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Tee Party Monster

Author: Cyclone
Monday, 5 November 2007
He's the flamboyant godfather of electroclash. And he's the quintessential New Yorker with southern roots. Curiouser still, Larry Tee is an exemplar of sobriety. The club icon loves self-reinvention - and a challenge. Words by 3D's Cyclone.

In recent times New York has lost its reputation as an international clubbing destination, largely due to the crackdowns of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. However, Tee, a seasoned promoter, is undeterred. He's adjusted to America's changed climate.

“When the economy is bad, or when the scene here gets difficult, that's when I do my best,” he says. “Because often when everything is plummy and there's a lot of money in the economy and everything's just rosy, then it gets too comfortable for clubland. The music starts to suck.

“I don't do drugs, so they're not gonna drag me into jail. It's easier for me to put on a club 'cause I'm on the cover of the damn Village Voice as a 'sober hipster'. The police just shake their heads like, 'This guy is such a bore - why don't we go to the other club and raid that one-'”

Indeed, in 2006 the Village Voice profiled Tee (and Tommie Sunshine) in a huge feature on the new generation of “sober hipsters”. Tee disavowed alcohol and drugs almost a decade ago. The self-proclaimed “dork” hasn't looked back. He even helped his pal Princess Superstar clean up. Sobriety is the new black. But, surely, for a rehabilitated “garbage head” surrounded by rampant hedonism, sustained abstinence is impossible- Not so, Tee claims.

“I don't find it difficult,” he admits. “If anything, it's a sales pitch for sobriety when you see people messed up and going home with some really ugly people 'cause they're drunk.

“But, really, just like the old days when being in a rock band meant you were high and all that, I think the people who are making the best music [now] are people who are really aware of where the world is today and aware of the sounds that are new and breathtaking. Honestly, especially with the producers and the bands, as soon as they find drugs, their music starts to deteriorate.

“I can see now why a lot of the people who I look up to, and who make music that really inspires me, aren't necessarily so fucked-up - because I need music that's really right there now, music that's saying, 'This is new, this is not electroclash, hello!'”

Ah, electroclash. Tee, who conceived NY's Electroclash festival in the early 2000s, has long tired of the countercultural movement. “The cold New Wave influence is so gone,” he announces.

Tee revels in stylistic evolution. He doesn't tolerate repetition. Hence Tee has ditched electroclash and is championing what he calls “thug house”, citing Herve as an example. “It's got some rump-shaking funk in it!” Larry extols.

He appreciates minimal - but emotional deep techno over “clip-clop sounds”. And he's into “the glitchy electro-punk stuff” emanating from Ed Banger - in moderation.

“I tend to be more of a party DJ, so I don't play much of the hard stuff - though I definitely flick a switch in that direction a couple of times in the course of a set. But, for the most part, I can't just play a glitchy, grindy, aggressive set all night long.”

This year Tee launched another annual event, Dance Music Invasion, encompassing NY's clubs. He hopes to expose New Yorkers to fresh sounds, such as minimal, which, in contrast to the French 'noise', has made little headway into the US. Orchestrating a festival is stressful - yet Larry is upbeat. “If I don't take on new challenges, and if I don't contribute to the community, I feel like I'm dying,” he says dramatically.

The irony is that, strictly, Tee - real name Lawrence Thom - isn't a NY native. He originates from Atlanta. Tee was affiliated with the alternative rock underground of Athens, Georgia, which gave rise to REM. Back then, Athens was a melting pot - the rockers hung out at discos. Tee now attributes his affinity with “nasty, funky Dirty South music” - which parallels thug house - to Atlanta.
Tee dismisses reports that he produced Athens' B-52's - tsk, he was way too young - but he was involved with Michael Stipe. Romantically.

“OK, I'll say it right here: I dated Michael Stipe for a year before REM,” he reveals. “Actually, I tried to play him [The Adventures Of] Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel, which, at the time, was the most radical piece of music I'd ever heard in my life.

“I remember him trying to get his ears around it. To him, it just sounded like noise, 'cause he liked Creedence Clearwater Revival, so I could suspect that that was probably gonna be a hard sell.”

Tee eventually joined the exodus to NY with his friends RuPaul, the world's most famous drag queen, and Wigstock founder Lady Bunny.

In the Big Apple he promoted the Love Machine parties, not to mention Disco 2000 with Michael Alig, who scandalised NY and was later the subject of the cult flick Party Monster. He likewise DJed at the Roxy.

Tee doesn't miss Georgia, except he hankers after Southern soul food. In 2007 Tee has a loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he's working towards a taut “hipster body”. He's recognised as a promoter, an entrepreneur, but he's also a producer - albeit “a late bloomer”. In fact, Tee, who co-wrote RuPaul's mega hit Supermodel (You Better Work), is plotting an album. He promises surprises galore when Maximal Larry Tee drops in 2008 - it will be “nasty”.

Tee collaborated with Princess Superstar on the dance smash Licky. Then he's recorded My Pussy (Is Famous) with Amanda Lepore. But the real shocker- He's cut an alternative to My Pussy with Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton.

“He contacted me and said, 'Oh my God, we ought to do a song together for shits and giggles' - his term, not mine, I would not say 'shits and giggles'.

“I said, 'Please - it's not like I'm trying to have any highbrow pretensions with my album...' How could I say no to a celebrity blogger on my album - especially if they reach eight million people a day and are credited by Newsweek as having broken Amy Winehouse- I said, 'Hmmm, sounds like a good professional move, dude.'

“He begged me into letting him do his version of My Pussy called My Penis.”

Next, Larry is finally returning Down Under. What might we expect-

“A noisy, cacophonous party set,” Larry enthuses. That's nasty.

WHO: Larry Tee
WHAT: Plays OneLove at Tank
WHEN: Saturday 17 November