By Published on .

Beneath a tangled canopy of maple leaves sits Toronto's Jungle Music, where music, sound design and comedy come out from the cold

JUNGLE MUSIC MIGHT SEEM A SLIGHTLY SULTRY NAME for a commercials sound production house found in Toronto, that "sanctimonious icebox," as the British painter and writer Wyndham Lewis called it many years ago, but this stab at primitivism is a recent innovation, dating only from October '94. Jungle, founded a decade earlier, was previously known by the far more staid handle of Harris Cole Wilde, which, says president/producer Roger Harris, had outlived its usefulness. Besides the desire to reflect several personnel changes, including the departure of principal Ralph Cole, "after 10 years we felt it was time to reinvent ourselves," Harris explains. "I wanted to get the names off the door-it sounds like a law firm-and I wanted something with personality."

The techno/rave tie-in was strictly a coincidence. "About two weeks after we chose the name, a friend from London faxed me an article about jungle music and how popular it's becoming," Harris recalls. "I'd like to think we're benefiting from free press or borrowed interest." There are no plans at this time to put a bowl of Ecstasy in the reception area.

However, such a bowl of between-meal treats wouldn't clash much with the Jungle soundtrack for a new youth-targeted Toyota Tercel TV :60 from Saatchi & Saatchi/Toronto. Truly a music-driven terse sell, the spot is all quick-cut vignettes of Xers at play-skating, rafting and such-topped lightly with type and kicked from zero to sixty in a second by a whumpin' something that sounds like Frank Zappa meets Les Claypool (of Primus), replete with marimba and "Grand Wazoo"-style operatic bridge. It's the coolest car cantata we've heard in many a listening lap around global test tracks. What's it doing in Canada? It seems the spot was produced with a sort of client's creative carte blanche, intended only to air on Canada's MTV-ish Much Music channel.

As expected, Jungle works fairly regularly with Toronto out- posts like MacLaren Lintas, BBDO (Red Dog beer with VOs by Tommy Lee Jones) and Saatchi. Other blue-chippin' clients include Levi's, Chevy, Labatt's, Polaroid and Apple Computer. While they've also done some work for Stateside shops like Cleveland's Meldrum & Fewsmith, Toronto may seem a somewhat insular ad market, and it is, says Harris, but one with enough work to keep his place "hoppin' all the time."

Additional hops are provided by Jungle's radio production division, which, in a two-pronged assault rarely seen at a music house, actually creates comedy spots. This is mainly the domain of writer/producer John Farquhar, a former group CD at MacLaren, who joined Jungle in '92. Little-known though award-winning Toronto retail standouts include spots for Shorney's Optical and a jeweler called Royal de Versailles. A Christmas '94 Versailles spot has the distinction of airing once on a single radio station before being blown away in a blizzard of phone protests. In the course of a birds-and-bees conversation, a little girl asks her mother, "When I grow up and make love with my husband-is that how I get babies?" "No," says Mom, "that's how you get jewelry." Harris says he was all set to produce a follow-up in which an announcer would encourage hand-written letters of protest: "In fact, we have Waterman pens on sale at Royal de Versailles right now .*.*." Alas, the client wouldn't buy it, though Harris is looking for-

ward to entering the spot in every awards show he can find (Jungle is not awards-shy, having won, for example, several Golds at the '91 London International and a '92 Cannes Bronze for a Dove soap piano track).

Harris, 40, is a Toronto native and a graduate of local Ryerson Poly's radio/TV program. He started his ad career in 1977 as a producer at Toronto agency Vickers & Benson, and worked at several music houses before opening shop with Cole and composer Doug Wilde, who's still on board.

While it's tempting to try to be all things to all clients at Jungle, "you don't push real hard, you don't step on people's toes," says Harris. "You don't say, 'I want to write all your commercials and produce all your commercials.' Just

Most Popular
In this article: