Remixing: The DJ’s DJ

A couple of years ago, the success of DJ-based groups such as M/A/R/R/S, Coldcut, S’Express and Bomb The Bass heralded a new musical era. Now, in their new role as remixers, DJs are celebrities in their own right, creating club hits for everyone from Happy Mondays to Suzanne Vega.

ANDREW SMITH and PUSH talk to a selection of the UK’s top DJ remixers and invite them to cast a critical eye over the work of their peers.

DJ at Prince’s various private parties on the UK leg of the LoveSexy tour as well as countless warehouse raves, Chapman produced the first two Silver Bullet singles and remixed Jesus Jones’ ‘Real, Real, Real’ and Adamski’s ‘Killer’. He is about to launch his own recording career with ‘Long Hot Summer’ on the deConstruction label.

“I admire PAUL OAKENFOLD, particularly for his work with Happy Mondays, he put his own mark on those records rather than just twiddle a few knobs on the desk and ‘Step On’ is brilliant. I also like CJ MACKINTOSH for his Roxanne Shanté mixes. That LFO single is really good — I can’t believe the bass — and so is MARK MOORE and WILLIAM ORBIT’s interpretation of Prince’s ‘The Future’. People should stop f***ing around with old classics, I hate it when there’s no respect for the original and there’s no point in changing a song for the sake of it. I also hate DJs who use ‘The Funky Drummer’, the most over-used break since the invention of the turntable.”

Kiss FM and rave DJs Matt Black and Jonathan More launched Yazz and Lisa Stansfield, resurrected Junior Reid and teamed up with Mark E Smith for ‘(I’m) In Deep’. Also known for their mix of Eric B and Rakim ‘s ‘Paid In Full’, Coldcut recently recorded ‘Find A Way’ with Queen Latifah.

“We really like Soul II Soul’s NELLEE HOOPER. His drum programming is the sexiest in the world: people don’t realise how important he is to the group’s sound. It’s also nice to see that white guys can get into programming and come up with rhythms that are as black as anybody’s. In terms of influence, DOUBLE D and STEINSKI are still really important to us because they’re so perfect. Even now, if we’re dropping a phrase off the decks, we stop and think, ‘How would Steinski do this?’

“You have to credit GRANDMASTER FLASH too for more or less creating the scratching thing. Of the people who are big at the moment, we like J SAUL KANE for his work with Depth Charge and Octagon Man, and that rock tip people like WEATHERALL and OAKENFOLD are on is good, though none of the records have grabbed us yet — maybe it just needs time to develop. Also, we do get pissed off with the amount of publicity they get when I know there are others like ADRIAN SHERWOOD out there, who have a great feel, but don’t get talked about as much. You could say Sherwood’s a bit inconsistent, but then so are we…

As a member of T-Coy, Hacienda DJ Pickering was responsible for ‘Carino’, the first UK House record, and has recently worked with Graeme Park on New Order’s ‘World In Motion’, Electronic’s ‘Getting Away With It’, ABC’s ‘One Better World’ and (on his own) Marina Van Rooy’s majestic ‘Sly One’.

“I dislike the tendency of some of the less creative A&R men to see remixes purely as a marketing device, remixing tracks just for the sake of it. That said, I like to feel I have no preconceptions and judge each record at face value, and there have been some good remixes lately. Some of my favourites are: FRANKIE KNUCKLES and DAVE MORALES’s version of Inner City’s ‘What You Gonna Do With My Loving’, St Etienne’s ‘Only Love’ by WEATHERALL, OAKENFOLD’s mix of Happy Mondays’ ‘Hallelujah’, Kicking Back’s ‘Devotion’ as remixed by GRAEME PARK, Deee-Lite’s ‘Wild Times’ and Annette’s ‘Dream 17’, both by DERRICK MAY.”

Orbit, whose credits include Prince and S’Express, is the force behind Bass-O-Matic and the Guerilla label. He’s one of the hosts at the Riot In Lagos club night at Subterania.

