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Interview: RAC

Mar 25 2012

RAC (Remix Artist Collective) is the result of founding member André Allen Anjos’ college kid hustle and is now a driving force in the remix world. Since 2008, the group has been a trio of André, Andrew Maury, and Karl Kling. As their name would suggest, the group is known almost exclusively for their remixes but are diving into the pool of original production with a new album expected to drop later this year. We got a taste of things to come when RAC invited Chris Glover’s Penguin Prison to perform the album’s first single at the Green Label Sound Showcase at SXSW. I got to catch up with André to talk more about the exciting things RAC is up to and about our mutual love of all things nu-disco.

So how did you get your start in music?
I was in college in southern Illinois going to music school and I wasn’t getting anywhere in the music industry. I was a sophomore applying for internships, but I was really into recording and working in the studio. I got to a point where I thought, I have two years left of college and if I’m going to start something, I might as well do it now. I had been doing remixes just for fun of artists like Madonna and Nelly Furtado and thought yeah, I can do this. I spent the next six or seven months emailing and calling people asking them to remix their stuff just trying to get my foot in the door. The first one that actually gave me a shot were The Shins, which I really lucked out on. After that it became increasingly easy to get work on other remixes. That’s sort of the beginning of it but there was definitely a lot of desperate college kid hustle.

You guys are from everywhere. When you started RAC, how did you when you wanted it to be a collective and how did you meet each other?
Well it started out with the idea of having multiple people. At first it was me and some internet friends and we did some remix competitions, so it was like, let’s just start it with these guys. They had day jobs and were sort of just doing it for fun and I wanted to take it to a more serious level and that’s when I met Karl and Andrew. Andrew had done a remix for Ra Ra Riot back in 2007 and I really liked what he did with it and he had expressed interest in joining. It all kind of worked out and it’s been the same members since 2008.

So how do you coordinate collaborating on a remix? Is it sometimes just you working on the track or do you make sure that everyone comes together on it?
When I started it I really had high hopes that it would be a completely collaborative process but then real life kind of sunk in. From a technical standpoint, it’s really difficult to do it since we’re all in different places so I think the term “collective” is a lot looser than a lot of people might think it is. We collaborate in the sense that we’ll run it by each other and sometimes it does happen. For instance, if a remix isn’t up to par or something, we’ll work together.

Do you try to maintain an “RAC vibe” to the tracks you work on? Is there a checklist that you guys run through?
Haha it’s kind of an unspoken thing at this point, we kind of know what it should sound like. It does go a little bit deeper than that. With remixes we take it seriously, we don’t just want to throw a drum beat on top of a song and call it a club mix. We really try to bring out the song and our sound really stems from that.

You recently did a collaboration with Penguin Prison’s Chris Glover. How did that come about and what was it like working with him?
Back in 2008 when Chris was still getting started with Penguin Prison, I did a remix for him and he really liked it. He turned it into an original track, which didn’t make it on his album, but after that we just kept on talking. I did a remix of “The Worst It Gets” and he was super happy with that. We just had this musical chemistry and when I decided to start doing original stuff, he was on the top of my list of people to collaborate with. Our track was actually one of the first to come together on this album and it’s going to be the first single. We’ll probably release a couple of singles before the album so it’ll be a constant stream of new material, really excited about it. I got to collaborate with some of my favorite artists, but of course I can’t talk about yet!

Did you contribute lyrically to your collaboration with Chris (Penguin Prison)?
No I try to stay out of that, I try to stay focused on the music side of things but I’ll definitely help out with melodies for sure. With lyrical content, it’s never been something I’ve paid attention to. That’s not to diminish it because there’s a great art in it, especially as a recording artist and guitar player.

How did your performance with Chris (Penguin Prison) at the Green Label Sound Showcase go?
It was a strange thing cause we were pretty much DJing the instrumental while he was singing so it was more his performance than it was ours. We’re still trying to figure out where we fall in the music world and trying to figure out what we can do with DJing and what we can do with live performances. That show wasn’t a complete representation of what we’re trying to do but it was definitely a lot of fun. Chris jumped in the crowd and it was a good time. We’re definitely thinking bigger things for the future. We really want to do much more of a live show – bring in instruments, synths, bass, guitar and some drums and play a lot of the album stuff live.

