The Drama Starts Here
Grammy Award Winner Peter Rauhofer
by Matt Kalkhoff
 


"Let me tell you something, honey, if you want drama, you came to the right place, because I’ll give it to you."


Never have song lyrics more succinctly summed up club life. In this case, they also offer a candid glimpse into the fascinating world of the inexhaustibly creative, if not sex-obsessed, man who wrote them. I was thumbing through the dictionary trying to find words to describe him, but let me give you some hints instead: His career is a phenomenon – with a beginning, a middle, and no end. He likes credit cards, but not just any old credit cards, I mean, gold. He is unique, he looks good, and some would even say, he is a little twisted. His orgasms are allegedly magical, and he has an intense infatuation with underwear. He is also one of the most talented and sought-after DJs, remix artists, and producers on the scene today. You better roll out the red carpet for the ubiquitous Peter Rauhofer, because here he comes.

The drama actually started many years ago in Peter’s hometown of Vienna, Austria. While working at a small import record store, he became proficient behind the turntables and eventually got his big break one night while filling in for his boss spinning at a local nightclub. In 1983, Peter started DJing regularly at the club and, after a couple of very successful years, he became the International A&R Director at GIG Records, a small independent Austrian record label. Over the next 10 years, Peter spent a lot of time working in the United States, while building a reputation at home in Vienna as one of Austria’s top DJs.

Rauhofer eventually started producing his own distinct brand of sexy and provocative underground house music. In 1993 he achieved his breakthrough in the U.S. with the success of "Let Me Be Your Underwear," a song which was released under the pseudonym Club 69. Club 69’s debut album, "Adults Only," followed in 1995. Peter’s popularity in the U.S. skyrocketed with club hits like "Diva," "Love Is The Message," and "Unique." Having fallen in love with America, Peter began splitting his time between the U.S. and Austria, all the while forging his presence as a global force in the world of dance music.

In 1997, Peter added a couple more personas to compliment the already existing Danube Dance and Club 69, as well as to diversify his presence in the burgeoning club music scene. Under the guise of House Heroes, Peter, along with Parisian model DJ Wild, created the smash hit "Magic Orgasm." It was the debauchery and decadence of Size Queen’s "Pimps, Pumps & Pushers" though, that brought us the influential, albeit hedonistic, club staples "Walk," "Music," and "K-Hole." Make no mistake about it, "Size Queen is all about being nasty," Rauhofer reveals, but humor and camp also played a large part in its success. This was even more evident on Club 69’s sophomore album, "Style," which was also released in 1997 to rave reviews. Songs like the stylish remake of Diana Ross’ "Muscles" (vocals by Suzanne Palmer) and the camp classic "Drama" (vocals by Kim Cooper) put Rauhofer back at the top of the Billboard dance charts, a position with which he has become very familiar over the years.

It’s no secret that when it comes to dance music, Rauhofer embraces rather than fights the inevitable drama, manipulating it into infectious tracks and powerful live performances. "I think during the whole night drama is very important for the dance floor, especially when you spin for a gay crowd. That’s what makes it much more exciting," he tells us. Peter learned this valuable lesson from the master of drama himself, Junior Vasquez. "When I went to Arena, he [Junior] always made those long breaks and let people stand around and wait, and it was like everybody was screaming, ‘Junior, Junior.’ I always said, ‘Ah, another drama break,’" Peter reminisces. "Like I said, it’s all about the drama. I thought, I have to make a track for Junior." Shortly thereafter, the "Drama" of it all was captured on vinyl.

When he’s not in the studio or behind the turntables, Peter likes to observe the crowds in New York City clubs. "I always stand somewhere in the corner and watch because I get all of my inspiration at clubs – every track I ever did, I got my inspiration in the club," he divulges. "I watch the people – how they behave, how they act, how they react to different kinds of tracks, and that’s how I get my ideas." Of course, now that he has become famous in America, it is much more difficult for him to blend into a crowd without being noticed. He usually doesn’t mind the attention, but he sometimes misses the anonymity. "The problem is too many people know me already, so I have to behave," he says. "You never know who is watching you."

It’s hard not to stop and watch a presence as captivating as Peter Rauhofer, whose talent has been recognized and called upon by countless bold-faced names for numerous remix projects. Just in the last year alone, Peter has worked with Whitney Houston, Funky Green Dogs, Donna Summer, and Madonna. In addition, Peter solidified his mainstream pop superstardom by helping Cher’s "Believe" become the biggest record worldwide in 1999 with his Club 69 Future Anthem Mix. These remarkable remixes recently garnered him a Grammy nomination for Remixer of the Year. Peter was surprised to be nominated, but he’s also honored, as it shows him that his work is being recognized by his peers. "I’m not sure how people vote, but I’m sure they go after the big names. I’ve got all the big names this year," he jokes, playfully mocking his own status as remixer to the stars.

Peter’s speculation that the prominence of his clients might help him win a Grammy was right on the money. Our fearless remixer/producer, faced with some stiff competition, pulled ahead of the illustrious pack vying for an award in the Remixer of the Year category, and walked away with the coveted golden statue on Wednesday, February 23rd.

