Episode 11 Transcript: Andre Allen Anjos Founder of The Remix Artist Collective (RAC)
Andre Allen Anjos AKA RAC & Danny Carissimi From The Sugar High Podcast
Danny: Portugal, yeah, I went there once on tour and it was incredible.
Andre: I'm always excited to hear when people visit because it's really not on the map for a lot of people.
Danny: Oh totally.
Andre: And when people go there they're like, “Oh wow, this is like, really nice.”
Danny: Yeah absolutely and I feel like Americans have got like, our -- your first-tier European vacations,you're going to have your London, then Paris, then maybe Berlin followed after that, then Prague. Nobody really mentions Lisbon and I don't know why. Because it's like, so cheap. And I find interesting, because it's like, you know, I think we Assos in the U.S. we associate it too much with Spain and it's quite different. And I think the Portuguese are quite different.
Andre: Yeah that's like -- yeah, they're very different even you know despite the proximity. Like, I mean, even in Spain there's so much variety of like culture. You know it's a relatively small country but like every little pocket has its own thing and even the same thing is true for Portugal, despite how small it is. It's a population 10 million, you know?
Danny: It is so small and you know what I was wondering it was I was watching some videos of you playing and I was wondering if you grew up playing fado.
So fado is a traditional style of Portuguese music. It generally consists of one individual on a Portuguese guitar or kithara and a solo vocalist. The songs are sad they're about the ocean and loss. And yeah, it's really good. It was around in the mid 19th century. It still is. It's a very unique style of music from Portugal.
Andre: I didn't, and it's just it's such like a traditional thing there. And I had a lot of friends that like kind of got into it. It's interesting because there is like an old person thing, you know, like a lot of the young people don't get into it. It's like one of those classic things like when you're growing up you totally don't -- like you take it for granted you’re like, that’s that thing you know that people do. But it's you know, it's about probably like the most unique Portuguese style you know. Well if you count Portuguese speaking, you know there's bossa nova and a lot of Brazilian music, but strictly Portuguese music, that's about what we’ve got.
Danny: I was having a conversation with a Portuguese guy when I was there and we were comparing the Spaniards to the Portuguese. And his opinion is he was like he's like the Portuguese are a bit Satar. He's like we're like blue. Is that true.
Andre: Oh absolutely. It's like actually -- have you ever watched Anthony Bourdain?
Danny: Yeah, he brings it up in that episode.
Andre: Yeah I thought that that episode was absolutely hilarious, because it just hit it. Like, it was so perfect. It was such a great way of like, kind of describing that country. Like, people were just kind of sad about maybe like how things have gone in the past you know 500 years.
Danny: You guys never got over not being a world power anymore?
Andre: It's really funny because I you know I went to public school there, so I grew up I had history class. It's not like, you know -- it's Portuguese history and you know there's a period of like, you know, maybe 25 to 50 years where it's you know Portugal and Spain really did kind of rule the world. And I really think that people just have not gotten over it, and it's like it's part of our culture I guess, in some way.
Danny: Yeah. And so you're say you were born here. You were born in Portugal.
Danny: You said your mom is American. How'd that work out?
Andre: Yeah. You know, I was I was born and raised there, and I was pretty much there until I was 20. So I spent the majority of of of my life there. Yeah.
Danny: Did you -- are your parents musicians?
Andre: No no no. Actually nobody in my in my family is -- well I guess my grandfather played a little bit of guitar, but I'm really the only musician in my family. And it wasn't like a clear path. I wasn't following any kind of, you know, was like, oh yeah I want to be like that person who was just kind of the thing that stuck with me.
Danny: I mean, did you start out playing an instrument in high school?
