Long live the New Flesh
Q&A with David Wood, co-founder of the London fetish-club Torture Garden
This Interview was conducted by Marcus Stiglegger via Email for the now deleted first issue of :Ikonen:
1. Some words about your person: how did you get in contact with the fetish scene in the first place? At what age did you have your ,coming out'?
I WAS IN THE GOTHIC CLUB SCENE IN THE EARLY 80'S AND ALREADY DRESSING IN FETISH STYLE CLOTHING BEFORE I HAD EVEN HEARD OF THE WORD FETISH OR FETISH CLUBS. WHEN I CAME ACCROSS A FLYER FOR A FETISH CLUB FOR THE FIRST TIME IT SEEMED A NATURAL DEVELOPMENT FOR ME TO WANT TO GO, IT DIDN'T REALLY SEEM THAT STRANGE. I WAS AROUND 19 WHEN I WENT TO MY FIRST SPECIFIC FETISH CLUB IN 1984 - SKIN TWO. BY THIS TIME I WAS ALREADY READING GEORGE BATAILLE AND THIS INFLUENCED MY SEXUAL IMAGINATION MORE THAN THE CLUB.
2. How and why did you start the Torture Garden?
Could you tell us something about the ,philosophy' behind the Torture
I WAS SHARING A FLAT WITH ALAN - A GOTHIC DJ AND PROMOTER AT THAT TIME IN 1990, AND WE WERE BOTH BORED BY THE EXISTING CLUB SCENE AND WANTED TO CREATE THE CLUB THAT WE WANTED TO GO TO. ALAN WAS NEW TO FETISH CLUBS AND I HAD ALREADY BEEN GOING FOR 6 YEARS. WE WANTED TO CREATE A MORE ALTERNATIVE FETISH CLUB THAT APPEALED TO A YOUNGER CROWD, AND WE WANTED TO PLAY MORE RADICAL MUSIC AND STAGE PERFORMANCES AND HAVE LOTS OF VISUALS. WE WANTED TO MIX THE GOTHIC / INDUSTRIAL SCENE WITH THE NEW BODY ART SCENE AND THE FETISH SCENE AND WE ATTRACTED A VERY DIFFERENT CROWD. THERE HAD NEVER BEEN A CLUB LIKE IT BEFORE. ALAN HAD COME FROM A CLUB BACKGROUND AND I CAME FROM AN ART SCHOOL BACKGROUND AND THE FACT THAT WE WERE VERY DIFFERENT BROUGHT VERY DIFFERENT THINGS TO THE CLUB. I BROUGHT A CONCEPTUAL, VISUAL AND PERFORMANCE EDGE AND ALAN CAME WITH A GOOD ALTERNATIVE CLUB FOLLOWING AND COMMERCIAL EXPERIENCE.
4. There is a novel of that name and even a song by neofolk band Death in June which is played occasionally during Torture Garden events. How did the name in your case come about?
WE WENT THROUGH A HUNDRED POSSIBLE NAMES AND A LOT WERE TAKEN FROM BOOKS I HAD. I HAD JUST BOUGHT THE TORTURE GARDEN NOVEL, BUT HADN'T READ IT YET. BUT THE TITLE AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION EVOLKED IMAGES OF AN EXOTIC AND MYSTEREOUS FAR AWAY PLACE. SO WE CHOSE IT ON THAT INITIAL IMPRESSION. I OBVIOUSLY THEN READ IT TO CHECK IT OUT, AND ALTHOUGH ITS NOT ONE OF MY FAVOURITE BOOKS, I LIKED IT ENOUGH TO GO AHEAD WITH IT. WE CAME ACCROSS THE DEATH IN JUNE TRACK JUST AFTER THAT AND PLAYED IT A LOT AT THE CLUB IN THE FIRST FEW YEARS.
5. During Torture Garden events there are shown clips
AGAIN, WHEN WE STARTED THE CLUB I WAS ALWAYS KEEN TO MAKE THE VISUALS AS IMPORTANT AS THE MUSIC, AND USUALLY WE HAVE 7 SLIDE PROJECTIONS AND 2 OR 3 VIDEO SCREENS. GENERALLY I'VE TRIED TO KEEP AWAY FROM OBVIOUS FETISH S/M IMAGERY AND USE MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL EROTICISM & BODY MUTATION.
6. Did certain films and books influence your work and way of thinking?
AGAIN, THE BOOKS OF GEORGE BATAILLE HAD A MASIVE INFLUENCE ON MY CONCEPT OF EROTICISM AND SEXUALITY. PSYCHIC TV AND TEMPLE OV PSYCHIC YOUTH HAD A BIG INFLUENCE ON TG'S PHILOSOPHY. AND VARIOUS ARTISTS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS AND FILM MAKERS AND MUSICIANS HAVE INFLUENCED TG AT DIFFERENT STAGES.
