THE RED BULLETIN: What does a song need to have in order to be good remix material?
FLUME: I only work with songs that I feel are great to begin with. I want to be able to hear a direction that I can take it to that isn’t the same as the song. So if it’s a really soft, sad song, I’d turn it into quite the opposite. I just take the vocal and then write a complete new original track underneath.
An example is the remix I did for Disclosure’s “You & Me”. The original is a house jam. I really liked the song, so I turned it into a string heavy orchestral ballad almost. Essentially it’s an original song. I want to completely change it, not just make a variation of the original.
Having said that, I would never touch anything that I think is perfect. I only work on music that I can either improve on or take in a different direction. I’d never remix a Beatles song.
How do you approach a song that you’re going to remix?
I usually try to not listen to the original too much. I like to get the track almost out of context. That helps creating something totally different and weird.
How you start your remix work? What are the first steps?
Usually I’d take the vocal and write new chords underneath it. Often I take the vocal and slice it up and change the pitch in order to create new melodies out of the vocal and use the voice as an instrument.
That was a technique that I started doing a while ago. It was just a draft technique in the beginning but that ended up becoming what I was known to do.
What gear do you use?
I usually work on my computer. It’s nice to work in a proper studio but I like to have the flexibility of being able to write music wherever I am in the world. I try not to rely too much on using hardware. It’s important for me to always to be up to going to a cafe and sit down and write a beat.
For my remixes I mainly use Ableton Live and software synthesizers. The funny thing is, a lot of the software I use is just pretty generic. My main synth is called Sylenth1. Every track has that in. There’s nothing special about it, it’s more about the way I use it, really.
Also, I download a lot of sample packs. So I go through thousands and thousands of kick drums and snare drums to find the right sound. I’m very particular about my sounds. They all have to be unique. I don’t want to use standard sounds, I want to find weird ones.
Do you use your best ideas for remixes or would you rather keep them for your own tracks?
That’s a tricky one. For the remix of Lorde’s “Tennis Court” I used a completely original track of mine and I’m glad I did it. It was the right timing. On the one hand, if I just took her vocal off then I could use it for my record. But on the other hand, the remix helped me hugely to open up markets to fans that would not have previously been very familiar with my stuff.
A lot of Lorde fans found out about me trough that track and checked out my other stuff. Remixing a great technique for getting the music out there. Recently I haven’t done any much new remix stuff though because I want to save these things for my record.
How do you promote your remixes?
We do YouTube clips for them. I usually spend so much time and energy on these tracks, so I thought, why not make videos for them? Why not treat them like originals? And it pays off. The remix clips sometimes get more hits on YouTube than my originals.
As a young producer, how much should I charge for a remix?
Now that I’ve had a lot of big ones, labels are willing to negotiate different terms. But in the beginning I used to get a small upfront fee. Some of my remixes would do huge things, being on commercials, and I didn’t see a cent. That’s pretty frustrating, but at the same time, you live and you learn.
As a young producer the upfront fee thing is something you have to go through. Just do it! I’ve done a bunch of freebies that gotten me way further up. My advice is, don’t worry about the money until you got a few big things up your sleeve. In the early days just do what feels right.
Do you have any further advice for young remixers?
Something you should avoid is trying to mimic someone else. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to mimic other people to learn how different genres work. Try to copy a Disclosure tune. Then try to write a Timbland-style R&B production. Even try a Hans Zimmer film score and figure out how he does it.
But once you’ve figured out how each genre works, start trying to make your own thing. Start adding Hans Zimmer strings to a Disclosure beat. Pick and choose the cool parts of each genre, the parts that you like the most and make them into something original and unique.
Is there a remix that inspired you at an early stage of your career?
Yeah, one of my favourites is Boys Noize’s remix of “My Moon My Man” by Feist. I feel like he really nailed it. He took Feist’s elements and … I feel like he made it better than the original. That is probably the ultimate goal for a remix.
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