Madison Avenue’s Andy Van revisits ‘Who the Hell Are You!’

In some nightclubs they have drag queens, go-go boys and room theatre to entertain the crowd and create atmosphere. In other nightclubs the people themselves are so interesting no additional entertainment is needed.

Back in 2000 I remember being on the dance floor at Bangkok’s DJ Station when a young guy, upon hearing a tune he loved, climbed up onto a podium and gave the most outrageously camp lip-sync performance. It was Saturday night and he was exuding pure gay abandon.

He knew every word of Who the Hell Are You, and was having the time of his life.

When dance duo Madison Avenue burst onto the music scene in 1999 they scored two epic global hits. Don’t Call Me Baby was the most successful single by an Australian artist in 1999, and it’s follow up Who the Hell Are You? scored them a number one.

The collaboration between producer Andy Van and vocalist Cheyne Coates only lasted for one album, the duo’s talent shone brightly but their time was brief. Coates released a solo project and Andy Van went on to form Vandalism, scoring more hit songs, and became one of Australia’s best known DJs.

Now seventeen years after Madison Avenue’s initial success Who the Hell Are You? is back at the top of the dance charts, thanks to swag of fresh new remixes.

Chatting to OUTinPerth Andy Van said the timing was right to re-release the tune, noting that the dance music scene had made a pivot.

“It’s been pretty cool, the scene’s changed in quite a good way where it’s not banging EDM anymore, it’s more housey, and vocals, and what I call ‘summer time vibes’ – which I really like.” Van said.

“House music has come full circle, there’s heaps of vocal and disco house tracks at the moment.

“Getting back in the studio and interpreting it again was really cool, I like that they’re all house mixes, it’s cool, I’m really happy with where it got taken.”

The new version of the song has been picked up by some of the biggest names in the business with Tiesto and Pete Tong both playing the tune on their radio shows.

Alongside new remixes from Andy Van, there’s also remixes from Dom Dolla, Baytek, illstrd, and Perth’s own Dr Packer.

Packer gives the track a disco vibe, while Dom Dolla provides a stellar dub version, illstrd’s version puts the vocals in front of some stop-and-go cut up beats. Each of the new mixes give a unique take on the tune.

While Madison Avenue is Van’s most high profile project, he’s been making mountains of instantly recognisable songs for decades. He admits he does prefer the anonymity that some projects bring.

“I enjoying DJing, DJ’s love that dark environment. They’re there and they love looking, but they’re not really into that pop star mentality. It was cool to do Madison Avenue… making that music was great and I enjoyed it.”

While Madison Avenue have returned to the dance charts, so has Van’s other project Vandalism. They just released a cover of the Who Da Funk tune Shiny Disco Balls.  Van said having two tracks in the charts had been a whirlwind experience.

Still one of Australia’s most loved DJs Van has been spending his time playing both clubs and festivals. Since he first started DJing one of the biggest changes it you no longer have to log crates full of records to gigs.

“Now it’s all one USB stick in my pocket!” Van notes. While having a massive amount of music at your finger tips might make some DJs challenged to make a selection, Van says he loves that he can access a huge range of tunes.

“It’s great if someone asks for an obscure track from fifteen or twenty years ago, generally you’ll have it with you.” Van said.

Who the Hell Are You 2017 is out now. 

Graeme Watson

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