7. How did the British law-situation change over
the past decade
WHEN WE STARTED TG RUNNING IN 1990 A FETISH CLUB WAS A DANGEROUS BUSINESS. WE WERE CLOSED DOWN THREE TIMES IN THE FIRST TWO YEARS. THE LAW WAS AMBIGUOUS BUT WE WERE EXPOSED IN THE PRESS A FEW TIMES AND THEN THE POLICE WOULD INTIMIDATE THE VENUE INTO CANCELLING THE PARTY. BUT THE MORE IT WAS FORBIDDEN THE MORE OUR CROWD WAS EXCITED TO COME TO THE CLUB. IT FELT LIKE WE WERE FIGHTING FOR SEXUAL FREEDOM AND DOING SOMETHING DANGEROUS. NOW IN 2002 FETISH IS TRENDY AND THE IMAGERY IS EVERYWHERE. WE USE ALL OF LONDONS MOST FAMOUS VENUES AND THEY ACTUALLY INVITE US TO STAGE EVENTS AT THEIR VENUES. THE LAW IS STILL AMBIGUOUS BUT THE POLICE AREN'T INTERSTED IN CAUSING ANY PROBLEMS AND WE ARE ALLOWED TO DO EVERYTHING AT TG EVENTS.
8. A certain fetish which has a very bad reputation in german clubs is the cult of the military uniform. But I have seen many people in the Torture Garden dressed in different kinds of uniforms - even historical ones. Is there a different attitude in GB towards this subject?
WEARING GERMAN UNIFORMS FROM THE NAZI PERIOD IS GENERALLY ACCEPTABLE IN THE UK IN A CERTAIN CONTEXT. WE HAVE BEEN BROUGHT UP WITH SO MANY WAR FILMS THAT THEY HAVE HAD A MASSIVE INFLUENCE ON OUR FANTASIES. BUT THEY ARE STILL CONTROVERSIAL WITH A SMALL NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN UK FETISH CLUB SCENE, BUT AT MOST EVENTS INCLUDING TG PEOPLE ARE AWARE THAT CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING AND THE CLUBS ARE ABOUT FANTASY AND ROLE PLAY, AND SUCH COSTUMES SHOULD NOT BE INTERPRETED LITERALLY, AS THE MERE FACT OF STEPPING INTO A FETISH CLUB THAT CELEBRATES DIFFERENCE, AND THE DIVERSITY OF SEXUALITY, IS AN ANTI FASCIST STATEMENT.
9. How would you describe the special appeal of the uniform in general - and especially the appeal of historical German uniforms?
BASICALLY NAZI UNIFORMS WERE THE MOST STYLISH, AND THE RED, BLACK & WHITE THEME APPEALS TO THE FETISH SENSE OF STLYE. THE FACT THAT THEY ARE ASSOCIATED WITH EVIL ALSO APPEALS TO ROLE PLAY AND S/M FANTASIES. OFTEN UNIFORMS IN GENERAL ARE ASSOCIATED CHILD HOOD EXPERIENCES OR NORMALLY SCAREY NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES: SCHOOL, HOSPITAL, DENTIST, POLICE, MILITARY, ETC. AND PERHAPS WE TURN IMAGES THAT SCARE US, OR IMAGES OF POWER AND AUTHORITY, OR MUNDANE EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES INTO FANTASIES.
10. George Bataille is the most important philosopher of sexuality, pain, death, and enlightment. The first Torture Garden book is full of quotes including him, but: Do you think the people attending the Torture Garden really care about any philosophical background? What are your experiences?
TG EVENTS HAVE ALWAYS WORKED ON DIFFERENT LEVELS. FOR MOST PEOPLE TG IS JUST A VERY DRESSED UP NIGHTCLUB IN WHICH TO DANCE, SOCIALISE AND PLAY. BUT OTHERS MAY BE INTERESTED IN THE MORE EXPERIMENTAL OR CONCEPTUAL OR ART ASPECTS. THE BOOK WAS DESIGNED IN A SIMILAR WAY THAT IF YOU JUST WANTED TO LOOK AT THE FETISH PHOTOS, THE QUOTES DIDN'T GET IN THE WAY, BUT IF YOU WANTED TO LOOK FURTHER THEN THEY ADDED ANOTHER DIMENSION TO THE BOOK.
11. Most of the audience at TG events are longing for an easy-going party atmosphere. How do theories of the ,Holy Eros' and the praise of the ,Abject' correspond to this attitude? Are there opposing views at work in the end?
