Wonderland.

JOHN GALLIANO AND JEREMY HEALY

Two boys from Peckham. John Galliano – the wunderkind behind Christian Dior. Jeremy Healy – frontman of 80s pop sensation Haysi Fantayzee and one of the most famous DJs on the planet. Over the past twenty years, their collaborations have reinvented the fashion show and provided the industry with some of its greatest runway moments. In a Wonderland exclusive, the two old friends talk shop, Charlie Chaplin and playing with eels…

John Galliano: Wonderland want us to talk about music, about how we work together. We don’t really ‘work’ together, though, do we? Is this work?
Jeremy Healy: To be honest I am amazed its lasted this long! So which show do you want to talk about?
JG: They’ve done a shoot based on the Dior Cruise show that we did in New York…
JH: Oh, the Madonna, JLo, Christina Aguilera mix? Well, basically that was a really quick conversation because the Madonna album had just come out and you said, ‘Use these, they’re great!’
JG: [Laughs] Yeah! But sometimes it’s more difficult…
JH: Sometimes it’s a total nightmare John! It’s different each time. You never totally know so you can’t say there is a certain way we do things…
JG: It’s like those mixes you were doing when we first met…
JH: Do you want to tell the story or shall I?
JG: You do it. I’ll interview you for a change… Jeremy, how did we first meet, do you remember?
JH: Well, John, this is the famous fish story! [Both laugh] Was it 1985?
JG: Autumn Winter 1985/86 so, yes, February-ish 1985.
JH: Anyway, I remember I first met you ‘cos a girlfriend of mine was modelling in your first show and she was going on and on about it and eventually she talked me into going…
JG: The Ludic Games show at Olympia. Do you know we had to do that show twice because we had so many people turn up? So many crashers! My first show at British Fashion Week!
JH: Yeah, that’s right. I wasn’t really into the idea of going… It was 2½ minutes long, a total mob scene to get into, she had a tree in her hair and all the models came out swinging dead mackerels that they then threw into the audience! I was totally gob-smacked! My mouth was just like hanging open… I’d never seen anything like it! Strangely enough there was some bloke who looked like Mr. Spock standing in front of me, which added to the whole weirdness. I was just thinking, ‘Did that just happen?’ – and it takes quite a lot to shock me.
JG: [Laughs]
JH: I was totally blown away so I went backstage…
JG: And I knew you from your club nights, from the mixes you were doing…
JH: I was using audio effects, scenes from films mixed with beats, music…
JG: I saw you and I was like, ‘I know who you are… I want you to work with me!’
JH: And that was it!
JG: Easy! And you’ve done the music ever since. We must think of something really hard for you to do next season… OK, what was the first record you ever got?
JH: Oh that’s easy! I was seven years old and it was “Space Oddity” by David Bowie.
JG: Cool! That’s a pretty good start.
JH: Well, I got it when getting a record was still something special. I remember I got two records that Christmas from my uncle. I got that and Return Of Django, you know, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, The Upsetters… I asked my uncle to get them for me and those were my two records. They lasted me a year. I played them and played them – the A side, the B side. I bet I still know every word to them to this day…
JG: I’m The Upsetter… Why are you so ambitious? Why are you so malicious?…
JH: Exactly! People think we’ve known each other longer than we actually have, if that’s possible. We sort of have but we didn’t know… I remember, about five or six years after we’d been working together, sitting together in my council flat just chatting about how we’d got to where we were, our childhood, where we’d grown up, that kinda stuff…
JG: We were only doing one show a year at the time so we didn’t get to hang out all the time, not like now. [Laughs]
JH: It’s like a full time job now! Anyway, I remember telling you about how my Nan had got the original Young Americans LP, and how it still even had the price on, and how she’d got it from Jones and Higgins in Peckham…
JG: Oh my god! Jones and Higgins! OK and I said, ‘I remember that store! I used to go there all the time when I was six!’
JH: Yeah, and we both discovered that we’d both grown up in Peckham and pretty much done the same things…
JG: Gone down the high street…
JH: Gone to the pet shop, played with the eels. And the greatest thing of all was when he would…
JG: Stir them up! [Both laugh]
JH: Exactly! Stir them up! And do you remember the big parrot? I know you do ‘cos one of the highlights of all your shows for me was the first show you did at Dior and you did the Peckham Parrot! There was a coat with it embroidered on it. I saw it and I knew… it was a beautiful moment.
JG: From Peckham to haute couture! But yes, we had pretty similar upbringings, didn’t we? Similar experiences…
JH: Yeah but we didn’t really work this out till about five years later. Well, it’s not the first thing you talk about…
