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.
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.
Sébastien Roux a.k.a. Superdeux, has lived a lot of great places, met a lot of outstanding people and has collected a pretty amazing list of projects for clients such as, Adidas, Comedy Central, MTV, Sony, Hugo Boss, Kid Robot and many, many more… Once I realized he too, lived in San Francisco, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn a little bit more about him, his work and what’s been keeping him busy. Take a peek at what he had to say:
BWLT: Was there anything in particular that drove you in the direction of being a creative? Any early inspirations or influential people you can point out.
Superdeux: I think that now, I can say that I chose visual design because it was a better/easier way for me to express myself. I’ve always been really impressed by good orators, people that can express their feelings just by talking. Seeing that I wasn’t good at it, I pushed on a another direction. I was influenced by Japanese culture and how they often use a simple character design to send a message instead of a long and boring text.
I remember coming across your site almost ten years ago before social networks or really any sort of mainstream web presence was normal for anyone, even designers. What sort of impact have those changes made on the way you market yourself and use the internet?
Yeah, already more than 10 years ago… when I started using the internet I was just experimenting, I didn’t really realize how much easier it would make our lives. It sounds cheesy to say that today… haha. It was the beginning of an era. I was lucky to be there at that time; amazed by people like 123Klan, Nando Costa, Run777, Phunk Studio…. pioneers!
I don’t know if it changes anything in my work. It make things easier for sure… it’s an evolution, like any computer or software. It’s just a tool and anybody can use it.
You’ve had the opportunity to work some pretty outstanding brands and creative people over the years. Of those, are there any certain ones that stick out as a favorite, so far?
It’s really rewarding to be able to work in collaboration with people that you respect. When I do that I don’t think in a marketing way, I’m just super excited to work with them. Bill Mcmullen and Genevieve Gauckler are probably my favorites, I’ve known their work for a long time and I’m never disappointed. They keep evolving, outside of trends or hype.
Are there any brands, companies or people that you’d like to work with, or dream collabos in the works?
I’m always open to collaborations, it’s usually an interesting and really creative process. I’m more interested by the “project” or “concept” than a name or a brand.
When no money is involved, I want to at least have fun and enjoy doing it, so I’m selective on the projects that I work on.
I read in an XLR8R interview a few years back, that Samurai Jack was your favorite cartoon (mine too) at the time… Have you ever reached out to Genndy Tartakovsky?
Nope, never did… [Genndy Tartakovsky] Such a genius. His drawings are exactly what my eyes are looking for, in terms of cartoon design. Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls…
You seem to have all the necessary tools at your disposal to make your own cartoon… Any plans on doing a Superdeux cartoon or animated short?
Well, I think that it’s a different job… I like short and intense projects. Being involved in cartoons or animations means long term projects… hehe… But who knows, maybe one day. :)
You’ve lived in a lot of different places—Paris, Vancouver, New York and now San Francisco—are there any sort of interesting differences between cultures or experiences that stick out as a benefit to living in any one of them?
What I can say, is that it’s not easy to move from one to another. You loose all your social life, work circle and have to start from scratch over time. I always move for an opportunity and because I like radically changing things in my life. So far San Francisco is the best place to live, but my heart is in France, in Lille! New York was really intense, I was working with Tristan Eaton. He was just starting his company, Thunderdog Studios, after being creative director for Kidrobot… Amazing memories in Brooklyn… Our office was basically a entrepot… Just our desks, paintings and toys. Futura and Kaws were just next door… We were working all day/night long.
Each of those cities are known for having a unique visual appeal or urban aesthetic. Which of the of those places do you find the most visually inspiring and what sort of things are highlights of their appeal—public art, geography, architecture, fashion or otherwise?
Now that I’m here, I would say SF, for sure. This city is 90% art and 10% craziness (or maybe the opposite?).
I still have to try Japan. Maybe I’ll change my mind.
You just had a show at Kokoro Studio here in San Francisco. How did that go? Do you have any other shows coming up?
Kokoro Studio is an amazing space and concept. I met Keiko, the owner, when I was doing a show in NYC, 7 years ago. When I moved to SF, she asked me to do a show at her gallery. That was a good challenge and pure fun to work with her and her husband, Ray. I really enjoy working on projects like that. In my head this show was a way to really put my 2 feet in SF: I’m not visiting, I live here now.
Right now I have a couple of group shows… I just did a piece for Artcrank SF and I’m working on a piece for a group show in NYC, at Hanahou. It’s a paper toy show, called, Sparkle Labs. I’m also working on a toy show called Love Movement at the New People building in Japan Town, SF.
