Last year, Kylie Minogue’s landmark eponymous fifth album arrived at its 20th year. After using dance-pop to shake the pre-fab PWL shackles of her initial incarnation, Kylie departed (somewhat) from that avenue for broader horizons. Still signed to her native Australian imprint Mushroom Records, Minogue secured herself a position with DeConstruction Records in the U.K.
A boutique dance music offshoot of BMG/Arista, it was unheard of for such a mainstream pop artist to go “indie,” as it were. Creative director and longtime friend William Baker commented of the period in Kylie: La, La, La (2002): “Kylie’s signing to DeConstruction was seen by many as a brave move.” Kylie Minogue produced three commercial singles in “Confide in Me,” “Put Yourself in My Place” and “Where Is the Feeling?” The songs achieved their goal in portraying Minogue not just as a mere stylist, but as someone capable of producing performances with range. “Where Is the Feeling?” stands as the most storied of the three singles and sadly, the most forgotten.
When released on July 15, 1995, there had been a considerable gap between it and its preceding single, “Put Yourself in My Place” which appeared in the late fall of 1994. The space was due to Minogue landing the role of Dr. Petra von Kant in the Pauly Shore comedy Bio-Dome (1996). She later remarked that her appearance in the movie was misguided.
Was the single too sensual to be appreciated at the time of its appearance? Possibly ― U.K. #16, AU #31. Its modest returns left it shrouded in Minogue’s discography as her larger hits piled on. In retrospect, the pop play present on “Where Is the Feeling?” has kept Minogue relevant for close to 30 years.
Two men who were integral to allowing Minogue to unlock her muse were Dave Seaman and Steve Anderson, known then as the Brothers in Rhythm. Both were accomplished musicians and songwriters in their own right when they intersected with Minogue in 1991. Their collaboration and friendship spawned Minogue’s most exciting period from 1994 through 1998. Today, Mr. Seaman is one of the finest DJs spinning globally and Mr. Anderson has remained with Minogue as her principal music director for her tours.
In this interview, the Brothers in Rhythm reunite to recall the epoch and road to “Where Is the Feeling?” in their own words.
Describe your musical background and how the Brothers in Rhythm met Kylie Minogue.
DS: Steve and I both joined a company called DMC at roughly the same time when we were both in our teens. They were an organization for DJs, one of the pioneers of the art of remixing― and almost single-handedly championed the “DJs into artists” revolution. They also published Mixmag and held the annual World Mixing & Scratching Championship. So we were very lucky to be in the eye of the storm when DJ culture really took off.
Initially, Steve was brought in to help in the studios they had there and develop his own production skills. I became editor of the magazine, but very quickly we struck a bond and ended up making music together. One of the first tracks we made was called “Such A Good Feeling,” which became a pop hit in the U.K. and was one of Chris Lowe’s (of the Pet Shop Boys) favorite records of the time.
Before long we were thrown into the deep end and were co-producing songs for the Pet Shop Boys. We had to learn quickly from our mistakes, but it was the best way. Not long after that Stock, Aitken & Waterman asked us to remix “Finer Feelings” for Kylie and our version was used for the main 7” radio release. When Kylie left PWL for DeConstruction―a label we knew very well―I just picked up the phone and asked if we might be able to try writing some songs for her. We’d never written for anybody before but to their credit, they gave us that chance and thankfully, it paid off for everybody.
“Where Is the Feeling?” was initially done in 1993 by a club outfit called Within in Dream. When you heard it, did you initially see it as something to fit into the overall evolutionary arc of the Kylie Minogue LP?
DS: We knew the track quite well as it was written and originally recorded by Wilf Smarties & Glyn Tolley; they were signed to the label I was head of A&R for at the time, Stress Records. It had gone under the radar and while we were making the album with Kylie, it was suggested that if anyone had any good ideas for covers they should throw them into the ring.
