Discovery: RAC


During the late 1960s in Jamaica, Rudolph Redwood started reworking reggae and ska, and contemporary musical remixing was born. It took a while for remixes to infiltrate the mainstream; the Grammys introduced the “Remixer of the Year” category in 1998, and first record of remixes to reach number one was J to Tha L-O The Remixes in 2001. But the practice is older than one might think.

Today, the remixer is the artist, the main attraction; acts such as Girl Talk, Ratatat, and RAC  have enough popularity and power to play festivals and headline tours. The right remix can make an artist—just look at what Kanye West’s version of “I Don’t Like” did for a previously unknown 17 year old from Chicago, Keith “Chief Keef” Cozart.

Here, Interview talks to André Allen Anjos, one third of RAC. With his Collective comrades Andrew Maury and Karl Kling, Anjos has extended the reach of remixing from hip-hop, pop and ska to indie bands such as Bloc Party, Au Revoir Simone, Tokyo Police Club, Suckers, and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. After five years “winning” the music blog race (we’re convinced that they are the reason Hype Machine now has “no remixes” and “remixes only” filters), RAC are working on their own, un-remixed material with one single out so far (“Hollywood” featuring Penguin Prison) and an album in the works.

AGE: 27

HOMETOWN: Porto, Portugal

CURRENT LOCATION: I actually just got back to Portland, which is where I live. I’m a little bit out of it but back home in rainy Portland. I was born in Portugal and spent most of my life there—I just moved here for college and I’ve kind of been here ever since. I got married and all that.

WHAT’S A COLLEGE KID TO DO? It was about 2007. I was at college and I had no idea what I was gonna do, like many people. I was kind of a studio nerd—I really liked recording—and I kind of saw this opportunity where not many people were doing remixes for indie bands. I ended up spending almost six months emailing everybody, calling all these managers, and they were probably getting annoyed, because I didn’t really have anything to my name. I was just some kid. I don’t really know [what my pitch was]. [laughs] I actually should look that up at some point. I had a couple of bootleg remixes that I’d done of M.I.A. and Madonna, and I think I used that to kind of show what I could do. But I was practically begging for it, I imagine.

TAKE A CHANCE ON ME: The first [band] that actually gave me a shot was The Shins, so I lucked out big time.  That year, when that album came out (2007’s Wincing the Night Away) it was the number-one or number-two album in America. It’s just kind of insane; they really went out on a limb. I think the reason why they said yes was because I don’t think anybody ever asked them; they’re just some indie-rock band. No one really thought remixing them at that point.

A MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST: [I play] a little bit of everything, but I will say definitely I’m a guitar player. I grew up playing Nirvana and Weezer and stuff like that; I was into metal bands for a while when I was young [laughs]. I think the very first song [I learned to play] was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. I think that was the first guitar song. Or it was “Come As You Are.”

PICKING A SONG TO REMIX: It’s kind of different now than it was in the beginning.  Right now we’re kind of in a position where people just ask us to remix a lot of stuff. At this point, most of it is just sifting through that and seeing what we like, or what makes sense. But in the beginning it was a lot more working with any band and trying to get the name out there as much as possible. I have to like [the song]. That’s like the ultimate test. [laughs] Musically, it’s just if we like or not; there’s not really that much thought put into it. It’s where our taste lies I guess.

DREAM REMIXEE: I’ve always liked Hot Chip, but unfortunately I haven’t ever been able to remix them.

DOES REMIXING RUIN A GOOD SONG? [laughs] I try not to think about that. For example, one of our bigger remixes was for Edward Sharpe; they have this song called “Home,” and a lot of people are very attached to that original version. You worry about it a little bit but I try to block it out; I’m just doing what feels right. For the most part we haven’t had too much of a backlash. [laughs]

I kind of see [remixing] as putting a different perspective on a song. The stuff that we remix, it’s really song-oriented. It probably started with somebody with a guitar in a room and they wrote the song and then, it’s changing up the arrangement, but keeping true to the original song.

RELEASING AN ORIGINAL SINGLE: It just kind of got to a point where, with remixes I feel like we kind of hit a little bit of a wall. Not that that is a bad thing, but it forces you to get out and rethink things, maybe try some new stuff, and that’s sort of where the idea came up. I feel like the remixes, there’s a lot of original work in it under somebody else’s vocal or something like that. It’s not really perceived that way, of course, but that was a little bit of the reasoning why we wanted [to record] a single.

DANCING SHOES: It’s actually kind of funny because I really don’t [like to dance]. I really like the music. I don’t know if the fact that I don’t really like to dance is the reason why I DJ. I like to be around that music, but it’s just something I like listening to, and playing in front of people is also incredibly fun. Getting an immediate reaction you just don’t get from posting tracks on the Internet.

THE ALBUM: I started out writing it thinking it was going to be a dance album, something we could DJ with.  It kind of turned out to be much more of a—I wanna call it a pop album, but I wouldn’t call it a top-40 pop album or anything. I feel like I really tried my best to write pop songs in their purest form and use the kind of arrangements that I’ve been doing with remixing; trying to apply the sound that we have, whatever it is, to pop-rock basically.