December 01 2015

The House of Teki Latex

New York-Le Bain
We chat and vogue with Parisian nightlife guru Teki Latex before he takes over Le Bain, Saturday, December 19th.
LE BAIN: You've always been an unexpected mastermind of the Parisian underground scene, but I was still surprised that you became part of the vogue scene and the House of Ninja family…How did Teki Latex become Teki Ninja?
TEKI LATEX: I found out about Ballroom music around 2010 when artists like Mike Q and Vjuan Allure started remixing and releasing for labels like Night Slugs and Fade to Mind, of which I am a big fan. Then I started digging around and finding all these crazy videos of balls. I had seen the documentary Paris Is Burning about the NYC Vogue scene, but I didn't know there was a more contemporary version of balls and a voguing style called Vogue Fem based on re-interpretations of the classic Masters at Work song Ha Dance...
Kendall Mugler performing in Paris
What was the trigger? 
One day I went to see Mike Q play in Paris and Kiddy Smile, whom I already knew a little bit from him being a dancer in every French rap video at the time, was the opening DJ. He had brought a bunch of Parisian voguers with him and they threw a mini-ball hosted by Lasseindra Ninja. Seeing it live in front of my eyes was so dope that I instantly wanted to be a part of it somehow. There weren't a lot of DJs in Paris who were interested in those types of beats and I thought I could contribute something. Soon Kiddy invited me to DJ one category of a ball with him, and gradually I learned how to do it by myself. Lasseindra recruited me and The Boo (of label Clek Clek Boom) as DJs for the Paris chapter of the House of Ninja soon after. We've all been quite active in the ballroom scene ever since. There's, like, a little pool of DJs forming itself in the Paris Ballroom scene and it's really cool. 

I watched some videos of your weekly vogue party in Paris, La Crème de La Crème. It’s incredible...
The scene is getting big and there are maybe a couple hundred dancers in Paris who are getting involved. There are more and more balls all the time. You have to bear in mind that balls are like big ceremonies. There are themes and outfits and very serious rules and codes to respect, but what was interesting with the Crème de la Crème parties was their regularity and their more 'laid back' format. It was a "come as you are" thing every week during last summer, so the focus was really on the performance and the fun and the experimentation. The categories and the DJs changed every week, but if one of the DJs from the ballroom scene was playing, the others would come and support or help with a category or two and it was a great way for us DJs to learn the intricacies of Ballroom DJing week after week. 
Just Jam featuring Teki Latex
How do you explain that a new generation of Parisian club kids of the 2010’s reinterpret a gay cultural movement born in the Bronx in the 80’s? 
Some of these kids came in contact with the culture by watching Lasseindra and the original Paris voguers dance at the BBB (Black Blanc Beur) parties at Follie's Pigalle every Sunday, but then I think a huge number of them just watched Youtubes of balls and got into it. Either way, it's fantastic for a young gay black or brown person from the banlieue who suffers from prejudice, and who maybe lives in an environment where it's hard to come out to your family and friends, to have access to a whole culture to represent you. The problems these kids have to face are more current than ever, especially nowadays in France with the climb of the far-right Front National, the anti-gay marriage demonstrations, and the current climate of racism and homophobia...
Rihanna Ha, Thundercat Ha, Resident Evil Ha
What about the other European cities?
The difference between Paris and other European capitals where Ballroom culture isn't that developed is the structure that the Mothers of the Paris Ballroom Scene, notably Stephane Mizrahi and Lasseindra Ninja, brought with them. They are like real mothers to them. They have lived and danced in the States and all over the world, so they knew the rules and the culture from the start, and they planted the seeds in the fertile soil that was the audience of the BBB parties. From there, a whole ecosystem developed. Now there's Paris chapters for 15 or 16 houses in the city. There's even a 100% Paris-born house, the House of Ladurée, the first French house. Shout-out to them. 
Teki Latex & Eero Johannes Things That I Do
How do you translate the spirit of vogue with the music of the 10s?
The beautiful thing in modern balls is that there's something for everybody. Some categories are more Disco-oriented, some are more House. In some, you have to play retro NYC 90's House, in others it's more of the harder Robbie Tronco thing. You have your old way your new way, your runway, and then you have the more (relatively) recent Vogue Fem category where most beats possess a 'Ha crash.' The Ha crash is a rhythmic element taken from the Masters at Work's legendary track Ha Dance (it's initially the voice of Eddy Murphy sampled from the movie Trading Places). Now there's a "Ha" for every hit song or cultural phenomenon: Rihanna Ha, Thundercat Ha, Resident Evil Ha, you name it. It's tied to the dance itself, the "Ha" sound comes at the end of each sequence of 4 bars and the dancer has to make a death drop that coincides with the "Ha". 
I'm proud to have a martial-art-approach to DJing
Since the late 90’s you’ve been a hero of Paris' nightlife and music scene... How would you describe the state of Parisian nightlife in 2015?
Parisian nightlife in 2015 is Techno Techno and more Techno. And when it's not Techno it's rap, to a point of saturation almost. And in the worst cases it's more Trap (of the cheap EDM-y kind) than rap. The good aspects of the omnipresence of Techno is that more and more kids are getting into electronic music and serious clubbing, without getting into it through the prism of a fist-pumping, bro-rock aesthetic as was the case in the past. The bad aspect is that every kid is turning into a holier-than-thou vinyl techno hipster who doesn't really have the knowledge to back it up. 4/4 techno is fine, but so is bass music, club music, dance music that comes from Africa, South America, rap, so instead of trying to emulate a city like Berlin constantly, Paris should take account of its rich history of being a cultural melting pot of influences coming from its immigration and its strong rap heritage, and mix it up with its love for techno a little bit more often in order to find its own identity.
Teki Latex Overdrive Infinity
Your biography says that your focus is becoming ‘the best DJ you can: a monster’...
I realize that whole 'monster' thing in my bio is a little bit pretentious, but what the hell, this is probably a reflex I kept from my rapper days (laughs). A 'monster' DJ is one with the right combination of skill and feeling to make his DJing seem effortless. One who challenges himself all the time and who is always learning about the history of music as well as keeping an ear to new stuff from everywhere in the world. One who will react to and compose with the crowd. One who will make the audience love new tracks they haven't yet heard. One who will find the right balance between those new unheard tracks, the current "hot tracks," some throwback crowd-pleasers, and a couple of weird things to confuse the crowd once and a while. One who will think about the coherence and mood of the entire night before he thinks egoistically about standing out in the line up and making an impression. One who has paid his dues in the club as a warm up DJ and on the radio. One who can take a track A and a track B and blend them together flawlessly to create a track C. One who can influence the mood and emotions of the crowd in a positive way. It sounds a bit corny but DJing is my passion and I'm proud of having that kind of martial-arts-approach to it.

Saturday, December 19th, Le Bain presents Teki Latex (Sound Pellegrino | Paris) with MikeQ and Geng (PTP). Doors 10pm. The Standard, High Line.

Header photo: Teki Latex by Jacob Khrist