Category Archives: interviews

$exquisite: Sex workers in the Spotlight

An interview with artist Maedb, founder of $exquisite, by Ngaire Ruth – legendary feminist music journalist, and Maedb’s mum.

Working towards making the unconventional, conventional, the invisible, visible: Maedb. She’s a writer, poet, performer, curator and the producer of $exquisite events – a night of stigma-defying art, activism and glamour from artists, performers and comedians who work in the sex industry, which aims to bring the audience and artist closer through performance, debate and Q&A discussion. The next is on 15th November, at London’s Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

Why did you decide to work with multidisciplinary arts and sex workers?

Well, I’m an artist – poet and theatre maker – and knew I wanted to curate a cross-arts night. It was only in discussion with a friend – a full-service sex worker and human rights law student – that I was informed of a law passed in the states, FOSTA-SESTA. This prohibits sex workers all around the world who work online, and the bill was passed with the view to stop sexual exploitation but has in turn prohibited sex workers working safely. It has shut down various sites sex workers use to work safely online and feeds into algorithms designed to silence sex workers on Tumblr, Instagram and other social platforms. This is really dangerous and prevents workers from screening their clients and could even potentially push sex work into the streets. I was shocked that no-one was talking about it, at least in my circle. So, I thought it would be really cool to create a celebratory space for sex worker artists, to build a community and have conversations.

You’ve pin pointed a feminists’ armour: female friendship and support – which seems especially key for isolated online sex workers. Events like $exquisite give sex workers an  opportunity to share their art, but also where they can meet other sex workers, creatives and have some kind of camaraderie, fun and friendship. It’s really important; did you consider that at the time?

No, I didn’t. I do think it is important to mention that issues that exist within and for the sex worker community certainly expand that of those who work online – of which I am learning about now. But, in regard to camaraderie, fun and friendship – no I didn’t expect it. I really just was focused on creating my first event and set on getting to know the women first. I guess it is just an amazing by-product, and one I definitely want to build on. In the future I am planning to start a collective, so a community can exist beyond the events.

What was some of the feedback you got from the first event?

Many people approached me afterwards and presented good feedback. But I was most shocked by those of my university friends, who said that the event had opened their minds and changed their views on the industry. Some said it was a journey of education and were pleased that there was a space to speak on such ‘taboo’ topics. I think it’s really important that the night remains a space where people outside of the industry attend. I want creating conversations, with a view for it to continue beyond the event, to be a strong focus. That way we can make a ripple effect.

So, you have performances – what sort of things have you had before and what can we expect?

We try to have a consistent mix of different art forms, and primarily focus on poetry, theatre, dance and comedy. I think the event lends itself well to cabaret and burlesque so we will be seeing a bit more of that this time, alongside some drag.

So what about sexuality, are you an intersectional feminist? Do you believe that using your sexuality as an object is empowering?

Different things empower different women. I simply can’t say that it is empowering, or I would be speaking for everyone. I don’t think we have the agency to speak for every woman. The best I can do as a feminist is to support other women. Patriarchy has and will continue to divide us; I don’t believe you are a feminist if your feminism is exclusionary. And, furthermore, I don’t agree with the assumption that sexuality is an object. I’m not quite sure by what you mean, but if you mean to make money. I don’t think it is empowering, I don’t believe in a ‘happy hooker’ narrative to defy stigma. I think it is work, and sometimes it is shit, but having stigma and a society that isolates you is even shitter.

And, do you have men coming to your events?

Yeah.

And, do they behave themselves?

Yeah, and I think there’s nothing wrong if men want to come and enjoy themselves. It’s a safe, powerful and feminine space. It’s always a celebration and never an exploitation.

What do you think you’ll do next?

I would love to start a community where we will have monthly meet-ups. I think sex work can be really isolating – the stigma can destroy lives. Some people can’t even be open with their friends or family, as the judgement can often be so harsh. So, I really think it’s important that we have spaces where we can just make friends and form our own families and even debrief about our days. It’s just a job. Society makes it a label.

