Princess Julia, although she would hate me for saying it, is a bit of a national institution. Although she’s never achieved the enormous levels of fame enjoyed (or not-so, as the case may be) by a number of her friends, whatever it is that’s been important or interesting which has been going on in terms of pop culture over the last thirty years or so, she’s never been far from its epicentre. Whether this means being a junior acolyte of the early London punk scene, one of the most celebrated of the so-called Blitz Kids or a key player in the history of London nightclubbing or developing an internationally successful DJ-ing career in the early 1990s, performing or remixing numerous dancefloor oriented records or engaging in more journalistic pursuits she’s always been somewhere not far from the surface. This interview took place round at her flat in Hackney one Sunday afternoon in August 2009. Her neighbours were carrying on across the way and her lodger, Dorian Cox (formerly of The Long Blondes), was in his bedroom listening to The Associates. She drank black coffee and smoked a few fags, whilst exuding an openness and generosity of spirit which I hope comes across in what follows.
Now, you’re a bit of a London phenomena, aren’t you? Are you a London girl originally?
Yes I am, originally. Born, though, but not bred because I’m half Hungarian. I was actually born in Hackney but I didn’t really grow up there. We moved to Stamford Hill and then Wood Green and I went to a school in Enfield but it’s all sort of North East London.
What would you say were your influences that shaped you in your younger years?
I think, really, one of the things that I recall was that I just really loved watching old movies. I’m from a generation that was, basically, plonked in front of the T.V. so I just sort of homed in on film noir, Busby Berkeley movies, just like anything. I soaked all of that up and then, when my dad got a VHS, one nice thing that he did was tape things for me, films and stuff.
And what was it that you liked about them?
I think it was sort of the peek into some sort of glamour of a bygone era. I grew up in the sixties so I got hooked into that kind of fantasy world and so I took some inspiration about style and things like that. I mean, I knew who Edith Head was (laughs) when I was ten. Edith Head did all of the styling for all those Bette Davis films. She was really amazing. Musically, too, I liked that sort of music. Everything, I think, was a really big influence on me. Then, I also loved my grandmother. My mother wasn’t so interested in clothes but my grandmother was. She was an opera singer and she was originally from Newcastle and my granddad was originally from Scotland and he was an older man. And we used to go and see my grandmother and she used to play the piano, bingo wings going on, and all that, and I used to rifle through all her wardrobe and things because she had beautiful gowns, you know fabulous fifties kinds of things. She was quite sort of camp, too. So, she was quite integral to things like that. I think that was it.
And were you wearing that kind of stuff then?
We basically used to save up all our tips and then run down to Seditionaries. Well, it was Sex before that. Then it changed into Seditionaries and that was all, sort of, the bondage trousers. You know? All those things that we all know and love, all that sort of thing. If there were bits that we wanted then we’d save up all our money and get stuff. So, I was kind of wearing a bit of that.
Now I would have imagined that you’d have been wearing more glamorous or vintage stuff.
No, not really, because that all came later.
It’s with what you said earlier about the movies being an influence.
Yeah. Well, maybe before as well. When I was at school, actually, I was more like that. There was a designer called Miss Mouse. I used to buy their clothes and then there were these people in Camden, called Swanky Modes, on the corner, and I used to get some of their things, as well. I think that was Suggs’ wife or somebody. You’ll have to Google it. You never hear about Swanky Modes anymore. I had some really tight trousers with this plastic bit cut out on the bum and this sort of pink number. They had this amazing shop on the corner with these sorts of clothes. But I did wear retro things, as well. We used to just mix everything up, you know?
What about the music?
Well, obviously I came from the sort of glam / Bowie era so there was that kind of thing going on and then there was bands who would come in from America, as well, to perform and there was a big explosion of people just picking up instruments and having a go.
Who were your favourites?
Well, I really liked The Banshees. I used to go and see them a lot. Hold on, let me think. X-Ray-Spex I quite liked. We went to see them all the time. They were on. And then things like Patti Paladin and Lydia Lunch, those sort of people were coming over and living in London more-or-less, I would say, at the time.
And was it through going to see The Banshees that you met Steve Strange?
Well, if you can sort of imagine, it was a really small little scene. So, inevitably you’d go somewhere and, if you went there enough, you’d meet the same sort of people and you’d get talking. Steve was one of these people who was really quite social and we could never quite work out what he did. I think he might have sold speed or something. We were never sure but he always had the latest Seditionaries clothes. He was always head to foot in it. You know? He had everything. You see, it was quite expensive, really. So, he was always sort of around and, somewhere along the line, I made friends with him and we swapped numbers. We’d just see him around. I was sort of hanging around with people from the hairdressers. I had my friend, Kiki, and she was going out with Paul (Cook) and there was a hairdressers called Smile which I think is still going and I had a group of friends from there and they all lived in Knightsbridge so I used to always stay round there.
