The DJ talks clothes, sleep apnea and head shaving.
Who else but Teki Latex can be both a DJ and an expert in technical outdoor wear? The retired rapper turned DJ is as good at making bold mixes as he is at wearing rare The North Face garments. The 41-year-old is also a travel expert (makes sense when you spend most of your weekends travelling to clubs worldwide), an enthusiast of Club Mate, the (other) energy drink that all Germans love, and a pro head shaver. Because he spends most of his time in hotels, that’s where we met him to talk about career changes, sleep apnea, and the fresh minty feel of our shave gel.
Hi, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m Teki Latex. I guess you could say the bulk of my current activity is DJing. I’m 41 years old.
Before becoming a DJ, you had several other careers. Could you tell us more about your background?
I used to be a rapper; part of a group called TTC. Since 1998, I produce, plan, and host digital shows in a wide variety of formats, the latest of which being Boiler Room, which started in 2017, and that I still host from time to time. It’s getting rarer to be honest, as my DJing activities are taking up most of my time. I try to go easy on anything that I’d qualify as ancillary. Hosting streaming shows or planning parties are things I’d consider as secondary compared to my ‘full-time job’ as a DJ. I was also the head of a record label for a while. In the end, all these things are related, it all comes down to choosing music, deciding in which order it’s going to be played, which tricks to use to make the transition between them sound as good as possible. It’s music curation. I actually had several record labels. I was one of the Institubes founding members in 2003, and I founded Sound Pellegrino with DJ Orgasmic in 2009. We’re about to celebrate the label’s tenth anniversary by releasing a compilation called Sound Pellegrino Decennium. Basically, it’s our favourite tracks repackaged in an attractive format.
Other than this compilation, what’s currently keeping you busy?
Right now, I do a bunch of touring, I don’t really release music under my name anymore. I think my last release was in 2014. Since then, I’ve stuck to mixes. That’s how I’ve decided to express myself. I approach each mixtape with as much thought and detail as I would an EP or an album. I try to give each mixtape a common thread. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that each mixtape tells a story, but there are concepts, messages, things I want to share. Instead of sharing these things with words, I simply do it by chaining, combining, sequencing music. It’s like building a sound tapestry. It’s become my way of doing music. Some people put sounds together to make music, I put tracks together to make mixes. I’m getting excellent reviews: I was in GQ’s top 10 albums of the year in 2018 for a mix I released on Soundcloud, for example. It makes me proud, to have reached this point where Pitchfork reviews the mixes I release. The next one I prepared with Nick Dwyer, a New Zealander who lives in Tokyo. He the leading world specialist when it comes to video game music. He’s been collecting that kind of music for ages. We met when he invited me to an episode of a podcast he hosted for 3 seasons. After that, we mixed together, and we got on very well. Our mix will be released in February.
Why did you choose DJing over all your other activities?
All the secondary stuff I’ve done was building up to me getting more gigs as a DJ. From 1998 to 2007, it was all about TTC. We did our music and everything that goes with it. That was followed by a short solo career with my album ‘Party de Plaisir’ and the ‘Mes pelures sont plus belles que vos fruits’ mixtape. Sound Pellegrino came about at the same time as that mixtape. That’s when I started to tell myself that I was going to become a DJ. I’d already fooled around with decks during the TTC era, and I’d done a few DJ sets when I released my solo album instead of playing it live. I learned how to mix on the job, but when we launched Sound Pellegrino, a dance music label, I wanted to be serious about it, I trained to become a DJ in a more thoughtful and conscious manner. In short, I wanted to know exactly what I was doing, as opposed to all the times I winged it. I started to really enjoy it, I started to get better at it, and it slowly started to take up my time. The more I spent time in an environment heavily focused on electro music, the more I’d grow fascinated by DJing. One day, as we were struggling to complete a track in the studio, Para One told me “listen, if you want to be a DJ, just be a DJ”. After that, I stopped trying to always be on top of the latest musical trends and releases, I gave up on releasing tracks just to be able to get a DJ gig, and I decided to fully concentrate on the craft.
What’s one of your typical days like? I imagine that working nights must affect things.
I’ve just got back from Asia, and I’m exhausted as I’m still half jetlagged. That means I get up at 8 or 9 a.m. which is super early for me. In the morning, I go through my emails, I get a bit bored, and then my day can start as it normally would. When I have the choice, I tend to get up at 11 a.m. I browse the Internet for a while, have a shower, and once or twice a week I’ll shave my head with a razor. Then, I take care of lunch. I’ll either order something or head out to a restaurant, I very rarely cook for myself. I often have meetings over lunch. I’m fortunate enough to live in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, and there’s a bunch of good restaurants in the area. During the week, I go back home after lunch, and I manage my social media and emails.
