C2C, DJ collective from Nantes: 'It's a geek thing'

Article published on March 6, 2012
Article published on March 6, 2012
They love hip hop, they have won a world championship mixing title for each of the four, they rap, they skateboard, and their next album is due out in May 2012. Atom and Greem, the quietly influential members of the group from western France, take us into their world

The phenomenon that is C2C is complicated. There's no album, but a dozen tracks and individual members who are a lot better known than the group itself. As so often with initials, you never really know what they stand for - for example, 'coast to coast' it's not... So you have to deconstruct things to find out that behind three letters, there are four gents in their thirties20syl (Sylvain Richard), Pfel, Atom (Thomas Le Vexier) and Greem – as well as a stream of musical projects in full flow.

The four French DJs, four-times collective world champions, have also racked up individual successes as members of contemporary French acts Hocus Pocus (formed by 20syl and Greem) and the DJ duo Beat Torrent as well as other hip hop and electro-pop projects. The press relations manager has invoked her prerogative and split the group down the middle to do their interviews. Hence Atom and Greem today, who look relaxed in jeans, shirts and trainers.

Four hip hop fans from Nantes

'Allright, mate.' Sporting designer stubble, they are sprawled casually on the sofa in the dressing rooms of Paris' Gaité Lyrique arts venue, where they'll give their first show in a few hours' time. C2C are due to release an album in May 2012, and a teaser EP, Down the Road, has been available online since 23 January. This evening, the Parisian audience will witness the unveiling of a disc C2C's fans have longed for - hardly surprising, given that this is their first record in a fourteen year career. 'We were all busy with our own projects,' explains Atom. 'We had to find time for it, and then we were able to take the time to put together what we wanted.' Greem joins in, 'It's also kind of a challenge for us to achieve success with music we've created ourselves. With the five-track EP, we were really looking to re-engaging with the fans who've been with us from the start.'

So what of those die-hard fans? They've followed C2C since their beginnings in 1998, when four teenagers at the same high school got together to mix music on turntables in a garage, in the town of Nantes in western France. 'We skateboarded and played basketball and video games together,' says Atom. 'At that time, in 1995, Hocus Pocus was just getting started. One day, 20syl showed up with a turntable, and it all started from there.' These were four devotees of US rap. 'It was an 18-year-old's dream,' says Greem. 'American hip hop was what brought us together. Taking all our influences as a starting point – Wu Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Rock Pete, Gangstarr - we bought mix-tapes every day to copy the DJ scratches.'

Creating without knowing

The group quickly progressed from indulging in their passion to creating something new. 'We were soon trying to make our own music, mixing the late French variety singer Véronique Sanson's music with a whistle, or Stevie Wonder's voice with percussion. In the end, we started to make music without realising that's what we were doing.' Whether they were aware of their artistic potential or not, C2C got the taste by mixing tracks in their bedrooms that each had discovered in music stores, before getting together to share their finds and encourage one another. 'When it comes down to it, we don't have any musical training,' says Greem. 'We've learnt everything by copying videos. As a group, things came together very quickly because with four of us, there was always stuff to see that someone had discovered the night before. What's good about working with a group is that you're always trying to look out for each other. When you're a DJ, you're generally doing it alone, and you can soon start to overdo it. But as soon as you're part of a team, you have to try and agree on things. '

'We've learnt everything by copying videos'

As a team, in 2003, the group registered with the international hip hop DJ championship disco mix club (DMC). They became world 'team' champions for the first time, retaining that title for each successive year until 2007. Those four world championship titles raised the group to the top of their game. The track they composed for the DMC in 2005 has had over four million views on youtube, a degree of online fame that means the group is now known throughout Europe.

Turntabling

Today, C2C is a well-known name in 'turntabling'. 'The term was coined by the Filipino-American DJ Babu, who released a mixtape in 1996,Turntablism.' Their search for the perfect sound and scratch technique has made C2C one of the best DJ groups in the world, but as their first single F.U.Y.A shows, it's the group's approach and visual appeal that have sealed their success. 'We always try make our productions into a real show, where we really try to communicate with our audience,' adds Greem. 'That's been C2C's recipe for success and what's enabled us to stand out.'

Behind the initials then, there's real unity. In French, C2C means 'Coup2Crosse', taken from the mixing deck's cross-fader, because 'when you're scratching, what you're doing is hitting the cross-fader'. However, the group's name also has another possible meaning - 'striking with a rifle butt'. 'We thought people would think it was something to do with violence but actually it's just about the music.' It's true, though, that C2C's music is a bit like that. It seems confusing, but as you listen, it all becomes clear. 'What makes C2C different is the fact that our music is accessible even though basically, it's a geek thing,' finishes Atom.

Images: main © courtesy of Phunk/ videos (cc) 20syl/ youtube