Larry Tee - Interview

Sworn To Fun, Loyal To None.

The Andy Warhol of Dance Music speaks exclusively to DMC...

Hey Larry. So the album Club Badd has gone spiraling through the roof and you have two new releases about to hit the dancefloor...but we'll come them later.

You were born in Seattle, Washington where you lived with your two Canadian born parents before moving to Marietta in the heart of Cobb County, Georgia. What sounds were you into back then, you were hanging out with REM back then?

"Yes at the time as Michael Stipe from REM was a fan of The FANS which was a band I was in. The Fans were very dark and into the Velvet Undeground and John Cale but I tried to turn them onto DISCO...and I remember Michael Stipe NOT liking Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel...um? Who couldn't like that? it was almost a friendship buster. I used to get all the Disco 12" for 25 cents each so I had every current 12" at the time and would dance around the house all day to them, and then I went on and bought every rap record too..."

I can't imagine you were hanging around The Big Chicken diner every night in Marietta, did you cut your disco shoes over in Atlanta to kick off this unbelievable music career? What sort of artists were you listening to in the club's?

"Well, when I first started going to the disco called BIG DADDYS, it was pre-disco and they played things like funky dance music like 'Hot Stuff' by the Rolling Stones, lots of CAMEO, Mother's FInest and southern rock dance tracks like 'Hair of the Dog' by Nazareth. But when KC and the Sunshine Band rolled in, that's all anyone would dance to at the time...it was so radically different than anything that had come before...and then GAY disco and CHIC arrived and the whole world wanted to dance..."

You started DJing at the age of 23 - what did your parents think about this choice of profession, what for instance did your father do work wise?

"My Dad did engineering for Lockheed, a defense contractor in Atlanta and he and my mom were totally supportive of my need to make music and follow my dreams. They were well aware that it would've been futile to try to stop me anyways. But boy, they probably had no idea of what I was up to going into Atlanta every night to BACKSTREET, the fiery gay disco that looked like it was designed by Halston and Angelo Solar. A  Cuban DJ was playing the hottest Bohannon, Voyage, France Joli and Sylvester. He died on the day he retired from DJing...so I will NEVER retire!! You wouldnt believe how hot a DJ he was!!"

Tell us about your first ever club you ran - The Celebrity Club which has been been called the Atlanta version of the legendary Pyramid Club in New York. What sort of bands were up stage back then and what were you spinning. 

"OMG! At the Celebrity Club we had the Butthole Surfers, The Black Crows and the Flat Duo Jets as well as every athem band worth their salt. But we would play disco-punk and avant garde dance music in between the acts and put fake leather guys dancing on the bar when punk acts performed. RuPaul was a dancer as was Lady Bunny, both of which did drag for the first time at my events...I feel like I witnessed the birthing of contemporary drag. But Bauhaus, Yello, Yazoo, Liquid Liquid was the soundtrack at that time."

The album 'Club Badd' has been welcomed with open arms, I know you did an album with W.I.T before, but this is your first solo album, why such a long wait?

"I just wasn't ready to get in front of the disco ball, being so shy...not really. I dont know. I enjoyed hiding behind writing Supermodel for RuPaul and having the freedom to chase boys and do drugs to my heart's content. The same with WIT. I didn't want to have to get on stage in front of those ruthless hipsters and perform...and boy, they tore the wings right off of WIT, were totally underrated. They were so hot and funny and smart but were misinterpreted by the 'serious' artist of the ELECTRO generation. But the acts that knew me...ie Peaches, Fischerpooner, Chicks, etc...got a kick out of my child-like enthusiasm for a good show."

Do you think the album is too sexual?

"Too sexual??? if anyone says they don't think about sex all the time, they are lying or are dead. Hehehehehe. C'mon all that indie rock whining is just pleading for a little sex too. I started writing the album when  was DJing at BANK a 1000 strong gay party where I needed songs that people could actually remember. And they were mainly meant to be fun NOT sexy. Cmon, who wouldnt want to hear famous Sex Change Amanda LePore sing a song about her Pussy...? And sure, 'Lets Make Nasty' is a cute way of saying lets FUCK and 'LICKY' is a sexy double entendre song. Boy, the techno-house purist critics tore the album up for having words, but lets face it...people liked the songs and the DJs made a lot of people move to them...so the people voted with their feet. There is music for the disco church, but I think GOD didn't intend discos to be THAT dull....and there's still plenty of instrumentals for everyone to play, eh? How were we going to keep the human race going if we dont play some sexy goddam music? Weirdly enough, I have gotten a far better responce from the straight dance community than the gay dance community with this album...but I get it...I like making everyone dance."

The single 'Agness Deyn' will be out mid summer, but coming out imminently is 'Let's Make Nasty' - talk us through the two tunes.

