It’s no mean feat to score a Juno award for your very first song, much less take home a second “Canadian Grammy” the following year for your sophomore single. But The SoundBluntz’ rapid-fire success only whet the duo’s appetite for an even bigger challenge–bringing dance music back to old heights with their first full-length Blame The Bling.
Swet (Cory Bradshaw) and Lil’ Pete (Peter Pantzoures) have been staples of Toronto’s competitive nightlife scene for well over a decade, whether spinning in the city’s biggest clubs or producing and remixing a solid set of booty-shakers. Cory actually started out as a battle DJ in the mid-80s–an interesting choice for the young teen considering his mother is related to legendary Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, his great-uncle worked with Dizzy Gillespie, another uncle played saxophone alongside Edwin Starr (on “War,” no less) and Cory learned to drum by jamming with yet another uncle’s funk band in his grandma’s basement.
But once techno and house music spread out from Chicago and Detroit, Cory became instantly hooked. The 18-year-old soon joined up with Chris Sheppard, a Toronto radio DJ who helped spread electronic dance music throughout Canada thanks in no small part to Cory’s considerable influence. Though the young DJ/producer was behind-the-scenes, Cory proved instrumental in Sheppard’s rise, mixing his syndicated radio show and dance compilations (such as Pirate Radio Sessions) and co-producing several of Sheppard’s dance tracks (including the BKS hit “I’m In Love With You”).
“I immersed myself more into production because it was the future for me to go to. I figured there’s got to be more to it than this. I knew I had the ability, I just needed the opportunity,” Cory says. Using aliases such as Legion Of Boom, Laya, Lost In Vegas and Cory Ca$h, he was soon producing his own club bangers as well as remixing the likes of trance star Ferry Cortsen and house hero Armand Van Helden. But the stakes were raised after joining forces with Lil’ Pete. Needless to say, his nickname is a misnomer and Pete was sizable enough to start clubbing by age 15. He soon jumped on the Technics and then got into production. “I started out with a little ghetto set-up in my bedroom,” he recalls, “thats how everyone starts off, right?”
Pete used to help run Canada’s number one DJ record pool Bombs N Bass (with Mark Micallef) and those industry connections led to considerable remix work, including TLC and System F. It also prompted a call from Cory in 2002 to collaborate on a beefed-up remake of Michael Jackson‘s all-time classic “Billie Jean.”
“Whamm-o, it won the Juno,” Pete says proudly. “We brought it home on that one, it was the craziest feeling.”
Like Tiga’s “Sunglasses At Night,” this dancefloor revamp was smash across Europe, licensed to about 30 official compilations, including several Ministry of Sound mixes (which sold a combined million copies) and countless bootlegs.
“The reason you do a remake is that it’s already been a hit. You’re already a few steps ahead,” admits Pete. “But with ‘Billie Jean’ a million people tried to remake it. We did it properly. There’s a difference.”
In 2004, they brought it home again, becoming the first dance act to win back-to-back when the Juno for Dance Recording of the Year went to SB‘s “Something About You,” originally recorded by English new wavers Level 42.
Since then, The Sound Bluntz have done the odd remix (The Ceasers’ iPod hit “Jerk it Out,” Beastie Boys’ “Triple Trouble) but mostly they’ve been busy writing, arranging and recording their album debut.
The title of their floor-filling first single “(Maybe You’ll Get) Lucky” proved prophetic when they were able to collaborate with Australian pop star Cheyne Coates (the former lead singer of Madison Avenue, the dance duo behind global hit “Don’t Call Me Baby”) whose vocal style had initially inspired the song.
They were similarly fortunate on their laidback lead-off track “Lovely.” The boys wanted somebody like Larry Braggs of famed funk band Tower of Power to sing amidst the horn-drenched house beats. So that is exactly who they got.
The album also continues their M.O. of updating old-school hits, include a heavily-filtered foot-stomping take on The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” and an electrifying dance-rock romp through “Stepping Stone” a Paul Revere and the Raiders’ song popularized by The Monkees and later the Sex Pistols. For the most part avoiding samples, Pete and Cory instead brought in live horn players, bassists, organists and guitarists to be recorded and rearranged alongside their battery of beloved analogue synths (808s, 909s, 303s and the newer Roland XV 5080).
As befits any proper artist album, Blame The Bling crosses genre boundaries, offering up chilled downtempo tracks, vocal house edits and even some comic relief (hopefully German techno heads have a sense of humour!)
Meanwhile, the clubbier electro, dance-rock and tribal tracks were first floor-tested by Lil’ Pete at T-Dot hotspots like Tonic and the new superclub Republik–“Any club I play ‘Stepping Stone’ in, I swear to God people go nuts screaming, hands in the air.”
Now they’re working on spreading that same excitement outside the club district, where hip-hop still overshadows dance.
“Everything goes in phases and right now the big thing is urban, hence Blame The Bling,” Cory says of their album title. But don’t take their accusation too seriously– the SBs did whip up the hip-house track “Treat ’em Right” with Chubb Rock’s original 1991 vocals. “Hip-hop was a lot more fun back then. There was no beef. Even the gangsta stuff was funny.”
Of course, with a name like Sound Bluntz, the boys could easily be mistaken for a rap act themselves, but Cory notes the clean-living duo chose their nom-de-dance for a very specific reason. “What’s a blunt? What’s sound? We are the high, you follow me? We’re not taking the drug. We are the drug.”