WORLD CLIQUE TOUR DATES
1990-10-21 Boston U.S.A. Axis - Club
1990-08-23 New York U.S.A. RECESS – Club Red Zone
1990-12-31 New York U.S.A. The Palladium
1991-01-22 Rio de Janeiro Brazil Rock in Rio II (local stadium)
1991-02-16 New York U.S.A. Saturday
1991-04-14 Riviera Chicago, IL U.S.A.
1991-05-07 Miami Beach, FL USA Roxy Theater
1991-06-22 Hamburg Germany
1991-06-24 Berlin Germany Sound
1991-06-26 Munich Germany
1991-06-29 Turku Finland Siberia Club
1991-06-30 Paris France Winston Legend Festival
1991-07-03 Valencia Spain
1991-07-06 Torhout Belgium Torhout Festival
1991-07-09 Montreaux Switzerland Montreaux Jazz
1991-07-10 Rimini Italy
England Brixton Academy
1991-10-02 New York City
USA Wigstock - Union Square Park
England Brixton Academy Club
Details, July 1992.
Entertainment Weekly, June 26, 1992.
Mademoiselle, December 1990.
Musician, August 1992.
Newsweek, March 18, 1991.
People, July 29, 1991; July 13, 1992.
Reflex, June 23, 1992.
Rolling Stone, July 9, 1992; September
Time, June 29, 1992.
Additional information for this profile was obtained
from Elektra Records press releases, 1992
Deee-Lite struck the dance-music scene in 1990 like a lightening bolt.
The group's extravagantly campy look and irresistibly funky, upbeat songs
were a marked contrast to the generally introverted cool of most hip-hop,
and the distinctive vocals of lead singer Lady Miss Kier--whose
1970s-inspired wardrobe made her an instant fashion icon--helped set the
group apart from the droves of diva-meets-dance-machine records dominating
the club scene. Part of the appeal of Deee-Lite's music has been its inclusiveness--Christian
Logan Wright wrote in Mademoiselle that "as a group, they're a
festival of individuality; as a band, they're a party anyone can
attend." With their first hit single, "Groove Is in the
Heart," from their gold debut album, World Clique, they
injected the feel-good bounce of 1970s "P-Funk" into house music
and created a sensation. Then 1992's Infinity Within made the
group's political agenda a more literal part of the music.
The seeds of the group were sown in 1982 when Miss Kier--born Kier
Kirby--met a Russian emigr musician named Dmitry Brill in New York City's
Washington Square Park. Brill, who was raised in the Ukraine, had played in
a rock cover band in the Soviet Union and arrived in New York City
expecting an atmosphere of lavish excitement. The city and its prospects
initially disappointed him, but he discovered the joys of funk music,
particularly the P-Funk, or pure funk sound of George Clinton's groups,
Parliament and Funkadelic. Meanwhile Brill deejayed in some large dance clubs
where he soon found a soulmate in Kier. A native of Pittsburgh, Kier grew
up attending political rallies with her activist mother. Later she worked a
variety of jobs, including textile designer, waitress, and coat check
attendant. In 1986 Kier and Brill decided to form a group; after writing
songs together for a while, the twosome made their first appearance at
Siberia, a local club.
Shortly afterward Brill and Kier received a demo tape from a Japanese
computer whiz named Towa Tei, who had just arrived in the United States. He
became the band's "DJ," mostly producing sounds via computer.
Like Brill, Towa had escaped a cultural climate he considered stultifying:
"When I was in high school, everyone listened to [commercial hard
rockers] Whitesnake, or Japanese versions of Whitesnake," he related
in Rolling Stone. The group continued playing gigs and soon began
presenting a homemade demo tape to record labels. An article in Details
noted that apart from vague rejections, the group received only one formal
reply: "Sorry, we can't use your stuff. It's completely
unoriginal." Nonetheless the group began gathering crowds as a live
act, drawing a cross section of the various dance scenes of New York City.
As Jeff Giles described in Rolling Stone, "They were drawing vivid,
multiracial, pan-sexual crowds that were often a thousand strong, and Kier
was throwing daisies from the stage."
Soon several record companies were courting Deee-Lite. "We turned
down a lot of offers waiting for someone who understood our art," Kier
told Giles. "At a lot of the labels, the only people in power were
white men. There were no minorities working in high positions. And you
could see what was coming. You could smell it. They'd say: 'You're a
Top Forty band. You could be the next....' And we'd say, 'Sorry, but you
miss what we're about.'" If nothing else, the band was about the sense
of freedom and diversity their audience embodied: politically progressive
as well as stylish, convinced that the groove of Deee-Lite was the sound of
liberation on several levels.
In 1989 Brill, who by then was becoming better known as Dmitry, and
Towa did production work with a number of up-and-coming artists, including
Sinead O'Connor, the Jungle Brothers, and A Tribe Called Quest. These
projects were, for the members of Deee-Lite, part of the process of
defining the "Sampledelic" sound--a fusion of P-Funk groove and
the eclectic sampling instincts of rap's bohemian fringe.
After signing a deal with Elektra Records in 1990, Deee-Lite released
their debut album, World Clique. The single "Groove Is in the
Heart" was a huge hit, dominating dance-oriented radio and the clubs.
