Classic House Series Episode #30 – Gym Tonic(Thomas Bangalter Mix) – Bob Sinclar

As house tunes go, there are few tracks that have been surrounded by as much controversy with respect to authorship and release as Bob Sinclar‘s (more accurately, Thomas Bangalter‘s) 1998 French-house anthem “Gym Tonic“.  A classic example of the French Touch sound, this particular track has become almost mythical in terms of its origins, release and legacy.  With all the conflicting stories going around the net about this one, this post will be based largely on what seems to be the most reasonable and accepted versions of the story and, hopefully, will provide the most accurate version of the facts without getting Mr. Bangalter and Mr. Sinclar in the same room to sort it out (because that will likely never happen).

Let’s go back a few years to the 1998 Winter Music Conference in Miami.  Thomas and Bob meet and hit it off.  They start talking music and in the discussion it is revealed that Bob wants to make a track using the funk classic “Bad Mouthin’” by Motown Sounds.  Allegedly, Thomas quickly produces the track and adds a cheeky vocal sample from a Jane Fonda‘s  Workout record (2-3-4-5-6-7-8 and back along with some intro snippets).  With the track done, Bangalter hands it over to Sinclar for use on his debut album “Paradise“.  Bangalter’s only request is that the song not be released as a single and that his name is not anywhere on it (likely for not having cleared the rights for either sample).  Sinclar agrees and the track is added to the album.

Fast forward a few weeks to when the initial feedback for Sinclar’s album starts coming in.  The album is great (and it is), but DJs are going bananas over one particular track:  Gym Tonic.  This is where things get interesting (and complicated).

Despite promising Bangalter that he wouldn’t release the track as a single, the pressure is starting to come down from Warner Music, the label responsible for distribution of the album on Sinclar’s Yellow Productions imprint.  There is allegedly some attempt from Sinclar to reach both Bangalter and his manager Pedro Winter.  No success on either attempt.  With increased pressure to get a proper single out to support the album, “Gym Tonic” is released as a single albeit with the words “promo only” tacked on to it.  This reaches Bangalter’s ears and the lawyers start going at it.  But there’s one more heavyweight about to get involved.

The single attracts the attention of Jane Fonda herself and her legal team who are none too pleased about her vocals being sampled without permission.  This further ramps up the litigation with rumours that Fonda wanted as much as $30,000.00 to clear the sample.  Meanwhile, Sinclar’s album is in stores and selling well, all thanks to Bangalter’s production work.

The fallout from this whole episode had some stiff ramifications for Sinclar and our ears as well.  In response to Sinclar disregarding his wishes, Thomas Bangalter removes Sinclar’s remix of Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust from all future pressings of the CD single (the initial run of discs did include and are now highly sought after).  In addition, Warner goes ahead and commissions a “re-make” of the single by Spacedust under the name “Gym & Tonic“.  While the Motown Sounds sample remains, the vocals are re-recorded (poorly) by a session vocalist and the Spacedust single ended up hitting #1 on the UK singles chart (with a dreadful video to boot, see above).  Lines are drawn and it is assumed that Bangalter and Sinclar will never work together again, or even speak to each other, over the mess.

Controversy aside, one can safely say that the original Thomas Bangalter mix of “Gym Tonic” is a bona fide French-house classic and one of Bangalter’s best productions.  He even goes so far as to include snippets of the scratch samples that he used on his solo production “Spinal Scratch“.  The result is a pumping, swirling dancefloor bomb and if the vocal hook doesn’t get stuck in your head, the insanely catchy Motown Sounds sample will definitely do the trick.  It’s still a treat to drop this one on an unsuspecting crowd today and despite the controversy and fallout from its creation, this one has held up extremely well and your crowd had better be ready for a good workout here (pun fully intended).

 

Advertisements

Classic House Series Episode #21 – T.I.T.T.S(Take It To The Street)/ Music Box – The Buffalo Bunch

Any Daft Punk fan worth their salt knows that beyond the scope of their studio albums and live shows Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have forged their own successful solo projects through their labels Roule and Crydamoure respectively.

Thomas’ Roule label was arguably the more commercially successful of the two, particularly with the massive worldwide popularity of Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust, and later releases featured Thomas’ collaborations with DJ Falcon under their Together alias.  Roule also released the debut single “Vertigo” by Alan Braxe and singles from house legends Roy Davis Jr. and Romanthony, who would provide vocals on “One More Time” and “Too Long” from DP’s Discovery album.

