Hail to the remodels and reinvigorations

As Radiohead release an album of remixes, musicians and DJs reveal their favourite examples of an unsung art to Elisa Bray
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

DJ Yoda - Eric B & Rakim: "Paid in Full" (Coldcut remix)

Coldcut, two British white guys, essentially took a big New York hip-hop record even further back to the "true" essence of hip-hop, by throwing in an assortment of samples that reflected their own personal tastes. So whereas the original Rakim track simply looped a breakbeat and bassline, Coldcut managed to shoe-horn in Israeli soprano, stereo-testing spoken word, dub reggae, scratching and TV news reports. Little surprise that the remix became the version used on the video and a timeless club classic. It helped set the template for "cut and paste" as a production style.

Steve Savale (guitarist), Asian Dub Foundation - Radiohead: "Let Down" (Toots and the Maytals/Easy Star All-Stars remix)

I really like the Toots and the Maytals/Easy Star All-Stars version of "Let Down". I've always thought that of all musical forms, reggae is by far the best at producing great cover versions, often bettering the originals ("Everything I Own", "Hurt So Good"). That's not quite the case here, being as the original is so sublime, but I love the way Toots makes the song his own. I'm sure that if you heard it alongside Toots classics such as "Time Tough" or "Funky Kingston" you wouldn't immediately know that this was a Radiohead cover. Also All-Stars' "An Airbag Saved My Dub" should get a mention for the title alone!

Ghostpoet - Sia: "Little Man" (Exemen remix)

It departs from the original, which was soulful and jazzy, and turns it into an old-school garage track. It has calypso percussion, a great garage sub bass and drums that were synonymous with old-school garage. The vocal really shines through in the remix. It's one of those pieces that has really stood the test of time. What makes a good remix is if you haven't heard the original, you're listening to a completely new piece, and if you have listened and there are emotions attached, it takes you on a new musical journey. A remix is meant to be a complete re-edit of the tune and Exemen made a new history of it. When I started to make my own remixes I took that idea of making something completely different from the original.

Mary Anne Hobbs - Radiohead: "Bloom" (Blawan remix)

This remix is phenomenal. It was created by big bad Blawan, King of Barnsley, my favourite electronic producer of the moment. Thom Yorke included it in his recent Guest Mix for my XFM radio show Music: Response, and I know it's one of his favourites from the whole package. It's a creaking, groaning, primal piece of music that sounds like it was made in the bows of a pirate ship lurching across the high seas in the 17th Century. One of my listeners Tweeted, "pirate pinball!!" For me, life does not get much sweeter than finding a piece of music as vital, raw and extraordinary as this.

Milo Cordell, The Big Pink - Spiritualized: "I Think I'm in Love" (Chemical Brothers remix)

I love the Chemical Brothers' remix of Spiritualized's "I Think I'm in Love". It takes you on a real trip, like a great remix should. Not so much flipping the original on its head, more kind of looping it, turning itself inside out and back again, picking up on the druggy haze of J Spacemen's lyrics and somehow making them seem more psychedelic. It builds, builds and builds and then it drops. It reminds me of a great summer in the back of cars driving around London, being young and being stoned.

Will Kennard, Chase and Status - Röyksopp: "What Else Is There" (Trentemøller remix)

My favourite is probably a track by Röyksopp called "What Else Is There", remixed by Danish producer Trentemøller in 2005. It's an incredible electro-house remix that became a huge worldwide club anthem. Trentemøller reaffirmed his reputation as one of the most respected producers of our time by reworking the beautiful vocals of Karin Dreijer Andersson and adding a huge, dark bassline, transforming the original into a dancefloor monster of a track.

Katy B - De la Soul: "Stakes Is High" (9th Wonder remix)

I'm not even sure how I found it, sometimes I just listen to hip-hop instrumentals on YouTube and write songs to them. A couple of years ago I caught mumps at uni and got dumped by my long-term boyfriend in the same week, and I had a sty so I looked like a Quasimodo toad, feeling very sorry for myself because I couldn't leave the house or see my friends. This beat matched my melancholy mood. The flute sounds like some old, wise man playing, it alone tells a story and makes it almost sound like a legend. The lyrics stand out more. Wonder gives it more space than the original, which is produced by J Dilla, and that's saying something. I felt inspired when I heard it. When they say, "'Cause love don't get you through life no more", I really related. It made me toughen up, and I have 9th Wonder and De la Soul to thank for that.

Ben Ayres (guitarist) and Tjinder Singh (singer), Cornershop - Junior Murvin: "Police and Thieves" (Jah Lion remix "Soldier and Police War")

These days we prefer the term "version", as originally used in reggae circles when talking of different mixes of tracks, rather than "remix", because so many "remixes" tend to be terrible these days, whereas we love most versions to be found on the flips of reggae seven-inchers. They tend to be genuinely imaginative and worthwhile excursions. A real favourite of both of ours is "Soldier and Police War" by Jah Lion, which is a version of the Junior Murvin classic single "Police and Thieves" from 1977. Jah Lion chats over the top of Junior's original and gives it a real urgency and incendiary feel, which is in keeping with the subject matter; a commentary on rioting, bringing the track in tune with recent events as well, of course.

Tom Fleming, (bassist/singer) Wild Beasts - Junior Boys: "Like a Child" (Carl Craig remix)

Ah, remixes – the palimpsester's dark art. Irresistible breaking apart and rebuilding. I really like Carl Craig's 10-minute reworking of Junior Boys' "Like a Child", how he turns the "one" around, how he sustains the high on the "end in sight" line. Bettering the original isn't the point here, it's amazing how well it all falls into its new home, on the floor.

Patrick Wolf - Patrick Wolf: "Time of My Life" (Ceephax remix)

I like working with remixers who are like composers, who create a totally new composition. Ceephax made his on an old Atari computer, and you have to think very carefully about what you're doing because you don't have all the options of modern technology. Ninety per cent of remixes are pretty bad so the ones I've released are 5 per cent of those I commission. Nobody seemed to get my key signatures and chord changes, but Ceephax really stunned me. He programmed all the complicated string sections and gave everything a voice. My other favourite remix is "Hard Times" by Alec Empire, also created on an Atari. There's a rule in art: sometimes the less options you have, the more freedom you have. With all the synthesisers and effects at the touch of a button you can do something lazy. The more limited your palette, the more grand, epic and imaginative your creation.

Esben & the Witch - Philip Glass and David Bowie: "Heroes Symphony" (Aphex Twin remix)

A re-working of a reworking that involves three incredible artists. The original track is a fine one, but the Philip Glass Symphony is an amazing reinvention. Aphex Twin was requested to do two remixes of the track and this is our collective favourite. The impassioned vocal is warped to distort the lyrics, the orchestral re-arrangement lurching behind it. The remix's greatest triumph is that it embraces the talents of the three people involved and, in doing so, becomes something of its own. Even more impressive is how this somehow improves on the two wonderful original versions, both benefiting from Richard D James' unique sonic manipulation.

Richard Fearless - Death in Vegas The Sabres of Paradise: "Smokebelch" (David Holmes remix)

Thinking about remixes that had a big impact on me, David Holmes' remix of Smokebelch by The Sabres of Paradise is a corker for sure. I remember being off my tits and Andrew Weatherall dropping it at Drum Club and it totally blew me and my mates' heads off. Andrew played a mix of it recently in Belfast when I DJ'd with him and it still gave me the warm shivers.