From their early days as The Good Men to breaking into mainstream chart success, Chocolate Puma have seen it all. Future Music took a trip to visit the studio of the two godfathers of Dutch House.
They were responsible for giving Laidback Luke his first break. Which in turn helped the likes of Bart B More and many, many other now famous producers rise to fame. Their epic career and experience in production have made Gaston 'Dobre' Steenkist and René 'DJ Zki' Horst of Chocolate Puma the original Dutch House masters.
They've seen the top ten of the UK charts under three different guises - first as The Good Men with Give It Up in 1993, then Chocolate Puma's I Want To Be With You and also as Riva featuring Dannii Minogue with Who Do You Love Now in 2001. Their track Give It Up was even sampled by Simply Red for the massive number-one hit, Fairground before being sampled again by Fatboy Slim and countless other acts along the way.
The previously dusty old synthesizers and giant mixing consoles had been relegated to the attic and in their place isa slick office environment, with the Chocolate Puma boys now working completely in the box.
They were once cramped among oodles of hardware, but now the Chocolate Puma boys produce entirely in the box.
"The built-in plug-ins in Logic are some of our favourites, especially the EQs and compressors,” explains Gaston. "We basically use it in the same way we used to use hardware, emulating it with buss channels and master plug-ins."
The duo have always been in favour of sampling tiny fragments of strange records to get their inspiration.
But when it comes to the Puma's productivity, there's no fixed rule, as Rene explains: “You get weeks when you’re really not inspired”.
“Sometimes we make two or three records a week," adds Gaston, "sometimes it’s two or three a month.”
Monitoring and more
The Genelec 1031As have been a long-term choice for the Chocolate Puma boys, with a simple SPL MTC-2381 on the desk for controlling their levels and headphone sends.
Studio life is much more organised now, as Rene explains: "When we started to make music, it was in Gaston’s bedroom at his parent’s house and we would start at 10 and finish at midnight before burning out and having to refuel for a few days. Back then we didn’t have girlfriends and it was much easier to work like that.
"Now we probably start at our own homes doing email, website stuff and label information
before getting into the studio at around 12 to start making music and working on remixes. We finish
around 6pm and generally do this every day, unless we’ve been DJing for a few days.”
Alongside the Mackie controller, the other pieces of hands-on gear are the small M-Audio 25-key controller and a classic JX-8P.
The Roland JX-8P is the last analogue synth that hasn't been relegated to the attic. But it's not being kept for it's rich classic sound. "We still use this synth, but only as a MIDI controller," Gaston reveals.
There's not much in the studio any more but there's an attic full of old synths and studio hardware from Puma's prolific past.
Despite being computer-based, there are still times when a bit of real recording needs doing. "Even though we stripped back the studio, this booth still comes in handy when recording vocals or bits of percussion," notes Gaston.