Remixer/producer Morgan Page (www.morgan-page.com), who has reworked tracks for everyone from Coldplay to David Bowie and The Kills, gives the play-by-play on how he created remixes for Tegan and Sara''s “Back in Your Head” and Bitter:Sweet''s “Dirty Laundry.”
Check out his upcoming DJ dates—including July 12 at Vanguard in L.A. with Pete Tong and July 13 at Mission Rock in San Francisco—at www.myspace.com/morganpage.
Tegan and Sara “Back in Your Head”
“This was a tricky one, as I really liked the original,” Page says. “I''ve always been a fan of Tegan and Sara, and after doing a bootleg mix of ‘Walking With a Ghost,'' it was exciting to have the opportunity to do a legit remix for them. I loved the piano element and the melodic turnarounds, so I wanted to put those in a club context. With every remix I try to re-invent my style, so each remix has a different approach, but I always try to make the mix more epic and exciting. I just go with my gut and work quickly to get every idea down. This mix gave the song a sexier, moodier edge.
“The vocal is always key, so I usually scrap most elements and build the chords around them. However, with this mix, I kept several of the original elements. Sometimes as a remixer, it''s better to just use the a cappella because it streamlines the process of reworking the song and makes it easier to organize your ideas when adding new elements. Also, if you''re doing a ‘superstar'' mix (I won''t mention any names!), they can scrap the mix at any time, and you don''t want your hard work going to waste. You can just mute the vocal, shuffle things around a bit, and turn it into an original. I''m not a fan of recycling things, but sometimes this works. For this remix I used a Yamaha Motif for bass lines and guitars, Waves Renaissance EQ and Digidesign Dynamics III compressor for sidechaining the bass line and vox. I used automation in Pro Tools to manually gate the piano sounds. This is one of my favorite tricks. Just set it to modulate the volume to a square wave, then strap on a compressor with a sidechain triggered by the kick, then send to a touch of reverb and delay. Guy Sigsworth is the king of automation. I recently did a mix for Alanis Morissette of “Underneath” and was so excited to get his Pro Tools session; he does these amazing intricate volume automation changes to the individual tracks and buses.”
Bitter:Sweet “Dirty Laundry”
“This remix was all about creating new hooks and taking the song to a different emotional state,” Page says. “Rarely do I sit down and say, ‘Cool, I know exactly what I want this mix to sound like.'' I open myself up to happy accidents by slicing things up and dropping on the grid in Pro Tools at weird places, then looping 2 or 4 bars and applying various treatments. It''s a constant process of throwing things against the wall and seeing if they stick. My knee-jerk reaction for a song is usually wrong. It takes time to get the crappy ideas out and let the muse go to work. My least favorite parts of the process are the first and last 10% of the mix—the time before everything ‘clicks'' and the final tedious ‘polishing of the atoms''—before you put the song to bed.
"I scrapped a lot of the original parts and just focused on Shana''s vocals. I always compress and tune the vocals a bit more to enhance them and sometimes sidechain them so they wrap firmly around the kick drum. It depends on the vocal delivery. A lot of people ask me if I used Melodyne to do those pitched vocal/chopping sounds, but it was just tedious ‘tab to transient'' cut and paste manual labor, snapped to the grid in Pro Tools, with fast retune speeds in Auto-Tune. You always get interesting results when slicing up vocals, but the key is where you''re slicing them. Is it a vowel, a consonant, a gasp/breath? Vowels always seem to create these great melodic nuggets. This is one of my favorite mixes that I''ve ever done. When you can give yourself chills in the studio over and over (as it did with this mix), you''re onto something! As for gear, I used a Yamaha Motif for the bass line, Clavia Nord Lead 2 for the ARP, with Waves Renaissance EQ and the stock Digi compressors and limiters."