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Interview with Scottee

29 November 2015 | Ryan Ormonde

Scottee’s Camp returns to the Roundhouse this December with a gaggle of special guests. London Calling chats with Scottee about the popular Christmas ‘variety knees up’.

It’s a late November afternoon and Scottee is hanging out in an attic. “My mum has put a Christmas tree up in my bedroom and made it look like a weird alpine shack!” The London-based performance artist is home for ‘fake Christmas’ as the real one will be spent elsewhere. “My dad built a mock studio/bedroom in their roof so I can come down and work here when I want”.

Scottee and Christmas have ‘previous’: “Two years ago I released a Christmas Number One.” Really? “And I sold 97 copies of the single. I like what failure does and I like setting myself up for it. We’re so averse to failure and actually I think we can learn so much from it.” Is Scottee calm in a crisis? “I’m calm but I’m dramatic. I really love a crisis. It’s really sickening, but I realised this recently, that if anything kicks off on the news or any big world stories I get quite excited.” Even if it’s horrible and awful and... “Yeah! And then, ‘What am I going to say on Twitter?’”

That comes straight into your head?

“Yeah! I think that’s the world we’re living in now. Am I calm in a crisis? I’d like to say I was, yeah, but I do enjoy it. My granddad goes into hospital quite a lot and whenever he goes in I’m like ‘this is it’ and I prepare myself. Which I guess is quite good but it’s also a little bit sinister.” Scottee’s granddad (his actual, real name is Liam Gallagher) launched a career as a conceptual artist last year with Scottee’s help. Was Mr Gallagher experiencing health issues when Scottee embarked on that project with him? “Yes he was. I guess he wasn’t as ill as he is now. He’s genuinely been in hospital 18 times. 18 times for a crisis feels a little bit excessive.”

Scottee identifies as ‘a recovering Roman Catholic’. Does that involve prayer? “No! If I was going to pray, I’d pray to someone like Larry Grayson or Les Dawson. Those to me make more sense as icons. I quite like Liberace as well but I think she’s a bit touched. Seeing Behind the Candelabra took the shine off the sequins. But Show Business is dark.” Speaking from experience? “Yeah! Because I really love being quite sinister and dark. Especially being a camp thing in sequins, it’s kind of a relief to be able to say to the public: right now I’m going to tell you the truth. So a lot of my work deals with ‘issues’ - I use that in scare quotes. But I guess with Camp the politics is a bit more subtle, it’s about querying camp and enjoying the campery of Christmas.”

It sounds like Scottee is looking forward to knocking about with the Camp performers. “We’re all really good friends. I wish there was this horrible back-story where I’d be like, ‘we all fell out’, if it was very Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. I wish we had that rivalry but we don’t. But me and Dickie [Beau] have known each other for a very, very long time. We used to knock about in Soho with each other when we were two old drunks. And we use to say to each other ‘One day dear, we’re going to be in Show Business!’ So we recall those moments quite fondly. I guess with [fellow Camp performers] Jess [Love], Ginger [Johnson] and Jayde [Adams], we’re always on a bill with each other but we’re never in the same room. Now we’re sharing a dressing room. It might be a Christmas dinner experience where you’ve got all of your individual loved ones all together and sometimes that doesn’t work.

Adams does a parody version of Bond theme Skyfall that gives the Adele original a whole new perspective. Will this get an outing at Camp? “Yes, I can tell you that Adele/Jayde Adams will be on the Camp tour. Recently, you know the ‘Day of Adele’ thing that the BBC did? Jayde was actually supposed to be on that programme but she called me up to say ‘I don’t think I can do this because there’s a thing in the contract that says I have to waive some of my human rights’. I was like ‘yeah, get the fuck out of there!’ And then what happened is that she could have met Adele and been on Graham Norton. [Adele] is definitely going to be quite present in the show. That story will be in there as well, I’m sure.”