Do you think it’s inevitable for a remix artist to move into original production?
For me I’ve just done remixes for so long…and I feel like a lot of our remixes are pretty much original productions. Most of the time I just take the vocal track and write something completely new under it. So it wasn’t anything new to me, just how it’s perceived. I also really just wanted to collaborate and create music with cool people. It was kind of like, well this feels about right.

Who do you admire as a remix artist or producer?
With remixes one of my early influences is this guy Cornelius. He released two remix albums that were a very eclectic group of songs that he put his own style that were really interesting for the time. It really gave me the idea to start this whole thing. As far as producers, I really like old analog gear so I admire anybody who sticks to that stuff like Mark Ronson for instance. I’ve been listening to a lot of dance music lately, which is maybe a consequence of starting to DJ a lot. So I’ve been listening to the Magician, italo disco, Rodian & Khan, stuff like that.

Who are a few artists that you are keeping your eye on right now?
I saw one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at SXSW this year, this band called Escort that’s a 14 piece disco band. They played for half an hour and three songs and I was bummed that I couldn’t see more, but it was a great time. As far as other stuff, this band called White Arrows, who I’m also working with, they’ve just wrapped up their album. It’s tropical, psychedelic and a lot of fun. I also really like the band Body Language, I think they’re really phenomenal, as well as this band from the UK, Theme Park. There’s also some cool stuff on the dance side of things, like Goldroom, he’s blowing up right now.

Yeah I feel like nu-disco right now is kind of blowing up.
Yeah I absolutely love that stuff. Most of the time when we do DJ sets that’s what we’re playing and there’s a lot of really cool up and coming artists doing that. Some people I’m really excited about actually are Cyclist and Pat Lok. They did an amazing remix for The Rapture and totally killed it.

Take a listen to Star Slinger, aka Darren Williams, and you will immediately notice soul and hip hop influences. But don’t back Darren into a hip hop corner. Though J Dilla vibes come through on a lot his material, Darren’s dance hall remix of Toro Y Moi’s “New Beat,” proves that his tastes and sound are truly eclectic. Darren first came into mainstream consciousness in 2010 with his 11 track LP, Volume I, a testament to Darren’s record collection, knowledge of music, and skill as a producer. The heavily sampled LP spans all decades and genres from 80s hip hop to 90s soul. As the title of the LP Volume I suggests, it is only the beginning and Darren is paving a new an exciting path with the record of straight original material he’s currently working on. I had the opportunity to talk to Darren before his set at the Green Label Sound Showcase at SXSW and here’s what he had to say.

This is your first SXSW appearance – how are you liking it so far?
I played one show here in November and it was mental, really good fun. I played three encores or something like that so I’m really amped to be back in Austin. I’ve played a few shows already and they’ve been amazing and the people seem lovely.

Is there a particular city/venue you’ve played that’s stood out?
A lot man, I really love San Fran, New York, Miami. I’m back in Miami after this for WMC/Ultra actually. But also places like New Orleans, the dirty south, Atlanta. I love everywhere in the states cause it’s just so different from the UK. People here seem more amped on my music and my sound.

How would you say the music and music scene differ between the US and the UK?
I think the US is more ahead when it comes to pop music and that the US and UK are pretty on par with dance music, though the UK might be a little behind. We have a thing called UK bass music, a term created by journalists I’m sure. It’s because a lot of this UK garage sound has been resurfacing but not just in the UK. People like Jacques Greene from Montreal are  playing it in their sets and Diplo is playing it a little in his sets as well. And there’s people like Pearson Sound in the UK who’s messing around with juke stuff. 

Do you change up your set depending on the city you’re playing in?
I’ve started doing that. I’ve decided to scrap using MPDs so I’m actually just DJing now. I use decks and Serato which gives me the flexibility to play what I like. I’ll generally play 60% my stuff and 40% whatever I want.

What is that 40%?
It can be anything from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, LOL Boys, Flosstradamus who are also playing tonight, Diplo, Sound Pellegrino Thermal Team-just really exciting club music. Stuff that makes people want to dance rather than just standing around.

So how did you get your start? I’ve read that you’re a big record collector.
I would say I’m not so much a record collector as an acquirer. I don’t really look for specific things I just go out and buy what I feel like buying on the day. It used to be cause I sample quite a lot but now it’s more like if I’m inspired by a certain sound I’ll study it or I’ll just play it so I have something to listen to when I’m at home that isn’t just the newest release. I love buying records and it’s good to do it since a lot of shops are closing now.

