Thee Cool Cats
Interview w/ The Music Ninja
Mexican – U.S. Border straddling, genre-eschewing underground dance duo Thee Cool Cats have caught our ears for years now. From their first trio of tracks (we’ll talk about it that a little further into the interview) their Toolroom debut “Swerve” to their most recent single on co-founded label the Altus Project “Thee Corner”, we’ve seen a multitude of genre work from Tony Edit & Gerry Arellano in their brief existence. This past week, during Movement Music Festival in Detroit, we had the chance to catch up with the boys at their headlining gig for INSVNE’s official afterparty for one of the most raucous and alcohol-fueled interviews we’ve ever done. Check out the entire transcript below, and some of our favorite Thee Cool Cats tunes sprinkled in to keep things interesting.
The Music Ninja (TMN): Alright, we’re here live with Tony Edit & Gerry Arellano, otherwise known as the amazing Thee Cool Cats. And, we’re just going to get right into it! So, your bios have both Mexico & Arizona listed. Are the two of you currently living in the same city now?
Thee Cool Cats – (Tony Edit): Well… we kind of do this whole thing where I live in Mexico and Gerry hangs out in the United States, but we live on the border. So, I think that’s why our whole thing is so diverse ya know? Gerry stays about an hour away from me, but we get together at least once a week at the studio we have in Calexico. It’s a town in Mexicali, at our boy’s Diego house. Shout out to Diego for letting us use that thing!
TMN: Producing in the arena of House and dance in general. We’re exposed to so many collaborations all the time, what drew you two together to actually say “we’re going to do everything together” and be Thee Cool Cats?
Thee Cool Cats – (Tony Edit): That’s a funny story actually. I’m gonna let Gerry answer that one.
Thee Cool Cats – (Gerry Arellano): It just happened sort of naturally actually. I mean, the first time I saw this guy was back in 2009, I went to a Boys Noize concert and (gestures towards Tony) these guys opened up for them.
Tony: I used to have this other duo, called Disco Villains, with my boy Louie Fresco, and we did a bunch of tracks… track with MSTRKRFTand Bloody Beetroots, and we did an official remix for “We Are Your Friends” for Justice…
TMN: Yeah we remember that!
Tony: Yeah… so we kind of like started popping off in our home town, in Mexicali. So… Gerry went to one of our shows! And back then, you know how electro was really…
TMN: When it was still kind of indie and hard?
Gerry: Yeah exactly.
Tony: Yeah! And it was also like, thrashy and punk rock back then too. It wasn’t anything like it is now you know, like progressive and shit, it was punk rock. So, I used to get pretty crazy and jump off the stage, go into the crowd and give people champagne, and do crazy shit like that…
*Everyone collectively chuckles*
Tony: So it was one of those nights, and I jumped off the stage and was just walking through the crowd, giving people champagne and taking some pictures, and this kid was like “Hey man, would you sign my ticket?!” And I said yeah, fuck it I’ll sign your ticket! **Laughs** I think it was the first time I ever actually signed a ticket.
Gerry: And that was the only time I ever took a sharpie to an event!
Tony: And then.. Later on. I started getting messages from this kid like, “Hey, what do you think about this track?”, and I would give him little suggestions like, you know what, you need to change this little part or this progression you know? And Gerry at the time was making like kind of, progressive-y, housey beats back then… I don’t know what it was… I mean it was cool! Don’t get me wrong. So anyway, I would tell him, change this, or play with the structure here, and stuff like that. So, one day me and Louie stopped doing the Disco Villains thing, because he started doing like the #19, ketamine house, real slowed down stuff, so we just kind stopped you know? And I was still like…
TMN: Giving people the bounce? Getting the bounce going? *Group laughs again*
Tony: So it took me like a year in between projects. I started making some moombahton and then fucking… it took me a while to find something right? But then I heard “Goodies” by Amine Edge & Dance, and I was like ‘damn’!… This is me! You know what I’m saying? So I heard that tune and then Gerry sent me a track that he’d been working on, he had been working on some deep stuff, but the bassline was really cool, it was a little bit harder. So I said “Hey Gerry, this is something we should do.” And I sent him “Goodies” and he was like “This is fucking hot man!”. And then he said “You know what man, I’ve got this studio here in Calexico etc..” So I just went over there for probably like 6 hours and we made three tracks. We made “Hand on the Pump”, “Miss My Love” and we made which one?…
Gerry: It was umm…. I cant remember. *Group laughs again*
Thee Cool Cats
Miss My Love (Preview) (Out Now Nurvous Rec. Exclusively on Beatport)
Tony: So anyway, it was so cool because we just instantly clicked man. As soon as we went in there I’d just start something and then send it to Gerry and we wouldn’t even talk and all of a sudden it was done!