Several subsequent singles also fared well. People' s Craig
Tomashoff, admittedly not usually a fan of dance music, suggested that
"Deee-Lite is the aspirin of dance music. Maybe because this trio of
New York City-based hipsters has a sense of humor. Maybe it's because they
actually use some real instruments and real musicians, instead of just
sampling them. Whatever the reason, World Clique bubbles with
energy." Entertainment Weekly referred to the album as
"one of the major musical happenings of 1990." In Kier's own
words, as cited by Wright in Mademoiselle, "It's funk, soul,
curly, wiggly music." As proof the group enlisted
bassist-guitarist-vocalist Bootsy Collins along with several other
Parliament-Funkadelic alumni to play on some tracks, cementing Deee-Lite's
connection with the legacy of 1970s funk.
During 1990, as Dmitry and Towa continued producing for various
artists--including post-production work and remixing on a track by
labelmates They Might Be Giants--Kier became a familiar face on the
international fashion scene, sharing the spotlight with designers like
Thierry Mugler. She used the spotlight for a number of causes, from helping
to raise money for AIDS relief, to filming a pro-choice public service
announcement with other women musicians, to protesting the war in the
Persian Gulf between the United States and Iraq. Deee-Lite wrote an
anti-war song, "Riding on Through," but it ended up backing a
single rather than appearing on World Clique. Kier continually spoke
out during the war, but was frustrated to find her comments excised from
published profiles. "We were censored by the media cowards," she
assessed in Details. Indeed, many journalists appeared baffled by
Deee-Lite's mixture of fashion consciousness and political awareness. Kier
appraised the situation in her interview with Giles of Rolling Stone:
"People think that to make a political statement you have to wear a
poncho and Birkenstocks [German-made sandals] and, like, love beads. And
that's an anachronism. It's twenty, twenty-five years old, and it's really
Taking their politics out on the road, Deee-Lite toured to support World
Clique with a nine-piece band that included Collins; Towa had chosen to
co-produce an album by Japanese artist Hajime Tachibana instead. The tour
highlight was an appearance at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival where
Deee-Lite was invited to share the stage with P-Funk pioneer George Clinton
for a rendition of the Funkadelic hit "(Not Just) Knee Deep." The
band's press biography later quoted Kier as commenting, "Playing live
is in the true spirit of techno soul."
Deee-Lite released "Good Beat," the last single from World
Clique, in 1991. Kier and Dmitry got married, and by the following year
Deee-Lite had a new album to promote. For its 1992 effort, Infinity
Within, Deee-Lite developed a number of its political concerns, giving
some of their ideas practical form. For starters, the CD was released in a
format called "Eco-Pak" rather than the traditional--and,
according to most environmentalists, very wasteful--longbox. "The
Eco-Pak's overall package has no disposable parts, uses 33% less plastic
than conventional [plastic CD] jewel boxes and 15% less paper than current
longboxes," an Elektra press release stated. Deee-Lite had finally
created the appropriate context for its environmental ode "I Had a
Dream I Was Falling Through a Hole in the Ozone Layer." Infinity
also contained "Rubber Lover," a track featuring vocals by
Collins that advised the use of condoms, and a brief ditty called
"Vote, Baby, Vote" in support of Kier's sentiments towards voting
privileges. She maintained in an interview with Reflex, "[I'd]
like to see a law: as soon as you get a social security number, as soon as
you turn 18, you're automatically registered to vote." Lastly,
Deee-Lite pledged a portion of the profits from the album to the
environmentalist group Greenpeace.
At first this heightened political emphasis alienated some critics. Yet
for the most part, reviewers found the dance beat of the second
album--augmented by the inclusion of P. Funk's legendary "Horny
Horns" duo, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, who joined several of their
former bandmates on the album--just as irresistible as that of the first. Infinity
Within yielded a house-influenced single called "Runaway,"
and offered songs with guest raps by celebrated newcomers Arrested
Development and Michael Franti of The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
"Deee-Lite, those neo-disco darlings, have succumbed to the
fashion for politically correct dance music," observed Jeremy
Hellingar of People. "The irony is that this bandwagon-esque
approach provides some of the album's best musical moments." Time'
s reviewer concluded, "The deee-lightful result: good message, great
dance beat." Entertainment Weekly' s Greg Sandow objected,
however, to the "mundane specificity" of the political sentiment.
"Your [Deee-Lite's] politics worked better two years ago when you made
the words vague, and let your music tell the story." Despite issuing
that mild rebuke, Sandow gave the album a "B."
But Kier insisted in Reflex that the emphasis of the album was a
progression, not a departure. "The reason why we titled this new album
Infinity Within-- to balance out ? World Clique's ? idea of
looking outward and thinking about unity--is if you look outward, you
should look inward to see what you're doing as an individual. Because
people seem to be so passive--I'd like to see people turn their TV sets off
and start protesting."
Deee-Lite's mixture of funk, soul, disco, house, and rap brought
together a huge, varied listenership; their mixture of style and political
substance helped make them one of the most influential forces in dance
music in the early 1990s. Lady Miss Kier, Dmitry, and Towa have all
expressed the hope that their music will contribute to positive global
change and Kier has remained philosophical about her group's impact.
"Deee-Lite is not guiding anything," she insisted in Details.
"We're reflecting it. But I can feel something happening right now.
It's like when animals