So all these people were being to coalesce and this was what went on to become the New Romantics?
No, not really. Most people were going on to do other things by the time that came. What happened was that, basically, “The Roxy” shut. That was situated in Covent Garden, in Neal Street, and a lot of buildings in that area were really just boarded up and people could get leases. That was run by Andrew Czezowski and Susan Czezowski and I guess the term had run out on that and they got another space which was called “The Vortex” and that was just off Oxford Street. That was sort of pool tables and things and downstairs it was gigs and that was the next sort of carry on and I used to go up there quite regularly. Now, what was the year that Elvis Presley died? Because I was in “The Vortex” when that was announced. I think The Clash were on. Don Letts was the DJ. And everyone was quite happy that Elvis had died. I think it was The Clash that was on, though I’m not sure. It’s so mad, isn’t it? I’ve forgotten what bands were on there, in a way, but I more-or-less saw everything that there was. Anyway, there was that but, basically, all of the bands got signed or they were all on tour and then parallel to that we used to go to all the gay discos, “Global Village” and Earls Court where there were bars and that. I was saying to someone the other day about this. I shared a room with a guy called Ashley, Ashley Veins, and he was good friends with Gene October, he was a rent boy and we used to go to “The Boltons”...(laughs)...and there was “The Colherne”, which was like a leatherman pub and opposite was “The Boltons” which was more of a sort of rent boy pub in Earls Court. Because Earls Court was the big gay epicentre then, kind of like the way Old Compton Street is or has been in the past, a sort of mecca. Do you remember me saying about that film “Nighthawks”? I think some of that was filmed down there in a club called “Copa’s”. But some of that was also filmed in “Heaven” because Jeffrey was in some of those scenes...(laughs)
I’ve not seen that film.
Oh, it’s amazing. It’s really good. I went to the premiere of it, funnily enough.
So, what came first with all the other stuff. Was it “Billy’s”?
Well, what happened was that, basically, everything sort of dissipated. Punk moved into this mainstream sort of thing; you know how movements become sort of textbook. You can pick up a manual and be this if you want to. And all these bands were getting signed and were touring and, I guess, were making something of themselves and being serious about it all.
And there was nothing left to do in the evening?
Oh, yeah. There didn’t really seem to be a lot going on, really. And then Steve (Strange), I remember, suddenly called me out of the blue and said, “Oh, what is going on?” Because he’d been in Wales for six months, I think, just sort of collecting his thoughts, that type of thing, and he was like, “I’m back now. What’s going on?” And I was going to go up to a gay disco called “Bangs” and it was a Monday night and I said, “I’m going up to ‘Bangs’.” That was on Tottenham Court Road. I sometimes used to go there. It was a bit of a naff disco but it was sort of fun and camp. Anyway, so we went up there and we just started hanging out a lot and it sort of dawned on us that there wasn’t really much going on but there was this group of people that wanted to not just listen to this, well, it wasn’t just mainstream disco, by a long chalk, but it was a more commercial sort of thing. There was this other sort of music, also, which had been building up and there was really nowhere to go. But there was this club on Meard Street called “Billy’s” and Rusty (Egan) and Steve somehow got in there and thought, “We’ll do a night here.” I think it was called “Club for Heroes”. It was basically a Bowie night but it was a bit more expansive than that but musically and style wise it was. And the people that gravitated there were some people from the punk thing and then there were other people from the sort of soulboy scene. You see, there was this sort of soul thing going on in a parallel universe and there was a sort of crossover there. It was sort of Canvey Island, “The Goldmine”. That was going on around the same time as punk.
So, “The Blitz” was in Holborn. I never knew that. I always thought it was in Soho.
Great Queen Street! Opposite Holborn Station. It’s still there. It was called “Browns” for a while more recently. I could take you on a tour. That was there. So, what was I? A poseur or a dancer? I did a bit of both, really. Actually, there were a few boys that I used to always have lots of fun dancing with and one of them was Kenny Campbell, who’s got KCTV, and then also Andy Polaris, who I saw yesterday, from Animal Nightlife. Sometimes I used to have a little dance with him as well, in the time-honoured fashion. It would depend, really, but yes I would have a little dance. It’s kind of the same as I am now, if I feel in the mood.
You were also the female face of the video for “Fade to Grey” by Visage. How did that come about and was it an enjoyable experience?