Gerry: We were just reading each others’ minds man.
Tony: And so, that’s just how it happened. Oh, but wait! So anyway, while we were there, Gerry was like “Do you remember when you played that Boys Noize show? You went down into the crowd, and I actually met you that day.” And I was like “Really”? Because I don’t remember that kind of shit, especially when I’m playing! *We all laugh again* So then he pulls out the ticket, and sure enough, there’s my signature on Gerry’s ticket, and he’s still got it on him!
TMN: No way?! That is so crazy… So anyway, touching on the studio and living in different cities. You guys are consistently churning out quality productions. You’ve released on Nurvous, Toolroom, CUFF, Bunny Tiger…
Tony: Get Physical.
Thee Cool Cats
Attitude (Keep It G)
TMN: Yeah the list seems to go on! How do you guys find the time living in different cities to get in the studio together so consistently, and how does that creative process work?
Gerry: We just make the time, honestly. You know, it’s about dedication and just hustling every single second man.
Tony: To be honest with you too, for us it’s all about communication. You know what I mean? Because, sometimes, there will be a time where we go without talking for a week and it’ll start feeling weird… You know how when you’re in a relationship?… And you don’t talk to your girl for like a week right?
Gerry: *laughs* Kind of though!
Tony: So anyway, now me and Gerry, we talk every day. It doesn’t even have to be about music. It can just be about stuff that’s going on, whatever. So every day we make sure that we talk and communicate. So if Gerry’s working on something he’ll let me know “Hey I got this idea I’ve been working on”, or if I have an idea, I’ll talk to Gerry, and like I said, we make sure we get together at least every two weeks. And when we’re together, I’ll show him something, and he’ll show me something and it just automatically clicks. Like, I swear to God when I say this, and it might sound a little gay, and it is a little gay. *room laughs again* But, Gerry’s like my musical soul mate. Like we don’t even have to talk, and then we have the same mentality… I don’t know I might’ve imposed this mentality on Gerry a little bit, but we’ve always had this vision of Thee Cool Cats to where it’s diverse and we don’t want to get pigeonholed into any one thing. That’s like when you were saying, we can make a track on Nurvous at 112 BPM, like “Miss My Love”, and at the same time make something like “Hand on the Pump” – which is like banging G-House or make tech-house for Toolroom. You know what I mean? So we want to make sure Thee Cool Cats is something where anybody who hears a track or goes to one of our shows or something like that, they can relate to it.
TMN: Fuck yeah, that’s why we love you guys.
Tony: So we kind of want to make sure we hit all angles at all times, but, make sure that the music is quality. So if you’ve heard our stuff, it’s always quality and we don’t like to release stuff that’s not really well made you know?
TMN: Definitely. So, we kind of talked about other labels a little bit, but you guys actually with Lee M. Kelsall and Sean Roman just started The Altus Project, which “Thee Corner” from you guys was the first release, which we covered, and then Rob Made has a release coming up. How did that whole team come about? What was the decision like to get behind an entire label?
Tony: I don’t wanna sound like a dick or anything about it but, it started because Lee had his moment in the spotlight when the Hot Creations stuff was going off, and had a release with them, and we always liked his music, and then two years ago we met at BPM, and he had moved to Mexico, and he told us “Look man, I’m in Mexico, I’m doing shows, and I’m going to start an agency and call it Altus Project.” And so it actually started as a booking agency, and he told me “We’ve got Sean Roman, we’ve got my boys Moonwalk, Newbie Nerdz, and I want to sign you guys”. And who else was on it?