I put forward the idea. It just seemed a perfect fit―as did the Prefab Sprout cover of “If You Don’t Love Me,” which we also went on to record. We were experimenting with her musical boundaries at the time, which was obviously exciting. Needless to say, she took up every challenge we threw at her and seemed to relish it.
The actual album version of “Where Is the Feeling?” is very acid jazz-based – you can really hear the session players on it. Its classic disco feel echoed British acts like The Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai and Incognito. How did you and Steve feel about placing Kylie in that kind of arrangement? Did you both see it as a challenge to help her grow artistically or did you just think it would sound good on her?
SA: If anything, we were more influenced by the classic Frankie Knuckles and David Morales mixes of that time which always had very musical elements alongside the club beats and bass. Also “Where Is the Feeling’s?” principal chord structure suits the feel of the records you reference really well, so we added live piano, guitar, percussion and made the album version like a classic extended version. As for Kylie, it’s a brilliant pop record and there is no one else in the world that sings those better than her.
The acoustic rendition of “Where Is the Feeling?” (featured on the 2003 expanded edition of Kylie Minogue) fleshes out the more organic touch of the album version. Were you trying to gauge the song in different environments?
SA: The original intention was to release an acoustic EP, so we recorded a few songs in a session at Sarm West [Studios]―some with the same band, some of which have been released since. In a way it was similar to The Abbey Road Sessions  album I ended up producing much later on.
DS: Yes, I think DeConstruction were keen to try out different settings for her. She was a bit of a blank canvas in many ways as post-PWL, the world was her oyster. She could have gone in so many different directions. There were lots of people queuing up to work with her. So they experimented with lots of different producers and writers to see what was the best fit. To be honest though, I think it may have just confused things; as she is so adaptable to whatever setting you put her in, it was difficult to decide what worked best.
The actual single version of “Where Is the Feeling?,” the “BIR Dolphin Mix,” was pulled from its “BIR Soundtrack” variant. To me, this is one of Kylie’s most cinematic pieces recorded, up there with “Confide in Me,” “Dangerous Game,” “Too Far,” or “Dreams.”
Interestingly, it takes on a darker, more ambient tone in this form, which many critics stated was not radio friendly at the time. What was the reason Brothers in Rhythm went in this direction?
SA: As I mentioned, the chords and melody were very pop and quite difficult to take to a darker place musically. Also we had become accustomed to completely reinventing songs for the 12” versions with Kylie; so it was a challenge and would often go through different stages, so kind of like a remix opus.
By making the vocals spoken, rather than sung, it took the whole song from a happy place to a more twisted and dark love song; it enabled us to reinvent it as something much moodier. However, one of the things I love the most about this version is the release that comes after so much darkness, when the major middle-eight section comes in like a ray of sunlight. The rest was pure experimentation, which DeConstruction and Kylie were always incredibly supportive of us doing―including the whole end section for which David wrote a poem which Kylie recites as the music gets more and more frantic.
From what I remember, that mix took about three weeks from conception to completion and was almost completely conceived at Sarm West Studios. It was a luxury we were very lucky to have back then, when the budgets were able to support it.
DS: I also remember I watched Luc Besson’s The Big Blue for the first time the night before we went into the studio; Eric Serra’s amazing soundtrack had a big effect on me. There was a lot of that inspiration channeled into the mix, hence the “Dolphin”’ bit in the title.
In the “BIR” versions, there is a section of the song where Kylie holds a note from the left side of the speaker. As she’s holding that note, she sings another note from the right side which is brought up to harmonize with the note being held on the left. As a teen, I played this bit back tons and it really, like most of Kylie’s DeConstruction work, showed me what smart pop could do. How was this effect achieved and how did you get Kylie to produce such wonderful notes?
SA: Here’s the thing. Kylie is without doubt one of the most accomplished, and brilliant, singers I’ve ever worked with and she loves a challenge. So that section was literally us saying to her: “We need you to hold this note for the duration of this section, let’s see if you can do it.” Of course not only did she do it, but she was still singing after the section was over. There are obviously ways of manipulating it or looping it, if it had been another less capable singer, but there was no need when you have the natural talent.
