NY Legend ‘Larry Tee’ Discusses His Long And Outrageous Career.
The Carnage Music and TZUJI boss has had a career that most people would give a right arm for. Writing the #1 dance record of 1993 (according to Billboard). Working with artists like Afrojack, Bart B More, Scissor Sisters, Peaches, Stafford Brothers, Steve Aoki and Santigold. DJing at some of the World’s most legendary (and now sadly deaprted) venues. Founding festivals and launching the careers of numerous household names.Now, in what is I’m sure a highlight for both of us, Larry Tee takes a few minutes from his busy schedule to talk about the early NYC scene, his clothing label and the upcoming set at Egg London.
The Manhattan venues ‘Twilo’ and ‘The Roxy’ are considered to be instrumental in popularising House music in America at the time. You regularly DJed at both, how instrumental were they to your own career?
Twilo and Roxy…these clubs were the big clubs that brought house music into the mainstream. When I was DJ-ing at The Roxy the songs would go straight from the dance floor to the Top 40 Billboard and around the world. I was awarded a gold record for ‘Gypsy Woman’ by Crystal Waters as well as a multi-platinum disc for writing ‘Supermodel (You Better Work)’ by Rupaul. No question the club set me up for success at later parties like Disco 2000, BANK and Distortion Disko, but it wasn’t until I got sober and drug free in 1997 that my international career took off. I started the first Friday parties at Twilo which eventually launched the NYC careers of the international DJs Sasha and John Digweed, Deep Dish, and Carl Cox. It was a great time to be in NYC.
What was the House music scene in NY like in the late 80s and early 90s, and how did that differ from your home town of Atlanta?
The New York City scene was more underground and had a stronger connection with Chicago House. Actually, in Atlanta we were better able to get underground imports easier than in NYC because there were less people trying to buy those items so when I came to NYC, i was surprised at how advanced Atlanta actually was 🙂 NYC had the scene and the rich cultural diversity that was different than Atlanta, and the vogueing scene which was colourful and amazing.
From Brooklyn, New York you moved to London’s Shoreditch and then on to Berlin. All are hotspots for creativity but are there any other similarities that you enjoy?
I want to be where the creators are. Berlin is the NYC of dance music now since it’s hard to run big nightclubs in a business city like NYC. London had a very segregated electronic music scene where most of the big DJs only played straight clubs as NYC has also become. Berlin is like NYC was in the 90s: everyone wanted to be in the gay clubs where the best music (and probably drugs, too) were found. It’s been interesting to see NYC and London become less and less about clubs and having to move somewhere where people were able to dance still.
You’ve regularly worked with some major household names like Ru Paul, Andy Bell, Afrojack and many more. Who, if anyone, has had the most impact on you?
Certainly my childhood friends like Rupaul and Michael Stipe from REM, influenced the way I created music and art. My dance hits were never just about beats, they also had cultural movements embedded into them. Imagine a 5 million selling song in 1992 sung by a trans person!! That song still has cultural relevance via her huge TV show. Also my work with Electroclash in the early 2000’s had a rich influence with sexual identification from the Scissor Sisters and Tiga, Politics from Chicks on Speed and DFA Records. Gender from Peaches, up-sending racial norms with Felix D Housecat, and cultural studies from Fischerpooner and Ladytron. These ideas were put to beats. Since I have come back to big room house, or weirdo house as I like to call it, it feels like there are influences from all my favourite eras in one set, now. That’s exciting to me!
Your fashion label TZUJI is going from strength to strength at the moment. The worlds of music and fashion have always gone hand in hand but which is more creatively satisfying for you?
Fashion designers are more rock n’ roll right now, though let’s talk about the DJs making 30 million a year…that’s pretty rock n’ roll :-). To play great music, I need to fill all my creative instincts and be influenced by some thing other than what other DJs are playing. My extra flavour and fierceness comes from fashion and reality TV these days, not Chicago or the Amsterdam Dance Event. B-O-R-I-N-G. That’s what i learned from NYC in the 80’s and 90’s.
After a continuingly successful and varied career including clubnights, festivals, song-writing, producing, DJing and fashion. What’s next? Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you want to work on in the future?
Reality TV of course. People always want to see the craziest parties that I get to play and meet the creative kids that make fashion and clubs so rich culturally. I also have a way of allowing people to discuss their dreams and encourage them to be a successfully creative also. So, I can see being an inspirational speaker – to be honest, I don’t think of myself as that inspirational, but I DO have this weird affect on people: they often find the courage to make their dream projects happen after being around me. It does make me happy when people do what they love to do.
You are playing alongside Tom Stephan in the NYC Dirty Beats Room for Ny:Lon at Egg London on Saturday 2nd December. Is there anyone else on the line up you particularly want to see?
It will be nice to see Erick again and of course, Lady Bee is a dear friend as well as is Tom Stephan and Absolute, so there is so much reuniting for me! I remember the beginning of Anthony and Bee’s career’s and love to watch them grow.
The big question… Who is your favourite superhero?
Batman because he got to run with Robin. I always knew there was something going on there.
Larry Tee plays at Ny:Lon this Saturday December 2nd bringing his Dirty Beats party with Tom Stephan, Absolute and a Live show by Lady Bee to the Middle Floor of Egg Ldn. Whilst Erick Morillo headlines the Main Room alongside Danny Howard and Junolarc. In Cell 200 catch the UK debut of Black:Star plus DJ sets from Black Asteroid x Lady Starlight and Ireen Amnes. All info at www.egglondon.co.uk
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