Basically, the music that was coming through from Europe and the UK, after punk, was this kind of mixture of naive disco, lots of it. It was all done with sequencers and what have you. It was all sort of naive and D-I-Y sounding and I think Steve was doing the door but he was very keen on publicity and things and he did sort of court the media. He did enjoy people like Mick Jagger and Phil Lynott coming down. He enjoyed all that and he enjoyed his notoriety. Rusty was in a band called Rich Kids. So, obviously, there was a sort of musical collective going on and I think it was really the obvious step for him, somehow. “Right, Steve’s going to have a band,” and Midge Ure sort or orchestrated it. He was the main sort of lynchpin to it and Rusty was involved and all the rest of it. So, they recorded a bunch of songs and “Fade to Grey” was one of them and they decided that that was going to be the single and, when it came to filming it, Steve and Rusty asked me if I’d do the mime for the French bit and obviously the girl that really did the thing was a bit pissed off... So, I said to her, “It’s nothing to do with me. They just asked me, you know?” So, I did it. No, it was a really fun day and Richard Sharah did the make-up and I think I probably had a hangover, as usual. Godley and Creme, from 10CC, they did it and the fun thing about it was they were using what was then modern technology. MTV had just about started and it was geared up to that. It was aimed at that because, basically, Visage was a studio project. They didn’t really do any gigs, although Steve did have a band before so he always had an idea. I remember when I worked at P.X. they did a gig. What were they called? The Photons. So, he had it in his mind that he was going to be doing something. So, anyway, technology was moving along at a rapid pace and Godley and Creme had this set-up where they were filming it. I don’t know what they filmed it on but, basically, they were looking at the filming as it went and editing it as they went and they had this very clear idea and the video kind of materialised as we were doing it. It looks quite naive by today’s standards, though. Then the single came out and we didn’t really think anything of it, particularly, but I guess over time it’s become quite a seminal piece of work. People seem to reference it all the time which is quite interesting.
The 80's And Onwards...
You were in a couple of Marc Almond videos? How did those come about and are there any other pop video appearances you think we need to know about?Yes I have, “Waifs And Strays” was one. The director was John Maybury. Basically, that’s how I got to be in it. I’ve been in a few videos, actually, including Boy George’s “Generations Of Love”, Marilyn’s “Baby You Left Me”, Nick Cave’s … “15ft Of Pure White Snow”. It seems it’s sort of become a sideline! I also appeared in Take That “Relight My Fire”, standing behind Lulu! Will Young…. er, Spiritualized… Massive Attack. I’ve also appeared in John Maybury’s most recent film about Dylan Thomas (over made-up woman in toilet!). I was in the Frances Bacon film he did but I ended up on the cutting room floor!
You were a regular habitué of “Taboo”, as well? What was that like?
Yeah. Well, it was quite sort of insane, actually, when I think about it. Even at the time, it felt quite insane and I had this theory that it was something to do with Haley’s Comet because that was around that time. I thought, “Oh, something’s gone wrong.” There was a guy that used to come down with pure MDMA in a bag and you’d think, “Oh, yeah. I’m gonna have some of that.” There was Jeffrey doing his video chops and dj-ing and it was this hedonistic night, really, that we all looked forward to. What can I say? I’d do things like go, “I’m taking my acid now. So, I’ll see you up there in about an hour and a half,” and things like that. So, it was a bit like that. It was at this club called “Maximus” in Leicester Square which, I think,might still be there. I forgot to mention, though, that before that there was “Cha Chas” but then there was Phillip Sallon who was running “The Mud Club” and also there was this gay club called “Adam’s” on Leicester Square and he used to run it in there, as well. And then there was “The Batcave”, as well. There was that scene coming through and there was also this kind of vague celebrity scene, like the “Studio Valbonne”, which was a whole other scene and this friend of mine, Tallulah, who died about a year ago, he was a DJ and he was a bit of a stately, even then, but in the annals of disco he features. Anyway, I knew all these people, as well. There was a guy called John Sinclair and these sort of people, quite swishy, because there were these other places like “Mulberry’s” and “Tramp”, even, and that was going on while “The Blitz” was going on and we used to hang out with this guy called Johnny Stewart who was in charge of the Russian icons section at Sotheby’s but he used to tell everyone that he was a motorcycle courier and he used to have a place in Kensington and we used to go down there and there’d be people like Oliver Tobias because of “Tramp” and, if “The Blitz” wasn’t on, we’d do things like that, like mental things.
You did the cloakroom at “Taboo”... Did you take a leaf out of your friend Boy George’s book and get sacked for pinching off people?
I worked in the cloakroom there. I worked in the cloakroom at “The Blitz”, actually, as well.
I'm ending this interview here for now as it's so long! But you never know perhaps i'll put part 2 up later...
For the full version and a copy of German Bite contact F.S. at www.myspace.com/friedrichstrasse