A line had already formed around the block, frustrated fans being turned away from the sold out show when I arrived at Irving Plaza early to interview C2C, whose colossal French fame has crept to America. I’m supposed to be some hip music writer, and of course I did my research, but come on, a few weeks ago I had no idea who the fuck these dudes were. (Granted, electronic dance music isn’t exactly my favorite scene, I’d actually rather make love to my heated curling iron than attend Ultra. Yeah, I said it.)
I read a joke somewhere that went along the lines of this: A man collapses on an airplane, clutching his chest. The passenger seated next to him urgently shouts to the cabin, “Is there a doctor onboard?” Someone stands up and replies, “No, but I’m a DJ.” “Me too!” shouts a woman. “I too am an excellent DJ!” answers another passenger.
You get the idea. With today’s technology and easy internet access to music, pretty much anyone can be a DJ. The word carries a sprawl of meaning, from D-list celebrities pressing play at clubs to stadium-filling true greats. As Atom, one fourth of C2C told us in the Irving Plaza green room before they took the stage to kick off a rare American tour, “We started 15 years ago when it was all vinyl and turntables. I think there are good and bad things [about technology changes] today, like everybody has access to all this music but at the same time you have less. 15, 20 years ago, you had to physically bring everything with you, and you had to find the record, and if you wanted to scratch with it you needed to find two copies.”
“So now if you want to DJ you just have to search playlists by other DJs on the internet,” adds 20Syl, the other C2C member we spoke with. “Everybody can be a DJ, but only the talented ones will rise to the top.”
C2C aren’t just typical DJs but a French turntable group originally from Nantes, consisting of 20Syl, DJ Greem, Atom and DJ pFeL. The four met 15 years ago in college, and despite a decade and a half together they just released their first full-length albumTetra in the U.S. on February 11, 2013.
After sidestepping many security guards and repeatedly dropping the “I’m press” line I made my way to the top balcony where I met Michael Edwards, MIMP founder and photographer, and Spencer Scanlon, Publicity Manager for Casablanca Records/Republic Records. Michael was sternly told repeatedly by a young and quite serious manager that no photos were allowed backstage and we would have to do with concert shots, a let down as Me In My Place focuses on a more intimate look into artists, difficult to achieve visually without portraits. Come on dude, don’t act like I don’t know that C2C got stuck with the 1:30 afternoon slot at Coachella. If you want more than just you in the audience while the rest of the attendees sip beers and pass joints in their tents next year, unclench your tight French ass and let in some fucking cameras.
After plastering ourselves with an array of yellow stickers, one for VIP entrance, a photo pass, press pass, and one allowing us to see the band, Michael and I were allowed into the green room. There was an untouched platter of crudites, and enough French sperm to conquer the Dutch half of St. Martin. Honestly, there was so much chaos going on I wasn’t even quite sure who or where the members of C2C were. As Michael and I stood there awkwardly for a few minutes I was ready just to bat my eyelashes at the first one to glance my way and pray he’s a member of the band, or at least knows where the hell they are.
We were finally lead into a second room and sat down with Atom and 20Syl, as a young friend of the group downed glasses of liquor and bobbled about the room. There was a television in the room that displayed the opening act on stage, and the interview was interjected with chants of “C2C! C2C!” from the eager crowd.
What I was most curious about, was why the 15 year wait to release a full-length album. In the years prior to the release ofTetra, C2C spent considerable time working on their two side projects, Hocus Pocus and Beat Torrent. Hocus Pocus is a jazz/hip-hop group composed of 20Syl and DJ Greem, while Atom and DJ pFeL’s project Beat Torrent is Hocus Pocus’s DJ brother. “We had propositions for gigs for C2C and Hocus Pocus on the same day. So the guys had to do the Hocus Pocus gig, and we had to do the C2C gigs, so pFeL and I said ‘Let’s make another band, just the two of us. And that’s how Beat Torrent was formed,’ says Atom.
C2C, the four’s collective whole and home, sound like the love child of Hocus Pocus and Beat Torrent. As C2C, they’ve been prominent on the competition circuit, winning four consecutive Disco Club Mix World Team DJ Championships from 2003-2006. After 15 years of side projects, playing video games, and owning the competition circuit, the group decided it was time to settle down and finally release a C2C LP. You’d imagine after 15 years of creating music together selecting the final tracks for Tetra would be difficult, but they simply picked 100, than voted on their favorite 20. “What was really funny at the end is that the 20 tracks we chose were the same…. the top five was the same for all of us,” says 20Syl.
Tetra was recorded in 20Syl’s home in Nantes he built himself, which includes a studio, a few bedrooms, a single bathroom, and his two most prized possessions: Two cats, one named Chicken.
“Chicken?” I ask.
“Yes, but in French. ‘Poulet.’ When we find him he was just preying in our garden, he was a baby, we just took him in. The other one’s name is Brittany but he became Pee Wee Net.”
“Pee Wee Net?” (Keep in mind there’s a chance I heard this wrong through the accent and surrounding hubbub.)
“You know cats, you give them a name and then you change it,” agrees Michael. I get it, my cat’s name was Sandra when I adopted her and now I call her Mama Cat, full name Mama Cat Pants.
For those new to the word “turntablism,” it’s more than just DJs keeping it old school, it’s an art form using turntables as musical instruments. In a live C2C performance, the use of turntables also includes physical feats involving rearranging the sizable turntables to “battle,” a light show constructed by each member to correspond with their beats, and of course, a tribute to MCA.
“There is this first step where we are moving with our turntables, then after that we battle, then my favorite is maybe when we play ‘The Beat’ song, because we take the mics and we are rapping and there is some explosion in the crowd because everyone is excited that we are… we doing a little homage to the Beastie Boys,” 20Syl says with a grin.
Eventually we were escorted out of the green room, yellow badges taken away, and the show began. It lived up to all of C2C’s promises, captivating light shows, a rearrangement of turntables for a battle, yes, a Beastie Boys tribute. My personal favorite moment was my favorite track of the album,“Happy,” a voodoo inspired video with vocals by Derek Martin. “We wanted to find a voice you could recognize,” says Atom. “Yes, we have been searching for something timeless, so you can’t tell if it’s a sample or not,” added 20Syl. “But there are no samples.” While slightly confusing, C2C’s range of cultural references in their music is impressive, from the old timey Chicago foot work in the black and white video for “Happy” to the group donning flat-brimmed New York baseball caps for a tribute to MCA.
I don’t particularly enjoy large sweaty crowds pressed against me, which at times has presented anxiety in my music journalism career and perhaps why I’ve kept my orgie fantasies limited to an incognito Chrome window. Sometimes a perk of covering a show is you get to sit up on the balcony, a different experience than the C2C fans pressed against the barriers I confess, but you get to witness backstage facets of tour that an average ticket holder does not. In this particular instance I’m not speaking of cocaine passed around on mirrors (there was none, don’t fret, dear family) but the elderly parents of DJ Greem who Michael and I gave up our seats for. Michael’s time is better spent running around capturing images and mine standing, enjoying a PBR and taking notes while discussing the show with Spencer, anyway. I attempted to talk to the adorable supportive French parents about their son, whose birthday it happened to be, but over the noise and the language barrier we couldn’t understand a word the other was saying, other than:
“You must be so proud,” I told Greem’s mother, smiling through the strobe lights.
“Yes, yes, we are so happy!” she responded ecstatically, hand on her husband’s shoulder.