[ No. 69 ]
Madison Avenue downunder
by Cyclone Wehner
Over time Frankston's
underground dance label, Vicious Vinyl, has developed into one of
the most exciting of its kind, not just in Australia but also internationally.
The Bayside stable is currently primed for new opportunities as
its vocal house duo Madison Avenue (Andy Van and Cheyne Coates)
blow up in the dance charts with their irresistible neo-disco single,
"Don't Call Me Baby".
has been a phenomenal year for quality crossover house hits. Armand
Van Helden, Basement Jaxx, Moloko, Shanks and Bigfoot, and Groove
Armada have all delivered memorable releases. And now we can add
Madison Avenue to this elite list. An Aussie Crystal Waters, singer
Cheyne exudes a sultry sensuality on the proto-feminist "Don't Call
Me Baby". The groovy house track is loosely based on a sample of
Pino D'Angio's obscure Italian hit, "Ma Quele Idea".
American house DJs (and Freakazoid nightclub guests) E-Smoove and
Tony Wilson recently heard "Don't Call Me Baby" in Melbourne, they
simply couldn't believe their ears. Indeed, here was a record from
(of all places) Australia that seemed to encapsulate the spirit
of traditional vocal house while sounding very contemporary. Chicago's
E-Smoove couldn't stop raving about it. Van recalls: 'He rang me
up on the way to the airport, or the day before going to the airport.
He said, "I'm going, but I had to ring to tell you how good the
track is and we should talk." He wants to come here and maybe do
some work for us. These are great doors that have been opened, and
that's part of the great thing about making a song that people like
and that becomes successful, because it opens people's eyes and
ears to what we're about. A lot of people in Australia know what
Vicious Vinyl are doing, but not on a worldwide scale.'
Of course, Andy
Van is already a familiar name to most within the Melbourne dance
circuit. Together with John Course, he co-founded the ARIA-winning
Vicious Vinyl label, setting up shop in Frankston where the rent
is low. Van has also enjoyed a prolific career as a producer and
remixer. Prior to launching Madison Avenue his most successful studio
project was "Blackout".
acquainted with Cheyne, a professional dancer, around eight years
ago in a Melbourne club where he was DJing. They formed a friendship,
which led to them collaborating in the studio. 'About a year-and-a-half
ago we decided to do a house-based act. There's really only two
types of house at the moment. You can do that fucked-up French one
based on little bits of samples and quirky sounds, or you can do
classic vocal house, and I wanted to do vocal house. Cheyne can
write vocals and I can't, so that basically meant that we collaborated
from there on.'
single, "Don't Call Me Baby", has been celebrated internationally
by the likes of Radio One powerbroker Pete Tong. He has played it
on his influential Essential Mix program. Vicious Vinyl has been
inundated with requests from house DJs who wish to licence the song
for various mix-CDs. Van modestly credits a remix by New York's
Dronez (aka Eric Morillo, Harry "Choo Choo" Romero and Jose Nunez)
for giving Madison 'enormous credibility overseas'. Yet the truth
is the record probably would have been a hit anyway.
So far Madison
Avenue have cut impressive international distribution deals with
Sony (Europe) and Virgin (UK). In the meantime, Vicious Vinyl has
newly aligned itself with the Virgin in Australia, because, Van
explains, 'we want some more exposure for our artists.' Up until
now Virgin Australia hasn't exactly been renowned for its dance
roster -- the odd French house outfit (Daft Punk and Air) aside.
Whereas others would be sceptical, Van sees this state of affairs
in a positive light. 'We didn't want to go with a label that already
had dance product, because then we would be one of the many. We
are Virgin's dance label, basically, so we are their focus.'
Van has long been justifiably critical about the lack of mainstream
recognition afforded to domestic dance artists -- especially those
who have proven themselves overseas. In fact, he can empathise with
the unhappiness of those Chicago house icons who are barely known
in their home cities. However, Van nowadays looks more favourably
on the Australian music industry, which he feels is slowly awaking
to the growth of the dance scene. Even radio stalwart Ugly Phil,
who openly admits to not liking dance, has been forced to acknowledge
that it is a movement that can no longer be ignored. 'I really see
dance music as the new rock 'n' roll,' posits Andy.
New Year's Eve will no doubt further bring home just how big the
dance movement is in the Antipodes as Australians (and international
tourists) turn out to catch the global scene's finest DJs and live
acts, all of whom have chosen to play in these parts for this significant
calendar date. That said, Van is not sure whether he or Cheyne will
even be in the country: 'We're talking to some overseas people at
the moment because the track is blowing up so big in the UK.' Certainly
Madison Avenue will be touring abroad to capitalise on the impact
of the single. The two would ideally like to create a mini show
complete with dancers.
So where would
the duo ultimately like to take Madison Avenue? Van is quick to
respond. 'We would like to take it into the same areas as artists
like Ultra Nate and Julia Roberts and those artists who have done
house tunes that don't have, "I'm a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World"-type
vocals. They are catchy but they're not cheesy. Ultra Nate's "Free"
is a perfect example of a song that is very catchy but is a good
quality song. And that's what we want to do. We want to do good
quality house tracks. We're working on an album at the moment for
release early next year.'
As for Vicious
Vinyl itself, the label intends to continue disseminating a cross-section
of dance music by world-class Australian acts. 'We've got Ivan Gough's
new tracks, "My World" and "Accelerator" -- it's a double A-side
under the name of Quest. And we've got a new thing from Chris Fresh
in Canberra called "Dub Rock", and that's a sort of funky French
thing, and we've got a new Australian act called Trigger, and that's
a little bit a la Chemical Brothers groove. So we've got quite a
few things coming up.'
Me Baby" is out through Virgin.