Portrait: Fraser's edge

Musician, actor and martial arts expert Mat Fraser admits he has been shamelessly exploiting his disability for years. And yet, he has only recently come to terms with it
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Indy Lifestyle Online
On my new album, there's a track, "Verbatim Vomit", which is about the things people have said to me over the year, ranging from, "Oi, you freak, how do you wipe your arse?" to "The way you picked up that bag was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen" - from an American gosh-wow merchant.

I always knew I had short arms, but I didn't really confront the fact that people treated me differently until I was about 13, and discovered problems about my relationship with girls.

My childhood was blissfully happy. I had a fragmented family, but all the individual pieces loved me a lot, and I always had a great gang of friends. When I was eight I wanted to go to a fancy-dress gig as a boxer. I sensed a kind of "Er ... OK", then Dad borrowed some boxing gloves, and I went, and I was very happy. I didn't win, but that didn't matter. At 12, I had an Elvis haircut; I'd spend a long time looking in the mirror, trying to get my hair like his. I liked my face, but not my hair, because it wouldn't go like Elvis's.

The first time I was truly happy with my self-image was from 15, when I became a punk. Punk let my arms be cool, because they were seen as a struggle against society and corporate crime. I wanted to act, but I could see it embarrassed people, so I put a drum kit in front of me, because I had to perform. I've realised that it's about being in control of the attention, which I've had all my life, every single hour of every public day.

I was the thalidomide drummer from the alternative scene, and that kept me going until I was 28. But disability kept rearing its head, and I kept pushing it down, until it just exploded through the roof of my consciousness. At 30, I came out as a disabled person. Once I was happy to be with other disabled people, and stopped feeling this was a reflection of weakness, my life started to flower. I certainly got a lot more female interest. I think it was partly to do with the change within me, but also being 30 suited me, some people are thirties kind of guys.

I've done enough shameless publicity to get used to my own image, but my reaction to the "See the Person" poster [produced by the Department of Education and Employment as part of a disability awareness campaign] was coloured, painted black as doom. I feel like a fool and a Judas for appearing in it, because it was just to cover up the fact that they're taking away benefits, and it compounds the image of disabled people as a problem.

I'm an Aquarius, and spend days not looking in the mirror. Then I'm horrified. "Aagghh, the hairs in my nose are growing out again, and I just did a photo session. The bastards! Why didn't they tell me?"

I find the ageing process very interesting. There's a wrinkle in my face that is only there in the mornings, but it's taking longer and longer to disappear, and if I've had a rough Saturday night, it will last right through till Monday.

My career revolves around my arms, so I might as well accept it; God knows, everybody else has exploited it. I'm a great photo opportunity. Tourists will ask to take my picture. I charge them pounds 5, or I chase them down the street, shouting, "I'm going to rip your head off."

I'm a flares and fitted-shirt kind of guy. I like tighter clothes, because my arm mobility is impaired by baggy T-shirts. I go to a little shop in Aberdeen. I'm not saying where, because the guy is sitting on 200 grand's worth of original Seventies denim, and if anyone in Camden found out, there'd be nothing left.

I need a suit, but from my nipples up, I'm a 12-year-old boy, from my nipples down I'm a 37-year-old man, so I need made-to-measure, and that's expensive.

I'm a black-belt in dynamic self-defence, and train regularly. Body-fascist culture still rules. You know how you catch guys checking the muscles on their arms? I've caught myself doing that a couple of times with my legs. Or I'll think, "Ooh, got to get a couple of inches off that stomach." Other people might find that ridiculous: "What d'you mean? You're a bloody mutant, it doesn't matter." But it matters to me. I need the mobility in my hips for as long as possible, and strong muscles around them will help that.

Health is a big thing in my life, I'm very anti genetic modification. Because of thalidomide, I'm a genetically modified person.

For information about Mat Fraser's album, 'Survival of The Shittest', visit www.hub-music.com

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