this article first appeared in issue 6 in March 1991
An interview with LADY JUNE, October/November 1990
Presently residing in Deya, Lady June was one of the characters involved in the early daze of the Canterbury scene back in the sixties. Probably best known for the 'Linguistic Leprosy' album which drew on her lengthy association with Kevin Ayers, she also in subsequent years collaborated extensively with groups and individuals from the Canterbury orbit in a variety of artistic forms, She has in recent years continued to work as a mainly solo performer.
For the interview and biography which follows, I'm much indebted to the Ooglenovastrome
According to a 1974 Melody Maker article, Lady June was born to Russian and Scottish parents - one Jewish, one Christian, and was raised, with the name June Cambell Cramer, in accordance with the strict Plymouth Brethren religious sect - an environment that did not encourage individual personal expression. June subsequently studied at art college for two years. From around 1960 she spent much time living in Spain, painting end also working as a fashion model. She lived for a while in various other places including Italy, Greece and the Balearic Islands. It was whilst living near Palma in Mallorca that her path crossed with the 'Canterbury School'.
At that time Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth and Kevin Ayers would be periodically resident on the island. 'I met a tall, gangly Texan who was looking for 'the scene'. Deya was really wild at that time, rather like a Fellini movie really. I used to go up to Deya at weekends and I told the guy I'd meet him at the bus and take him up, but had second thoughts about it as I got weird vibes from him. So I arrived late, by which time Daevid had got him tripped out and he was putting up the money for Daevid and Kevin's bend. He subsequently went quite mad, thought he was the 7th incarnation of Jesus Christ and ultimately became violent - the story is too lengthy to tell here but quite hysterically funny at times".
So, funded by this Texan millionaire, Allen and Ayers returned to England to form the Soft Machine. About this period, Lady June was using the pseudonym June 'Onion' for her - painting activities, 'signing' each work with a small suspended onion bulb. 'It was during the crazy sixties time that this happened. Robert Graves' black goddess Cindy Laracven was, I suppose, ay best mate at that time. It started It
from us fantasising about an art gallery called 'Galleria De Los Savoyas', the walls of it being packed with small onions and the paintings exhibited on top of the onions; It just started from that. I even did one painting using photos of onions from magazines and made them into fantasy people in an onion world, and gave it to her as a gift.'
From 1967 her involvement in painting, music and poetry intensified; her artworks receiving numerous exhibitions. In 1970 June made a conscious decision that it was time for her to combine the music, visuals and words, This multi-media approach was subsequently developed in her performances, literature and recordings. Her public appearances became more frequent. She gave a talk and played tapes to polytechnic students in London and had several gigs in Britain during 1971, including a brief residency at the Electric Cinema in London. By now she had adopted the name Lady June. It was also whilst in England around 1971 when Daevid Allen came over from France for a tour and the 'Banana Moon' sessions that June was involved in another occurrence in Canterbury history. "Daevid needed a roadie, so I advertised for one and interviewed them, one of whom was Tim Blake, who seemed pretty useless to me. I'd just got a Victoriana box that needed a light bulb putting in it so I thought I'd see how efficient he was by letting him put the light in. Well, it took days and was in pieces all over the place and he never stopped talking, nor did the light ever get put in! So I convinced Daevid he would be useless, all Blake wanted to do was to join the bend. Anyhow, somehow or other he got a ticket to go back on the same flight to France as Daevid, and Daevid being so spaced out he just let it happen ..."
Further public appearances were made by Lady June during 1972, including a performance at the badly organised International Carnival Of Experimental Sound at London's Roundhouse with Steve Hillage, Tim Blake, David Bedford and Lol Coxhill amongst others (a recording of which was released on cassette); some musical dates with Lol Coxhill, an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival, end the 'Fun and Games' gig in London during November with Geoff Leigh, Steve Hillage, Didier Malberbe and Gerry Fields (who had appeared on the 'Banana Moon' album). In addition she performed in London with Henry Cow and a slide show, end during June played a gig with then in Amsterdam. 'One of the gigs I did at the Paradiso was with Henry Cow. They did the first set by themselves and played so magically. I was so proud of then tears ran down my face.'
In the next year she was visible at e variety of venues in England, solo as well as with Ron Geesin and Ivor Cutler. She was also involved in the BBC Radio 4 series 'If It's Wednesday It Must Be ...' featuring oddballs Kenny Everett and Viv Stanshall. June also prepared a series of tapes at the Radiophone Workshop for the BBC Radio 3 3rd Programme.
