Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thunderpuss


A couple of weeks back I picked up a used import CD single of Mandy Moore's "In My Pocket" for cheap. My reason for getting this was for the Thunderpuss Club Mix of the song, after reading about it on a dance music discussion board. Being a fan of Thunderpuss remixes, it was surprising that I would pass on that track when it first came out in the summer of 2001. I guess I passed on it then was because it was by someone who represented post-Britney teen pop, which I didn't care much for. As I listen to that remix today, it has that big, expansive sound that charcterizes Thunderpuss dance remixes, that could fill up a huge dancefloor with no problems.

If you could compare a Thunderpuss remix to a cinematic style, it would one that's shot in thrity-five millimeter film and where the camera moves in a fluid and expansive shot over a huge scene or crowd. The remix/production duo's sound was a (pre-9-11 and pre-Bush) reflection of the American dancefloor from 1999 to 2002; optimistic and full of melody, yet with a edgy dark underside.

DJs Barry Harris and Chris Cox formed Thunderpuss in late 1997. Barry had been in a few dance acts over the previous decade, most famously in Kon Kan, which had a Top Twenty hit of "I Beg Your Pardon" in 1989. Chris Cox had done work with people such as Giorgio Moroder. Their first production would be a remake of Andy Gibb's "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" with former Snap! singer Thea Austin. In 1999 their remixes of Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay" and Amber's "Sexual (li da di)" would blow up both on the dancefloors and radios, putting them on the musical map. For the next four years they would be one of the most famous dance remixers in the industry. During their six-year run they would do 126 mixes and productions to their credit. 31 of their remixes would hit#1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music Club Play Chart!


In March 2002 there was a Thunderpuss mixed CD released on the Tommy Boy label simply titled Thunderpuss (the original title was supposed to be DJ's & Divas). Considering that the CD had a lot of commercial potential with Thunderpuss remixes of songs by the likes of Madonna and Britney Spears, as well as standard diva and circuit tracks, it was not widely promoted outside of the NYC area. (At that point Warner Brothers were no longer distributing Tommy Boy's records, thus Tommy Boy probably didn't have a lot of money to do a proper promotion of the compilation at that point.)

In addition to their remixes and production work, Thunderpuss released several singles, including "Stand Up" with Latanza Waters (actually a remix of the 1996 Love Tribe track of the same name) and a remake of Pigbag's "Poppa's Got A Brand New Pigbag," both in 2001. They also did a track with male vocalist Barnes, the Frankie Goes To Hollywood-sounding "Head", which was believed to be the first #1 single on the Billboard Dance Club Play Chart that was not signed to any label. They also did some solo production work at that time as well. Barry Harris teamed up with singer Pepper Mashay to record "Dive In The Pool," which was played so much at gay events (as well as on Queer As Folk) that the record became something of a gay cliche. Chris Cox hooked up with DJ Irene and vocalist Thea Austin to record "You're The Worst Thing For Me" under the moniker of Pusaka; that single would become a prime pissed-off-diva-done-wrong anthem.

By the time 2003 went around, things were getting difficult in the dance world in America. Radio stations and MTV were blantantly snubbing dance acts in favor of rap and R&B--even Madonna was having difficulty getting radio airplay. Gay circuit parties, which had reached its peak in the late 1990s, saw their attendences decline. Dance labels were closing shop and major labels were dropping their dance departments. Labels, feeling the financial pinch of declining sales, decided that paying up to $30,000 for a remixer to work on a track, only to have the finished result not to be released commercially--or in some cases, not even promotionally (such as the Thunderpuss remix of Britney's "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman," which was far better than the original ballad version IMHO)--was a waste of money and started having their remixes done on speculation instead. And Thunderpuss were having difficulty in keeping their sound fresh. By September Barry Harris decided to pull the plug on the partnership, citing "creative differences." He probably also was sensing that the big room sound by the likes of them and Hex Hector was falling out of favor. The duo's last remix ironically enough would be "So Yesterday" by Disney star Hilary Duff.

Since the split both have been concentrating on DJing and production work. Among Chris Cox's best-known post-Thunderpuss work is the remix of Kelly Osbourne's "One Word." Barry Harris recently announced that after two decades in the business he was retiring from it.


I thought I'd leave with a Top Ten list of my favorite Thunderpuss remixes. I first did a slightly different version two years ago at Amazon.com. Hope that you'll enjoy the following:

  1. Whitney Houston - It's Not Right But It's Okay (The Thunderpuss 2000 Club Mix) - The track that put Thunderpuss on the musical radar for real. Fierce.
  2. Madonna - Don't Tell Me (Thunderpuss 2001 Hands In The Air Anthem) - Actually the second time that Thunderpuss would remix this track. Here Madonna get a circuit workout supreme.
  3. Whitney Houston - My Love Is Your Love (Thunderpuss 2000 Club Mix & Servere Dub) Not as well known as the Johnathan Peters' mixes, but they're just as divine. Featuring a sample of Raze's "Break 4 Luv" and a hot gospel choir.
  4. Kristine W - "Clubland (Thunderpuss Club Mix) - a Thunderpuss diva track done with sass and restraint.
  5. Amber - Sexual (li da di) (Thunderpuss 2000 edit & Club Mix) - Proof that Thunderpuss could handle Euro-dance artists just as well as diva tracks.
  6. Taylor Dayne - Naked Without You (Thunderpuss 2000 Club Anthem) - A great belter track. When Taylor hits that prolonged high note with "THE BEST MAN I'VE EVER HAAAAAAAAAAAD!!!"
  7. Whitney Houston - Whatchulookinat (Thunderpuss Club Mix & Anthem Mix) - Thunderpuss rescues this song. In its original form a limp R&B number where Whitney bitches how much fame is a bitch. But T-Puss remakes it into a slamming dance track that "strikes back."
  8. Mary J. Blige - No More Drama (Thunderpuss Club Mix) - A definitive diva track. Should have been called "Yes More Drama" instead.
  9. Tamia - Stranger In My House (Thunderpuss Club Mix & Radio Mix)
  10. Whitney Houston - Try It Own My Own (Thunderpuss Private Invite Mix) - Here T-Puss aimed for a more intimate mix with no effects to Whitney's vocals. Some people perfered the more standard big room sound of the Thunderpuss Club Mix instead, but I really think that this mix really works.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris...you made me laugh out loud as i sit in front of my computer!! Damn...why didn't i think of that!!! ..the mix should have been called Yes More Drama Instead!

ROFL

Barry Harris

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Chris,

You can write well my friend- good job! Thanks for sharing!

Amber

11:47 AM  
Blogger The Divine Ms. Jimmi said...

I have a bootleg version TP's Remix of "people Are Still Having Sex" by LaTour. It is really a hot one, too.

3:07 AM  
Anonymous Thunderwing said...

THANK YOU Chris for giving this great tribute to Thunderpuss. I have been impressed with almost all of their work and still listen to at least 1 T-Puss remix a day. I've got to add a few of my faves:
1) Stranger In My House (ThunderDUB): Tamia (SWEET gong drum effect!)
2) Tonight: Charlotte Church (awesome work with Charlotte's beautiful voice & pieces of the original instrumental)
3) Stuck by Stacie Orrico: T-Puss rescued that song for me. It's lyrically weak, & T-Puss's beats really added drama and feeling to the song.

Later, & God Bless!

7:04 AM  

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