When German DJs Claus Terhoeven and Stefan Bossems (AKA Nic Chagall and Bossi) worked on their first track together, they had no idea they were forming what would become a 20-year partnership. Nic and Bossi, known as the trance duo Cosmic Gate, were brought together by chance at a studio in Cologne, Germany, when they were part of a larger group working on a musical project. They ran in the same circles in the music scene but didn’t know each other well.
“We were with other guys in the studio to remix a track which I don’t even remember,” Bossi says, “and something was wrong with the vocals, so we could not work on it, so the other guys left.” Nic and Bossi almost left too, but they decided to grab a bite to eat first and wound up working on a track of their own. “There were no indications that were telling us, ‘Hey, we want to work together and start something,’ especially not something that would change our lives that drastically,” Bossi says. But that’s exactly what happened.
That initial jam session became “The Drums,” Cosmic Gate’s first single. The duo recently revisited the track on its latest album, 20 Years: Forward Ever Backward Never, which dropped this month. “We basically sampled ourselves and used the vocals from our very first track 20 years ago for the opening track of the 20-year album,” Bossi says. Longtime fans of the group will recognize the familiar lines (“Come with me, follow me, to the cosmic gate”) when they listen to the new album’s first track, “Come With Me.”
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Coming full circle with an old song is fitting for the album, which celebrates the two-decade mark in Cosmic Gate’s career — one that has produced a number of successful albums and remixes, seen the two spin at major music festivals and clubs, and garnered them a Grammy nomination last year for their remix of Gabriel & Dresden and Sub Teal’s “Only Road.”
20 Years is a reflection of the music they’ve made so far, the work that inspired them along the way, and where they’re headed next. “It’s not just a pretty name,” Bossi says of the album’s subtitle, Forward Ever Backward Never. “We feel when you’re an artist, you have to push things forward. You have to take the next step. Otherwise, if an album two years later sounds like the album before, you did something wrong.”
The album’s 16 tracks include new material, old songs that Nic and Bossi have remixed and updated to give them a more modern flavor, and remixes of songs by other artists that were especially influential to them over the years.
To say that things have changed in the music scene since Cosmic Gate first formed 20 years ago is a gross understatement. The duo went from working in a studio full of equipment to being able to work from anywhere on a 15-inch Macbook Pro. Instead of releasing singles on separate dates in different parts of the world, they now share new music instantly via streaming platforms. They've also gone from marketing their work through traditional print media to factoring social media into the equation.
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These days, Bossi is based in Las Vegas, and Nic lives in New York. “When we started, it would have been impossible to work with someone that’s not in your city,” Bossi says. Now they send ideas back and forth and meet in person at the shows they play. Dance music too has surged in popularity, with headliners such as Tiësto, Calvin Harris, and David Guetta getting airplay on popular radio stations and drawing festival crowds that previously wouldn’t have listened to dance music.
One thing that hasn’t changed? “We’re still two guys that just enjoy what we do,” Bossi says. “Our hobby turned into a profession, and we love what we do, so in the end, it’s never work. It’s a different world, but I think that the music should always be the most important.” They’re generally considered progressive-trance musicians, but, he says, “We feel that genres are not as important as music, so we take from progressive, from techno, from other genres. We’re not typical trance. In the end, we just ask people to listen to what we do as DJs [and] as producers, and make their own minds up.”
Nic and Bossi’s collaboration has also grown stronger over the past two decades. On the heels of its new album, the pair already plans to release more new music before the end of the year. “It’s a very unique chemistry we have when it comes to music,” Bossi says, though he stresses the two have very different personalities. “It’s not about egos; it’s always about the band, and that’s very important. That’s something we, of course, learned during the process. We want to celebrate [this] milestone — to be a duo, to be on the road so long together. So many other groups, they struggle, and we’re actually closer than we ever were."