London-born Healy is an ex-Blitz Kid, a founding member of experimental 1980´s pop duo Haysi Fantayzee and, over a career spanning 30 years, one of the most influential creatives at the intersection of fashion and music. Having collaborated with everyone from Boy George, Vivienne Westwood, George Michael and Katharine Hamnett, it is his work with John Galliano – creating the soundscapes for the designer’s show spectaculars at his namesake label, during his tenure at Christian Dior between 1999 and 2011, and now at Maison Margiela – that he is most noted for.
Healy first met Galliano in 1984, just after the designer presented his graduate collection at Central Saint Martins. His girlfriend was modelling in the show, and Healy was completely unbothered by the thought of attending (“I was just so not interested,” he says). But after some gentle persuasion, the musician was coaxed into accepting an invite. “It was a two-and-a-half minute show,” he remembers. “My girlfriend came onto the runway and she had wooden clogs on, plants and trees in her hair, and dead mackerel. All the models did. And they threw the fish at the audience. I was just like, ‘fucking hell, what is this?’” Healy was so intrigued that he went backstage to meet Mr Galliano. “He came up to me and said ‘I know you, I know what you do, will you work with me?’”
This meeting marked the beginning of a fruitful professional and personal partnership. Healy and Galliano were both raised in south London and found common ground in their fascination with the blending of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. At Dior, Galliano revolutionised the codes of the French maison, blending them with contemporary and global pop-cultural references, which were mirrored in Healy’s eclectic mixes. “We would often combine Britney Spears with classical music for example,” says Healy. “It was trying to channel the clothes aurally. John and I always believed you could find ideas everywhere – from the street to the art gallery and everything in between.”
Naturally, Healy has many stories to tell. “I remember when we did Haute Couture A/W00 Steven Spielberg came to the show because he was wanting John to do the costumes for one of his films,” he says. “We mixed the vocals of You’re Uninvited by Alanis Morissette with the sounds of sex moans and whips being cracked. Steven was so disgusted by the music that he walked out!” Here, shared exclusively with AnOther, five more stories behind his epic Haute Couture soundscapes for Galliano’s Dior.
“This was the second show we did at Dior. We were so bloody nervous! We wanted to mix film soundtracks with heavy beats and I remember there was a slight military theme. So we started out by using clips from the film Full Metal Jacket. We also included Phat Planet by Leftfield and mixed it with When You Believe by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. There was Beautiful Stranger by Madonna mixed with industrial, techno and trance songs – I even included the Nokia ring tone as an interlude.”
“This came from an idea that we had wanted to realise years before but never had the budget to do it. At Dior, we did! So, for this show, I hired the London Community Gospel Choir to perform live along with the mix I did for the show. I remember I was rehearsing with them in London and then we had to fly all the singers out to Paris. There were so many of them it was really expensive to do, but it was absolutely incredible. The choir did a rendition of Madonna’s Like A Prayer. I remember John was so proud of what we’d all achieved.”
“John had been to Egypt and had created a collection inspired by the country’s ancient history. This was one of the most OTT shows he ever did. The models were wearing gold armour and the silhouettes were huge. The models moved like Sphynx cats. I did a cut-up of Baby Boy by Beyoncé and Sean Paul and we just used the instrumental and isolated vocals and mixed it with Philip Glass to open the show. I also included You Got the Love by The Source featuring Candi Staton. John had said: ‘I want the soundtrack to sound like gold – to shimmer and shine.’ And so that’s what I tried to do.”
“The story behind this one is that John came up with this idea of rock’n’roll kings and queens. He wanted to create a royal family, wearing clothes that were blown up to a mad scale. For the soundtrack we got all these early 1950s records – like Little Richard’s The Girl Can’t Help It and Tutti Frutti and we mixed it with Michael Nyman, which was very regal and orchestral of course. My mum came to that show – she was about 80 at the time – and she loved it.”
“This was quite a different show to any we had done before. There was so much music in this because it was a very long and very slow paced and emotive show. I remember the set was a load of sort of individual film sets and the girls were taking about 10 minutes each to walk into each scene from the runway. So the music had to be very ambient to carry it through. It started with Madame Butterfly by Malcolm McLaren and we also included Song to the Siren by This Mortal Coil and more of Elizabeth Fraser’s vocals, mixed into Drive by The Cars and Immortality by Céline Dion featuring The Bee Gees. Then there was Maria Callas singing Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro and Songbird by Fleetwood Mac.”