We could make a long list of famous couples that have shaped our world, Bonnie and Clyde Smith & Wesson, the Rescuers... But few of them can pretend of having given a graphic touch to most of the street wears as the graffiti writers/ designers duo 123 klan did. For nearly 20 years now, the inseparable Scien and Klor shit out a world inspired by the street with a strong aftertaste of graffiti, and have worked with most brands that you wear on your chest since you cried to your mother to buy you a t-shirt. Expatriated in Canada a few years ago, these vector image passionnated (if you don’t know what it is, google it), well done work lovers, they digged their hole in the industry and lay still more beautiful logos, still more expressive, and export our french arrogance in the whole world. It is in a relaxed atmosphere and with jokes that they gave us this interview.
J / Introduce yourself to our readers.
Scien / We are Scien and Klor, we founded the 123 Klan which is a graffiti crew at the base and which today is a creative studio based in Montreal, specialized in sportswear, strategy for a 12 - 25 target.
J / How did you get into graffiti ?
S / We heard about it in 1989, we began to listen to Rap, with Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, we began writing in 89-90’s, since, we didn’t stop the game.
J / At what point is that you have decided to transition to the graphics, what was the trigger ?
S / Simply because when you do graffiti, you work on letters, on colors. Everytime we paint a wall, the format is different so it is necessarily layout and composition. We realized that the graphics, while having a typographical support, could prove to be creative with typography and color. We had our first Mac and automatically, we trained on Illustrator 1.0, and then it came naturally.
Klor / We have not decided to do graphic design, it just happened natu- rally, we just discovered a tool, then we used it.
J / You have left France for Montreal. Why ?
K / Because Sarkozy became president (laughs). Seriously, this is bringing us closer to our customers who are mainly American, and then wanted to move. We went to Montreal to visit a friend actually, and once there, we said we are here, we’ll stay.
S / And there is a culture of street wear, sportswear very present here too, there is a real market compared to Europe where everything is distributed in small series in small shops, here it means a lot more money and more people interested in the business. So there are several reasons actually, and Montreal is also awesome, much better than France.
J / What inspired your creations ?
K / Scien draws much by thinking of me (laughs). No, it’s everything and anything actually, it’s not a person or a thing from a certain area, this can be a color combo that you find in a crappy logo, but the association is good then its catchs you, it can be a typo or anything else ...
S / Or a shitty little mascot, there are tons of stuffs, that’s what it takes to be curious and try to understand something, and after there is also the message, in our personal productions, we are critically through our french arrogance, graffiti, in its roots, is categorized criminal in some countries with certain laws, so we do business, we sell the crime, so it is banditism. We play a lot with that, as the t-shirt « Have fun kids », with the bomb, this is something super cute that basically tells you « go smash the city with your cans ». We like playing with these clichés, we are very sarcastic, finally, very french.
J / What is your favourite working support, what was the one which you liked the most ?
S / They are all cool, what matters is how you see things, there is nothing boring, you can take something ugly and turn it into something super funny actually, I saw this artist who was taking very little kitsch porcelain statues, except that there was one with open veins, the other with decapitated head, that’s what we do in fact, it diverts all, but that’s the graffiti lifestyle, like you see something were’s nothing, and you make it interactive in fact, this can be done while, a plate, a fork, a cap... Everything is to be done, there is no limit, we have no preference, what is interesting is always the next project, that’s the challenge.
J / Except collaborations with brands, have you ever worked with other designers on a project, do you plan it ?
S / We do that a lot with graffiti, we paint a lot with other graffiti writers, but collaborating with other artists is a bit complicated because we have a particular style. But it happens, we do it more with close friends, there are friends who we asked to do something for us, and sometimes they ask us things for them, as for example with Mishka back to our mascot with the ball of basketball, Mr. Card, except that instead of the ball we placed Mishka’s eye...
J / You have created the brand Bandit-1sm, is it serious or just a project that helps you releasing more creative works ?
S / It’s a bit of both actually.
K / It’s an intelligent frenzy.
S / We have lots of friends who started their brand, and then, when it works, I can see that then you have to change your job. Until then, you started the brand because you design well, but after that, you have lots of other stuffs to check, the shootings, the collections, the business, the distribution, the shows... So it’s hard work and ultimately the brand grows, your job divises itself into 90% business, and 10% creavity. What we want is to remain creative. For example, when we make a t-shirt today, he’s released in three months, whereas when you work with a brand that respects the collections, when you do a T-shirt now it comes out next year at best, so it’s too much pressure and then we could lose customers, so we prefer to keep a small brand and develop our own projects. Everything is done on Montreal, handmade, 100% North America, screen printing, t-shirts ect ... After, it grows too fast, we like to be compared a bit like with Supreme. We release the stuff as we want to do it, whenever we want, we make no promo, sales increases because people talk, that’s what’s best, it is the best advert you can have. And being small allows us to remain free as opposed to fucking huge companies which we’re working for example as Nike ect ... which are very shy about a lot of stuff because they weight billions of dollars. So here is a personal frenzy which grows slowly. But it is true that some people are interested in developing the brand in North America.
J / Did you reach limits within vector design you wouldn’t have with graffiti ?
S / Oh yeah, that’s sure, the vector just permits playing with settings of anything, you can make something very complex even if it’s small, and something very simple in huge. The advantage of vector is also that it applies in any medium, which is also dangerous on some works too. You can take a postage stamp and make it in 4x3 meters in the street. But in a way it allows us to explore put forward more simple things like a big graffiti for example, and to add a small mascot logo in the bottom, this allows to play with pantone printing too. Maybe we will let us more go on graphic design, our graffiti is very traditonal I would say, but we’ll try maybe to make something more vector on walls. We have got a few projects, but as we have a creative job, we paint less, but we don’t produce less, the creativeness goes simply somewhere else.
J / Tell us about the latest events (exhibitions) which you have participated.
K / We are actually on hangover!
S / We were in Cancun one month ago, for a graphism conference, with Hydro74, Adhemas, North Kingdom, Mr Kone, and Golpea-visa. Right now,we just came back from New York to celebrate 123Klan’s 20th anniversary, there were plenty of friends from around the world. We painted a thick wall in Brooklyn, well we were drunk for about a week in New York, you can see the recap on facebook. We made a big carrot cake with our logo on it. There were people like Cope2, Dabs & Myla, Flying Fortress, Most, Nychos, Kid Crap, Sye TC5, Scen 2, Deck2, Wane... There were lots of oldschool guys from NY, newschool guys,some guys from Boston, Germany, Paris, it was a mixture of personal friends. They’re all buddies actually, it’s just that some of them are famous.