Saturday, September 24, 2011

Investigating Remix Culture (Part I) - Hide and Seek

By Techno School, Vertigo Shtick contributor and dance/electronic correspondent 

When presented with a difficult challenge, one must decide: fight or flight?

Ignoring my natural urges to distract my personal demons using mounds of food and entire seasons’ worth of Weeds, I instead delved into the pit and stared these evils in the face. In an attempt not to run from my pain, I pored through photos of an old friend I can no longer look to for support, bring into my life in a meaningful way. Someone I’ve had to put a huge wall up in front of, because our closeness only has the power left to hurt me. 

To be or not to be credited... that is the question. (Imogen Heap)
Emo, I know.

This mentality has plenty of fodder to live off of in today’s pop world. Immensely popular sappy songs fill the radio waves, and I heard Script’s breakup ballad “Nothing,” the heart-wrenching “Someone Like You” by Adele, and even Kelly Clarkson’s never-overplayed “Already Gone” during my long drive home. After arriving back at my apartment this evening and—okay, fine—eating a shit ton of food while watching some Weeds, I played for my weary mind Imogen Heap’s incredible “Hide & Seek.” Most if not all of you are familiar with this song because Jason Derülo used it in his hit single “Whatcha Say”. But the version I’ve got on my iPod is more like WOMWOMWOMWOMWOMWOMWOM. (Hear it below.)

Imogen Heap - "Hide and Seek (Roksonix Dubstep Remix)"

“Hide & Seek” is a feat of beauty all on its own, and Roksonix’s dubstep remix brings it to a whole other level. It adds harshness and an anger that the moving but mellow original track was never meant to embody. This version cuts to my core and gives me a feeling to identify with, helping me cope so that I can bathe in painful memories without running to my corner gas station and snatching the first pack of cigarettes I lay eyes on. Imogen Heap's angelic voice is well-juxtaposed against the gritty bass and reverberating notes of static that the remix introduces. “Hide and Seek” sounds as if it has been taken over and twisted, painted into a new form. My form.

Roksonix are showing off their skills and introducing Imogen Heap's song, albeit in bits and pieces, to their audience, a very different one from Heap's or even Derülo’s that otherwise probably would never have known it existed.

Remixes are techno staples. You’d be hard-pressed to find a live electronic music concert where the DJ didn’t play some songs by other artists. Even the really big names release and perform their own versions of famous peers’ singles. Everyone and his mother has remixed, for instance, Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” Some of those remixes even made it to his official EP. Why are they so pervasive? 

I think that understanding techno remixes can go a long way in understanding the culture they are created within. The concept of music bringing people together and providing an escape is exaggerated within the techno world. Something about the underground nature of techno music venues, the shared experience of an enormous rave, the (let’s admit it) brain-altering chemicals that many enthusiasts take together as a practice in bonding: these things all serve to support the idealistic notion that pain be avoided if one could just dive into the world created by their DJ of choice. What comes with this strong identity—not to mention freedom from the constraints of a radio industry focused on mp3 sales—is a remix culture of music free-for-all.

The fan’s experience of listening to a new song and therefore sharing a new experience remains paramount over all else, and so sharing is encouraged. It’s even legitimized in some cases; deadmau5 has entire EPs dedicated to single tracks of his that other artists have remixed. You couldn’t go to a rave in LA in 2008 without hearing some version of MGMT’s “Kids” played at every fucking turntable. There are dubstep versions of practically every current major pop and techno song (probably because techno fans can be so picky about what they listen to—we won’t pay much mind to anything that isn’t freaky, dirty, or deranged). Although a good remix will gain a DJ some good press, though, the intent of releasing one seems more rooted in creativity; often, they are released for free.

Now, compare Roksonix’s remix with Derülo’s use of “Hide and Seek” in “Whatcha Say”. Who got the credit for that song? How about the remix of Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘n Night”? Anybody know who produced that track? Yes, there is sharing amongst artists in other genres—I think to Beyoncé’s cover of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” at the 2010 Grammys and the rampant use of sampling in both pop and rap—but remixing holds a different spirit in these settings. Remix versions of top 40 songs are released all the time, but they are played on the same top 40 stations to the same audiences, with credit only given to the more famous player involved. Someone, whether it be the original writer or the remixing producer, is left in the shadows. The intent of these songs, it seems, is just for record labels to profit twice off of the same song.

C’mon, Epic, where’s the love?

Techno School is a blog about techno and personal transition, currently based in Detroit.

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