The Wiseguys
"Ooh La La," the hit single from The Wiseguys' album The Antidote, blasts out of every car stereo and shoe store in Touche's native London (strangely, a Budweiser commercial served as the song's springboard to success). The humble turntable marauder simply tries to make sense of the innate craziness of it all. "It's still a little bit unreal that I've got this big smash tune," Touché says. "It's a bit wild."

As people who have the number two single in the British charts go, Touché is very down to earth. The 27-year-old mastermind behind The Wiseguys doesn't walk around proclaiming his apparent greatness or make his handlers sit on the phone all day arranging coke and hooker binges. He doesn't even throw a tantrum at the airport when customs agents half-wittedly refer to him by his legal name, Theo Keating.

Originally released in Britain last fall, The Antidote has enjoyed a leisurely stroll to the top. One only suspects it's taken this long for audiences to uncover and digest the endless layers of funk, booty bumping soul and old school bounce the disc has to offer. Over the course of 15 tracks, Touché pays tribute to all the seminal musical influences in his life, from the thundering dance grooves of "Start The Commotion" to the classical undercurrents of "Face The Flames." His main concern, however, is keeping the tunes firmly rooted in his one true love -- hip-hop.

"I'm just part of that generation where hip-hop came out of America and hit Europe and captured the imagination of kids around the world," Touché says. "I took it onboard wholesale. It was almost like I had found my own home. It was where I fit. It was so different from everything else that had come before it. It was so different from band culture. It was much more creative. It gave me a chance to express myself without having loads of training and expensive equipment and instruments."

It was this point of reference, more than any other perhaps, that caught the ear of the Dust Brothers, the acclaimed sonic architects behind the Beastie Boys' genre-wrecking Paul's Boutique and the tribal chiefs at Ideal Records. Although Mike Simpson and John King approached Touché while he was courting substantial offers from several major labels, they immediately struck a chord with the astute DJ.

"When I sat down and talked to them, I discovered there was a lot of common ground there," Touché says of his first meeting with the Dust Brothers. "They're white kids who grew up listening to hip-hop. They're into old beats and old music, as well as all the latest creative hip-hop. Their points of reference in '60s and '70s are very much the same as mine, which is why I think they got my stuff right away. We sat there talking for ages. We could have talked for days. That was so much of an advantage that they run the label and that they get the product. They weren't just any old A&R men giving me lip service."

Touché now calls Ideal home and compares the close-knit atmosphere at offices to that of The Wiseguys' British label, Wall Of Sound. One of the U.K.'s most influential dance music imprints, it served as the launch pad for both The Antidote and The Wiseguys' 1996 debut, Executive Suite. "Wall of Sound has grown to accommodate the success of its artists, which is great, because you feel you're integral to it," Touché says. "It's constantly growing and building. It's not like walking into a huge corporate building. You know everyone and they've been with you all the way down the line. That's the same feeling I got when I walked into the Ideal offices."

Having already conquered Britain with "Ooh La La," engaged in transcendental turntable battles with Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) at Manumission in Ibiza, and turned Australian club kids on their heads last winter, Touché is now ready drop his skills American style.

"It's definitely interesting to see mainstream American radio come around to non-guitar-led music," Touché says. "It definitely opens the door, which is why the hip-hop thing is the perfect grounding for taking it on from. If you train yourself in hip-hop you can't help but make good music."
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