By Teki Latex, Sound Pellegrino Records
Words by Nikolaj Hansson / Illustration by Sine Jensen
Fusing rap with all sorts of electronic music, Teki Latex alongside Tido Berman, Cuizinier, Tacteel and Para One set a name for themselves as TTC. After the group’s demise in 2007, Latex went on to found Sound Pellegrino Record, while also DJ’ing and, as he says it himself, doing guest vocals on some of your favorite songs. We met with Latex to discuss his upbringing in Paris, the Parisian music scene, his inspirations and what is so great about the TV-shows of today.
Being one of the founding members, how did TTC originally come about?
Cuizinier & I are cousins, I met Orgasmic on the ski slopes and Tido through a high school friend. The group formed in 1998 just like any other group really, but since the beginning we felt the need to be different and break the mold for usual French rap groups. After appearing on a handful of mixtapes by Parisian DJs and performing a couple of concerts we got in touch with Ninja Tune sub label Big Dada through our beatmaker Flash Gordon (who later became Mr Flash on Ed Banger). We made an album for Big Dada, then Para One and Tacteel joined the group and I think that's when we found our own style, kind of merging underground rap with club rap on one side and intellectual electronica with club-ready techno/house/dance music on the other, the result was the two albums that followed: Batards Sensibles and 3615 TTC. Since 2007 TTC is no more, even though we are all still friends and certain members collaborate with each other on occasion.
It’s safe to say, that you were a part of the integration of electronic music in the nightlife of Paris and also paved the way for names such as Ed Banger and Justice. What is your opinion on this?
I don't know if we were a part of the integration of electronic music in the nightlife of Paris, when we started going out to clubs, the electronic nightlife of Paris was already well developed. But it's safe to say, that Orgasmic, Tacteel, Para One and to a certain extent TTC's extended family through Institubes (the label we founded in 2003) and others contributed to a change in Parisian club music in the early 2000s alongside people like Feadz, Jean Nipon, Goon, Koyote, Kazey, Krikor, and countless others. That change mainly revolved around blending rap and electronic music together from a hip hop point of view as opposed to an electronic point of view, because we more or less all came from a rap background. So these DJs all had the "rap" style of mixing in common (i.e. mixing relatively fast, blending some tracks together but generally switching fast from track to track like a hip hop DJ would) and I think that changed the panorama of the Parisian club scene. Younger kids started getting into that style, and nerdy kids started going out to clubs. It also spawned a generation of producers who would blend influences from rap and techno in their tracks, there was an embryo of a Parisian micro-genre based on rap/techno hybrids that almost blossomed at that time in the early 2000's, but then right at that moment, electro-rock and big distorted bangers appeared and immediately took over and suddenly everyone wanted to make loud 4/4 French distorted electro, which erased all the experimentations that were sort of taking place at that time.
What is your perspective on the digitalization of music that has happened through past decade or two?
It just happened, and now vinyl is coming back because people feel the need to purchase objects again. But the way we consume music is different, it has changed forever. Music is mostly a free and abstract thing now, and then a niche of people who like to collect things. But physical records are considered more and more in the same way we used to consider merchandise, as far as record label economics go.
Growing up in Paris, how do you think this has influenced you up through your youth?
There's definitely a strong sense of artistry and a heavy cultural heritage tied to our condition of Frenchmen and even Europeans, which we are conscious and proud of, but to be completely honest, at first when I started making music I felt like Paris wasn't much of a creative city. Everything was so conservative here in the 90s! There was a boring status quo and people were stuck in their old ways. If anything, it influenced me to travel and go look for inspiration elsewhere in order to do something different from what the people in my surroundings were doing. But once I found other like-minded Parisians from my generation who also felt the same and had a way of thinking that wasn't so Parisian, this difference became a part of the Parisian scene itself, and ended up defining the Paris of today. This can be applied to music, style, art, everything.
Sound Pellegrino is more than “just” a record label. Can you try and explain what the idea behind the project is?
Well, I think nowadays every record label claims to be more than just a record label. I think what we do is more along the lines of putting curation, taste, strong opinions and an aesthetic vision back at the centre of the role of the record label. We get involved in the creative process, we accompany the artists step by step and we don't just wait for them to deliver a finished product before accepting to release it. We want to form a team with each artist. We initiate collaborations between producers; we're very pro-active on a creative level. To illustrate that we also produce a weekly podcast (currently on hiatus but already about 100 episodes deep!), a yearly magazine, parties, items of clothing via our brand Sound Pellegrino Materiale, radio and soon TV shows.
Where do you see Sound Pellegrino in ten years?
If everything goes according to plan, in ten years Sound Pellegrino will be a small country. That or we will be dead.
It’s no secret that you are quite the fan of TV-shows, lately Game Of Thrones and Lost. What do you think TV-shows have to offer compared to a regular film?
