The multi-talented, mono-monikered and openly gay singer/songwriter Laurice will headline a dance party at Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art on April 28. The performer may be unfamiliar to American audiences — perhaps because his music was often deemed “too gay” for airplay — but Laurice has plenty of hits, including “I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In,” “When Christine Comes Around” and “Disco Spaceship.” On the phone from Canada, Laurice chatted with PGN about his upcoming show.
PGN: Your music spans glam rock, disco, punk, smooth jazz and more. What observations do you have about your career?
L: I get very bored doing the same thing all the time in the same genre. It stems from when I was a session singer in England. You had to be able to sing any kind of song and you had to train yourself to do it. That prepared me for when I wanted to change genres. A lot of artists can’t do that, but I took it on as a challenge.
PGN: How difficult or deliberate was it to be out in the ’70s when you rose to fame?
L: It was very difficult. But I have to tell you, I refused to let it stop me. I’ll never forget that my music lawyer in Toronto at the time was talking about a record of mine that the company wouldn’t release. I couldn’t understand why. It was because I was gay. It was a disco record, and disco was regarded as black and gay in the 1970s. The rock guys hated disco with a passion. I fell into that category, even though my preceding record was a big hit. People don’t understand how hard it was in those times. I pressed on and persevered. I wouldn’t let it stop me singing, writing or recording. When I released my recent album, “G.A.Y.D.A.R,” I was met with a lot of flack from straight people who were uncomfortable with the album. Homophobia is still around.
PGN: Have you always been a gay activist?
L: All my life! I worked for the Gay News and was a founder of the Toronto Gay Hotline. And I did a lot of gay activism in Los Angeles.
PGN: You had hits like “We Will Make Love” banned for being “too gay” for American radio stations. Can you discuss that?
L: “We Will Make Love” was a big hit all around the world. It is still played. It was re-released three times, but radio stations wouldn’t play it. In 1989, I released a song about the gay phone-sex lines and every station in California banned it for being too risqué for their audiences. “When Christine Comes Around” and “I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In,” my proto-punk hits, were completely banned — but they became cult favorites.
PGN: You now have your first studio album, “G.A.Y.D.A.R.,” after 20 years. What made you record again?
L: It was a complete accident. My record company was releasing “The Best of Laurice, Volumes 1 and 2.” They asked me if I would write songs for a well-known punk-rock band, but the band went off, so I thought, Why not remix them and do them myself? So I did!
PGN: Your lyrics (and video) for “Big Boy” are not subtle. They are campy and risqué. You sing to and about men. Can you talk about this aspect of your music?
L: On “The Best of Laurice, Volume 1,” there are some very “out there” songs: “He’s My Guy” and “Wild Sugar.” They are both very overtly gay. But I didn’t record another gay song like that until my “G.A.Y.D.A.R.” album. I was a liaison for Tom of Finland, and “Big Boy” was a nod to that. “Such a Man” was also a tribute to Tom of Finland.
PGN: Some folks might call you a novelty act. Do you defend or deny that assessment?
L: I think it’s a novelty that I’ve been rediscovered at my age! What is novel about me is that I covered so many genres. That’s novel today when you get compartmentalized into one genre by the music industry, which is sad.
PGN: This seems like a comeback of sorts for you. What do you want your legacy to be?
L: Yes. [Laughs] It’s fun and amusing after all these years. I want my legacy to be that I wrote good songs in various genres. As far as performing is concerned, it’s not about me, but about the audience and taking them out of themselves for an hour. Anything else is gravy.
Laurice performs with the Pink Angels and Fabergégé at 8 p.m. April 28 at PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St. For tickets or more information, visit philamoca.org.
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