Rockstar, dancegod, “DJ” (he’ll explain why you need the quotes there) and all around nice guy/badass, T-Boy represents both the old and new schools of NYC nightlife. Now with two grungy dance singles out in the universe and a third to drop soon, a regular presence in Boots & Saddle, some upcoming gigs in BoxersHK and Hardware and a dungeon full of awesomeness, T-Boy bears his Magnificent Soul to Thotyssey!
Thotyssey: Hey T-Boy, did you watch the Billboard Music Awards last night? I was wondering what you thought of Madonna’s Prince tribute, as a die-hard fan of both and a musician / performer in your own right.
T-Boy: I did see the Billboard awards. Madonna was great, and I am being completely unbiased. It’s simple: if you didn’t like the tribute, do your own!
You were going to perform a tribute to another lost legend, David Bowie, at the LGTB Expo a few months ago at the Javitz Center.
I wanted to, but my performance changed dramatically before showtime. So I did my song “Magnificent Soul” and kept it moving.
So, you’re from Miami, right?
Tallahassee, actually. Moved to M.I.A. at 3 or 4 years-old.
What was it like, growing up there?
Lots to do in my hood. I grew up in the 80’s-90’s, so I built tree houses, rode around on go-carts and made fortresses out of mud (back when kids played outside). Block parties, kite-flying and bike-riding.
I idolized my cousins, who lived a block away. Their record collection, and my cousin Stacy’s own rap group, are both reasons I do what I do now. I had a rich musical upbringing, so I was already fluent in most music genres when I started DJing at The Slide, in 2005.
Sounds like a good time! Your real name is Myles, but you call yourself T-Boy after T-Boz from TLC. Was she your favorite of the three?
Yes. I love the group. T-Boz was my ideal type as a boy figuring himself out. I had a thing for tomboys, before I switched to real boys [laughs]!
So, yeah: T-Boz, Aaliyah, Ciara, Pink, Sharaya J, Salt-n-Pepa. As a street dancer, I love these girls because they are a perfect balance of masc and fem.
Never met T-Boz, officially, but through the magic of social media, we talk sometimes. When I think about camping out to buy their FANMAIL album, I had no clue that one day I could direct message her. That goes for everyone: Madonna, the President, Rupaul–it’s crazy!
You also have a strong sense of rock music, and there’s a lot of that in your aesthetic, too. Were you listening to all of that also back then, or did that come later?
Yeah, I was listening to The Doors when I was nine. Rock started as frustration for me, so anything “hard” or “weird,” dark, loud as hell: I was all about it. “Man That You Fear” by Marilyn Manson revealed a new, angry, political me. Unapologetic and kind of an asshole about it.
I came out to my mom after the military in 1999. Listening to Manson, STP, Alice In Chains, NIN, Nirvana, were all go-to’s. Manson is the opposite of
T-Boz, but also shared the masc/fem play I respond to. Whenever I do a rock song, you know I’m pissed!
Let’s talk about your time in the military, if yo don’t mind. When did you serve?
September 27th, 1997 to October 18th, 1999. I got out on a medical due to my equilibrium.
Was that a very difficult time for you?
Not difficult, physically. Constant, but not to much to bear. My gripe is, we were all numbers, not people. The shade of the military runs deep. I was tricked, as are most people who enlist. It’s how much you will put up with before standing your ground. I never went to sea (NAVY, by the way). I spent all that time trying to sever my contract on account of not getting the job they’d promised me.
How much did it shape the sort of person you are today?
From the military, I take my friendships and my attention to detail. And yes, it carries into the stage, and my militant approach to things.
In boot camp, I met a guy named Michael, who was as coo-coo for Aaliyah as I am for T-Boz. After “lights out”, I would teach him dance routines in the bathroom.
That’s sounds like a bit of brightness during a dark time.
Boot camp was a mind-fuck, but iwas mostly fun!
Did you come to New York shortly after you left the service?
I moved to NYC in October, 2002. The city was fairly clean after the attacks, but you could totally tell something happened, It was on everyone’s faces. The clubs and parties were AMAZING, people really needed the music!
Why did you come?
I was running in circles, trying to find work. I was homeless for a hot minute. I was working at the Gap. After the attacks, tourism took a dip and South Beach was a mess! All the retail people were now working in clubs bartending, stripping, etc.
I was performing for tips back then, and I met a guy outside of Twist one night, who convinced me to move where the freaks are, so to speak. Best advice ever! After three weeks of collecting tips, I bought a one-way ticket to New York.
So, what were your first clubs and bars that you were hanging out in?
The Slide, Cock, Area, the Roxy, Boybar… mostly East Village / LES places. I lived in East Harlem at the time. I performed at all those places, along with Barracuda, View Bar and Splash. I was at almost every Michael T. party.