“There’s a danger in getting too wrapped up in the whole DJ thing. Obviously, as a DJ you’re well placed to see what people instinctively want to dance to, but at the same time you’re always thinking of other DJs, i.e. what’s going to make them want to buy this record and play it? Some of the best and freshest remixers come from outside that scene, therefore. DANIEL MILLER, who runs Mute Records, for instance, comes at it from a different angle and has done some fantastic work. Nitzer Ebb’s ‘Hearts And Minds’, for instance, is outstanding. My favourite DJ is probably DANNY RAMPLING, because of his flagrant disregard for the rules. I’ve heard that he’s working with The B-52’s at the moment. Generally, however, I don’t look at the name on the sleeve. I like to keep it instinctive. In the end, I just want to know if it bites.”

Danny D and D-Mob first came to prominence through the massive club hit, ‘We Call It Aciiied’.He now runs his own WEA-financed label, Slam Jam, and as the man who signed Adeva while in the A&R department at Chrysalis, he should know what he’s doing.

“The one for me is SHEP PETTIBONE. Everything he’s ever done has been absolutely brilliant. His last four remixes were Madonna’s ‘Vogue’, the House mix of Janet Jackson’s ‘Alright’, the American version of Lisa Stansfield’s ‘I’ve Been Around The World’ and Cathy Dennis from D-Mob’s new single. What more is there to say?”

After several years as Jay Strongman’s warm-up DJ at Philip Salon’s Mud Club, Moore rocketed to the top of the charts with S’Express, an outrageous amalgam of Sixties psychedelia, Seventies camp and Eighties technology. Since remixing Prince’s ‘Batdance’ and ‘The Future’, no longer has time to DJ.

“I’d have to say ANDY WEATHERALL, simply because, as ‘Loaded’ and ‘Flotation’ prove, he’s not frightened to do his own thang. You never know what to expect, both in terms of the people he works with and the results he gets. Apart from WILLIAM ORBIT, nobody else really springs to mind.”

One of the elder statesmen of British dance music, Mackintosh’s recent work includes Digital Underground’s ‘Packet Man’, A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Bonita Applebum’ and The D.O.C.’s ‘Portrait Of A Masterpiece’. He hosts Superstition, Thornhaugh Street, London WC2, every Saturday.

“I like lots of NORMAN COOK’s remixes, especially The Jungle Brothers’ ‘Doin’ Our Own Dang’ and the ones he did for A Certain Ratio. He does a duff one every now and again, but in a way it’s hard not to. That’s the funny thing about remixing — every one you do has to be better than the last, because as soon as you let one slip, you disappear for a few months and have to work your way back up again. It sometimes seems like all the pressure’s on you, especially it a record company is relying on you to rescue something that’s not happening. That’s why I’m turning down a lot of one-off remixes.”

Submission Records supremo and DJ at The Garage in Nottingham, Park can now also be heard alongside Mike Pickering at Manchester’s Hacienda on Fridays and at various clubs and raves up and down the country.

“I admire BLACKSMITH because they’re so funky and have their own distinctive style of mixing. WEATHERALL’s good because he takes risks (carefully calculated?) and makes them work brilliantly — I liked his version of St Etienne’s ‘Only Love’. BEN CHAPMAN deserves a mention because he does his job properly, i.e. re-interprets the tracks superbly. DAVE MORALES is a disco genius — he creates some fabulous string and bass lines. He’s maybe a bit over-exposed, but in my opinion he’s the dog’s bollocks. Listen to Nayobe’s ‘I Love The Way You Love Me’. Other favourites are FARLEY and The Soup Dragons’ ‘I’m Free’, CJ MACKINTOSH and DAVE DORRELL’s various Roxanne Shante remixes and all OAKENFOLD’s Happy Mondays tracks.

“I would say, though, that too many record companies are hoping to turn crap records into great ones by using the big names to remix them. They should seriously think about getting us in at the start, instead of releasing shit like Salt’N’Pepa’s ‘Express Yourself’ and then putting out the sheer brilliance of the BLACKSMITH remix. Factory made the right move in getting Oakenfold in at the beginning to produce Happy Mondays.”