12. Both Boyd Rice (Non) and Death in June are featured on the TG ,strange music' sampler. These controversial musicians both played at TG venues and events. Of which kind is your connection with these musicians? Were there any troubles surrounding these concerts? How did the club crowd react?
WE HAVE PUT ON VARIOUS PERFORMERS FROM AN INDUSTRAIL MUSIC BACKGROUND: ZEV, TEMPLE OV PSYCHIC YOUTH, TEST DEPT, VON MAGNET AND MANY OTHERS. BUT WE GENERALLY ONLY PUT ON LIVE MUSIC FROM GROUPS THAT ADD A THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE ASPECT. WE FIRST PUT ON DEATH IN JUNE AND BOYD RICE AROUND 1994 OR EARLIER, WHEN TG HAD A MORE SPECIFIC INDUSTRAIL CROWD ATTENDING. BUT FOR THE LAST 3 TIMES WE HAVE JUST PUT THEM ON AS PROMOTERS BECAUSE THE CROWD AT TG HAS CHANGED AND THEIR MUSIC WOULDN'T WORK SO WELL AT THE CLUB ANYMORE. THE FIRST TIME WE PUT THEM ON WAS AFTER THEIR OWN CONCERT WAS THREATENED WITH BOMB THREATS, AT A LATER CONCERT THE ANTI -NAZI LEAGUE THREATENED THE VENUE. BUT THE ONLY PROBLEM WE EVER HAD INSIDE A CONCERT WAS WHEN 2 REAL NAZI'S WERE CAUSING TROUBLE BECAUSE DOUGLAS P WAS GAY AND NOT A REAL NAZI!
13. Douglas P. personally seems to be an occasional
guest at TG parties? In Germany this artists has virtually no chance to
perform on stage due to his controversial position. How is his status
in Great Britain? How do you personally relate to his supposedly ambivalent
vision? How important in your
DOUGLAS P HAS COME TO TG OCCASSIONALLY SINCE HE PLAYED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 1994. HE'S USUALLY RUNNING AROUND IN THE DUNGEON! HE'S BECOME A FRIEND OVER THE YEARS AND I'VE GROWN TO LIKE HIS MUSIC MORE AS I'VE KNOWN HIM. HE IS AMBIGUOUS ABOUT EXACTLY WHAT HE'S INTO, AND I LOOK AT HIM AS AN ECCENTRIC ARTIST AND MUSICIAN, AND I THINK HIS MUSIC AND IDEAS ARE COMPLEX. TG HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PLATFORM FOR ARTISTS, AND IN PARTICULAR CONTROVERSIAL ARTISTS.
14. The TG Compilation of bizarre and experimental
music came out via World Serpent Distribution, which is known for experimental,
neofolk and industrial music, including the bands Coil, Sol Invictus,
Cyclobe, Backworld and Neither/Neither World. Was this project mainly
a work of love? Did you have any resonance? The audience of the TG events
seem to prefer the
THE CD FEATURED MOST OF THE LIVE MUSIC THAT WE HAVE
FEATURED AT THE CLUB OVER THE YEARS. AS WELL AS EXPERIMENTAL AND INDUSTRIAL
MUSIC IT ALSO FEATURED BIZARRE CABARET AND LOUNGE MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE
SOUNDTRACKS. UNFORTUNATELY THE CD WAS A LITTLE TOO ECLECTIC IN THE END
AND IT WAS DIFFICULT TO FIND THE RIGHT DISTRIBUTER OR SECTION IN THE RECORD
STORE. ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE TG CROWD HAVE BEEN INTO DANCE MUSIC - WHETHER
INDUSTRAIL OR HARD HOUSE - A LOT OF THE CROWD ARE ALSO INTO OTHER TYPES
OF MUSIC AND THATS WHY WE'VE ALWAYS HAD 3 OR 4 ROOMS PLAYING VERY DIFFERENT
MUSIC, AND A LOT OF THE CROWD HAVE ALWAYS BEEN INTO MORE CHALLENGING MUSIC.
