Mad Teeth’s Quest for Identity
“It’s always nice to have a starting point and your grassroots at home; it’s important to act local but it’s always important think global”
The word ‘fusion’ is thrown about rather carelessly today and it’s an adjective that has a certain nuanced irony to it, but this trio, Mad Teeth, have proved their biggest selling point is precisely that. A uniqueness enabled only by all of the group’s individual experiences and inspirations. With a plethora of burgeoning talent emerging from the UK right now you might think it would be difficult to carve out a unique identity as a recording act, but it all came quite organically for Mad Teeth, the London based DJ/ Production collective consisting of David Stewart, Jessica Agombar and Yash Sohodeb.
On a crisp January morning I chatted to David and Jess on the origins of the group, “it was so natural when we all got together, Jess and I had worked together for years on a lot of pop-leaning stuff and writing for other artists, and Yash who comes from a whole different world, which is much more grime and UK urban – together it was one of those synergies that was so underthought it ended up working perfectly,” David shares.
The story goes that David and Jessica met Yash backstage once, and in true industry fashion made the tenuous promise of working together at some point in the future. Frankly, the group should’ve never been brought together but with a number of mutual connections between them, they joined the dots and began recording together, and from the first session they knew they had a sound that could work.
We wanted to do something that was rebellious, fun, and UK and London.
Glittered with pulsing 4×4 kicks, infectious hooks and a brash attitude, it is prevalent that Mad Teeth’s sound is something that could’ve only been born in London. Drawing inspiration from their individual surroundings – Yash from Tottenham, Jess from Bow, David from Maida Vale, their latest single ‘Money Brain’ is a clear representation of this bubbling melting pot; “We wanted to do something that was rebellious, fun, and UK and London. We’ve all been brought up on the influences that are in London, live in London, surrounding London – and what we’ve heard growing up, so it’s definitely something we wanted to pay homage to.”
Honing in a little on the genesis of the group, I ask about the real catalyst that brought them closer together – their first single ‘Saucin.’ “It was just such a happy accident,” David admits, “there was no thought process in becoming Mad Teeth. Jess and I had worked together for years and then we brought Yash in because we thought that might be interesting, and it ended up being this song, then off the back of that we were like, ‘Do you know what, why don’t we go and get a record deal for this?!’ And then within a month or two we had a record deal. So it really was as simple as that.”
‘Money Brain,’ is a club-driven, energetic wobbler and the single came about in a similar fashion. “It wasn’t thought out whatsoever, we wanted to have fun and do something to show that we’re on job and attack a wicked song,” Jess shares. ‘Rebellious’, ‘fun’, ‘focused’, were some of the adjectives used to describe the new single, and words which stay true to their identity as a group. “We didn’t pre-think the lyrics and it wasn’t necessarily a literal thing, about money and physical possessions it was more like a focus, we’re focused, we’re on job and we’re serious as well.”
The song features the enigmatic Kida Kudz, one of the hottest properties in the UK scene at the minute. Asking them what it was like to work with him, Jess comments, “It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, it wasn’t a pre-thought song concept at all. When Kida got in the studio with us he completely freestyled. We were so impressed with his freestyle, he went in did the verses and his energy was really high so we didn’t need to do much because we knew that the energy was there.”
The Disturbing London artist is racking up collaborations left, right and centre, but noticeably here on a faster tempo to his usual Afro-leaning style. Intrigued, I ask about the need for pushing creative boundaries with collaborators, David acknowledges, “It was something that took him out of his usual frame, he was on a tempo which was probably 30 BPM quicker than anything he’s used to. It was so natural though, it just came off the top of his dome and within a couple of takes we had everything we needed for the song.”
When you have two people who do the exact same thing, it ends up being a little stale.
The importance of artistic collaboration is a feature that is hugely central to Mad Teeth’s work and certainly a focus for the future, citing Daft Punk and The Netpunes as dream collaborators. “The best collaborators are those that create an energy which isn’t necessarily the same energy that you bring. When you have two people who do the exact same thing, it ends up being a little stale – there’s nowhere to push each other so there has be some push and pull to keep it interesting,” David shares. “When you are collaborating, I don’t think you can do it any other way than there just being different energies in the room; it becomes like a melting pot. You never know what you’re gonna get out of it which is the most exciting thing about collaborating I think,” Jess adds.
Individually the group have been in the game for over 10 years each, largely working behind the scenes as singer-songwriters and producers, scoring credits with everyone from Skepta to The Jonas Brothers. Pressing them on what it’s like to step out from that area and into the spotlight Jess admits, “There’s no pressure being behind the scenes, so whatever you are doing and whatever you are experimenting on, you can kind of do it without the added pressure of being judged for whatever the hell you look like… It gives you the freedom to say, ‘I like this, I’m gonna commit to it, and if I’m happy failing with this or happy succeeding with it neither matters cause I’m not gonna be vilified or be the one in the public eye,’ you’re not the ‘artist’ so to speak.”
Creative freedom is an aspect which is inherent to the project, and Jess is quick to make a point that it is a double-edged sword being in the spotlight, “If you do a faceless project or do loads of features and collabs I think people do appreciate the music more. For instance, a lot of songs in the charts I have no idea who the artist is but I appreciate and respect the musicianship behind the song.”
As for what the rest of 2020 and beyond, what does it look like for Mad Teeth? David explains, “We all have our individual things which will probably end up spurring a lot of Mad Teeth stuff. When Yash goes off on his own stuff or Jess and I come back from a writing trip, it ends up just mixing up the melting pot even more. So more of the same of what we’re doing really – going forward and progressing.”
International acclaim is high up on their agenda too going into the new decade, “America is always the end goal if I’m honest, there’s something glossy and shiny about it. It’s always nice to have a starting point and your grassroots at home; it’s important to act local but it’s always important think global,” David shares.
Carving out their own sense of identity as a unit is vital for Mad Teeth, I mention Stormzy’s recent press run in the US and the manner in which he carries himself as an artist who is completely unwavering and true to himself. “Those are the artists that usually do maintain” David agrees, “Those that are true to themselves, who don’t get swayed by making a lot of money or having a lot of yes people around them. There are so many factors that success brings, that the ones that stay true to themselves are the ones that carry on winning.”