Electroliners “Loose Caboose”
The birth of our underground brand, Factory 93, not only brought on an adrenaline rush reminiscent of the renegade warehouse-era of raving—on which Insomniac was founded—but it also had us thinking back to all the people, places and parties that made this whole operation possible. And with that came a burning desire to crack open our collection and dust off the classic records we couldn’t live without. Through our From the Crate series, we’ll be breaking out both seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
DJ Dan and Jim Hopkins met while in their shared natural habitat of digging in the crates, and they quickly made a rave anthem together. Released in 1995, “Loose Caboose” by Electroliners outsold expectations, thrilled dancefloors around the world, and became a classic breakbeat song. It still sounds vital and alive more than 20 years later.
“Dan and I ran into each other at BPM Records, a [now defunct] DJ record store on Polk Street in San Francisco,” says Jim. “We talked a bit in the store and then hung out the rest of the day, hit it off, and became friends. We talked quite a while about music and DJing. Dan had mentioned that he wanted to get into music production, and I told him that I had a studio setup in my apartment. He came over the next day with a big stack of records.”
At the time, Jim was running his own label, Twitch Records, which released a long series of now highly collectible remixes of popular and underground dance tunes, many of which he produced himself. He was well known for being a master of the reconstruction.
“I was approached by Mixman, a company that was working on software to remix tracks on the fly with a joystick,” he remembers. “I mentioned the project to Dan, and we decided to put a track together for them to include in their CD-ROM software. We sat down, and he handed me records to sample things from. Once I had a bunch of samples saved, I started loading them into the sampler and sequencing them on my sequencing program. We were both groovin’ on what was coming together. We would meet up about four to five more times to sample additional records and incorporate those into the track. The track kept getting better and better.”
Dan was on the road DJing a lot at the time, and Jim kept working on sequencing and programming the track. While collaborators today would rely on the internet, back then, Jim played the work in progress for Dan over the phone and then did the final mixdown while Dan was still away.
“Once he returned, we were invited to a house party that DJ DRC was having,” Jim remembers. “I had a copy in my pocket on cassette and threw it in DRC’s cassette deck. Everyone at the party flipped out and started dancing to our track and asking us what it was. Right then and there, we knew we had a hit! We were trying to come up with a title for the track. Dan’s roommate, DJ Dano, came up with ‘Loose Caboose,’ since the track had a train horn going through it.”
The duo needed to come up with a band name, and Hopkins went to a surprising place to find one.
“I went to the public library and checked out some books on trains,” he reveals. “While thumbing through them, I saw the name ‘Electroliner,’ which was a train line in the Midwest. I added an ‘s’ on the end of it, and that became our band name.”
Jim gave the song to Mixman for their CD-ROM and pressed up vinyl copies with an adorable hand-drawn label on Twitch Records. He snail-mailed a demo cassette to a leading vinyl distributor called Watts.
“A few days later, I received a call from the buyer at Watts, stating that she received the cassette and had almost drove her car off the side of the road in excitement as she was bopping around to it in her car. She couldn’t believe how intense the production was and ordered an initial 1,000 copies from me. That was unheard of in those days! Most orders were 300–500 to start with on most releases. I ended up selling 12,000 copies on Twitch Records.”
He then licensed “Loose Caboose” to XL Recordings, the mammoth UK label that’s now known for bringing smash artists like Adele to the world. At the time, XL was mainly known as a powerhouse for hardcore, breakbeat, and drum & bass acts, and it was making international waves with the Prodigy. XL sold 5,000 more copies of the song and licensed it out to several DJ mix CDs, which certified its status as an international rave anthem.
Jim says he still gets a lot of props for “Loose Caboose,” a funky West Coast song that came about by a shared love of the groove.
“It’s so cool to see how many people were moved and influenced by our record! I still hear from people that the track inspired them to get into music production or DJing. It’s a great feeling to know that so many people were moved by ‘Loose Caboose’ and our work in the studio.”