It’s time for an interview with one of our favorite performers! Originally from Portsmouth, he’s now a pillar of the Brighton Scene, that is, when not busy touring the world! We had the pleasure of interviewing Mister Joe Black. We talk about the art of Cabaret, Gin drinking, Disney villains, and of course, DragworldUK!
DA: You’ve been described as “King of Cabaret Noir”. What does this art form mean to you and how does it influence your performances?
Joe Black: Cabaret means a lot to me. I love the scope it has and all it can encompass. Also a fan of the darker side of things, so I do love a bit of noir.
DA: How important is the art of drag and cabaret as means to contradict society’s standards in our time?
JB: The cabaret’s Of Berlin in the ’20s was a mockery of what was going on in their society at the time. I think it’s important to contradict standards, regardless of where you’re doing it! Who wants to be standard?
DA: You’ve also said in interviews that you’re inspired by Marlene Dietrich (among others). Why and how does the late German star influence you?
JB: Aesthetically hugely. I love her performance style too. Though ultimately she wasn’t a very good singer, I love the confidence she oozes and the respect she demanded for essentially just standing there and mumbling through some songs. People ate it up! She had power. Also – queer icon! Bisexual. Famously had sexual relationships with other famous women. Wore men’s suits. Doesn’t seem a big deal nowadays, but it sure as hell was then.
DA: Another attribute we found for Mister Joe Black is “Gin drinking cabaret darling”. What’s your favorite Gin drink (or any other)?
JB: Brighton gin is gorgeous. Locally made by a gorgeous small team and they’re an absolute delight. One of the founders Kathy Caton is like a ray of sunshine whenever I bump into her or see her going past on her Brighton gin branded bicycle!
DA: You can certainly look back on a very long and rich career as an artist. When and how did you get started and do you have a special memory out of all these years you’d like to share? What inspired the name ‘Mister Joe Black’?
JB: I started in 2007. Mostly doing live music shows with piano and accordion, but also street performing which was sometimes hellish.
Performing In Leipzig for the WGT festival was incredible. I felt like a proper rock star!
And the name? Just my name, innit.
DA: How would your friends describe you?
JB: Too early for everything and highly strung.
DA: Your looks are as unique as your performances. What influences your aesthetic and what’s your favorite item of makeup or clothing you can’t live without?
JB: I like silent movies. 1920’s and 30’s fashion. Old Hollywood. Ridiculous glamorous women. Decay.
DA: What do you like to do on a day off? Do you get these very often?
JB: Wear black and drink coffee and look at photos of snakes, to keep up my goth credentials.
DA: You’re also a musician and singer. Whats your favorite song to perform? Would you say that the Window cleaning song is your most requested one?
JB: I’ve got a few favourites. I love pirate Jenny. I do love cleaning windows! Requested songs have changed over the years but I’m so glad this one off joke that cleaning windows was intended as, turned out to be so popular!
DA: This year, you’ve toured the UK with a new show. How did you come up with the concept for “Touch of Evil: A Celebration of Villainy in Song”?
JB:I was basically fulfilling my childhood dream of being a Disney villain.
DA: How long was the process from the first idea to the premier night? What’s the most challenging part when putting together such a show?
JB: I’d say about 8/9 months total before we did our first show. The hardest part of choosing what to get rid of! Not everything can make the cut and it’s a shame. But you can’t put in everything!
DA: If you could choose a Disney Villain as your sidekick (besides Friedrich Hollandaise, of course), who would it be and why?
JB: A Disney villain AS my sidekick? Or a villain sidekick as my sidekick?
Villain – Jafar. I love magic and I suspect he’d be super helpful. Though I’d maybe consider dr facilier from princess and the frog, but that’s mostly because I think he’s hot.
A sidekick – I’d probably take lock, shock, and barrel from nightmare before Christmas because they don’t seem completely useless. I’d love to say flotsam and jetsam but I don’t wanna live under the sea. And hyenas from lion king, but they do seem a bit more useless and then there’s the whole turning on me and eating me thing.
DA: If time and money were no issue, what kind of show would you put together?
JB: I’d basically do Ziegfeld follies. But the Lucille ball scene over and over again.
DA: With Rupaul’s Drag Race entering mainstream, what’s your take on the impact on shows like RPDR on local drag? What would you say if Rupaul asked you to lip sync?
JB: I feel like I’ve benefited hugely from it. I’ve always been a bit of a sideline/fence sitter. I work well with a bit of anything, so I’m able to dip in and out whenever I want to or am invited to. I feel a bit sad for the local ones who are completely affected by it, and put up against that kind of standard or performance style constantly. It’s got it’s good and bad. But in my experience, I’ve seen a very positive thing for me! Plus I’ve got to meet some wonderful people and make some amazing friends.
And if Rupaul asked me to lip sync? I suspect I’d do a Charlie Hides because I am not gonna do the splits any time soon.
DA: Advice for anyone wanting to pursue a career in a creative field?
JB: Be nice. Be reliable. Be excellent.
DA: Is there anything you wish people asked you in interviews that you would like to answer now?
JB: Stuff about snakes. I love snakes. They’re not scary and they’re actually really nice. Except for the ones who are not nice, which are actually probably super unpleasant. I have a no reptile fear superpower (or maybe it’s a curse?) And that’s probably how I’m going to die. Trying to cuddle something that really doesn’t want me to cuddle it.
I remember being maybe about 6 years old and there was this huge iguana in a pet shop in my home town of Portsmouth and I walked right up to it and cuddled it. Iguanas aren’t known for their tolerance! But I was unscathed. The scale whisperer
DA: Where can we see you perform? Any upcoming projects you’d like to share with us?
JB: I’m in Seattle for the whole of December for homo for the holidays! Which is exciting. I’m doing stuff dotted about here and there throughout the year as usual! I don’t remember these things until they happen!
DA: Do you have any drag performers you would like to recommend for us to absolutely look up?
JB: Victoria Sin, Dru Holiday, Blu Hydrangea. The list could go on.
DA: You’re attending this year’s DragworldUK convention. What are your expectations for the weekend? Is there anything or anyone you’re most excited to see?
JB: I suspect I’m going to be tired and hungry but also having a lovely time. I’m excited to see friends there! And I’m excited to meet Bebe Zahara Benet. Because I think she’s super glam and does these giant looks and probably a bit insane. I’m into that. I can relate.
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All photos by Greg Bailey.