ALL (RE)MIXED UP - EMusician

ALL (RE)MIXED UP

The concept of remixing hit a mainstream high (and an underground low) back in 2002 when P. Diddy had the chutzpah to release a remix album titled, We
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The concept of remixing hit a mainstream high (and an underground low) back in 2002 when P. Diddy had the chutzpah to release a remix album titled, We Invented the Remix. We're not sure who the “we” is that he's referring to in the title, but we know it isn't the Bad Boy honcho. For an accurate view into the artists who truly invented the remix, one needs to travel back in time to the days of Shep Pettibone, Larry Levan, Tom Moulton and labels like Salsoul and West End Records. These influential names laid the groundwork for remixing and influenced the next generation of remixers, including Def Mix's David Morales and Frankie Knuckles and ID Productions members Steve “Silk” Hurley, Maurice Joshua and Eric “E-Smoove” Miller.

While all of these legendary names are still prominent on the global dance scene, Maurice Joshua has branched out from the house world and is now one of the most sought-after remixers in mainstream pop and R&B. His remixing résumé reads like a who's who of the highest selling chart acts of the past five years, and he took home the 2004 “Best Remixer” Grammy Award for his remix of Beyoncé's “Crazy in Love.” Although Joshua works with some of the biggest names in the industry, his heart still holds close to the remixing craft he learned back in the '80s. He's not satisfied with delivering cheap and disposable remixes and has an affinity for passing off his own entirely original productions as remixes for other artists. Beyond the remixing, Joshua is a credited songwriter, producer and club DJ, and he had one of the most influential radio shows in Chicago, “The New Killer Bee” B96 FM.

THIS IS ACID

In 1988, Joshua burst on to the scene with his classic track “This Is Acid” (Trax Records). The milestone single reached No. 1 on both Billboard's Dance Club Play Chart and Dance Sales Chart. The record was later licensed and released by Vendetta/A&M Records and also became a massive success overseas and was the catalyst for launching his career as a DJ and producer. Few people are aware that the popular version of this track is actually a remix by Les Adams and not Joshua's original. The original version had the classic TB-303 sound, but Adams completely changed the arrangement. “We were surprised because it was a totally different version, but the remix broke out and made it a big record,” Joshua says. “It really opened my eyes to remixing and what it was all about.”

With the success of “This Is Acid,” Joshua launched into a yearlong tour around the world. On his return in 1990, he signed up with Steve “Silk” Hurley and Eric “E-Smoove” Miller to form Chicago remix/production team ID Productions. The team went on to become a real force in the 1990s by giving tracks a complete remodeling for the club world. “It was really Steve ‘Silk'' Hurley, Frankie Knuckles and Dave Morales who were changing the concept of a remix,” Joshua says. “They were making new tracks. Before that, remixers took the original and either extended the track, put the beats beforehand or did different drops and reverses of the original layout. Essentially, it would be the same music, but the remixers just put the instruments in different places.”

The ID Productions team was a “team” in every sense of the word. Splicing 2-inch tape and without computers, each team member was assigned a very specific role in the production. Each package typically featured a main remix by Hurley, a “late-night” mix from Miller and a “dub mix” from Joshua. “This balanced everything out because DJs have different tastes, and they wanted a different version to play,” Joshua says. “Some people weren't into vocals, and some people didn't want the main mix because it was too commercial. It was something new, and we wanted to take records into another direction.”

When Hurley left ID Productions to pursue his own original productions, it meant that the remixing torch was now passed to Joshua. As the proprietor of Vibe Music & Music Plant (a company with which he is no longer affiliated), Joshua went on to produce several massive club anthems such as the No. 1 Billboard hit “4 the Luv of U” featuring Meechie, “House 101,” “House 102,” “I Gotta Hold on U” with Chantay Savage, “La La” featuring Liquid Soul, “Good Love, Real Love” by D'Bora and “Just Can't Get Enough” by Mixx Vibes.

