Jay ”Ski” McGowan is the Ace of Bass — Southern bass, that is. The 29-year-old producer has been pumping out thumping dance singles since 1993, including two of the hottest summer singles of the last three years: 95 South’s chant-along smash ”Whoot, There It Is” (1993) and the 69 Boyz’ mildly lascivious ”Tootsee Roll” (1994). Though both singles passed the 2-million mark in units sold, their success will no doubt be dwarfed by McGowan’s biggest hit yet: this summer’s ”C’mon n’ Ride It (the Train),” by the Quad City DJs. It remains to be seen if ”The Train” will gather the steam of a summer dance classic like ”The Loco-Motion” (see No. 58), but in ’96 it’s giving ”Macarena” a run for its money.
McCowan — who, with singer Jelanna ”Lana” LeFleur, forms Quad’s performing nucleus — got the idea at an Orlando club, where a DJ was spinning the Love Unlimited Orchestra oldie ”Theme From the Together Brothers.” ”When they played the record, everybody would get in a line and do this hand movement, like they were pulling a train horn,” he says. Thinking there might be more to this, he and his producing partner C.C. Lemonhead set out to turn the dance into a pop craze. ”I said, ‘It just needs a record now.’ So we went and made it.”
McGowan makes no bones about being commercial. ”C.C. always says, ‘When we make records, we try to make sure that nobody has no reason not to like it.’ We have a formula, and we’re just trying to stay true to it.” A key to that formula is the Southern bass sound itself, which plays off the booming drive of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, the techno wonder that’s been fueling funk hits since Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force’s ’82 hit ”Planet Rock.”
But Quad City’s secret weapon isn’t technological, it’s psychological. With a boxcar of choo-choos and a chorus of catchphrases, ”The Train” almost begs listeners to join in — and that’s just what McGowan and crew planned. ”Crowd participation is very, very important to me,” he says. ”I’m surprised more producers don’t see that.
”’The Train’ is simple,” he adds. ”You don’t think, you just dance. That’s what people want. They think enough during the day. At clubs, the last thing they want is to get mental.”