A couple months ago Spesh and I received an email with a link to a demo. This isn’t unusual — we get many submissions each week to Loöq Records — but this track in particular was a bootleg remix of a track we had already published. A bootleg is an unsolicited “illegal” remix — it is made by chopping up bits of the finished track instead of using the individual remix parts or “stems” (supplied by the label or original artist).
Mark Musselman and I (together we record as Momu) have made a few ourselves, like this one (“Momu vs. Missy”). This new boot was of an original Momu track, “The Dive” (probably the track Momu is best known for). The remixers were a couple guys from Argentina — Cristian Gandini & Mike Griego. They’d already garnered support from some of the world’s top DJ’s, and they had the videos to prove it! Here’s Eelke Kleijn playing the track at Pacha, and the crowd goes nuts.
After listening to the track it took Spesh and I about five seconds to agree to put it out on Loöq. The remix is a slow builder, deep and intense, but with a peak that can put a crowd over the edge if skilled DJ drops it at the right time (if you’d like to see another example here’s Hernan Cattaneo playing the track at a club in Amsterdam). We were stoked Cristian and Mike had approached us directly, and we quickly agreed to terms.
Re-releasing “The Dive” has stirred up a few memories. Mark and I originally wrote the track in 2001. The original mix had elements of trance and progressive over its breakbeat foundation, and a simple, sublime hook from our vocalist Alysoun Quinby. At the time there was no “progressive breaks” genre — I think I can safely say Mark and I helped invent the style. At the time those two elements of the dance music community kind of saw each other as opposites (“hate” is probably too strong a word — “open disdain” might fit better).
It wasn’t that Mark and I were trying to stir things up, it’s just that he was obsessed with breaks and I was mostly a prog-house producer (with Spesh as Jondi & Spesh), and we wanted to make music together. Kind of a peanut-butter and chocolate thing (if you’re old enough to remember the original RPBC commercials).
The lyrics were inspired by the story of Kia’s stepfather’s skydiving death. He didn’t die from a fall — he died from a massive mid-air heart attack. He died doing one of the things he loved most (despite touching to earth in the back yard of a paramedic and receiving immediate medical attention). What a way to go. Sad, poignant, but also uplifting, even joyful — it seemed to fit the mood of the music.
I’m glad I got to meet Dan Skarry — he was cool guy. If I remember correctly he used to run a company that manufactured giant metal parts, like cruise ship propellors. He had a pet goat. I think he was working at a gas station when he met Alta (Kia’s mom).
As soon as Mark and I finished a decent draft of the track, Mark sent it off to a bunch of big-name DJ’s, including Nick Warren. I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, but the track gained a lot of attention — not quickly — but in a slow, steady kind of way. Global Underground licensed it for Nick’s Reykjavik compilation. We released the vinyl single on Loöq and it did pretty well. In anticipation of the vinyl release we sent out promos as usual (vinyl in cardboard packages to the UK, Europe, and South America — these days we just hit the Send button). Soon after I was working at home in the Loöq office (a bedroom tricked out with IKEA cubicles and a giant glass desk) when I got a phone call.
“Hello. Is this Loöq Records?”
“Yep. Who’s this?”
“This is Paul Oakenfold. I really enjoyed the track you sent ‘The Dive.’ Well done.”
A personal call from Paul-f*cking-Oakenfold. Whaddya know.
Sasha, John Digweed, Annie Nightingale, James Zabiela, DJ Hyper, Adam Freeland, Ashley Casselle, Lee Burridge, Cass, Jonathan Lisle, Hernan Cattaneo, DJ19, Pako & Frederik, and Hybrid also got behind the track. It seemed we had something resembling a hit on our hands.
At some point — I don’t remember when — we decided it would be a good idea to shoot a music video for the track. Kia would direct. She came up with a big idea that would require lots of work — an underwater choreographed dance. The idea was to make it look somewhat like floating, somewhat like flying, with a white background.
Going in, none of us actually had any idea how much work would actually be required. The shoot turned out to be pretty big. Someone in Palo Alto had a friend who volunteered their house and pool.
Choreographer Chris Black created the dance with performers Monique Jenkinson and Kevin Clarke. Mark, Aly, and myself would be in the video as well — Aly singing and Mark and I floating next to her trying to look cool and relaxed (which, as I would learn, is difficult when you’re holding your breath in cold water). The Kramer brothers — Chris and Matt — set up the underwater lighting rig. Photographer Stephanie Morgan took stills of the whole shoot. Christian Matthews, the Loöq Records art director, created the set — a huge white backdrop that we sunk into pool. Mark’s friends Pat McMahon and Jason Sutton worked as PA’s and supplied humorous running commentary. The shoot with produced by Andrew Burchiel, with Eliza Laffin taking over production duties in post. We even had an underwater safety coordinator — Trevor Cralle.
The shoot was fraught with technical and emotional difficulties. The pool kept filling up with leaves and had to be swept every ten minutes. One of the lights exploded. The water was freezing, and the performers all lost core temperature towards the end of the shoot and had to thaw out in a hot shower. The giant white backdrop kept floating to the surface. We were all cold. Still, everyone rallied and spirits stayed high.
On Day 2 of the shoot it looked like it was going to rain. Kia had filmed the dancers on Day 1 — Day 2 was supposed to be the day she would shoot me, Mark, and Aly doing our Momu artist bit (Aly singing, Mark and I floating next to her). Aly was feeling under the weather and was worried about getting into a pool during a lightening storm. She didn’t want to go. I knew I had to convince her, somehow, or we weren’t going to have a music video. I took the soft-sell approach and convinced her to drive down with me to Palo Alto and she wouldn’t have to get in the pool unless she felt okay with it. I figured if I could get her to the shoot then the momentum of the production would take over and she would feel energized. I guessed right, and luckily the weather cleared up. Disaster averted.
The performance itself was difficult. Mark couldn’t hold his breath underwater without puffing his cheeks out. Not being much of a swimmer, I had never opened my eyes underwater (without goggles) and had to practice, lying down at the edge of the pool and putting my face in the water. Aly proved to be a natural and could sing underwater with her eyes open looking relaxed and beautiful. Mark and I got better with practice but if you look closely in the video you can see I’m kind of squinty and Mark’s cheeks still puff out a little.
The dance side of it came out great. Chris, Monique, and Kevin had done a fantastic job. But there was a problem with the footage. It all looked like it had been taken in a pool — the white backdrop didn’t provide the floaty sky effect Kia had been hoping for. The only solution was to paint each frame in Photoshop individually, painting out bubbles, painting out pool walls, etc. The video was far from done.
Kia enlisted an army of interns to help with the work, and about ten people got carpal tunnel from the project. But the end result came out great. Here’s the final cut:
The cast and crew from that original music video have become more and more connected. Chris Kramer (aka DJ Kramer) who did the lights signed onto Loöq Records just recently with his downtempo Methodrone project. Monique Jenkinson (aka Fauxnique) ended up in a second Loöq Records music video which you may be familiar with. We’re still close with Aly and she continued to work with Mark and I on our second album Momentum. Stephanie Morgan is a dear friend and her photographs and art hang on many of our walls at home. Everyone is still in the picture.
The video itself showed on MTV. You might also be familiar with the song from MTV reality shows — it was used as background music in quite a few of them. The track has been licensed many times since its original release — dance music doesn’t always have a six-week shelf life.
I’m excited about this new release. If you want to listen to it and/or buy it (or the original release), here are some options.