“Brooklyn is a gold mine,” declares helium-voiced club promoter Larry Tee while standing in a studio apartment in the East Village, preparing protégée Melissa Burns for a recording session with her group W.I.T. (Whatever It Takes).
“Have you seen the crowds out there? They’re hot, sexy, fuckable. My God, Manhattan has the ugliest crowds I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s like now bridge and tunnel goes the other way. Manhattan keeps the trash out of my parties.”
Tee’s parties – “Mutants” and “Berliniamsburg,” a pair of weekend nights at Club Luxx in Williamsburg – are indeed packed with As Four-wearing fashionistas and mohawk-sporting gay scenesters, all of whom have come to dance to something called “electroclash.”
For those on the wrong side of the East River, electroclash, a term Tee helped coin, is a twenty-first-century take on everything eighties and electronic – from the synth-pop of Soft Cell to the electro-funk of Afrika Bambaataa. The movement’s most prominent representatives are the outlandish performance artists Fischerspooner.
It’s also New York’s most buzzed-about musical export this side of the Strokes, the subject of breathless praise from the British music press (“The best thing to happen to New York since punk rock,” says NME) and even major-label bidding wars in the U.S. “We are trying to sign Fischerspooner,” says Tom Sarig, vice-president of A&R at MCA Records. “But others, like BMG, are in the running.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Tee, 42 – who launched “Disco 2000” at the Limelight with Michael Alig in the early nineties and co-wrote “Supermodel” with RuPaul – has become electroclash’s ringmaster.
In addition to his popular Brooklyn parties, which he – gasp! – plans to expand to Manhattan this year, Tee owns a record label (Mogul Electro), released the first-ever electroclash compilation, and threw the first “Electroclash” festival at nightclubs like Spa, Webster Hall, and Exit. “I lost $60,000 on the festival!” Tee shrieks. Not for lack of interest, though. “Everyone was on the guest list,” he moans. “This year, they’ll all pay.”
Not long ago, Tee was on the other side of the velvet rope, shunned by the nightlife cognoscenti for his connection to the Gatien era. “We’d torture him just for fun,” says one club promoter, “like keep him outside even when he was on the list.”
Tee admits that he was a mess. “I was a total drug addict,” he says, living on dwindling royalties from “Supermodel.” He credits Narcotics Anonymous (he’s been clean for four years) and the est-like Landmark Forum for his return to clubland superstardom.
Yet even as the hype surrounding electroclash reaches deafening levels (one scenester has posted flyers warning, “Electroclash could be the next grunge!”), Tee seems happy to share the spotlight. The threat of an upcoming electroclash compilation from British club giant Ministry of Sound fails to rile him. “It’ll be a lot like my CD,” Tee says, “but I don’t care. I just want to make New York yummy again.”