Also in 1973 she was close to another decisive Canterbury incident, though this time the event was tragic: 'Robert Wyatt fell out of the window climbing down a drainpipe at my flat in London and broke his back. It was at a party I had organised for my and Gilli Smyth's birthdays - hers is on 1st June, mine on the 3rd. In many ways it was the end of an era.'
During 1974 Lady June gave her 'Uppers and Downers' show et the Cosmos in Amsterdam. The title was to be used for the booklet of poetry published by Virgin that appeared the following year and is still obtainable. Also, there was a solo appearance et the Melkweg (Milky Way) in Amsterdam. 'I also did the Melkweg with Hatfield and the North. I did a lot of recordings with then as well, just private ones, some with a really bad sound.' Work on her album progressed during the year. At one point she was selling this herself (a pre-album version is documented as being available on cassette). 'I put an extra track on the end, more jazz orientated. We did it in the studio, it was the first time Robert Wyatt had tried to do anything since the accident. Archie Leggett and Lol and Pip were on it. The finalised session (without that track) was released by Virgin on the budget-priced Caroline label in early 1975 with the title 'Lady June's Linguistic Leprosy'. Recorded at a cost of £400 according to one review, it features Brian Eno (who was also resident In the Maida Vale area of London), Kevin Ayers and Pip Pyle. It is an adventurous and intriguing kaleidoscope of music end words and well worth searching out. It also has excellent sleeve art by Lady June.
Early the following year June performed with Lol Coxhill and David Vorhause amongst others, at the Puck Fair, with ex-Radar Favourite G.F. Fitzgerald (once a lodger in Lady June's flat - as also were Hawkwind's Stacie and Archie Leggett et various times) and in Wakefield with Fitzgerald and Coxhill. In the summer she appeared on the same bill as Heathcote Williams and Mike Horowitz (for some years June has been a member of the Poetry Society in London), at the Unity Theatre with Fitzgerald and bass guitarist Colin Maclure (later Involved with Geoff Leigh's Dutch bend Oddjob). She appeared ton at the Edinburgh Festival, where she also did some compering. In December, Lady June's Linguistic Leprosy gave three performances of 'Away of Living' at the Institute of Contemporary Art In London.
In 1976 Lady June participated in a women's festival in Amsterdam incorporating slides, films and tapes, and with films at a gig for the Women's Free Arts Alliance (for whom she gave several readings), at another gig in Wakefield and did a couple of short sets in London.
The following May, June made appearances in front of an audience of 8000 at the Gong reunion concert in Paris, at the Winchester Hat Fair, using slides and films; end at Battersea Arts Centre for a women's festival where she gave a short lecture on the transition from spoken word to music and song (playing an extract from the music of Gilli Smyth and Daevld Allen to illustrate this). June also appeared on a BBC World Overseas Programme that was broadcast to Spanish and Latin American countries. As well as being Interviewed she played some tracks from her album and sang a couple of unaccompanied songs.
After this she returned to Spain for several years, making occasional live appearances in Deya, such as gigs in the Municipal Theme Park with Jeremy Hart and Hamish, and et a French restaurant in a recording made available on cassette and also featuring Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth end Ronnie Wathan (who can be beard elsewhere on Smyth's 'Fairy Tales') In Deya, June organised jumble sales, slide shows, art exhibitions and did some photojournalism for a Mallorcan newspaper. In 1981 she was given an award at an amateur film festival.
Lady June was to return to London in May 1982 to organise 'An Odd Acts Event' at the Centro Iberica in London. "This was a concert I organised in a huge school that was squatted in in the Harrow Road In London. Daevid was just over from Australia, Gilli did it too, Harry Williamson recorded it. It was quite an evening." This event featured a hilarious story by Lol Coxhill, accompanied by G.F. Fitzgerald on guitar; some solo poems by Daevid Allen; and Gilli Smyth's performance accompanied by extracts from Williamson's 'Tarka Music' (the album of which features contributions by Didier Malherbe and ex-Henry Cow wind player Lindsay Cooper), as well as Lady June's own performance. Some of the evening's music and words was made available on a cassette released in 1983. Later that year June published a book and a booklet ('Caves') and designed a calendar.
Subsequently her activities have mainly been in Mallorca. She printed another calendar, exhibited in several events, organised further jumble sales and acted in the video movie 'Paradise Is In The Mind' (Director: Del Negro) for which she wrote the title song. She also contributed to an exhibition of Fifty Years of Deyan Art which was shown on Spanish TV. In 1984 she had 2 tracts included on a French underground cassette called 'Insane Music' (Illusion Productions) and another two tracks on a French various artists release entitled 'History Of Jazz'.
