After running parties in NYC for decades he's now brought his Super Electric Party Machine to London, and compiled a brand new release of the same name due out in January 2014. It's a telling time for it all, too. London is a club scene currently dominated by house and techno, so having a larger-than-life figure like Larry come through with his electroclash signature is a bold move.
To mark the occasion, THUMP UK is proud to present an exclusive first listen of "Super Electric Party Machine" and in this exclusive interview, Larry opens up about the big move, and why rappers are the new rock stars.
THUMP: So, what made you decide to put together this release, and why now?
Larry Tee: Well, I feel I've always actually been the bad boy of electronic music. When people say you shouldn't use transsexuals, and children, and performance artists, and Perez Hilton on your records, I'm going to do it anyway because I like to bring weird shit together.
I have a long history. I mean, I wrote RuPaul's track "Supermodel". It sold five million records back in 1992, and that immortal line "You better work!" is still being used in pop today; Britney's "Work Bitch" totally references it. With this whole collection, I felt like if I'm going to do something. it's got to be something different. There's enough people who are going to sound like this - the Top 40 dance-pop, that EDM sound - and even though I have worked with great people in that field like Afrojack and Steve Aoki, for the most part it just doesn't stir me now.
This collection has everything that I like about 'Now' that is super relevant for what I hear in London. There's a lot a rappers, rappers are so hot! I have a super hot single from this collection coming out with Porsche Ferrari called 'Body Talk' – she was the cover girl for the M.I.A. x Versace campaign. I also have the Russian performance artist Andrey Bartenev (who dresses in big balloon costumes, like a big ol' ear of corn) and then there's this real toxic blend of icons. Kurt Cobain, Grace Jones, Andy Warhol, Barack Obama, Lady Gaga; it's just a non-stop barrage of rap, culture and fashion.
Fashion is more rock 'n' roll than rock 'n' roll now. Those bands you call rock 'n' roll now? BORING! If you don't have a fashion line, then why should I care about you?
So the timing of what's happening in current pop culture and dance music, the way they're coming together, you were really conscious of that in the making of this release?
Larry Tee: I wasn't thinking of the timing of what's happening in the culture so much, but you're right. There is a cultural thing where people will take hits of the past and re-create them into something new. For Ru Paul's "Supermodel", Iggy Azalea has a where she raps "WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK!" When she put out the song they put it all over the blogs that Ru Paul was the inspiration, but if she had said "You better work!" they would have had to pay me. But because she sang "You better work, bitch", they avoided it. HA. Two of the biggest pop divas kicked open their albums with stuff that I either sent them, or they scavenged from my past, and – well, I could go into it, but legally one of them could step on my neck and crush me. Ultimately, if people are referencing your work, I always feel that something will come around where I won't be left behind.
Money and royalties are obviously an issue for songwriters like yourself, but speaking in more cultural terms, do you see the legend status as a comfort for other woes?
Larry Tee: That is actually a big comfort. I really just love to be acknowledged for what I've done. It's not even the pay. That will always come another way so even if someone does sneak one by me, it's more important that I'm acknowledged. I feel that I'm getting such acknowledgement now, especially from being able to do the in London after running it in New York for decades.
What prompted the move to London?
Larry Tee: I started coming to Europe a lot when the Licky and Afrojack 'Let's Make Nasty' record took off, and I realised that I was kind of dating Europe. The romance left New York, y'know? If you had been in New York when Vogueing emerged, oh, there were just so many amazing things going on! You know I did the party that became the movie Party Monster right?
Yes I do, I remember seeing that film when I was young and being spellbound.
Larry Tee: Oh, absolutely! But now, suddenly, New York didn't really have the gorgeous variety I was looking for anymore. I know that New York will have a re-birth. It's one of those cities where as soon as you say it's done, it won't be done. Ever. It's a really tough space now. People work too hard. Bloomberg turned it into a city where you really need a lot of money to just Be. I got no beef with New York, but I just think especially for the things I really love now, London is just much more creative.
What is it in particular about London that you find so inspiring?
