Remixing for Fun and Profit
One of the more intriguing facets of being a modern DJ with production skills (or a modern producer with DJ skills) is the phenomenon of the remix. Whether it's reshuffling or adding instrumentation, beats and breaks to create alternate versions of recent tracks (often with an enhanced dance beat), to give new life to old songs, or to mash one or more songs together as a bootleg, remixing is a fascinating and rewarding pursuit for those who have the talent. It's also a challenge to do right, regardless of the intended result.
Assuming you have the technology and mastery to achieve a finished product, here are a number of ways to help insure the best possible outcome when on a remixing project. Unless you have a professional reputation that leads an artist or label to hire you for a specific job, you'll need to choose a track or composition that you believe you could enhance with additions and manipulation. You have to ask yourself if a song can truly be re-imagined in a worthwhile and memorable way, have its rhythm amped up, or be given a more modern sheen. Are there places in the material that have room for improvement or space for additions?
Think ahead. Get access to as many elements of the original recording as possible in audio file form, get to know all that's at your disposal, and plan out your arrangement before assembling and processing or electronically treating the various parts. You may want to take a cue from mash-ups and incorporate bits of other songs by the artist you're remixing. You could also overlay or insert your own musical hook or a counter-melody into your interpretation, as long as your ears tell you it works.
It's definitely a good idea to give a remix your own personal, innovative stamp as it evolves, but it's also important to respect the material -- current or vintage -- and keep its essence. You probably don't want to speed it up or slow it down to the point where it's unrecognizable. As gratifying as it is to remix a classic or obscure tune to introduce it to a new generation, it's smart to retain its soul. A remix is not meant to replace the original version; it's meant to give a fresh perspective on a preexisting piece. And no matter how innovative and clever the approach, the initial creators may take issue with what's been done, so be prepared for blow-back. Then, if you're ready, remix it up!