An Interview with Mat Fraser
Some people make an impression immediately, whether that is in person, on stage or on the screen, Mat Fraser is one of those people. He is gorgeous (those eyes!), talented, his list of achievements is enormous and if you ask our very own Agony Aunt Diva Hollywood about him she can’t emphasise enough how much of a help and support he has been to her since she was diagnosed with MS in 2006. So thats gorgeous, talented and a thoroughly nice bloke then? Jo Taylor spoke to Mat Fraser about Sleaze, cripsploitation and wedding bells.
You run Sleaze, a burlesque club in Camden, which is described as New York style burlesque/ cabaret and debauchery. Was it important to you to move away from the extremely popular Supper Club style burlesque and, if so, why?
Well I co-produce and co-host it with the great Trixie Malicious, and we both wanted to create a burlesque show that was more in the NYC, contemporary, political, rude, low down and dirty, style of BurlyQ. The UK seems to have a glut of Supper club, vintage, retro, and sometimes very codified burlesque shows, often really quite expensive, and promoting itself as dress up only, prestigious up-market style. And, there’s a desire by some to distance it from traditional striptease, which, while we both agree BurlyQ ain’t pole dancing or lap dancing ‘Gentlemen’s entertainment’ as they call it here in the UK, we don’t really agree with. Burlesque for us is striptease, done with fun, laughter, camp, queer, all the things that attracted me to NYC style, very much incorporating the low down pastiching of the high fallutin’, and not pandering to conservative forces. Good god If I have to see another pretend cooking housewife in a gingham apron posing like a pin-up for the 50s, I’ll go mad! We wanted to make some sexy scary fucked up silly stuff for the masses, unashamedly risque, fun, with audience games and participation, tips, Go-Go, also with strong queer presence and, of course, body difference.
What changes have you seen in burlesque over the years you have been involved in it?
When I came into it in 2005, in London it was the brilliant BurlyQ group led by Fancy Chance from Seattle who I first loved, glorious celebrations of sexiness in real bodies, funny, rude, political, and in NYC The Slipper Room, and the whole scene there, with Bunny Love, Bambi the Mermaid, Julie Atlas Muz, Tigger!, Scotty the Blue Bunny, James Habacker, Little Brooklyn, and others. This was the burlesque I grew into and felt a part of when I tried my mutated shit, I was welcomed as another outsider body… Nowadays I see less and less outsider bodies, more and more size 10 girlies with traditional outlooks on vintage retro acts, and people having the fucking gall to tell other people that PROPER burlesque doesn’t go nude, doesn’t go that far, whatever shit…. ARGH!
Can you tell us about your most recent project with American burlesque star Julie Atlas Muz?
Yes of course, firstly she is my fiancee now, and we’ll be married on May 6th in Manhattan, in a big NYC style fucked up showbiz burlesque sideshow cabaret ceremony of non religious love, so that’s the big production being planned for now! We tour and produce shows together as The Freak & the Showgirl, and just finished our second tour of Australia with Apocastrip Wow!, which we’re hoping to bring to Seattle’s BurlyCon amongst other events. We like to mix up neo burlesque, comedy, sideshow, magic, songs, audience interaction, and so far have found that people LOVE our shows….Our other current series of shows include Assfreaks an ass centric fun burlesque show, and along with Jo Boobs Weldon who is also involved, CripTease, a disability orientated show. Julie also curates and produces/directs many bigger shows, which I often MC, such as Sealboy & The Blondes, The 4 strippers of the Apolcaypse and others.
You seem to approach the subject of your disability in a very frank way, for example you wrote and starred in Thalidomide! The Musical in 2006 and produced and starred in what you described as the first cripsploitation film, Unarmed but Dangerous in 2009. How do you find people respond to this honesty?
With relief usually! There is so much shit PC crap around disability that most people would rather not mention it at all for fear of saying the wrong thing. That helps no one obviously, so I have gone forward with an honest and self mocking approach, and, though coming from a political stance of a desire of equality in all things for disabled people, especially the right to professionally entertain others, I like to wash away all that PC terminology, make risque jokes, strip off, play the fool, the freak, and MC host, the sexy guy even, to fuck with all that. People I think actually end up feeling much more comfortable around disability with this rather than being bashed over the head with what they are and are not allowed to say think, feel about disabled people, and so then find it easier to engage with their own inaccuracies about it.
You are a film star, musician, writer, performer, and producer. The list of your achievements is enormous but is there one thing that you are most proud of so far?
Easy. 1. Being with Julie Atlas Muz, my love and compadre in show business. 2. Getting my black belt; I never worked so fucking hard in my life!
Do you intend to write any more theatre shows?
Absolutely, I’m just finishing the 4th draft of my new play A Multitude Of Elvi about 5 disparate people who attend a really shit Elvis convention, where their lives respectively fall apart and or resolve issues. its my first play with 2 acts, and an interval, and its a comedy.
What ambitions do you have that you are yet to achieve?
Oh you know, the Oscar for best actor, etc etc…all those ambitions we performers have…but seriously, and I suppose ones that I may actually achieve: staying with Julie and having a long and happy life together, realising our project of Beauty and the Beast, a theatre piece we hope to do, doing a good action film, getting a good filmed project to do with freak shows to the screen, making the zombie film I’ve written, staying fit, and enjoying life.
Tell us about From Freak to Clique?
Oh its my current easy to tour (me and a suitcase, 3 hour tech with in house staff, and do it) show, charting the history of disability portrayal in the media and my own life. A comedy, with serious bits.
What plans do you have for the rest of 2012?
Getting married, starting Beauty and the Beast, finishing my play, getting money for the zombie film, finding time for a honeymoon! Being in a play for the National Theatre of Wales, continuing SLEAZE to bigger and better proportions, being a part of a massive ceremony coming up soon – August 29th – in the Olympic stadium, seeing Julie as much as I can, getting my body back, continuing to work at The Box, and whatever else comes along.
Who is your all time burlesque role model?
Well I have to say Julie Atlas Muz. It was her HAND number that first grabbed my attention, and her work continues to inspire and thrill me, her seemingly effortless ability to make new contemporary and relevant work, and she’s so damned SEXY!!!! For me, Julie veritably epitomises what Neo burlesque is all about.
Selene Luna of course; as a disabled person myself I find her very inspiring, and she keeps it real, her recent letter to Rosie O’Donnell about little people was fucking awesome.
In terms of the legends, for me I thought Dixie Evans was one sexy beeyaatch, and Satan’s Angel for her flaming dangerous rock’n'roll vibes.
For more info on Mat visit his website