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Flat Eric at 20: ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’

The rise, fall, and rise again of an icon...

Jonathan Emmins gives some insight into the life of an iconic character, the comments were originally featured as part of a Campaign article on 20th March 2019.

It’s the classic rags to riches story. Riding the wave of 90’s French cool, Flat Eric was the bright light of the underground, respected as much for his acting and film-making as his music making abilities. Levi’s plucked him from obscurity to front their Sta-Prest range (you know, the one’s like those nasty itchy Farah’s your Mum used to make you wear to school). The trousers may have bombed but for Flat Eric, global domination ensued. The speed of his ascent was only matched by that of his decline.

A series of financially lucrative collaborations and deals followed. Mainstream chart tracks with David Guetta, will.i.am and Diplo brought airplay success but alienated core fanbase. His credibility was the further debited when he first fronted a global advertising campaign overstating the powers of a soft drink to save the world, quickly followed by endorsement of a failed festival, becoming a meme for ‘taking one for the team’. Even his successful merchandise line bombed when it was revealed that they were made in child sweat shop.

Maybe it was growing up in a pre-social media era but a catalogue or errors including exposing himself on Instagram, a Snapchat rant while clearly under the influence of narcotics and that sex tape dominated the tabloids and online alike. Brands quickly distanced themselves. The PR team were called in to manage his redemption, but even but a highly publicised stint in the Priory plus an ill -conceived warts and all confession on prime-time TV wasn't enough to save Flat Eric's reputation. Cue 16 years in the wilderness.

But then, 12 months ago, it all began to change following a drop of material on Soundcloud. DJs with fresh eyes and ears, including Shanti Celeste, Mall Grab and Objekt, began to praise and re-appraise his work. They started playing his distinct sound in clubs like Percolate, Rhythm Section, and Chapter 10 as well as on stations including Balamii, NTS, and Kurupt FM. A candid autobiography ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’ made him the darling of the Sunday supplements, re-engaging with the original, similarly aging but now high disposable income audience he had lost/alienated. Brands keen to jump on the nineties-bandwagon began booking him to headline summer festivals. His tracks were quickly licensed for a series of automotive adverts. And finally, he was both cast in the lead role and scored director in the Netflix-signed series from his former collaborator, Quentin Dupieux.

The cycle was complete, at least until it turns around again…

Header Image: David Joyce with Creative Commons