Kylie has only ever performed “Where Is the Feeling?” on the “KylieFever2002” tour, which adds to its mystique. Why do you think fans are drawn to “Where Is the Feeling?” despite it not being a regularly performed work in Kylie’s live oeuvre?
SA: I think in its single/remixed form it’s a difficult one to put into a live environment, as it’s so aimed at clubs. In its original form it would work well, but I guess we just haven’t had the right setup for it in the live shows yet. Never say never though!
There are some fans who think that Pete Hadfield, the A&R of DeConstruction at the time, mislabeled Kylie as a dance act right from the start. The two LPs cut from 1994 through 1998 embraced not just dance, but a wider pop spectrum. “Where Is the Feeling?” points as proof of this in its album and single versions. Describe what you think the DeConstruction period of Kylie’s discography represents and why it continues to fascinate people? Do you think labeling Kylie as a dance act right off was premature versus her being seen as the pop chameleon she actually was?
SA: I honestly don’t think he did at all. Both Pete and Keith [Blackhurst] were the most wonderful, creative and honest A&R you could wish for. They almost went against everything the label bosses at the time would tell them, which is why we were so fortunate to get away with so much creative license. Saying that a majority of her overall catalogue is dance music, in one form or another, it’s not really a stretch.
As far as that period of time is concerned, I think people are fascinated as it highlighted an amazing process from leaving the safety and brilliance of Stock, Aitken & Waterman and discovering what she could do next. In particular, her lyrics on the whole of Impossible Princess  are absolutely fascinating and incredibly strong. It’s like poetry and I can’t think of too many other people that come from such a pop background that would be able to achieve something like that. Obviously it wasn’t for everyone and people do like the “pop princess” side, but it’s always good to open up other sides to artists. I think that’s possibly why fans really love that period, as it’s a glimpse into another world that is rarely seen from an artist like her.
SA: I love both versions, but the “BIR Soundtrack” is a real favorite as it has so many twists and turns; I think it still stands up as a piece of work today.
DS: I hope so. The 12” mix definitely pushed a few boundaries for her as an artist – a 13+ minute journey that passes through lots of different stages, from darker, techno-edged sections to uplifting, euphoric piano breakdowns and a half-time Doors-esque backed poetry recital. You certainly couldn’t accuse us of lacking ambition! Ha, ha!
If Brothers in Rhythm could reunite to produce a Kylie Minogue album today, what would you like to bring to her music? What would you enhance, if anything?
DS: For me, I’d love to see her revisit and develop some of the ideas she started around the time of the Impossible Princess record. Maybe it was a little ahead of its time. People weren’t quite ready for Kylie to get too deep and experimental. But in today’s landscape, I think that kind of thing would be much more welcomed. I’d love to see where she went next with that.
Last year, Minogue unleashed her 12th recording Kiss Me Once. MusicOMH critic Philip Matusavage tellingly remarked of Minogue’s constant critical battle in his review of that long player: “…with the affection toward her most commonly being rooted in the notion that she’s a bit of fun who’s not to be taken too seriously. Yet it’s undeniable that she has produced some of the greatest pop songs of all time and, as she demonstrated during the DeConstruction years, she can be a creative force to be reckoned with. Kylie shouldn’t be some undemanding name to drop when people want to show that they like pop as well as ‘serious music’ ― she more than deserves to be taken seriously as an artist in her own right.”
“Where Is the Feeling?” captured Kylie Minogue in that moment of reinvention, unafraid to push her pop past what anyone imagined. Twenty years after its release as the third (and final) single from the record that bridged her pre-fab past to her glorious future, “Where Is the Feeling?” proves Mr. Matusavage’s statement correct―she is a serious artist in her own right.
Listen/Watch: “Where Is the Feeling?” (BIR Dolphin Mix) (Video Director: Keir MacFarlane)
Listen: “Where Is the Feeling?” (BIR Soundtrack version)
Listen: “Where Is the Feeling?” (LP version)
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