A Pinch of Analog, a Dash of Digital

Mousse T. - Music Producer

Sennheiser’s Pro Talk Series on YouTube features interviews with the industry’s most respected audio professionals, including German DJ and Grammy nominated producer Mousse T., who currently serves as a judge on Deutschland sucht den Superstar. As one of Germany’s very first house music producers, Mousse T. is best known for his international classic hit “Horny” and most especially for his collaboration on Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb.”

Mousse T.’s success with Jones was not only a professional accomplishment, but somewhat of a personal one as well. “My mom was the biggest Tom Jones fan around, so she was listening to Tom Jones at home [while] dad was listening to Turkish music,” he explains.

Though Mousse T.’s personal music preferences were along the lines of AC/DC and Iron Maiden, the eclectic sounds of music played throughout his childhood laid the path for the artist he has become. And his first foray into music began in his early teens, when his father offered to let him learn an instrument. Though his first choice, the organ, didn’t quite cut it for him, it wasn’t long before his father helped Mousse T. dive into the world of synthesizers with the purchase of a Roland JX-3P, which he still owns today.

This synthesizer led to an exciting career, following some side jobs while studying economics in university. “At one point, basically just for pure money reasons, I started DJing… and I was playing in bands before that because of my keyboard activities,” he says. “And then the whole DJ scene kind of happened and opened up a brand new world for me. So then I slowly started doing more and more gigs; producing music, writing music. And I already liked being a producer… so I did more and more productions. And this was all pre-internet time, so whatever we did was released on vinyl, and then it took a couple of months to go around the globe and get a little hype. Then I discovered remixing, which is a beautiful field because you can work with really big artists … [and be] very creative with their original music.”

Ultimately, Mousse T.’s talents led to starting his own business, Peppermint Park Studios, which can be best described as a musical compound. “We moved here in 2000 [after] the world’s exhibition and right as the first monies were coming in from ‘Horny’ and ‘Sex Bomb,’” he explains. “We took over the Belgian pavilion. At the beginning, we were only a little record company, and now we have this music studio… with a rooftop bar and restaurant. At first, we said ‘we can’t do gastronomical services,’ but at one point this chef contacted us and said ‘I’m your man, if you want to do a partnership, let’s do it.’ And he’s still here after 18 years. We have a beautiful setup, where you can basically do business, be creative, hang out and get inspired. I’m a lucky guy to be here.”

Over the years, Mousse T. has worked with some incredibly high-profile artists and businesses. “I was doing a lot of remixing for major German companies and then major international companies,” he adds. “At one point, I had a beautiful weekend remixing Michael Jackson’s ‘Ghosts.’ Then I did a [silly] project with a group from Germany – LayZee. It was called ‘Mr. President – Coco Jamboo,’ a very, very cheesy track, but my version was nice. Because of these tracks, I got a Grammy nomination.”

While remixing Michael Jackson’s ‘Ghosts,’ Mousse T. did several mixes and delivered a whole package. A couple months later, he played the music for Roger Sanchez and some other colleagues. “They all freaked out by the beautiful beat, with some horn samples,” he continues. “They were like ‘dude, you have to put this out, this is amazing.’ And then we just pressed a couple of vinyls and it flew out, and that was basically the first version of ‘Horny.’”

Between his Grammy nomination and the worldwide success of “Horny,” Mousse T. started to become more widely known across the industry. He signed with Rick Rubin for American Records, which gave him the hookup for South Park, for which he worked on the soundtrack of the movie. Mousse T. continued to write songs, which ultimately led to his connecting with Tom Jones. “We were writing songs together and these ideas were coming to us,” he says. What started out as a song entitled “Sex Symbol” ultimately evolved into “Sex Bomb.”

Mousse T.’s success comes down to more than his raw talent. “I think music has been always kind of dependent on technology, which is a good thing,” he adds. “…starting from the tape machine. I wouldn't say I'm a gear junkie or something, but I like nice equipment, obviously. Equipment that makes me feel good and delivers whenever I need it to deliver. Headphones are really important for me. I used the HD 25’s, as a DJ I got the HD 8 DJ – beautiful headphone, crisp, good volume. As for my speakers, I have custom speakers in my studios, but we use a lot of the Neumanns actually. So it's beautiful, very solid. They give you the sound how it actually is, which I really like. Then, obviously keyboards, [I’m maybe] not the best keyboardist in the world, but I love my keyboards you know. I’ve got a couple of nice keyboards here, the CS20 from Yamaha, for instance which is a dinosaur, but it sounds amazing. And we’ve got an amazing microphone collection here.”

“We have a beautiful selection of all sorts of Neumanns and I am loving my Sennheiser microphones, like the MD 421, for instance,” he continues. “I have in my studio the SSL Duality, which is great because it features all the analog goodies from the old times, but you can actually use the digital aspects, which is really cool. I [also] have a very, very old desk from Mitec that crackles everywhere, but it's actually the sound I prefer. It has a certain dirt to it, which is really nice. And, to be honest, whenever I work here, I tried to crank it up as much as possible. So that comes in combination with a computer, a couple of cool software features and I [get the] stuff I like.”

This reliance on technology is a big component to Mousse T.’s sound. “I still combine analog and digital, which is really important,” he says. “Even if I do a track and program my beats, I still would want to use the drummer to maybe play to it, or like a live instrument, or play my own keys, so it has a certain life to it, but a certain punch from the digital side. And I always love a good vocal.”

His unusual situations, it seems, have led to significant success. “I basically go by my ears,” he surmises. “Where I come from musically, it was hard rock… then I discovered dance music. I was always a big fan of R&B; vocals and all that stuff. So that's why I founded my own underground label… There's so much music out there. It's not only about the cool beats or classical rock; I would try everything. And that's how I do music nowadays."

And, he hopes the next generation of music producers will follow in his footsteps. “One piece of advice I would give to people who want to get started [in this business is that] it's great to try something, to come up with something that is new. It's easier said than done, but at least try. If you have a vision and you're against all odds, it's basically a great little thing because at least then you're different. Travel the world, [meet a lot of people] and be creative.

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