"'Lets Make Nasty' + Afrojack = BOMB, but the single mix is also getting a lot of love on i-tunes. Nick did an amazing job with Roxy's sexy vocals and NO the meow meow meow meow doesn't refer to the drug Mehtadrone that is sweeping the London clubs...just a cooincidence....really! I have been clean for 12 years from all drugs and alcohol thanks to NA and AA! And 'Agynes Deyn' is a tribute to the insane fashion industry and I LOVED Agynes...so I couldnt help myself! The Malente and soon to come Angger Dimas mixes are slamming! After I wrote the song, she moved right underneath me in NYC! WEIRD, huh? Maybe not! She is so smart!"

What is the best club you have ever played at?

"Best CLUB? Oh GOD! the Pyramid Club was the best club EVER! I saw Andy Warthol, Madonna (as a hobby, I write songs that I wish she would sing), The Del Rubio Triplets, John SEXX, and thrilled to DJs like Ivan Ivan, Sister Dimension, Walter Durkatz, and Dmitri of Deee-Lite. I get shivers thinking about how excited i would get hanging downstairs with legendary transexuals like International Chrysis, seeing James White try to get paid in advance at shows so he could cop drugs, and see legendary perfromance artists like Ethel Eichenburger - a 6'4" 55 yr old German transexual trying to grab the ass of the boy of the moment...wandering around in sewage that flooded the downstirs dressing room and hangout area almost every night.
Highest moment...egtting stuck in a K-Hole in a bathroom stall while I was supposed to be onstage doing my hot body contest and getting my hands on some amazing straight dudes...and seeing a 250 pound woman get entirely naked to be ridden around the stage by a skinny cowboy....to the over-doses that started happenening when K started drying up and everyone switched to heroin...the lowest moment of my life...though I never did heroin...but I was affected by it..."

What was your drug of choice back then?

"Well, the drugs were pretty limited in Atlanta, or maybe I just wasn't that dedicated to them at that time...but I did use a lot of acid and marijuana in Atlanta. My favorite drug was probably Rohipnol, because it made everything all right...so dangerous."

What were your impressions of the late part of the 90s drug wise when the Club Kids disappeared?

"The Club Kids disappeared because no one wanted to let them into the clubs because of the crack-down from City Hall. Of course, the police knew that drugs were rampant at the Limelite but it wasn't until all the bad press that the whole club community got shut down for drugs, though the Sound Factory andThe Palladium were still thriving drug dens...Junior Vasquez was the ultimate magician/DJ at the time doing some of the harshest mind games on the crowds that i have ever witnessed. A MAD genius. He would play live Madonna and Elton john tracks to make the crowds think the artist were performing live and to create pandemonium. But the drugs helped create the scene for his brilliance."

How hard was it keeping clean DJing everywhere and mixing with people off their faces?

"After i got clean, several of my favorite people died of overdoses and I hit lows that haunt me to this day. I couldn't DJ, make music, or really laugh like I normally did. When i got clean, I was so relieved to be free of the horrors of my drug period, that I never looked back. I felt compassion for the kids that were trapped in their addictions, had sympathy for even Michael Alig, who didnt do drugs when I met him...and became a little evengelical about the happiness I had found through NA and the 12 steps. OK, I'm not Mother Theresa, but I felt i had a contribution to the scene even being clean because everyone knew I didnt do drugs and they could always ask me how to get help. It helped restore my self-esteem whenIi got clean and had to deal with the wreckage of my life."

So, once clean, what made - or who made you, change from playing the likes of Madonna to cutting edge tunes again?

"Hey, I LOVE Madonna and hope to work with her some day. She's pretty conecptual at times. But I really felt that dance music had become too safe and boring and that Trance had taken the life-blood and excitement out of dance music. I started investigating Electro artist like ADULT and the music of Gigolo whichIi felt were going in a totally different direction than what was going on at the time. I ALWAYS loved music that was different even in the disco era...so it was a natural fit. And it was all so political...it didn't matter if the artists were gay or straight, Peaches discussed female sexuality in a new way, and the CHICKS were talking about ENRON long before the current economic disaster. Instead of being about drugs in the VIP with Frank Sinatra, I knew it was about horrible celebirity culture and I have to say....when i saw Fischerpooner mix dance, performance art and Electro together, it made tears of joy run down my face...it was truly a religious experience for me..."

What one album would you never sell?

"I could never sell my copy of the B-52s indie single of Rock Lobster-52 girls. I worshipped Cindy Wilson!"

A very exciting residency about to hit London this weekend on Friday, the new resident at the fabulous 'Blow' night at Egg where you'll be playing on The Terrace, a crazy club that I know you adore - it's crazy in there. Looking forward to it?

"I cant wait to get my hands on EGG! I opened the club during the Electrolcash era and now I am back to tear it up! The crowd there really goes to dance, not pose. It's such a fun mix of straight and gay, Italians - an international crowds that want to scream. I am totally an EAST Side boy at heart, but when I need to get my frustrations out, I Dj a hard set in there..."

