Tucked away down a side street, a few minutes walk from the Saint Placide metro station, past boulangeries charging ten euros for a croissant and touristy cafes stuffed with Americans gorging on croque monsieur, is one of video-sharing website Dailymotion's Parisian offices. On Friday evenings, the bare white space of a production studio is transformed into an intimate club. Of sorts. This is the home of Teki Latex's Overdrive Infinity. Think of a French Just Jam and you're nearly there.
For the uninitiated, a brief history of Teki Latex. As a rapper, singer, producer, DJ, and label owner, Latex has embedded himself pretty thoroughly in contemporary club music. From the early days of his hip hop act TTC — which saw him team up with Tido Berman, Cuizinier, Para One, Tacteel, and longterm collaborator DJ Orgasmic — through to the pioneering but sadly now defunct label Insitubes, via dalliances with disco perfection and the rough'n'ready club music dropping on the Sound Pellegrino imprint he runs with Orgasmic, Latex has spent the last decade and a half injecting dance music with a much needed double dose of colour and fun. That's not to say that Latex isn't serious about what he does. If you can think of anyone else who's collaborated and worked with and around Skepta, Modeselektor, Cam'ron and Tom Trago, please let me know ASAP.
The end of week Overdrive Infinity sessions, which Latex curates himself, are showcases for some of the most intuitive, intriguing and interesting DJs around, bringing over the likes of Alex Deamonds, Eclair Fifi and Sudanim, while simultaneously providing a platform for more established names — Brodinski, Feadz, and Oneman have all swung through — to let loose.
I asked Latex about whether or not he viewed the show as central to French club music. He was pragmatic in response. "I don't think we're there yet. The show is not even two years old, we'll see. Also it's tricky to talk about "the club" when we talk about Overdrive Infinity," he said over email. "It's set in a TV studio, it happens early in the evening, you can't have more than 50 people at the same time in the studio, people start getting drunk and ready to party 15 minutes before the show has to stop, and it looks more like an art installation than a club. But that's what makes it unique and different to, say, Boiler Room. We'll see how the show evolves in the future, for now I'm just having fun inviting awesome DJs to play in a cool ass studio."
Last month I was lucky enough to catch Latex destroying Don't Watch That's Just Jam, where he played alongside Gage, Air Max 97, Madam X and fellow Frenchie Betty Bensimon. During a session when everyone bought their A game — Betty's deployment of "Squark" by Roska, revealing it to be a perfect DJ tool was one of those moments — there was one blend in a night of a hundred great ones reached the status of the truly transcendent. Towards the end of a set that took in everything from metallic, clanking, brutally claustrophobic, airless-vent techno to rapid fire continental hip hop, Teki reinvented the wheel by seamlessly, wonderfully melding the vocal from Skepta's "That's Not Me" to a molasses thick, slowed down dub of "Better Off Alone" by one hit wonder Alice Deejay. It shouldn't have worked. But my word it did.
Lady luck was clearly shining on me when I realized that a trip to Paris to cover the Weather festival would coincide with something pretty special going down in on the 6th arrondissement: Teki Latex was going to play a ten hour set at Overdrive Infinity. I'd never been so excited to board a short haul flight before. Check out the whole set below:
When I arrived, Teki was sipping on a Club Mate and looking like the most relaxed man in the world. At dinner the night before, in an absurdly good Israeli restaurant in La Marais (the city's gay and Jewish quarter), Latex had laid out his gameplan, telling me he was thinking of starting off slowly, easing himself in with ambient oddities and spacier cuts before delving into hip hop, party jams, and the kind of kinetic, driving club music he's been rinsing out in basements all over Europe and beyond. As I entered the darkness of the Overdrive Infinity set, he was doing just that, gently rolling obscure lounge records into Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love" and "Heartbreaker" by Mariah Carey.
Latex then took us through a few hours of campy, elegiac Italo, all the while pulling off improbable blends, recontextualizing records at rapid pace. Despite the minimal presence in the room — this was, remember, an event that took place during a working day — there was a genuine buzz. Every track, every transition was met with smiles. A television on the wall near the decks let us check out every tweet about the event in real time. If the buzz in the room was subtly palpable, the internet was awash with exclamation marks and exaltations. At one point, #10HoursofTekiLatex was the sixth biggest trending topic in France: no mean feat for a livestream of a DJ playing extremely slowed down versions of A-Ha records.
As the hours went by, and Latex had sunk a few more Club Mates, the set got harder, more frantic and frenetic, heavier and clubbier, culminating in a few minutes of total madness which saw him masterfully weave Scalameriya's terrifyingly stark "Ouroboros" into both the Franxinus edit of "Doors to Manual" by Fiedel and a track by Night Slugs affiliate Helix. It was total club construction work and it sounded, in the best way possible, like the end of the world.
The big question was: why a ten hour set? What makes someone want to play records for ten hours to a potential audience of literally anyone in the world who has internet access? For Latex, it seemed like the event was a kind of self-proving ground. "After playing all night long a few times for the past two years I thought, "If i can do six hours, can probably do ten hours," and it was also a great way to shed some light on the show," he told me. "It was also about putting a certain sense of meritocracy back in the DJ game, at least in my scene. I think skills are an important part of what makes a good DJ, and I'm not talking about DMC championship scratching skills but really how to work a crowd from the ground up, how to build a set, how to take track A and blend it with track B to create a track C in order to drive the people nuts. A ten hour set is the best way possible to put your skills out there for everyone to see. It gave me the opportunity to prove I was that kind of DJ while I had everyone's attention."
Our ten hour experience was cut short with about for hours to go, due to other commitments. As we were leaving, Latex was diving deep into Paul Wall deep cuts and drawing for KW Griff's "Bring in the Katz" and making it sound as fresh as it did the first three hundred times we heard in the club a few years back. Our departure coincided with Latex bringing a few friends up to join him behind the decks. "We played a pure 4/4 no-joke techno set with AZF, then Baile Funk and tropical beats with Orgasmic and then UK styles with Betty," he told me after. "It was awesome and really helped a lot with rebooting my inspiration before the end part."
After six hours inside I felt slightly odd and I was just sitting on a nice sofa by some houseplants watching someone else do all the work while I sipped on iced tea. How, I wondered, did Teki Latex feel after completing his DJ marathon? "It was a mixture of an, "I love it when a plan comes together," kinda vibe and a, "Wooooooo I drank so much Club Mate I wanna jump up and down and go in for 10 more hours I can't feel my face," kinda vibe and also a, "Maybe it's good that I stop now otherwise I'm gonna start playing stuff that makes no sense" vibe too."
Not to be selfish, but I'd quite like it if Teki Latex played ten hours every week.