Gaston and René, the driving forces behind the success of Chocolate Puma , have years of experience in the club scene and know how to produce a house hit. From ‘Give It Up’ in 1993 to ‘Step Back’ in 2014: everything is produced by the boys of Chocolate Puma. We had an interview with these two heroes about name changes, music, and what they think of hearing protection today!
You’re going great! In September 2015 you released a brand new track, ‘Lost Your Groove’. What’s the story behind this track?
“In 2015 we have spent a couple of months sightseeing in Los Angeles. Junior Sanchez asked if we’d like to drop by to the studio, where he was part of the Size Records team at the time. At first we were just talking about music and mainly about the fact that so few dance tracks nowadays have an actual groove. Before we knew it we were working on the structure of a track! Junior wrote the lyrics and had it sung by Arama, who also happened to be there. Some time later we were in New York, where Junior lives. We finished the track at his home. A fun little detail is that our all time hero Todd Terry also dropped by, liked the track and spontaneously recorded an extra bass line.”
Todd Terry is an old hand, but you’ve been working in the business for quite a while as well. You’ve gone through tons of name changes. Are you happy now with the name Chocolate Puma or can we expect another name change soon?
“About two years after we started making music in 2000 as Chocolate Puma we decided that it was time to just stick to a single name. We established Chocolate Puma as a real brand. We’re very happy with the name. We are very much Chocolate Puma, and it still fits our music perfectly.”
Why were you always looking for other names?
“When we started we wanted to release an album every month, so we needed multiple names to do that. We also used the various names to distinguish between the various types of house music that we were producing back then. Our name Klatsch!, for example, was used for our disco-oriented house, and Jark Prongo did something more akin to techno. In the early years of house everything was still very anonymous, so we could just stay in the studio and record different things on 12” vinyl, pretending to be different artists.”
Most young people today probably know you from ‘Step Back’, your 2014 hit. There was quite a long time between this track and your previous hit, ‘Touch Me’, from 2008. Why was that?
“We’ve never taken a break since the day we started making music. We make underground music for the dance floor and sometimes one of those tracks turns into a crossover track, it reaches the radio, and everyone’s suddenly heard it. Radio listeners might not have heard everything we make so they might think that we’ve been away, but we’re making music every day, we’re busier than ever and between 2008 and 2015 we’ve achieved various Beatport chart first spots. You can go here to see everything we’ve done in the mean time.”
While we’re on the subject of young people: what do you think of how they use hearing protection?
“We don’t have a 100% view of how young people deal with that, but we’re happy to say that we’re seeing more and more of them using hearing protection. As an artist you want your audience to hear the music clearly and to really feel the bass, so you want a loud installation with good sound and no distortion. Especially at big festivals the sound has to be very loud if you want the people in the back to hear it. But it’d be great if those people can still enjoy that music ten years from now. In a perfect world everyone who visits festivals, live shows and clubs should wear professional, custom moulded ear plugs. Those ear plugs also look better than those soft green or pink plugs that hardly work.”
How do you protect your own ears?
“In recent years we’ve always been wearing custom moulded ear plugs before and after the show, and sometimes also during the show if the sound from the venue is very loud. We also wear those plugs in the plane, in a car with an open roof, on the motorcycle or even when we’re bicycling (due to wind noise). Actually we use them whenever the sound is too loud or monotonous for a long period. Our ears have had to withstand quite a beating already; in the early years of house hearing protection wasn’t that important. People went to clubs without protection and DJs also played without protection. One of us already has a constant soft hiss in his ears. A broken arm can be healed, but if your ear is damaged it can’t be healed.”
What would the perfect hearing protection look like for Chocolate Puma?
“The hearing protection should be as invisible as possible, so maybe even the right skin colour. We wouldn’t change anything design-wise, because that’s good as it is.”
In which club or at which festival do you think the sound is the best in the world?
“That’s a difficult question, because there are numerous places where the sound is good. What we believe is important is that there is good communication between us and the sound engineer. That means that if the sound engineer makes sure that the sound in the venue is good and loud enough, we just run at zero (so not at negatives). If we do that, the sound is usually good and not distorted. If the sound engineer turns the volume down so much that we can hear the audience, it’s not good. For years now Ministry Of Sound in London has the reputation of best club sound in the world, and it does sound really good, but even that has a flip side. Sometimes it can be too intense. The basses can be too deep and the sound pressure can be huge, so sometimes it’s not fun for us anymore. Even with ear plugs in.”
What other things can we expect from Chocolate Puma?
“We are going to be very busy with many shows in the Netherlands and abroad. In addition, we’ll of course release many new tracks. So more than enough!”