During 1985 she exhibited In an Amnesty International Benefit show in Palma and performed on the closing night with guitarist Gerry Hart. That year June made various broadcasts on FM Radio Mallorca, produced another calendar and organised a poetry/music/song event on a full moon night in Deya, which featured herself, Juan Biblioni and a wandering Irish minstrel. A recording of this was made available on cassette. She also gave a sketch in August at Robert Graves' Amphitheatre (a 'venue' which ahd been the location of another cassette recording featuring 17 Deya poets, amongst them Lady June).
Activities over the following 2 years included involvement in the organisation of an Arts Festival in Spain in 1987, where she also exhibited, which was filmed for Spanish TV, and the production of a calendar for 1988. Around this time she also had an exhibition entitled 'Something Old - Something New' in London.
During June 1989, Lady June exhibited 42 of her paintings at the Restaurente Suizo in Deya, opening the event with tapes, poetry and accompaniment by a guitarist.
As for the present situation: 'I spent one desperate year fighting with lawyers for my flat of 30 years in London, which I finally lost, but by the grace of God not without some compensation, which was touch and go, hence the fact why I'm stuck here In Deya. I made a visit to the Canary Islands which was quite magical and wrote a story about it with slides. I also have given slide shows and more solo and collective art exhibitions and a radio broadcast. Recently I had a track called 'Growing Up' on a French cassette called 'Ode to Samantha Fox. In May (1990) I went to Bali for 6 weeks, was in London on and off and spent 2 months in Brighton, which I liked very much, and did some poetry readings there. I also went to Shrewsbury to see Dave Anderson who has the Demimonde label. He was very excited about a tape I played him. The thing I want most to do is to make a new album - I'm singing more now and have more then enough material. I want to do it with Harry Williamson who's in Australia. It's all just a possibility scheduled for next March, and it's not going to be released on cassette or CD, just an record."
"The 'Linguistic Leprosy' album is now mine. Dave Anderson says he wants to put this out as a record too and get a new book of my poem published to be distributed by Rough Trade. Again, I'm not sure if this will happen. He tends to be overworked and has his fingers in too many pies. It's not a particularly good deal but I can't do a lot whilst I'm stuck here. Since I lost the flat it's difficult to mix with musicians and people with ideas. I am, however, contributing to a show on ecology on 20th December, and next year to a show in Cologne. The book I mentioned was going to be called 'Traveller's Trails' as it was poems and songs written in Greece, Spain and England, but as they were all Inspired by the writer and musician Max Handley who I was very much in love with at that time and who recently died in Black Wales hangglidlng, I changed the title to 'Well In It'!!` (A 3-track cassette celled simply 'Lady June', with Harry Williamson and Max Handley, apparently exists).
'In Deya the weather until the full moon was really good and then the clocks went back, the moon became full and it suddenly became very cold and wet, with rain, flashing lightning and thunder rolling around the valley and dark clouds swirling down the mountains. Deya is very such changed, all the houses have been bought by rich Germans and the prices go up accordingly, no poor artists or poets can drop in here any more unless they know people, so it is becoming very bourgeois. However, it still has its moments. There are still a few from the sixties here, Kevin Ayers and Matt Klarwein for instance. Kevin rented a room at my London flat for about 6 ½ years, so we have strong ties from way back. Brian Patten and Roger McGough are regular visitors, although they come to be quiet and either rest or write. Eric Burden was here for a while and was going to buy a house, but sadly because of his asthma has had to go and live near Los Angeles in the desert. It's very damp and humid here, very bad for health and I'm not unaffected by this myself.
`Over the years I do remember I was published a lot in 'Together' magazine, but I don't have access to my file of works just now. I really can't remember a lot of the musicians I've worked with, as half the time it seemed a nightmare best forgot about as soon as possible! I don't regard myself primarily as an artist or poet or musician unless I happen to be doing it at the time. Sometimes I'm told of things I've done that I've forgotten about and I think that I must be quite amazing for a Moment and then I completely forget about it again!'
The possibility of Lady June appearing on vinyl again is very much to be welcomed. From the above I get the impression that a lot of her best work has not been available to a wide audience. On occasion there can be too many drug references in her poetry, and the references to 'turds', 'snot' etc are somewhat puerile. Sentences too can get a bit too pun-laden. Having said this there are many elements of the songs, music and artwork that are interesting and effective. The only comparison I can make would be with the performance artist Sicnia Ziranek, who seems to have some similarities with Lady June, and Eve Babitz, whose artwork I once saw compared to that of Lady June. Let's hope June does manage to get a recording released in 1991.
Many thanks to Lady June for giving us her time to answer some questions, and for supplying supplementary information. Readers may be interested to know that some of the material mentioned above is available on cassette through the GAS network.