Deee-Lite's Lady Miss Kier on "Groove Is in the Heart," Drag Queens, and Taking Risks
Lady Miss Kier: "In it for the songwriting."
There are songs that, despite our best efforts, latch onto our memories and brains' pleasure centers the way glitter clings to all surfaces. "Groove Is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite is one such ditty that, after 25 years, refuses to be shaken off. The songsmith and voice behind the 1990 hit single is Kierin M. Kirby, better-known as Lady Miss Kier, and in penning "Groove Is in the Heart," she created one of the most quintessential dance songs of the '90s.
It was a quirky melting pot of sounds and genres: Bootsy Collins, a Deee-Lite fan, provided the funk, and Q-Tip laid down a groovy rap, all while a jazzy Herbie Hancock started the party. The psychedelic music video introduced the world to Kier's throwback '60s style and made James Bond catsuits and platform shoes cool again, a full seven years before Austin Powers bared his bad teeth.
Since the breakup of Deee-Lite, Kier has toured the world as a DJ and returns to South Florida for a special event at Stache this week. Ahead of the show, we enjoyed a candid conversation with Lady Miss Kier concerning all things Deee-Lite and more.
New Times: How do you feel about "Groove Is in the Heart" all these years later?
Lady Miss Kier: I'm really proud of it, because it does still sound good. [laughs] When I was writing it, I had no concept that it would be a hit, of course. But sometimes the songs you think are gonna be a hit usually aren't, and the ones that you think, "Oh, that's kind of a weird one," that's usually what people remember.
Do you ever miss Deee-Lite?
No. No, I mean, all the best bands break up. I definitely miss writing music in a band, so on that count, yes. But I don't miss the band members. The day we walked away was a little bit turbulent.
Are you currently focused on being a touring DJ or are you writing new music as well?
I write music also. The music industry is in a mess. As for business reasons, there's no point in releasing [my] music, because there's no financial [gain]. I've been touring all these years — 21 years now. The last year I took off. I've been trying to really find a way to release this music where I can support myself at the same time. Basically, you have to tour to do that. Basically, it's complicated to release music these days. I don't mind giving the music away for free, I've just got to have a way to support myself and support music.
What do you find so appealing about DJ'ing?
I started writing dance music to get people to dance together on the dance floor and bring joy in their lives by physically moving. That's why I left stardom for DJ'ing, because that's always been my goal, to gather people together to dance. I happen to love songwriting, the art of it. I do that as well. It doesn't matter when I release it. I'm just in it for the songwriting aspect of it...When I DJ, I don't even really play my music, because it's just something else; however, I was asked to do a Deee-Lite tribute for the show in Florida, so this is the first I'm doing a whole-night tribute, mainly because the '90s are back in style.
Wait, you're saying the show you're doing at Stache the day after Christmas will be entirely a Deee-Lite tribute?
DJ set. Not the whole thing. There'll be some, since I've been playing a lot of '90s music lately. They asked to mix a lot of the songs into it.
Where did the ideas come from to dress up in catsuits and to cultivate your signature retro-'60s style?
A bunch of drag queens I was hanging out with. [laughs] They were my main inspiration. They were performance artists, kind of comedians; it was a group thing at the time. It wasn't really that original.
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Did you ever think it would lead to being called a fashion icon and traveling the world for fashion shows?
No. The radio wasn't playing any music like we were writing. I couldn't even conceive that anything would ever get on the radio. I guess I was definitely working to get some kind of attention.
You're involved in a lot of gay pride events. What do you think about the state of LGBT rights in America right now?
It's really beautiful how far it's come to being accepted. Some people try to complain about Caitlin Jenner because she's a Republican, but I'm like, there's always someone who's going to complain about something. It's come that far. Any kind of minority, we need to look out for them and take care of them. To see more and more people, it some places it's not even an issue, but still any minority is going to be picked on by some large group. It's probably something we'll have to be mindful of. But the fact that there's so many more people mindful? I'm really happy about it.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
I think that the definition of success varies per person, and for me, it's not about material possessions. It really is, and always was, about trying to find those moments of joy that balance out our lives. Really good music, art, taking risks, doing what you want, and breaking stereotypes. Living life on your own terms.
Lady Miss Kier (of Deee-Lite) DJ Set
10 p.m. Saturday, December 26, at Stache 1920's Drinking Den, 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Admission costs $5. Visit stacheftl.com.
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