By Lloyd Green
Meet the man behind the soulful beats of Drift’s Sunday Brunch and Friday Night sessions. A DJ still searching for those golden tracks to light up your night.
IF Garry Tee was a song he would rollick into the night like a shooting star, bound by no particular direction, fuelling a sense of bliss and soul to those who had witnessed it.
A gift seducing us to live in the moment. Everything good in life expressed in one symbolic gesture. Eventually disappearing into the night, leaving you wanting more.
Garry Tee is one of Malaysia’s most prolific CD DJs, establishing a career in Sydney and Kuala Lumpur spanning 30 years, creating unique musical experiences for events, clubs, restaurants and radio audiences.
His legacy speaks for itself. A man of reputation, modesty and individual flair.
As the 50-year-old continues to churn out memorable sets across the city each week, Garry reflects on his musical adventure and the internal drive that’s seen him ignite audiences across the world.
“I go by the mantra that you’re only as good as your last gig. That’s what keeps me searching for more.” he says, leaning over across the bar.
“People ask me ‘what do I play’? I don’t play categories and genres. I don’t know what’s cool. I don’t listen to what other people are playing.
“I only play music of the songs that stick with me and that I know create memories.
“My favourite joy is finding a track that melts me like butter and then being able to find a platform to share that track with other people.
“And that platform is my sets. The special track becomes the centrepiece of what I play. I don’t know where I’m going to drop it and the whole process of the night is getting to that special moment.
“I love that. Entertaining an audience that wants to be entertained is tough. So I identify the hits for the crowd, I don’t make them identical and I keep that element of surprise.
“I’ve been good at that and I guess that’s what’s made me, me.”
Garry caught the early wave of DJing in the late 1980s in Sydney, sneaking into the scene by accident “just before it was cool”.
He was the first and only CD DJ in the city at that time, a rogue warrior against the vinyl trend, something that would change rapidly over the next decade.
“Everyone was collecting records back then and they were expensive. I went to CDs. I never thought I’d be a DJ,” he recalls.
“My collection was not to impress people. It was an interest in selective pop culture and particular artists and being able to follow their creative direction.
“My influence was old school, people like Frankie Knuckles. The godfather of late 80s and early 90s house. I played with him once, too, in Sydney.
“Starting out was tough.
“I would never saying no to a gig. I’d play empty rooms in Sydney for years and would never cheat those empty rooms, honing my craft as though I was playing to a packed audience.
“So when my big break did come in the mid to late 90s in Sydney, on Oxford Street at institutions like Arq and Home nightclubs, I was ready. It was great.”
Garry became a household name for the best part of 10 years, playing the big clubs, collaborating with radio stations like SBS Radio as well as featuring at the annual Mardi Gras after party event in front of 5,000 plus people.
But it was always something he was happy to walk away from. Something he was able to cherish, leaving behind and start afresh.
“I was never worried about that sphere of achievement. I loved what I did but it was always about the music and the audience.
“I’m not someone to blow smoke up my own arse.
“I knew my audience very well and I was starting to grow past things. It was more about finding the right gig and working with the right people.
“So playing clubs no longer became my passion. Instead I evolved into playing terraces and outdoor settings.
“I love the freedom, the chilled vibes, playing a slow tempo and getting a groove on,” he says.
At that point, the conversation turns to the dreaded “where do you see yourself in 10 years” moment. Garry replies in typical Garry fashion.
“I don’t think like that you know … having a plan for the future. I don’t gravitate to wanting more. My life is good.
“I follow my own bliss. At first nothing may happen but if you stay there long enough great things happen.”
Garry is indeed like his own song. An ode to the past. The DNA of dance. No real definition to it. Just a track you’ll always remember.
A great track at that!
Catch Garry Tee rocking the house at Drift every Friday night.
WHAT: Unleash Friday with Garry Tee
WHEN: Every Friday 9pm