Tango Connection

"It was difficult to get people's attention," says Robin Hofmann, age 26, from his home base in Stuttgart. The German producer is discussing how he and his Dublex, Inc. colleagues -- Rino Spadavecchia, 32; Florian Pflüger, 28; and Felix Stecher, 23 -- managed to score a major dance hit in the jazzy, uptempo "Tango Forte," on which they set formal tango breaks to a dance-floor beat. The song charted at number one for six weeks in a row during the winter of 2001, setting a new record on the Deutsche Club Charts.

Since then Dublex, Inc. (not to be confused with Dublex, the Miami-based DJ/producer) has gone from strength to strength, licensing its songs to successful collections like Hotel Costes 4 and 5 as well as lesser-known collections like Listen and Fly and Brazilelectro 1. The group's first full-length album will be released worldwide in February 2004.

However, Hofmann, who as the most qualified English-speaker takes care of the band's PR duties, still remembers how they once struggled to break into the music industry. "When Rino and me began organizing our first parties eight years ago, only twenty people came," he says. Back then Hofmann and Spadavecchia were little-known local DJs in Stuttgart. Spadavecchia would later build a reputation as one of the city's most-wanted big-beat players in the Nineties, while Hofmann specialized in spinning hip-hop and, later, broken beats and drum and bass.

When the two got together with Pflüger and Stecher in 1999, the resulting quartet decided to add production skills to their repertoire. Though Stecher was the only one who had previous music-making experience -- for a short time he had helped a local hip-hop band make tracks -- they all decided to concentrate on dub music, agreeing to lower the BPMs and abandon the over-the-top house music then reigning in the local clubs. That, of course, is where the band's name comes from.

After sending out demos of their "Tango Forte" track and garnering a number of rejections from established record labels in return, the four Stuttgart cats decided to create their own record company, Pulver Records. Since then they've released ten records, including two twelve-inch singles and a compilation, Pulverizing. The label's success is the result of a collective effort --they not only take care of the musical and technical aspects of a song, but also know how to package, promote, and sell a CD.

"Now it's really easy, 'cause we have our own platform and we can do what we like to do. We don't have to deal with other labels to get our music released," points out Hofmann, who notes that their reputation has grown in Europe as well. "We have a much bigger name now. A lot of labels are asking us for remixes, and a big hype is being built up around us. There are cities like Vienna, Austria, where we aren't stars but ... people know us, they play our stuff on the radio. There's a big difference between the past and what's going on today with Dublex."

Hofmann says that the group feels confident enough to explore new territories. "Not very many people know our name or our music in America. We want to go there more like pioneers, to show them what's going on, and hope that some of them will like it," he says of Dublex, Inc.'s forthcoming U.S. tour, on which he and Spadavecchia will try to "build up a little crowd." On August 6, Hofmann will be DJing in Baltimore while his old friend Spadavecchia will be spinning in Miami. Can we expect an incomplete show, then? "Not at all," says Hofmann. "We all play the same kind of music, which is the music that we release on our label."

As for how four German guys ended up playing popular music from South America -- before the "Tango" smash, they initially drew attention for an electro-bossa cut called "Izquitos," and recently released a club-friendly track sung in Spanish called "Tócame" ("Touch Me") -- Hofmann says that it wasn't part of a well-crafted plan. "We're really interested in this kind of culture, in this kind of music, 'cause we think it's very warm," he says. "It's not so technical like a lot of music that comes from Germany."

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Javier Andrade