At her Brooklyn home it’s early morning – and Ana Matronic says she’s delighted to be waking up to a Scottish accent.
Ach, I’ve heard this before lady… you can’t butter me up like that.
As we chat though, I realise that it’s a genuine affection for our cool Caledonian tones.
It’s difficult to categorise Ana. For a few years we knew her as the yin to Jake Shears’ yang in Scissor Sisters.
Since the band went on what was described as an “indefinite hiatus” in 2012, Ana has blossomed as a broadcaster, DJ and an author, where she’s an authority on transhumanism and how robots are changing the world.
Dundee robots and virtual clubbing
That expertise brought her to Dundee in October 2019, as a panellist at the University of Dundee’s Festival of the Future.
While in the city, she accepted an invitation to DJ at V&A Dundee.
Now she’s back, virtually at least, and will host an hour-long online DJ set from her home to celebrate the opening of Night Fever: Designing Club Culture as part of the V&A Dundee’s Tay Late: And the Beat Goes On, a free but ticketed event on Friday, May 7.
The night, recommended for those over 18, is a global club crawl, beginning on Dundee’s Perth Road with a DJ set from Le Freak Records.
From there it’s to Ireland, back to Scotland, then joins Ana in her Brooklyn loft, with the night ending in London with Queer House Party.
“My husband and I have had the catalogue for this exhibition for a couple of years now and we’ve been through it so often, particularly because he’s a lighting and production designer,” she says.
“So when the call came it was ‘Yes!’. It’s always lovely to be asked but it’s even lovelier to be asked back.
“Being part of the panel at the festival was amazing – and then being asked to DJ in that building, that for me is up there with the Guggenheim! Then, about two weeks after that I’m at home watching Succession and there it was. Logan Roy at home in Dundee and I’m shrieking ‘I’ve just been there!’.”
Clubs are part of Ana’s DNA. It’s where Scissor Sisters got their start and she’s equally comfortable performing in front of a crowd at the O2 or on top of a bar in a club.
Originally from Portland in Oregon, she moved to San Francisco in the 1990s and started performing at a drag club called Trannyshack.
“It’s where I grew up – Trannyshack really was my college. Clubs are where you find your people – and that’s never more true than when you talk about the LGBTQI community.
Cushion of love and a show of strength
“When you’re trying to find yourself, clubs can give you that cushion of love, but also that armour that you need. That’s definitely where I got my strength – with the people that I met through nightlife.”
The fact that her college, the drag world, has been so embraced by mainstream culture is and isn’t a surprise to Ana. “Well the short answer is no, I didn’t foresee this happening but I’m not surprised because drag is awesome!
“I don’t know if I really expected drag queens to become the new rock stars, but I can vouch that drag queens are 100 times better than ANY rock star.”
The feeling of freedom that we can feel on the dancefloor of a club runs through the Night Fever exhibition and Ana agrees that there is no such thing as a bad dancer.
“Absolutely. There’s no good or bad here. The thing about dancing is it’s like a physical meditation. It takes you out of your head and into your body – it really is the ultimate experience of bringing people into the moment.
I don’t know if I really expected drag queens to become the new rock stars, but I can vouch that drag queens are 100 times better than ANY rock star.”
“When it comes to being a DJ, the difficulty is only having an hour. If you play three minutes of a song that’s really just 14 to 16 songs, but somehow for this set I’ve managed to get 20.
“There are no spoilers, but I obviously wanted to represent my country, to represent history get a couple of songs that mentioned design.
“There are some songs that were no brainers and there are definitely some ‘hands in the air’ moments.”
Ana says that two of her best friends have shown her that great link between Scottish and American music. Hence the love for the accent!
“One is HiFi Sean (Sean Dickson, formerly of the Soup Dragons). We talk endlessly about about soul music and disco. He is 100% dedicated to expressing his love for music. That seems to be an enduring link between our two countries.”
There are some songs in the set that were no-brainers and there are definitely some ‘hands in the air’ moments.”
Another close friend is Alan Cumming, who has also had brushes with the clubbing world, hosting Club Cumming at locations including the Edinburgh Fringe.
“Alan is a sweetheart and a dear friend – he’s a ridiculously talented individual. I’ve also known his husband Grant for 20 years.” Ana’s hoping to make it across at some point before the exhibition closes, and ponders asking Alan to come with her.
This love-in for Scotland leads to reminding her of the night in 2004 when Scissor Sisters played the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebration in Princes Street Gardens and she sported a fine, but flimsy, Saltire dress.
“That was cold! Of course I knew it would be so I did have warm things under the dress – but they were smaller than they needed to be. I think I was saved by my particularly warm, woolly Scottish socks. Really, who knows how to make woolly socks better than the Scots?”
One of the reasons she’s so keen to see Night Fever, is to see how that club culture that she loves is brought into the museum setting.
“It’s a challenge to bring together that lofty cultural institution feel of a museum and the warm club experience. I am so glad that there has been a real emphasis and embrace by museums to bring these sorts of exhibitions in and bringing that kind of energy. More disco in museums please.”
Everyone can find their club
Tracing the lineage of club design from the 1960s, the exhibition has something that will engage all ages, no matter when, or if, they were a clubber.
“Listen, I’m 46 years, I’m still DJing and have absolutely no plans to ever give it up.
“One of my favourite places to DJ is a club called Wet Noise where the owner is insistent that we play nothing beyond 1985.
“When I look around the room I think to myself, ‘This song I’m playing is older than pretty much everyone on the dancefloor’.
“We are all together at times like that and it’s something that’s actually really beautiful.”