Originality in music is – as with most art forms – a rare and precious commodity. Too often is it that ‘new’ movements and ‘fresh’ ideas disintegrate under close scrutiny, revealing themselves to be little more than mere rehashes of well-worn material. To find something that is both unique and innovative in the world of dance music is an uncommon occurrence. Fix your gaze on The Netherlands however, and you’ll soon be blinded by a fierce blaze of some of the most concentrated – and original – talent on the planet. Chocolate Puma account for one of these fiercely burning spheres, and their label, Pssst Music, is undoubtedly another.

“We never (try to) emulate – not with our music nor with our labels – and always try to be as original as possible” says Chocolate Puma’s Gaston Steenkist”. We’d rather be inspired by things we find interesting. For example the design of the Pssst logo was inspired by a German classical music label and packaging of those Belgian chocolate boxes. Mind you, this was before Chocolate Puma!”

The name of the label itself was also derived from a typically unconventional source. “When we used to hang out in record shops, the only thing that would catch the attention of the guy behind the counter (with loud music being played) was PSSST! So we thought it was a good idea to call it Pssst, so whenever someone would ask for a Pssst record everybody would look up!”

Rene [ter Horst] & Gaston started Pssst Music in 1995 after the discontinuation of their previous label Fresh Fruit, the label upon which they released their seminal ‘Give It Up’ as The Goodmen, a record that started life as an underground club hit before becoming an huge international hit for the duo. It was, in part at least, the success of this record that lead them to create Pssst.

“When we started Pssst we released lots of weird underground music that nobody would understand” says Rene. “It was kind of a reaction to the huge commercial success of Fresh Fruit. The funny thing is that 15 years later those records got rediscovered and re-released by the likes of Sven Vath and on labels like Dixon’s Innervisions.
For many artists, the success of The Goodmen and Fresh Fruit would have been the catalyst for pouring all possible energies into those projects. For Rene & Gaston, it meant quite the opposite. Going back to their underground roots they focussed their attention on inventive music and developing new artists they saw were doing genuinely innovative things, not always within the constraints of the house music genre. Despite this focus on the niche, the sheer quality of the music released by the label formed a number of notable peaks.

“Pssst released the weirdest underground tracks” continues Gaston” but also had major international Top 40 hits. The most well known projects we released and the ones that most people know about would be Jark Prongo and Chocolate Puma, but we also had some success in the breakbeat scene with Basco.”

For a label focussing their attention of the underground, Pssst produced a slew of hugely successful and influential releases, including Jark Prongo ‘Movin Thru Your System’ (later re-released by Hooj Choons and championed by Sasha), Chocolate Puma’s’ I Wanna Be U’ (the first ever Chocolate Puma record which reached #6 in the UK in 2001),René Et Gaston ‘Merluche Ideale’ (one of the earlier Pssst releases, rediscovered 15 years later by Sven Vath who made it a Berlin minimal anthem) and Chocolate Puma ‘Always And Forever’ (re-released by Positiva and one of the first house records to be played on BBC 1Extra).

In terms of influences, the artists and genres the pair cite as having an impact on their musical careers are, perhaps unsurprisingly, fairly diverse. “We started playing and making music well before there was house” says Rene. We liked all kinds of stuff like New Wave, P-funk, etc… but we always had a weak spot for electronic music. When house came along we were blown away by the first house records. You know, stuff by Lil Louis, Frankie Knuckles, Transmat, 808 State, but later we would be inspired by artists like Carl Craig, Orbital, DJ Pierre, Masters At Work, MK, Todd Terry and Murk.

In 2008, Chocolate Puma signed to Defected Records, joining the artist agency and releasing their first single on the label with ‘Morning Rain’. At this time, Pssst Music took a back seat while the duo concerned themselves with spreading the word of Chocolate Puma far and wide.“When we signed with Defected we really focussed on building the profile of Chocolate Puma “explains Gaston”. Now that everything is in place and we are a few years further down the line, we felt the time was right to relaunch the label.”

That relaunch took place in 2011 with the release of two typically quirky Chocolate Puma releases, firstly alongside Firebeatz on ‘Go Bang!’ and then teaming up with fellow Amsterdammer Gregor Salto for ‘Tragito De Ron’. The plan with the rejuvenation of Pssst is to release our own music that won’t necessary fit Defected, and the fact that we have a fantastic team at Defected to help us is great.”

And the plan as Rene & Gaston move Pssst into 2012? “Do lots of releases! We have some cool stuff lying around in the studio. And we’re also looking to do our first Pssst compilation at some point soon.
Judging by the calibre of the label and the chaps behind it, Pssst will be continuing to lead the way for the foreseeable future.

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