Helsinki-based producer TEETH (not to be confused with the shouty east London band), best known for his brooding, Beyonce-fuelled 'Shawty' track complete with FaltyDL remix, will be hosting his label Signal Life's debut showcase in south London. Enlisting 'Zebra fucking Katz' for their fourth instalment of a split 12” series, the pair's collaboration on SGNLF #04 continues the imprint's dark, stripped-down aesthetic fusing TEETH's raw, drum machines and the NY singer's moody vocals via the creepy Sex Sellz. Paris producer French Fries of Clek Clek Boom provides the b-side, Module, with an unexpected dub techno edge to his usual work. Ahead of their taking over Peckham Palais with friends & signings Kowton, Visionist, Desto, Last Japan and an art exhibition in tow on Saturday 26 January, TEETH has made us an exclusive R'n'B via house-centric minimix to get us all fired up.
Dazed Digital: What's the story behind Signal Life and what is its ethos?
TEETH: Around 2009 we were discussing the changing face of music with an AD friend. I had a vision of a painless white label output, in a similar vein with later Objekt releases, and Sebastian had ideas for strong artwork. We ended up combining the two visions and setting the aesthetic basis of Signal Life: limited physical products with raw, standout drum machine jams, black & white photography, serif fonts and surprise extra content for the followers. Having planned and talked about this for such a long time, we've basically become a creative office, everything goes through the same Signal Life sieve.
Early on, I wrote a label credo with the ethos and the aesthetics: Raw, stripped, minimal. Minimal with straight forward momentum. Drive, push, sinew. Elevated street. Beautiful grit. Grainy, palpable, physical. In my head I have a vision of a Mexican show wrestler in jeans, suspenders, a white t-shirt and a Chanel mask.
DD: How do you pick your signings?
TEETH: We curate the label with Desto, which means we are exchanging songs continuously. Ultimately I'm a believer in a personal relationship with the people we work with. The story behind the Zebra Katz tune we are releasing is a good example: a few years ago he walked past my office in Helsinki, knocked on the door, greeted me "Mister Teeth?", passed me the Champagne Cocaine mixtape on CD, I fell in love with the lush sparsity of Sex Sellz, we became friends, and the song is now coming out on Signal Life with my remix.
DD: Is there a 'Helsinki' sound and do you hear that in your own work at all?
TEETH: Helsinki's a weird one. We go really deep in what we do, sometimes so deep we forget to tell the rest of the world we're doing it. Rather than a certain Helsinki sound, I tend to think of a Helsinki energy: DIY dressed to the nines, hands on with Scandinavian simplicity. I can see a lot of that in what I do. I'm in an ideal place where I get to vacillate between Helsinki and London, get the best of both worlds.
DD: 'Shawty' was amazing & vocal samples feature heavily in your tracks, what's been the best use of a vocal sample elsewhere you've ever heard?
TEETH: I like your questions. I think my continuous infatuation with them dates back to being a rapper for a good 15 years, fiddling with vocals day in day out. As for my favourites, I like Addison Groove, early 90s Memphis treatments and certain ghetto tech vocals. Picking one: Addison Groove's seminal Footcrab, nonsensical and percussively indispensable.
DD: What has been the hardest thing about starting a label?
TEETH: Standing the fact that it takes 3 months from everything being ready with a release to a physical product.
DD: Thoughts on the film Teeth?
TEETH: Downloading now.
SGNLF #04: Zebra Katz, TEETH and French Fries play Peckham Palais, London - Saturday 26 January 2013
Follow Flora Wong on Twitter here: @PetitFlo