Andre: Yeah. So I I took piano lessons and I was a kid. So, when I was like six years old my parents were like, you should learn piano right now. So you know, I hated it. It's not that are horrible and a little bit later like I think I was maybe 11 or 12 something that I asked my parents for this like plastic guitar that would play the chords automatically -- it’s basically a toy, you know. It was like, not a real instrument. And I asked my parents for it. So they're like, oh OK so you're kind of interested in this. Let's, you know, let's give you the real thing. So they gave me this you know acoustic string guitar. And at first I was like, you know what, I don't care about this. And yeah, I kind of slowly got into it, and you know when it really clicked for me was when I started learning Nirvana right you know how to play some of those songs because there are very simple and easy for a beginner to play. So, you know, once I learned how to play “Come As You Are” [...] and like “Smells like Teen Spirit,” which I was playing completely wrong, but you know, that was like, my first. That was the first moment like, “OK, this is cool,” you know?
Danny: Yeah. And did you have a band in high school?
Andre: I had a couple of friends that played music, and we would we would have our bands and little projects. You know, we'd kind of cycle through them, like, you know, never very serious. I actually failed twelfth grade the first time around.
Danny: Oh shit, man, I’m sorry dude, I didn’t want to bring that up.
Andre: I just wasn't interested in school, and I was like, you know, whatever. And I started -- I kind of took about a year off just to kind of pursue music. And I think I quickly realized, you know, this is not, you know -- this is not good for an especially in Portugal; this is very difficult.
Danny: Well, is pursuing the arts in Portugal perceived differently or kind of a different ballgame than pursuing them in the U.S..
Andre: Absolutely. And you know, it still happens here in the U.S., but it's always treated as a hobby. 15 was really when I started recording. I think people were excited that I had a -- that I was passionate about something but it was it was kind of you know that's that's cute. You know?
Danny: Right. Was it discouraging?
Andre: Yeah. Well actually I think it had the opposite effect where it was like, no, I'm going to do this, you know? That was kind of the overall sentiment. And so happens in the U.S., but I think it's a little bit easier. Well, it’s not easier, it's a little more widespread. Yeah. You see more examples of it still incredibly difficult.
Danny: So it took a year of trying it in music and then you said this is not working. What happened after that?
Andre: You know, because of my American citizenship, I had the opportunity to study in the U.S.; you know, that's a huge thing, especially coming from abroad.
Danny: Did you say that you study music?
Andre: I went to school -- I went there originally for music. And then I quickly realized that I didn't want to learn music theory. I ended up switching to a music business, like straight -- like right after I think maybe after a semester or something like that.
Danny: Dude, I did the same thing, because I went to UNT initially, which is like this famed jazz school. And, you know, you can -- it's one of those, I think a lot of music schools, you can get in, you know; that isn't necessarily the issue. But, you know, once I got there, and first music theory class you're like, holy shit. And then you see these kids rehearsing and you're like yeah I dropped out the first semester I was like, no. So you switch to music business and then you -- did you finish?
Andre: I did, yeah. I think my sophomore year, I was thinking about the summer of my sophomore year, and I was like, you know, I've got to get an internship. This is about that time where you kind of, you know, you get into that. And yeah I was like OK, you know start emailing and sending out letters, like physical letters, to record labels, [and] to studios, trying and trying and trying and just not getting anything, not getting any kind of reply. It was around that time where I was like, you know what, I have to at least try something on my own. I had been doing remixes for fun. You know, it's kind of a good exercise in production, and you know, I didn't sing, so, as a kind of an easy way to just get some vocals and mess around, you know? And I would enter these remix competitions on this horrible website called Acid Planet. It was it is owned by Sony the very web 1.0.
Danny: Right. What year was this?
Andre: So I started college in 2005, in January 2005. This would've been the summer of 2005.
Danny: I remember I would make music sometimes when I was in college, and I would do the singing, I liked to mix and beats, and I always wanted a singer, but it was like, fucking impossible to find a singer and find a band and also find people that were motivated that would spend the time and show up the rehearsal. Was that a frustration and why you went this remix route as well?