What about helping people develop their art?

Yes, I would love to eventually programme workshops where people can develop their craft. I remain in contact with the artists throughout the creation process in the lead up to events and am there if they ever want feedback or a second eye.

Do you think you’ll come across stigma when applying for grants or rehearsal spaces? If so, what’s your argument? In the past, feminists have, for example, picketed Soho saying sex work is demeaning to women.

I think that type of feminism is very exclusionary. It’s one type of middle-class, white, feminism that cannot speak for everyone. A lot of women who enter sex work are generally working-class women and it’s a very small minority that enter it with a “Hey I wanna have sex and get paid for it” mentality. The bottom line is that people need to make money, pay their rent and we are all victims of capitalism. Survival sex work and sex work are two different things. But most people enter it with a view to make money and I don’t think you are a feminist if you put down another woman for doing things you wouldn’t do.

A lot of people fall victim to sex trafficking, or, begin sex work because of poverty or abuse. Arguably it’s not a choice, even when empowering as financial independence, or enabling the pursuit of further education, but a result of a patriarchal society in which women are de-humanised. Bringing it out into the open is a most brilliant way to make the invisible visible.

Yes! If we decimalise sex work, it will certainly cut down sexual exploitation. Decriminalisation equals regulation. The more something is pushed underground, the further room for misconduct. The more it is pushed into the darkness, the more room for those entering underage or trafficked. Currently the law in the UK states if two or more girls are working in a location, it is a brothel and therefore illegal. But if one works, it’s okay. Tell me how on earth can that be safe?! If it is legalised it allows for monitoring, screening and ultimately safety.

Have you considered giving money to any charities related to sex work?

Yeah, so at our next event we are hosting an ‘afterhours’ pop up strip club which will take place after the art section of our night from 11pm-2am. This is in collaboration with East London Strippers Collective to raise money for United Strippers of the World and United Voices of the World Union; who provide legal advice and action for sex workers.

Is there anything else you want us to know, is there any way we can get involved?

We would love to have your support, come and listen to what sex workers have to say and join the conversation. All the money raised will go back into $exquisite, we hope to eventually programme a sex worker festival where we can further support sex workers and sex worker artists. Share some love with us on Instagram, we just want to build an online platform and a real-life community.

How can people get in contact?

Instagram, email or Facebook. The next event is 15 November at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club – event details here

Eilis Frawley: 5 question interview

You might know Eilis Frawley as the drumming powerhouse behind our favourite Berlin indiepoppers Party Fears. It’s her flipside solo project which is making waves across Europe at the moment – ‘spoken word meets drumming’ is the vibe and you can catch her this very evening in fact at Earth, Hackney, London (it’s free too – go!) The tour continues in Sheffield, Manchester, Leicester and Leeds. All info on Facebook.

Eilis’ single ‘illusions’ is out now on Reckless Yes records – a beautiful ambient soundscape to dive into, with home-hitting lyrics:

Busyness will kill us …

In the meantime, we asked Eilis 5 pressing questions …

1. For people who’ve not seen you play solo before, what can they expect from you on this UK tour?

Strong and off kilter with stories about growing up, living abroad, the fluctuation in mental health and thoughts on discrimination, merged in a soundscape of drums, spoken word and synths. On stage I’m creating a dark atmosphere broken by catchy melodies, all held together by powerful and intricate drum beats. My live set is diverse, brutally honest and should encourage women* with similar experiences to speak up. 

2. Fill in the blanks

“My sound is like the lovechild of Battles and Brian Eno with a bit on the side from Camera Obscura

3. Give us your artist manifesto in no more than 20 words.

honesty, kindness, loyalty, supportive behaviour, fun, trust, drums, stories.

4. Who’s your favourite band/artists playing on the DIY circuit at the moment? 

Charmpit, Schnickschnack, People Club, Jaguwar. 

