René ter Horst and Gaston Steenkist, also known as Chocolate Puma know a thing or two about house music – they’ve been releasing hits for more than two decades and helped discover dance music icon, Laidback Luke. We had a chat with them ahead of their return to the highly anticipated Groove Cruise Cabo. Insight into aliases, production tips, and wacky event stories from their interview below.
You’ve had a number of hits via several different aliases over the last 20+ years. What prompted the creation of “Chocolate Puma” and do you feel that it’s still better to have different aliases in the current dance scene?
We used to have so many aliases back in the 90’s and Chocolate Puma was one of them. Back then we felt very comfortable hiding behind all these names, but at one point we thought it would make more sense to focus on just one, give a project the time to grow and build on a strong profile. So we stuck with Chocolate Puma and totally went for this project. But we understand that some artist use different aliases, we’ve been there, we understand that it could give you some creative freedom or inspiration sometimes.
Over your long and illustrious career, you’ve had a chance to play in several different countries. Which places really stand out to for their dance music culture and has that changed over the years?
In the beginning we were only playing in The Netherlands, and our country embraced dance music very early on. We also saw the massive growth and change happening during the 90’s and later the 2000’s. We used to dream about house music reaching more people, and if you look now, it has become mainstream in all its forms. Of course Ibiza is still the center of much of our culture, but what struck us the last few years is how insane and fantastic the scene has become in North America.
The incident at your recent show in which someone threw a toilet brush on stage was pretty random (and funny, since no one got hurt). Besides that, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at one of your events?
Yes that was pretty random haha. Maybe Justin Bieber walking in and leaving within 30 seconds again?
Your Balearic remix of ‘Lullaby‘ has great Ibiza beach vibes. Do you have any tips for producers and composers on how to achieve this vibe? Any particular instruments or VSTs you favor for this sound?
This sound is not about the plugins or instruments, it’s all about how we experienced the island over the years and we translated these emotions into music. But at the same time we make stuff that might be inspired by a main stage festival set, or a dark, sweaty underground gig. And that’s what music is all about for us, hearing things, seeing things, absorbing vibes and transforming that into what we think it should sound like.
Another production related question! Your drums always sound really clean and punchy. What’s the latest technique that you’ve learned on processing drums?
For us it’s all about contrast. Think about it like a nice dinner. You have something juicy, something crunchy, something salty, sour, sweet. All these ingredients together make the meal taste good. So we approach our drums, and even our whole production like this. We use all kinds of different sounds to create depth. On one hand you need super clean sounds that cut through a mix, but to spice things up you also need crunchy lo-fi stuff. If you only would use super clean polished sounds your record would sound boring and static. If you only would use lo-fi mp3 like sounds your record would sound like shit. But if you balance these things out, the crunchy parts make the polished parts sound more polished. In other words, some sounds should sound really good, but not all of them.
You guys are playing at the Groove Cruise Cabo soon and we’re really stoked for your set! Any chance you’ll be playing some new material?
We are looking forward to playing the Groove Cruise again, last time was the first time we played GC and it was the best. And for sure we are gonna play some new stuff. We do that all the time 😉
The World’s Largest Floating Music Festival, The Groove Cruise Cabo is a 120 hour, non-stop experience, comprised of 5 straight days of beach & pool parties. Limited tickets are available. Check out their website for bookings and additional information.