Andre: Yeah it was it was you know I love playing in bands I love playing with other people collaborating with other people. Yeah. But there's a certain side of me that really just enjoys the full complete control over what I'm doing. And that's where I focused a lot of my energy. Like, I guess in bands when you get especially when you get like four people in a room, over time there's sometimes egos can flare up and like things like that, or like people want to inject more of themselves into it. And I think a part of it is just being young, you know, not having the restraint and not understanding or not now having their strength to go with what's best for the song you know. And that's easier to do when you have full control. So that was really appealing, you know, to be able to do that. And was actually in 2005. This is before RAC, you know. I heard about this little band called Block Party. I was like, ok, that's cool. You know I heard her E.P., and I was like well this is like an awesome song. And you know it was one of the first times where I like kind of -- I feel like I was a little bit ahead of the curve. You know, I was like, OK this is -- I discovered something before it becomes big, I hope. And you know, they were on Vice records and Vice...maybe they still have a label?
Danny: I don't know. I think it's like they have it, but I feel like it's not -- But back then it was kind of a deal because they had Block Party and The Streets.
Andre: They had some pretty cool acts. And you know so I was like OK you know what, they have their email, [so] let me reach out. And I basically just asked them, to say hey can I ask can I have “The Stems,” I’d love to do a remix. You know, and you know maybe if you guys like it do something with it, whatever. And so, it was my first time getting “Stems” -- you know, professional “Stems.” I got a little -- got like a three gig massive file dump from from Paul Epsworth, or whoever produced it, I forget. So yeah, I did that remix. And you know, Block Party eventually became like a very big band. But that that was -- that was the first time I had really done anything in the music industry. I was like, whoa, this is -- this is awesome. Like, this is a way in.
Danny: It was just kind of on a whim that you just hit them up in just a remix, and they actually got back and they actually sent you “The Stems,” and then you were like, oh, so this is kind of my way in here?
Andre: Right. This is OK this is how this is a path into the music industry. This is something I know how to do, and I felt comfortable with. And obviously, a lot of room to improve, but you know like, here -- yeah, here's something I can do.
Danny: Did you get did you get attention off of that, or was that just like rehearsal?
Andre: I really did not. The thing is, that remix really went nowhere. I don't think they like -- it ended up coming out online like, through some blogs and stuff like that, but it never really got like a proper release or anything like that. I didn't get much of a reaction from Vice either. I was just like stoked to be doing it, you know? I ended up doing several remixes for them after that one but like, this is a -- you know, this was pre-RAC. This is me just like, kind of doing stuff or whatever. And funny enough, the first person ever posted one of my songs which is that remix like online anywhere -- it was like 2006 maybe -- was Derek Davies, which, he runs Neon Gold.
Danny: Yeah. Yeah that name is so familiar. But yeah yeah. Yeah.
Andre: Which has gone on to launch like Passion Pit and Ellie Goulding and like, Marina and The Diamonds. Like, all these crazy people. And he just happened to be the first person that ever talked about music. So that was literally -- it was the most that ever came about from that specific remix. So that was sort of a very eye-opening. I was like, OK cool, I can approach people this way.
Danny: Yeah, yeah. So kind of like a barrier sort of fell down, and so from there did you just start hitting people up and just being like, yo let me start remixing?
Andre: It wasn't immediate like that. It wasn’t. That was 2005-ish. And you know, I kept doing like little competitions, you know, just for fun, and I was in school too. So I was, you know -- I wasn't like, I didn't have, I was kind of focused on that, too.
Danny: You were in a jam band; you were taking lots acid on the quad; you didn't have time to go.
Andre: Not at all. You know, fast forward back to 2006 [in] the summer or like, late 2006 where I was like, OK I'm not getting any internships. Nothing is happening. Let me figure something out. So I kind of went back to the remix thing, like, well you know there's really nobody doing this the way that I want to do it. And I had a couple, like, kind of beliefs and how remixes should be done and like, I felt like there was room to improve, I guess.