Gerry: I think it was like Bryce P or something…
Tony: Yeah some weird name or something. Like an old school legendary guy. So we said, “You know what, we don’t have any representation in Mexico right now, sure man, we’ll jump on and you seem like a really cool guy.” So we got together, and he set up our first tour in Mexico, and he brought Sean over from Canada. And I had liked Sean’s music before and he seemed like a cool guy too, and then when we all met and got together we all just clicked. Like with Sean it felt like he was family. Like, he’s the most Mexican Canadian we’ve ever met. *Room keeps laughing*
TMN: Mexican Canadian? That’s one of the best things we’ve ever heard!
Tony: You know what’s hilarious, we were all in Mexico one time doing our shows together for that tour, and we would get into the cab right? And, the cab driver would start speaking fucking Spanish to Sean because he looks more Mexican than all of us. You know, he’s real dark skinned, so the cab driver would turn around and be like “Ey, cuando vamos?” (TMN needs to learn better Spanish!). And he would be like, “Don’t look at me man!” and point to me and Gerry *More Spanish gets spoken a little too rapidly for this Ninja Gringo*, you know because we’re real light-skinned Mexicans and we live near the border so we both speak English really well. But, it was really funny, and we all just had this thing and we had a lot of fun and we started making music together and it just clicked after that. And then, all of a sudden Lee was like “Hey, I want to start a label, what do you guys think?” I said well we might as well. But we’re really not 100% hands on into it. We’re there because they’re our friends, you know what I mean? Because we feel like we’re not at a place in our career where we can be running a label completely. We’re probably going to start a label of our own…
Gerry: maybe 5 or 6 years down the line.
Tony: But we’re not there yet. We’ll help and you know we’ll do remixes whenever anyone asks for us to do remixes on Altus, but anyway the next release on Altus is from Moonwalk.
TMN: Yeah we were going to ask what else you guys had coming out.
Tony: Yeah I think it’s from Moonwalk or Newbie Nerdz, and they asked specifically for us to do the remix because you know it’s our label.
Vanilla Ace & Chad Tyson
TapA$$ (Thee Cool Cats Remix)
TMN: Well we we’ve been talking about Mexican Canadians and traveling, and you guys have played all around the world. You’ve played Sankeys in Ibiza, the main room at Ministry of Sound in London. Your sets are known for getting into a couple different corners of the dancefloor. You guys get into the techy stuff, you get into the soulful stuff, the gangster stuff of course. Do you think all of those worldy influences translate into your production and into your sets?
Gerry: I think what it is more, is just the pure love of all music. You know because that’s where it all comes form, where our style comes from, you know loving all music and wanting to do it.
Tony: I think it come from our parents too actually. Like, my Dad made me listen to everything when I was young. We would listen to disco, he would make me listen to The Beatles, this Mexcian folk music that’s called “banda” which is you know like kind of polka, German inspired stuff. So we’ve always, I mean my taste in music has always been really diverse and so has Gerry’s.
TMN: So do you both have traditional musical backgrounds growing up?
Gerry: Yeah we both have backgrounds in music. I grew up studying classical music for a couple years.
TMN: Yeah I grew up playing the trumpet.
Gerry: That’s awesome. Yeah I was in Drum Line at my school.
Tony: Yeah, this dude used to play in Drum Line.
Gerry: I would write scores, and do all of that shit. So that’s where it definitely came from.
Tony: Mine’s not really in that traditional sense, but I learned music from doing band in school and stuff, but I like to think that my education came from my Dad. Because my Dad used to be a DJ in the 70’s. Like he used to spin crazy disco and soul and stuff like that.
Gerry: And he had the coolest name, what is it again?
Tony: Yeah the disco was called Friends & Lovers. So I learned a lot from that. I would listen to the Beach Boys to The Beatles and then I would listen to Lenny Kravitz then I would listen to Blues Brothers… My Dad used to have a Blues Brothers cover band.
TMN: Well that’s going to bring us to our next question, I’m kind of over all of the normal questions. Let’s go to what I like to call “The Lightning Round”, where we like to talk about some fun shit. So, you obviously both have pretty lifelong music obsessions. If there was one DJ, act, or producer in the history of time that you could go b2b with for three hours at the venue of your choice, who would it be?
Tony: Does it have to be a DJ?
TMN: Let’s say anything actually…
Tony: Stevie Wonder.
TMN: What about you Gerry?
Gerry: Led Zeppelin. That is no question man! Are you kidding, Led dude?
Tony: I was this close to going with Pharrel though…
TMN: Ooohhh, good one too.
Gerry: Yeah damn.
