The hit-making remix/production team of Chris Cox and Barry Harris, collectively known as
Thunderpuss, are big Mac fans.
Thunderpuss has handled the work of some of the biggest artists in the world, including Janet Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez. In fact, the guys have scored 18 number one Billboard hits since hooking up in 1990.
Cox has been using Macs since 1985. He “played around” with some early systems in high school, but really got into them in college.
“The initials ‘PC’ aren’t in my alphabet,” Cox told MacCentral. “In the mid-80s, Macs were THE computer for music production. IBMs were mainly business machines, the Amiga was okay, but Macs were what all the pro musicians were using. So in order to be compatible with the rest of the music world — my world — I bought a Mac. My first one was an SE with a 23MB hard drive. I paid $2,300 for it.”
Though Wintel systems have made some progress in the music industry, Cox said that Macs are still, “without a doubt,” at the forefront. Most (as in over 90 percent) of the “true” pros and most pro facilities are Mac based, he added.
Harris has been a Mac user since 1990 “simply because they’re the best.” They always have been, he added.
“I’m very aware of the Sony Beta vs. VHS battle of the past,” Harris told MacCentral. “Too bad the majority of the rest of the world haven’t joined us all …. ‘the computer elite’ dare I say! Though I do know that the new generation seems to be ‘getting it.'”
Cox and Harris first met back in 1990 in a New York City studio through then Atlantic A&R man Marc Nathan. Harris, a Toronto native, and the creator of Kon Kan, was writing and producing a second album for Atlantic. Cox was working as a producer for cult DJ mix service, Hot Tracks. The two hit it off and stayed in touch over the next five years while working a variety of projects.
Cox was brought to Los Angeles during the early 90s by Academy Award-winning producer Giorgio Moroder (Flashdance, Top Gun) to work with him as his protege. By ’95, Cox had also co-founded Interhit, a dance-oriented record label. In ’98, Harris moved to LA, and Thunderpuss was born.
They both lent their production skills to Interhit’s 1998 Grammy Award-winner for “Best Dance Recording” for “Carry On” by Donna Summer and Moroder. Their skills eventually led them to rework Billie Myer’s “Kiss the Rain” for Universal Records, which also reunited them with Nathan.
The international underground success of “Kiss the Rain” attracted the attention of Hosh Gureli, Arista Records’ vice president of A&R. He was looking for remixers for the new Whitney Houston album. Thunderpuss landed the gig and their remix of “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” skyrocketed their career.
Thunderpuss uses Macs for “everything” in their work, for “every step of the recording process, as well as all of the day to day business stuff, Cox said. A Mac with Mark of the Unicorn’s Digital Performer is their main computer/sequencer. With it, they use Mackie 8-buss analog boards.
“We do everything from word processing to graphic inserts for CDs,” Cox said. “There’s not a thing that we don’t do on the Mac.”
Their computer hardware includes a dual processor G4, single processor G4, “beige” G3, Mark of the Unicorn 2408 Digital & Analog I/0, Mark of the Unicorn 1224 Digital & Analog I/0, Dididesign Audiomedia III PCI Card, two Dididesign SampleCell II PCI Cards, an Apple flat panel, Mark of the Unicorn MIDI Time Piece II, Mark of the Unicorn MIDI Express, two Fatar 61 MIDI Controller Keyboards, Seagate Barracuda & Cheetah hard drives, a LaCie 12x CD burner, a LaCie 16x CD burner, Teac 6x CD burner and Iomega Zip drive. On the software side, they use Performer, Digidesign Sound Designer, Digidesign SampleCell Editor, AKAI Mesa Sampler Interface, and AKAI USB Sampler Interface. This, of course, doesn’t include their samples & synths, mixing boards, audio monitors, tape machines, track devices and effects/outboard processing gear.
The guys in Thunderpuss not only use Macs for work, they use them personally, as well. Between them, they have about 13 Macs at home — and that number could grow.
“My iBook has gone with me traveling in the past while on the road and at my second home in New York,” Harris said. “But I certainly have my eye on replacing the iBook with a Titanium soon.”
Though big Mac fans, they’re not planning the jump to Mac OS X just yet. Most of the products they use aren’t yet X native yet, Cox said.
“I don’t like to jump on a operating system change the minute it happens,” Cox said. “Any time there’s been a major jump it changes everything for you.”
Harris added, “We’re waiting for the rest of our software companies to catch up. Everything works for us on 9.2. We’ve both dealt with a lot of growing pains in the past as computers and software evolve and improve and have learned many valuable lessons. Wait a bit to let them catch up!”
However, they definitely think the music industry will be moving to Mac OS X in the months ahead.
“Apple is really good about forging ahead, developing innovative things and producing a more sturdy platform,” Cox said. “There’ll always be a learning curve.”
For now, Cox and Harris have finished a promotional megamix for Madonna’s upcoming greatest hits album. They’ve also finished remixes for Britney Spears and Brian McKnight, among other things.
What does Thunderpuss bring to a mix? Harris said that Thunderpuss likes “to create cutting edge tracks with crossover potential.” Cox adds that one of their strongest points is that “we’re pretty much self-contained and able to do all the work ourselves.” Both of the guys play a variety of musical instruments and are equally adept at engineering, mixing and other aspects of record production.
“We’re both musicians so our forte has been finding ways to take hot material and put an edge, an underground twist, to it without going too far in either direction,” Cox said. “People turn to us when they want music that is popular and listenable, but also cool and edgy. Of course, this balance constantly shifts so we’re always having to research.”
And what’s with the name Thunderpuss? Nothing in particular. It was a spur-of-the-moment inspiration of Cox’s wife.
“She just blurted it out, and we liked it,” he said.