Danny: What were some of those beliefs, that were tenants?
Andre: First of all, I didn't really enjoy dance music at all. I had time, I felt like, most remixes fell into that category with just you know, club versions of pop songs. So labels could give it to deejays, and deejays could you know, play in the clubs, so they could ultimately summer records like that. And I was like, you know what there's there's a lot of -- there's a lot of stuff you can do with this. You can be really creative with it.
[I wanted to actually show you some before and afters: So the song before Andre aka RAC gets involved, and after when he's remixed a song, because it's not just a remix. He takes the vocals, and basically makes an entirely new song. And I think that's why he gets hired so much. So this clip is from Kehl from Block Party. His solo project and the song is called everything he wanted. So we'll listen to his chorus and then we'll listen to what Andri did to it. So that is the original chorus from Kels. And this is what the song sounds like when Andre got his hands on it. You can see why people hire him. OK back to the podcast.]
Andre: You don't have to do a dance remix, like, it doesn't have to be so narrow. So that was my that was really my only thing.
Danny: Yeah, and I know now you you've written a lot more of your own material, but I wonder at this time, when you started to get more of the remix world, if you were like, “This is my way to notoriety, somewhat. And then I will work on my own songs a little bit later.” Was that your intention?
Andre: No, it really wasn't. Honestly, my only intention was ever just -- it was just to make a living. You know I -- I wanted to make music for a living. It wasn't -- I wasn't even thinking about notoriety. Like, that doesn't cross your mind. You know, when you're just -- especially just starting out like that. That place is so far away, you know? That concept is so foreign. You know, that it just is not -- it's just not part of you know your goals. I mean making it is long-term.
Danny: You weren’t like, “Mom, I’m going to Hollywood.” You didn't know that.
Andre: Not even close. I mean like the, you know -- so my idea originally for RAC actually was a lot more business-facing. You know, I did that at first remix for free, right? And I was like, OK well, let me build up like a little bit of a portfolio and let me try to sell this to labels, you know? I mean, you know hey as a service So hey, let me -- I'll do this because I know that people got paid for remixes so I was like, OK well maybe this is a thing. So my idea at first is really to become like a kind of a service for labels, you know, to work with them and maybe work out deals with them or remix their latest singles or something like that, and I get more people involved to help with the workload and things like that. That was the original idea, and that's why I call it remix artists collective. It was just like a, you know, it was a business right.
Danny: Yeah. And it’s so funny you approached it like that, because I feel like so often, at that age especially, it’s like, “This is my passion. I have to make my passion my music.” It seems like you were kind of like, looking to make a buck. “I can do this this; this seems like a good way to do it.”
Andre: I don't know if that's completely accurate, because it wasn't like, about money specifically. It was really just about making a living, you know; it was like that basic threshold where you don't have to work -- you don't have to work another job. I think that was really the goal. Like, that that was my highest aspiration for like, my financial needs.
Danny: Don't get a job. I just don’t want a job.
Andre: I just don't want it, you know, like I just don't want like a regular job, like I just want to do what I want to do. And you know, make an honest living for me. You know I guess obviously I had hopes for more, but it wasn't like, you know -- I didn't set out with like, these crazy goals. Like, I didn't set out what I would have never thought that I'd be where I am now. That's -- that's crazy. And in the scope of, you know, it wasn't even the realm of possibility it just wasn't the thing.
Danny: Yeah. You know you were a dude in St. Louis e-mailing people.
Andre: I was trying to be an intern at a studio. I was going to wrap tables and fetch coffee, you know like, I was completely happy with that. That would've been totally fine. Like, it wasn't like, “I’ve got to be an artist!” like I wasn't -- that was never my thing. But you know, the business thing has always been an interest of mine. Like, it hasn't always been music; I've always wanted to run a successful business.
Danny: I don’t want to reach too far, but would you say that part of that is kind of like, immigrant American dream sort of thing, like you want to come here and make something of yourself?
