Teki Latex: “I was a kind of Tamagotchi for the audience.”
Teki Latex is a fascinating character, a key figure, and emblematic personality of the music scene in Paris, France, and all around the world. Member of the legendary “alternative” rap group TTC at the beginning of his career, he later co-founded Sound Pellegrino, a reference label in electronic music with his friend Orgasmic (amongst others). Since 2013, Teki Latex also runs his own webcast program centered around DJ sets on Dailymotion: Overdrive Infinity. You will say “We know all that…”, and I agree. If there is one facet of this multi-talented artist that we do not necessarily think of immediately is that as today, Teki Latex has also become a great DJ, with a great vision, whose sets make the dance floors across the world dance. Having met Teki in Mexico a few months ago, in the company of members of the NAAFI label (small world), Couvre x Chefs was able to talk with him about what he defines as his real job: DJing. Here is an interview of which we are quite proud at CxC, during which you will learn (amongst other things) why Teki Latex has already felt himself to be a Tamagotchi one day.
Teki Latex, a DJ who can make a mix that tells a certain story for 10 hours.
You have just performed a 10-hour DJ set on your own program, Overdrive Infinity. What did you learn from that experience?
I’m glad to know that I’m able to do it! I had a little tendinitis in my leg the following week but it’s already gone. I’m proud of myself; we were Trending Topic on Twitter! I know I did not break a record or anything, but it was not the goal of the operation, I’m now able to say that I can make a mix that tells a certain story for 10 hours, I proved it to everyone.
Every time I do something like that I hope it proves to a few more people that I am a DJ to be taken seriously and not just a singer who began DJing for whatever mad reason.
Also, it’s mega enjoyable to play some songs that do not necessarily find their place in a two-hour set in the club.
What was the idea behind this performance?
It was everything I just explained, but also to break the TV show format, I love television events that you can follow on an entire day like this. If you look at the beginning, I slowly got into it, and then towards the middle I was already in another state of excitement and musically it gained in intensity and finally at the end you see a real evolution, it’s a small plant that grows in your laptop for ten hours.
I was a kind of Tamagotchi for the audience.
And I was trying to prove the Internet is not only a place for stupid one-minute viral videos, it can also be used to produce very long formats if you wish to. Now people have a 10-hour program that they can play on their laptop in a corner while doing a barbecue this summer, for example.
Let’s start with the beginning: about your DJ career, quite simply: how did you start DJing?
I started to touch the turntables at the Alors Les filles On Se Promène ?, the parties that we organized at the Triptyque club (NDLR: in Paris) with the “extended” TTC family, as “SuperFamilleConne”. We were all behind the decks: Orgasmic, Tacteel, Tido, Cuiz, Para and me, and at one point there was even our old friend David Shaw alias Siskid who’s had a very successful career totally unrelated to us since. That was around 2003-2004, but I was literally messing with the turntables without really mixing to be honest, but with so many people behind the decks it wasn’t very serious mixing, it was the energy that prevailed.
In 2008 my album Party De Plaisir had just dropped and I wanted to defend it but I did not feel like taking the concert venues route again without my rap group TTC , I didn’t feel like starting again from scratch with new musicians without being a real singer. At the time the auto-tune technology, which I used and abused proudly on my record, wasn’t really something that could be used for singing live in front of people (yet). So I was looking for a way to defend my record in front of the crowd without playing live, and so I started doing DJ sets. At first I felt really bad not managing to mix properly in front of people, I felt like an impostor, but being absolutely fascinated by the craft of DJing and being surrounded by incredible DJs, I decided to really take DJing seriously. I bought a pair of CDJ 1000s and I started to work and train myself tirelessly, and in the end I had more fun doing it than the singing thing, and then Sound Pellegrino was created in that context around that time so I gradually became a proper DJ. In terms of DJing, people like Kazey, River Out One and of course Orgasmic were great advisors when I started and I am immensely grateful to them.
Teki Latex, picture by Sandrine Castellan.
What or who made you to want start mixing?
Orgasmic of course because I saw him get into DJing when we met, before TTC even existed, first with a turntablist approach, then as a DJ, I remember being very impressed by his mixtape Orgasmic Le Toxicologue Est Secrètement Amoureux de Vous, I was convinced of being unable to do what he did with vinyls, but when CDJs (NDLR: CD players for DJs) came out it seemed a bit more like something I could do, something simpler and more playful. I would say that Diplo and Low Budget and their mix under Hollertronix: Never Scared released in 2003 was a big thing for me; we listened to it repeatedly in the TTC van while on tour. One day I took a sleeping pill to sleep during a long journey between two important dates (something not easy in a tour van with six guys sitting on top of each other) and fell asleep listening to Never Scared.
I dreamt that Diplo was spinning at my high school party in front of all my former classmates and the whole thing took place in an amusement park …
Because of the sleeping pill I was kind of only half asleep, and the dreaming seemed strangely real, and the songs were playing in real time whilst the CD was spinning in the van, I heard that Debbie Deb song in my dream … I woke up with a feeling of total happiness. Diplo mixes at that time were quite different from now.
