What is a remix? At its most basic definition, a remix is a new version of a song that already exists. However, the lines between remixing, sampling, making edits, mashups, white labels, and bootlegs have blurred. These days, it's hard — maybe even impossible — to make something truly original.
Technology has allowed producers all over the world to spend hours repurposing sounds for their own new creations. And the remix has benefited from this. The remix is also an integral part of the success of any big song.
Part of the fun of being a DJ is finding those gems that will fit into your sets, and surprise your audience. Need a trap or an electro version of that new Rihanna track? It’s probably one Google search away.
Still, finding those gems takes time. For every great remix out there, there are twenty awful ones. And the more I work on perfecting my own remixes, the more I ask myself: what makes a good remix? And why even try to improve a song you already love?
To help shed some light on these questions, I spoke to two of my favorite remixers in the dance world, Dave Aude and Joe Maz. Between them, they have done official remixes for artists like Madonna, Maroon Five, Rihanna, Coldplay, PItbull, Chris Brown, Katy Perry, and the list goes on and on. There are few, if any, more qualified to speak about the remix than these two.
So let's hear from the masters.
New Times: What makes a good remix?
Dave Aude: Simple. A good song to start out with. A good song is a good song is a good song.
What is more important: making a remix that reflects the producers style, or being true to the original?
Dave Aude: I don't concern myself with personal style. It's about the music, not me. I strive to make something that moves people but doesn't totally disrespect the original song/artist. The challenge is coming up with something fresh that takes all things into consideration, like the artist, what is hot currently, and what is going to be hot in six months. It's a good idea to try and produce something that will still sound good in a year or two.
Joe Maz: I would say both are important in my opinion and if you can keep the integrity of the original while also conveying your style and sound, that is the best combo. Times have changed. It used to be a big deal to stay true to your sound as a producer/DJ, but the fans these days don't care as much about that true identity as they once did. Tiesto used to be all trance. Calvin Harris from 2006 sounds nothing like what he produces and plays live now. David Guetta the same. Skrillex used to be dub step, now he's trap, moombahton, and constantly exploring new genres and sounds. In the deep house or true techno market, the fans seem to be much more concerned with an identity or sound. So most of those guys stay true.
After more than 100 BIllboard #1 dance remixes, what advice do you have for producers that want to go from making bootlegs to official remixes?
Dave Aude: My advice is to finish as many songs, remixes, bootlegs, whatever as you can. You'd be surprised at how many producers have a hard time simply being able to finish projects. Finish meaning stop working on it and release it, and move on to the next one.
The commercial dance sound you had a large hand in creating has now become a massive success after years as a subculture. Is it rewarding to hear this sound played everywhere?
Dave Aude: I don't really think about it too much. I'm happy dance music is bigger than ever and I feel lucky to have been involved in something I love before it was huge. I love making records. It just so happens most of the records I make are for dancing and I look forward to getting up every day and producing new music for the world to hear.
How do you select which songs you are going to remix?
Joe Maz: I usually get hit up from the A&R's from various record labels, and if it’s not an official remix like that I'll just remix the music I really like. If it's a DiscoTech remix, then Konflikt & I make the decision together. The A&R's started hitting me up years ago after I did a few bootleg remixes that were being supported by a lot of DJs.
When you first started Discotech you guys were arguably the most popular bootleg and club remix producers in the game, selling tons of bootlegs, mashups, and remixes. What was it like then, and how has it changed today with platforms like SoundCloud offering so much free music?
Joe Maz: Back then it was the newest hottest wave hitting the DJ and club world. Guys like AM & Dangermouse and many others pioneered playing true open format sets and making bootleg mashups. Our focus was on mashups but also taking older songs and making them sound better or making them more interesting. It then morphed into what it is today, which is full scale production from top to bottom. And now the focus is more on original music. SoundCloud has really made the remix game explode and I think in the future it will continue to grow because the production learning curve is much easier than it once was. There are tons of classes people can take or youtube videos to learn from. And a lot of the software is starting to streamline the process.
What are the differences between making an official remix for a label and making an unofficial remix that you make for your live sets? How does it affect the creative process?
Joe Maz: An official remix can be tough. I turn down songs that we don't' think we can improve or make cool for our fan base. There's also more pressure because the remix can be turned down. You can work hard on a deadline for weeks and then have the label say no. Unofficial is fun because you usually select the song because you love it. You have all the time in the world to work on it, and you can go any direction you want.
I know you make a ton of personal edits and mashups that you don't release. Is there any chance you would release them as a bootleg pack? I know plenty of DJs would want to have them.
Joe Maz: Absolutely. We actually have big plans for this in the future. We're going to start our own website.
What projects do you have in the works right now? Got any big releases coming out for summertime?
Joe Maz: A Nathan Sykes remix for his new single "Kiss Me Quick." He's part of The Wanted and the song is actually very dope — a very Mark Ronson-style feel. We did a future house style remix to it. I think it's our best work ever. Also a remix for Major Lazer's "Lean On." We have an original that we have been working with Fools Gold (A-Trak's label) to release for months. We're working on clearing the sample we used, and its a very long process. We've also got about seven/eight originals we haven't released yet but we are planning on dropping soon!
Adam Foster is a South Florida-based DJ and producer, founder of twilightnotes.com, and entertainment director for the Restaurant People. He was named best DJ of 2014 by New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Follow him on Twitter, and like him on Facebook.