Having teamed up with AR Kane as M/A/R/R/S, whose ‘Pump Up The Volume’ was the first indigenous DJ record to reach Number One in the charts, Dorrell later hosted Love at The Wag Club. He has just started the Love label and, together with Pete Tong, now runs Ninety-Something at The Milk Bar on Saturdays.

“BLACKSMITH are doing some great stuff at the moment, but they’re musicians rather than DJs. Although WEATHERALL, FARLEY and OAKENFOLD are doing some brilliant work — ‘WFL’, which Chris Mackintosh and I turned down, is good and with ‘Step On’ Oaky excelled himself — I don’t think that any of the British mixers can touch the Americans yet.

“FRANKIE KNUCKLES comes out on top: I can show you records from 1983 which still stand up today. LARRY LEVAN and SHEP PETTIBONE have always been consistent, and MARLEY MARL deserves a mention. His production is as rough as f***, but his ideas are incredible.”

A member of 808 State and producer of artists such as Inspiral Carpets, Blue Pearl and MC Tunes, Massey also co-hosts the 808 Show on Manchester’s Sunrise Radio station.

“I find it hard to think of a consistent remixer. People tend to come up with useful one-offs. I don’t think people like OAKENFOLD are wazzingly brilliant or anything — obviously ‘WFL’ and ‘Hallelujah’ were great, but not to the point where I want to go around worshipping Oakenfold.

“The thing is, when you do it yourself you realise that it’s not just about one person, it’s a team thing. Artists, especially, seem to get a raw deal these days. It’s all about chemistry and combinations of people. Half the time, the engineer’s done the bulk of the work anyway — that’s certainly true of a lot of the Manchester records that are about at the moment. I find it odd the amount of work people like ANDY WEATHERALL do: we only get about one tape a week dropping through the postbox, but he must get loads! I don’t know how he does it. Having said that, he has breathed some fresh air into the whole thing: I love that Grid record, though not particularly the new Primal Scream one. One single that I’ve been playing a lot lately is MARK MOORE and WILLIAM ORBIT’s remix of ‘Electric Chair’ on the B-side of Prince’s ‘The Future’. Also, Weatherall and Farley’s Bocca Juniors thing and, especially, DERRICK MAY’s mix of Deee-Lite’s ‘Groove Is In The Heart’. Then there’s that Blue Pearl record…”

Weatherall’s partner at Boy’s Own and in Bocca Juniors, Farley’s mix of ‘Stepping Stone’ resurrected the career of The Farm. He’s recently been in the studio working on Primal Scream’s ‘Come Together’.

“The work that JUSTIN ROBERTSON has done with The Mad Jacks is really good and another young mixer, TONY HUMPHRIES, is also worth listening out for. Americans that I admire include LARRY LEVAN, SHEP PETTIBONE and MARLEY MARL. With the benefit of hindsight, I now wish that we’d given the Bocca Juniors single to Marley Marl instead of putting it in the hands of the Tack Head crew.”

As well as DJing at Manchester’s Hacienda and most Stone Roses events, Haslam runs the Play Hard label with Mondays’ manager Nathan McGough and has released records byMC Buzz B, King Of The Slums and Breaking The Illusion. His most recent remix is My Jealous God’s “Everything About You”.

“The GRAEME PARK and MIKE PICKERING remix team can always be recommended and I’d say that Graeme is the best club DJ I’ve ever come across. Although he’s not a DJ, JON MARSH of The Beloved is doing some interesting work at the moment and I can’t understand why more artists don’t remix their own records — De La Soul and Soul II Soul manage it well enough. If an indie band wants someone else involved, why not go for a dance musician.

“A lot of DJs just seem to be repeating the same ideas on every track although a new arrival like JUSTIN ROBERTSON, who’s working with this Manchester act called The Mad Jacks, is obviously still really fresh. Justin has made them sound a much better group than they are and that’s the sign of a good remixer. WEATHERALL’s earlv work with the Primals and My Bloody Valentine was great but James’ ‘Come Home’ was well ropy. He’s very erratic.”

© Push, Andrew SmithMelody Maker, 18 August 1990

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