5. Draw us a picture.

INTERVIEW: CASSIE FOX TALKS 4 YEARS OF LOUD WOMEN + SHARES HER LW 4TH BIRTHDAY PLAYLIST

Reblogged from Joyzine – interview by Paul Maps

DIY collective Loud Women has been championing women in music since 2015 and on Saturday 12th October will be celebrating their 4th birthday with a gig at legendary Islington punk venue The Hope & Anchor with sets from Hagar The Womb, Rabies Babies, The Menstrual Cramps, I, Doris, The Other Ones, Mindframe and Smalltown Tigers.

We got in touch with LW’s Cassie Fox to talk about the upcoming anniversary and why, four years on we still need promoters like Loud Women on the DIY scene.

When did the idea of Loud Women first arise and why?  Was there a particular incident that sparked it?It started as a one-off gig in 2015. Having played on the gig circuit for a little while, I was feeling frustrated at the amount of ‘man-band’heavy’ lineups all the time, and macho crowds. I was particularly tired of my all-female band always being the token women on the bill, and wanted to put on a fundraising gig with my friends’ bands that could be relaxed and inclusive and fun … so I did! Since then, a whole heap of media activity and community has organically grown around the events, but that ethos is still at the heart of what we do – putting on events full of awesome music and a no-bullshit atmosphere with womxn and non-binary people at the heart.Have you noticed any change in the representation and treatment of female musicians in the four years since LW began?On a small scale, yes – a bit! Certainly in the cosy bubble of the London gig circuit there seem to be loads of new opportunities for “bands who are not cis het white dudes” to play, with seemingly new promoters springing up every day, which is brilliant. Outside of London though, I’m still often told by touring bands playing LW gigs that it’s the first time in ages that they’ve not been the only women on a lineup. And outside of DIY music… there’s plenty of conversations being had about major festivals supporting female artists, but still very little noticeable difference in the gender balance on bigger stages.Can you take us back to the very first Loud Women gig?  Who played and what was it like?It was 3rd October 2015 at the (sadly now closed) Silver Bullet in Finsbury Park. The headliners were Blindness (featuring our awesome friend Debbie Smith), with my then-band The Wimmins’ Institute, Argonaut, and Dream Nails. I didn’t know what to expect, and feared we’d be playing to an empty room … but was delighted to find the room full for the first band, Dream Nails, who were playing their first ever gig and had brought all their friends! It was the first time I’d been at a gig with a majority-female crowd – and oh the luxury of being 5’3″ and able to actually see the stage! There was a really fun atmosphere, and we raised a decent amount of money for Women’s Aid too. So it was a no-brainer to keep the momentum going and put on more gigs … and here we are!There have been hundreds of bands playing countless Loud Women shows over the past four years, are there any nights that particularly stick in your memory?The Little LOUD WOMEN gigs we’ve done for families have been by far my favourite! I’m a mum of two, and also a big kid myself, so I love any excuse to get extra glittery, get the balloons out, and start a little toddler moshpit! I loved seeing the kids enjoying music up close, invading the stage, seeing what the instruments feel like, and what their voices sound like down a microphone. And parents really appreciated getting to see ‘proper music’ without having to pay out for a babysitter. At one gig there was a particularly humbling moment when a little girl of about 9 grabbed the mic and gave an impromtu speech about how important it was for everyone to be included – I can’t wait to see if she reappears fronting a punk band in a few years!Aside from the gigs, what else has Loud Women been involved in?Our music blog loudwomen.org and monthly ezine have really taken off in the last few years, I’m really proud of those – we have a lot of contributors, so a lot of different voices and opinions and experiences, and they really help spread the word to audiences and influencers. We’ve also released compilation records – the latest of course being LOUD WOMEN Volume Two! Between the two albums there’s over 40 different bands – all killer – £5 each to you! loudwomen.bandcamp.com

