Interview: Goo “I like wearable art and playing with different silhouettes and different textures.”

When you see drag as a description of an artist you will immediately think of the flamboyant frocks and exaggerated feminine make-up of the queens. Of course there are drag kings too. But Goo is a part of a very different movement. He is a drag clown, an it, a fun thing that is reimagining the origins of drag. Gary Trueman chatted to Goo about that interesting name, inspirations and aspirations.

Let’s start things off with your name.  Where did Goo originate?

“When I started as this persona I thought I was going to be a drag king and I was looking for a name but deep down I knew I wanted to explore more than just being a man. So I tried to pick something that was very vague that would let me go in lots of different directions. I thought about ‘Poo’, that was a high contender. I thought about ‘Sausage’. I picked Goo because it’s very non-committal, it doesn’t tie me down to anything. Since then I’ve come to realise it’s a part of a movement of drag thing names. For instance there’s a famous one called Wet Mess and one called Oozing Gloop. It’s all a part of drag artists that are doing something a bit different and all their names are a bit squidgy.”

You’re a performance artist, but some of your preferred descriptions are ‘drag clown’ and ‘drag thing’, do those things describe well what to expect from one of your performances?

“Probably, It’s a funny one because recently I did a performance and it was a kind of friendly competition and one of the people on the judging panel said it was performance art and something more than traditional drag. That comment really stuck with me and made me think a lot. Sometimes I do weird spoken word pieces where I talk a lot about anatomy, cannibalism or things that are not what you think of when you think of drag. I come from theatre and don’t know very much about performance art, so I went to a couple of exhibitions, including the Marina Abramovi? one at the Royal Academy, to learn a bit more about it as an art form. I think my work could probably be called a lot of things, but I like to think it’s rooted in drag, and that I just do things that are different to what most people do. I don’t use a lot of pop music and I think a lot of people do, and they dance and lip sync, whereas I tell stories that are often quite surreal or disgusting. There are other people that do what I do, I’m not the only one. I think we’re a new generation of drag artist.  We’re going back to the club kids of the 90s with people like Leigh Bowery.”

We’re seeing a wide range of performance art now with people pushing boundaries, much like how some artists are doing the same within music. So what you’re saying is that this is also happening within drag and that artists that come within the drag headline now don’t necessarily have to be people like for instance RuPaul. That there are more obscure and adventurous ways of doing drag.

“I think that’s exactly right. It’s not necessarily new though.”

It’s a reinvention?

“Yes, I think so. But also if you look at someone like Divine who is one of the world’s most iconic drag queens, she is famous for having eaten dog shit on a film. It’s not always been high kicks and flurried dresses.”

So it’s become more glamorous in recent years?

“I think it’s become commercialised. And I think that the movement that I’m a part of is in reaction to that. It’s a bit more grass roots and a bit more rooted in queer community, trans community, raves, kink and activism.”

What about inspirations for your particular looks? Where do they come from?

“I actually have a lot of Pinterest boards where I go for inspiration. You’ll find a lot of Leigh Bowery who I’ve already mentioned. Bjork features. There’s a drag performer I really like Called Virgin X who is very kink heavy and is also a singer song-writer. I really like her aesthetic and her songs are quite interesting and quite political. Wet Mess who is very androgynous and colourful. Clowns and mimes.. And also cartoons. I sometimes think Spongebob Squarepants is my spirit animal because he’s so innocent and playful and his world is so bizarre and silly. And to be honest the last thing on my Pinterest board are pictures of Jesus because I did a disturbing baby Jesus number at Christmas! I like wearable art and playing with different silhouettes and different textures. And also kink in that people are restricted in some way like their head is covered or their arms are held back. Me and my costume designer have started to work more with scraps and found materials. Upcycling and being environmentally friendly is important now and so more people are doing things like this. My zombie costume was made totally from scraps.”

Let’s talk a little more about specifics starting with make up. You put a lot of effort and energy into your make up. So what products do you use?

“I usually use Snazaroo children’s face paint.  A lot of people who go for more colour use face paint, and Snazaroo is a good, cheap option.  It’s water based make up so you just wet it a bit and put it on with a sponge or a brush, I use a brush. It’s hard to blend but sometimes I’ll use harsh lines as well. Sometimes if I’m doing a white face look I’ll use grease paint and then powder it down. Sometimes I’ll use eye shadow to powder it down as the top layer and that makes it sparkly and shiny. I like block shapes and big statements. I like to play with different contours. I started out as a drag king making my face look masculine but now I like to experiment with different aesthetics, fucking with gender and doing clown, cryptid or monster looks. Since I come from theatre, a lot of the time when I’m putting on make up, I’m thinking about how to make my eyes very visible, or if I’m doing lip sync I want my lips to be outlined very well. If I’m doing a very emotive bit of acting I want everyone to see my expression. Most of what I use is face paint and eye shadow, but sometimes I do use normal foundation and stuff.”

Costume wise you’ve already said you use a lot of found fabric and scraps. How do you think  about what themes you’re going to run with costume wise?

“Sometimes it’s a commission. Like for Club AntiChrist they’ll say it’s this theme or this is what we want you to do. The first time I did it they gave me a theme and I proposed a character. The second time they said they wanted me to do a specific character called the Lord of Misrule, and they gave me some ideas and parameters; and from there I thought how would Goo do that character. I think a lot about silhouettes and sometimes that can get quite personal, I get quite self-conscious about that.  Even though I do androgynous drag the gender aspect of it means a lot to me as a trans person. I try to create androgynous silhouettes a lot. I’ve been thinking more recently that I’d like to become less insecure about that. I do big shapes that cover my body, and have been thinking maybe I should go the other way and push myself out of my comfort zone. I work with a costume designer called Axel or the Urban Fairy, and do work with others as well. We often try to think about what makes an outfit more unusual. For example, for one party, I wanted to create a figure who would be a kinky dom character called ‘The Grand Master of Chess’.  It was an interactive performance where the audience got involved. We thought it would be fun if I was a chess piece. We spent hours thinking about it being butch and macho, I’m going to be the king. Then as we looked at it we thought it was a boring silhouette. Then the costume designer said they’d seen a funny monster on Dr Who that looked like a potato and they suggested we do that as a silhouette instead so we went totally the other way. We made this shape, which then became a rook. It went from being something very normal to something very strange.”

Where do you want to take Goo, what are your aspirations for this persona?

“I was saying how I am thinking of going from my big outfits to something a bit more, nude. In general I really like performing at kink parties and cabarets, and I really like doing interactive work. The more I can get into that kind of world, I’d enjoy that. I really like humour. I come from theatre, I like clowning and I like comedy, so somewhere between ravey and cool and actually just being a clown. I’m thinking about going to train at clown school as well. If I went down the route of drag queen there would be a more obvious career progression for me because there are more platforms for drag queens. For people who do drag king work or more androgynous and unusual work there’s not such a clear direction.

Goo – Instagram

Costumes by The Urban Fairy: The Urban Fairy – Instagram

Interview and photos by Gary Trueman