The last couple of years have seen a blog and remix driven rise for Ocelot - the trans-Atlantic dance music duo, as opposed to the South American leopard. Remixes for The Killers, Röyksopp, and Robyn and a host of take-no-prisoners DJ sets alongside the likes of Grace Jones, Aeroplane, Deadmau5, Diplo, have groomed the pair for No Requests, their very own album of tough but unashamedly poppy floor-fillers.
Having broken out from the blogosphere and onto the dancefloor with nihilistic clubbing anthem 'Our Time', Ocelot release their debut Wall Of Sound single 'Beating Hearts' on April 11th. The Quincy-Jones-on-pills of 'Beating Hearts', is a typical taster of the high octane pop sprayed liberally across their forthcoming album. Elsewhere 'Forbidden Touch' comes on like a contagious amalgam of Daft Punk, Eric Prydz and 'Cold As Ice'-era Foreigner, it is Ocelot at their most Saturday night immediate and is juxtaposed by the wry, mellow 'Never Trust A Singer', featuring Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, and the steroid vocoder R&B of 'Your Eyes'.
The one consistent throughout is heavy riffs - peaking on the fret tapping frenzies of 'Fist OF Harmony', 'All Around Us' and 'Medicine'. Hammered out on disco synths but somehow redolent of classic rock power-chords, these tracks hint at Ocelot's unlikely background. The entwined tale of Texan Cory Kilduff and Yorkshireman James Welsh begins far, far from raves, beats-per-minute and DJs…
Back in his late teens in Austin, Texas, Cory Kilduff, vocalist with hardcore metal band The Rise, had his eye on a girl. The problem was she'd already agreed to date an English guy, one of a group who came over annually to escape the British winter and take advantage of Austin's thriving BMX biking community. The week before the Brits arrived Cory started seeing her yet she still insisted on introducing him to the English BMXers.
"I originally thought they were going to beat the shit out of me," laughs Cory. They didn't, though. They all got on brilliantly, sharing a taste for skate culture and heavy music. Cory especially hit it off with Jimmy Welsh from Leeds.
Jimmy grew up in rural Keighley (pronounced 'Keith-Lee') on the Yorkshire Moors. His dad, a chocolate delivery man, was keen on '60s groups such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and Jimmy took up the guitar aged seven, his first public performance was of JJ Cale's 'Cocaine' at a school nativity play.
"At school everyone was into The Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers," recalls Jimmy, "and there was a big gabba techno scene in the area. We didn't really separate that from the metal scene - it was all obnoxious music to us."
Everyone was also into riding, BMXs and mountain bikes, which in the Yorkshire Dales was a more practical hobby than skateboarding. Thus, when an older friend went to work for BMX company 'Terrible One' in Austin, it wasn't long before 15 year old Jimmy followed on the first of many visits.
Jimmy met Cory as The Rise were just taking off. They'd signed to an independent and would put out an album in 2002. Taking their lead from Swedish punk band Refused, they also admired electronic noiseniks such as Alec Empire and Kid 606. When the band were given a support slot for a UK tour Jimmy, offered his services as tour and merchandise manager. One night he presented the band with a remix he'd done of one of their songs, "a junglist Squarepusher-ish thing" is how Cory describes it. The Rise loved it and included it on the vinyl version of their album.
When it came time to record their second album "We got Jimmy a ticket to come to Texas for an entire Summer and said, 'By the way, you're in the band'," says Cory whose Austin apartment became the de facto recording studio. When the Rise sessions finished each night, the pair played around with the equipment remixing hardcore bands with a view to an album of the results. The album came to naught, but the pair developed a rowdy show playing out their punk-metal cut-ups to skate kids and headbangers.
"It was a remix of [Kentucky alt-rock outfit] Elliott that changed things," explains Cory, "The rest were screaming hardcore bands but Elliott had these ethereal vocals which we joked around with, threw them through the Auto-Tune, and created a Cher-esque dance track. We'd play it as a joke at the end of our set and the hardcore kids loved it."
Their mix of Elliott's 'Believe' was the starting point for Ocelot. While conceived in the spirit of irony, it was the mix's poppiness they enjoyed most, "You can only be noisy all the time for so long before you get a bit sick of it," sighs Jimmy, "and we wanted to try something more melodic."
"We grew tired of trying to out-dirty people," Cory agrees, "We thought, 'Let's just make good dance tracks.' Then, with Justice and MSTRKRFT coming up we saw how these two worlds could collide. You didn't have to sacrifice being dirty and noisy to make dance music."
When The Rise fizzled out in 2005, Cory and Jimmy continued to make dance music for fun, working together from opposite sides of the Atlantic. As time passed, they developed a long-standing relationship with hip LA blog/label Iheartcomix which dramatically raised their profile. Cory was, by now, a graphic designer while Jimmy was doing location sound for TV and film ("I did Emmerdale but the worst was this film Catalina about a transvestite superhero"). However, the remix offers started to come in and when their version of Dragonette's 'Competition' became a club hit in '08, there was a wave of interest. Cory moved to Leeds so the pair could produce and DJ together and suddenly Ocelot was a going concern.
"I was a latchkey kid," recalls Cory of his '80s childhood in Dallas, "The primary base of my musical taste is '80s movie soundtracks, films watched when I came home from school, from 'Pretty In Pink' to 'Transformers', from cheese like Stan Bush to Harold Faltermeyer and Giorgio Moroder."
All this can be heard in Ocelot alongside the big bad riffing. On their album, as a tribute to their past, they have Refused vocalist Dennis Lyxen on the hammering techno-rocker 'America', yet it sits easily beside music that, as their MySpace claims, has "all the fun of trance without all that trance".
"We're unashamedly into pop," laughs Cory, "Michael MacDonald, Michael Jackson…"
"Depending on the atmosphere we wouldn't think twice about dropping Hall & Oates or ELO at a party," adds Jimmy.
The idea of two punk-metallers channelling the spirit of big-haired US pop via the crunch of Parisian underground electro just sounds mad. Happily it's a craziness that makes sense, especially on the dancefloor. Ocelot may be the newest big cat in the club jungle but they're about to give disco tigers everywhere a run for their money…