Madison Avenue

It has been twenty years since Don’t Call Me Baby by Madison Avenue was released. Can you believe it! The song was the highest selling Australian single of 1999 (#7 overall, the only Australian song in the top ten) and is now etched into legendary status as a Dance track. Written by Madison Avenue band members Cheyne Coates and Andy Van along with Duane Morrison the song went on to be a huge international hit and it’s still being played around the world in clubs and bars.

Andy Van chatted to the Hi-Fi Way about how iconic a song it is, some great memories of how popular Madison Avenue was at the time and how he will be a presenter at this year’s ARIA Awards.

Can you believe it’s been twenty years since the release of Don’t Call Me Baby? It’s freaking me out that its been twenty years. I remember that song so well.
It is freaking me out as well (laughs) but it’s kind of a bit “Oh my God it’s been that long!” and its also cool that people are still actually liking it because some tracks I’ve listened back to and went “Oooh actually that doesn’t sound as good as I remembered it!” I’m glad people are somewhat positive to this.

I’ve been to New York and even in Europe where they still play it today. I was recently at Glitterbox in Sydney and Mousse T played it in his set and the crowd went off. Does it give you a sense of pride when the song is still being played in clubs and dance venues all over the world and it generates that kind of response now?
Absolutely! Mousse T is by the way one of the nicest guys literally in the world. He’s so nice it’s like he can’t be that nice! He’s unbelievable and he sent me the video of the Sydney Glitterbox where he played the song and I was like “Oh my God that reaction was fantastic!” He’s been playing it around the world. There are videos of him playing it at other venues. They don’t scream as loud as in Melbourne or Sydney but I think particularly those crowds at Glitterbox were, I don’t know about 50% gay as well which was fantastic. I’ve always loved the gay audience because they are so enthusiastic and that reaction was absolutely awesome. Absolutely awesome! Awesome to see that it still makes people happy.

It’s just an iconic song now, really. I mean the title itself, it’s one of the best song titles I can recall. Who came up with that?
That was Cheyne. Cheyne has a super strong personality and that’s kind of why we ended up not doing things together because she’s got a very definite mind and you need to have that to come up with songs particularly about female empowerment you know twenty years before it happened on a mainstream level. I mean it should’ve always been there but Cheyne was always one to not care what people thought. I’m glad she did because that’s how she came up Don’t Call Me Baby and Who the Hell Are You?

It sounds fun Don’t Call Me Baby but its a very empowering statement really and at the time you didn’t think of it you just thought “What a cool song!” But looking back at it it’s like “Yeah! Don’t call me baby!”
Yes, it is and I’m quite proud of that because now maybe if some Hollywood directors would’ve listened to that song, they may have made some different decisions. Now the world has changed and good on it! It took a little bit too long but at least the world has changed a bit. A little bit of a better place but still not as good as it should be. Maybe on a media front it looks like the world has gotten better but maybe in the real world some male counterparts need to be kicked up the butt a bit.

Well the song even though its twenty years old can still be used today. It’s still relevant, it’s a catchy tune, its not an outdated song so its pretty awesome to create a song that still has life. There’re not too many artists that can do that.
Oh, thank you!

What memories do you have of that song when it was released?
Well I do have super positive memories and I know people have made jokes about the fact that Cheyne and I argued but it was very much about me wanting to be a club DJ and make Dance and House music like what you heard at Glitterbox. All of that House music is what I connect with that’s the awesome thing. Cheyne was more about the Spice Girls, Britney Spears and the pop world artists and that’s fine too. There’s a great place for that in the world but that’s where the differences were so its fine to have your differences but it’s also good when you connect.

So, my memory was that it was a great time and an exciting time, somewhat strained a little bit by the different choices that we were making separately but I did have a great time, we toured the world and met lots of amazing people. I did gigs with 300,000 people, I was in Ibiza one day, I was in London the next day and a few weeks later I was in Poland and then in Belgium so I got to see the world very very quickly. I got to see not that I love it but the taste of pop stardom if you will. But yeah, it’s not me. I don’t believe all the hype. There’s a Public Enemy song called Don’t Believe the Hype and that’s what it is just hype. The media stirs it up almost like a dust storm but then all of a sudden, the dust storm just dies way and there’s nothing again.

It’s like you’re on the A-List one second then back down to the D-List the next. There’s always someone else that comes along to take your place.
Yes! I did find that. I was just telling someone I went to a party in Miami and there was about three hundred people all trying to get into a boat that could only hold two hundred people. Basically the guy at the front was like literally cherry-picking the most important people out of the group which is a horrible thing to do because he was basically saying “You’re an A, nah you’re a B, you’re an A, you’re a B” and you could see him saying all this and it was a horrible thing to do and he picked me as an A and I felt like saying “Mate you’re only saying that because I got a number one hit, in a few weeks’ time I will be the B.” I found that really harsh. I really didn’t want to get on the boat. This is just a horrible way to treat people.

I won’t ask anything about the water mishap at the AIRAs.
It doesn’t bother me. I’m not negative to it, it’s just kooky thing that happened. Its all good.

