Drag Queen. DJ. Club Promoter. Media Darling. The Real Queen of England?
Last week I was invited to hang out with Jodie Harsh for an evening of chatter and clubbing. My curiosities were peaked to say the very least. For those of you in the know, you know that Jodie Harsh is a London legend. You can't pick up a fag rag in this city without seeing one or two pap shots of her – always looking glamourous with her gigantic mane of blonde hair and pouty lips, usually sporting a few muscled shirtless men on her shoulder or a pair of bedazzled headphones around her neck. If you were to Wikipedia "gay nightlife in London", no doubt, Jodie Harsh would be mentioned there.
So loaded with a few questions, my iPhone and an open mind, I headed over to London's Shoreditch House to meet the London legend herself. Let's just say that interviewing Jodie Harsh wasn't your conventional interview – it was probably the longest interview I've ever done in my life. Whilst most popsters I interview are more "lets get down to business", Jodie took a most unusual approach to our "date".
Shoreditch House – London: Upon arrival I ask to see Jodie Harsh in reception and I'm told that she isn't there yet but that she is meeting me on the 5th floor for dinner. "Dinner" I think. OK, not a big deal. I'm whizzed to table by a former member of a boyband I used to cover and wait patiently for my date to arrive, all the while thinking I could use a drink. And then she arrives. Multi-colour sequined and all. Stunning. People start looking at me like I'm on a date with her. I kinda expected her to do all the talking really, but it was quite the opposite. We immediately set into conversation about music where I learn that EQ is one of her main music blogs that she reads. I also learn that she is a massive Lil Kim fan and has known Roisin Murphy, Patrick Wolf and Frankmusik for years. "Yeah, I've known Vince forever when he was trying his hardest just to get DJ gigs." she exclaims. Her unpronounceable fish dish arrives which she favoured over the pizza this time. "I pretty much live here at Shoreditch House – it's like my second home, I have at least one meal a day here…" she explains when I ask why we were at the exclusive Shoreditch House for our meeting today. A few gin and tonics later, I learn that she is actually supposed to be at her own event right now – the legendary "Circus" night in East London. She doesn't seem to mind that she's running late – "Let's go outside for a fag".
Shoreditch House – Pool Area: It's cold and drizzly outside. Nipples on attention. Jodie introduces me to the Shoreditch House Manager, otherwise known as "The Queen" by her job title and the two tell me of a story of how they fired one of the help for being an idiot. Funny story. They also inform me of the big Bananarama comeback which is supposed to be top secret and how they are planning a big event at the venue in which they want the girls to perform at. Jodie also expresses her desire to get Bruno to come to the event as well and no doubt, she'll probably be able to make that happen. "Shall we do the interview I ask", where I am hoping to get inside the mind of Jodie Harsh a bit to find out what exactly makes her tick…
Shoreditch House – The gym: OK, no private rooms were available for our little chat, so we end up sitting down on two treadmills. Again, a first for me…
EQ: Do you think drag is a dying artform? There aren't that many famous drag queens anymore except for you and RuPaul…
Jodie Harsh: Drag is NOT a dying art-form, but there are enough drag queens already, I don't think the world needs any more of us though…
Are you the same when you take off your blonde wig or does drag allow you to strip away all your inhibitions and be someone else that you always wanted to be?
You know I've always been the same person I am when I wear the wig. I'm very determined and hard-working and in some ways the wig and makeup has got me a lot of attention. But I am the same, I've always been how I am in real life as I am when I am Jodie Harsh.
Is it hard sometimes being Jodie Harsh? Do you ever wake up going "fucking hell" must I do this today?"
Yeah I do, sometimes I just sit in my pajamas all day and work away on my laptop and the only person who sees me like this my assistant. I never go to an event or rarely leave the house without being in full drag though. It's hard work and I sometimes ask myself why I go through the whole process of getting dressed up and all, but in the end I really enjoy what I do so it's worth it.
Why do you think some people are scared of drag queens. I have to admit, I was too until I actually met my friend Pedro who as a drag queen in NYC. He was kind enough to sit me down and answer every question I had about drag queens and now – I'm not scared anymore.
People are so scared of things that are different. And doing drag isn't your normal everyday sort of thing, isn't it?
Jodie Harsh does her best Stacey Q impersonation…
It's no secret that your gal pals with Roisin Murphy. Did you have fun playing the part of her mother in the video to "Movie Star". What's it like to get in a pretend cat fight with Roisin? That video is epic.
You know that day was so fun. I have a funny story about filming that scene though. During the fight scene, I was wearing these heels and I accidently stepped on Roisin's foot REALLY hard and she was in pain. She was like standing there in pain going "oh it's alright, fucking hell, it's alright, I'll be fine!" And I am there thinking like I just pissed off Roisin Murphy - and you don't want to do that! But in the end we laughed and she forgave me! Phew!
Let's talk about your music for a bit. You've got a song on Larry Tee's new album called "Agnyess Deyn". Tell me a little bit about it. I hear it's an ode to life as a supermodel right?
Larry is one of my oldest friends from New York and when he approached me about doing a song about Agnyess Deyn I was like "I am NOT singing a song about Agyness". Then he told he that he was right about this and that I should trust him. Being that he is someone I respect, I decided to just go with it and I think it turned out great. I think his music is the future and his new "Club Badd" album is incredible.
Let's talk pop for a moment. What pop songs are currently on repeat for you?
I like Little Boots, but I haven't heard the full album yet. I love VV Brown – she's performing at my Circus night on July 4th at Matter in the O2 along with Siouxsie Sioux and Frankmusik! It's by far my biggest night yet after doing Circus for three and a half years. I really love Lil Kim too, I could listen to her all day. I'm not much into hip-hop and all but that sound that Lil Kim and Missy Elliot make really turns me on. The new Peaches album is a must have too.
I even hear you're working with William Orbit on a few things…
I don't want to be known for being just a celebrity with no talent – there are so many of those out there and I want to be known for being a credible person in music and that's really what I am striving to achieve. I've been asked to all those shows like "Celebrity Big Brother" and "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Outta" here and I've turned them all down. I want to focus on being a credible DJ and music producer/remixer. I am working on a few new tracks too which I can't tell you about just yet but there is a lot of stuff in the works!
We then get onto the clubbing portion of the night where we take a two minute cab ride around the corner to Circus because it's raining. Tonight Jodie is putting on Mutya and Ultra who are singing their new single. Jodie then introduces me to all her club kid mates (she even tells me I'm not allowed to talk to one of them – who was very cute though – damn) and it is there at Circus that I really realize what Jodie Harsh is trying to do with her career.
Jodie Harsh is the leader of the club kids of 2009. An art-form that I thought died alongside Michael Alig and the Party Monster kids awhile ago. Dressing up and expressing yourself through music and dance as an artform is still alive and thriving, and for one brief moment, I was transported back to those last days of twenty-something decadence when I too was doing the same thing with glitter smeared across my face in New York City.
These days, I more or less just admire the art from a distance, but knowing that Jodie Harsh is there, keeping the artform alive, garners nothing but utmost respect from me. It may seem frivilous and unimportant to some, but to me and the hundreds of London club kids that need a pied piper of such to represent the music and the artform – it's an invaluable position of leadership that takes real balls – even if they are ever-so-cleverly tucked away.
Jodie Harsh – I applaud you. All hail, The Real Queen of England.
Jodie Harsh on MySpace.