Colette Switches Sound on 'When The Music’s Loud' Album


Tom Casey

The Queen of House returns with an album full of firsts.

Like many diehard fans, house music lovers can be resistant to changes in their scene. Accordingly, not everyone in the house music community has taken kindly to America’s exploding interest in it. DJ and producer Colette Marino doesn’t necessarily share that opinion.

Marino can’t understand those longing for the past: “Some people are like, ‘Back in the day it was so much fun.’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ We’re not 90. And even when I am 90, I’m going to kick it with whoever is around. I’m not going to stop loving music and I’m not going to stop enjoying myself just because it’s not 1993.”

Marino (known as DJ Colette) has been DJing since the early ‘90s, when she fell in love with house music in Chicago, her hometown. Trained as a classical singer, she has found success as a DJ as well as a vocalist and producer, having released over a dozen singles and two artist albums, all rooted more or less in the deep house sounds heard in her DJ sets and featuring her own voice on each song.

“When The Music’s Loud,” out tomorrow (Aug. 27), is Marino’s third artist album and her first through her own Candy Talk Records. It’s the first Colette album made entirely electronically without any live instruments, the singer’s trademark harmonies are largely absent and several tracks introduce what is perhaps the biggest change of all: the use of vocoder.

“People know what I sound like,” she says. “They know I can sing. It’s very different for me but these [effects] are really interesting textures. And I’ve always loved the vocoder."

“When The Music’s Loud” was written by Marino and Tim Kvasnosky, known as Tim K and one half of DJ and production duo House & Garden. Kvasnosky and Marino collaborated on her previous albums, 2007’s “Push” and 2005’s “Hypnotized.”

“We wrote a lot of this record when I was pregnant,” Marino explains. “I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself to finish the album before I gave birth, which is crazy.”

Marino and her husband, actor Thomas Ian Nicholas, had their first child less than two years ago in Los Angeles where she has lived for more than a decade. While she did finish a set of songs before becoming a mom, feedback from some friends had Marino reconsider the direction of the album.

“It was great because they were actually honest,” she says of those early listeners. “I always remind people: it’s just music, it’s ok if you don’t think it’s good. It’s not like you’re saying my child is ugly.”

Deciding that half of the songs weren’t a good fit, she took five months off after her son was born, then returned to the studio to write and record what would become the balance of the album.

“Tim and I have been writing together for so long that it was really no holds barred,” Marino explains of her relationship with Kvasnosky. “We could be very honest with each other and I don’t get my feelings hurt.”

Rounding out the album’s production team were DJ Teenwolf, known primarily for his work with Ninjasonik and Brooklyn-based Nick Chacona, both of whom were first time Colette collaborators. It was during the process of making the album that Marino amicably parted ways with her longtime label, San Francisco’s Om Records. Citing a desire for complete independence and control over her record, she formed Candy Talk, initially as a singles imprint, though it is now primarily a vehicle for her own work and the eventual album.

Fittingly, it’s a sort of anti-nostalgia that serves as the subject of “Best of Days,” the lead track from “Loud,” produced by Chicago production duo Santiago & Bushido, with whom Marino had worked with on her previous album. Written for and about Marino’s friends from the very dance music community she’s shaped and been a part of throughout her career, the track finds the artist in familiar musical territory – a house four to the floor beat, a melodic topline, warm synth samples.

However, the title track that follows it delivers a wallop of bass heretofore unheard on a Colette record. Produced by Kvasnosky, its driving synth, hyper-effected vocals, and after-dark hook-laden lyrical storytelling, “When The Music’s Loud” alludes to three decades of dance music and the future of it in just over four minutes. It sets a tone for experimentation and boundary-pushing that the rest of the album follows upon.