Monday, 13 October 2014

Graham Russell's DJ'ing Résumé

/ Photo by Adrian Lourie /

I first thrust myself onto an unsuspecting world as a DJ circa 2008, gradually progressing from my public debut at a friend's birthday party to playing in a wide range of clubs, bars and even festivals, ultimately launching my own semi regular club night Lobotomy Room in 2012.

/ The first Lobotomy Room flyer by Ego Rodriguez /

Obviously I vary things a bit depending on where I’m playing, but my music policy can probably best be described as “vintage sleaze”: I like to whip together a mixture of frantic 1950s rhythm & blues (the Fifties really is my decade), desperate rock’n’roll and rockabilly, beatnik Cool Jazz, Latin exotica, lounge, twang-y surf instrumentals, sleazy titty shakers, novelty stuff and curiosities – atmospheric and obscure weird shit, basically! And I aim to keep it punk-y, confrontational and abrasive as opposed to too nostalgic, purist or soothingly retro (especially once I've had a few drinks).

17 May 2013 Lobotomy Room at Ryan's Bar

My first real break was in 2008 via guest DJ’ing stints at Cockabilly (London’s only monthly queer rockabilly night for gay greasers, punks, leather boys, cry-babies, prison wives and juvenile delinquents of all ages). Cockabilly venue-hopped a lot in the early years: I managed to DJ at all of its residencies at The Moustache Bar, The Haggerston, The Dalston Superstore, The George and Dragon in Shoreditch and Bloc Bar in Camden Town.

Read about the squalid proceedings at previous Cockabilly nights hereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere,  here, herehere and here.

Since 2009 I've also been the regular resident DJ at the monthly burlesque-meets-drawing class / Anti- Art School cabaret night Dr Sketchy. Emceed by cabaret aristocracy like Dusty Limits and Ophelia Bitz, Dr Sketchy originally happened three times a month at three different venues: The Paradise in Kensal Green, The Old Queen’s Head in Angel and The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in Vauxhall. These days it is once a month, solely at The RVT.

In September 2012 I DJ’d five shows a day at the Time for Tease tent at Bestival (four Time for Tease shows a day, and one Dr Sketchy show each night) to the biggest crowds I've ever played before. It was draining but exhilarating! 

At Dr Sketchy’s I've had the opportunity to work closely with the crème de la crème of striptease performers.  Over the years I've become a kind of musical advisor to some of them (I'm the "go-to" man for grinding tittyshaker instrumentals): the likes of Kiki Kaboom, Cherry Shakewell, Sophia St Villier and even Bunny Pistol in San Francisco have all incorporated songs I've recommend into their routines.

/ Above: Lobotomy Room flyer by Joe Pop /

By the end of 2012 it felt like a natural progression to venture into organising my own club night. My vision for Lobotomy Room was informed by my decades of clubbing and bar hopping, in particular by More than Vegas in London, Squeeze Box in New York and San Francisco’s Hole in the Wall Saloon. I pictured Lobotomy Room as a low brow Mondo Trasho punkabilly beer blast, with a rancid musical approach informed by John Waters soundtracks and Songs The Cramps Taught Us.

Initially I mainly alternated between two venues:  Paper Dress Vintage in Shoreditch and Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington (there was one memorable night at Hysteria in Dalston, too). When my Paper Dress Vintage permanently shut its Shoreditch location (another casualty of gentrification!), I felt a bit bereft. But then in summer 2015 I was invited to re-launch Lobotomy Room at a new permanent monthly home (last Friday of every month) at Dalston’s premiere Art Deco vice den Fontaine’s.  In fact, I’m in Fontaine’s Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge – a Mondo Exotica Tiki paradise! The music (desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle!) is putrid, admission is free and I project vintage erotica on the big screen for your adult viewing pleasure. Come for the £6 cocktails - stay for the trashy music and dirty movies! A tawdry good time is guaranteed!

In November 2015, I diversified and instigated Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies, a free monthly film club in Fontaine’s Bamboo Lounge (last Wednesday of every month). The emphasis is on the cult, the camp and the queer, with the hope of reviving the communal (and boozy!) experience of old-school midnight movies. Some of the titles I’ve screened to date include Kitten with a Whip, Desperate Living, The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield, Valley of the Dolls and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Read Loverboy Magazine's account of a visit to Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies here. 

/ Above: Lobotomy Room flyer by Ego Rodriguez /

/ Above: Lobotomy Room flyers by Ego Rodriguez /

Read about all the previous antics at Lobotomy Rooms to date hereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere , hereherehere, hereherehere, herehere and here. 

Otherwise, I've made some fun and notable guest appearances over the years: In 2009 I DJ’d at the Christmas staff party for high-end luxury reproduction / faux-vintage lingerie boutique What Katie Did at The Paradise in Kensal Green (the night ended with Lily Allen’s friends causing a fight and the police being called!). When Sparkle Moore and Cad van Swankster, the proprietors of the chi chi vintage clothing emporium The Girl Can’t Help It had a farewell party at Ryan’s Bar before relocating to San Diego in April 2011, I was invited to be one of the featured DJs. Art Wank is Ophelia Bitz’s cabaret night centred around screening her huge collection of 1920s stag films (porn with dead people, essentially).  I was an obvious choice to DJ afterwards when she held one of these at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in February 2012.  Since then, I've appeared several times at the queer rock'n'roll night Wild Thing at The Retro Bar in Charing Cross. Read about those here, here and here. On Easter Sunday 2016 I channeled my hillbilly roots DJ'ing at The Glory's annual barn dance. 

I definitely reached a kind of acme DJ’ing at immersive cult cinema organisers The Amy Grimehouse’s 12-hour John Waters Filth Fest on 29 March 2014. DJ’ing to such a wild, freaky, trashy and appreciative crowd while scantily-clad drag queens and Divine lookalikes did stripper squats and slut drops really spoiled me.

John Waters Filth Fest

/ Contestants of Filthiest Person competition at The Filth Fest (photo by Alex Menace) /

For more information, email me.