I think it’s funny. To me it’s not negative thing. It’s definitely a memorable incident that will make people remember Madison Avenue.
It was beyond our control anyway. I mean singers have a drink of water, its just a shame Cheyne put it in front of a camera and weirdly the director didn’t change cameras. I still to this day would love to speak to the director and go “Mate! What were you thinking? Why didn’t you change to a camera that didn’t have a bottle of water in front of it?” Do you know what I mean? Of course, we never knew, we were on stage and the crowd was screaming and the environment was fantastic. But we didn’t have the ability to know what happen until the next day when we looked at it and said “What happened there?” Like you said I don’t look at it negatively because I had a fantastic time that day!

What I was going to ask you about the ARIAs is that you have been announced as a presenter. Are you excited about that honour?
I’m super stoked! Yeah cause they were like ‘It’s twenty years and we’d love to have you back and presenting an award. Are you OK to do that?” and I’m like “Of course! I’d love to!” I’m not sure if you know but I run a record label and I’m one of the biggest supporters of Australian music there is. We did Peking Duk, Potbelleez and we love Australian music so for me to be involved is awesome and I’m happy to be involved.

You have a very successful Dance label and signed some amazing artists like you mentioned. Obviously the one that stands out is AVICII, how did that happen?
Yeah, Avicii is a good story my previous act which was called Vandalism was more of an EDM/Electro thing that we did after House music sort of dropped off and that EDM/Electro stuff was getting hot which was fantastic. So Avicii’s manager booked us to do a gig in Stockholm and Avicii was not an artist at the time, he was just at the beginnings of being an artist and was around for about a year and had some demos. So, at the start of the night the manager had a dinner with us and he said “This is an artist I’m managing named Tim.” So, we met Tim and he was a young and I went to Tim’s studio and he lived in a one bedroom, sorry actually a bed sitter was literally in the lounge and is the bedroom and yeah I listened to some demos and I was like “nah we gotta sign this guy!” And the rest is history!

It wasn’t like all of a sudden everyone went “This is Avicii!” It took quite a lot of releases and Ash is a real dog at chasing people and literally begging for someone to allow Tim to do a remix as Avicii. He told me a story that Tim was at a Tiesto gig yelling “Tiesto! Tiesto!” and he got to meet Tiesto and talk to him and then asked “Can I please do a free remix?” and when the Avicii remixes got bigger than the actual singles of who he was remixing then people started noticing him and all of a sudden he was on the whirlwind ride. We’re stoked that happened and awesome we were a part of that ride obviously a super shame that he is no longer with us but that’s how it is.

You’ve also had other successful artists like Rogue Traders, Peking Duk and The Potbelleez as you’ve mentioned, you seem to have an eye for great Dance artist. What is it you look for in an artist or what is it that you see in an artist?
I think it’s a combination of things, one being you got to have an artist who is passionate because if you’re in it for just the money or the fame then you kind of have to give up. I don’t know what the numbers would be for the amount of artists versus the amount of successful artists. It would be a very interesting number to come up with to say “You’ve got one chance in a hundred or one in a thousand” but no-one’s ever done a study like that. You got to look at it and go “Is this person passionate and are they going to make lots of mixes?” like for an example Avicii, he would send me three or four tracks every month that he was working on so he was sitting there day in day and night making tracks trying to make his brand and he had a manager that was doing the same thing working hard. I’ve got artists that release one song a year and no disrespect to them if you’re going to release one song a year you’re not an artist. You’re a guy that just dabbles.

So, you got to have that passion, you also need the skill and then you also need some luck. I think these three things are equally important because after the passion, you need the skills so people love what you’re doing and then you need a little bit of luck I think or a manager that’s going to work hard. Luck is being in the right place at the right time.

What’s your favourite all time dance track?
Oooh! That’s super hard! As a DJ I love so many different types of music I could say a favourite artist would be Daft Punk without any doubt. They just have an amazing connection and gift to the world. They do a similar thing to what I do which is sample old disco records and put catchier vocal hooks on them. I couldn’t pick one song. There definitely would be about ten favourite tracks which I couldn’t give you right now off the top of my head! I couldn’t say whether or not there would be just one song that would stand up above others. There are so many tracks that for me have different meanings like a lot of them would be classic records though they wouldn’t be current records.

I mean it is a hard question. I would struggle to answer that question.
It is tricky because there’s so many songs for different reasons you know, there’s say a Michael Jackson track like Billie Jean or Thriller because they made such an impact into my life. Like Earth, Wind and Fire’s September, I mean there’s so many records that just made this monstrous impact as I was growing up. So, there would be quite a few. Daft Punk’s Around the World or One More Time, there’s so many along the way that are big moments and you couldn’t compare them to another moment, you know what I mean? Say Prince, Controversy so each one of them has this incredible strength not exactly sure if they are stronger than another one.

Well that’s what music is about isn’t it?
It is! Absolutely!

Interview by Anastasia Lambis

Check out Madison Avenue’s Don’t Call Me Baby (20th Anniversary Edition) on Spotify…

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