Lewis G Burton
Had Leigh Bowery and Divine been breeders, Lewis could happily be their bastard child. What struck me with him is the fact that he couldn’t actually be further removed from his stage persona. Indeed, LGB proves to be an articulate, courteous and charming Northerner who’s able to show a very positive outlook on life. Having said that, his speaking voice sounds uncannily like Bowery’s and his grimaces bring to mind Divine’s. Make of that what you will!
He moved from Newcastle to study at Sir John Cass School of Art & Design in London and only discovered Leigh Bowery while doing his foundation year. “I couldn’t wait to sample the club scene which lacked so much up North,” he chuckles with obvious glee. “I went to Vice Magazine’s launch party at The Old Blue Last and bumped into Oozing Gloop and Sancho Hemelsoen in the toilets (as you do). Wearing a blue mohair cardigan, complete with padded shoulders, a dog collar, the shortest short shorts ever and ripped fishnets, the three of us hit it off while stood in front of the mirror touching up our lipstick. They whisked me off to the Joiners Arms. We were legless and it turned out to be the most amazing night. We exchanged numbers and went out to do it all again the following night. This first taste of London’s nightlife proved to be a true eye opener.” From then on, Lewis went on paying regular visits to The Dalston Superstore, East Block, The George & Dragon, Vogue Fabrics, The Joiners, Sink the Pink and, naturally, never looked back.
“I think the club kids are really fun at the moment and the scene is certainly better than it was 5 years ago. I also know clubs are closing down at the drop of a hat. The thing is, venues can no longer survive only on bar takings while promoters keep the door takings. That obviously limits possibilities. On the other hand, if people sit at home and don’t come out to support club nights and venues and then complain, they really don’t have a leg to stand on, do they? I keep doing what I do against all odds because that’s what I enjoy doing. I help the kids out and meet amazing like-minded people, some of my best friends. Which is the whole point when you runaway from small villages to find like-minded people. Night clubs are churches for freaks.”
Burton brags about loving a really messy performance, one that can make audiences gasp in shock. “I’m the queen of grotesque and I love the way it makes people squirm. It can be quite beautiful.” His stage antics are indeed notorious for generally involving, in turn, a lot of rolling around on the floor covered in paint and food waste, wearing a scary face mask and gimp suit made of preserved chicken skin patchwork, eating raw pig’s hearts and giving birth to a 2-foot squid. I can safely say, people, this is not for the faint-hearted! When prompted about comparisons that are made with the scene’s other queen of grotesque, he only dismisses them with a cheeky “what’s Scottee and where do I get one?”
As well as performing, he equally enjoys DJ-ing, playing disco, 90s dance, pop and dancehall, in fact always quite an eclectic set. He promotes club night Inferno in London and travels abroad regularly without having to rely on an agent. Bookings of late have included Bordeaux, Berlin, Paris and Lisbon.
When prompted about his future, he fobs me off with a carefree “I never think of it”. “Hopefully,” he quickly adds, “I’ll be kept by a very rich man at some point, create art and be happy and healthy. If I wasn’t doing all this, I’d probably be stuck in Newcastle working in a sausage factory or something, or maybe I’d just be dead.”
Perish the thought!
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