The track that defined electroclash.
Electroclash was mocked—and revered—when it emerged around the turn of the millennium. What sounded thrilling to young ears was less impressive to those who'd lived through new wave. "You could make your own generic electroclash record by talking blankly in a vaguely European accent about taking cocaine at fashion parties over the bassline from 'Sweet Dreams' by the Eurythmics," wrote Dorian Lynskey in The Guardian in 2002.
The best electroclash, however, was inherently aware of its own silliness, wearing its stylistic excesses with tongue firmly in cheek. DJ Hell and his International Deejay Gigolos Records presided over electroclash in Europe, while across the Atlantic, a burgeoning scene nudged Williamsburg, Brooklyn, towards its "Little Berlin" title.
Tommie Sunshine, AKA Thomas Lorello, was among the DJs championing early electroclash records in the US, which included music by the likes of I-F, ADULT. and DMX Krew. "It felt like there was something coming together," he told me. "But no one had taken that and done anything that could have really connected with the mainstream."
Lorello and Felix Da Housecat, born Felix Stallings Jr., were working on music together at the time, having met by chance in a record store Lorello worked at in Atlanta. After release issues blighted Stallings Jr.'s underappreciated I Know Electrikboy record as Thee Maddkatt Courtship, Lorello suggested they fully embrace the '80s on his next album. During intensive listening sessions, they cycled through early electro, freestyle, breakdance, new wave and disco, and toured the Midwest as DJs together.
"We were playing a gig in St. Louis," Lorello recalled. "I was playing Miss Kittin & The Hacker's 'Frank Sinatra' and Felix comes running into the booth. He says to me, 'Who is singing on this record?' And I was like, 'It's Miss Kittin. You don't know who Miss Kittin is?' And he was like, 'No.' And I'm like, 'Oh, this is the best record out right now.'"
Stallings Jr. met Miss Kittin for the first time when they played at a festival in Switzerland. They then went straight to Hervé's studio in Geneva to work on music. "She pulls out The Flirts record ['Passion'] and goes to the outro and finds the sample which became the main sample of 'Silver Screen,'" says Lorello. They played the instrumental track to Lorello over the phone, who wrote the lyrics and emailed them back. "An hour or two later, Felix called me and played me Kittin singing my words," he says.
Sweet seduction in a magazine
Endless pleasure in a limousine
In the back shakes a tambourine
Nicotine from a silver screen
The dumbly alluring verse might feature electroclash's most memorable lyrics, while the pretentious fantasyland they imagine doesn't seem far removed from today's Insta-reality. "If you listen to the lyrics of that record and the Devin Dazzle & The Neon Fever record, we kind of predicted this cesspool that we live in now," Lorello said.
"Silver Screen" was the first track completed on the Kittenz And Thee Glitz album, and its first single. It was signed to City Rockers, where a young Damian Lazarus was head of A&R. FC Kahuna, ADULT. and Laurent Garnier were among its first remixers, but it was the Thin White Duke version that "blew everything into the stratosphere." Inescapable in Ibiza and beyond, it was on just about every house music compilation released in the UK in 2002.
Soon after its release, City Rockers was invited to host a label night at fabric, where Tiga, Stallings Jr. and Lorello played. Beforehand, they were invited to hang out and eat pizza in the studio with some of Stallings Jr.'s "buddies." Those buddies turned out to be Duran Duran. When they walked in, Nile Rodgers was sitting at the mixing desk.
"The only thing that makes this crazier is at some point during this, Nile says, 'Hey, is it cool if a buddy of mine stops by?'" Lorello said. "All of a sudden, there's a knock on the door and Bryan fucking Ferry walks in. Tiga grabbed and severely bruised my leg. This record created so many magical moments and experiences."
Perhaps inevitably, given its specific sonic palette and ironically entrenched trendiness, electroclash didn't last long after Kittenz And Thee Glitz was released. But that album, and especially "Silver Screen," retain an enduring edginess.
"You can hear a bunch of people having a fucking great time making music," Lorello said. "And I'm really proud of that because now, that's a real commodity."