The Crydamoure sound was also built on the above formula but took an even more bare, stripped-back approach to production and focused on sampling (and microsampling) obscure R&B and disco loops, then drowning them in effects and filters.  The bulk of the Crydamoure catalogue comes directly from Guy-Man and label partner Eric Chedeville under their guise of Le Knight Club, together with collaborations and releases from DJ Sneak, Sedat the Turkish Avenger, and the Buffalo Bunch.

Consisting of Guy-Man’s brother Paul de Homem-Christo and Romain Seo, the Buffalo Bunch have the distinction of being the only artists to have a release of Roule’s sister label Scratche.  The single, “Buffalo Club” was well received but it wasn’t until the release of their double-single on Crydamoure that people really took notice.

The A-side, Take It To The Street, loops a portion of Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” over the hi-hat and cymbal heavy percussion the Bunch are known for.  Definitely a decent tune, but IMHO the real gem lies on the flip.

Music Box is an absolute cracker of a tune and was created by combining three different samples; “New York City” – Boney M. and “No, No, Joe” and “Thank You, Mr. DJ” both by Silver Connection.  The samples are delightfully obscure, but come together over some tough-as-nails beats to create a delightful disco house stomper.  Check out the video above to see how the sampling was done as this remains my favourite Crydamoure release and whips a crowd into a frenzy.

Classic House Series Episode #19 – The Ghetto – Bob Sinclar

1997-1999 were indeed golden years for French house and it wasn’t just Daft Punk that was making some waves at the time.  French DJ/Producer Chris Le Friant, better known by his alter-ego Bob Sinclar, released his debut studio album “Paradise” in 1998, a set of funky, filtered house jams that relied even more heavily on layered disco sampled than his fellow Frenchmen did.

Sinclar’s association with Thomas Bangalter led to the creation of “Gym Tonic”, a track mixed and programmed entirely by Bangalter, and later released as a promo single against Bangalter’s wishes(you can read about that debacle here).  Despite it’s popularity the single, in Toronto anyway, was difficult to find leading many DJs including myself to simply grab the full album on vinyl.  “Paradise” turned out to contain several club-worthy tracks, including a little gem, “The Ghetto“.

By combining elements from a live recording of soul legend Donny Hathaway‘s “The Ghetto” and George Benson’s classic “The World is a Ghetto“, Sinclar threw together a funky stomper of a tune that made my jaw drop when I first heard it at Toronto’s legendary Venus nightclub during our Saturday sessions.  Over the coming weeks, people would seem to lose their minds when the delirious piano loops came in and the track remains a favourite of mine to pull out every now and again.  Despite “Gym Tonic” getting most of the shine, this cut and the album as a whole are not to be overlooked and stand out as true French house classics.

Classic House Series Episode #13 – La Mouche(Played Alive by DJ Falcon Remix) – Cassius

France’s DJ Falcon is one of the more unique contributors to the French House scene; his discography includes but a handful of releases, but they include some of the most important and genre-defining tracks in house music.  From his critically acclaimed debut EP Hello My Name Is DJ Falcon on Thomas Bangalter‘s Roule label, to his collaborations with Bangalter under the alias Together (Together and So Much Love To Give), his output may not be huge, but just about everything he puts his name on turns to gold.

Cassius, consisting of Phillipe Zdar and Boombass, enjoyed similar success in the late 90’s with their debut album 1999 and singles Cassius 1999 and Feeling For You.  La Mouche was also released as a single and though it may not have been as popular as the others, an absolutely cracking remix courtesy of DJ Falcon led this track to become one of the most powerful French House tunes to hit the clubs in a long time.

Falcon mercilessly loops a sample of “The Rock Is Hot” by Crown Heights Affair and adds some pumping house beats to the mix.  The big moment comes a little after the 5 minute mark when the EQs are played with, dropping out everything except the bass which not only sounds great on a big system, but is sure to throw your crowd for a loop(no pun intended).  House music legend Joey Negro sampled Falcon’s remix for his own tune “Fascinated” in 2002 bringing some exposure back to the remix.

Featured on numerous compilations including the excellent French House compendium My House In Montmartrethis is a true gem of the genre and worthy of a spin at any time you want to take your crowd on a ride.

Classic House Series Episode #12 – Rock Shock – Roy Davis Jr.

Given the plethora of quality releases that came out of Thomas Bangalter‘s Roule label in the mid-90s, it’s easy to overlook the funky, filtered, stomping gem of a tune that Chicago house music legend Roy Davis Jr. released in 1998.  In fact, Rock Shock was the label release that immediately preceded Roule’s biggest success, Music Sounds Better With You.