You were performing as a dancer and singer, or as a DJ?
All of the above. I go-go danced for a lot of rock-n-roll parties, and danced in costume at Chi Chi’s parties. I started DJing my third year here.
I know you live up in the Bronx now, but did I hear correctly once that you, Honey Davenport & Kareem McJagger all kinda lived very closely to each other at one point, and all hung out and did cool people stuff?
Yeah, we’re good friends, but everyone is everywhere all the time. I lived next door to Peppermint for years.
Oh wow! That must have been scandalous!
The original “hot sauce in my bag!”
And I know you were/are buddies with Acid Betty, too. Now most people know her mainly as “The Bitchy One” from this last season of Drag Race.
Well they are right, she is a bitch! But she’s simultaneously gracious, and you can’t deny her talent! She’s a friend of mine for many years, and I’m proud of what she’s doing. I performed some Manson at her birthday party one year.
A bunch of us would go to Great Adventure and Hershey Park, it was so fun!
So fun, and what an amazing video! Blake Martin shot that. Sherry’s best video, in my opinion. Production!
And Peppermint was in it, too! What was your involvement with Peppermint’s show Cattle Call at Therapy?
Funny, I only guest DJ’ed that show. There were a few occasions where I was filling in for Corey TuT for a month or two? Pep and I grew as friends while running around LES, and a six-year run at Barracuda.
Cool. You’re gonna perform at her Cattle Call reunion show on June 5th, right? Whatcha gonna do?
No idea [laughs]! Well, some idea? Depends on if I have dancers for that show. I’ve been feeling very “house” lately. I performed “You Don’t Know Me” by Armand Van Helden recently, so maybe that? I’ll figure it out [laughs]!
You also did a “>cameo on one of the Law & Orders as a BDSM club guy in the background. You’ve got a whole filmography out there!
Law and Order, Criminal Intent. Super fun! Some of the extras were a trip! A couple almost got thrown out for cutting each other for pleasure. And we were in a pre-school in LES. That scene was shot at BANK. And Jeff Goldblum has a lil’ freak in him!
Just a little!? Tell me about the Black Velvet, the documentary you’re featured in. First of all, what’s the significance of the title?
Director Tobias Daniels drew inspiration from my life on the title I’m sure, but it’s just a title! Lenny Kravitz has a song called “Black Velveteen” that I love. I met him, and told him that during a brief conversation that changed my life. In honor, I designed a jacket with Black Velveteen sprayed on the back.
How often have you been to Germany?
I first visited in 2008 to feel out the energy. My first show was at an art gallery with a photo exhibit of me in a dungeon. I fell in love! The next trip in 2013. I had several contacts and performed a lot, did some unreleased stuff on top of my singles. Even ran into Peppermint in Berlin, and we performed at her gig.
Oh gawd, Peppermint is everywhere!
It was a trip!
What do the German nightlifers do that’s different then us? Is it true that they’re much more down with fetish and kink?
Yeah, in a very literal way, more literal than America. Maybe even the “correct” way? But then again, I have a thing for most uniforms, and definitely latex and/or rubber. I’ve only recently discovered kink as it pertains to me, but im having fun! 2 Live Crew said “as nasty as they wanna be.” I say, find that person you can explore with and explore, smartly! Also, the fetish community are some of the kindest people I’ve been introduced to. And [in Germany,] their clubs are open well after the sun comes up!
Sounds like heaven! There’s a moment in the trailer for the not-yet-released documentary where it looks like you’re overcome with emotion after a performance. What was going on in that moment? Or is that a spoiler?
I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t spoil anything that’s not in the trailers! That scene was after a gig in Berlin. The crowd was electric in a way I had never experienced before. I was reflecting on a lot.
We did a Kickstarter to raise money to get me and the crew to Germany to film, and we exceeded our goal by $50 bucks. It was an absolutely terrifying process, as I had all these gigs confirmed. The good people came through, and it was a blessing to have a successful experience with crowd-funding.
That sounds like a great moment. I know you probably hate this question by now, but do you have any more info on when that doc is getting released?
Editing is done, next is distribution–that’s what I’ve been told? I’m as antsy as some other people are, which is good in a way, right? I’m certain Tobias is trying to do this right, and that’s admirable! I want to see it with a crowd, so I’ve refrained from seeing it.
I don’t blame you! That’ll be such an amazing experience! So, DJing. What do you think the key ingredients to being a successful nightlife DJ are these days?
Let me first say this: I come from a musical background, and have had, and have, relationships with DJ’s. I realize the advances in technology, but in my opinion, DJ’s are only those who use vinyl. I realize I need that title in print and promotion, but I’m simply T-Boy. I have a lot of respect for the actual, physical art of being a disk jockey; I simply play tunes.
