Interview / Audio: Height With Friends’ Baltimore Highlands Remix Album, an Aural States Exclusive Release (w/ Dan Keech)
Stream and download individual tracks:
- Baltimore Highlands – Drew Swinburne
- Mike Stone – Gavin Riley
- Jackson Whites – Mrs. Paintbrush
- The World – PT Burnem
- Escape Tune – Lesser Gonzalez
- Baltimore Highlands – Tobacco of Black Moth Super Rainbow
- The Woods – King Rhythm
- Code Of Love – San Serac
- Twelve Strings – Jones
- Standing Up Asleep – Authentic
- Woods Reprise – Drew Swinburne
- Travel Rap – C.Y.O. (http://www.lowdworld.blogspot.com/)
- Cold And Shaken – AK of AK Slaughter
Aural States: What motivated you to do a full remix of the Baltimore Highlands album? You were releasing remixes sporadically for download on the Wham City label site. What made you want to undertake this project too?
Dan Keech: Well, Bob O’Brien, who helps run Wham City Records and is in Nuclear Power Pants, the whole idea was his. Specifically to do a remix of every song and put it on an album. Understandably, he pushed for bigger name people, indie acts, to do remixes to get the word about Baltimore Highlands out. That kind of fell apart, which I really feel glad about. A lot of people known and unknown had to bail out. And I’ve done the same thing before with remixes, I sometimes just run out dry of ideas.
There was a time originally when one rule I set for myself was: no one should be involved that was involved the first time. It’s all these completely other people’s takes. Then I thought, well, these guys are standing by, ready to do beats and stuff, so let’s see what they wanna do. And I’m really happy it went that way, because they’re the people I work well with anyways.
AS: Can you tell us about some of the people who worked on the remix album?
DK: Tobacco from the band Black Moth Super Rainbow. That’s probably my very favorite remix on the album.
AS: Which track did he do?
DK: He did “Baltimore Highlands.” One is by him, and one that’s also really tight is by Drew Swinburne. But that’s probably my favorite. It’s kinda the most over the top. I really like the San Serac one. He did a straight-up hip-house, like Snap!, remix. Not snap the genre, Snap! the group. Gavin Riley, who’s the newest person in Height With Friends, his version of “Mike Stone” is definitely one of my favorites. He’s been playing shows with us for a really long time, putting all his beats aside for this one project he’s still working on. None of his productions have ever mixed with my stuff and I thought that was pretty awesome. ”Jackson Whites” remixed by Jackson of Grand Buffet. That one is kinda extra special to me, because he takes over the song and puts in a new hook sung by him. It’s really over the top, in a cool way.
AS: Did you have your hands in any of the remixes? Are you doing some of the finishing touches and mastering?
DK: Yeah, but I’ve definitely tried to keep my involvement to a minimum. There’s just been a couple of parts in stuff where I’ve been like “I’m not too into that.” If people presented it to me as done, it seemed like we were always in agreement. But if people were asking “What’s your opinion on this?” I’d make a couple of suggestions. I’m kind of just riding shotgun for the final mix, where we had to get the tracks even enough. King Rhythm is the guy who knows what he’s doing for that.
AS: Did you go into the studio at all for these or did you just send out a call for remixes?
DK: For PT Burnem’s remix of “The World,” he did it…I might not have the technical know-how to explain this…it was like a live mix. He had everything routed through his MPC, all the pedals and everything. He’d do it once, ask how’d I like it and do it again.
AS: What is the significance of a remix to you? A lot of people remix each other, increasingly so. It’s become this disposable PR stint, one-off remixes just get pumped out and there’s little time or care taken with them. How is your approach different?
DK: I’ve always been opposed to the Radiohead thing. Where everybody could just get the files and remix everything. I always thought there was something kind of shitty about that. Like, you’re kinda doing their job for them. You’re helping them promote their record. And they’re not even necessarily going to check out your remix. You know? Not that it’s not cool to try and do one of those, but it’s kind of callous marketing.
That’s why from the beginning, even if I’m calling somebody that lives down the block, I wanted it to still feel like in ’91 when you’re hollerin’ at Pete Rock to do a remix. What was cool was that it became even more like that, as it became people doing beats the first time doing beats again. I asked them because what they do means something to me.
AS: Do you have any thoughts on why the remix was so central in hip-hop, but became so distorted now, viewed more as a marketing gimmick?
DK: I dunno, maybe it really fit the genre. I can’t imagine it with a Pixies song, making as much sense. It couldn’t really have been done earlier in history, at least not as easily, than in the 70′s and 80′s.
AS: When you think of a remix, I’m assuming you are thinking broader than just changing up the mixes and tempos?
DK: Well, like I said this is my first time doing it this way. But, almost no one even wanted the files from the beats. All they wanted was the vocals. It’s like their own take on this set of words, you know? Instead of tinkering with samples or anything like that.
AS: You mentioned before that there would be two bonus tracks on the physical copies. What are those gonna be?
AS: Why did you decide to set those apart?
DK: Well, something had to be special for the CD. But beyond that, I originally just wanted it to be one cycle of the original track listing. Because everything that goes twice would feel like a remix of a remix. So those would be bonus tracks. But Drew Swinburne’s “Baltimore Highlands” was one of the perfect intro tracks, so it didn’t quite work out that way.
AS: What genres did people take you into that you were unfamiliar with?
DK: The strangest ones for me, my friend DJ Authentic from Tokyo did the song “Standing Up Asleep.” He did more of a boom-bap kind of beat than I would ever pick on my own. But I was so happy to hear it. I would hear it, think it was cool, but for some reason think “oh that’s not for me.” If he thinks it’s for me, then it’s for me in this case. Which turned out awesome.
Then the hip-house remix by San Serac. Both of Drew’s are also kind of in the IDM realm. And Cex’s take on “The Woods.” I don’t know my electronic genres too well, but I think it’s trance, maybe?
AS: Did you meet anyone that you’ve never really worked with before?
DK: Well Tobacco. We’ve done work before, I did one track for him and I’m working on another. But we’ve never actually met in person, and I just realized that now actually.
AS: Where is the remix album taking you that you didn’t expect initially? What were some of the most surprising things?
DK: I think every track has really been a surprise. I could be wrong, but I don’t think any other Height remixes have ever been completed really. I don’t want to leave anyone out who did something awesome, but hearing these is the first time I’ve ever heard remixes of our stuff and I was surprised by every track in different ways.
AS: The source material, did you feel like you wanted to make a strong statement on that? How did that translate through to the remix?
DK: I definitely had something in mind for the original album. For me, I really like the idea of short albums that aren’t EPs. That have a beginning, middle and end, that come in hard and are kind of relentless. I don’t know if I achieved that or not, but the remix album definitely wasn’t that. Which was cool. So many are the longest Height tracks ever. It’s strange to get used to hearing your voice in this long dance song, something totally different than what you do.
AS: What do you hope people take away from the remix album as opposed to the original album?
DK: Most importantly, I hope people are impressed with what these producers have done. That’s kind of #1, I guess. I also hope people will like the songs that might not have liked them before. But that’s it.
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