If you haven’t already heard of Laurice and his glam punk/pop/disco/smooth jazz/rock ’n roll stylings, then please! Keep reading and be moved. If you have heard of said talent, then you know what I’m talking about. The range and style of Laurice, known during the 1970s as Canada’s number one male dance artist, is illustrious and vast. After moving from the United Kingdom to North America, where he produced, wrote, and recorded music of many genres in both the States and Canada, Laurice finally settled down in Kelowna, BC. Touting hits such as “When Christine Comes Around/I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In” (a pre-punk sass-bomb with groovy undertones), “Flying Saucers Have Landed” (a low-fi electric tune about extra-terrestrial encounters), “Disco Spaceship” (a dance jam juicy enough to carry you away into the starry night), and “Dark Side of Your Face” (a dazzling and bold take on betrayal), Laurice’s music is a wild ride from first listen. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Perhaps the wildest of his musical excursions is the new album titled G.A.Y.D.A.R., described as a "non-stop, all gay, tour-de-force". What more can be said?
I was lucky enough to chat with Laurice over the phone one morning, and we mused over both his successes and inspirations. Could I account for all of the twists and turns that Laurice’s career has taken, in just one short interview? Probably not. But triumph is found in the trying.
SARAH BAKKE: How did you first enter into the world of musical recording?
LAURICE: Well, my mother was a professional singer before she married so I always sang, though I didn’t do much singing in public. But even when I was at school I really wanted to go into the music business, and I was very lucky. I think a friend of ours put me in touch with this guy in London who turned out to be the Beatles’ second engineer at Abbey Road.
L: Yes! So I started writing to him—you know there was no internet at that time, that was the late 60s—and I was working in London for a summer holiday, in-between things at college (I was at a university in Leeds), and he asked me if I would do a demo for him, vocally. I’d never done a demo before, but I was like a duck to water! So I moved down to London and got a job with a music publishing company, and I started doing demos and became a session singer. I worked with him, I worked with Alan Parsons for a while, with the Alan Parsons Project, and you know, took it from there. I was offered a lot of recording contracts, and I turned them all down, because they were burying people in England at the time. England was not the place to be for an artist in the early 70s. Unless you knew Elton John, maybe. It was just impossible.
So I did some punk rock records, and did some other stuff. I was producing and all the rest of it. Then I emigrated to Canada, became a disco diva and had some world-wide hits! But then there was a problem with the record company I was with, so I moved to America and I started managing artists, and it was really hard, being in America. I lived in Canada for a while but when I got to America it was very tough. So I decided I’d had enough of the music business in the early 2000s, and I kind of retired from that and came back to Canada with my partner.
SB: How did your new album, G.A.Y.D.A.R., come to be?
L: My new album came about by sheer accident! In 2011 I was contacted by this record company in New York, and they said, could we please release your old material on vinyl? And I said, vinyl?! I thought, are they crazy? But they wore me down and I eventually said yes, and released Best of Laurice Volume 1. It did so well, and they did such great promotion for it, so we released Volume 2. But in the meantime, they had asked me to write some songs for a very well-known punk rock group. I was sending them various songs, and they kept saying, no I don’t like this, no I don’t like this—they kept taking the piano out—and then they went on tour and vanished, and I was left with all these tracks, and I thought what am I going to do with them? So I thought, you know what? I’ll remix them, I’ll add to them, and voila! G.A.Y.D.A.R. was born!
SB: My favourite track on the album is “Hot Malibu Nights”, so I have to ask; what is your ideal rock and roll day?
L: Ideal rock and roll day? Well for me, now, it’s composing new rock songs, or doing the videos, or actually recording at my home here. That would be a rock and roll day for me. I mean, I am 72 you know!
SB: A sprightly 72! I love it. So what’s the most important thing for people to know about your new album?
L: That it is an in-your-face album. I know that people have been quite upset by some of the lyrics, which is really something in this day and age, but I want people to know that it’s a gay album that I wanted to do, to get out of my system, and I hope it will appeal to a large range of people. I do have to tell you something, though. I’ve had practically no support from the gay community, at all.
L: Yes. It’s partly because of ageism, and partly it’s political—battle of the egos, you know. I’m sure it’s like that in other communities too. It's just unfortunate, but you sometimes get caught in the middle of it. Anyway, lots of people like it so I’m still going on!
S: Referencing another track on one of your albums, who would you invite onto your own personal “Disco Spaceship”?
L: Oh, who I would? Who’s living or who’s dead? Well my partner of course. And I’d like Dusty Springfield. And let’s see, who else would I want in there… Let me see. Well, you could come aboard! I’d give you a special pass! I think also my record company executive, from Mighty Mouth Music Records. And also two of my best friends in England.
SB: What is your favourite part of performing live?
L: I’ll tell you what. I like people to have fun. There’s nothing more rewarding for me than seeing smiles on people’s faces when I’m performing. A gentleman came up to me after my Milk Crate performance, and he said you know what? I’ve been to so many performances, and I’ve never seen so many smiles on so many faces. And I felt so good about that! Because—can I tell you a little story? If you have time?
SB: Yes of course!
L: Well, I have a girlfriend in LA, she’s a fabulous jazz singer—she’s just great. I went to go see her perform when I lived in LA, and I saw her perform in this club and she was just fabulous, she brought the house down. And I told her the next morning, I said, you were absolutely great! And she said, thank you, in a kind of sad voice. And I said what’s wrong? And she said, oh it’s just awful! Last night I had everybody at my feet and now I’m just doing the laundry. And I said, sweetie! That’s life! You took people out of themselves for an hour or two and made them happy, and everything else after that is gravy. And I’ve always remembered that. It’s so important.
Most artists—well I wouldn’t say most—but a lot of artists forget that, and they make it all about them. It shouldn’t be about them, it should be about you! You, the audience. Making you happy! Because when an artist comes on stage, and performs, the audience is rooting for them, they want the artist to be good! They don’t want them to fail! They’re there to have a good time! So give them a good time, and that’s what I like to do, I really mean that. That’s the funnest thing I can say about my performances, to me it is the most important thing—not that you’ve rehearsed everything wonderfully, not that you sing every note perfectly, but entertaining your audience somehow.
SB: What inspires you currently?
L: What inspires me? Oh, I have to say above everything, my creative team. The fact that people still want me to do this! It keeps me going, day after day. One of my girlfriends in London said, I’m so proud of you! She said, you just keep going! You’ve got such drive, it’s wonderful. And I said I know, it’s such fun, it just keeps me alive, you know? It really does. And people like you help! You’re interviewing me! I have to say, I’m having an absolute ball, I love it. I just love it!
Laurice will be performing with Fashionism and Maskara at the Emerald on Friday, August 5. I’ll be there soaking in the glam punk/disco/pop essence, will you? I sure hope so!