The Lone Taxidermist is the one woman art pop project of Cumbrian lass Natalie Sharp. When she's not earning her crust as a make-up artist and high end face/body painter she's making skewed glam electro pop with a disconcerting and psychedelic edge. I first saw her playing live in Manchester as frontwoman to dramatic chamber pop sorts The Bottomfeeders. During the gig she sang at such an alarming frequency that it set off the venue's fire alarms and she still found time to drag a shy male goth out of the crowd, making him take his top off and then force him to eat a pork pie on his knees. Since then she's gone solo, with a much more alluring synth pop orientated direction (referencing The Knife, Diamanda Galas and Soft Cell, made with the assistance of Hoxton synth wizard, Ben Edwards) and has just made a stunning video for the track S.L.A.G. Here she gives us the lowdown on her unique look and sound.
So, when and where did you start doing music as The Lone Taxidermist?
Natalie: Shortly after the demise of my previous band The Bottomfeeders. I was still in Manchester and trying to get my money's worth out of the Boss loop pedal Id spent an arm on. Must have been late 2007.
Tell me what the name Lone Taxidermist means?
Lone comes from me going it alone after the split from a five piece band. Initially there were two of us called 'The taxidermists' but that didn't work out. My growing fascination with one man/woman bands became unhealthy. I would only go and watch one person bands play live- Thomas Truax being the odds on favourite as he made his own instruments. But I did get a marriage proposal from Scout Niblett and got to sit on Bob Log the Third's lap as he banged out his crowd pleaser 'Boob Scotch'. Those were the days! Taxidermist comes from my love of taxidermy. Before it got all trendy I started collecting cheap shit birds on Ebay as that's all I could afford. I now have a wonderful collection of dead bits. They all died in their sleep; I have it on good authority. I had plans to become a taxidermist but that never happened. Instead I got really good at spending time on my own, re-learning my own way of making music, often with found objects. But the sound has changed since the early days.
Is S.L.A.G. an acronym or does it have something to do with the by-product left over after coal-mining has occurred?
Ha ha! SLAG heap! Clever. I didn't think of that one. I just noticed how the word spells gals backwards and wondered if there was any relationship. It's a word I've always enjoyed saying as it's a bit aggressive. I don't really use it in the derogatory way, in fact when I was still living in Cumbria that's how I would greet my friends, by yelling 'SLAG' down the streets of Carlisle at them. I also like talking about sex a lot - Im quite a feral beast and this word gets bandied about when referring to girls who enjoy a bit of rump in a negative way whereas men are called 'stallions'. But sex is one of the greatest performances our bodies can offer. Wear a condom though!
Tell me about the look you're sporting in the video.
Finding an all in one spandex suit that flatters is tricky. But via a friend Gaffy Gaffiero I discovered a spandex specialist called Carley Hague and much in the same way Pam Hog dressed Siouxsie, Carly dressed the Joggers. I'm mainly sporting a camel toe and lots of body paint in the video. My business is face and body painting so I painted 'Sweet toof' teeth on my chest. A lot of the video is inspired by sweet toofs cartoon creations that make Regents Canal so vibrant. Mind you, hunting the person down who makes all the street art took me half a year. I wanted to get their permission first. The shoulder pads are made from real sweets that were a real bugger to sew on. They doubled up as tit covers in the final scene, as we didn't want to get powder paint all over Carleys samples.
Did you make this yourself? How difficult was it and how long did it take to do it?
I didn't make the spandex suits, but everything else was designed by me. I then pulled in the best people in their creative fields to make it come to life. Christopher Kelly and his art department team are responsible for building the massive backdrop and the bike made from sweets. He made a liquorice dog outfit for a whippet too but that ended up on the cutting room floor as they say. The other key woman in this is Laura Bellingham. She is the same DOP who filmed Bijoux Boy [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BDh5AImIMg] and we have worked together ever since. I love her to bits. In total there were 30 people on the call sheet- all mates, all working for nothing but the love of my daft idea. All incredibly skilled. We spent three full days filming it. Deborah Coughlin was the woman who made me do it. She'd been nagging on at me for months. But it paid off and she was right! It's definitely the most ludicrous thing I've ever done. It's taken nearly a year to make a 4 minute pop video. But that is because I wanted it to look like the story I'd been carrying around in my head. Every time I cycled to my old work down the Regents Canal, I poured all the money I had from my business into it, which wasn't much and it all got spent on sweets! Having such a brilliant team of creative mates about me has helped massively. They blagged loads of free gear. Lots of lessons learned along the way. One being: don't try to direct, fund, produce and star in your own video.