Andre: Absolutely. And you know, I really think about that a lot. And you know as cheesy as it is, like, this like -- that American dream or whatever, did kind of come true for me, you know?
Danny: Totally. I want to kick your ass out. I want you on the other side of the law. All right? Portuguese immigrants like you, I don’t want you guys in here making me dance!
Andre: You know I did -- I was born with the amazing advantage of being a citizen already. So you know, also, being white male, you know of course opens a lot of doors too, so there is a lot of things, you know, in my favor. And I'm well aware of that. But it's also, you know, that I think it's still possible to do something like that.
Danny: But still, you are a kid from Portugal that had gone to St. Louis, you know, it's not exactly like where, like a booming industry for the remixes, you know, for mixes and stuff. So you make RAC, and it was a collective right? Because you're the main dude. But how did you start to get people on board like Andrew Murray and people like that?
Andre: It was just people that were part of like an online community of remixers, and you know, there was a small but thriving community of people that were very into it. And that's where I pulled people from. And Karl is the exception I guess, because we went to school together. So I knew him personally. But Andrew, Andrew was somebody I met online, and he actually was friends with Ra Ra Riot, which is a band I worked with. So he kind of came in after that, and Ra Ra Riot was one of the first bands I ever remixed, so he came in very early. And funny enough, we like, we still work together on all kinds of stuff, despite RAC eventually becoming my thing.
Danny: So it wasn't a situation like, in the Facebook movie where you got that one kid who puts in a little bit of money and then you’re Mark Zuckerberg and then you guys end up in like a court battle and stuff.
Andre: I wish we had a story that we can make a movie out of. The truth is, no. It's like, you know, I found myself in a situation where all the requests that were coming in were for me specifically, and things were just moving in that direction anyway. I was starting to think about original stuff at the time and it was -- you know, we just had a polite conversation and that's just the best thing to move forward. And it was it wasn't like some crazy like, falling out or anything like that, but so Carl and I, we still deejay everywhere. Like going to Phoenix this weekend and going to Asia the next weekend, you know? So we still do stuff and Andrew has mixed all my original stuff, and we still talk almost every single day.
Danny: Right. It’d be funny if I had him on the other line, and he was just like, “Fuck you Andre.” What was the remakes that got you on the map?
Andre: Well straight out of the gates, the first remix for RAC -- well the first one that really came out, was The Shins for “Sleeping Lessons.”
[This is a clip from the original version of The Shins “Sleeping Lessons.” And this is Andre's version.]
Andre: That was me. I literally just called them.
Danny: You called The Shins?
Andre: Well, I called their manager. Yeah. Because they they actually put their phone number on her website.
Danny: That's really funny. After you called them, they were like, take that shit off there.
Andre: Yeah I think so. You know, I called him up, and I kind of gave my short nervous pitch. And you know, to the manager, and it was just it's funny because he's become like one of the main managers in the music industry Ian Montone. And in retrospect, it's like, nobody really asked for that kind of thing before maybe over it was just so uncommon that I think he kind of gave me a shot. He let me do it on spec, which I don't know if that term is widely known, but it's essentially you do it for free and if they like it they pay for it. So I did it, and they really liked it. They paid for it, which is awesome, you know?
Danny: And did you frame that -- did you frame that check?
Andre: No I cashed it. I mean it wasn't like, a crazy amount of money, but it was like, you know, the first time I really made an income like that.
Danny: It’s a significant moment.
Andre: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's from Sub Pop records you know. That's pretty cool, I think.
Danny: Yeah. Were you still in college?
Andre: Yes, so this was a sophomore in college. I got lucky right out. Like, as soon as I started it like just things took off right away. So first remix, you know, got picked up by Pitchfork, where they completely messed up my name. And funny enough, I ended up emailing them to correct it, and we ended up like, talking and they ended up supporting some of my earlier work because of me correcting them.