What about weekends?
Weekends are different. More often than not, I head straight to the airport once I’m up and showered. I eat at the airport. I’ve really mastered airports now, I have all the ‘speedy boarding’ nonsense, you name it, I’ve got it. I always make it to the airport at the very last minute, to avoid waiting around for nothing. I take the plane as easily as I take the metro now! (laughs)
What’s the key to a successful trip?
Travelling light. I have the same bag since 2008. I bought it in Australia. It cost me an arm and a leg, but it was well worth it. It’s a Porter x Visvim backpack (Editor’s note: two Japanese accessory and clothing brands) with a super cool feature: a pocket that opens laterally in which you can slide your laptop. When you're queueing to go through customs you don’t have to rummage through your bag to pull your computer out anymore. I stopped struggling at the airport 10 years ago. I’ve bought a bunch of backpacks since then, but it’s my go-to backpack when I’m flying and want to save time. I also have a North Face bag for my toiletries and my meds, in particular the stuff for my asthma. I love hotels and staying in one is always a pleasure. I hang my stuff up, my extra T-shirt for the next day, for example. I make myself at home. Then, I’ll go out for a meal with the promoter, and I’ll do my set. I rarely partake in festivities of the after-party kind. I’d rather go back to the hotel for a nice bath. I often have a bath before going to bed. Then, I turn on my sleep apnea machine to fall asleep, and I doze off. It’s been a part of my life, my daily routine for the past 2 or 3 years.
What products can we find in your toiletry bag?
The Horace Shave Gel. It’s amazing. Before that, I used the Kiehl’s shave oil, which was great. Shaving your head is pretty aggressive: do it too often and you know you’ll end up irritating your skin. Your scalp is more sensitive than your face, for example. My beard doesn’t grow much, so I mostly shave my head. So, I’m super picky when it comes to the shaving products I use. I like shave gels and creams. For a while, I use a Williams gel that I can’t seem to find anymore. The Kiehl’s oil was a game-changer for me, I’d buy 5 at a time. They stopped making it 4 years ago, and I’ve been super unhappy since. I wanted something that would help my blade glide over the skin for an effortless shave, maybe with a minty freshness to it… The Horace shave gel is exactly what I was looking for. When I use it, I visualise a 3D cartoon of the razor’s blade bursting small minty bubbles. I have quite a few at home because that’s all I ever use now. Aftershave tends to irritate my skin, so I avoid using any. I sometimes moisturize, but all in all, it’s rare.
How do you manage to stay fresh and healthy while working nights and doing gig on gig? Do you never drink?
On very special occasions, I’ll allow myself a glass of champagne or a beer. At the very most, I’ll have two drinks a week. I don’t like Red Bull, so I drink Perrier – even if filling up with sparkling water isn’t ideal. Club Mate is my favourite. Sometimes, I’ll have a coffee, if I can find one. An espresso in the club, it doesn’t get any better! I must admit that a healthy lifestyle is hard to stick to when it comes to bookings. If you want gigs, you have to drink with the promoters at some point. Some of them definitely don’t want to invite me back (laughs). In all honesty, I don’t need the booze or the drugs to enjoy myself. The music, the atmosphere in clubs, and the style of the people who come to see me DJ are fun enough. In a way, these parties are almost like sociology, and I really enjoy it.
Does the DJ life get lonely?
I’m often alone, but I do get bookings with people I know, or friends sometimes play in the same city as me. That happens a lot in Tokyo, for example. It’s always fun. I sometimes like to be by myself, so I rest in my hotel room before my set. I meditate, I relax, I have a bath, I’ll finetune my setlist… I put a lot of thought into my set preparation, so it’s always time-consuming.
You’re very attached to the way you look. How important is style to you?
I love clothes, and I love the ancient art of putting a fit together. Although my job has nothing to do with showing the people how I’m dressed, I do love it. I met Big-O (Takeshi Osumi), of Japanese streetwear brand Phenomenon in 2008 or 2009. He inspired me to start taking an interest in streetwear and fashion in general. That’s how it started, and my love for fashion is still going strong. First, there was Nike’s ACG line, then outdoor gear, mountaineering and trekking stuff. In Japan, there’s an entire movement dedicated to outdoor gear, and it felt a lot like the Ralph Lauren Lo-Life movement I loved when I was a rapper… I also went through an all-fluorescent-everything period, back when I was all over the place when it came to clothing. Looking back on it now, I realise that what I was looking for back then is really close to what I enjoy wearing now. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
Teki's favourite products