With four years under your belts, what does LW have in store for the future?
More of the same I guess, until there’s no need for LOUD WOMEN any more! Keep an eye on the LOUD WOMEN socials for news of exciting 2020 events …Loud Women’s 4th Birthday Party takes place on Saturday 12th October at The Hope & Anchor.  More information and tickets, priced £8 + booking fee, can be found here.Check out Cassie’s Loud Women playlist featuring 49 artists who’ve played LW shows over the past four years:

Interview by Paul Maps

Delila Black: 10 Question Interview

Delila Black came and played our Unplugged evening last week and treated us to a thoroughly captivating performance – her powerful voice and skilled songwriting were food for the ears and the soul. Scarcity of hours in the day meant I didn’t get to publish this 10 question interview before the gig, but here it is along with the strong recommendation to check out Delila Black’s music.

1. For people who’ve not heard you play live before, what can we expect from you?

 As this will be an acoustic night you can expect a quieter version of my usual set. You’ll hear  tales of love, betrayal and vengeance and you’ll get an atmosphere of Country-Noire.

It’ll be a mix of punk-country, rodeo-rock and  good ol’ traditional.

2. Which is your favourite song to play and why? Tell us about it …

At the moment it’s Vanilla Ice Cream. I like creating the  atmosphere and I like the story. I also like doing High On A Mountain because of the sentiment behind it. It’s simple and raw.  Actually, I think the whole set is.

3. Do some super-lazy journalism on our behalf please, and fill in the blanks: “My sound is like  …”

Imagine KD Lang, Grace Jones  and Jack White at church, then imagine them at Fight Club.

4. What’s your proudest musical moment to date? 

Actually there are 3.

1. I was invited to sing solo, a cappella at Westminster Abbey at “A Service For Haiti” a year after the earthquake. I sang  a song in Kreyol,  that  I wrote with my dad . The acoustics were absolutely stunning. An incredible experience. 

2. Tony Visconti said he likes my work and

3. the late, great Mr. Tom Paley played fiddle on some of my songs.

5. Recommend a record and a book that you think our readers might not have heard of.

Book: “”The Temple of My Familiar” by Alice Walker.  You will not be able to put it down, or maybe that’s just me. I wasn’t able to put it down! It will take you on a journey you didn’t know you needed to take. 

Record: Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers “End Of My Journey”.  It’s pure and raw.  Brilliant vocals from each singer and Sam Cooke of course sounds heavenly.  Towards  the end of the song, when it gets rough and loud,  you can catch tiny, little  bits of electric guitar -you can actually hear rock & roll being born.

6. One for the guitarists … bore us with the details of your set-up please.

 Mr. Buckley will answer this one:

We’re using a Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin with a P90 pickup.The current signal path is typically split between a clean sound sent via DI to the FOH mixer (via an MXR 6-band EQ pedal, in case we need to fine-tune for various venues) and a dirty sound (via a couple of simple but very good overdrive/boost pedals – a Hot Cake and a Fulltone FatBoost) which, in large venues, might typically be sent to an amp onstage (a Laney VC30 or, where we are using other amps, something like a Vox AC30 or another similar valve-driven amp) but which can also all be sent inline via DI in acoustic shows.

7. Who inspires you?

People with no filter (probably for the wrong reasons)

8. What are your musical goals?

Short term: To finish recording my 3rd  EP.  Electro-Mountain and have it ready for promotion by December.  Book some festivals  for next year. 

Long term: I’d love to get on Jools Holland. I’d also love to get my music in films or television shows (that I like)

9. What’s the most important thing we need to know about your music right now?

There are 2 ‘most important’ things you need to know about my music right now.

1. We will be playing at the Aktion4Prevention Festival at the Bedford, 12th September.

2.  The  EP Electro-Mountain will be ready  in a couple of months!

Find it at www.delilablack.com

10. Pass the mic – who are your top 5 contemporary bands/musicians.

I’ll keep this answer to unsigned artists that  I’ve played with. No particular order.  Hopefully people will  check them out. Unsigned and emerging artists need your support.

