Paul L Martin: interview

Cabaret maverick Paul L Martin has released an album and – for one night only – is resurrecting his drag act

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    Paul L Martin

    Time Out: Paul L Martin, your biography in 20 words.
    ‘International cabaret artiste of 16 years. Put Bette Midler and Graham Norton in a blender and you get me.’

    Cabaret is booming. You must be thrilled.
    ‘My work involves balancing my creativity and running a business. For the latter, I am very pleased with how busy the cabaret scene is, although there are more competitors than ever for a scene that I was just one of two or three just a couple of years ago. That is a concern, but I firmly believe that the people who are really passionate about the genre will be still there when all the rest are on to the “next big thing”. As far as creativity is concerned, there is a sense that it is time to come at things from another angle. What we did was quite unique for a good few years there. Now, I am doing the same thing as many others, and I have never been about being part of the establishment. Some may say I led the pack and I’m proud of that on a business level, but that is not relevant creatively. Time to shake things up a bit, methinks.’

    You were famous first as drag superstar Trinity Million. Why did you kill her off? And why are you bringing her back?
    ‘Trinity reigned supreme for about five years from 2001. I killed her off because all the things that were liberating about playing a woman became stifling. The fact that I could no longer fit into the corset has absolutely nothing to do with it. Trinity was stabbed to death on stage, however she’s coming back because I found some nice dresses recently and want an excuse to wear them.’

    What advice would you give to those aspiring?
    ‘When I started out, I would travel around at least twice a week after my day job. I never got paid, barely got thanked and usually only got to sing one song, but the experience was invaluable. I learned to work a room, and that is what it’s all about. I now run workshops on cabaret and we talk a lot about the need to speak. If you haven’t got anything to say, don’t bother. Also, it is a great way to celebrate who you are because, unlike the case with musical theatre – which is an avenue from which many cabaret performers start – there are no set types to adhere to. There are many superficial reasons that performers don’t get work in musicals and they rarely have anything to do with lack of talent; rather it’s about shape or size or stance. ’

    ‘Bein’ Green’, your new CD, is fab. What’s the story behind it?

    ‘People have been asking for it for a long time now, and I wanted somewhere to place some songs that have been very good to me but that it is time to move on from. There are numbers on there that are very popular with my audiences, such as “My Funny Valentine”, “New York State Of Mind”, and Tom Waits’s classic “Shiver Me Timbers”. But they can’t keep being dragged out when there are so many new, exciting things to say. There are newer numbers on the CD too, and just one song that was penned by me and pianist-composer Richard Link (who also accompanies me on the record). Future recordings will see much more original, self-penned material; I’m really on one about that at the moment.’

    Paul L Martin performs this Friday at Kabaret Knight at CellarDoor, Trinity Million July 19 at the Battersea Barge.

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