Deee-Lite's Lady Miss Kier Grooves On

The former Deee-Lite singer and fashionista wants to unite the world one more time.

Lady Miss Kier thinks the world should kiss and make up.

A kind of anthropologist of making out, the singer, fashion designer and, more recently, DJ born Kierin Kirby believes the secret to global harmony can be found in the contrast between the dating habits of folks in the U.K., where she's lived for nine years, and Americans.

"The Brits get called 'reserved' and they are but they are the first to want a kiss with a drink," Kier says. "There's verbal tension. In America, we want to kiss first. Everyone does it different. But you can say the same thing about everywhere."

Uniting humanity is of large interest to Kier. She managed to do it back in the early '90s, as a member of the dance group Deee-Lite. In 1986, after leaving the New York art world to design costumes for sex workers, burlesque dancers and drag queens, she met Dmitry Brill and DJ Towa Tei, and together performed a blend of house, techno and funk, all while draped head-to-toe in her unforgettable designs. The band signed to Elektra Records, and its first album, 1991's World Clique, produced the immortal hit single, "Groove is in the Heart."

Kier became an integral part of the fashion world, bringing so-called "lower class art" to the mainstream. Emilio Pucci tapped her to star in his lifetime achievement award video for Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards in 1991, and designer John Fluevog credits her for popularizing his chunky shoes. Deee-Lite officially disbanded in 1993, but Kier and Dmitry continued to tour until 1995.

"It was too much for me," she says. "Then the apartment I was living in caught fire and I lost everything. I'd wanted to travel but only spoke English. That narrowed down the places. So, eventually I went to London. One night, someone asked me to spin and I said, 'I don't do that.' They put a record in my hand and said 'Try.' So I did."

After that night, Kier became a sought after DJ, and since going solo has worked with artists such as Bootsy Collins, Apollo Heights, I Kamanchi, George Clinton and other funk and shoegaze notables. She mentions how important it is for DJs to dance behind the table and spin more than their own music. "When all you have is your own music, it changes the lens," she says. "You start to compare yourself to others. The art of the DJ is the element of surprise."

She's noncommittal about her live tunes but promises that in Portland, she'll present about a 50-50 rotation of her own mixes (including some Deee-Lite) and mixes of her favorite DJs—though she insists she's not a planner, and not into rehearsing.

"Never been good at it. It takes the fun out of everything," she says. "You know, the whole point of pop culture is [having] a popular shared experience. It's artists trying something fresh out on an audience. What's the point in sharing if you aren't in the moment with your audience?"

Sounds like the perfect kiss. CHARITY MARCHANDT.

SEE IT: Lady Miss Kier plays Playground PDX Pride at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with DJs Sappho and David Sylvester, on Saturday, June 18. 9 pm. $17 advance, $20 day of show, $30 VIP. 21+.

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