What do I do when I have some spare time between projects, a couple of nights to stay up late in the studio (read: my wife is out of town for a couple of nights) AND a no-holds-barred remix contest pops up on a forum I frequent?
Well, I transform into a mad scientist – minus the wild and wacky hair ( I have none ) – and have a go at it.
Brandon Drury over at the Recording Review is hosting a second iteration of the “Mix It ‘Til You Puke” contest – the first of which was wildly popular with over 200 entries. This one is a bit different in that Brandon has opened things up to be a “true” re-mix contest. Here’s what got me hooked:
- You are free to add your own tracks.
- You are free to take away most tracks. Vocals must stay in tact, but feel free to re-arrange.
- The song should feel like the same song. (A good example of this is the Pet Shop Boys “You Were Always On My Mind” is still the same song as the Willie Nelson version.) You are free to re-arrange the song. For all we care (myself and Jetface), you can make it a country version, although I know of no plugin that does a southern accent yet.
The big carrot being dangled is the chance to win a Universal Audio UAD-2 card – if your mix is chosen by the band and Brandon as the “winner”.
I went to the site one afternoon in the beginning of May and downloaded the multi-tracks, brought them up and couldn’t make heads or tails of the song in the first few bars. I was also in the middle of a project, so if I couldn’t really decipher the song from the raw tracks in a half-hour, I couldn’t really see myself realistically spending a lot of time on the contest.
I checked back at the forums a week or so later and, I’m guessing that a few folks had had the same problem because I found that Brandon had posted a reference mix up on a post:
This post definitely cleared things up – for one, it made it a LOT easier to figure out how the song was supposed to gel together from the different parts.
Picture it this way: You’re given a bunch of puzzle pieces to put together, but have no idea what the final puzzle looks like. Then, once you’re given the cover of the box with the picture of the completed puzzle, you can then better understand which pieces go where.
But, instead of putting the original pieces back together, I had the intention of keeping only a couple of the pieces and making up the rest of the pieces myself.
In other words, I intended to only use the vocal tracks (the only track(s) I wasn’t allowed to delete) and try and give the song a studs-out renovation of my own.
Drawing Board … check!
So with everything except the vocal tracks muted (I eventually deleted the other tracks), I set to playing around with chords that seemed to fit and flow with the melody. I approached this in a similar manner that I score films – with just piano.
I created a track that represented the chord changes and had a couple of other tracks that represented the bass and rhythm I was thinking might fit nicely under the melody.
Over the course of this exercise, I decided that I’d try to emulate an ’80’s synth-pop radio-friendly dance-able feel.
I then started with the drums – selecting rhythms that seemed to make me tap my foot and fit with the bass/rhythm that I’d been sketching out. The rest kind of got built around that: I found a killer synth sound to play the main chord riff and was about to go with that throughout, but then thought it’d be cool to keep something of the original chord progression – or at least an homage to the rhythm and contour of that chord progression.
I adjusted the chords in the original progression to fit with the riff that I’d come up with and they actually seemed to fit – what I ended up with was a chord rhythm that was persistent under the verse (the adjusted original) and a chord riff that was an “answer” to the singer’s melody and lyrics.
I could probably spend a few hours detailing how the rest of the song came together (and how I mixed it), but needless to say, it was a complete blast. I had a lot of fun putting things together, trying out weird and wacky sounds and loops – percussion and vocal as you’ll hear. The key is that I wanted this to be a care-free dance-able track:
It sounds like it was a ton of work, but I really didn’t spend more than two or three nights on it. I didn’t want to take this all too seriously and honestly did have a lot of fun putting it together. To tell you the truth, I’m quite, quite pleased with the result. I’m sure there’s some culling that can be done, but in the end, it was an experiment as much as anything.
The fact that it turned out and has gained some pretty positive reaction and kudos on the forum is just plain gravy and has led me to think of offering / marketing a few different services on my site. More on this later…