Dan Caleb – fierce and captivating live performances

Hayley Solas – she sounds like a mixture of Angel Olsen and Stevie Nicks. (it’s a win win)

Juliet & Nanette – original well crafted songs (but don’t go see them if you’re depressed )

The Life & Death – well crafted, beautifully recorded. Great songs. 

I can’t think of a 5th one. I’m sure I have one but I’m watching Schitt’s Creek on Netflix  while I’m trying to do this and I can’t concentrate because Catherine O’Hara is so  brilliant.  

Kimmi Watson: 10 question interview

Kimmi Watson is the legend behind the She17 festival in Walthamshow (happening 21 Sept!) and a brilliant musician in her own right. Which she’s coming to show us on 22 August at the Old Queen’s Head when she plays our Unplugged night. Here’s her 10 question interview …

1. For people who’ve not heard you play live before, what can we expect from you at the LOUD WOMEN gig?

Dry & witty self penned acoustic new wave played on a parlour guitar and maybe with some random harmonica blasts!

2. Which is your favourite song to play and why? Tell us about it …

I have two : Elephant (which is on Spotify etc. via my band Sulk93). It’s a bit of a crowd pleasure and gets lots a great feedback whether played solo or with the band ! It’s cynical swipe at a horrible boss from my past! 

Pants on Fire – it’s the most immature song I’ve written! So it makes me feel young again. I’ll be topping and tailing my set with these two songs.

3. Do some super-lazy journalism on our behalf please, and fill in the blanks:

“My sound is like the lovechild of Patti Smith and Siouxsie with a bit on the side from Lou Read!”

4. What’s your proudest musical moment to date?

Launching She17music over six years ago and in doing so gaining the confidence to start writing some good songs for my group Sulk93 and getting them distributed!

5. Recommend a record and a book.

Record: Sistahs by Big Joanie – it’s my heaviest rotation!  

Book: To Throw Away Unopened – Viv Albertine. The best I’ve read in the last year. 

6. One for the guitarists … bore us with the details of your set-up please.

You asked, so here goes:

My acoustic set-up is a Guild M-120E with Electro Harmonix Polara pedal (sometimes) and Lee Oskar harmonicas, usually through a Fishman Loudbox mini! Amp or the PA desk! 

My eclectric set-up is a Fender Mustang or Gibson SG Special via a Marshall DFX amp with Fat Sandwich, Big Muff Nano, Vibra-trem and Polara pedals!  

Still awake? …I also use a Fender Jazz or Mustang bass with the Big Muff  + a Boss Bass Flanger & Fender Rumble 40 amp. when playing gigs with the band Ich Bin Finn! 

7. Who inspires you?

All the women, girls and non-binary folk out there making music and those who support them with events like Loud Women! We’re a mass movement making a big difference! 

8. What are your musical goals?

 I’m 55 now so it’s all about having fun, exploring new music, enjoying what I do  and inspiring the next generation to go for it! 

9. What’s the most important thing we need to know about your music right now?

 It’s out there! Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple  etc. It’s an acquired taste! Im hoping to record an album in 2020! 

10. Pass the mic – who are your top 5 contemporary bands/musicians.

Talking HeadsTina Weymouth was why I took up bass! David Byrne is why I write and record songs and why I’m ok singing with a Marmite voice!

Courtney Barnett – A very honest, charismatic songwriter and a fearless guitarist!

The Slits – Because they were also fearless and did not give a fuck! 

Big Joanie – so refreshing –  just wow! 

Patti Smith – For the best albumversary gig ever! (Horses at The Roundhouse)

Come see Kimmi Watson on 22 August at the Old Queen’s Head, Islington, performing with MIRI, I am Her, Kimmi Watson, Delila Black and Maya Kelly.