JG: Do you have a favourite show?
JH: Well, no, not really. I never expect them to be less than brilliant. I’ve been lucky; it’s been great. You’ve never ceased to be amazing. Plus doing the shows has given me lots more toys to play with than music alone would have.
JG: But which show stands out for you?
JH: Well, Dior’s 60th anniversary show was a nightmare!
JG: It was ambitious!
JH: Nightmare! We’d done live strings; we’d done live flamenco; and live gospel… but never all at once! We sort of bit off more than we could chew and just kept chewing!! It was the biggest logistical nightmare! It was in that huge venue…
JG: Versailles…
JH: The different groups were spread about 100 metres apart from each other. It was literally a complete…
JG: Nightmare!
JH: It was really stressful.
JG: But so worth it.
JH: But I think if I had to choose one show, the first time we used a gospel choir, back in 2001, was really cool. I remember Malcolm McLaren coming up to me afterwards and saying, ‘One million dollars for a show and you gave it away!’ That was great, that was cool… And that was the show I met Gwen Stefani at – it was cool to work with her. And then there were the Kodo drummers – that was amazing! They were so incredible to work with. They were such perfectionists. They /so/ got it. I remember flying to Japan to have a conversation with them and then two weeks later they came over – fifteen drummers – and did the rehearsal. There were no clothes, just the music and we all just sat there and it was perfect. It was amazing.
JG: It was major.
JH: And that was before anything else.
JG: Before the acrobats, the staging, the clothes, the hair, the make up… the whole dramalatta.
JH: That is definitely a highlight… Sometimes you get so inspired by your research trips that when you tell me what you’ve seen, it inspires me, changes everything.
JG: Well, finding those drummers was just so inspiring. I always say the music enhances and defines the show – it gives the clothes colour.
JH: ‘Give the clothes colour!’ I know, I know, you always say that… Sometimes, though, it’s a bit like Charlie Chaplin; he doesn’t speak but he does something really funny despite the music being really sad. Sometimes you mix it up like that. Well, that’s how I see it. That’s what is so great about you – you like to mix it up, alter it; tweak it just before you can predict what will come next…
JG: So what are you listening to now?
JH: You!
JG: Good answer. No seriously…
JH: Air conditioning… I listen to everything. There is everything out there but it’s different now because the Internet has everything. You only need to know a few lyrics, a few names and you can type it in and find it. Your record library used to be your base, your inspiration, but now everyone can access everything all the time. What you have to do is use your /nous/ – keep it all up here – and bring it out at the right moment… Do you remember the show White Horses?
JG: On white horses let me ride away… to my world of dreams so far away… Of course I do! Sung by Jacky?
JH: Exactly. That was our era. So I would play you tunes like that and I would see your eyes well up. These were theme tunes from our childhood. I would hunt out songs like White Horses, songs that meant something to us, to growing up. Songs you knew, remembered…
JG: Oh I /so/ remember that show. That’s why music is so important. Do you remember when we had the Blue Peter theme for the cardboard cut-outs collection?
JH: I think it’s really important to have a sense of humour, to see the funny side. That show was mental.
JG: But there are no rules?
JH: Not with you mate! As soon as it gets predictable, you flip it. And that is what’s important. We’ve done the dance thing for a while but why do the normal thing, you know? I like the clash of couture and rock, music and frocks. You have to have great music to set off the clothes. When I started doing this some of my mates in record companies thought it was a joke. They told me to go write a pop song or something. I’ll never forget that. But I really liked doing it – can’t say why – so I put a lot of effort into it, really spent a lot of time. And now, thank god, it’s all finally paying off.
JG: How long does it usually take to compile the music for the shows?
JH: Well, that all sort of depends on you. A normal collage-like mix is about fifteen minutes so I guess that will take about four days but you also have to know what music, the vibe and what to use…
JG: You usually send us ideas, tracks and stuff for us to listen to in the studio…
JH: Exactly. And then you’ll pick out what you like and we’ll go back and forth and take it from there.
JG: Who’d have thought two boys from Peckham would have turned record swapping into a career.
JH: You said it, not me!
JG: So what you got for me this season…
JH: John!!!

Words: Camilla Morton

A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #15, Oct/Nov 2008

JOHN GALLIANO AND JEREMY HEALY

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