Tyler caught up with Felix Dean of No Licence shop to discuss clothes, music, archiving, and 4am starts.
For those who may not know you, what’s your name and where are you from?
‘South East London, Born & Raised. In South East London, Shit Don’t Change’
Felix Dean. Finding Fe. Find Fe. Rude. DooDooFe.
Raised since 1991 in South East London, though in my younger years travelling to East every other weekend to visit my dad; I’ve been moulded by South East streets, parks, smells & desires.
I first heard about you through No Licence Shop, how did you get into running that?
I sold my first piece of clothing online at the age of 16, it was a Polo Ralph Lauren Rugby I got in a charity shop in Clapham. I’ve been buying & selling since then, 12 years & counting. I initially wanted to only sell to my immediate circle of friends, but soon found that wasn’t sustainable.
No Licence Shop was a joint venture with my friend & then business partner, Mark Dear; we were both selling clothing online, comparing sales when we linked up on nights out and scheming on ideas of a joint venture. No Licence Shop was it. My thing was buying & selling, the simple side of it. Mark had the vision for it to become more than that. The idea was to make second hand clothing more accessible, give it a home, make it known. This went against my own personal aesthetic / desires at the time, the thought of tailoring an expression / image to satisfy others was foreign to me. Something I still battle with. We were hustling from my flat, and garage until we secured our first studio spot in Catford, over looking frontline. Some great memories were formed their. Mark isn’t currently involved, but I’m forever grateful of the role he played in the formative years of No Licence.
How did you get into fashion more generally?
I played football to a decent level until the age of 19, before that my relationship with ‘fashion’ was a loose one. I remember being in a changing room after captaining my school side to a victory, aged 12, and throwing on a jumper with text ‘Boardwear’ on it; to the amusement of some team mates who thought it was ‘Fake’ ‘Rocawear’, maybe it was, but who really cares.
I still think ‘fashion’ is a luxury. I’ve never been able to justify / afford retails prices for clothing or trainers & never will. All my clothes as a child came from charity shops.
I go through stages / phases of how expressive I am with my style. At the moment, and for a while it has been pretty subdued. I like keeping my head down & cracking on with my day.
The No Licence Shops bio reads ‘Archive, Sales & Loans’, could you elaborate on that?
It’s in no particular order. No, archive does come first. In this revolving evolving fashion world I think it is important to preserve knowledge through ‘artifacts’ closely associated with times & memories. Historically that has been more stereotypical items you’d fine in museums: letters, statues & documents etc. For me, it’s clothing. I’ve recently opened an Archive Room at my studio, where I house brands & pieces I think deserve a pedestal.
As previously mentioned football has played a pivotal role in my life, and always will; hence the association with sportswear. Imagine playing on the shoulder of the left CB, and having a through ball slipped into the channel between him & the LB, you take one touch, briefly look up & catch the keeper in flurouscent pink goal keeper shirt slightly too far to his left. You slot it near post. Thank the man who played the through ball & get back in for kick off. Be assertive with what you do, who you are & get what you want. Never leave the football pitch without having shaken the hands of every opposition player.
What brands are most prominent in your archive?
Again, in no particular order; Lot 29, Akademiks, Avirex, Rocawear, Ecko, Wale Adeyemi, Phat Farm & Nike
What’s the most annoying part of running a shop?
The fact that it is now a business, and I have to make money to pay the studio rent. Becoming a business was never my intention from the jump, it has detracted from the beauty of buying & selling, the raw essence.
What’s your favourite part?
Waking up at 4am regularly to source stock. I’ve never been one for sleeping, and try to remain as productive as possible throughout my day.
What’s your opinion on bootleg items?
*Shrugs* I always find peoples opinions that ‘an item is fake’ is strange; no it is a physical T-Shirt that you can put on your body. Understand? I once splashed out on some fake Lyle & Scott Polo shirts from Tooting Market, £10, it was purple to match the laces of my vans.
Do you consider yourself part of a ‘scene’?