Riding the success of his recent Grammy win, nothing is likely to slow Peter down anytime soon. He is currently working on the Pet Shop Boys’ new singles in both the U.S. and U.K. entitled respectively, "I Don’t Know What You Want But I Can’t Give It Anymore" ("They couldn’t choose a longer title," he jokes), and "Closer To Heaven." He has also just finished Madonna’s "Skin" with Victor Calderone, and they recently released "Do It Properly" (both under their joint pseudonym The Collaboration) on his new record label, Star 69. Although "Do It Properly" hit the clubs quite a while ago, it is being released commercially as a single for the first time this spring.

Rauhofer has also signed several dance music artists to his label including Adrianne whose "Don’t Want Another Man" (remixed by Calderone) has been tearing up dance floors in New York for weeks. Twisted Records sensation Celeda and several other European artists will also be calling Star 69 Records home. Rauhofer is understandably excited about the incredible potential his new record label holds. "It’s all going to be dance music, but also cross-over – some radio stuff," he explains. "I want to have the label for the future. The day will come when I’m not requested anymore as a remixer, so I want to have something on the side. I have always wanted my own record label." This is one dream that Peter has been fortunate enough to realize, but he hopes to fulfill another one later this year.

A new album of original material is definitely forthcoming, but which direction this album will take is still up in the air. Rauhofer may produce the album as The Collaboration (with Calderone), or he may decide to bring in a variety of industry giants along with Calderone, including Junior, Hex Hector, and Johnny Vicious, to remix artists like Sandie B, Martha Wash, Jocelyn Brown, and others for a star-studded, explosive dance compilation. "My dream has always been to do a track with all the divas from the past and the present – a really powerful, fierce dance anthem. This is my absolute dream – I’ve been wanting to do this for years, and I will do it this year." Think "We Are The World" with a bevy of dynamic dance divas accompanied by hypnotic high energy house music. In order to minimize the legal and financial chaos such an endeavor would surely create, Peter envisions making this project a benefit record for charity.

Rauhofer will continue working on remix projects, as well as touring the world spinning live at circuit parties and other events. Still, he would like to concentrate on producing, as opposed to just remixing, more tracks with artists like Madonna and Whitney Houston. Although the mainstream commercial music industry often dismisses DJs and remix artists when it comes to producing, he believes things are changing. After all, "If the remix is so successful, why not take the remixer and produce?" he argues. "Let the artist produce with the remixer something from scratch." Drawing on his experience in the 80s doing more commercial stuff, as well as his artistic flexibility, Peter is confident that he can produce successful radio-friendly tracks just as well as his signature hardcore club music.

The world of dance music is constantly evolving, and it is becoming more and more sophisticated everyday. Although there are thousands of talented professionals just waiting to be discovered or to land that one career-altering gig, relatively few enjoy significant success. Among those who do, the personal philosophy of the artist plays a major role. "I think it’s very important to create a feeling when you spin – to have a certain kind of harmony in your sets. You have to take people on a journey; you have to have the feeling for playing the right track at the right moment," Peter explains. He also insists that he will continue to spin live as long as he is requested, because he believes "It’s very important when you remix that you DJ, because you need the connection to the audience."

This connection is becoming progressively more important as dance music and nightclub audiences become more sophisticated and, ultimately, more demanding. The art of spinning has become much more complicated in recent years, and only those professionals who excel in multiple areas, like Rauhofer, will come out on top. "You also have to have a feeling for the crowd," Peter claims. "It’s all about the crowd. As a DJ, I think you have to be very flexible. I sometimes have a track in my mind that I want to play, but then I end up not playing it because I didn’t think that it fit." This may mean that Peter sometimes refrains from playing one of his new remixes or a favorite song simply because he doesn’t believe that it fits into the program. Of course, no DJ is ever going to satisfy everyone, but at least when you’re dancing to the innovative sounds of Peter Rauhofer, you know you’re being guided by one of the best.

DJ, remixer, producer, song writer, record label owner – Peter Rauhofer is truly a Renaissance man by industry standards. He has led some of the hottest trends in dance music for more than a decade, and he continues to be a driving force. The key to his extraordinary versatility is his unique philosophy and approach to work. He has always considered himself a "concept person," someone who not only tells a story when creating tracks, but who also thinks about the marketing, the promotion, and everything else involved with each song from beginning to end. This all-encompassing versatility has allowed Peter to achieve remarkable success and, most telling, the utmost respect of his peers.

"It was really good working with him," says Victor Calderone. "And it’s not an easy thing to work with somebody in the studio. You really have to click and the chemistry has to be there. I have a lot of respect for Peter; he’s a very talented individual." As the diva Kim Cooper once seductively suggested, "You have to work to get this good." Mr. Rauhofer has been working some serious overtime over the years, and anyone who has the privilege of hearing his impressive artistry certainly knows just how good it really is. Life is good for Peter, and it’s getting better every day.


© 2000 Matt Kalkhoff
This article first appeared in Miamigo's March 2000 issue.