Larry Tee is a Berlin based DJ, music producer, club promoter and fashion designer who has actively participated in the music and fashion scene since the early days. Having witnessed the evolution of club culture and creativity in the heyday of the main cities since the 80’s, he has an interesting share in today's world cultural breakdown as well as finding artistic freedom. Øbskur magazine, based in Berlin, was originally launched in Miami; and Larry Tee is no stranger to this city when South Beach used to be the hub for artists, bohemians, drug dealers and infamous parties.
(LT) Miami had a golden moment where everyone had to be there. The modeling agencies were all located there pushing superstars like Nicky Taylor into the spotlight, and Versace bought a mansion on the main strip (soon after which he was murdered in front of by a crazed gunman) It has, however, been blooming ever since with the relocation of the "cool kids" to the mainland where the new art is flourishing. It isn't as fun as when it was dangerous and drugged-out with lots of cheap places to live and party, but it's still thriving and fun if you know where to go.
(AV) New York City seems to be dead these days compared to the era before Giuliani came to office. I enjoyed this recent interview from Gary Indiana, who resides in NY since 1978, elaborating on what killed Manhattan. (link to interview http://artefuse.com/2014/01/07/im-not-running-away-from-new-york-just-because-im-dying-face-to-face-with-gary-indiana/ )
(LT) Yeah, New York feels dead to me also with everyone living there complaining about the cost of living and the lack of nightlife. When Giuliani cleaned the city up, he with the same swipe sterilized the city of much of its 'creativity' and chances to have a place to party and live at reasonable prices. Business forgets that the arts play an important part of the commercial vitality of a city until it's too late. Business doesn't think about long-term consequences of eliminating a dynamic atmosphere; it's all about the money grab and all that stands in its way. LA is the new New York because it has so much space and you can still find inexpensive places.
(AV) Now that you are based in Berlin, it feels you have relocated to the right city.
(LT) They used to say in NYC when I arrived, "Larry Tee in the place to be." But I promise not to tell everyone how great Berlin is because it will just attract the bankers. They're coming anyway. But even when I was in Atlanta my best friends were Michael Stipe (before REM) and RuPaul (before drag), so I can honestly say that I have a way of finding the action in any city.
(AV) We all like good clubs and understanding them not only as places for having just fun, but also as fertile ground for birthing new ideas. Somehow this feels more difficult everyday.
(LT) Clubs in most cities have lost their place as a gathering place of great creative minds, though it's still amazing here in Berlin for that. Berlin is now the second most visited city, surpassing Paris this year for the first time in recent history. When other cities get the idea that the economy thrives when people can enjoy themselves when they gather in great nightclubs, they hopefully will change too. But there is a strong drive by Capitalism to destroy anything that isn't directly related to making money. Club culture has been commoditized, and I am as guilty as anyone from having made money from it. The recent focus on accepting gender differences and the cultural switch to fashion over music has been influenced by the club culture going mainstream.
(AV) This led us to the conversation about techno and those earlier days in New York, famous for clubs like Limelight that are now compared with the freedom you have in Berlin.
(LT) Even though I threw the first techno party at Limelight, which became famous in the movie “Party monster”, I am just now finally really enjoying techno. You might see me out at Berghain karate chopping my arms in the air like a lunatic, while doing my cardio workouts. I have head great sets ranging from Francisco at Gegen, the Japanese Cocktail d’Amore dj Squad, Black Madonna at Panorama, some great deep house sets at Homopatik, some dirty sets at Pornceptual and Schwuz. I am waiting to get my own night started here before I try to play at Berghain, though they would totally live for my latest sets. They worship 90s NYC Junior Vasquez era music and I am one of the few DJs of that era that still bring the NYC fever but with new music and attitude. Limelight was like Berghain in that you could do whatever you wanted to once you were inside. Drugs, sex, techno, fashion: it has it all. And there was a feeling of freedom you get when you realize that there isn't anything you can't do. I was the one that started the Limelight parties that launched techno in NYC (along with NASA) and led to the Party Monster hysteria. In the movie, Michael and James St. James decided the name was going to be DISCO 2000. But in actuality, I came up with that name. My party LOVE MACHINE with RuPaul took place the year before that set the tone for what was to become Limelight. It wasn't as druggie at that time, but then ecstasy hadn't arrived full force.
(AV) Whatever comes tomorrow, already happened yesterday.
(LT) I have always needed lots of stimulation even as a kid. It keeps me out of trouble. I feel the future for me is creating a techno orchestra, modern dance crew that dramatizes the contemporary horrors of the new world where corporations don’t pay taxes and even the rich can’t afford to buy anything. Is it a crime if I make money doing it? haha... I have a new techno track Berlusconi that burns as well as other tracks that make the uber-rich unfashionable. I want to give out some names and bring awareness to why austerity is necessary now. Rich people and corporations refuse to pay taxes when no one is making them pay taxes. Politicians have made them tax-free. Let’s make the people-oriented politicians the new rock stars. Let’s make companies that pay fair taxes and treat their employees well, like heroes. Let’s make music that brings attention to this horror that is forcing the best and brightest across Europe to leave their home to make money in London, Berlin, Paris...lets call them economic refugees.
(AV) Previously you said that your existence is merely political.
(LT) When I was young I never tried to be anything other than gay, interested in other cultures and countries, accepting and becoming aware of everyone’s shades of gender. When I used to run NYC clubs, I was OUT and proud, and wrote the Trans anthem 'Supermodel (you better work)' in 1992 which went on to sell five million copies and was all over TV, radio and around the news. I wrote trans artist Amanda LePore's first hit "My Pussy". When I championed and created the term "Electroclash", it launched the only significant female music artist explosion in the new millennium with artists like Peaches, Chicks on Speed, Miss Kittin, Ladytron, Crossover, WIT, Ellen Alien, Adult, Soffy O, and many more benefitting from the door being open. Also, it was the first in the music genre where being thought as gay or bi (Tiga, Fischerpponer, DJ Hell etc) wasn’t a big deal. Some weren’t even bi, but they pushed the idea because it didn’t matter to them. The check list of corporate criminals turned out to be way ahead of its time when in 2008 the economy crashed with those same names. I don’t try to be political, but I am attracted to fairness and people willing to stand for important things.
I am here in Berlin because I love the fact that it is politically correct and tries hard to place its people before the bankers’ needs. Its history has created a unique environment for a better way of growing into this uncertain future. It proves every day that more freedom, fair housing and costs, and open mindedness can lead to success. If we don’t fight for those basic rights of people, they will be sold off to the market and replaced with what every other city struggles with today. I am on the side of optimism, and hope that if we work towards a more creative, exciting future, we can have it.