Matrix says remixing is different to creating original music. “You’ve got boundaries. In a way, it’s easier. The hardest thing I find about making music is when you sit down to a complete blank canvas. When you’re doing a remix you always have starting points, you’ve got some building blocks. Then you’ve got to figure out how to put them together into a track.”
He says it’s important to pay tribute to the original tune while putting a new spin on it. “I don’t really like remixes that don’t bear any resemblance to the original because I think it’s a bit pointless,” he says. “Generally, I would always try and make it an interpretation of the original track rather than just making a tune for the sake of it.”
Interestingly, Matrix says that when it comes to remixing he finds it easier to work with music that is completely removed from the drum & bass sound. “I find it a lot harder to remix a drum & bass track than any non-drum & bass track,” he explains. “If you’re remixing a drum & bass track, it’s already been done in a certain way, and you don’t want to replicate that. But if it’s a different genre it’s easier to come up with a fresh interpretation of it.
“The things I most enjoy remixing are things that are completely outside of dance music, not any kind of electronic music. Those are the most removed from being drum & bass, so you can make more of a different interpretation of it.”
As an in-demand remix artist, Matrix is often sent tracks from major labels to rework. He says the biggest challenge can be meeting the tight deadlines.
“The thing about remixes, a lot of the time people want them really quickly,” he says. “They always seem to not decide what remix they want to have done. And when they do decide what they want to have done they want in two weeks or ten days.”
He says one of the key skills to being a successful remix artist is being able to meet the deadlines. “Bearing in mind that often it’s got to be done quickly there’s a certain skill in being able to make sure you can deliver the goods in a short period of time,” he says. “When I work on my own music you have the luxury of spending as long as you like about it. If you’re doing remixes for major labels they always want it really fast.”
Work is definitely flowing in at the moment. This is because the top labels seem keener than ever to get drum & bass remixes of their big releases. “I think it’s got to with a few drum & bass records having a high profile,” he says. “The Pendulum album going wherever it went in the charts – that’s certainly a factor. Maybe it’s finally being 100% accepted by the mainstream as a genre of music. You’ve had various times when it’s been in the mainstream but only as a kind taster. But now it seems people have fully accepted it. So all the major labels are seeing it as a thing they need to be part of.”
Almost all the remixes Matrix does are commissioned by labels, with the express permission of the artists and label executives involved. Amateur producers rarely have this luxury. Is there hope for aspiring producers who want to remix tracks without permission?
“There have been a lot of people who’ve done unofficial remixes or bootlegs, and then the record label whose record it is has picked up on it and actually signed it,” Matrix explains. “That is probably the most likely outcome, rather than them wanting to sue you. It depends what kind of record it is, if it’s on a small independent label, their best bet is probably to approach the label and ask if they can do it. If it’s a big commercial pop record, that’s a less realistic thing to do.
“[But] nine times out of 10, people I know who’ve done bootleg mixes of things, and the record label have picked up on it, the label has usually picked up on it because there’s a buzz about it and that means they’ll sign it. Quite a lot of dance remixes have come about that way, by starting life as a bootleg and then the record label has heard about them and signed it as an official record.”
So which of Matrix’s many remixes is his most proud of? “The remix I did of Medicine by my brother, Optical, and Ed Rush,” he says. “Must have been from about 1998 or something. And I still see people playing that all over the place, even from that long ago. So I’m proud of that one, for being a track that still works in 2009.
“My favourite one I’ve done recently is one me and Futurebound did of a Moby track, a couple of months ago, which came out really well,” he adds. “That was a particularly time-pressured one, they were in a mad rush. But on that occasion, the time pressure was good for us.”
Matrix admires a number of other producers for their remix skills. “High Contrast always does a very good remix,” he explains. “I think the key is simplicity, keeping it straight to the point. And remixing the right records as well. He pretty much always delivers the goods.”
Another of his favourites is Sub Focus. “His production is second to none, you can always count on that. That’s a large part of the battle. And his stuff really works on the dance floor, that’s what you can always expect from Sub Focus.”