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Feral sound, kinky style

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Caron in her many guises: the MC will play Pontoon’s club night Shameless on Thursday. Photo Supplied

Caron Geary is a woman of many masks. Whether terrorista-style in an Airtex balaclava or an Elizabethan soldier in a headpiece of silver coins, the veteran British basshead has created her brand of reggae house bangers under multiple monikers - “Cantankerous”, “The Infidel”, “Feral” and,  now, “Feral is Kinky”.

An MC legend within the British rave scene, she ran with Boy George during the acid house explosion of 1990s London, had a number one hit with Erasure, and was banned from UK radio for explicit content for her Everything Starts With an E.

But today, three days after New Year’s Eve, she’s simply Caron: bare-faced, nursing a cup of tea and sniffling down the line in a delicate ‘Norf London’ accent. She spent 2012 in the studio – in November she released the dubstep house mix My Selector via Play me Records in LA, which scored tens of thousands of hits in one week on YouTube. This week she’s headed to Southeast Asia for a mini-tour and a break from recording.

“I’m completely worn out. I keep getting these colds and stuff, so I thought I’d go to Cambodia and Vietnam. Can’t wait to get out of here.”

This Thursday she’ll be on stage at Pontoon to perform at the club night Shameless before jetting off to play Bangkok and Ho Chih Minh.

“It’s quite wild out there [in Cambodia], it’s very different from Thailand, way more exciting. A bit more renegade.”

It seems a suitable word for Caron herself, with her wild blend of Moombahton, house music sexed-up with the slow tropical rhythms of reggaeton – fans of which include producer Diplo. Not that she’ll let her sound be pigeonholed into any one genre.

“It encompasses hip hop, grime, new jungle, anything that doesn’t fit in the strict house bracket, anything that is a bit of cross-genre, cross-country, global…Dancehall, bashment, reggae, add my thing to it and it becomes bass… And do you remember gabber music?”

But it’s her love of reggae and dancehall that sets her apart – sounds she’s obsessed over since she was an eight-year old girl growing up in Marylebone, London.

“I lived on top of a betting shop, William Hill, and right next door was a legal after-hours party that would go through to morning playing reggae music. As I left for school at 7am or 8am everyone would still be rocking up to the club. I used to hear that all night and all morning so maybe I was drawn to it.”

Her first commercial release was a reggae track called Kipsy, inspired by Jamaican DJs like Big Youth. Mainstream success came with the E-Zee Possee, which she led to cult acclaim with Everything Starts With an E. When she met former Culture Club frontman Boy George, he signed her to his label, More Protein, and together they released collaborations such as Generations Of Love. It was an era of long nights and hazy mornings.

“A few friends would come round my house and we’d start having a few drinks. I’d get most of my outfit on, my makeup ready. We’d all jump in a car and we’d drive way out of London on the M25, we’d stop at different service stations and pubs to ask about our next location. We’d find security guys down a country lane, they’d direct us onto another country lane.

We’d say ‘oh there’s going to be nobody here, nothing really here,’ then you’d see all these lasers and massive E.T-phone-home star spaceship lights and there’d be hundreds of thousands of people at this huge rave.”
But by the mid-90s she had split from Boy George and hasn’t had anything more to do with him since.

The singer, known for his New Romantic sound and androgynous look, has struggled with addiction since the 1980s. In 2006 he did  community service in New York after falsely reporting a burglary. Police found 13 bags of cocaine in his apartment.

Since then there have been multiple arrests.

“If you’ve got that kind of personality, that’s going to happen. The minute you get a fortune, or people are up your a** the whole time, that’s going to shape what you’re about. You want to get f****d up on speed or what? You’re gonna find a way to do it and if the finances aren’t there you’re gonna do it in a really dark, horrible, mucky way. Other people do what’s seen as more glamorous and sophisticated but it’s not – you just have more money to do it. After a while hanging out with those celebrity types, it becomes quite tiresome.”

After leaving More Protein, and parting musically and socially from George, she scored a number one with Erasure, rapping on ‘Take a Chance on me’. After that, she took a residency in Ibiza as “the Infidel” before writing an album called Cantankerous and taking up the name for herself. When a commentator dubbed her sound “feral pop”, she became “Feral” and finally ended up with “Feral is Kinky”.  

She’s still scoring big line-ups, having recently shared a stage with A-Trak and Dylan Francis – but the parties are more low key. “We do the show, have a few drinks after and people go their separate ways,” she says.

For 2013, she’s looking forward to a heap of collaborations,  spots at UK festivals Lovebox and Glastonbury and a potential trip to Jamaica – her musical homeland.

As for what Cambodia can expect? “It’ll be me DJ-ing and probably MC-ing with a resident as well – and manically running around singing.”

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