1999: Music for Mattel
on May 22, 2017
  • original music

One of the most rewarding and productive relationships I've enjoyed over the past thirty years began when renowned voice artist Scott Sanders recommended me to director Chas Kutchinsky in the early 90s. MONSTER TRACKS soon became the de facto music arm of Chas' Creative Commercial Productions and later iBOX Films.

Chas was among the busiest producers in Philadelphia throughout the 90s, handling advertising for brands including Colonial Penn, Stuff Magazine, Veteran's Life, and many others. As a musician, he understood the value of original music and often sought my input early in the production process. This was particularly true of our work for toy manufacturer Mattel.

Chas had initially been contracted by Mattel to produce "sizzle films" promoting their latest toys. These were shown to retailers to get them excited about carrying a new product and typically featured kids playing with a prototype. Chas treated them like broadcast-quality ads, marrying slick footage to upbeat music. Among the first was a promo for a newly-updated Matchbox Car Wash. Chas wanted to wink at the 1976 Rose Royce hit "Car Wash" while creating a track that would have a youthful appeal. The video opened with some distressed footage of an earlier version of the product, so I created an intro that sounded like a cue from a 50s-era cartoon. This gave way to a rap that paid off with a sung chorus featuring some funky guitar work by Jeff Kay. I knew that Yvette Myles would be perfect for the sing, but wasn't sure if she could rap. She was eager to try, and wound up delivering a terrific performance reminiscent of Missy Elliott.

Several months later we received some unexpected good news. The sizzle had been so well received that Mattel asked Chas to create a :30 version for broadcast. His approach had paid dividends, and we proceeded to make subsequent promos as broadcast-ready as possible. The next was for a product called Matchbox Mountain. This time Chas asked me to give the traditional folk song "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" a contemporary setting. Taking inspiration from the band Limp Bizkit, I wrote a rap that led into a chorus featuring the familiar tune. Jeff used a drop tuning to get the appropriately heavy guitar sound, and Rich Kurtz contributed the cool bass licks that occur throughout the track. After having the versatile Denise NeJame sing "Coming 'Round the Mountain" over this nu-metalish bed it was time to find a rapper. Gary Moskowitz had played me some raps that his nephew Jordan Myers had produced, and I realized the he would be perfect for the Fred Durst role (with his cousin Evan Myers handling "tags.") Everyone loved the result; the only hiccup occurred when Mattel's lawyers became concerned that the line "the way it twists is whack" had a negative connotation. Once I explained that "whack" can mean "crazy" or "unconventional" the lyric was approved, and a few months later we learned that this promo would also become a national TV spot.

Another surprise came after Mattel asked us to revamp a "Matchbox to the Rescue" jingle that they had used in previous ads. I created an edgier rendition with Jeff on guitar and popular local rocker Bugzy on lead vocals. After featuring the piece in a number of sizzles, Mattel decided to incorporate it in some of their Rescue-series toys! I later made a short video in which I describe my first encounter with the product.

It would be hard not to have fun writing music for a toy manufacturer, but what made these projects really enjoyable was the experience of working with Chas. His approach to production was simple: find people whose work you like, give them clear direction, and let them do their thing. This gives creatives the sense that their expertise is valued and trusted--a great way to motivate people to deliver their best work.

Chuck Butler is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Baker Sound's in-house composer. For more information about Baker's music division, visit our dedicated MONSTER TRACKS website.