We catch up with occultist, nightclub promoter and performer Dana Vesperades-Fox aka FoxGlove who divides his time between reading Tarot Cards and growing flowers, herbs and all sorts of vegetative wildlife on his roof terrace. Currently writing a book with a working title: ‘Away With The Faeries’, which is about what it's like to grow up as a gay man in the UK, who practices witchcraft, Dana talks about the upcoming Pride celebrations, his influences and what’s in store at July 7th’s Berlin Berlin: The Birthday & Pride edition at Egg LDN where as FoxGlove he’s joined by an all star cast of performers plus the wild DJ Lady Starlight and also the Buttons/BLN crew.
Berlin Berlin is celebrating its Birthday and also Pride at their Saturday July 7th party and are you attending or performing at London Pride this year?
Well, firstly, a happy Birthday to Berlin Berlin! And I trust everyone performing and attending Pride will be as loud, colourful and visible as usual. I’ll be somewhere in the crowd, enjoying the sun and a swigging gin from a bottle disguised as a crystal ball.
What does Pride mean to you and do you consider you have a large LGBT fan base? Why do you think that is?
Well, I love the way that it’s now called ‘Pride’ and not just ‘Gay Pride’. The LGBT+ community, as you can tell from its ever-expanding acronym, is working towards becoming all-inclusive, for all genders, non-genders, sexualities and persuasions. And hopefully, it’s apparent to everyone who’s paying attention that there’s a whole spectrum of people who aren’t heterosexual and not cisgendered. That’s always been important, but socially and politically I consider it paramount in the continuing fight for freedom and equality. If I have a large LGBT fan base, it’s probably because I hardly ever switch off on those points. I wave my Pride wherever I am. I have no choice.
One of Berlin Berlin’s favourite performers and hosts, what kind of things can we expect for this anniversary and Pride show?
I’ll be focusing more on the aesthetics, rather than the content. That means, you can expect FoxGlove (who is not me, by the way - he is a constructed other self) to look more outlandish, with the continued occult references. I’ll explain why later.
As part of the LGBT art scene and community in London, do you think you’ve ever faced setbacks in your industry because of who you are?
Yes, but not because of my sexuality. I have faced setbacks because I refuse to play the game of putting people on pedestals and kissing ass. As a result, if I can see that someone is full of shit, I’ll stay away from them. If someone asks me my opinion on them, I’m likely to be as open and honest as I were if I think someone someone is a positive, constructive influence. There are so many wonderful performers and artists; there are also a great deal of charlatans and black holes.
The great thing is that everything I’ve learned, for better or for worse, has gone into the night which I produce alongside my partner, Lucius and, my good friend, Parma Ham. We run Coven every three months and so we get to craft this otherworldly queer performance night which has run successfully in London for two years and is about to spiral into something even more wonderful. So on the contrary, I have been enlivened and inspired by any setbacks to create and produce, with integrity and courage.
What advice would you give to anyone/LGBT people trying to break out into the performance/hosting industry?
I think this follows on from the last question. Be discerning. Make lots of mistakes. Ask lots of questions, don’t rush into anything and don’t follow trends. And then when you forget to ask a lot of questions, learn from those mistakes. When you do rush into something, you’re well within your rights to back out of something. And when you do find yourself following whatever’s trendy at the time, take a moment to ask yourself if it’s true to your nature. If it is, regardless of whether you’re following a trend, then go for it. If it’s real, it’s real.
Which performers and artists did you look up to when you were growing up?
I grew up admiring, among others, Marina Abramovic. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take part in her exhibition 512 Hours. I can’t put it into words without simply describing what happened, which is actually only the physical manifestation of the experience. What *really* happened was so powerful that I walked out of the gallery, sat by a tree and burst into tears. On Marina’s blog entry for that day, she herself was still in tears. It was a profound experience. I grew up listening to Patti Smith and had a similar experience seeing her live last week. It was as close to a mystical act as it gets without actually being one. That woman is still angry, still powerful and still has a message which needs to be heard. People have the power.
How would you you describe what you do and is there such a thing as a regular day at the office for you in terms of what you do?
My life consists of exploring mysteries, experiencing the universe and helping people to the best of my - and their- ability. So it makes sense that I am a a practicing witch/magician, as well as a performer. I read tarot cards for a living; I meditate, I talk to trees, I grow flowers and herbs in my garden. I go to the local park and graveyard and pick up trash. I leave bread and honey out for faeries. As a tarot card reader, I am trusted with guiding people to what their options are, without bias or prejudice. It’s like giving a weather forecast for people’s lives and when they realise that they can work with the energies and powers coming into play, when they walk away from my readings with a more empowered mindset, it really is the most wonderful thing to me. I'm motivated not only by the desire for people to take control of their own lives, but by a realisation that we're all part of the same thing and logically it follows that I do not wish any harm upon someone or something to which I am connected. Put simply: I have to live in this planet with 7 billion other people, so I'd rather they all be peaceful and happy. On a more mundane level, I've also been learning how to play the theremin, but they seem to have all the music sorted for Berlin Berlin from their wonderful DJs, so guess you'll have to come to one of the COVEN shows to see me play.
