Currently reading : Antonio Mori – Captain of The Flying Dutchman
To start with, would you like to tell us when did you start to get interested in kink and Fetish?
Well, I get interested very early on in my life, to a certain extent I found about SM and quite hardcore SM before I found out about normal sexuality. When I was a child in Italy, by chance, I came across a bunch of fetish magazines. I was with some other kids my age, I must have 11 or 12 years old then, and we found those magazines that we thought were porn. It was the 80’s you know, at the time of those magazines. And they turned out to be fetish magazines, and where all my friends got disgusted by it when realising they were not normal sex magazines, but on the other hand I got really interested in them, so I kept them and started to buying them even if I was a bit young…
Where did you find those first copies?
In a ditch by a suburban road. Someone must have thrown them out of a car on the way home or something.
Do you remember what magazine was the first one you found? Do you still have it?
Of course, it was called “I Moderni” (translated “The Moderns”) it was an underground publication in Italy in the 80s. Most pictures were in black and white and I think a good deal of the buyers of the magazine were because of the classified ads and meet ups (this is way before the internet). No I do not still have it, if anything my mother threw away tons of S&M magazines during my youth.
How did manage to buy them at the time?
I started to buy them a few years later when I was 14 or 15. You just pretend and they don’t care, nobody really cared. At that time you would buy porn in newsagent. It really was not hard to find.
Even hardcore S&M?
At that time yes! Black and white pictures and a lot of writings, mostly people sending stories.
Talking about hardcore S&M, what would you define as such?
Mutilations, stuff that leaves permanent marks on ones body.
Do you know of anyone that was published then that is still working in porn nowadays?
Nowadays I don’t really watch porn. I’m out of touch since the internet, I belong to a different era. Also I think that I as I got older I realised that I had to start saving my sexual energies and real life sex became much more easily available. So the need for porn decreased.
Did the start of the Flying Dutchman helped that?
Oh it was before that, when I started to be more involved in the fetish and alternative scene. Following the experience of many guys before me, sex became more available the older we get.
In our discussion you differentiate “normal sexuality” and S&M sexuality even though the second one has been the first one you discovered, and from what I understand the one that you have been practicing the most. I tend to consider “normal” what is normal to me. My individual practices are what creates the norms for my life. By opposing your own sexuality to another one that would be normal, would you then label yours as abnormal?
I don’t label my sexuality (and bdsm) as abnormal but while it is important to accept yourself as you are and honor that it is also important that one is aware of difference and diversity. The concept of “normality” which is not one I am very keen on, is necessarily based on what is generally acceptable, what is “average”. In a world where heteronormative standards persist, it is important to be aware that bdsm and kink are not part of “normal sexuality” and of heteronormative standards. No matter how mainstream bdsm will become, see 50 shades of Gray and the increased presence of bdsm imagery in society and high street shops, my view of bdsm is necessarily not heteronormative, if anything is is against normality, Camus saw in De Sade the ultimate rebel who by turning pain into pleasure went against one of the deepest biological and social convention. Like I would not accept a religious fundamentalist telling me that his or her values are the “normal” values of the society I live in, it would be unwise for you or I to believe that S&M represents “normal sexuality” in this society.
When did you first go to a fetish club? Did you find anything in Italy when you were a young adult?
No! When I was in Italy at the time of the fetish magazine there was absolutely nothing. And in fact a good part of the magazines were personal adds for people meeting up at each other homes, doing little parties. That was the way to meet people as there was absolutely nothing else.
My first visit to fetish clubs were when I was in New York in the late 90’s. The first one were a club called The Vault and Hellfire. Those were the two main clubs in NYC.
How were Hellfire and The Vault? Was it purely a play party? Did it have a dancefloor? What equipment was there?
They were not dance parties and because of Giuliani’s clamp down on sex trade in NYC they did not have an liquor license. Good but standard equipment. If anything a relevant element, not one I lied, was a strong commercial element of the party, dommes and other sex workers offering their paid services and doing business development.
Were they permanent venues or was it like most clubs in London where they tend to go around different places?
It was a case of every second friday of the month there was this specific event. A bit like most events I host at the Flying Dutchman.
So were there happening in sex and/or alternative specific venues? Or were they hosted in spaces that also hosted completely different types of events?
Well I am not sure…Oh and I also remember another club I used to go which was Jackie O. [It’s a pun on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis -much loved “prudish” icon ] which was very much about dressing up and it was a lot of genderqueer more than fetish people really. It was a beautiful night. But they used to have venues in the meat packing district, in the middle of this beautiful industrial slaughterhouses and in some more underground places. I also remember that in the 90’s Giuliani, who apparently decreased the crime rate from crazy statistics to
New York being a safe city for its size, waged a big war against fetish porn, clubbing and so on. In fact in he revoked a lot of licences for sex clubs and alternative venues, which leaded clubs to go a bit more underground at the time. But I moved to London then.
When did you move to London? What were you doing then?
It will be 14 years soon. And (sighs) like many I was working in the city…
And how did you go from working in the city to opening and running a fetish and alternative venue?
