Interview: Andi Fraggs
Singer and Songwriter Andi Fraggs isn’t afraid of tackling the hard issues: homophobia, addiction, suicide, politics and liberation – they’re all there in his music. His fearlessly honest performance style has paid off with single “If It’s Wrong” hitting over 100,000 views on YouTube in just five days. We caught up with him ahead of his appearance at this year’s Hot August Fringe at the RVT.
How did you get into performing?
When I was eight I used to listen to The B52’s ‘Cosmic Thing’ and think: this is all I want to do with my life. I didn’t realize I could sing at that point and I started out by mimicking Fred Schneider. After that, I turned my attention to Kate Pierson and realised I could sing her sections of the tracks. I began to write my own songs. I only had about three friends and I used to make ‘noise’ with one of them. I started a band with one of them. We called ourselves ‘The Mombies’ and sold a (very rare) cassette album at LadyFest – I haven’t even got a copy myself and dread to think what’s on it! After that, I came to London and ended up working with some well-known producers on an unreleased album. I released a track myself called ‘Addiction’ on my own record label ‘Twenty20Sound’ and it became a success, going to number 1 on play.com. That week it was ahead of the likes of Swedish House Mafia, Cheryl Cole and Paul McCartney. Since then, I’m pleased to say, my singles (including Gaydar Radio Anthem ‘Beautiful Feeling’ and self-produced album ‘Always First’) have sold well and are becoming more and more popular.
How would you characterise your performance style/singing?
I would say my performance is theatrical, retro with a modern twist, futuristic and open. The show is dramatic, with costumes and videos for every song and the tracks are all related to very personal matters in my life. Everyone can relate to something in my show.
How do you deal with difficult themes like homophobia, addiction and suicide in your work?
I have survived all of these things and relate to them through my music and lyrics. I like to go out of the bubble that can be the gay scene and perform the songs in places people wouldn’t usually be confronted with these themes. At first, some straight men seem a bit awkward watching the show with all Its sequins, glitter and pride. Then I notice that they show a respect for the music once they just listen with an open mind. It’s interesting that some people can be dismissive at first, but once you scratch away at the surface you realise there’s a lot more to me than a glittery shirt – although that is very much part of me.
Is there a political message in your work? How do you bring this across?
Absolutely. I’ve always been politically minded, but never more so than in these difficult times. I can’t stand the many injustices towards the LGBT community and too many people are complacent at the moment. I don’t think equality is done and dusted and I don’t think people realise just how easily things could change for the worse in the UK – as they have done in so many other countries recently. I try and bring my political thoughts across to an electronic beat and hope that while people are dancing they hear the message in the music – usually they do. I rely on forward thinking magazines like Beige, radio stations like Gaydar Radio, Village Digital Radio and Gaydio, people like David Hoyle and Toyah Willcox and venues like The RVT to give me the opportunity to spread my message through music.
Tell us about your RVT show at The Hot August fringe…
Personally, this is going to be one of the most special shows I’ve ever done and I have spent months putting it together with the great artist Nick Mackay, who I work with on all of my shows and videos. Without giving too much away, it has been a major upheaval for me – going through old diaries and unleashing so many memories – things my brain chose to forget. I have been addressing so many things that have happened to me in my life, from the abuse I suffered as a teenager and in my early twenties, right through to a breakdown I had a few years ago.
I then touch on all the great things that have happened to me recently; touring the UK at major venues and supporting icons like Toyah, David Hoyle and Hazel O’Connor. These are people I’ve always admired and they were like my replacement friends when I didn’t have any during my teenage years in the late 90s in Wales. It was more like living in the 70s as far as attitudes go and I discuss this throughout the performance.
During the show, I will also be joined on stage by a hugely talented musician, Massimo Paramour. Massimo remixed my track ‘Beautiful Feeling’ and recently we have worked on new material in the form of future single ‘It’s A Celebration’. At one point during the RVT show, Massimo will play live piano and I will perform acoustic versions of three songs for the first time. The audience and atmosphere at the RVT is always great. It is such a special and important place for artists to express themselves. The show will be dedicated to Nikolai Alekseev, Peter Tatchell and Jimmy Somerville – who I see as a very important and all too overlooked political musician. It’s going to be one big celebration!
You wrote “If It’s Wrong” to celebrate 40 years of pride. What process do you work through when writing a song?
Usually, I write my best songs when I’m pissed off about something. ‘If It’s Wrong’ was written about discrimination I have received and also witnessed and I was so pleased when the video received over 100,000 views within two weeks on YouTube. The song’s not only about LGBT discrimination, but every form of judgement over love. If people love each other, why shouldn’t they be able to be public about that love?
ANDI FRAGGS RVT HOT AUGUST FRINGE SHOW:
Thursday 30th August, Doors 6.30pm, Show 7pm.
Tickets £7 (Ticket includes entry for 30th August performances by Mzz Kimberley + SonOfaTutu and ‘The Frantastics’).