Interview with Chocolate Puma

Chocolate Puma are the playfully named DJ duo from Amsterdam; Rene ter Horst and Gaston Steenkist. Here they tell us about how they discovered Laidback Luke, how they got their name and much more.

Interview with Chocolate Puma Photo by Chocolate Puma

Chocolate Puma are the playfully named DJ duo from Amsterdam; Rene ter Horst and Gaston Steenkist. They have produced countless genre defying records under various monikers over the last 20 years and long may they continue. They have made an indelible mark on House music with their unique and unmistakable sound. These guys were there doing it and getting the T shirt when you were still knee high to a chocolate grass hopper. They are known in Holland as a national House music treasures whose classic records helped to build a scene.

These were the guys behind the legendary chart topper The Good Men 'Give It Up' and the anthem 'I Wanna Be You' as well as the more recent Beatport No. 1 'Tonco Tone' and countless other underground club hits. Here they tell us about how they discovered Laidback Luke, how they got their name and what you producers should be plugging into Logic.

You guys have been producing for 20 years now, how did your partnership begin and what is the whole theme behind Chocolate Puma?
Rene: I did a radio show 20 years ago and I did a shout out to some people who could produce music and send it to my show and there was only one sender and it was Gaston!

Then we went to his studio which at the time was in his bedroom and we did a jingle for the radio show, that jingle turned out to be 'Give It Up' by The Goodmen which was our first big hit, we started producing at that point and we haven't stopped for 20 years.

Gaston: Our Chocolate Puma Project started 10 years ago, and it is the only project name that we are using right now as we are feeling really comfortable with, we can do everything we want within the project. I think that 20 years ago the times were different, it was cool to have different names and situations with white labels and weird record sleeves. Now it is more about being visible and having a good name and good visibility.

So what are the other names that you produce under?
Rene: Names like the Klatsch!, The Goodmen, Rene & Gaston, Jark Prongo, + others...

How did the name Chocolate Puma come about?
Gaston: We did this track 'I Wanna Be You', and at time our record company did not know what to do with it so we decided to put this on our own label, which is now called Pssst Music (Rene: In England they call it PISSED!) At that time we had this other obscure label and we just needed artwork and a weird name so Rene came up with Chocolate Puma and I came into the studio and thought that is a brilliant name 'lets do it'!

You are well known for only playing your own records and remixes in your DJ sets, how does this work for you?
Rene: First of all we do not have a CD wallet anymore, everything we have is on SD card but still we only bring 50 or 60 tracks.

Gaston: Actually it is 150. We also play other peoples records but we first we will remix it, edit it or bootleg it so it becomes our own and it is really great to be able to do this.

Is it true that Laidback Luke was your protégé?
Gaston: Yes this is true. When I was really young and he was even younger, I played at a party at his school, and he was just a 15 year old kid, and he came up to the DJ booth with a cassette tape. Some older people might remember that format. I listened to it and it kinda sucked, but I heard he was very talented and he had a great musical ear, so I invited him to my home, we were listening to records together for around 2 years, and we taught him all kinds of tricks, like how to produce and the whole thing. After 2 years he released his first record on my label and the rest is history.

Are you working with anyone else at the moment, anyone else that you have taken under your wing?
Gaston: Yes we work with Bart B More and we kind of manage him.
Rene: But we don't take them under our wings anymore because they are already good.
Gaston: On the other hand you will be surprised by our own knowledge, we know things and we can pass that on.

So tell us about your single 'For your Love'.
Rene: For your love is of course a rework of the very old single from the Yardbirds in the 60's.

Why did you choose this record to remix?
Rene: Well we heard a very odd disco version of it by a German band and this inspired us to make a 2011 version.

British DJ Paolo Mojo says technology has rewritten the DNA of music production, what do you think about this?
Rene: I think he is right, a lot of things have changed since we first started, we had all these midi cables and stuff in the studio and we used to record on tapes.

Gaston: When we wanted to make a radio edit we literally had to take a tape and cut it with a knife, and stick it back together with glue. At a certain point we would lose a breakdown, and there it was on the floor somewhere and that would be the breakdown gone.

So what studio equipment could you not live without?
Rene: The computer, we do everything on this so we need on our Mac, we have a very simple setup, just a Mac and Logic, and a few plugins.

What plugins do you use?
Gaston: Logic itself has great plugins but the ones we use are but we use one particular plugin to do our bits, it’s a sampler called Guru, it is really fast and easy and simple, and it is like our main thing for the beats.
Rene: Also the plugins from Fat Filter.

How do you feel about being crowned 'House Masters'?
Rene: It doesn't feel real just yet, for me those guys on the previous House Master compilations are still amazing but I think that we have done something good and we are honoured.

The album features some of your best tracks, but which ones in particular are you most proud of?
Rene: ‘Give It Up’ is where it all started and we can still play it, that was in 1992! It still sounds fresh but we have done a little update of course.

Did you ever think that 20 years ago you would be here now?
Rene: No not really no!
Gaston: Actually when I met Rene he was already DJing, and he had seen it all and he was like maybe it is time to stop djing, and he didn't know that it was just the beginning! I never thought about it as a career, I just thought this is what I like to do, and I love to make music.

Do you still see yourself doing this in 20 years time?
Rene: If you knew my age you would realise that still being A DJ in 20 years time it might be a bit of a problem! But we are so far now, we are not going to stop, we will only stop if people do not want us anymore.

Do you feel that you are peeking now?
Gaston: No not yet, we are still growing.

I hear that you have 2 forthcoming tracks: ‘Go Bang’ and ‘Tragito De Ron’, what can you tell me about these?
Rene: We have done 2 collaborations with Grego Salto, It’s coming out on our own label, Pssst music, the other is ‘Go Bang’ that we did with Firebeats. They are two young talented producers from the Netherlands, also coming out on our label. It was very funny to collaborate with these guys, because they were like excited young puppies, they were jumping around and talking to each other really fast, just like we did to each other 20 years ago. They were excited by every noise, every sound it was really cool.

How does it feel for you knowing that people are coming to hear especially to see you play and to hear your records?
Rene: It feels very good especially because we play our own tracks now. When someone DJs they may play two or three of their own productions, years ago it was tricky to play your own stuff. For us now, because we have made so many tracks over the years we never had a chance to test them out on the dance floor quickly. Now we can make the records and test them directly on the dance floor instantly and it’s more fun than ever.

Gaston: Like he says we are having a lot of fun, we do not see it as a peak we still feel that we are slowly building, and we don't know where it will go. We treat it like a marathon not like a sprint.

Kim Smith Guest Writer