My strong point is in music knowledge. I’m good in most genres, and I try to represent all of them at the same time, so it’s hard for some bars/clubs to get used to me… but some get it. Boots is a dream, as far as being musically myself. A DJ-in-spirit should overdose on music research, so they can teach the crowd.
By your definition, there’s sadly very few DJs working in NYC nightlife today!
What are your shifts at Boots & Saddle now, by the way? Is it Tuesday & Saturday nights?
Yes, I love both shifts.
You work well with the drag queens there. How do you feel about having to make those audience-requested drag suicide mixes on the fly?
I hate them, cuz most of the queens dont get the joke! They still wanna be pretty and perfect and “know the song.” The point is to act on your reflexes–it’s improv [laughs]! It is a great release as a “DJ,” though!
It’s true! The whole point of doing those mixes is that they will sometimes not know the song, so they do something silly and we laugh with/at them! It’s not supposed to be about perfection.
They rely on “pretty.” I also want to point out that a drag queen’s best friend should be the DJ, especially one like me that also performs. I want the show to move as smoothly as they do, but you gotta have a good relationship or it’s a lose-lose.
Also, this just in: Promoter Barbara Sobel is featuring you as the evening’s performer doing a Prince tribute on the Boots stage for Sobel Soiree Saturday on June 11th!
Yeah, I’m doing a Prince tribute. A few songs, plus a few of my own. And it’s my birthday.
Happy birthday! So let’s talk more about your own music! Your first single was “Magnificent Soul,” which you also filmed a stylish video for, and you performed it a few times live. What inspired you to write and record that song?
That song is hella old: the whole album, “Acquired Taste” is. I put it on iTunes in 2013, and shot the video end of 2015. I perform it a lot, I love it. I wrote it with my producer at the time, Houston Bernard; we recorded at his studio in Boston. It’s an anthem. It promotes freedom of whatever oppresses you. For me, freedom of expression.
Is the whole album available anywhere?
No, just the two singles. Going back to vinyl for a second, one thing I always wanted to do was have my album in record form. I will likely do singles like Rihanna and videos like Beyonce!
S&M Lemonade! Wait, that could mean something else.
“Yellow Fever?” Wait, that’s something else.
And then there was the the Mikhail Torich – directed video for your next single, “Lick My Boots,” which had this sexy leather, high-fashion, BDSM vibe to it. Has anyone ever actually licked your boots before? Those were pretty amazing boots in the video, I’m just saying.
Not yet? I’m actually quite shy in that area. I’ve had my boots shined before, which is kinda hot? I’d welcome anyone to lick my boots though, I’m ready!
You heard it here first, people! That was a fun video, though. Did you and Michael collaborate on the concept, or was it your basic idea?
I had a lot of ideas, but it was definitely a collaborative effort. Mikhail Torich is an incredibly easy director to work with, and a consummate professional. He gets things done! He gets the vision right away. I wanted to use a boy as a mic stand, and Timmy Thok did an amazing job!
He should do that the next time you perform it live! So, when are the next single and video debuting? I saw the teaser at the end of your last video.
Yeah, then I did a small clip of me rapping a verse [at the end of the teaser]. My next single is “You Tried It!” It’s about shady bitches on it’s surface, but really its about leading and not following. It’s a rap song. The beat samples my cousin Stacy’s record from the early 90’s.
Yes! Super excited! I’m opening with a quick homage to Prince, before doing “Magnificent Soul.” I mixed in a little piece of the new single too! We’re in rehearsals now.
So, what are some closing words for the children?
Support your peers. I’ve got two songs out that I’m extremely proud of. I don’t have a “Bey-hive” or “Swifties” or whatever. My would-be fanbase are the faces I see daily. I don’t care so much about sales, honestly. I do want to feel like I’ve done my people proud, though.
Somewhere along the line, we lost the willingness to lift each other as a community, Instead, we immediately see anyone who shares our passion as competition. There’s a Mean Girls complex at play, and the LGBT community suffers because of it.
New girls: learn the history! Much love to everyone.
And to you, T-Boy!
T-Boy “DJ’s” for the drag shows at Boots & Saddle Tuesday nights (7pm – midnight) and Saturday nights (4pm to midnight). He will perform at the Get Out Awards at Boxers HK on June 1st (8pm), and the Cattle Call reunion at Therapy on June 5th (10pm). On June 11th, he will be the featured performer for Sorbel Saturday Soiree at Boots & Saddle (10pm). The release date of the documentary Black Velvet, in which he is featured, is TBA. T-Boy can be followed on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube, and his music can be downloaded on iTunes.