What do you think of the rise in boutique record labels pressing limited quantities of 7″?
It’s got negatives and positive sides. I guess the negative, well it’s not so much a negative, is that it’s hard for the labels because they’re doing it a lot of the time for little or no profit. But it’s definitely cool to keep it alive.

What is your favorite record that you own?
I picked up Kenny “Dope” Presents the Bucketheads and the song’s called “The Bomb!” and it has an Armand Van Helden remix on there. It’s one of my favorite club tunes and I bought it just the other day. If I ever play a house party with just vinyl I want to start recollecting all that old house music.

You put out your first release, the Volume I LP, completely free. Is there a reason for that?
More than anything when I first started putting out music I didn’t think it would be that interesting to people. I wanted as many people as possible to listen to it and I thought that if I put it out for free I’d get more plays.

Right now you’re working on an album with more original material and moving away from sampling. Can you tell me more about the album, the direction you’re looking to go with it, and artists you are collaborating with?
I basically made a hit list of people I wanted to work with and some of them were really ambitious, like the Flaming Lips, but they’re already doing a lot of collaborations. I’m definitely working with people who inspire me rather than people who will just get me noticed, though the exception is probably Juicy J. It just so happens that he’s getting more popular now, which is great. Apart from that I’d say Buraka Som Sistema from Portugal, Teki Latex from France, and also Paris Grey from Inner City who did a song called “Good Life,” which was a huge club tune in the 80s. It was my goal to get someone classic on the record to really make a statement about the 90s and where I’m from cause I grew up in the 90s.

Lastly, what’s you’re guilty pleasure track or album?
Definitely the new Rihanna track “We Found Love.”

You wouldn’t know it based on their interaction, but once upon a time Josh (J2K) and Curt (Autobot) weren’t a DJ duo. It wasn’t until their paths crossed in 2005 that they decided to join forces to become who we now know as Flosstradamus. Since then, they’ve been an unstoppable force in the electronic dance music scene and have amassed quite the discography, including collaborations with Kid Sister, A-Trak, Chairlift, and The Cool Kids to name a few. Known for their high energy music that can only be described a crunk electro, Josh and Curt are at the top of their game having just released their EP, Total Recall, on Mad Decent. I got to talk to Josh and Curt before their set at the Green Label Sound Showcase  in Austin, Texas where we gushed about Travis Porter among other things.

How has your SXSW experience been so far?
Curt: Awesome as always.
Josh: This is our seventh year in a row. When we first started coming down, people would come up to us in the street and be like, “what party are you going to?” at 5AM in the morning and we’re still trying to rage. Now we see everyone and we’re like “man my knees hurt dog haha.”

Yeah I went home at midnight last night and ate Jimmy John’s…so how would you say the festival has progressed and changed in the last seven years and what do you see for the future?
Josh: When we first came down, we were pretty much the only DJs playing this festival. This was before the electronic music scene had really blown up  and that year we drove down and were playing with Matt & Kim. The next year it just seemed like there were mad DJ parties. It seems like now electronic music is dominating the festival and it’s been that way for at least the last five years for sure.
Curt: On another change of things, it seems like there’s more people than there ever were. We were just walking down the street and it’s just crazy right now. It seems like there’s more people, more companies, just a lot bigger than it ever was.

Yeah I definitely feel like the vibe of the festival changes every year. This year it feels like there’s more multi-day parties and more unofficial showcases where bigger artists like you guys are playing so it’s more accessible. Do you think  that’s a good thing?
Josh: I feel like the best part for me has always been the stuff that you stumble upon and you get to see someone like The Dream playing to a hundred people; a situation that you would never in regular life get to experience. We just saw Mystikal playing ping pong and any of those kind of moments are amazing. Those are the things that you find off the beaten path in the dark corners of Austin, but that’s what makes this festival so awesome.

So who was playing on the other side of the table with Mystikal?
Josh: Haha I don’t know actually, but he was really serious and he was quite good.

How has the reception to your shows been?
Curt: Well this is the first time we’re doing a live set so we’re down here playing our own tracks and remixing them live and that’s been awesome. We’re test marketing here at SXSW and it’s been going off every time we’ve done it. We’re still figuring it out and messing up a little bit but it’s cool to do it night after night and get better.