Danny: That's the advice: you want to get on Pitchfork, call them up and talk shit.
Andre: Yeah, yeah. Well I wasn't like, you know, I wasn't trying to give him a hard time, I was more just like, “Hey guys, this is incorrect information.”
Danny: I would love it if you were like, “Put Ryan on the phone. I want to talk to Ryan right now. Ryan, you fucked up.”
Andre: It was Amy maybe? I have not really been involved with them in a very long time but this is you know almost 10 years.
Danny: You are kind of like when a grandpa describes what you should do for success. It's like, a firm handshake and you're literally like walking up just like banging on people's doors or finding your phone number and calling them. It didn't -- you did not release music online and be like I hope this spreads.
Andre: You know what. I am surrounded -- I used to be surrounded by people that just sat around waiting for their big break and it's like, that big break’s never coming. You have to get out there, and you have to promote yourself, and you have to do stuff. And there's a way to do that very tastefully and you don't have to be obnoxious but you have to create opportunities for yourself otherwise they're never going to come. So yeah, that again that goes back to the business-facing thing, like because I was approaching it that way. It was it wasn't sleazy to me; it wasn't like, “Hey you guys, check out my art.” You know, it was like, “Hey I'm trying to run a business, you know, check it out.”
Danny: If you work in any aspect of the music industry -- I'm a tour manager right? So I can't really do anything. I mean like, maybe I could pass music on to somebody or something but you know, kids and I understand you do approach you but it is more from an angle of like, “this is my art.” This is so important to me. Here you go. Check it out. There's nothing wrong with that like I understand it's important. But I love that your approach was like “No, no. I'm starting a business and I want to get my product, or my service is remixing your stuff.”
Andre: My services is being creative. And I want you to pay me for this which is a weird thing to approach somebody with. But if if you can deliver on it then people are willing to do it, you know?
Danny: Did you have a period of were you like, “I'm going to see if I can make a living off this for X amount of time and if not I'm going to move on.” Did you have kind of a timeline like that for yourself to see it?
Andre: I mean I was the of the college, you know, I had two years.
Danny: Yeah. That when you are insulated.
Andre: I'm still I'm paying for it now, but at the time it’s free rent. Sort of the school that I went to did have some some studios that were highly underused. So there was -- you could always get in there. You know, that's where things kind of started. And really it's like -- I mean, I say this all the time, but once you get The Shins, like, doors open, and people are much more willing to listen to you after you have a big client like that.
Danny: That was sort of like a watershed for you.
Andre: Absolutely. After that, I right out of the gate like it's just like, OK, cool.
Danny: What was it almost like after that you almost had to turn away business, or did you --
Andre: I mean, it wasn't -- it wasn't that immediate. Like, I still had to do a lot of like, you know, knocking on doors, but figuratively speaking, you know, people who are willing to listen to you and you know, take the time to check out what you're doing. So they didn't have a lot of people requesting me stuff, but anybody that I requested, I normally got to reply after that.
Danny: Right. And so...so what? So you keep doing remixes, and then you -- you finish college and then what was your move after that?
Andre: By my second year into it I was doing, I mean full time. I wasn't making like a crazy living, but I was determined I would. I was a little bit outside of St. Louis. It's like a small town, so it was pretty cheap to live there, so like, you know, I didn't really have to worry about money too much. Like, I could really focus on on building stuff.
Danny: Which is so important. I feel -- I feel like if people ask me sometimes or people bring it up about like, you know, moving to a major city to pursue something like this -- like New York or L.A. And it's just so funny because so many people I know such as yourself they're like, “No, dude.” That’s one consistent thing that I think any of these interviews. Everybody needs some year where they got some financial break, or either it was they lived in a really cheap place, or a cousin let them stay somewhere for free because you need that time to see if you're going to build this into something profitable. Eventually, I mean, working a nine to five job probably would've been pretty hard for you to take this thing off the ground if you were doing that.
