"Da Ba De... It's Eiffel 65"

by Geoff Wilbur
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One day, they're three dance music producers at Bliss Corporation, a successful group of dance music producers, acts, and labels in Tourino, Italy. In fact, they had been there since the early '90s, and life was good. Then, suddenly, after years of success,  Jeffrey Jey, Maurizio Lobina and Gabry Ponte are international sensations as Eiffel 65. On the strength of "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" and new single (which piqued my interest) "Move Your Body," the band is currently in the U.S. touring in support of its Republic Records release Europop, which features other strong songs such as "Another Race" and "The Edge" that may keep this trio on the airwaves for a while.

I spoke with Maurizio recently as the band was en route to an afternoon gig during its U.S. tour. Only Jeffrey Jey, who spent a dozen years as a child in Brooklyn, had been to the U.S. before, and Eiffel 65 is enjoying its tour of America. Says Maurizio, "For me and Gabry, it is the first time in the U.S.A. It's almost one month we have been here, and we change cities every day. So try to imagine two months, 50 cities. Anyway, it's very beautiful." The tour started on the west coast and is blanketing the country.

Maurizio explains the group's formation: "We have existed as Eiffel 65 since two years ago. We worked together as three different producers at the Bliss Corporation for eight or nine years. In September 1998, we three together produced 'Blue,' and Eiffel 65 started. And we started to perform live, I think, in May '99, so we have been performing together live for one year.

"'Blue' was the first single as Eiffel 65. We are three producers, and we started eight years ago, so we've released a lot of records. We are used to releasing one single -- each of us in each of our own studios -- every month of every year. So in eight years, if you try to count them, there are a lot." Not as Eiffel 65, of course, but with other producers -- there are twenty people alone within the Bliss Corporation, so there are many recording combinations available.

Adds Maurizio, "Our inspiration comes from many songs, many styles -- we don't have a favorite. We have one style we like, which is electronic music, so all the fathers of electronic music, like Depeche Mode, Rod Stewart... Duran Duran, Erasure... the fathers of electronic music are our fathers, too. But our creativity comes from everything. We concentrate our work on the creativity. We listen to every kind of music. I studied classic piano, and I grew up playing in bands like a classic band, a new age band. Jeffrey grew up in the States and in Italy, so he was listening to songs by AC/DC or Bon Jovi, every kind of music. And Gabry was a DJ, so he played every kind of dance music. Our inspiration comes from every style of music -- we like music 360°."

The band's name is an interesting story. Says Maurizio, "We used to release a lot of songs with different names, so sometimes it's boring finding a perfect name, that has to identify the style of the theme and all that stuff. So when we worked on 'Blue' we worked on the concept 'we've got to do what we want to do,' so the same thing happened with the name. We put a lot of names we liked into a computer program -- a random program -- you hit return, and it chooses one for you. So 'Eiffel' came out. Only the name 'Eiffel.' The '65' was a mistake because our producer put a piece of paper with a phone number in the label copy. So the people from the graphics part of the company thought it was part of the name because the '65' was close to the name, but nobody chose it."

But the group likes the international effect of having a number in its name. Notes Maurizio, "Eiffel is the name of the famous tower in France, but it is also a famous area in Germany. And '65' is a number, so you translate '65' in your language."

You might think "Blue" was an overnight success, but the facts are quite different. Maurizio explains, "The first time we heard 'Blue' on the radio in Italy (on a major radio program), for us it was a big surprise because 'Blue' was released in October '98, and the first time the radio played it was the first of April. So for five months we heard nothing, so it was a big surprise. After this day, every day was a surprise. One day, it was a platinum record in France. One day, a platinum record in Germany. And after, in England, and after, in Spain. In America, the album. For us, it was completely unexpected. You never do music expecting such a big hit -- you think you can do something good, but something so big... I think it's too much for us." (laughs)

Now that the world has heard their music -- with such a broad variety of dance music on Europop -- hopefully, we will continue to hear plenty more from this trio.

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