Writer, comedian, woman

Interview with The New Current

Dani Frankenstein Vault Festival Interview 2015
Hey Dani thanks for talking to tNC, how have things been going?
Very well. I’ve just got back from a New Year’s holiday to Hovet in Norway. I drove a husky sled, ate some gross fermented trout and nearly smashed head first into a partially frozen river. It was great. My office in Clink Street is freezing today, but that’s nothing compared to an unheated house at minus 18 degrees. 
How does it feel to be part of Vault Festival 2015?
Really exciting. I love the Vaults – it’s such an incredible space. I saw Fiona Shaw perform The Rime of the Ancient Mariner a while ago and just fell in love with the place. It’s also a huge thrill to be doing a festival where I get to sleep in my own bed each night, and see my dog. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of theatre. At the Edinburgh Fringe you spend so much time seeing friends doing comedy, so now I want to see some heartbreaking emotional monologues please. More crying please.  
Any finishing touches ahead of the festival?
I think I’m still on starting touches. Actually 2/3 of the show is what I did in Edinburgh last year, and then I’ve been writing some new songs as well. I wont start rehearsing until February though – when I’ll use a music space in Dalston. I do need to sew up my costume however as there is a split right near the bum – but not in a sexy way (is that sexy??)
What has been the biggest challenges you’ve faced putting your show together?
I’m self producing which I’ve done on Ward & White shows, but they’re just a few nights at a time or one night a week for a month.  All straight forward but I had a lot of work on in November and December, recording my Radio 4 series Dilemma, plus some fun TV stuff. But if I had paid someone else to produce I’d say the biggest challenge was looping clean Jay-Z samples on an iPad mini.
You had a great run during Edfringe at PBH Free Fringe Festival, what was that experience like?
I LOVED doing the Free Fringe. I’ve never been one of these people who adores going to Edinburgh because of all the bullshit around press/management/competition/sales/huge financial loses. It’s the antithesis of creative expression. Like a slow four week death. However, for me as a performer, knowing that I’m not losing about £350 every time I walk onstage (and someone else is making a lot of money from that), and that my audience will only stay if they love the show, that was brilliant. Plus one of my songs is a spoken word story – which I introduce as being inspired by The Gift by the Velvet Underground. At one show (and I only did 7) Lou Reed’s old sound engineer was in! Total coincidence. He said Lou would have approved, which is obviously the greatest review I’ve ever bloody had.  
Tell me a little bit about Dani Frankenstein, what can we expect?
Dani Frankenstein started out as my Ziggy Startdust. An alter-ego that I could perform with, but was still essentially me in a jumpsuit and wig. But she’s grown into more of a character. I thought it would be really funny to go onstage with the extreme confidence and self belief of Kanye West, all sound bites and ego, but in a tiny fringe venue. I’ve basically made her an utterly delusional fruit basket. My favourite song in the show is a duet with Robin Thicke called ‘I Want You Back”. Robin doesn’t usually turn up though so I normally do his bits too.  I’m Eminem, he’s Dido. 
What was the main inspiration behind your show?
For a few years I’ve wanted to do something involving music as a solo performer, but not the ‘stand-up with a guitar’ or  – god forbid – a ukulele. And I’m not a good enough pianist for that to be my instrument. And then I saw Tim Ten Yen do a gig with backing tracks in 2011 and slowly the cogs started turning. But ultimately I really really wanted to write an anti-rape anthem (which is in the show as my final song – called Don’t Put Your Dick in Me) that was also funny and realised that it might work if the whole hour was slowly working toward that sort of song at the end – hence a character was born. I get to lull the audience into a false sense of security and Valerie Solanas their arses off for the final 5 minutes. (NB Dani Frankenstein doesn’t hate men and is in no way affiliated with the S.C.U.M Manifesto)
When did you realise you wanted to create comedy?
I was such an annoying dick at school. I’d be putting on plays with puppets made out of blu-tac, or clowning around trying to make people laugh. I spent one maths lesson pretending to be the Pet Shop Boys in a conical hat. The sort of person whose company I can’t abide now I’m in my 30s. I even wrote a stand-up routine about toilet paper when I was 12. I think it was because post christmas I’d go to WHSmith and buy the cheap stand-up videos. I had Frank Skinner, Baddiel & Newman, Jack Dee, Ben Elton, loads more. My old form tutor said I’d become either a comedian or Prime Minister. I’ve not totally ruled out the second one. But at heart I consider myself a storyteller rather than comic – I’m actually writing a sci-fi drama at the moment. In space no one can hear your jokes. 
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far?
An audience knows when you don’t want to be there – they can see it in your eyes. So you have to either always find something that makes you want to get up on stage, or give yourself a break. I was backstage at a gig in 2012 and thought ‘I just can’t bear the idea of listening to my own voice for the next 20 minutes’. I didn’t book a gig for 18 months after that. I did knob about doing Shakespeare at the Donmar Warehouse though. Which was glorious fun, awe-inspiring and exhausting.
Who have been your biggest inspirations?
For this show? Bridget Christie, Crilly & Wix, Sara Pascoe, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Adam Buxton (he does the best comedy songs) Carter USM, Kanye West, Public Enemy, Sleaford Mods and Prince. In fact it was after seeing Prince at Shepherd’s Bush Empire last year that I wrote the first track. He was incredible.  Always? David Bowie, Roald Dahl, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Jim Henson. 
Do you have a favourite music quote?
‘We’ve heard it all and we’ve used it all’  Rita Lee – Os Mutantes.
And finally what do you hope people will take away from your new show?
I wanted to write a something that would be ridiculously fun to both perform and watch. I think the last time I managed that was with my musical Psister Psycho in 2007 (disclaimer – some people really hated it because it was weird. But mainly people loved it including Benedict Cumberbatch). Dani Frankenstein is spiritually closer to that show than anything else I’ve done. It’s very silly and physical, lots of clowning about, but hopefully life affirming and joyful. It’s also rather feminist in content. So if you hate women you probably won’t like it.