Remixing is an art. Just ask André Allen Anjos, the one-man remix machine known as RAC. Anjos has spent the last few years building a name and a sound by re-imagining songs for Bob Marley, Kings of Leon, U2, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and hundreds more, many of which have busted to the top of the tastemaking Hype Machine charts.
Anjos's interpretations may spring from the mind of one man, but there's a reason that the "C" in RAC stands for "collective." For his first EP of all-original material, Anjos worked with some impressive guests, including Penguin Prison, Tokyo Police Club, Katie Herzig, Bloc Party’s Kele and rising electro-pop star MNDR. We threw a few questions RAC's way about what it was like to transition from re-inventing to just...you know...inventing.
You worked with artists from all over the world on Don’t Talk To. Did you have these specifically vocalists in mind for your tracks? How did you end up working with them?
I had about 40 demos written, and a number of different artists that I wanted to work with. So, I ended up sending them the demos and letting them pick something that resonated. Since I had remixed almost all of them, I already had some sort of connection and relationship going.
The four tracks on Don’t Talk To each have unique style that works well with the usual sound of the featured artists. Did any of these artists help influence a different direction or idea than you intended for the track to go? Was working with them a lot different than what you expected?
Inevitably the very sound of their voice is going to affect the direction. It's something I care about immensely. I want things to fit together. The kind of music I'm writing revolves around the vocal, so it's extremely important.
It's kind of funny, because we did this all online. I've never even met some of these artists in person. It's a strange method, but it gives me absolute freedom. Other than e-mail exchange and some phone calls, there wasn't a lot of collaboration in that sense. I think they trusted me enough to just let me do my thing. After receiving a first draft of a vocal performance, I would generally re-tweak the song around it.
Considering this is your debut album of all-original material, did you find writing and producing your own tracks was a lot more difficult to do? Was there any part of the process that was a particular challenge?
Outwardly remixing and writing original music are complete opposites, but I find them to be practically the same process. At least for me. The main difference is that amount of self-imposed pressure. Remixes generally have deadlines and I simply don't have time to fix all the details that I would otherwise want to. With original music there is no deadline, except your own. I had time to perfect things to my liking. There's always room to improve something, but I'm happy with where it is now. Maybe I'll think of it differently in five years, hah.
Has this project encouraged you to keep writing original material? Do you think it’ll become a larger part of your creative arsenal?
The response I've received to the original music has justified the amount of work that I've put into it. That's always motivating. I have no plans to stop remixing or writing original music. It's too much fun.
Are you at all interested in working on an album without any singer-songwriter/artist collaborations?
Not really. I'm not a singer and I've just come to terms with that a long time ago. I like to write Songs (with a capital S) and that revolves around a vocal. It's a necessary thing. I've entertained the idea of doing some instrumental projects, but it's just not my thing. Maybe another movie soundtrack some day. I get to collaborate with all my favorite artists - it's hard to beat that.
Remixes are so often associated with dancing in mind. What does it take to successfully remix a song with a downtempo vibe?
My number one rule for remixing is: respect the original song. If it's a downtempo song, why try to make it danceable? I understand why labels want a danceable remix. It makes sense. It's for the DJs. However, by ruining the mood of the song, you're not helping anybody.
Especially the first couple years of remixing I fought this every single time. Everybody wanted a club banger, but that just doesn't make sense with every song. To actually answer your question (hah), if it makes sense to make it downtempo, then it comes naturally. When you follow the flow of the song and it's leaning towards something more mellow then everybody wins, except the DJs.
You’ve definitely followed your own path. Aside from making great music, what do you think is the most important thing you’ve done or learned on your way to where you are today?
Tough question! I really learned to just be myself when I'm writing music. It's always tempting to try out the latest and greatest trendy style, but I'm much happier if I just write music that I want to hear. Sometimes that makes things hard to categorize and that can hurt you, but in the long run it's much better.
How has being an ASCAP made a difference in your music career?
ASCAP has actually had a major impact on my life. When I first started doing remixes it didn't always pay enough. I didn't want a real job so I had a couple side gigs doing TV music and those payments actually got me through those first two years.
RAC's Don't Talk To EP was released on October 1st, 2013. Go get it here.
Find out more about André and RAC at rac.fm.