larry tee talks
Read up on the most outrageous characters, the wildest scenes, and the most flamboyant parties of the last quarter century of club culture and before long youll see Larry Tees name.
The DJ/producer/promoter/kingmaker has done it all. Hes gone from DJing for the club kids made famous in Party Monster, to writing the platinum hits that made RuPaul a global star, to inventing and defining the electroclash genre with his festival of the same name, to selling fidget house beats to Beyonces producer. Along the way hes partied with chancers, models, lunatics and stars, and now hes bought the carnival to East London. Tees been running his rammed monthly Super Electric Party Machine in Old Street hideout East Bloc for round 2 years. Now hes reaching critical mass, the point where the club is regularly full of the day glo gender bending kids he deems to be the new stars so hes about to launch a debut SEPM compilation to showcase the talent on his floor, and hopefully inject a bit of theatre back into Londons longfaced nightlife. Ransom Note caught up with Larry to try and pin his mercurial brain down long enough to answer a question.
Youve been involved in so many scenes, what drives you forward?
With Disco 2000, I thought the clubs were dull and I wanted to put on something that was bigger than life. The clothes, the clubs, the music I like it all to be bigger than life, I like a scene.
So is what youre doing at Super Electric Party Machine at odds with the current London scene?
I actually think the London scene has a little something going on, its got quite a cool scene, but a lot of my favourites havent come to the surface. Weve got a deep house track on the compilation that features Portia Ferrari, and its got a deep house, soulful vocal, with that British grime/ house update. It wouldnt have happened in old school house. Its like a Show Me Love for the new generation. Maybe the current club scene is a little dour and faceless – who knows what Disclosure looks like, who knows what Storm Queen looks like? And we like personalities. We want people that you want to have sex with, that you want to scream with, or laugh along with, so this collection has some of my favourites from the local scene who are on fire. Its time for that thing where theres a new excitement in London talent, where its not just the same.
We need periods when things get dull so somebody can come along and fuck shit up. If its electroclash all the time then you cant really appreciate something amazing when it comes along. When electro clash broke, progressive house was so boring, even Deep Dish were bored with progressive house, it was so stadium.
So what is it that gets you excited about a performer?
Our whole idea is to say, what is the new rock star, as rock n roll isnt rock n roll and its so boring now. Who would you want to be when you grow up? I mean do you wanna be the shlock monkeys? I mean you dont dream to be in an indie band anymore We wanted to know, who are the new rock stars? And we came up with reality TV stars, designers
Are you saying people dream of being reality TV stars?
Yeah. And rappers. The off the wall ones like Mykki Blanco, or Azealia Banks, Asap Rocky, those to me are rock stars. You know what, I love Iggy Azealia. I just remixed her, and shes not a great rapper, but she is a rock star. I mean shes got legs up to her head and she shakes her ass as good as anyone. I mean those to me are rock stars, people who are either super hot like Iggy is, or super crazy. To me, I wanna see those people.
So after the electroclash explosion of the early noughties there was an inevitable backlash. As you were so tied to the scene did you feel like you were left in the wilderness for a time?
No, I mean, I cant hold onto anything musically. Its like clothes, I always want something new, Ima want some new swag! I mean, God, I ran New York in the 90s, and if Id stuck with house I could have made millions! My contemporaries, Tenaglia and Morillo, they were forced out of town and they made millions! I had to keep changing my sound, first electroclash, and then when that didnt sound right I turned to fidget. I got my first gold record from that period with Licky because before then Id always written for other people I sold 5 million records with RuPaul, but it was only with Licky that I put my own name on it, it was when I was 50 years old and doing something outside of electroclash that I got my gold record. Funnily enough, although everyone thinks of the Herve mix, the Vandalism mix is the one that keeps getting licensed to top 5 films. Then Sean Garret, who produces all the Beyonce stuff, he picked it up and made a beat out of it, which I got 40% of. And I was like, great! Ive got some more ideas where that came from Sean!
But something must have influenced your decision to move to London?
I came over to London and thought, mmm everybodys kinda cute over here, and I felt inspired. I wasnt feeling inspired in New York, but something here caught my attention. Im so glad I came over because it made me start from scratch. Theres no guarantee that I was going to get 300, 400 people in a club every week, because theres no guarantee that New York will play in London, or the other way round. London DJs go there all the time thinking theyre gonna take over the town but its not that easy. But Ive used the local talent and let it shine, and our big parties have like 500 – 700 people and its taking off.
Has the business of promoting changed a lot since your time running parties in 90s New York?
Well I mean going out is different now. A lot of people dont necessarily have to go out in the same way, with the internet dating kind of thing, so something has been lost. And clubs arent that creative now its odd when you get a club that thrives on new music or a new aesthetic, when you get a Durr, or a Nag Nag Nag, or a Trash, or a Trailer Trash. When people do that its not the norm when people make cool parties out of fresh ingredients. Clubland has never thrived on that. Even in the best of New York times, if you look back at disco, the idea you get of Studio 54 is bigger than life, its yknow Grace Jones and wow!, but at the time they were playing mainstream dance music. They werent playing Loose Joints with Arthur Russell, they werent playing all those cool, groovy disco records everyone collects now, and the crowd werent that cool and underground there might have been a cool underground scene at the Mudd Club, or some of the cooler downtown places, but the history of dance music doesnt suggest that outrageous cool new ideas make things run its bottle service, its mainstream crowds, its Pacha. Theres 100 Pachas to every Nag Nag Nag.
But you know what? Every once in a while theres a moment when some unique talents break through, and whats cool changes. At the moment the coolest stuff in the charts is the house stuff even though Disclosure arent a visual act, sonically a song like White Noise really makes sense in our computer world. Its really about white noise and geeks and the sounds we get from our computers, and that sound! That big yawning sound at the end, all wmmmmmmooooooww where it just goes into a K hole, its brilliant sound design, and its not a bad place for music to be, considering were all sat in front of a computer.
Do you usually prefer a song to a track?
Sound design is important to me I like some good noise and some good beats, but my turf has always been; where does dance music meet the culture at large. Its never just been take me higher in the entire history of my musical output its never been that. Weve always been, in funny ways, talking about sex, about gender roles, about the internet its why I got Perez Hilton on a track. Women are important, there hasnt been that many women represented in electronic music. Electroclash was just the opposite of that, and Im still discussing female empowerment, women taking their own sex in hand. My albums are packed with strong women, its one of the things Ill just keep doing.