What gives hairdressers the blues? Lending their salon chairs during business hours to a gutter mouthed gay garage punk and a writer looking to get drag-d up on a Monday night. Rebuffed from every one we try, we opt, instead, for an East End pub with a barber’s area and a bag full of cheap spray, clay, clips, comb and gum to fulfil our dream of a natter and a quiff courtesy of Hunx. Only to be thwarted once more by an over-running soundcheck. So we settle for twenty minutes with Seth Bogart in the ladies’ loos of Birthdays in Dalston instead.
It actually feels pretty fitting. “Oh I’m soorrrryyy, we ran out of time and couldn’t do the hair cut,” he trills when we’re introduced. Even when he’s not singing, Bogart’s voice has a deliciously camp musicality to it that makes every comment sound cute, flirty and hilarious simultaneously. Next time you’re here we’ll do it, it’s just great to have you back in London. “Oh it’s been so long,” he says, giggling, “and oh my god I have so much fun here. I stayed up until 10am the other night…everyone else in the band was a grandma and stayed in the hotel but I was like fuck that, so I went to a gay club and then an after party at this guy called Alistair’s house and the girl from Deee-Lite was there and I took lots of teen drugs and made out with a guy and ended up with a really big hickie.”
The hickie complements the rest of Bogart’s outfit today perfectly; a trashy cartoonish creation of lipstick, rouge-d cheeks, pencil thin John Waters ‘tache and Freddie Mercury-inspired musical note onesie. Impressively this is leisurewear, the stage outfits for later will come courtesy of the same designer Peggy Noland (a Kansas City installation artist also known for clothing Beth Ditto, Peaches, CSS and Tilly and the Wall) and features appropriately themed giant cosmetics and “a big comb with hair stuck in it”. If we’d known we wouldn’t have brought our own. The quiff may not have been possible today but it’s not a complete write off, Bogart no longer owns the vintage clothing emporium come hair salon Down At Lulu’s co-founded by the singer in Oakland California for “punks and weirdos”, but he still takes appointments. “Oh yeah,” he says, “a year ago I moved to LA but I still work there doing hairdressing for three or four days every month. I don’t know if it will last forever but it’s working for me right now. Just call…or come over to my house in LA.” Do you still enjoy cutting hair? He sighs, “well I’ve been doing it for like ten years so I’m kind of burnt out on it but you make good money and it’s really cool to get to gossip with weird ladies all day.” There’s something quite confessional about it. “Oh soo confessional, you hear some crazy, crazy stuff, like affairs and drug problems and all kinds of juicy gossip.”
Although Bogart admits some of these stories have made it into his songs, his most powerful work has been the more personal outpourings of last two records Too Young To Be In Love and Hairdresser Blues, which he describes typically succinctly as being about “like death and love and stuff”. “I was going through a lot of problems,” he eventually elaborates, “and it felt good to write about it, like I had spent my whole life writing silly songs and I wanted to do something more serious for just one second.” Were you bored of being typecast as the guy who gets naked and kisses boys? “Yeah I guess,” he smiles, “But honestly I don’t really care about that, I just felt like I wanted to leave behind something that was a little deeper. But live it’s still the same, I’m not going to turn my back to the audience and cry or anything, I was just doing what I wanted to do, it felt right to write those songs.” Certainly there’s no onstage emo during this UK jaunt, just plenty of flirting with the front rows as usual – “I love flirting” he smiles – and a wet underwear competition in Salford. What was the guy’s prize, we ask a little fearful of the response? “Well nothing, but then he just kissed me so I guess that was his prize.”