When was your first time having a big revelation while watching a DJ play?
I remember Jean Nipon and DJ Wet at Batofar around 2004 who mixed Rewind by Cylob into Rewind by Artful Dodger … I also remember Feadz mixing Noreaga with Bpitch control stuff, it seemed magical. And then a bit later the Zombie Disco Squad guys who really managed to build up the intensity on the dance floor making people dance without even realizing it, that was very mysterious to me.
If you had to remember one thing about your DJ career, what would it be?
That I have not chosen the easiest path by contradicting myself all the time and playing just as many different styles. The lives and trajectories of other DJs have proven it to me over and over: If you play a lot of different things in your sets and you do not stay in one musical style, it’s harder to make an impact and have the respect of people and to have their attention. People like to know roughly what they will hear before going to see a DJ play, and with me, let’s just say they’re screwed. But my struggle during all those years was precisely to explain to people that eclecticism when it is natural and not forced, is a good thing that enriches DJ sets. Establishing a certain pace and then breaking it before establishing a new one is what makes a dancefloor feel more “alive” and this is not “vulgar” if it is done in a clever way.
But look at it that way: if I was mixing 4/4 “straight” techno all the time and I if released stuff that sounded exactly like that on Sound Pellegrino, everyone would find it very simple to understand, clear and consistent and I would actually have my own little space inside of a certain proper purist techno scene, a scene that tends to snob me today.
But it’s the same if you substitute “techno” by “rap” or “bass music” or “reggaeton” as long as you are sticking to a single easily identifiable genre. But if I only play one style it feels like a day job to me, like working at the post office or something. It is up to me to fight for a change in this kind of mentality and that was also the goal with the 10-hour set.
Has your way of mixing evolved over time? In terms of selection, perhaps?
Of course, I don’t play the same thing as I used to at the beginning of Sound Pellegrino for example, although there will always be things in common and I often plunge back into old playlists to find bombs that even I forgot about. I think the beginnings of Sound Pellegrino were very “tropical” and tech housy with a lot of samples, but we were also into Dutch house before it became disgusting EDM, and there was also some UK Funky in there since we had L- Vis 1990 on the label, who really sounded like that at the time. We also played a lot of southern African stuff, notably DJ Cleo, and today we’re getting back to that sound with the whole Gqom movement. Then Orgasmic and I had our slower house period with a lot of 120 bpm New York stuff and then later on we started going back to playing a lot of rap in the middle of hybrid bass tracks in our sets. Today I play a little bit of everything but I mostly oscillate between grime and techno. For me these are two musical styles that have much more in common than one would like to believe. Also I feel that my style of mixing has definitely changed. Nowadays I mix with three turntables, I play a lot with layers, I play a lot of tools and I use every track as bricks that I assemble to create a new song. This is what I have tried to illustrate with my mix Deconstructed Trance Reconstructed, this idea of overlapping layers constantly and making it hard for the listener to understand when a track begins and when it ends.
Recently I also tried to free myself from certain conventions of DJing that I have perhaps paid too much attention to in the past.
I push myself more to slow down or speed up pieces in an extreme manner until they are unrecognizable in order to bend them to my will and blend them into my set. I regained control over the pieces I play, and it’s very liberating. It also allows me to flirt with the Chopped & Screwed style which is a part of my musical DNA, and momentarily adapt this style (usually reserved to American Southern rap) to pop or techno.
“Deconstructed Trance Reconstructed” by Teki Latex.
Do you play for the crowd or is it the crowd that dances for you? For example when you played the 90’s classic Bailando from Paradiso in Mexico.
I try to tap into the common area between what the public wants to hear and what I want to play. When I played in Mexico City it went totally utterly well and I managed to build it up and almost bring the audience into a trance, so after a certain point the build up had to “explode”, and that’s when I remembered what my buddy Harvard Bass (who is of Mexican descent) told me once: that this song Bailando by Paradiso, despite the fact that the group is Spanish (NDLR: only the singer), was a HUGE classic in Mexico, rather than say in Europe or the United States. So I played it and the people went crazy and sang all the words, which makes sense, it’s a great track. It does not bother me to go from Perc Trax stuff to Stroboscopic Artefacts stuff, R & S or Hyperdub records and finish on Bailando, especially if the situation allows it, I would not necessarily be playing it in the UK for example. It’s very selfish for a DJ to just play for him/herself, and to me it’s incompatible with what being a DJ is about. Of course you can and must play stuff only you and a handful of people are gonna know and “get” … probably using these tracks as functional tracks that serve a purpose and rely on groove and sound itself rather than crowd-pleasing. And then you can turn it around by playing them something they are going to recognize, something that pulls some emotional strings and resonates with the audience, and after that get back to playing more obscure stuff. It’s all a game of cat and mouse with the crowd.
It is also an exciting challenge to adapt to a context, a certain club, and read an audience without making mistakes. This is what motivates me to be a DJ.
Do you have your favourite tracks, your classics, the ones you will play in any set in any city?