This is a very long story and it wasn’t a jump from the city to the flying dutchman. I enjoyed working in the city for many years, I can see it still as a part of my life that is important and it gave me the resources to do the FDL now, so it’s all part of the same journey. I left the city quite a few years before starting the FDL that happened as an organic project. It was never built within a specific vision. It was also very much driven by London’s crazy real estate market. I was looking for a larger flat and it was somewhat, I don’t want to say cheaper but it was as expensive to buy a large flat as it was to buy a large flat on top of a pub, on top of a dungeon. So imagine the pub came at the same price as if I had bought a normal 3 bedroom flat as I have upstairs. Even now that the market had changed, in Camberwell, you buy a small flat around the flying dutchman for more money than you would buy the FDL.
So you grabbed an opportunity when it appeared rather than concretising a long time coming project.
Yes that’s it.
On a slightly different subject, the Flying Dutchman is one of the main platform for performance arts in London. How did you get to host such events?
Well there is this great young artist and friend of mine , Antoine , who organised an art event here a long time ago and introduced me to Franko B, and Svetlana Stein who was the co founder (of the FDL ) and was very much part of the art student community within London made it happen.
I also know that your dad is a performance artist, does it has an impact on your interest toward live arts?
I don’t know… To a certain extent..
-We are being interrupted by a 19 years old model coming in to show her lingerie outfit she is going to wear for the photoshoot happening downstairs-
…so we were talking about live art. It’s something that you grew up with, right?
It is something I grew up with. My father started his exploration as a poet and then became a visual poet and then a performing artist. But that is probably something I lived very much as my experience growing up with my father , when as a teenager you must rebel against what your father does. And maybe 20 years later I find myself surrounded by performance arts and my father find to be really similar to what he does because in Florence he has a centre where he does holistic stuffs and arts. So really similar…He makes fun of me for that, telling me “the older you get the more you become like me”, which is probably true.
What do you mean by holistic stuff?
He is a tai chi teacher also. I do arts and fetish he does arts and tai chi.
It makes me think, I know you’ve been involved in tantra, could you tell us a bit about it?
Yes. That’s something that I explored last year and I have been practicing yoga, and, like my father (smile), I am interested in eastern philosophies. And I did one year of tantra, with a tantric partner. It was a fantastic experience, but it is very much about the experience itself and can not really be explained. Unless you are practicing yoga, and you have a certain awareness of the background it’s really difficult to explain. It’s getting more popular in the west because it is a spiritual discipline that makes use of sexual energies rather than represses it, and even encourages it. It actually sees sexual energy as something that can be channelled upward towards, if you want higher experiences or mystical experiences. From that viewpoint it’s very interesting as well as being about how you feel it in your own body, not as someone one describes it. So without the practice you can not really describe it. For a sexual explorer and someone interested in eastern philosophies, it is certainly an important point of reference.
You refer to yourself as a sexual explorer. Would you have an academic interest in sexuality?
I really think that while it’s easy nowadays to make fun of Freud for saying absolutely stupid crazy things about penis envy and all this crazy shit which obviously makes no sense. But you know I certainly think and agree with Freud that you can never underestimate the sexual drive as one of the basic instinctual drive and you can explore it in a more or less direct way. But if it’s direct it’s more real.
So what would be your project for the Dutchman? Any specific plan ahead?
Right now it’s just to get passed New Years Eve which is a bit of a nightmare for me. And otherwise, let’s see. Lately we have been having really successful dance based parties that have been calling a really interesting mixed crowd, so hopefully we’ll doing more of those. But let’s see.
Are you considering moving away from fetish events?
I really see what’s happening with the Flying Dutchman as a ship that goes where the current takes it. Opportunities arise and some other one fade away, and you need to be open to what comes. More art, more long dance events, and maybe more private smallish underground gatherings.
Another thing I was wondering is, how did you found the fetish scene when you first moved in London 14 years ago? Did you find events right away or did it take a while?
Initially I came in London in 2001, with the understanding that I would spend 2 years here and then will go back to NYC, because that’s where home was. Then September 11th happened and the city really changed, so I decided to stay in London.
So my first two years in London I did not really look into the fetish scene because I saw London as a very transitory step, I would soon be back in NYC with my fetish friends. This was just a work base, one off, little stage. I was back in NYC for my holidays. Nothing happened before 2004.
What was the first club you then went to in London? Or was it a private party?
The one I went to was club Rub when it was at Dukes, back in the city. The legendary Club Rub at Dukes.
Have you been back to club Rub since that time?
No. I know it moved around a bit lately.
So I guess you’ve seen some evolution in the fetish scene in London over the past few years? Would it be the crowd or the amount of clubs coming up or disappearing?
I don’t know…The London fetish scene is rather strange I think. There is Torture Garden that is this big success greatness keeps on going from strength to strength and then you get a lot of small events that are really struggling somehow. And if you think about it as in the following terms, I think it’s really strange to have a market where there is one product blossoming so much and different one really struggling. But you now it’s a fantastic place to be. There is something fetish going on almost every single week. I think that NYC is the second best fetish scene and is in my opinion way behind london.
In which way is it behind?
By the amount of people involved and number of clubs.
Are you missing NYC sometimes?
No. you miss being young and having more energy but you don’t miss being more stupid.
Visit The Flying Dutchman website here