These antics have given Seth Bogart and his various incarnations as Hunx (glam-tinged garage pop), Hunx & His Punks (gritty girl group-inspired rock ‘n’ roll), H.U.N.X (shimmering disco) the notoriety he needs to make great music and not so quietly do his bit for queer kids coming to terms with their sexuality. The one point during our encounter that he becomes shy is when we talk about his status as a role model though. “I’m surprised there aren’t more of us around really,” he says when we push him on the importance of openly gay punk singers. “Like there are bands like Limp Wrist and Pansy Division, and The Germs and The Wipers who aren’t known as gay but they do have gay singers so I don’t know, it’s not so much political for me, but it’s important to me to sing about guys.” And who did you look up to when you were growing up? Was it hard? “I guess so, I mean I had like Boy George and George Michael but no-one punk.” But it wasn’t as explicit with them, like George Michael had girls in his videos. “Yeah but come on,” he shrieks. “I mean I guess maybe some teen will see my videos and it will mean a lot?” It’s really important, if I’d had you and Beth Ditto when I was growing up it would have made it so much easier. “I know I know, and I just hope it gets more and more and then it’s not a big deal. It still is weirdly, every interview I do these lame straight guys ask me about it and then try to write some pissing story about me and it’s like duh, but whatever if it’s so important then I’m glad to be a part of it…I’m kind of over straight guys at the moment.” But it’s fun to flirt with them, right? “So fun,” he says with a glint in his eye.
Do you think your music could ultimately inspire other queer punks to feel more comfortable with themselves? “I mean I would hope so.” Do they ever get in touch to say you have? “Yeah I mean not a tonne but when they do it feels so good, like they can relate. I mean I’m like just be a queen and do what the fuck you want, you know? There are so many gays that try to be like macho and masculine and that’s cool too but I love nothing more than some gay guy on stage like flailing around. But be yourself, that’s the most important thing. If you’re a football player who loves sucking Ds then go for it but if you wanna like queen out go for that too you know?” Queening out can be harder than acting straight though. “Yeah, it’s sad, but it gets to a point when you’re older and you’re just like, who cares?” Bogart chatters on seemingly oblivious to how important it is for people to hear this. But in the world of ‘alternative’ music, it’s still ridiculously rare.
And if you thought his previous work was outrageous, just wait till you hear what Hunx has got planned for us next. Projects in the pipeline include another record with the Punkettes that will be “super punk, like really super punk”, more danceable H.U.N.X – “I’ve got some singles I need to put out”, a TV show called Hollywood Nailz that he describes as being “like a Saturday Night Live meets Supermarket Sweep explosion” and is in dire need of a “sexy nerd, male or female” to edit it before it’s released over the summer and, gulp, a book. Like an autobiography? “Yeah, well I’m old as FUCK so I have a lot of stories,” he screams. “I started writing it already actually, it’s like about all the funny stuff that’s happened to me. The first thing I wrote was called What A Buzz, 6 Inches Tall and it’s about this foot fetishist guy I went on a couple of dates with and then he got weird and wanted to know what would happen if he was 6 inches tall, like what I would do with him.” The mind boggles.
Before we’re able to delve into this further a bar lady barges into the toilet looking desperate, so it’s time to wrap up; Bogart teasing us by revealing he has a list of current crushes on his phone “like a teenage girl” but refusing to tell us any names. “It’s a secret,” he laughs, “but it’s a very international list”. He’s more forthcoming with his musical crushes, however, the singer waxing lyrical about Carly Rae Jepsen, Grass Widow, One Direction, Bleached, Crazy Band, King Tuff, Justin Bieber and Veronica Falls. “I can’t get over them,” he says mid-swoon, “I’m so into them, I’m like obsessed”. Joint first place for some ‘Private Room’-time, however, would be Courtney Love and Britney Spears. Together. “Yeah that would be crazy,” he cackles, “like the best room ever. We’d do tonnes of drugs…but do you want to know my one goal in life? He grins. “To be in a tabloid magazine like Star Magazine and be worst dressed, just like a photo of me wearing something really hideous.” As we leave the venue we see a mischievous looking Bogart leading a bemused looking male journalist back into the girls’ toilets. “It’s fine, this is where we did it before,” he giggles, waving at us, as the writer surrenders like a lamb to the slaughter.
Photographs by Gaelle Beri.