By Steven M. Housman
The Scumfrog Is Really A Prince!
You know him already, whether by name or by sound. He combines the best from both sides of the Atlantic with a sophisticated blend of New York's dark, funky beats and sexy European grooves. Perhaps you've encountered one of his four no. 1 club hits; like 2001's Ibiza anthem "We Love You" (a cover of a '60s Rolling Stones track); the Billboard dance smash "Love At First Sight" by Kylie Minogue; or his re-conception of Dirty Vegas' "Days Go By." In 2002 he collaborated with David Bowie on Positiva Records and played DJ gigs all over the world. Now, in 2003, The Scumfrog is taking it to the masses with "Music Revolution," his new anthemic single that's been pegged as a top Winter Music Conference tune by UK dance icon Pete Tong, seminal UK magazine Miixmag, and the Los Angeles Times.
With a full-length artist album in the works, The Scumfrog has opted to whet our palates with a sprawling, continuously-mixed, double-disc anthology entitled Extended Engagement, which features his catalog of remixes plus three original productions, including Music Revolution.
Born and raised in Amsterdam, The Scumfrog (a.k.a. Jesse Houk) was trained in both classical and jazz, on guitar, bass, and piano. Soon though, he found himself gravitating to a wide range of more eclectic sounds including Duran Duran, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, and Frank Zappa. While many dreamed of being the microphone-swinging frontman or flashy guitarist, Jesse was enamored with the production side of music.
He also turned deeper into DJing, packing his record bags and bringing his sound stateside to New York City, where within a few months he made noise on the club scene with his production of "The Watersong," which was featured on Danny Tenaglia's Global Underground CD 010, Athens.
With the ascent of "The Watersong," he began to realize that the Scumfrog moniker was here to stay, and like many band names and aliases, there's really no big story behind it. "It was never meant to be permanent," he says. "I just needed a stupid name for a record that I was sure wasnt going to be a hit. It turned out to be The Watersong.'"
In this interview, The Scumfrog gave his thoughts on his collaborations with circuit queen Kristine W., his favorite recording artists, and his true-blue gay following. By the way, if you ever get to speak to the man, dont ask him where he got his name, hell never tell. Ah, the mysteries of life! Dont misunderstand, he was a complete gentleman. A real prince!
This being your debut album, are you enjoying the promotional aspect of releasing Extended Engagement?
The whole promotion thing for Extended Engagement started during the Winter Music Conference. I have been through it once before with my old band, back in Holland, but this was the first time that The Scumfrog was facing some heavy promo time. I like the attention, sure, if it's somewhat intelligent that is. But please people, no more "where/how did you get your name" questions. I think I will write an essay on that question and post it with some other FAQ's on my website. (Laughs)
How did you come to the attention of such heavy hitters as David Bowie and Kylie Minogue?
My remix for David Bowie's "Loving The Alien" was unsolicited. He happened to like it after Pete Tong started playing it on BBC radio. Then he came with the idea to make a new video for the remix. Kylie went strictly through her record company, and it pains me to say that I still never actually met her.
I understand you have a few cuts on the new CD that you've composed, some of which reached the top of the charts We Love You hit #1. Did that surprise you, or can you feel a hit when you write it?
I didn't actually compose "We Love You." It was a cover of an old Rolling Stones song. It was an original production though, and I lost my #1-virginity with that track. Although the success was in the UK, not here in the US, it was an amazing time and yes, a big surprise indeed.
Do you always write your songs solo?
I used to. Last summer however, I collaborated with Kristine W. and with Crystal Waters on two separate projects. I was quite nervous because, until that time, I had never shared my writing process with anyone. Those sessions were successful, but I still prefer to write alone.
Do you have a fantasy of a certain artist performing one of your original compositions?
Yes! I would love to have Italian singer/poet Paolo Conte write lyrics for one of my compositions.
I also know you are a big fan of the old Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards team. What was your favorite work of theirs and why?
Love that question! (Thinking very hard) Can I do three in random order?
1) David Bowie - Let's Dance (overall production)
2) Chic - I want your love (The synergy between the band in the breakdown)
3) Sheila & The B Devotion - Spacer (Dubbed out in the extended version)
Besides Rodgers and Edwards, what other musician/artists inspired you?
Prince (until "Sign O The Times"), Pink Floyd, Trevor Horn's productions, Sly & Robbie.
When you listen to music now, whom do you listen to?
Planet Funk, Foo Fighters, and all the tracks that I'm currently working on.
Your songs are getting a lot of play in the gay clubs, any opinions about that?
Great! Especially in the US, the gay community seems to have the exclusive right to good and innovative dance music. Not that they don't deserve it, but people, spread the wealth!
Finally, I have to ask, where did you get the name Scumfrog?
Please, try to control yourself! (Laughs).
© 2003 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.