Davis Jr. previously worked as an A&R scout at the revered Strictly Rhythm label and released the massively successful single “Gabriel” which was a worldwide club hit.  With Rock Shock, based around a sample of Claudio Simonetti‘s “I Love The Piano“, Roy drops a fantastic piece of futuristic funk complete with booming drums, a thick bass and some nice filtering on the sample.

Thomas himself takes over remix duties and his “Start-Stop Mix” take Davis’ original formula, stands it on its head and…..well, I’ll let you have a listen for yourself.  Bangalter’s blend of crisp beats, signature filters and some deft turntablism tricks makes for a stellar remix and both sides of the vinyl can literally rock the dancefloor at anytime of night.

This is definitely a great jam to drop if you want to take your crowd for a ride and remains an iconic release in the Roule catalog.

 

15 years of Discovery

15 years ago this weekend, Daft Punk released their 2nd full-length studio album Discovery on the world and the world has never really been the same since, the dance music world anyway.

After transforming dance/house/electronic music as we know it with their landmark debut LP Homework, many fans were expecting a sequel of sorts for their sophomore release.  When the first single “One More Time” was released approximately three months before the album, it became one of the most instantly polarizing records in dance music history.  Purists were stunned by the duos foray into the world of Auto-Tune and the overall “commercialized” feel of the single.  Others thought the move to be quite brilliant, and look to it as the moment when Daft Punk truly crossed over from an underground house act to a mainstream phenomenon.  Let’s not forget that this is the record where they introduced us to their now standard robot helmet guises.

With the release of Discovery, fans now had a full-length concept album to embrace, which also served as the soundtrack to the accompanying anime film Interstella 5555:  The 5storu of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem produced by Daft Punk and legendary Japanese animator Leiji Matsumoto.  The duo spent about 2.5 years recording and developing the album and it certainly sounds like it.  To this day, I believe it is the slickest sounding purely electronic album that has ever been produced.  Every note, transition, nuance and sound is EXACTLY where it’s supposed to be with a beautiful sheen that makes the metallic font used for the album cover ever more appropriate.  Beyond the tracks released as singles, the album has wonderful moments of, yes, DISCOVERY, including “High Life”, one of my favourite DP tunes, “Voyager” and even the tongue-in-cheek 10-minute long closing track “Too Long”.  The list of guest performers is relatively short when compared to those featured on their collaboration-heavy fourth album Random Access Memories, but if that list is comprised of house legends Romanthony, Todd Edwards and DJ Sneak, clearly something is being done correctly.

Sampling made up a huge part of the record and I will not go into what was officially cleared and what was not; you may debate that among yourselves and, if necessary, use that rubbish Discovered bootleg disc which allegedly contains all the samples used.  Half of them are wrong anyway, and include tracks thought to be sampled on Homework and Human After All.  The point is, rather than simply looping samples and adding a beat to it (which they both did to great effect on their Roule and Crydamoure labels and releases), they ADDED and built songs around the samples putting their own brilliant touch to each.  They have stated themselves that this was meant to be a FUN record, paying homage to the sounds and musical styles they most closely identified with in their youth.  Indeed, it is difficult to find a moment on the album that can be described as introspective or deep and that’s fine.  What we have are 14 tunes that blend together to create a timeless listening experience and considering the lasting impact the songs have had, this may very well be the duos most instantly recognizable release.  “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” was employed to great effect in Kanye West’s “Stronger“, 6 years after its original release.  I personally can attest that “One More Time” is my most played Daft Punk song as a DJ.  Countless television and radio programs have used excerpts of the albums tracks as bumper or background music.

I won’t bother with a track-by-track review of this magnificent album.  Instead, check out the video above so you can rediscover the beauty of this important, genre-bending and ultimately satisfying release for yourself.  ONE MORE TIME.

thekeytothehousemix 2012 – Mixed by DJ Shawn Austin

It’s been a great year here at thekeytothehouse so here’s my way of sending another big thank you and a little Christmas present to all of you!

This 75 minute DJ mix features many of the tracks that have been featured in my posts and reviews here on the site including:

Happy Days – P.J., Do You Know What I Mean? – Fresh Tunes #1, I’m In Love With You – B.K.S., Music Sounds Better With You – Stardust, Lovelee Dae – Blaze

I definitely wanted to give this one a classic feel, and I hope you enjoy the trip back in time including a simply incredible house re-edit of one of my all-time favourite tunes, “Why” – Carly Simon courtesy of Redondo, a duo to watch out for in 2013.  Please be sure to check out my Soundcloud page for the full track listing and more of my tunes and remixes.

I’d like to wish everyone who visits this page warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2013!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from thekeytothehouse!

DJ Shawn Austin