Electroclash is one of those polarizing musical genres/socio-cultural phenomena/hype tornado memes that seems to take over popular culture every few years. At its most surface level, electroclash is the umbrella term for a relatively wide subspectrum of music that blends New Wave, classic electro, DIY punk ethos and a handful of other retrograde/forward-looking, blender-worthy genre monikers. It’s a post-millennial extrapolation of data where riot grrl, house music and art school formed a point. It sucks fashion, music, drag performance, gender politics and culture jamming into its wake. And lately it seems like anyone who’s laid their fingers on a synth in the last year — from Adult. to Kathleen Hanna — is dubbed electroclash.
That is to say, electroclash is as nebulous as it is narrowly defined — as much tabula rasa as Scritti Politti.
So it is this weekend that legendary New York City club provocateur Larry Tee brings the Electroclash Tour to town. With sly avant-multimedia gang Chicks on Speed, outrageous (and funny) femme-techno outfit WIT (Whatever It Takes), go-for-the-heart-and-jugular electro-showboats Peaches and no/New Wave one-woman video band Tracy + the Plastics in tow, the tour hints at both the scope of electroclash’s artistic reach and the absurdity of lumping dynamic artists of any kind into a “movement.”
“Let me get this clear,” says Tee emphatically. “Electroclash is something we can use and discard. And what’s left will be great music. What you call it isn’t what moves me. Whatever’s next [musically and culturally], I’m ready to jump the new wave.
“I was dragged to a Fischerspooner show,” says Tee of his exposure to the new wave of electroperformance artists plying the waters now labeled electroclash, “and I was mesmerized. There were dancers of every shape and size and you couldn’t tell who was doing what and with who and what their sexuality was!
“I started investigating what else was coming out of New York, and there was a lot. And I thought how can we blow this shit up — and I couldn’t believe that groups so strong were not getting any attention!”
He won’t take credit for the music by any means, though.
“I didn’t come up with the music but I’m going to do anything I can to make sure it gets heard. Otherwise, what do you get? Bling bling, endless variations on drum ’n’ bass? All things that God bless ’em — I’d like to have their inspiration … didn’t speak to me.”
So what’s the point of the Electroclash Tour, then? A big part of it is making sure that other voices get heard in the marketplace. Producing a fabulous show is, of course, another.
“I love glamour and I love stars and I love when someone’s saying something to me,” says Tee. “More and more dance music became the boys’ club of boring English DJs and that wasn’t going to get me off after seeing RuPaul. It wasn’t going to surprise me like Fischerspooner. It wasn’t going to make me laugh like WIT or say something to me like Peaches or speak to my soul like Bis.”
When the Electroclash Tour rolls into the Majestic Theatre (all things considered, the only venue really suited to this kind of cross-cultural hubbub), it will roll in not just with the live performances from the marquee acts, but also with Tee and several guest DJs manning the turntables. Indeed, part of the tour’s mission, for Tee, is to make a break from what he sees as dance floor orthodoxy. And that also includes the audience coming with an open mind too.
“I bet you’ll get to see a lot of people having fun,” he says (seemingly self-explanatory). “Because Detroit is obviously one of the big influences for electro, you’re likely to hear some of that. But one of the things that’s important is the absolute variety. There’s got to be the serious, serious — and Detroit certainly serves that,” he chuckles.
“But I hear people whining about how they ‘don’t like people wearing leg warmers’ and I’m like c’mon! What I like about electroclash in the ability to break rules to have a good time — and that’s first things first,” says Tee.
Dance at the Electroclash Tour at the Majestic Theatre (4140 Woodward, Detroit), Thursday, Oct. 17. Doors at 9 p.m.; call 313-833-9700.E-mail Chris Handyside at firstname.lastname@example.org