Larry Tee: I do think there is the ability for people to still do their own thing and not be too intimidated by what The Normal is. There's still a lot of rebel brats here that will try new fashion and make music. Londoners are more willing to take chances than in New York – or maybe they just have a little bit more free time. I'm lucky now that I can do the things that I'm passionate about, as oppose to doing things in terms of commercial concerns.
Along with the release, what other plans have you got for 2014?
Larry Tee: Well, yes, the album comes out in January, but remember honey, it takes me about five years to come up with something that I truly believe in. I can still put my last album on whenever I like and it bumps all the way through. It has to be something I'm proud of.
You spoke earlier about clothing lines – you have a new line yourself, correct?
Larry Tee: Yes! I have a clothing line called Tzuji. I have always loved amazing swag. I have to go out there and say it: "I want the freshest swag". I hire designers to come down to my club and DJ for us, just to bring more of the fashion element in, but then I was like, "Oh my god, I can't wear what everyone else is wearing!" Everybody knows everything here in London. So I thought, "I have to start my own line".
It started with t-shirts then it exploded out of the box. As soon as I started wearing them, everyone I know was like, "Whaaaaat". So now I'm creating a line for FW14. I have a team, and they are so wicked. The first collection is loosely based on Disco 2000; the club that I did, that the film Party Monster was based on. It doesn't look anything like that, because everything was outrageously bad, but it's taking my history and turning it into nice silk purses. We don't sell purses though, it's the idea of it. It's called Tzuji.
What does that mean?
Larry Tee: Well, to "Tzuj" something… let's say you and I were going to go out for the night. You come over to my loft in Kingsland. We'll fry up your hair and put you in a crazy outfit - that's Tzujing! Getting Tzujed up! In the state of being Tzujed is - Tzuji!
Oh, I see what you mean now! Well, I see the clothing line ties in with all your other projects, but the big one is really your Super Electric Party Machine parties. Why have you started doing them in London, and why now?
Larry Tee: When I was coming to London, I could see there was a vacancy. I saw the outrageous parties that were on when I used to come in the 00s; Durr, Trash with Erol Alkan, and Trailer Trash. When I came over again there wasn't really anything like that. They'd either run out of steam, or blown up into festival attractions. The thing is, I always thought a city like London wouldn't go for a bunch of rappers and freaks, but I brought it over here and I realised, "Oh my god, it's just like any other metropolitan city!"
There was no guarantee when I came over here, at fifty years old, that I would be able to run a club that does four hundred people a week. That I'd actually be successful at taking on London. But, you know I WORK IT! If you come down to the club I'll have a Tzujier outfit each week, and my music will be like no one else's. For me, I felt there was need for experimenting; a laboratory for music art and culture in London. That's what Super Electric Party Machine has been about.
What's interesting to me is that you're aware of age, cultural differences and reaching out to a new, young audience, all while maintaining your long-held beliefs. How do you feel they come across in booking parties that stay current and exciting?
Larry Tee: With my parties, we've had artists like Brook Candy, Le1f, Charlie XCX, and drag queens from Ru Paul's Drag Race. To me, my parties have been about trying to re-identify what rock stars are. Alternative rappers are rock stars. Like Iggy Azalea! Well, she's not a great rapper, just because she's super hot, HA. One of the best records on my label is this amazing song by one of our groups called Absolute, from the TV shows 'Skins'. I love Skins, all that hot young flesh! I only really watched the first season and then part of the second one. After the bus hit the guy in the second season, I thought, "He's not going to have any bisexual things anymore, is he? He's going to be like, a gimp, ugh, BORING." I love Cassie though. She's actually in the video too.
That's crazy. So, looking back on it all, how do you feel about where you are right now?
Larry Tee: I was a drug addict in the 90s and when I got clean in 1997, I started again in New York. That was when VICE was really blowing up in New York and, of course, all the guys would come to the electroclash events. They loved my party in Brooklyn. Even though the club was wildly mixed, and by mixed I mean SUPER gay, they couldn't resist coming to see what everyone was up to. It was the moment that hipster happened in Brooklyn, and the VICE guys were always so much fun. If VICE hadn't picked up and loved the electroclash stuff, most magazines wouldn't have given a shit sure about this crazy bunch of girls, guys, gays and political electro. So, VICE, I love you!
Larry Tee, in his 90s heyday