On her Twitter bio, fellow Camper Ginger Johnson describes herself as 'an existential crisis in tights' - is this accurate? “She is. She’s an existential crisis in tights on a Megabus. She’s travelling around the country on a Megabus because it’s her preferred route of transport! And I can’t tell you why but she lets us know in the show why. And it’s all to do with a mysterious box of Maltesers - that’s why she can’t travel by train any more.” How about Jess Love, star of popular circus show La Soirée? “She’s really aware of the naffness of circus, and she uses that to her advantage. That always makes me giggle. I always love the fact that wherever you are in the room, she will find you and make eye contact for one second just to let you know it’s all a laugh.” Will she be slightly different in Camp? “I can tell you she will be slightly camper and I can tell you we will see more of her...”

Dickie Beau’s Blackouts has also been a success, most recently at Chelsea Theatre’s Sacred. Has Scottee collaborated with Beau? “Yeah I have. Dickie’s a really generous collaborator. There is no idea he has ownership over. I often feel like that as well. You have to donate an idea and sometimes that works better for somebody else and sometimes you should do it by myself. He is a real hoot to be in a room with and we’re also big coffee drinkers so I’ve never found it difficult. Dickie is also the nicest person in show business. I think a lot of people think they are until they meet Dickie and they realise actually he’s the most beautiful human being you’ll ever meet in your life. There’s no malice to her. Everything that you see on the stage that she does, that’s all dark - that’s not who she is.”

When the Camp tour reaches London its home will be the Roundhouse, a regular performance space for Scottee. “I’m from a council estate that’s across the road, in Queen’s Crescent. It feels like in a weird way ‘the boy done good’. I feel like that big building across the road that has always been there, that’s been there throughout my whole life, is now a thing that I have ownership on. I’m the associate artist there now. I started there when I was 14 as a participant so it’s a kind of round story. It’s one of those rare times where I like to give myself a pat on the back. I teach there as well so I see the next generation of young people and being able to share that story with them, seeing their eyes light up, that actually this thing isn’t just a part time - “Oh, I’m just going to do this at the weekend” - but actually if you workshop at the Roundhouse you do have the potential to go on and they will support you. And you can make a career out of it. Like, you can be a weirdo and a campy little monster and people will pay for you to do that!”

While the Roundhouse is a case apart, does London need a different kind of venue? “I think London needs a more accessible venue and I think London itself needs a rethink. The focus here is on redevelopment and the question I want to ask is ‘Who’s it being redeveloped for?’ This word that’s really toxic in the language at the moment is ‘luxury’. I don’t want luxury, because luxury means someone’s being pushed out for it. It’s not a luxury for everyone. I feel a bit bored that London has succumbed to Capitalism in such a way. And I worry that the pockets of Socialism and people who are socially engaged are becoming smaller and smaller and London isn’t this queer Utopian commune that I thought it once was. And it’s my home. So I’m now questioning, where do I exist if I can’t exist where I’m from?”

London’s food culture has gone a bit crazy, hasn’t it? “Everyone wants to run a fucking pop-up and be like ‘Oh this is the first crisps restaurant’, ‘this is the first pork pie annual, on the Jubilee line, Circle line, dinner experience’. I just want to eat a fucking meal on a plate in a room that’s called a restaurant. I don’t need it to be novel. I don’t need it to be a pop-up. Those things are not the things I need to eat food. And listen, I’m not afraid of eating. The irony is, this pop-up culture - which has been great at taking over these empty, abandoned, derelict spaces - it’s actually part of the problem. They’re showing the potential of the shitness. Ten steps behind, the developers are coming in going, ‘Yeah, thanks for doing the groundwork, artists, now we’re going to buy up the stuff because we’ve got the capital to do that.’ But then what do we do all day? Do we just sit in all day and do fuck-all? It’s a tough one.”

Scottee’s Camp is on at the Roundhouse from 9-12 December. For more information and to book tickets, see website.

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