One of the most prominent and easily recognisable members of the punk community Colleen Caffeine is someone who owns her style. With her flamboyant stage outfits she helps to make Choking Susan a colourful highlight of the gig calendar and a must see at any festival. Here she talks about her early style influences and how getting easily bored is behind much of her chameleonic look.
When you were a little girl who were the people that influenced you style wise? Who were the people that made you want to look the way you look now?
“This is going to be horrible but the first influence I can think of would be Donny and Marie, but that was me as a small child though just so people don’t think I’m that old. Just anybody, any singer on TV. If you want to be a musician you pretend until you can make it real.”
You have a very vivid look with bright hair and costumes. Is there anybody today that you see and they make you go wow!, they look awesome?
“I think Lady Gaga has been great for that kind of thing. She’s very original, doing her own thing. I think back to Zillah too from Rubela Ballet, she’s been bright and colourful forever. I think it’s all about making a cartoon into real life, that’s what I try to do.”
Would you like someone to make you into a cartoon?
“That would be fun. People have drawn me before and that’s neat. If someone would draw me then I would put the words to it because I know what I’m going to say…. usually. With all the road adventures we’ve had that would be a good idea I think. We’ve done some crazy things if there are any cartoonists out there who want to do this then let’s do it.”
With your make up what products do you use and why?
“I use what is sweat proof mostly. I buy inexpensive make up and inexpensive clothes. Whatever won’t smear when I sweat when I’m on stage is what I use. And whatever will make me look the youngest, haha. The one brand I can’t live without is Kat Von D’s lipstick. It stays and stays and stays and I love it, and the colours are really bold and bright. She’s awesome, she’s another one with great style. She’s pretty cool.”
Your hair goes through a lot of colour changes but the long style has been a constant for a long while now. Are both of those things very conscious on your part?
“Well I’m a hair stylist and also someone who gets bored easily so I’m constantly changing the colour. I do add pieces to my hair to make it thicker and fuller.”
So as a stylist you probably do stuff to your hair that you wouldn’t recommend like the bleaching. What do you do to keep your hair in as good a condition as possible?
“I only use professional products. You have to go for the high dollar products if you’re going to trash your hair like most women do these days. I still use a lot of Paul Mitchell and TG Bedhead, products like that. Constant conditioning is important. I have pushed the envelope on myself but I have to because if I don’t how do I know what other people’s hair will tolerate. My hair has fallen out a couple of times.”
Your stage outfits are always incredible. Where do you source all your outfits from?
“The Salvation Army, thrift shops, usually I get most of my stuff from thrift shops. I just buy up a bunch of stuff that is cheap and flashy and bold and then just try to put everything together. Usually I mismatch things, but that’s the way I like it.”
So you’re perfectly happy to not colour coordinate your clothing at all?
“It’s funny I’ve said when I’ve picked up something that’s horrible or I love it. There’s a fine line between horrible and beautiful I think, with the contrast of the patterns, the colours and the styles. I find beauty in the more awful something might initially seem to be.”
You posted a picture of yourself in an outfit that looked like the white surgical tape costume from The Fifth Element. Where did you get that from?
“That I bought online from a store called Dolls Kill that has some really cool stuff. I got a set of boots from there too. I love that place but they are a little expensive.”
You also use wigs quite a bit. Is that just another way to change things up a bit.
“Again it’s about being bored. If I’m bored with myself other people will get bored of me too. And it’s fun too, to be different people all the time.”
Like a lot of people in the alternative community you have a lot of tattoos. What was your first tattoo and when did you get it?
“I got a cross on my back. I’m a religious person and I was always told that tattoos were bad so I thought how bad can it be if I get a tattoo honouring God? That was the first one and then I didn’t worry about it after that. I just kept going and had fun doing what I wanted to do.”
Are you a shoes and boots person or do you just have two or three pairs that are essential?
“I have bad feet and knees from running. They’re not weak but I can’t wear high heels. I love how shoes look but I have to wear sensible shoes.”
You have an amazing style but if anyone was to make a film of Choking Susan who would you pick tp play you in that film?
“Hmmm, how about Halle Berry. She’s so different than me. She’s beautiful, so if I get to pick I pick Halle Berry.”
You get stranded on a desert island and you have everything you need to survive. What three vanity items would you want to have on that island with you?
“Probably a whole bunch of lipstick, things that smell nice and things that are soft. So something pink and furry. So maybe a teddy bear, and endless supply of lipstick and some product for my hair.”
Snaps and chats by Gary Trueman