What sort of things might we expect from Superdeux over the next 5 years? Any secret plans or big projects in the works?
For the next 5 years, I might be more involved in games and online content. I’m currently Creative Director at Mochi Media. I run their inside creative studio, Mochi Made. That’s the big picture.
On the side, I still do all kinds of projects. I just finished some characters design for Playstation Home. I’m also working on a teeshirt for LTDTEE, a 20″ sculpture with Bigshot toy and a ceramic sculpture with K.olin Tribu
Oh, I know… I don’t have my website up yet (since 1 year…) but check back soon. :)
Make sure to follow Superdeux on Twitter, and check out the Superdeux page on Facebook. As mentioned above, there will plenty of related upcoming events and artwork for you, your friends and your kids. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled and support the things you love.
In a relatively short amount of time, Matthieu Bessudo (McBess) has taken the stage as a pretty influential figure in the illustration community for his unique style and rock infused, animated shorts. His work walks a thin line between a playful adventure and an anxiety packed, sexual encounter with unclassifiable, human-esque characters — all of which I enjoy. I recently had the chance to chat with McBess about some of his influences, distractions, upcoming projects, the power of collaboration and a grip of other things I’ve been itching to find out. Take a peek at what he had to say…
BWLT: Last I read, you were working at The Mill in London. Are you still there? If so, is there much overlap between the “job” and your personal work, stylistically or as far as projects and how you handle work flow?
McBess: I’m still working at The Mill as a director, so there’s an overlap because we’re trying to use my style for commercials but the result is usually pretty far from what I do, because clients are a bit worried about having too many tits in their images.
The interwebs are a huge distraction for me during the day, which is why I tend to work better in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping… are there any sort of motivators or distractions that power your day?
I do spend a lot of time on the interwebs, chat with friends, watch series, I also work in Soho London so there’s a lot of shopping possibilities and good coffees around. Then there’s the band, so ya, I’ve got my fair share of distraction during the day but all those things inspire me to draw as well… guess it balances out.
Sometimes your work looks completely analog, whereas other times, it’s brought into Illustrator… do you have a preferred medium to work in?
I never use illustrator, I’m always trying to keep a analog look to my drawings. Most of them are inked in Photoshop which gives them this cold look. I’m trying to be as good with real ink, than with a computer, but I’m not there yet. I think the computer is my favorite medium, because I love the smoothness and the “control+z “.
Your skill set — music, illustration and animation — seems to be a perfect combination for doing animations and shorts… is that something we can expect to see more of? Are there any plans or interests in doing more or doing a full length of any sort?
Definitely, that’s all I want to do… spend more time mixing the two and make them grow bigger. A year ago I was drawing an imaginary band and was recording on the side for some tracks to go along with, now the band exists for real and we’re working on some new music videos, albums … It opened a door to a lot of things to be done and I still want to be lazy most of the time.
Your band, The Dead Pirates, has a pretty distinct sound that I feel reflects a similar emotion as some of your art. Is one a product of the other, or do you feel they feed each off other?
Oh ya, they feed each other, like a 69, for instance we’ve been changing a lot of things in the band to get more of a warm sound and match some of the illustrations. We’ve changed one of the two guitars to an old keyboard from the 60s / 70s, and the mood that comes out this, makes new ideas for new drawings.
Are there any bands that you’re really into lately, or that you’d like to play with?
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Spoon, Phoenix, Whitest Boy Alive, TV On The Radio, Tame Impala … and I don’t think the band is ready to play with any of these. hahah… but who knows in a year or two …
Collaboration is something I try to embrace in everything I do. How do you feel about collaboration, musically and visually?
I love doing it, always comes out a bit richer, gives me new horizons. I find it easier musically because music is on the instant and it’s very much a game that you play with other people, but it works well with images, it’s just a different rhythm.
I’ve always liked the idea of an art show being more of a whole experience, with music being a driver for the theme. Would you ever consider making a soundtrack or having a band play at one of your openings
Oh ya, I’d love to. I’m really not keen on the white walls with a few canvas and some paint here and there. I don’t like the gallery mood, I would love to do a big show that would require a month of preparation… you’d feel like going in a sexy and dark Disneyland.
What sort of shows, projects or events are coming up?
I’ve got and iPad app coming out that’s mixing music and illustrations which should be really cool. It’ s a pack for the Granimator app. I’ve got a show in Chicago next year, and a few big illustrations on the cooker and there’s the band that’s preparing for a few dates in London.
Any last words or plugs?
*To stay tuned in on all the latest McBess related info, and wrap your eyeballs around a slew of illustrations please check out his site. Make sure to hit up the McStore as well. Lots of tasty treats in there.