The Ultimate Guide to Remixing: 19 Track-by-Track Tips from Disco Pusher

MIDTOWN, MANHATTAN: On Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 Disco Pusher released our new mixtape Now You Know How The Story Ends.  It’s a 19-track selection of our remixes, productions and songs that features artists that we’ve worked with and, hopefully, demonstrates our musical style.

The artists range from the international to local, pop stars to street kids, the past and the present.  As the producer, remixer and engineer of the mixtape, I’d like to share a few thoughts and tips about each track, and you can listen along to them all as we move along. Each song was worked over in our midtown NYC studio, Min Max.

TIP 01:  ISOLATE & LOCK IN ON THE VOCAL RHYTHM
Track 01 THEOPHILUS LONDON: “STOP IT” (DISCO PUSHER REMIX) Original version appears on Timez Are Weird These Days (Warner Bros.)
THEOPHILUS LONDON – Stop It (Disco Pusher Remix) full by DiscoPusher

The first thing I do with any remix (or song for that matter) is to simply solo the vocal and listen to it multiple times (even after music has been written):  The point is to lock into various rhythms and overall flow.  At this point I am better able to choose a rhythmic direction for the song (or alter that direction).

In the case for “Stop It”, Theophilus’ flow is extremely unique (and the original rhythm track has a particular personality) and I ended up building the entire track around the kick, a clap and the elastic (bouncy) synth line.

TIP 02:  MAKE IT MORE OF WHAT IT IS
Track 02 JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: “LOVE STONED” (DISCO PUSHER REMIX) Original version appears on “FutureSex/LoveSounds” (Jive) –
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE – Love Stoned (Disco Pusher Remix) by DiscoPusher

JT’s original (produced by Timbaland) was both popular and potent.  There were also a few remixes already out there.  It’s a bit intimidating approaching tracks like this.  I attempted to come up with a variety of musical style options (i.e. techno, house, etc…).  None of them seemed to work.

Instead I really listened to what was going on with the original:  it was kind of an ode to old dance-floor disco (with a Timbaland twist).  So I decided the best thing for me to do was to make it “more of what it was:”  disco – but updated.  My nod to reference the vintage disco sound:  use the 70’s flanging and phasing techniques on the drums with the WAVES Hybrid series effects.

TIP 03:  TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN A PIECE OF GEAR REALLY WELL
Track 03 KENNA: “CHAINS” (DISCO PUSHER REMIX) Original version appears on “Land 2 Air Chronicles I: Chaos And The Darkness” (Godel)
KENNA – Chains (Disco Pusher Remix) by DiscoPusher

I was in Quito, Ecuador in the summer of 2010 to work on the forthcoming Sarazino record with Lamine Fellah.  The only piece of gear that I brought with me was a Korg EM-1 drum machine.

After sessions late at night, I would stay up and simply make patterns: I learned this 10+year old piece of gear inside and out maximizing all of its (somewhat limited) parameters.  By taking the time, I was able to tap into the uniqueness of a particular instrument – as it related to me – instead of just dialing up some presets.

Interestingly, Kenna is a Grammy-nominated artist with extremely high artistic standards (he’s also worked with Chad & Pharrell of the Neptunes) and this fairly inexpensive ($200 used) piece of gear served as the rhythmic basis (inclusive of its sounds) for this track.

TIP 04:  HOW TO OPEN THINGS UP
Track 04 CUT COPY: “HEARTS ON FIRE” (DISCO PUSHER REMIX) Original version appears on “In Ghost Colours” (Modular)
CUT COPY – Hearts On Fire (Disco Pusher Remix) by DiscoPusher

Again, I was dealing with a brilliant original version of the song.  In addition, I really enjoy Cut Copy – on album and live.  In that position, sometimes you don’t even want to touch the music (it’s just fine the way it is).  On top of this, the manager of Cut Copy has some of the best ears in the music industry — he really knows his musical references (read:  you can’t turn in sub-par remixes).

So I was in a difficult spot — I had to determine the direction of the remix.  Keying off the main lyric, “reach out to you tonight” I took a risk and decided to change the key from minor to major and, luckily, it really opened up the song.  After a little bit of patchwork (I may have tuned a note or two of the vocals), I coaxed everything into place and got approval from both the band and the manager.

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  • Hayesrambo

    I will take this golden nugget of splendid info & try to get better at remixing. & by better, I mean, I will start. 4 the 1st time. ever. Great source of knowledge in this article. Love it

  • Afc9

    Fantastic work!

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  • I utilize the technologies you discussed here, it’s truly
    inspirational for me Thank you very much, and I like your idea’s its good for
    us your words are changed the world, one person at a time.