I saw you playing live recently and you were wearing a terrorist's balaclava made out of mirrors with a bright purple fake pony tail - do you make a lot of your own stage clothes?
You failed to mention the helicopter part! The tail that protrudes from the mirrored gimp mask is in fact silver bullion tassel that is very heavy and very sharp. There's a part in the set where I swing it really fast, millimetres away from Phil and Will my bandmates. If it was to catch them it would cut them to shreds. Better that you come and see it than me try to describe it. One of the advantages of playing small venues is that the danger is greater as the stage is the size of my bath. I've got this thing about light and ways to manipulate it. I used lasers loads in my last music video as they reacted really well to glitter and its reflective quality is really magical. I saw Grace Jones at the Albert Hall, when the single UFO beam of laser hit her metal bowler hat and lit up the entire hall. I thought to myself, I'm having a bit of that and bastardised her aesthetic into something that was more Lone Taxidermist. We're still very DIY in our approach, but it should always look and sound strangely beautiful and dangerous. That's why my mate Garry Sonic stands at the front of our gigs with the cheap laser machine, shining it on my gimp mask. I do make a lot of my own stage gear yes, as the high street is dull and what I love is too expensive. I'm currently making more wearable versions of the gimp mask for my band mates that will be made entirely from mirror. See Maya Derrens Meshes of the afternoon reference here. It's a bit Sun Ra too! Boudicca goes into space. I like that.
You've got a powerful set of lungs - have you ever done that thing where you try to break glass by singing dead loud?
Yes. It's never worked, but I have managed to make myself sound like a theremin. I could watch Clara Rockmore on tap doing what she does and Pamelia Kurstin too. It's the most intriguing instrument I know. But Moogs are pricey so I make do with either a saw or my powerful lungs.
What are your ambitions for Lone Taxidermist?
Lots and lots and lots. Aim high I say. I want to go to Berlin, play all the clubs, I want to play in more weird places like underwater, the moon, going down a Helter Skelter. One day I'll do something with David Lynch, throw Bjork in there too while we're at it. More solid plans include doing a live recreation of this music video. I don't know if you've heard of this immersive theatre group called Punchdrunk, but I would like to create a real life version of the music video, where the audience are interacting with the characters from the video. We are currently scouting locations and investors to make this happen. Hopefully in November. We also have lots of new material, some that me and Phil [live band member] wrote on our last trip to Berlin. Some inspired by a visit to Hackney Marshes that tells the story of a man known as 'Dribble Wizard'. I would definitely love to get back into [Ben Edwards] Benges spaceship studio, but he's a busy guy. In the meantime Im converting my living room into a studio space as I live with another musician called Ross between us we have a lot of gear to keep the neighbours happy with.
I once saw you playing live and you forced a young goth lad to take his top off and eat a pork pie while you were singing at him in a most disconcerting fashion. What should young skinny men beware of before watching you live?
Ah John! that was a long time ago. I had issues then. In my old band we had a song called 'Skinny White Boys' it involved picking on the skinniest, palest little boy in the audience and forcing them to come on stage, strip and be force fed a six pack of Melton Mowbrays. The song was written with some venom after I had an argument with a band who are now very successful and famous. But back then all they cared about was not eating and wearing skinny jeans. It repulsed me. As a woman, having rumpy pumpy with a bag of anaemic bones does nothing for your self confidence. So I decided to sing about it. Im much nicer to the audience now. Less issues!
Follow John on Twitter @TheQuietus