Tony: Like the early Neptunes stuff, and N*E*R*D when they were doing stuff for Jay-Z and Clipse, me and Gerry go back and listen to that stuff still. Our next single on CUFF is something we actually modeled after one of the Neptunes tracks that they did with Jay-Z, it’s even got the same drums, but I mean we obviously had to redo it other than that. It’s called “G-Stack”, and it’s going to be big. And we’ll play it tonight, you’ll like it.
TMN: Hell yeah. Staying on that note, what’s the last live performance or concert you went to that really moved, inspired or affected you in some way?
Gerry: For me the most, incredible, life changing concert was Coachella 2012 seeing Justice, and then fucking Dre & Snoop finish it off man. That was insane.
Tony: I’ll give you two because you’re not going to know the first one. The first one was a band called Sol Esterio (?) from Argentina, they’re like a late 80’s early 90’s rock band. Really famous in Latin America. It’s kind of like Gothic-rock.. like a Spanish The Smiths or New Order and The Clash, super cool, it was really amazing. And, it’s crazy because the lead singer, he’s one of my personal legends, he just fell into a coma like three years ago, because he used to do so much coke in the 80’s. They literally said that. Like, that dude just did too much coke in the 80’s….
TMN: Do you guys collect vinyl at all? And if you do what’s your favorite record in your collection?
Tony: Michael Jackson – Thriller
Gerry: Most definitely. Led Zeppelin – IV, and Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon, both original records held by my Dad in the 70’s.
Tony: His Dad is fucking amazing bro.
TMN: Why Zep and Floyd? We’ve been hearing a lot of classic power and psych rock from your end Gerry.
Gerry: Because, that was definitely my Dad’s thing.
Tony: His Dad is cool man, like a fucking Mexican Chuck Norris.
Gerry: And he’s like a spiritual dude. You know like Karate, and some spiritual shit like that.
Tony: Wait, wait, wait, let me give you my second concert from before!
TMN: Oh yeah, shit, sorry!
Tony: The last one that really blew my mind. You know when you’re in the crowd and just like “Why the fuck can’t I make this?” and have one of those moments. We played at Hard Day of the Dead last year right in L.A.? And I saw Gesaffelstein. *Let it be known that the entire drunken room of five erupts in approval at the mention of the French producer and we can’t quite differentiate between each voice for a moment…*
Gerry: It stresses me out how good his music is man!
Tony: So, when they opened the door, it was like the air left the room you know? You know he’s just got like that swag you know? Like he just stands there smoking his cigarette and can just raise his hand and the place goes absolutely crazy. And it was one of the firs times where I thought, why cant we make this music? It was so inspirational to me, that like we kind of modeled some of our aesthetic around it and have the mysterious aspect to us too.
TMN: Man, everything that you guys have been saying has made me realize I’m such a big fan of Thee Cool Cats!
Tony: Now when people are taking a picture and they’re like “I can’t see your face”, I’m just like “I don’t care bitch”. *Room erupts yet again in laughter*
TMN: Gerry, what is your actual drink of choice when playing a Thee Cool Cats set?
Gerry: Johnny Walker, Black label. Easy.
Tony: Same. We do Johnny Walker and Moet Champagne. I just have to have a bottle of Moet up there because you know it looks cool and we can share it hahaha. I’ll slap a Thee Cool Cats sticker on it so people are asking when it’s coming out.
TMN: Okay, okay, this is the last question we always like to end with. Especially being Thee Cool Cats, if your guys’ music could be one type of animal, what type would it be? I have a few in mind because of like, the shapeshifting quality of your sound…
Gerry: A mother-fucking Tiger-Eagle! *We’ve all been drinking at this point and are laughing a little too hard*
Tony: I’m a go with a.. Manatee. You know what I’m saying? They just chillin’, ain’t nobody fuck with ’em you know what I mean? He’s just coasting, he can go in the ocean, he can go in fresh water, he’s a mammal, but he’s also kind of a fish, he can go wherever. Or like a… what are those lizards that can change colors?
TMN: A chameleon! That’s what I wanted to say.
Tony: Or a fucking cat… *One last round of laughter from us all*
TMN: Well thank you so much for sitting down with us, and I can’t thank you enough, we’ve been wanting to do this for so long, and we’re so happy to finally get a chance to hang out!
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