AND THATS STILL THE CASE, ALTHOUGH WHAT IS CHALLENGING IN 2002 IS VERY
15. Did the guests change over the years? What is the present situation like?
WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN THE FETISH / SM SCENE MIXED WITH
ALTERNATIVE CLUB CULTURE. A FEW HUNDRED PEOPLE ARE STILL COMING FROM THE
VERY BEGINING, BUT OTHERWISE DIFFERENT SCENES AND GENERATIONS HAVE COME
AND GONE. SOME PEOPLE JUST DIP INTO TG AND THE FETISH SCENE OCCASSIONALLY,
SOME PEOPLE COME FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS AND THEN STOP CLUBBING, BUT FOR
OTHERS ITS A WAY OF LIFE AND A WHOLE COMMUNITY. TG HAS GONE FROM GOTH
/ INDUSTRIAL MIXED WITH FETISH, TO BODY ART, TO CYBER / TECHNO, AND NOW
OUR CROWD IS MORE DIVERSE THAN EVER. FROM LOUNGE & SWING CROWD, TO
BIZARRE CABARET CROWD, GAY & DRAG CROWD, TECHNO CROWD, CYBER GOTH
CROWD, BODY ART CROWD, FETISH & SM CROWD, AND MORE. WE'RE CURRENTLY
PLAYING MUSIC FROM DRUM N' BASS & NU SCHOOL BREAKS AND HARD HOUSE
IN THE MAIN CLUB ROOM, BIZARRE LOUNGE & SWING, TO PUNK & DICCO,
TO NU ELECTRO &
16. Would you say that you personally practise fetish/sm as a lifestyle? Or do you at least lead a double life as most of the people attending the club do?
FETISH IS A LIFESTYLE IN A WAY. ALMOST ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FETISH DESIGNERS, PERFORMERS, DJ'S, MUSICIANS, ARTISTS, ETC. BUT TG HAS ALWAYS BEEN ON THE FRINGE OF THE OBVIOUS FETISH SCENE AND MOST OF THE MOST INTERESTING PEOPLE ARE JUST OUTSIDE THE FETISH SCENE, AND TG IS ITS OWN SCENE AND CROWD. OUTSIDE OF TG CLUB EVENTS THE LAST THING I WANT TO DO IS GO TO ANOTHER FETISH CLUB, SO I LIKE TO GO TO A LOT OF DIVERSE EVENTS. I'M STILL INTO THE DRESSING UP OF FETISHISM AS MUCH AS EVER, AND IF YOU'RE BORED WITH SEX YOU'RE BORED WITH LIFE.
17. In which activities are you involved besides the TG events? Are the TG books mainly your own work?
TG PROJECTS ARE FULL TIME FOR US. AS WELL AS FETISH
CLUBS IN LONDON AND AROUND THE UK, WE NOW DO GUEST TG EVENTS ALL AROUND
THE WORLD: JAPAN, LA, NEW YORK, MOSCOW, ROME, ETC. PLUS WE DO SOME NON
FETISH CLUB EVENTS; PRODUCE TG BOOKS AND CD'S; HAVE A RECORD LABEL; AND
ARE JUST LAUNCHING A NEW PERFORMANCE / MODEL / EXTRA'S
18. Is it still fun for you to be a guest on your own events? Or is there any kind of ,getting used to it'?
TG WAS THE CLUB WE WANTED TO GO TO WHEN WE STARTED AND IT STILL IS. IF WE GOT BORED WE WOULD STOP. FORTUNATELY WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO REINVENT TG EVERY FEW YEARS TO KEEP IT CHANGING AND FRESH FOR US. WHEN WE'RE AT OUR OWN EVENT IT CAN BE HARD WORK AND WE MAY HAVE BEEN SETTING UP THE CLUB SINCE 10AM, AND THEN ARE BUSY ORGANISING SHOWS OR DJING, BUT WE STILL GET A CHANCE TO HAVE FUN AND SEE FRIENDS AND ENJOY THE SHOWS, AND WHEN ITS AT ITS BEST ITS THE BEST CLUB IN THE WORLD.
19. What are your future concepts and projects?
THE GREAT THING ABOUT TG IS THAT WE NOW HAVE A VERY BIG INTERNATIONAL NAME AND THAT CAN NOW GIVE US A PLATFORM TO LAUNCH VARIOUS NEW PROJECTS (SEE ABOVE). ITS GREAT THAT ANYTHING COULD BE HAPPENING IN A YEAR FROM NOW, BUT ALSO WITH CLUBS THEY CAN BE UNPREDICTABLE AND FRAGILE AND TG AND THE FETISH SCENE MAY NOT LAST FOREVER.
20. Will there be a ,new flesh' of the future? Or will the body disappear?
THE BODY IS ALREADY BEGINING TO MERGE WITH TECHNOLOGY, AND MUTATE INTO A POTENTIAL NEW SUPER BODY OF THE FUTURE. AND THIS WILL CONTINUE, BUT I DON'T SEE THE BODY DISAPPEARING.
21. Is a conscious sexuality a means to preserve the body as a ,temple of life'?
EXPLORING ONES TRUE SEXUALITY IS A LIFE AFFIRMING ACTIVITY.
Thanks to David Wood for taking his time to answer our questions.