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The Swiss cow that became a cult mooves on

The CD cover of Muh!

A fun song that hit the Swiss charts with a bang in 1985 - Muh! - is still making people smile and a remix has now been issued that may milk its potential some more.

This content was published on February 11, 2008 - 16:48

The remix has been prompted by a nomination as one of the greatest Swiss hits in a national television programme.

The original, a mixture of singing cows, jingling cow bells, yodelling and alphorns as well as an infectious disco beat, is the brainchild of the Matterhorn Project, alias PJ and Stella Wassermann.

PJ says the success of the original, known as the Moo song outside Switzerland, was partly due to new technology of the day.

"Sampling was absolutely new at that time. We did it with a Fairlight computer, which nearly ruined us because it was so expensive... I won't forget that," he told swissinfo.

"In the end it was SFr80,000 ($72,717) and we paid it back monthly over five years. When we'd finished paying for it, it was worth nothing because technology had moved on that fast."

Success took them both by surprise but they were also lucky that the song came out at the time when private radio stations were sprouting up in Switzerland.

"Too outrageous"

"National radio wouldn't play it because for one channel it was too outrageous and the pop channel didn't like the traditional Swiss elements," PJ recalls.

Despite that, Muh! climbed to the number two spot in the Swiss charts, and the album Matterhorn Project entered the top five in South Africa, and was sold in Japan and most parts of Europe. But Muh! did not make the couple rich.

"It should have. All the people in the music business afterwards told us we should have made millions. The appeal was there all over the world but we didn't have any kind of marketing infrastructure, we didn't have a knowledgeable manager," PJ said.

"We could have used the millions to buy instruments and to make much more music. We've always been forced to make our money with other works and projects." To earn a living, PJ originally worked on making music for videos and films as well as creating jingles. But there came a time when he felt this was draining his creativity.

So he moved into software, programming websites, CD-Roms and databases.

Creative pause

Stella, who has two CDs under her own name, said she was happy after Muh! to concentrate on raising a child as it gave her a rest from music.

"I was glad to have a creative pause because the music totally got on my nerves. And later I concentrated on belly dance. I did training in that and I now teach several groups," she said.

With the remix called Moo! to distinguish it from the original and a club version, there's been a revival of the song with a 21st century twist.

"We work with Logic Pro on Apple computers and we have all these plug-in software synthesisers and effects, which have a stunning quality. It's fantastic and so cheap. I mean you get a real recording studio practically for nothing," PJ said.

The Wassermanns are these days busy with no fewer than four different styles of music. The Matterhorn Project with its fun aspect is still going strong, Stella has her own chillout sound, PJ also has chillout with other elements, including guitar, and the two have brought to life one of their early ideas of psychedelic music.

Added to that they're encouraging son Sean in his venture into psychedelic trance Goa music.

Back on stage

"We don't really want to do any more and sometimes we think it's already too much. But we like all of that and we want to go back on stage. This will probably be some kind of chillout show with visuals," PJ said.

When the Wassermanns moved into the tiny village of Hersberg in northwestern Switzerland about 20 years ago, local people were a little suspicious of them. But over the years, that reserved attitude has changed.

"From time to time they see us on TV and they have a kind of respect, but for them probably we're a bit weird."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes in Hersberg

Key facts

The original Muh! climbed to number two in the Swiss charts and stayed there for three weeks.
The following single, Yo-Lollo-Diuh, reached position eight.
The couple's first album Matterhorn Project reached number 26 and was the first in Swiss history to contain two top ten hits.

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Stella and PJ Wassermann

The couple had already worked as professional musicians years before Muh!

They started their own Space-Sound-Studio in 1980 and worked on film soundtracks and special effects as well as producing jingles.

Their work for pop radio station DRS 3 received the Prix Italia in 1991 for world best radio jingle series.

In the past few years, Stella and PJ found time to produce other artists including the Spanish Chicano-pop group Los Chicos, DJ Syncman, DJ Tyrex.

They have now returned to their roots, back to the electronic sounds they started with - PJ with his psychedelic trance project "Eternal Bliss" and Stella with her oriental influenced chillout project "Stella".

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