KEEPING IT REAL TO REEL

Back in the day, because Joshua and his crew made their music without the help of computers, the team was forced to cut and paste tape and sample vocals one at a time to make things work. While that was clearly an arduous process, the end result was a sweet analog track filled with the heart and soul seldom found in today's digital age.

Joshua's current setup has been updated markedly since the cut 'n' paste days, as he now uses Apple Logic Pro 7, mixes in Pro Tools and employs various Waves plug-ins to achieve his sound. “I'm not using anything analog lately because the labels want the music so quickly. It's also hard to book a room and mix it right. Then there's the whole issue of clearing samples. It's just much easier to use Pro Tools with Logic and a ton of plug-ins,” he says.

Despite evolving to the computer age, Joshua does take steps to ensure his tracks have that vintage sound. Besides working with engineers Matt Hennessy and Larry Sturm, Joshua has a team of musicians who record live guitars, horns and strings for his remixes. He's also been doing a lot of testing of Logic and Pro Tools to figure out how to achieve analog sounds. “You can buy an 8-, 16- or 32-track board and still get that warmth in there,” Joshua says. “I think that's what SSL is doing with its plug-ins right now. You aren't going to get it completely [using a computer] because you can't get all the circuitry of an SSL or a Neve board in a small box. Technology is a double-edge sword. You listen to records nowadays, and some stuff is just so compressed. You listen to the old stuff and how it was. There was a lot of space in those tracks!”

Another way Joshua maintains a timeless feel is by paying close attention to songcraft. “I come from the old school, so I like to keep the track like the way the original writer intended it,” he says. Rather than reverse the choruses and dramatically change things around, he approaches them lyrically to see how deep he needs to go. “It's like being a DJ: Where or how can I play this so that everyone is excited by it? What does this record need to make people in a club excited to dance? That's the frame of mind I'm coming from,” he says.

Despite roots in the house genre, Joshua now remixes and produces tracks that encompass many different genres — anyone from Curtis Mayfield to Justin Timberlake. Consequently, there's no one definitive Maurice Joshua remixing style. His working methods also change a bit depending on whom he's working for. There are many instances where he will be hired for a project but will have to keep working on a remix until it meets the approval of his client. In some instances, he will have direction from an A&R executive, and in other cases, he's allowed complete artistic freedom. With many clients, the process is one where he creates a few different types of mixes and lets them choose the one they prefer. “These days, I need to ask most clients what type of remix they want because of fads,” he says. “Do you need an electro mix? Big room or lounge? It's become this big cultural fad. Twenty years ago, it wasn't like that — it was just a house remix. I wish it was all just house, and we could focus on making it stronger. It was like that back in the day when I was performing at the Tunnel. All the hip-hop heads were partying to house music like Queen Latifah and Run-DMC. It wasn't being segregated, and it was a beautiful thing.”

DESTINED TO REMIX

Despite roots in the house genre, Joshua now remixes and produces tracks that encompass many different genres — anyone from Curtis Mayfield to Justin Timberlake. Consequently, there's no one definitive Maurice Joshua remixing style. His working methods also change a bit depending on whom he's working for. There are many instances where he will be hired for a project but will have to keep working on a remix until it meets the approval of his client. In some instances, he will have direction from an A&R executive, and in other cases, he's allowed complete artistic freedom. With many clients, the process is one where he creates a few different types of mixes and lets them choose the one they prefer. “These days, I need to ask most clients what type of remix they want because of fads,” he says. “Do you need an electro mix? Big room or lounge? It's become this big cultural fad. Twenty years ago, it wasn't like that — it was just a house remix. I wish it was all just house, and we could focus on making it stronger. It was like that back in the day when I was performing at the Tunnel. All the hip-hop heads were partying to house music like Queen Latifah and Run-DMC. It wasn't being segregated, and it was a beautiful thing.”

One of the primary reasons for Joshua's rocket ride to the top of the remix world (he's now often referred to as “The Remix King”) is his relationship with Destiny's Child, Beyoncé Knowles and her father Matthew's Music World Productions. Joshua started out with a mix of Destiny's Child's “Bills, Bills, Bills” and stayed on for every Destiny's Child and Beyoncé remix since then. In addition, Joshua has also remixed tracks for Mariah Carey, Chris Brown, Christina Milian, Cassie, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige and others.

