Blood on the Dance Floor

Art, commerce and ideologies all collide in the strange world of the remix

It's a far cry from the "Seven Minutes of Madness" remix a decade ago, when the pair recorded the album onto 24-track analog and pasted it from there.

Moore recognizes that the current popularity of the remix across formats is just part of a cycle. "It goes through phases. [There was] the Eric B and Rakim period; there were very few remixes up to that point. [And] there hadn't been anything that had been remixed in that way and charged up the charts. There were a lot of other remixes that came out at the time -- some were brilliant -- and a lot were just done to try and cash in. And that's always how it's sort of been; it gets more popular, [you] get more cash and shit. At the other side of the spectrum, you've got interesting artists actually finding a fertile ground, and that's rare, that side of remixing. It's much more interesting than, 'Let's wheel in X superstar to put their name on this,' and basically make a track that sounds like X superstar with maybe the [original] vocal grafted onto it, and hopefully it will be a hit. And they are quite often, frighteningly enough."

The artistic side of remixing is still intriguing to Moore because of the discipline required. "It's not painting by numbers, but because you've got this information already, you're not having to create something from scratch. You have quite a lot of material, so in a way there's less stress and there's more enjoyment and freestyle elements than there is trying to produce your own material. Sometimes you do such a good track and it all comes together that you actually wish that it was one of your own tracks."

Track twisters: Pioneering British remix duo Coldcut have the business down to a science.
Track twisters: Pioneering British remix duo Coldcut have the business down to a science.

Washington, D.C.'s Thievery Corporation echoes that sentiment. Eric Hilton and Rob Garza follow in the Coldcut style by running their own label, 18th Street Lounge Music. Thievery Corporation's latest record, Abductions and Reconstruction, collects 15 remixes that they've done, because the pair felt that it had added so much original music that it could put it out under its own banner. Like the early work of Coldcut, Thievery Corporation is a bit low-tech, using samplers instead of software, often writing and recording its own music to accompany the remix.

"Sometimes you take on the remix before you even hear the song," Hilton says. "Sometimes they call -- it might be an artist that you think would be nice to do a remix for -- and you get the tracks and you start scratching your head, 'Oh, what are we going to do now?' We have a stock house of beats and drum sounds that we like, and, unfortunately, we'll sometimes use our better ones for a remix, and then we don't feel like we can use it for our own track. It kind of depletes your resources sometimes when you're doing a remix. There are plenty of remixes that we did where we felt, 'Man, we could have easily made that a Thievery Corporation song.' That's why we decided to release Abductions and Reconstructions; we felt we had altered those songs so much that we could almost release it as our own."

That's a trend in remixing that Fisk, Moore and Hilton agree on; the Lo-Fi's argument for more money for "Battleflag" is based on the fact that it wrote the majority of the music. "I get records with maybe four mixes of a song and each one sounds so totally different, and you know they're using a lot of new elements that weren't part of the original tracks," says Hilton.

The curmudgeonly Fisk is less diplomatic: "'Remix' is now a very nonspecific term," he says. "I expect it's going to get less specific; people will ask for a remix, instead they'll get a re-edit, re-EQ, or maybe a bunch of celebrities talking about how great the original is, 'mixed' on top of some fashionable drumbeats."

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