Remixers Issue

What is a remix?

The Wikipedia dictionary defines the word remix as a verb in the following 2 interpretations: 1) to mix (something) again; 2) to produce a different version of (a musical recording) by altering the balance of the separate tracks.

I first became interested in remixes when I began going to clubs back in Cleveland, Ohio (my hometown). When I walked into the club and started to hear all of the amazing music being mixed together, or particular tracks that I knew (and loved) being extended and reinterpreted through the DJ behind the turntable (remember those?), I was EXHILARATED!

Once I started to frequent particular clubs on a regular basis, I couldn’t get enough. My first 12”s were “Your Love” by Lime, “Hit-n-Run Lover” by Carol Jiani and “Feels Like I’m in Love” by Kelly Marie. These particular tracks, for the most part, were simply “extended” with additional edits-to listen to 7 or 8 minute mixes of these songs (since they were NEVER played on the radio in Cleveland) was sheer joy to me...and when I heard them in clubs, I would sprint to the dancefloor.

When I started working at Epic Records in Los Angeles in the late 80’s, I was fascinated by the 12” format and who were the hot remixers at the time.  Who could forget the remixes of the PWL, Shep Pettibone, Jellybean Benitez, Justin Strauss, Steve Hurley, Marshall Jefferson, Kevin Saunderson, just to name a few.  I would listen closely to how these “wizards” would reinterpret single versions that I was already so familiar with, and was amazed with many of their classic interpretations.  At this point, the remix had “evolved” from just an “extended mix” to a “full on remix”—the songs were often times a “bit different” than the original radio “hit” versions and took on a “new clubbier persona” in their remix form.

Upon moving up to Epic NYC, I found myself blessed with the good fortune of working more closely with artists like Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan, Luther Vandross, Rozalla, Kathy Sledge and Culture Beat—and having to make determinations about which remixer would mix their respective songs. This was such a dream realized as I had been always focused and driven upon becoming an “integral part” of the record making process. I would have to say that my first real “challenge” was when I was put in charge of commissioning all of the Michael Jackson single remixes for the album, “Dangerous”, which was released at the tail-end of 1991.

Each single was like an album on its own, because at the time, there seemed to be a drive and a purpose to the remix— The Hurley mixes of “Remember the Time” were a personal triumph for me, as it had become my mission to give Michael more of a “hipness factor”, making him “cooler” than he was being perceived during that time period. At that time, video remixes had become popular, and when we synced Michael’s amazing video to the Hurley mix, it was just MAGIC. Each set of remixes on the “Dangerous” singles propelled the sales to either Gold or Platinum status, which was finally recognized by the label as a significant factor in an artist’s album project.

Of course, as remixes became more important as viable configurations to artists and labels, popular remixers of this era, wanted to “cash-in” on their talents. Remix fees began to rise, and soon became “too exorbitant” in terms of keeping up their importance at labels. Noticing the “greed” that infiltrating the remix/producer community, I decided to “shake things up a bit”. On certain tracks, I would have DATs (remember those??) made up of the acapella vocals of the artist and I began to “farm out” the tracks to aspiring remixers who wanted an opportunity to show their talents.

Remix fees at Epic suddenly went from $25-40K on particular projects, down to around $10-15K, which was a significant savings to the label. Simultaneously, I was discovering new talent by aspiring producers who just wanted a chance to make “good music”. During this period, I helped producers like Mike Rizzo, Tony Moran, Love to Infinity, Trouser Enthusiasts, Hani, to name a few, get noticed by other A&R label people, as well as DJs worldwide, and the record buyers.

After the merging of the major labels in the early 2000s and the growing popularity of the internet, remixes had lost some popularity, as well as their value, as illegal downloading had begun to make a huge dent in single sales. And, while both labels and remixer/producers were struggling, both were “humbled” as to the original purpose of remixing and why it’s so crucially important to the music business. As we see the resurgence of dance/club music and the remix in today’s marketplace, we need to keep in mind the “bottom line” for why the remix exists—it’s main purpose is to provide a “different perspective” and interpretation of the original song. While we enjoy this “cyclical popularity”, we as a club community shouldn’t abuse our opportunity to “ride out” our good fortune—we shouldn’t get “greedy” and repeat old patterns.

Remember, for every quality remixer that’s out there... there are about 1,000 aspiring remixers who now own computers and remix programs to create their OWN mixes.  I remember recently reading djs exchanging HOW MANY Britney Spears remixes that existed on “Hold it against me” –over 100!!  Most of those, the label didn’t approve (or even know about).  It’s a whole different world out there these days and we MUST ALWAYS remember... It’s all about the MUSIC.


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