Izzy Thomas: 10 question interview

Izzy Thomas headlines a beautifully varied LOUD WOMEN gig this Saturday at the Hope & Anchor. We asked her 10 questions.

1.For people who’ve not heard you play live before, what can we expect from you at the LOUD WOMEN gig?

Big vocals, big hair, big guitar riffs.

2. Which is your favourite song to play and why?

It would have to be “Trouble (Pull That Trigger)”. It’s been my debut single, and has always been so fun to play as it has a chant that the audience can sing back. It’s a beautiful moment when an audience sings back lyrics you wrote in a bedroom!

3. Do some super-lazy journalism on our behalf please, and fill in the blanks:
“Our sound is like the lovechild of Christina Aguilera and Lenny Kravitz with a bit on the side from PJ Harvey

4. What’s your proudest musical moment to date?

I just performed at Leeds Pride last Sunday. It was on the main stage in front of thousands of people. It was such a beautiful moment to be at one with a sea of people to support the LGBT community and celebrate diversity.

5. Recommend a record and a book that you think our readers might not have heard of.

The Power Of Habit. Brilliant book, you learn a lot about not only the human memory and how different sectors of the brain work, but also the philosophy behind why we do what we do, and how we create/can change habits.

7. What are the best/worst things about being in your band?

The amount of organizing, and admin! The admin part is so dull and time consuming.

8. What are your band goals?

More co-writes, continue releasing singles, release an EP before the end of this year, then eventually a headline tour with an album.

9. What’s the most important thing we need to know about your band right now?

I’m releasing my next single “MAD” early Sept!! I’m planning such a bad ass music video, people need to continue coming to shows and supporting so I can continue releasing!

10. Pass the mic – who are your top 5 contemporary bands.

Finding Kate, Helen Hurd, Rival Karma, KilliT, Gareth Esson, Dead Writers. I know it’s 6, but they’re all incredibly talented artists/bands who are unsigned, but are making serious waves on the scene right now. They deserve credit.


Catch Izzy Thomas at LOUD WOMEN Club this Saturday 10 August at the Hope & Anchor

Voodoo Radio: 10 question interview

Voodoo Radio are coming to play for us this Saturday at the Hope & Anchor! Here’s their 10 question interview …

1. For people who’ve not heard you play live before, what can we expect from you at the LOUD WOMEN gig? 

3 minute raw energy pop songs played as fast as possible

2. Which is your favourite song to play and why? Tell us about it … 

Our Fave song to play is ‘Basic Bitch’ as its all about equality and girl power!

3. Do some super-lazy journalism on our behalf please, and fill in the blanks: 

“Our sound is like the lovechild of The Runaways and Blondie with a bit on the side from Love/Hate

4. What’s your proudest musical moment to date?

Opening The Cornbury Festival this summer and being asked back for next year already! 

5. Recommend a record you think our readers might not have heard of .

She’s An Angel – by LOVE/HATE theme tune from Nightmare on Elm Street – totally under rated band

6. One for the guitarists … bore us with the details of your set-up please

Gibson Les Paul Custom through any pedals we can get hold of through Vox and Marshall amps

7. What are the best/worst things about being in your band? 

Best thing is theres only two of us creating a whole band sound. The worst part is packing up the gear in the van takes a lot longer than if we had a full band!

8. What are your band goals? 

To be the biggest band on the planet.

9. What’s the most important thing we need to know about your band right now? 

We have a great new single out called “Turn out the Light!”

10. Pass the mic – who are your top 5 contemporary bands

Royal Blood – They are epic we love their sound! 

Slaves – Excellent Energy real Punk Rock. 

Idles – Comedy Genius’, right on the money at the moment. 

Sleigh Bells – Powerful and unpredictable in a good way.  

The Gossip – Beth Ditto’s insane vocals.

Catch Voodoo Radio live this Saturday at The Hope & Anchor