A deeper and more detailed plot and character development obviously, and a certain sense of addiction. And you can see that these elements are inspiring the world of intelligent blockbusters more and more by the way the Batman trilogy functioned a bit like a TV-show with several plots intertwined, and those were long movies, when you put them back to back it almost gives you that TV-show feeling. Lost really changed the way I watch TV, you had to go on the Internet and research stuff after each episode to fully appreciate the experience. You had to connect what you just saw with past episodes and re-watch stuff in slow motion to find clues. When Lost was on, it was the most exciting thing in my sad little life, you were watching an adventure, but the way you watched it was also kind of an adventure, it was almost interactive. Today I still have to watch a minimum of an hour of TV shows before I can fall asleep, it clears my head.
Are TV-shows a source of inspiration when you make music?
Absolutely but I try to use that inspiration in the least literal way I can. There’s nothing more boring than to hear a rapper or a vocalist say "Here's the story of the King of the North" or "slaying fools like I'm Jamie Lannister" or "cooking meth in my RV" or "I’m slick and charming like Don Draper" or some bullshit like that. It’s like when rappers quote Dragon Ball; it always makes me cringe, references to these relatively recent bodies of work have to be very subtle in order to function, otherwise it's just not hitting right. For French speakers reading this I made a whole verse on an old Cuizinier-track called Good Guys which cross-references TTC's first 3 albums and Lost's first 3 seasons, but if you listen to it without having ever watched Lost, you can still enjoy the verse and hear valid punchlines and you can't even notice the verse references to the show. It's rewarding when you find out, but it's deliberately not in your face. Movies or shows have to be a bit older and have a certified status before you start explicitly referring to them in your lyrics, I think. That being said, I'm inspired by the way writers of TV-shows build a season; the cliff-hangers, the character development, Easter eggs, stuff like that. It inspires my lyrics as well as the way I build my DJ sets.
Where the vast majority of today are wearing either finer shoes such as brogues and derby shoes or tech-running sneakers, you seem to be drawn more towards Nike’s ACG-line as well as basketball shoes such as the Foamposite; both more flamboyant pieces of footwear. What is the origin of your love for this kind of design?
I try to stay away from big overhyped trends and as I often say: I choose my shoes the same way I select the music I play in my sets and the same way I select my Street Fighter II-characters i.e. I go for the charismatic, one of a kind, non-boring, very futuristic stuff. The ACG line has a timeless rugged technical aspect to it, and it's great to wear in the winter, so these are usually my winter shoes. I'm attracted to Foamposites because the materials and the silhouette are absolutely alien and spaceship-like. But every day, every mood, every context and every outfit calls for a different shoe, and if you follow me closely, you'll see me rock charismatic brogues, moccasins with a twist or unusual running shoes that aren't already on everyone's feet. I just want to maintain the same standard of not wearing something everyone else in school is wearing, that I had since childhood.
Who are your main inspirations in relation to style?
I have to start with Takeshi Osumi aka Big O, known for his work as designer of Phenomenon. I was lucky enough to meet this guy in 2008 in Tokyo and he changed my view on style. He was a big guy, he was also an ex-rapper, I could relate to him and I'm proud to say a tiny bit of his creativity and sense of style rubbed off on me. At that time he was already blowing my mind with his outrageously visionary work and his collaborations with MCM and style icon Taz Arnold. I remember having a discussion with my friend Pascal Monfort, a fashion history teacher who was working at Nike France at that time, who was telling me: "You need to develop your image, you need to explore style, you're lucky enough to be friends with Big O, you should do a collaboration with Phenomenon", so that's exactly what I did, and Big O was kind enough to trust me and give me a chance, I’ll never forget that. I made a capsule collection with Phenomenon in January 2010 and later on developed a few collaborations between Sound Pellegrino and Phenomenon, notably some very ill varsity jackets and polo shirts. Now Big O is concentrating on his work with Yuichi Yoshii for the brand Mr Gentleman and I wish them the best of luck. Other style inspirations of mine include my friends; the Genevan heathen, Charaf Tajer from Pigalle as well as Poggy from United Arrows & Sons who introduced me to the preppy style and pushed me to expand my Ralph Lauren collection. I discovered Wood Wood when I first came to Denmark with TTC in the early 2000s to play Distortion festival, and they gave us a bunch of clothes because they used a TTC song on one of their runway shows. This was the root of my passion for Danish designers, which expanded when I became friends with Silas Adler of course, and when I discovered Henrik Vibskov's work, so these awesome guys are definitely style icons in my eyes too. I must also shout out Kingdom and Prince Willy from Fade to Mind and Iriki from Radd Lounge for exposing me to more futuristic streetwear-related pieces and I think they are partly responsible for my recent Foamposite obsession. Shout out to Yue Wu and Joachim Idestrup Friis for being my sneaker culture teachers and Corey Shapiro from Vintage Frames for schooling me on vintage hip hop pieces. But some of my oldest most important influences in terms of clothes are the rappers and musicians I grew up listening to, from Biggie or Ghostface to Andre 3000, from Thirstin Howl to Cam'ron and Juelz Santana.