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"New York was grim when we got here [around 1987]," recalls Tee in his high-pitched, hurried cadence. "AIDS had wiped out nightlife culture. So we came in at a good time. New York needed that country sensibility, that friendliness. Athens had been wild, swinging and bisexual. I remember R.E.M. opening up for Love Tractor on a Tuesday night. Bands like Limbo District, the BBQ Killers. Everyone was switching partners, playing in each other's bands, having art projects on the side. The B-52's did nude art movies. At a blacklight party between two houses, where people were told to not wear white, Cindy [Wilson] showed up nude with white ribbons in her hair. One of my life goals after that has always been to work with her!"
Tee wouldn't meet his life goals in Atlanta or Athens. "They ran me out of town," Tee cackles. "My Celebrity Club couldn't take anymore. I put on so many depraved shows that it was either me or the Clermont Lounge. The town wasn't big enough for both of us, so I left it to Blondie and Britney Fairchild."
Tee wouldn't be the only figure in the Electroclash movement inspired by the little town of Athens, Ga.
If there's an act poised to become the global figurehead of Electroclash, it would probably be Fischerspooner, a part-pop band/part pop-art performance troupe that undulates with a quintessentially Electroclash blend of new wave melodies, bouncingly accented beats and electro-funk bass pulses, bridging gaps from OMD and Human League to Wire to Off-Broadway production numbers. Picture an avant garde adaptation of the "Thriller" video meets extreme cabaret and you're getting closer to Fischerspooner's spectacle.
While the full outfit is so swollen with members that Luxx could barely fit it, let alone an audience, into the club at one time, Fischerspooner is actually headed by two men who met at art school in Chicago: Warren Fischer, the musical director, and Casey Spooner, a flamboyant yet reserved frontman/star with strong family roots in southern Georgia.
"I couldn't write a better scenario," says Spooner, on a cell phone from a car in London, where the group is preparing for a performance. The group recently signed for a hefty sum to U.K. label Ministry of Sound, who will re-release their album, #1, in July, while developing further multimedia.
Fischer and Spooner met while Spooner was shifting his artistic pursuits from painting to experimental theater. Their first work was Southern gothic spoken word set to violin. A shared fascination with the pop culture of other countries -- which can rely on dated technology -- led them to the '80s analogue sound of electro. A desire to create a production that showed the future to be accessible rather than anonymous and sterile faux-modern led to Fischerspooner's highly controlled spectacles.
The duo debuted in 1998 at a New York Starbucks, a supposed statement on the disposability of pop. About a year-and-a-half later, when they played a Larry Tee Club Badd party at the legendary East Village Pyramid Club, Tee took to them and began brokering Fischerspooner's "illusion of excitement" to labels. While Spooner shared Tee's Georgia roots, his own time in Athens wasn't nearly as fabulous as Tee's era.
"I hung out a lot with this band the Chickasaw Mudpuppies," says Spooner, "and knew R.E.M. and several other bands. But I was always frustrated with their earnestness. I wanted them to be more presentational. I think now I'm working out those urges I wanted them to do. I remember Michael Stipe saying he was unhappy to have signed a huge contract, which I couldn't understand. I wanted him to use the money to do an extravagant Buzby Berkley-style video."
Now Spooner -- who, unlike Larry Tee, didn't romp through Backstreet, but instead grew up in "a country-club culture Ralph Lauren haze" -- wants to use his new position to return attention to where he's from: He'd like to see Fischerspooner's record in Best Buy and Wal-Mart. To that end, he wants to steer his group's performances away from being big-city-centric, simply preaching to hipster choirs. Spooner wants kids in places like Albany, Ga., to be inspired to find their own excitement. He'd also love for his relatives to share in his excitement.
"My past is not at all related to the illusion I'm living now," he says, "and I'd like to inspire people with a similar past, and finally show to my relatives what I do and that I'm a success at it."
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