You’ve recently released a new EP, “Total Recall,” can you tell me more about that?
Josh: It’s one of the first releases where I feel like people are acknowledging it as our sound and there’ve been some comparisons to Araabmuzik. With our style as DJs, we’ve been playing euro music and trance anthems with crunk, Southern, and trap music forever-since we started. That was kind of the foundation of our party was to mix those kind of bouncy hip hop tracks with house, so I feel like these tracks on the “Total Recall” EP are for the first time a representation of our taste as DJs being put out as producers.

How much do you feel like the Chicago music scene has influenced you?
Josh: When we first started our parties we would always play tracks like the Percolator or a Paul Johnson song and switch up to half time of that. I feel like with juke music too, there’s all these switches where it switches from 175 BPM to 75-it’ll just drop abruptly. And we do that in our production now. It’s all about building these tensions and then releasing it and chilling it out. And maybe even the buildup leads up to some crazy synth or some 808s or laidback bouncy music.

When I saw you guys DJ at the IHEARTCOMIX after hours mall party at SXSW last year, you played one of my favorite tracks in your set – Travis Porter’s “Make It Rain.” What other rap/hip-hop music are you guys into?
Curt: Juicy J. We’re into Top 40 Southern rap, we always have been. In our set we play a lot of Waka Flocka, 2 Chainz.
Josh: We’ll still drop “Make It Rain” in our set, it’s such a dope track. We actually met the dudes that produced that track, shootout to FKI, in the studio with Diplo working on a remix and those dudes came through. It’s crazy cause you would think that in those scenes what we’re doing and what they’re doing are totally opposite. But they had heard our remix of Major Lazer’s “Original Don” and they liked it. I’m just stoked that there’s people that made songs that I’m obsessed with that like our music cause I mean, I love Travis Porter man. I love that whole Atlanta bounce kind of sound. Just for them to come up and show us respect, it was dope.

So is there anyone that you would want to collaborate with?
Curt: I’ve always wanted to work with Andre 3000 just cause he’s always ahead of the curve and everything he touches is gold. I feel like with what we’re doing right now we’re sort of into his world.
Josh: I made up my mind that I would always answer this question the same until the actual collaboration came to fruition, so I’m sticking with Mystikal. Mystikal just got out of prison and I saw a video of him freestyling in Mannie Fresh’s lambo and he’s still got it.

Why didn’t you approach him when you saw him playing ping pong?
Josh: You never interrupt a man in the middle of a ping pong game! He misses and I’m like “yo what up dog, let me give you my demo.” Honestly though, real talk, everything that’s happened to us in our career has happened 100% organically so if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen.

What do you think has been the greatest contributing factor to your success?
Josh: Just longevity. Me and Curt are persistent and we get along really well and understand each other as individuals and as musicians. I know a lot of DJs that tour solo and are on the road constantly and they get mad lonely and bummed. It’s cool to have someone that’s got your back that you can actually hit the road with. I also think the fact that we’ve just stuck it out. I mean, we’ve been doing this for eight years and in DJ years that’s a long time.

What would you be doing if you weren’t Flosstradamus?
Curt: I would be designing, making computer programs cause I have a degree in Interactive Multimedia. No matter what, I always want to be doing something creative but I’m very fortunate to be doing this.
Josh: I’d probably just be doing dumb shit with my friends haha.

Doing hoodrat things with my friends…


Green Label Sound Official SXSW Showcase 

 

Cool name, nice haircut, great figurines hanging on the shelf of his kitchen, and the ability to transform anything he touches into something infinitely funkier: These are the gifts that Julio Bashmore is blessed with. Why him and not you or me? I don’t know. Vengeful God or something.

But don’t despair, because Julio really turned this Classixx tune into something much more potent than the original’s slice of carefree beach disco – now it’s a full ode to wandering around the boardwalk at midnight, plugged into a cassette player of old house tunes and wondering when the sun’s going to come up.

You can grab it for free as long as you don’t mind signing your soul over to Green Label Sound. Just kidding, they just want to make sure you won’t resell their mp3s at a 500% markup and some other legal mumbo jumbo when you download it from their site.

Classixx- Into The Valley (Featuring Karl Dixon) (Julio Bashmore Remix)

Download via Green Label Sound.