Features I by I 03.09.14

How to Remix, by T. Williams


Legendary Chic founder Nile Rodgers and UK chart-toppers Rudimental have announced a one-off collaboration, a remix of Chic’s classic ‘Le Freak’.

The acts have teamed up with GoThinkBig, a work experience initiative launched by O2 and Bauer Media, to offer young people across the country a chance to join Rodgers and Rudimental in remixing the track. For more information on how to apply for this opportunity, head here.

With this in mind, we decided to ask someone who knows more about remixes than most, T. Williams [above], about the art of the remix and the role of the remixer in 2014.

From his vinyl-only flip of Bob Holroyd’s ‘African Drug’ to takes on some of clubland’s biggest tracks – Disclosure’s ‘Latch’, Breach’s ‘Fatherless’ – Williams has proven throughout his career that he’s a considerate, skilled remixer. FACT sat down with him to talk about both the technical and moral side of remixes: not just what you should do when remixing a track, but why and when you should do it.

What defines whether you take a remix or not? What things do you have to think about?

Definitely where that person is in their career – whether they’re a pop act, or an underground act, or what. What they’re trying to achieve with that remix, and also where I’m at – if I have a release out at the moment, or if I’m on a break between releases – if you haven’t got a release out for a little while, then there’s more room for the remix to come out.

Then, a massive factor, is how much time I’ve got, and how much time they’ve given me – because everyone wants a remix turned around yesterday. But to be honest, what always wins overall… over the money, over my own schedule, over everything, is if I like the track and if I like the artist. If I really like them, then I’ll try my best to make it happen.

The money side, honestly… there’s no fixed rate. If somebody’s got a good budget then they’ve got a good budget, if they’ve not then they’ve not and you’ve got to be open to that, it’s more about knowing that they’re taking it seriously and want to invest something in it. The budget will never 100% decide whether I do it or not though. Time is more of a factor.

Are there ever warning signs, where you get approached for a remix and you know that the label don’t care about you, and have just seen your name popping off on Soundcloud and want to latch onto the hype?

Honestly? That’s one of the good things about having a manager. I never even get to see those – I know he gets a lot of remix requests, but he just takes them and says no. He knows that I a) don’t have the time and b) don’t want to do them.

PIC_5_zps53314a7fAre your favourite remixes to do vocal tracks? 

Yeah. When a track is the exact same genre as the field I work in… Put it this way, if I don’t think I can really add something to the track, I won’t accept the commission. It’s not gonna do me any favours. I always want to add something or change it, and vocals give you the best opportunity to bring it into your world.

How do you typically start on a remix, when you first get the stems?

Sometimes, with more poppy ones, I like to have not heard the original track – just the vocal, so I’m coming completely fresh. But when I do listen to it, I’m always picking it apart in my head from the start: ok, let’s use that bit of synth, or that snare, or chop up that vocal line.

Do you always try and completely change a track, or are there some remixes you’ve done that have been more subtle? 

I suppose the Disclosure remix [of ‘Latch’] was pretty subtle – I wanted to take their track and make it club-friendly. I didn’t play any keys on it, I just chopped up their keys and chopped up their bassline. It was almost like a re-edit – because I knew that the original was something that could be played in the club, and would work in a club… I just wanted it to work in a different way, for my sets.

What advice would you give people who’ve started making a name for their music, and then the remix commissions come in? 

Pick good ones. Look at where that person’s career is going before you accept, and don’t take on everything. As for remixes on spec [for free]… I suppose we’ve all done it, but it’s good to wait until you know that someone really wants you before you say yes. It’s not to do with the finances, it just shows that they’re really into you. It could just be a £100 fee, if their budget’s small, but it proves that they’re actually prepared to back what you’re doing. That’s time you could be producing music for a new EP, remember, and it’s a long while since somebody’s popped off just on the strength of a remix. Remixes are a good way to build your profile, but remember – they take up time, and they’re not necessarily a substitute for original material.

You’re a big garage fan, with a big garage collection. Garage had some incredible, incredible remixers – are there any of those producers that have influenced the way you approach remixing? 

Steve Gurley was maybe my favourite, but what always struck me about garage overall was that the remixes were often bigger than the original tracks. Every time I do a remix, I have that in mind – not to try and show someone up, but to remember that what you’re doing could be bigger than the original track, and to always put in 100%.

To remix ‘Le Freak’, head here.



Share Tweet