It was roughly twenty years ago that the 123KLAN began producing graffiti. Under the inspirational tutelage of Neville Brody, Scien and Klor transitioned into the wide world of design. Since making the transition they have collaborated with and produced work for some of the world’s top brands. Throughout their lengthy career, their ability to merge graffiti inspired character and typographic design with a keen vision of the future has put them at the forefront of cultural creation.
BWLT: I know that the office has a chair for both, Scien & Klor, but are there any other top secret partners or interns at the controls? If not, are there any plans to grow your size in the future?
Scien: Well, yeah we are a small team. We are like snipers, only a few but very effective. We’re not interested in growing; as the more you are, the slower you move.
Klor: Yeah, and we do have some interns. Four. They’re on all fours, supporting my desk.
As a small team, are there any defined roles for you, or are projects shared in any certain way?
S: Everybody is involved in almost everything, especially in the creative process, even if some of us are specialized in graphic design or communication. In the end, only the result matters.
K: And each of our employees is worth at least ten.
Music (and coffee) is huge for me. I have to listen to it all day long, especially while designing. It’s part of my process now. Do you have any sort of mechanisms or “must-haves” to help drive your day/process?
S: Like you said, music and coffee are definitely must-haves for me, plus maybe our daily visits to certain creative blogs, whether they deal with graffiti, graphic design or even music.
K: Violence. Violence is my daily mechanism.
What are you listening to right now? Any favorite bands/artists you’ve been into?
S: Actually, I’m in a reggae mood right now; I love some classics such as Black Uhuru, Ganja Smoke, Chase the Devil by Max Romeo or Police in Helicopters by John Holt. But last week we were listening to Minor Threat’s complete discography.
As you can see, we go to the extremes when it comes to our choices of music.
We also love to listen to old obscure rock n roll, and of course some good old 90′s rap, as well. Such as http://www.gorillavsbear.net/ or http://www.wefunkradio.com/.
K: As for me, I’m into George Michael and Justin Bieber.
I know that you used to live in France… Do you get to spend much time in France nowadays? Or work abroad?
S: Not really, most of our clients are based in North America as we work a lot for the sport/streetwear market. We don’t have any clients in France actually, just a couple of friends whose EP or mixtape covers we help design. So when we go back to France, which is not often, it’s only to visit our family and friends, and also to eat good French food as well.
K: To be honest, I don’t even want to talk about France.
Now that you’ve been doing this for almost 20 years – have the types of projects that clients approach you for, changed a lot? Are you getting more brief based work, or primarily collaborative projects?
K: I don’t work. I enjoy myself.
S: Actually it all depends on the client, but it’s true that we’re getting more and more approached for our expertise and knowledge of the 15-35 market. As we design many collections for the biggest streetwear and sportswear brands, we also offer some of our clients the opportunity of meeting us for consulting sessions, about being on-trend and on the market at the right time. As most communication agencies get their inspiration from trends that are already on the market, after getting into production, they usually launch their product on the market 1-2 years late from what’s being done.
That’s why you always have to anticipate the trends instead of following them if you want to have some credibility with your target. And this, is our job.
We like to compare it to a train: we don’t build 2nd class wagons, nor 1st class ones. We only build locomotives.
Favorite project or collaboration recently? If so, with who and for what…
S: On our side, we can’t really complain; all the projects we work on are always interesting, whether it’s an advertising campaign, a collection for a brand, a motion design, a video or a photo shoot. What matters in the end is to overcome the challenge while showing the client’s product or image in the best light possible, but also to see the consumer appreciate the result of all your work. In our job, you have to not take yourself seriously, even if that doesn’t prevent us from making our job very serious. I think that what motivates us the most is to have the opportunity to create things that will be part of tomorrow’s daily life. And even if most of them are superficial, they’re essential because they contribute to the quality of life of those few prosperous societies/countries on the planet.
I know you’ve mentioned in the past, that the internet is a huge driving force for recognition… With the advent of “Social Media” and the influx of newish online marketing tactics, has your approach to getting work changed a lot over the years?
K: If genetics didn’t bless you with stunning looks, well… You gotta work!
S: Actually we never stop, even for a second, that’s why many clients approach us. As a result, it’s essential for us to communicate and to stay omnipresent on Internet, especially for a creative agency, because if we don’t communicate properly about ourselves, how could we persuade others of doing so?
What’s the story behind all of your villain-esque and semi heroic undertones… both in character design as well as messaging. What’s the inspiration for this?
S: We really enjoy playing with the clichés society holds about graffiti. That’s why we like giving a lot of attitude to our productions, even if most of them are not meant to be taken seriously; we don’t even take ourselves seriously and we love derision.
That’s the case in the collections we develop for our brand BANDIT-1$M for example; a touch of arrogance, of attitude and of humor, does no harm.
K: I don’t know. I don’t really understand. I’m such a nice person.
Are there any sort of clients, brands or projects that you would love to work with, that you haven’t had the chance to yet? Dream projects maybe…?
S: What actually motivates us is to collaborate with various brands, because each of them is unique. Following that point of view, no client is uninteresting, because behind every brand and every product there’s a particular vision. What matters is to make the right choice, to be sure of being able to overcome the challenge, and if each of these steps is followed there’s no reason for the project not to succeed.
K: I’ve been hitting Justin Bieber up on Twitter recently. I really want BANDIT-1$M to sponsor him.
When can we see a Beastie Boys X 123KLAN collaboration?
S: Haha, I would love it to happen someday; we’re big fans of the Beastie Boys. It must be great to collaborate on anything with them. For the moment, we just know few people that have designed stuff for them, such as Bill McMullen or the legendary Cey Adams. So who knows, maybe it will happen quicker than we think.
Just in case the Beastie Boys are reading this interview, now you know we’re down to rock something with you guys.
K: I’m ready for that too.
You can find out more about the 123KLAN and their work by following them on Twitter, adding them on Flickr and of course, stopping by their recently renovated website, 123klan.com.