Who have been your favourite New York DJs over the years and why?

"Junior Vasquez and Sister D. Junior for his mastery of the entire House music era and Sister for her sheer lack of caring about mixing and Jj formalities. It was just good music and risk taking all the time with her."

Your night 'Love Machine' is another night the older generation of clubbers still talk about with dreamy eyes. You had some er, quite strange live artists entertaining the likes of RuPaul and Lady Bunny out on the dancefloor. Who were your most fabulous?

"I epecially loved Marlon Ongaro, a Russian performer that would bring the voguers up on stage with him and they would wave Russian flags and American flags side by side. He had overly injected lips and was fabulous only in his mind...though Angie Bowie was every bit as astounding, the entertinament was more about what was memorable, than what was good..."

Who was the weirdest celebrity that you saw on the dancefloor there tha you wouldn't have expected to see?

"Liza Minelli used to come by during that time as she had a dance song she had done with the Pet Shop Boys. I remember Sinead O' Connor and New order falling though, oh and Tom Hanks!"

Is it true that models Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy partying together gave you the idea for the tune 'Supermodel' you wrote for RuPaul which has sold over 4m copies worldwide?

"Yes, Linda, Christy and Naomi used to all come in what could only be descibed as a supermodel cluster...and stand together...watching the whole scene. RuPaul loved the girls so when she got a deal with Tommy Boy Records, I pitched the idea of the supermdoel song to her and she bought it! When I heard how it was produced, I thought it as going to be a flop...really. But it went on to sell over 4 million copies in one form or another....well, 3 million for Disney's Lizzie MacGuire soundtrack where Taylor Dayne sang it..."

What are the big 10 tunes you are playing at the moment?

"10 big tunes right now? Oh god.
How about stuff like Prodcuers, Riva Starr,, Bart B More, Vitalic, Boris Dlugosch, Christopher Just, In Flagranti, Sonic C, Harvard Bass, Popof....man, that leaves out so much."

So the Electroclash question has to come up. You coined the phrase, even copyrighted it and has helped make millions for the likes of Scissor Sisters, 2Many DJs, Peaches, Lady GaGa, Ru Paul and Fischerspooner to name but a few. Who has been the most fun to work with?

"Fischerpooner was the most fantastic thing ever because there was so much process -.the getting ready with hand designed outifts and choreagraphy and lights and effects...but then Peaches is a total hurricaine. touring across America in a van was like having cable and changing stations every couple of seconds!"

The Electroclash brand though didn't off to the best of starts though...

"It didnt sell millions...and in fact NEVER sold out. Nor was it intended to. But it was so influential and kicked off the whole Hipster generation. Everyone had their own brand and their own style. And no one sounded alike. It coincided with the death of the record industry as downloads took over and music became free...and how were the industry dudes gonna sell that? Hehehehe."

You are legendary for working with such extrovert people, the album includes work with some crazy vocalists - Roxy, Jodie and the lovely Amanda Lepore, your phone book must be a who's who of the madness crew. Why do YOU think it has been so important for you to work on the wild side with guys like this since you hit dance music?

"Well I thought with this record, since internet stars were like the electro stars of the early 00s, why shouldnt I use them as an experiment? They were self-made creations like the Electro stars were excepot they made videos like Kelly's 'SHOES', and were celebrity blogger/superstars like Perez or Jeffree Star, or celebutants like Jodie and Amanda LEpore. Why wouldnt I use them is a better question? They had so many fans and no one was using them in this way...it was a challenge, too."

You are legendary for moving from musical scene to musical scene, always perhaps one step ahead of everyone else. What do you think of the House music and Techno legend DJs who have been around for years, and are still playing the same sound? Could you do that?

"No,I couldn't stay with the same sound forever, I think dance music is relevant for its time...and there should always be a new sound to replace the old and keep things moving. I couldnt do a regular set using old music week after week...there is always amazing new music if you dig for it!"

What do you think has been your best ever piece of studio work, either personal or for someone else?

"Club Badd is my best piece of work. Libras are late bloomers and i feel that i am just now getting good at making music. I nver felt my dance music was that compellling until now."

What DJing/gig/festival wise are you looking forward to in 2010?

"Brazil and australia are my favorite places to play...but i am ready to discover a new favorite places...like I recently found out that Tel Aviv was like Berlin on the beach! AMAZING!"

And finally Mr Tee, in the UK the most famous Larry we've ever known was a very camp game show host called Larry Grayson, have you ever heard of him?

"Never heard of Larry Grayson and I am sure he never heard of me!"

Thanks dude. 
And hey Larry, not even one question about Michael Alig - that must have been a first!

'Let's Make Nasty' (feat. Rocy Cottontail) is out April 12th on Ultra Music
Larry Tee at 'Blow' @ Egg, Kings Cross London on April 9th

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