Dusty O interview

Posted: Thu Jun 30 2011

We grab an hour in the busy life of DJ Dusty O

The Very Miss Dusty O played her very first set in her native Birmingham 27 years ago and is now a familiar face on the London gay scene. Not only does she host Madame JoJo's hugely successful Trannyshack every Wednesday and has just released a new single, she squeezes in time to volunteer - at London Zoo...

Where and when was your first DJ gig in London?
'My first DJ gig was at Bambina at Venom in Leicester Square in '93. It was an uber-fashionable hangout. Johnny Depp, Kylie, Grace Jones and Jean-Paul Gaultier all hung out there. One night the VIP room DJ didn't show, and as I lived close by I dashed home and collected my vinyl and it started from there. Within a year I was everywhere!

I think I can safely say I have played in every big - and a fair few small - gay clubs in the country over the years. I've had long residencies at Heaven, Ministry of Sound, G-A-Y, the Fridge, Pushca, Ghetto, The Limelight... you name it, I played it! The highlight for me has always been the opportunity to do what I do in such a diverse way. Saying that, I'm particularly proud of Trannyshack and my long and happy association with Gary Henshaw at Ku.'

Trannyshack has really taken off…
'It's nearly six years old! I never expected it to last. It's the club I always wanted to start and I'm most proud of, a place where people can dress up if they want to or dress down if they choose. It's free to anyone dressed up as I've always found niche nights charge too much and rip people off. And it's set in a small and historic venue smack in the heart of Soho. Trannyshack to me is everything Soho was and should be.'

You're one of the busiest DJs in London, and you do it all in drag. How do you stay sane?
'I'm very organised. My routine has to be regimental. I start my face at a certain time and I pack my bags at a certain time. I know I need a certain amount of sleep to function well and I know my prep is going to be a minimum of three hours. On Sundays I source my hair, records and outfits for whatever the coming week holds in store and everything is bagged and waiting. It's a job. I treat it like that and that is why I've lasted so long. It's not throwing a bad wig on and getting pissed. It's planned, it's prepared and it's organised.'

And you've found time to record a new single...
'This is my sixth single and twelfth track. So enough for a greatest hits! None of my tracks sold brilliantly. I understand I'm an acquired taste! The new song is called “Wat2Do (Come Out!)”. It's a call to arms to anyone who feels different - gays, trannies, freaks, anyone who feels pushed aside. It's gloriously catchy and has the feel-good quality. The video was filmed at Trannyshack. It's camp and brash and in your face.'

You hosted the main stage at Pride last weekend...
'And this weekend I'm performing at Summer Rites. I'm also doing PAs for the single in various clubs, and writing for Boyz and QX magazines. Plus doing my three weekly club nights and working on a book about a quarter of a century on the gay scene. Life is busy!'

How do you relax?
'I'm a volunteer at London Zoo. I love it. I get to spend time with the animals and I love talking about them to kids and whoever's interested. I'm also a history geek and visit churches and palaces. My life away from the scene is very sedate and tranquil. I don't drink when I'm not working and I rarely go to a club or bar. I love being at home and I have a small and very tight group of friends.'

Anything else we should know about Dusty O?
'Dusty O is an open book! She has has no secrets, no hidden past. It's all been well documented!'