I don’t, but accept I am. I’m not social enough to integrate or align myself with others. No Licence wasn’t a business idea, it’s something I’ve always done. I didn’t one day pack in what I was doing & decide to sell clothes. I still struggle to cater for other peoples needs. I recently asked my instagram following what items they wanted to see, most responses made me chuckle. You can imagine what they were; Stone Island, Arc’Teryx, Prada etc. That shit isn’t me. Go somewhere else for that.
You’ve made music under the names of OpenGoldenRucksack and ParasitePhases, can you elaborate on where those names came from?
Fucking hell. The origins of both. OpenGoldenRucksack (OGR) was a collective effort. If someone wore, literally, an open golden rucksack; you’d want to know what was inside. At the time we were making a lot of music that was never released, for many a reason.
OpenGoldenRucksack – Mail was a presentation, the first time we collectively sat together & strategised on how to make music. We opened the rucksack. To this day I can’t tell you what the sample is on Mail. (Listen here).
ParasitePhases came from frustration. I was making vast amounts of music / sounds that sat on hard drives; and still do I think. For sanity’s sake I needed to release something, anything. ParasitePhases was an adventure made alongside a very talented musician, who doesn’t want to be named; or as the song said “ParasitePhases, it’s a phase that we all go through but we don’t escape it”.
You said OpenGoldenRucksack was collaborative, who was involved?
It was an immediate cirlce of friends, we linked up almost everyday. Myself, Goya Gumbani, The Hotel, Santiago Worldwide, Cleto Marez, Elijah, and a few others. Not all then or currently operating / exisiting under the names mentioned before. We met through mutual friends, spent most of our days on the strip, nights around Logic 9 and a microphone.
The description on soundcloud reads “Futuristic OGS”. Considering the music you were making 6 years ago could be released now and not seem dated at all, this seems to be pretty bang on. Was there a new wave of sound that you saw becoming more popular?
We didn’t anticipate a sound becoming popular, or intend for our sound to be popular. We were making what we wanted, when we wanted. Our shit didn’t sound like anyone elses, and to this day I believe that. I believe that we were pioneers, even just to our friends. That’s beautiful.
It seems like your music can also be seen as a form of archiving. In ‘Hate Bites’ you say “I ain’t tryna regulate in my raps, I’m just tryna write enough so that I can look back”, is this still the way you view writing?
‘Bong hits between my laps, seated in traps, unlocked the door but cat chords brought me back’ I love that track. I never really considered it as a form of archiving, but it is. Pulling moments or thoughts from ourselves & placing them. I like that concept.
Would you class yourself as a lyricist or a producer first?
A wordsmith, lover of words. Appreciative of the human ability to manipulate our voice.
I see you’ve been posting spoken word recently on your Instagram, do you have any new music or poetry in the works?
I literally write everyday. And have done for the past 10 years. I’ve always preferred free styling to ‘writing’, and surprisingly accapella shit to ‘raps’. A reason why I haven’t released more music. What I say now, won’t be the same in 5 minutes, or tomorrow. Though I understand constructing a verse that outlives that moment & is engaging enough for others is a skill; it isn’t mine. In all honesty, there’s nothing in the pipeline. Though seeing friends releasing music is inspiring, and should motivate me to make something of it.
If we sent you something IORI, what colour would you like?
Black or Blue. Inter Milan.
What’s next for Felix, and No Licence?
Personally, I’m trying to rediscover my drive for creating, and allowing myself the time / space to express myself. Potentially for my own joy, and maybe others. I’ve felt subdued for a long time, that needs to change. Keep drawing, keep writing, drinking, exploring, challenging, accepting, questioning; changing.
And No Licence, I can’t lie. It’s right where I want it to be. Not that that’s where it will stay. I’ve always struggled to step back & reflect / analyse on No Licence. This is a moment to do that.
I’ve now got a seperate space to house my archive, I’ve got a good balance with my day job & No Licence. I’ve got great friends I see regularly & we make money. I’ve got a reason to rise. I’ve got love to give.