Ten years ago, ‘Discopolis’ was THE tune of the moment. The most anticipated House tune of that year was named an Ibiza anthem and is still very much retaining its Classic status in the current House scene. As the two gifted composers – Lifelike and Kris Menace – retraced their steps and created a 2.0 version of their glorious effort, we immediately leaped at the opportunity and asked them what it’s like to recreate a record ten years after it has become an international hit single. Read on as Lifelike explains…
Let’s flash back to the times when the original ‘Discopolis’ was about to be unleashed. Could you tell us a bit about how the original track came to be and what the initial idea or concept was?
“Basically, we both wanted to do something with a big retro feel. It had to be extremely disco and we wanted to play around in the studio with some old vintage echo boxes and synths, like a Juno 106. So we basically started to jam. We finally got to the point where we thought getting to sample real disco drums from the late 70s would be great, and we got a kind of gimmick to play around with our keyboards. Something incredible happened then. I had that Kano sample in my old Powerbook laptop, and Kris had the record in his studio as the first record on a pile of ten. I said, “This is incredible, you just have the same record/idea as I do!” So we basically just took Kano’s ‘Another Life’ extended 45 rpm and sampled the start of it.”
Then Kris had the idea to just keep the arpeggio instead of the full drums/synth/arp sample, which was genius. The next record on the pile was a disco record I can’t remember the name of. We sampled and cut the drums till we had gotten each hi-hats, kick, and snare in tempo in the sampler. That’s when we basically had the foundation of “Discopolis”. We then went on to get in the mood with some vodkas, drank quite a few glasses, and started to write the rest of the song. Two hours later and by the end of the night, the track was very close to the version you can hear in shops.”
How overwhelmed were you by the massive success it had, with it being one of the most anticipated House tunes and an Ibiza anthem within the same year?
“To be honest, I didn’t expect this to become that huge. We of course knew that releasing on Alan Braxe’s label Vulture – which was one of the hottest house label at that time – would be good for the life of this record, but I never expected such a massive reaction. Let’s say that when we finished it, at no point we thought: “This is going to be a big hit”.”
“We actually only found out by the end of summer 2005 – the track was released mid-June – that the track was a big Ibiza hit, because we noticed that Pete Tong was hammering it non-stop on BBC Radio One. We were not even fully aware of what was going on. Alan (Braxe) called us and told us that he was extremely happy and that we were selling massive amounts of vinyls. At that time, Beatport didn’t even exist, and we sold around 30.000 vinyls that summer.”
Why did you decide to restore the glory of ‘Discopolis’ through a 2.0 version?
“Well, after a couple of years filled with touring and remixing, Kris and I had started to produce separately. We were always in touch, but never got back in the studio doing music. But last year, we had a phone call for some business stuff and we just noticed that we were missing each other’s jokes and the fun we had doing it. We then thought we could re-release the song with new remixes, as this song still seemed very popular and exciting to our fans. But instead of simply remastering the old mixes, we thought it would be so much better to re-record new mixes, improve the sound and get some fresh young remixers to bring this to the new generation of listeners and DJs. But with our profile and sound, we thought we couldn’t do this until we would be 200% satisfied with the new recorded mixes and remixes. And it had to be clear that this project wasn’t done in order to make quick cash. We didn’t want to deliver that rubbish, re-released/remixed old package to grab. We really wanted to bring the mix-down into 2015.”
Please explain where reworking such a classic tune begins, especially since its tied to the everlasting memories of huge amounts of people. How do you proceed?
“We basically had to fire up our old Macintosh G4 computers sleeping under piles of dust, and convert the Cubase arrangement – at that time we used Cubase 5 VST/32 on Mac OS 9. We simply used the same sampler setup, with those Kano arpeggio patches we cut and replayed, and the disco drums. We both still have real hardware machines and are hardware lovers. We like the keys, faders, and buttons more than the mouse. We had to reprogram the main lead as we lost the patch somewhere in a hard drive crash. We managed to do so as it was on a Arp Odyssey, but it still took us a couple of hours. It took us right up to the point where we were starting to become crazy in the studio because we were listening to that lead non-stop.”
How do you decide what elements need an update and which need to be left alone?
“We decided to not keep any audio tracks from the original. The goal was to take the midi arrangement into the new Cubase, rebuilt the song from scratch, and mix it properly again. The young generation can’t really imagine this, but back in the days, ‘Discopolis’ was mixed on a 300 euros, 16-channel, analog Mackie mix desk (the first Mackie desk from the early 90s). Most parts were going into a lamp analog valve master compressor. You would have to record 20 mixes until you get the right one and you had to get a big sound out of your hardware. It was much more complicated then.”
Weren’t you ever afraid that you’d spoil the timeless appeal of the original tune by trying to give it a make-over?
“No, simply because we knew we would only release this if we could not only keep the original feeling and groove, but also bring a new mix (the Club Mix) to the new DJ generation. Once we had the mixes, we were really happy and agreed to roll this out. We never asked ourselves if this would be successful or not. We really only do things we really love to do, and I think that when you work like that, people feel it when they listen to the music. And even if this new re-release will not become super successful, we are really happy with the music. Luckily, people seem to really enjoy it so far.”
Even though it might be an impossible choice to make, do you prefer the classic version from ten years ago or the 2.0 version?
“Honestly, I can’t choose. For us, it sounds like a new release. I think the new mixes fit better in a recent 2015 or 2016 DJ set, and the old one will stay the classic it is.”
Can we expect a 3.0 version in 2025?
“You’re going too far in the future for us.” 🙂