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Moby has opened his back catalogue to be remixed on dance music's finest labels

We caught up with the producer to find out why

  • Sean Griffiths
  • 31 August 2017

If you’re playing Remix Top Trumps, Moby’s card is the ace in the pack. A quick scan through his list of remix credits reads like a Who’s Who of 20th century music.

“In the 90s I remixed everyone from Michael Jackson to Metallica,” he tells us from his home in LA. “I got to remix Brian Eno and because he’s one of my heroes, I was so deferential to him I ended up giving him eight remixes!”

While other credits include everyone from Beastie Boys to Daft Punk to Ozzy Osbourne, it was actually Soundgarden’s late frontman Chris Cornell who partly inspired Moby’s brand new remix project.

“I did a Soundgarden remix and I was hanging out with Chris and he was telling me how much he loved it,” explains Moby. “He asked me what I was going to do with it, and I had to explain that he owned it!”

Since the dawn of time (or at very least the 80s) the concept of remixing has been based on labels paying producers a one-off fee to rework a track by one of their artists.

“It seemed absurd to me that someone could do a remix that sounded almost nothing like the original and if it did really well the original artist would get all the rewards rather than the remixer,” explains Moby. “Just look at records like ‘Loaded’ by Primal Scream, and ‘Brimful Of Asha’, where the remix was the hit.”

With that in mind, Moby started his ‘Black Lacquer’ project. Named after a chapter in his memoir Porcelain, it sees Moby open up his back catalogue to some of dance music’s most successful record labels across the genre spectrum. What they do with the remix is completely up to them, and if the track’s a success, they can reap the rewards.

“The truth is the fees keep going down for remixing, so if one becomes hugely successful the remixer barely benefits,’ explains Moby. “The great thing about this new project is that it’s more in line with the egalitarian nature of digital media in the 21st century.”

Moby reached out to a diverse set of labels with everyone from EDM behemoths like Spinnin’ and Hardwell’s Revealed involved, plus UK d’n’b specialists like Shogun Audio, European house and techno big guns Drumcode, Suara and Diynamic, as well as the likes of Fools Gold and Anjunabeats. But with around 40 artists let loose on his back catalogue, is Moby worried what they’ll do with his music?

“I might be a control freak in other aspects of my life, but when it comes to people doing remixes for me I really don’t mind – as long as it’s interesting,” he says. “I don’t even care if they just use two seconds of the original. My criteria is not how faithfully it adheres to the original, but whether it’s interesting or not.”

Those about to start work on a 20-minute gabba rework of ‘Why Does My Heart...’ then: fear not.

Magdalena
‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad’

“Moby’s music has a cinematic quality to it. When I was asked to be involved in the Black Lacquer Project I decided to remix ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad’ because it’s such a great emotional tune and a timeless classic. I focused on the vocals, as they carry the emotion for me, and stripped everything out before adding in my percussion and in the final stage of the song, two elements from the original for atmosphere. I feel blessed to be remixing a track I listened to over and over as a young girl.”

Hardwell
‘Go’

“When I think of Moby I think ‘innovator’. He’s an artist who has pushed a lot of boundaries and been to both ends of the spectrum. I decided to remix ‘Go’ because it’s been a favourite since the very first time I heard it. I’ve felt the incredible vibe of that track both as a clubber on the dancefloor and playing it as a DJ. Obviously my sound is very different from Moby’s so it was a chance to bring something from my side of dance music to this classic Moby record. I’ve played this remix quite a lot on my I Am Hardwell tour and it absolutely ignites the dancefloor.”

Sander Van Doorn
'Natural Blues'

“Moby’s music has always been a great inspiration to me. I listened to him loads when I first started DJing, and I’ve always loved the track ‘Natural Blues’. The melody and vocals are incredible and really suit my style. I tried to keep the brilliance of the original but add some more melody to it. I think that’s the secret of a great remix: keeping the brilliance of the original while giving it your own spin, and giving it a different feel.”

Technimatic
‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad’

Andy: “I saw Moby perform around the time of ‘Everything is Wrong’. I was completely unaware of his music at the time – and completely blown away. He went absolutely bonkers on stage. From that point I bought every album, and when ‘Play’ came out I had that feeling when you see the world discover an artist you’re really into. Then again, everyone knew ‘Go’ so maybe I wasn’t as far ahead as I thought!”

Pete: “When we were asked to do this we decided to remix ‘Why Does My Heart...’. We’ve always been about the dusty vocal samples in our own tunes and this record has one of the best, so we knew it would work well with our style. The original is a really simple track with very few elements so we wanted to keep that feeling and not get bogged down in fiddly details. We wanted to let the main elements sing, and hopefully we’ve done that.”

Rex The Dog
'Go'

"When I was asked to be involved in this I knew I wanted to remix ‘Go’. I’ve always wanted the chance to remix it since I first heard Moby talking about it on Kiss FM years ago. It must have been one of his first UK interviews! His music has varied so much over the years; I’ve got a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the punky stuff, but ‘Play’ was a whole new level – I really love that album and listen to it now more than ever. For my ‘Go’ remix I tried to re-present some of the best aspects of the original – the vocal samples and epic strings – in a way that hypes it up and make it a bit more driving and electronic."

Timo Maas
‘Porcelain’

“Moby was the soundtrack for what was probably the wildest part of my life, the early 2000s! It was a rollercoaster and Moby was always there. So when James Teej and I were approached to remix one of his tracks, it was an opportunity neither of us could turn down. We decided on ‘Porcelain’ as we both think it’s one of his greatest songs. We talked about the direction a lot before starting, and wanted to change the vibe to a trippy dancefloor feeling. Remixing’s played a huge role in my career, my remix of ‘Dooms Night’ by Azzido Da Bass opening lots of doors including getting to remix Paul McCartney last year with James Teej, and this is up there thanks to all the great memories I have attached to Moby’s music.”

This feature is from the September issue of Mixmag

Sean Griffiths is Mixmag's Deputy Editor and absolutely froths over a Moby remix. Follow him on Twitter

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