But his remixing relationship with the Knowles team provided Joshua with several Grammy nominations for “Best Remixer” and a Grammy Award in 2004 for his reworking of Beyoncé's “Crazy in Love.” Joshua claims that to be the most difficult remix he's ever worked on. “I loved the original, and it was so upbeat that I didn't know what I could do for it,” he says. “In all actuality, that was the fastest remix I ever did, and I won the Grammy. I put the drums down first, laid the chords down, and then we mixed it. They needed this in a hurry, and I was in a rush, so it was really like the quickest mix I did. Lo and behold, I win the Grammy.”

As for the big day, after losing two previous bids for a Grammy, Joshua did not expect to win. Joshua and his wife took what they thought was going to be a pressure-free ride from their hotel to the venue, and just as they were about to arrive, the limo driver got lost, and they arrived late. “We finally got through the check point, and who do I see but Steve ‘Silk'' Hurley,” he says. “He said that they just announced my name and said that I won. We all ran to the podium and I saw Pharrell onstage, who just won for best producer, which was the category just after best remixer. So, I ran to the back and took pictures and did the whole media thing. It didn't sink in until I had the Grammy in my hand, and everyone was taking pictures. People who think it doesn't mean anything are wrong because it does mean something.”

THE REMIX KING'S KIT

Computers, DAWs, recording hardware
Akai DR4D Hard Disk Recorder
Apple Cinema Display; Logic Pro 7; Mac G4, PowerBook G4, Mac G5 dual 1.8 GHz computers
Digidesign Pro Tools 7.2 HD system
HHB CDR830 BurnIT CD recorder
(3) Lacie 250 GB external hard drives
Panasonic SV-3800 DAT recorder
Sony 17-inch display
WD Raptor 10,000 rpm hard drive

Console, interfaces
Digidesign Pro Control console
Mackie Big Knob studio control box
MOTU 828mkII interface

Turntables, DJ mixer
(2) Pioneer CDJ-1000 MKII CD/DVD decks, DJM-600 DJ mixer
Stanton ST-150 digital turntable
(2) Technics SL-1200MK2 direct-drive turntables

Mics, mic preamps, EQ
Amek/Neve 9098 EQ/preamp
Avalon AD2022 mic preamp
Neumann N 149 power supply, U 87 mic
Sony C800G mic

Monitors
Event ASP8 Studio Precision 8s
Genelec 1030As
KRK Rokit RP-5s
Tannoy System 1200s
Tapco S8s
Yamaha NS10s

Keyboards, modules, samplers, drum machines, software, plug-ins, instruments
Akai MPC2000XL MIDI Production Center, MPD16 USB/MIDI pad
Alesis HR-16 drum machine
Apple Logic soft synths
Arturia Prophet-V soft synth
Boss DR-55, DR-110, Dr. Rhythm drum machines
Casio VL-1 synth/calculator
E-mu Drumulator drum machine, SP-1200 drum machine/sampler
Gibson SG guitar
Kawai R-50 drum machine
Korg Kontrol49 MIDI controller
Linn Electronics Linn 9000 drum machine
M-Audio GForce M-Tron Virtual Vintage
Keyboard, Keystation Pro 88 MIDI controller, TimewARP 2600 Virtual Vintage Voltage-Controlled Keyboard
MOTU Ethno Instrument, Symphonic Instrument soft synths
Native Instruments Absynth 3, Battery 2, Electric Piano, FM7, Pro-53 soft synths
Oberheim DMX drum machine
Rob Papen Albino soft synth
Roland D-70 synth; R-8, TR-66, TR-505, TR-606, TR-626, TR-727, TR-707, TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines
Simmons SDS5 electronic drum kit
Spectrasonics Atmosphere, Stylus RMX and Trilogy soft synths
Yamaha RX5, RX7 and RX15 drum machines