: If they brought the show there, is that something you’d be interested in doing?

 

M: Oh hell yes, I’m going to win it.

 

CC: Fuck yeah. That’s the answer I wanted!

 

M: Honestly! I’m even tempted to move to America so I’ll be able to get into that one! Obviously there are constantly rumors about them bringing it here. The ambassador thing helped to raise the profile a bit more I think. I mean the competition itself, I’m not going to lie, it didn’t make any sense. Which is a shame, because I really like Vivienne, who won. I really liked all of the queens who were in it! It just all felt like a farce. Quite frankly, all of the top three were out-performed in the lipsync section. Not that they were bad by any means, but there were some really jaw dropping performances happening and it kind of felt like they purposely skimmed over the more avant garde and dangerous off the wall stuff, which for me is one of the best things about British drag! We’re a lot more balls to the walls than a lot of other countries are. Again, this is no shade towards anyone else in the competition, because everyone who was in it was fantastic in their own way. I just feel like they were looking for a particular thing. It’s also my personal preference. I would rather see a weirdo crowned any day of the week. As for bringing the show… I think if it happens, I’ll be one of the first people to know. Jonathan Ross, who bought the rights to the show, has been to my shows loads of times and he’s always quoted saying that I’m one of his favorite drag queens in the country. So, you know, even if it’s just “Michelle Visage’s Drag Race” or something like that, because she’s such an Anglophile and the UK loves her, I guess we’ll see! I am of the opinion, though, that they will have to change a fair bit about it to make it work over here, because there is stuff that wouldn’t translate, but I think it’s so doable. The good thing that the ambassador thing did was prove that it’s possible. A lot of people think that there isn’t enough drag in the UK and I’m like “Yeah there is!” There is so much! When you look at all the people that entered their videos for the ambassador competition, even just looking at the top 20 that got selected, and then at the actual event itself there were all these drag queens in the audience. Jonathan even said “There is enough drag in this room alone to do about four seasons”. The problem is that we don’t have anything like Logo, you know? We don’t have a gay channel here apart from Out TV. Like we don’t even have that in this country So I guess we’ll see. When it happens, I will enter it and I shall do my best to take the crown! But if they don’t hurry up and do it soon, I think I might have to grit my teeth and get myself to the visa office and be like “Right! Let’s go!” I know it’s going to be hard but if Courtney Act can do it, so can I, right? I feel like any British queen of decent standard who managed to get themselves to America could get on the show for the storyline alone. With the UK one, you don’t know if it’s going to be that successful. They could do it and it might only be one season and you could end up being the Bebe Zahara Benet of UK drag.

 

CC: Doing the American show would also open you up to a whole new market.

 

M: Oh yeah. I mean, I want to go on the show because I want to be touring the world doing what I do. It’s not necessarily just about the money, though obviously it would be nice to be paid that much! That’s just what I’ve always wanted to do, is to be able to constantly perform anywhere and everywhere. I want to do it because I love performing, I love doing drag. If that’s the platform I need to do it and if that’s the hoop I have to jump through to get there, then fine! Because I know that I won’t be one of those reality TV people who just kind of uses it as a platform and then tries to make shit work afterwards. Yeah, I’ll use it as a platform, but the Drag Race queens that I don’t really have a lot to do with are usually the ones that make me think “Okay, you just got on TV.” Like, you need to actually follow it up with high-level work and really use that platform to produce something. I’m happy to pay the money for some of these queens because I know they’re going to deliver good work but I’m not going to pay money for certain queens just because they were on a TV show.

 

CC: So beyond the possibility of Drag Race in some form, what do you see for yourself in the next year, and what’s the biggest drag goal you’d like to reach in the next five years?

 

M: Hmmm… Within the next year, I would like to get back to the more stable position that I was in a couple of months ago before losing the Cap. That would be nice! Not feeling like I’m constantly on edge in a career and financial way. In five years time, I want an international career, quite frankly. I want to be traveling and seeing the world and all these other drag cultures, like Brazil keeps talking about booking me, and Australia as well. They keep tagging all of the event producers that are there and I’m like “Come on! Come on!” That’s my goal and I know I can do it.

 

CC: Well I hope we get to see you all over the place very soon! Thank you so much for chatting with me today!

 

M: Pleasure, darling! Chat soon! Oh, and P.S.- That soggy papier mache hat I was giggling at? It’s now a totally fierce headpiece.

Trixie and Meth
Trixie and Meth

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