With incredible outfits and and unusual imagery coming into play, where do you get your inspirations from?
If you look carefully, the names of some of my performances reference Western Mysticism, Kabbalah and esoteric belief systems. There’s mythology, spirituality and the paranormal in there too. As I said, FoxGlove is not me. He is a constructed self, something which every person has but doesn’t realise. You, dear reader, are not your thoughts, your words, your hair, your Facebook status or your bank account balance. Those are all constructs - some are physical, some are mental and some are conceptual. If you were to tell me that you had £34,822 in your bank account, I would know no different and assume it might be true - I would then imagine you to be comfortably well-off. If you told me that you were part Swiss and part Swedish, I would assume that to be true and would imagine how that informed your identity. If you told me you were raised a strict Catholic, I would infer something of your upbringing. Even if it were not true, unbeknownst to me, it would affect how I perceive you. So if I told you that FoxGlove was a land spirit contacted during a carefully-constructed ritual, using specific magical words and symbols, who then is summoned for performances and other events, then that wold be as real as anything else. I constructed this being, FoxGlove, a derivative of my name Dana Fox. He plays his part and I play mine.
Where and when did you start performing and why does dressing provocatively and performing hold such allure for you and for an audience?
Well, I didn’t consider the implications of provocation when I started dressing like this in school. I was asked to sign a clothing contract when I dyed my hair blue in sixth form. I refused. It sort of went from there really and fifteen years later, I’m still just dressing as myself and drawing stares on the streets. I first started working as a club compere for burlesque shows about ten years ago, which then gradually turned into performances. My first one involved coming out of a coffin. I know, so cliche.
Sum up what makes a good party performer/host?
Most of the performers and hosts I have met do a wonderful job but it’s what happens afterwards or off stage which can be the let down. So I’ll just point at an example of one of the best performers and hosts in London right now, who also has the charisma and warmth when you catch them unawares too. Santi Storm, for Gods’ sake! I’m really not fan-boying, but I’m just pleasantly aware of the funniest, friendliest and most genuine person wherever and whenever you encounter them and I haven’t encountered them that many times. There’s just a big smile and a wonderful presence about them. That’s the way to do it.
How do you create your own outfits and where did you learn to be so creative - any professional training or did you work with any designers?
You don’t learnt to be creative. We’re all naturally creative from the moment we can conceptualise the world around us when we’re children. But most people *un*learn it. Society teaches us that unless it can be monetised, it is not valuable. So people forget how to play and imagine and dream. Creative people haven’t learned anything new, except for the technical skills and business sense which comes with either experience or a degree. They have simply remained true to their human nature - that which is to create. I made the mistake of studying Fine Art at university and, honestly, my last bowel movement had more of an impact on my creative life. I once worked on London Fashion Week with that guy in a big hat who dresses like a lampshade and I found it the most dull, dire, toxic experience of my creative life. I'm very careful about who I work with and who I let into my life, personally and professionally. I learn to be creative from my partner and my friends.
As one of Berlin Berlin’s more esoteric performers, what makes working with them so attractive ?
The free gin in the green room.
How did you come up with your unusual name?
By now, you know that FoxGlove is a mythological entity but his name is derived from the German VolksGlaube. It means ‘people believe’. Also, FoxGloves are gangly like me, but beautiful -and poisonous. Everybody should read folklore and mythology; it tells you more about the land and its past than history, which is constantly revised, interpreted and biased. Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.
Lastly! What are you looking forward to at the Berlin Berlin Birthday and Pride edition on July 7th at EGG LDN?
Everything except the hangover.
FoxGlove leads the roll call of performer for the Berlin Berlin: The Birthday & Pride Special on Saturday July 7th 2-18 at Egg LDN alongside Parma Ham, Bitch & Party, Cain, Kokaine Tyson, Luke Harris, Plastic Sister Marnie Scarlet and Syban. The incredible Lady Starlight headlines the Ground Floor whilst Buttons/BLN takeover the Middle Floor with DJ Holographic, Akirahawks and Jacob Meehan. East London’s Homostash crew of Deepchild, Pavline, Twang and Tafanik are in The Loft whilst Lewis G Burton, Kassandra Powell & Guests host their Kuntskammer Salon in Cell 200. All info www.egglondon.co.uk or https://www.facebook.com/BerlinBerlinLDN/