Anthony Turner’s Mortal Remains
“What’s going on with young people, you know it’s not just about being gay, or being straight or being bi. There’s this whole other world out there.” Tonight hair stylist Anthony Turner launches his zine Mortal Remains: A celebration of the “new openness” of youth culture today.
Interview JOHN WILLIAM
Beauty Papers: What was your initial inspiration to make the zine?
Anthony Turner: Do you know the TV show Dragula? Basically, it’s an alternative club competition. You can find it on WOW TV or Youtube. It’s like an antidote to the cupcake fluff of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m a massive fan of Drag Race but Dragula is more low-fi, cool and kind of weird. The winner of season one was Vander Von Odd and I just became absolutely obsessed, I hadn’t really seen anything like it before. Last summer I shot them with Sarah Piantadosi and we became friends. After talking about it we decided to do a fanzine and I kind of based the fanzine around Vander. Looking for more people like her. Anybody that believes in a subculture to the point where it’s not just a weekend thing… it’s more a lifestyle. I’m absolutely obsessed with this alternative queer universe. These kids really represent so much about youth culture today. They’re non-binary, gender fluid… there’s a whole new openness in youth.
BP: Tell us about the name.
AT: ‘Mortal Remains.’ I kind of didn’t want the name to mean anything. It wasn’t meant to mean anything, I was just walking through a graveyard next to my house. In Stoke Newington there’s this huge Victorian Graveyard and I saw on one of the headstones it read ‘The Mortal Remains of Isabelle.’ There’s something really romantic about that. I’m obsessed with music and if I was going to be in a band we would probably be called ‘The Mortal Remains.’
BP: Have you ever been in a band?
AT: I’ve always wanted to be. I don’t know if I could be in a band because I can’t sing and I can’t play any type of instrument… but I could stand in the background and maybe jig around or something… do a death drop.
BP: Like a gothic Bez!
AT: Yeah! Or I could just stand there with one of my black wigs on. Twirling.
BP: Tell me about one of your early hair heroes.
AT: Right, so here we go. Basically this was my first introduction to hair and how powerful hair can be. I went to see Portishead play in Wolverhampton when I was 15. I had no idea who they were, I was really young. But Beth Gibbons came out on stage, really grungy, wearing a big baggy top, with big baggy jeans and hair all in front of her face. And so all you saw was an eye and then a mouth, she was smoking a cigarette on stage with a pint of lager. And that for me was like wow. You are literally the coolest woman… I have ever seen in my entire life. And really, it was that for me. Hair over the face, with just the eye showing. And the mouth.
BP: Were Fanzines part of your adolescence?
AT: What my adolescence was mostly about was quite obscure music magazines, and then a bit later I really got into The Face magazine. I think it was The Face that kind of pushed me into fashion. My adolescence was made up of music, dressing up for nights out, going to college, spending all week making stuff for the weekend and then really going for it on a Saturday night, right up until the Sunday morning.
BP: Do you think that spirit is alive in the next generation?
AT: Definitely yeah. I do still think it’s there. People kind of go on about Instagram, about how bad it is and how negative it is. But actually what I found with the Fanzine was, if it wasn’t for Instagram, a lot of these young people who are pushing the envelope, doing weirder stuff and more alternative and creative stuff… they’ve got a platform that I didn’t have when I was younger. Every time they do a post it’s always so much more extreme than the last one and it just feels so new and exciting.
BP: With these people and performers who have already created a strong visual identity for themselves, can it be tricky for you to then come in as a hair stylist with your point of view?
AT: Well there was no stylist involved. So whatever you see in the Fanzine, in terms of what they’re wearing… It’s how they turned up. That helped a lot because we weren’t changing them in that respect. For makeup I worked with Laura Dominique but it was a collaborative effort, it wasn’t us turning around and saying “this is what we’re going to do to you” it was more “right, if you’re happy with the way that you look let’s just photograph you like that, but what about if we did this and what if we did that” and then the more I gave them the more they gave me. They are creative people, they want to push it. You know if I said “I love your hair but let’s make it ten times bigger,” more often than not they were like “Oh god yeah, let’s do it!” With the zine I wanted to be completely respectful to their vision of who they are.
BP: Was this a refreshing change from your editorial world?
AT: Definitely, yeah. The fanzine was never meant to be a hair book. Even though there are some big hair moments in there, it’s more of a showcase for these creative young people, and also it’s quite anti-fashion because there is no stylist involved and we haven’t got shoot credits. There are no advertisers. We’re not trying to get a shoe in, and a bag and an earring, do you know what I mean? We’re not having to tick any boxes. I really want to show that it’s not all doom and gloom right now.