I think I’ve played minimum one Errorsmith track per set ever since I started DJing. Whether it is solo material, notably the track Stiff Neck or his incredible new EP on PAN, or what he does with Fiedel as MMM, or with Soundhack as Smith & Hack, those are big classics to me, and they always work. I have played Dial by Truncate probably a bit too often, i should calm down with it, it’s a super useful tool. Same for the Ha Dub by Mike Q. Every time i’m playing an italo section in my set I play a song by Valerie Dore.
Teki Latex drawn one more time by the inimitable Pierre Thyss.
Overdrive Infinity, Teki Latex’s own streaming show of DJ sets on Dailymotion.
You host your own streaming show of DJ sets on Dailymotion, Overdrive Infinity. The curation is rather sharp, every week it’s 2 hours of live DJ sets professionally filmed and broadcasted live, as people watch it from home on the computer … the visuals of the show are very researched: it can be sculptures, a set built for the occasion of the video with a “green screen” vogue dancers, I also remember the excellent performance by Pierre Thyss … It seems like we are watching the same kind of TV with which we grew up, but in the future. How were you able to put in place such a proposal on Dailymotion?
The Dailymotion people are good friends, they were looking for someone to run a streaming show filmed in a studio they were about to build in Paris, so I agreed to do it. The show was created in conjunction with the studio and soon became one of the main showcases for the studio, today I choose the DJs every week and I have a team that comes up with the different studio set-ups.
Teki Latex almost b2b (duo) with Godzilla.
The great Joe Howe!
Deke Soto, masked, in an almost deconstructed ambiance.
Voguing with the legends Kiddy Smile, Cvnt Traxxx and Jack Mizrah.
I find Overdrive Infinity is closer to the English broadcast show Just Jam rather than the famous Boiler Room … Is it a filiation that speaks to you?
Yes of course, in fact I just played Just Jam with Betty a few weeks ago. Just Jam is the brainchild of Tim & Barry, two leading figures of grime since the early 2000s – they have photographed the entire grime scene since the beginning of the genre, they were at all the events 10 years ago. They even came to the party that I had made at Triptyque club in Paris with Etienne Tron from Radioclit and where we had Jammer, D Double E and Ears perform, it was the first proper grime night in France! Their show takes place in a super cool studio, it’s a bit messy, but that’s what gives it its charm and strength. The green background is what may remind people of some episodes of Overdrive Infinity, but I think that the spirit of the two shows are a bit different. Their thing is really to echo the “pirate radio” scene which is a typically English thing whereas Overdrive Infinity is a little more trying to emulate the “Pretentious French artist” vibe visually haha. I love Tim & Barry and their team including the illustrious Crackstevens, Buitumelo and Esqueezy …
We often talk of putting together an episode of Overdrive Infinity where we’ll invite the Just Jam crew. It’s coming soon.
Just to get back to the topic of Boiler Room for a minute they are obviously our dads and we have infinite respect for what they do, we would not be here without them. But without passing for the guy who came up with everything before everyone else, before Boiler Room historically happened, the people who started to make Ustreams of live DJ sets in their bedroom were Oneman, then Bok Bok, then other people including myself, then Boiler Room started. I saw Bok Bok and Oneman do it and I thought “Why not me?”. I know DJ Slow and Sinjin Hawke also were also doing similar things at the time. But if you want even to go further back I already was hosting a web TV show on CanalWeb, a Web broadcast start-up in the late 90s … when YouTube did not yet exist and generally streaming on the net was so horrible with big pixels, and you needed to have a really rich person’s connection to have it function more or less correctly. I myself did not have the equipment to watch what I was doing. All that to say that I’ve always had one foot in this web TV thing since 1998.
The amazing Omar Souleyman, live, you know where!
Here, you know who.
L-Vis 1990 wearing a cool soccer jersey of UNAM’s Pumas from Mexico City by the way.
In which context did you decide to give birth to Overdrive Infinity?
Boiler Room was not established in Paris yet, and we lacked a show/event like that for DJs and the audience here. Having been a part of the electronic scene for a long time I thought I roughly had the connections to bring together talented people, from different musical families, in a musical show like that every week. And I wanted to do that every week in a regular time slot, like a real regular appointment with the audience, like we had back in the days of good old TV. Doing it on early Friday evenings allows us to nab international DJs visiting Paris for the weekend, and it’s good to watch with friends at home before going to the club.
Who is on the Overdrive Infinity team and what are their roles?
There is Arnaud, Elsa and Emile producing with me. Emile Shahidi, also one of the members of Sound Pellegrino, handles all the communication aspects of he show with help from Thibault. Direction is handled by the Dailymotion studio team, mainly another Arnaud but also Thomas, Guillaume, the sound engineer Matthias, Helmi and other people. Since the second season it really is the studio team that submits us the staging ideas every week, they do a flawless job, shout-out to them.
Finally, what does musically appeal to you right now, what will inevitably ends up in your sets?
The new EP from Slackk on R&S, Matthias Zimmermann’s album that’s beginning to take shape (we are currently in the process of selecting the tracks that will make up the final version of the album). The next Feadz EP is great.
Teki Latex special 10 hours set, Overdrive Infinity.