Photo by Billy Easter
Meet Andrew Milk, the hottest ginger bearcub in London. For the past two years he's been the face of the DIY queer scene here, putting on shows at his night Club Milk and playing in his dance-punk band Covergirl. I always noticed him at shows, but we first actually met at a run-of-the-mill houseparty in South London this summer. Andrew had taken over a room and was getting down to pop songs, much to the chagrin of the musos in attendance.
One grey friday night a couple of months ago, he invited me round to his place above a record shop in Notting Hill, London. I showed up late proffering beer and back-issues of BUTT as ice-breakers, and found him in his fly-posted bedroom watching telly.
What are you watching?
Roseanne. With, apparently, Joan Collins! It's her Dad's funeral and Joan Collins is meant to be her cousin.
Joan Collins: …But I really think that this is a time for families to be together.
Roseanne: Yeah, death is such an ice-breaker. [studio laughter]
[laughs] She's so bad. It's embarrassing, but I'm really not very familiar with Roseanne.
Oh I love it. I watched it all the time when I was growing up.
Where did you grow up?
Dunstable. It's a really small town an hour's north of London with no train station.
So what was it like growing up there as a young homosexual?
Pretty boring. A lot of waiting for something to happen that never did. There was this one effeminate guy that was friends of all the cool girls, and when he was 13 he ran away with this 22-year old man.
Oh my God, that's my dream.
He was living my dream as well. But everyone was quite obviously shocked - he just disappeared from school.
That's my next interview right there! I'm sure it all ended in tears! [laughs] So tell me how you came to start Club Milk?
It was actually started by a guy called Matt who was putting on experimental music nights when I was at art Uni in Maidstone, Kent. I joined that and it became semi-popular among the art students there, and we moved it to London in 2008. It kind of became my baby, and I was trying to turn from an experimental night into something that was a bit more underground punk/queer orientated. I was living in a warehouse in Manor House at the time, and for the first show there I put on Drunk Granny, Internet Forever, Trash Kit and Chaps, who were the first band we released on Milk Records. Everyone that was involved in DIY or queer stuff came to that show, and I guess that established Milk in London. Homocrime had catered to a similar crowd, but they stopped doing shows in 2006.
What was Homocrime?
Homocrime was these guys called Irene and Daniel who put on DIY queer punk shows in London. They would try to do a release for every show they put on, these really nicely packaged CD-Rs. They've got a website where you can download all the stuff they released, which is a really good record of what was going on in London in the mid-2000s.
I'm the kind of person that's really optimistic about what one person can achieve. When I really like a band, I want to put on all their shows and be involved in every aspect of it.
How would you describe the way your band Covergirl sounds?
It's kind of guitar-driven but there's a little bit of a synth noise underneath it, so it's dance-punk! And then there's loads of vocals, and tribal choruses from everyone. Sometimes it's shouty hardcore vocals, and sometimes it's rap. So a fusion band!
Who else is in the band?
It's like a supergroup! And everyone else's other stuff is getting quite big - [Rachel's band] Trash Kit are big, [Billy's band] Wetdog are big, [Kat's band] Peepholes have got an album out now, and Ruth's becoming quite a busy artist.
Rachel was telling me about your first show at The Joiners.
Yeah, our friend Richard asked us to play at his karaoke night at the The Joiners Arms - Tranny Tuesdays! We got these black plastic eye masks and put diamanté diamonds on them and stapled them from the reverse so you could see the jaggedy stables, so it was like dangerous and punk still.
And then - you know the multi-coloured ribbon you get in corner shops when you go into different parts of the shop? - we had that underneath the masks and going down to the middle of our bodies.
Rachel was saying 'oh, we forgot to bring drumsticks, so we ended up using kitchen utensils!'
I think we ended up using a wooden spoon and a spatula as drumsticks. We played at like 1am and seven people were there, but it was a really good first gig! I'm really pleased that we were able somehow to pull that together, with a couple of practices and doing it on the fly.
What tattoos do you have?
I only have one, which is the collie dog. I'm maybe unhealthily obsessed with dogs. Whenever I see them I get that kind of feeling some people have with babies - a really paternal instinct. All I need to do is look at a dog and I just smile. My next tattoo is going to be - you know the Ouroboros, the snake eating itself? - I'm going to get a dog chasing its own tail around my arm.
Why did Matt originally call the night Club Milk?
I don't know. It's really weird, because Milk has a lot of meaning personally for me. It's something that I really really enjoy, but I can't have it 'cause I'm slightly lactose-intolerant so it's like forbidden fruit. And plus with Harvey Milk it has a really good queer connotation to it.
What's your favourite Milk-based food?
I have to have a glass of milk with any dessert. More than one. What's good is obviously having a biscuit that you can bite both ends off, and then you can drink the milk though the biscuit.
But doesn't the biscuit dissolve?
Well it will if you keep doing it. But if you just suck it up to the top and then eat it, you've got a really delicious milky biscuit.
I guess I don't know when to stop.
Yeah, you've got to know when to stop.
Since doing this interview, Andrew announced that Club Milk would be coming to an end. The last ever Club Milk is December 11 (tomorrow!) at The rAtstar in Camberwell. Gig of the year!