I am very excited to be chatting with Larry Tee, one of the original Club Kids, prolific music producer, and recently turned fashion designer.
Tee has been described as the bad boy of electro music; challenging the conventions and prejudices within the music industry. He has been credited for inventing the music genre Electroclash and has been coined by the New York press as “the worlds first hipster”, seriously!
Tee has long been part of the dance music scene, coming to prominence in the late 80s within the NYC Club Kids circuit, hosting epic nights at Michael Alig’s infamous DISCO 2000 and as a DJ at some of NYCs most exciting venues.
He has gone on to work with some amazing people, launching the careers of such artists as RuPaul, Scissor Scissors, Peaches and Avenue D as well as writing RuPaul’s hit track Supermodel, which sold over five million copies back in 1992. You better WERK!
Not quite satisfied with his incredible accomplishments in the US, Larry Tee has moved to Shoreditch, London and runs the club night Super Electric Party Machine at East Bloc in East London.
Tee recently launched his latest album Super Electric Party Machine and his amazing fashion line Tzuji in 2013, which blends lavish fabrics, interesting sportswear construction with extravagant prints.
You launched your latest album Super Electric Party Machine in 2014. Can you tell us a little more about it and where you gleamed your inspiration for the album?
The albums I have put out in the past like the Larry Tee album have all really been ways to bring more outrageous ideas to the dance sounds I play at the time.
With this album I was into rappers, both male and female, and twerked out bass sounds and underground ballroom. We have a lot of artists perform at my parties in London and we used them to make songs for this collection.
How are you finding East London? How does it compare to your old haunts in NYC?
I LOVE east London, but you can’t compare the two: it’s like apples and oranges. London is a great place for the creative arts and music right now. The vibe in the clubs and on the streets is crazier I think than NYC which is more power and finance oriented, now.
Does the London club scene differ much from that of NYC?
Well, I haven’t been to NYC that often since I left but I am hearing great things about warehouse parties in Brooklyn and cool hotel soirees. London has a pretty good cross section of nightclubs that service all parts of the city…it’s pretty great right now.
How do the kids coming up in the clubs today compare to those of the 80s/90s?
The club kids and drag queen explosion is even bigger than in the Disco 2000 Party Monster era, I reckon. Every week there’s a new star born here and it’s great entertainment. Sink the Pink, Ultraviolet, WUT CLUB, Yeast London Cabaret and Vogue Fabrics all feature the craziest club kid performance and drag nights. It’s not as druggie as the Limelite era, that’s for sure, though a little Meow Meow does get around.
We love your fabulous fashion label Tzuji. How would you describe the design aesthetic of your work?
Well, the aesthetic is “you be the rock star!’ For so many years we thought musicians were going to save the world and because of that, they got to wear the best, brightest most exciting clothes.
Now we now know different, so our clothes make the wearer the rock star, the Rihanna, the centre of attention. But the aesthetic is inspired by music and then amplified and made in a new way to make it fresh and now.
What would you say is your greatest source of inspiration for your designs?
My design heroes are usually those popular in the 80s and 90s. I love the techno gear of Walter Van Beirendonck and his WL&T brand. I also love the imaginative re-working of classic shapes by Jean Paul Gaultier.
But the man who really got me hooked on fashion is the Japanese designer Kohshin Satoh. He had the most luxurious menswear I have ever seen and tools the fabrics and designs into outer space. He designs Miles Davis’ clothes and had Andy Warhol walk as a model in his shows.
So RuPaul’s Drag Race and drag in general, has become absolutely massive in recent years within the US and Europe. Why do you think this is?
I think society in general is now looking at gender more than ever. There have always been different shades of masculine and feminine but it was taboo to examine the issue. People like to explore different sides of their personalities and sexuality and drag opens the door for that exploration. And let’s face it, the world needed more RuPaul.
Finally can you tell us what RuPaul is like to work with? Don’t hold back!
RuPaul and I grew up together in Atlanta and getting to watch Ru play with different styles of drag from gender-fuck to Glamazon, was the most exciting thing ever. We met for dinner in LA last month and laughed about how crazy our lives and careers have been and how hilarious we were as kids.
If I hadn’t been through the RuPaul School of Backyard Showmanship, my life wouldn’t be so rich now. I tend to also think that my non-stop ‘I’ve got an idea’ approach has led RuPaul to take on more challenges too. My only regret is that most people will never see how funny he is.
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