Andre: Oh absolutely. I mean to some extent, I guess with classes you could argue that a lot of my time was taken up. But I -- you know, I just put in the work, really.
Danny: How many hours were you working on remixes by your senior year? Like like how much were you were you working on this?
Andre: I was working pretty much every single day. I -- so I would, you know, I would have classes and then after classes would wrap up, I would you know head over to the studio and just start working until late at night, basically. I mean that's kind of what you had to do. The other thing is I, especially early on, I made it a point to always deliver like really or as soon as possible. Because I felt like that was a positive trait. You know, sometimes I would deliver like two weeks before the deadline and I think that's opened a lot of doors for me. I take it a little bit easier now. I don't think -- I can kind of take my time now. But you know when you're just starting out you really have to go for it.
Danny: Going back to the day his biggest piece of advice is always kind of like just showing up on time. And I've done that I've done the remix thing, where you're the one trying to get remixes out of people, and it takes them so fucking long, and you're just like “Dude, what. Come on. What?” It does -- you almost feel like, “you're not taking it seriously,” you know? And I always think that getting someone such as you in college, and not that there’s anything wrong with you now, but you know like, that kid like, really wants to make you good track, whereas if you get like, you know, someone that's really established they might be like “yeah I got this b-side, I'm going to throw these vocals over and you know…” I guess you obviously are you are much hungrier at the time.
Andre: Very much so. And I mean I still feel that way creatively. I do like I have something to prove all the time. But the actual day to day I'm -- I mean, I'm not trying to deliver two weeks before that right.
Danny: Right. Did you start the live RAC project by that point?
Andre: So live came much, much later. That's actually where things really started to shift. So you know we've been talking about like, how it was business-facing at first. It kind of was for a good two years. Like, you know, this is a time where this is MySpace time, you know? You can have a MySpace or whatever but it wasn't like -- I didn't have a huge social media following or anything like that. Like I didn't have a lot of MySpace friends or whatever, because I wasn't trying to be an artist. I was trying to be -- you know, I was focused on a web page. I think it was like 2010 -- maybe two and a half three years into it like people started offering gigs, like deejay gigs, and I was like “oh, this is cool.” I've never really had an interest in this before. I’ve deejayed before like, you know, house parties, like things like that. And I knew enough about dance music that I could do it. I wasn't trying to be a deejay in any way.
Danny: Your mentality is almost the opposite of everyone; because I feel like, everyone, they want to be an artist, and then they really want to be a deejay, and it's funny because you're like, “Yeah I started to get offers, and I was like, yeah I can probably do this.”
Andre: The main theme of this entire project has been just kind of going with the flow, and seeing where it takes me. The first deejay offer that we got was for a thousand bucks. It was in Brazil. I was like, “Yep.” It was like, yeah I'll do that. So you know, from there, it's been pretty much nonstop like, just been touring all around.
Danny: You made this transition from being like, this dude running this website and then you start to get these offers and you became, you know, a deejay. And then during that process was it like,”To scale this thing,” because it seems like you're a person that would think about that, “I need a live band.”
Andre: You know, that still came later, for different reasons actually. But so you know, deejaying was going great. We were touring all the time, almost to the point where I got pretty burnt out on it, actually.
Danny: It happens.
Andre: Yeah, I mean you’re a tour manager, you know how it gets.
Danny: Ah, dude. It can almost destroy you.
Andre: People -- I think people think of touring as a super glamorous thing, but the reality is so different. But anyway, so you know, it got to a point where I was doing stuff, and then as I, as I'm starting to put together original work, and as I'm trying to figure out what you know what is “RAC” from an original perspective, you know, what like what do I have to say? You know, what do I have to say musically? It took a while to figure out. When I figure that out is like when all those things were lining up. Like, none of this music is DJ friendly at all. I kind of went back to my years as you know, playing in bands and things like that. Like, “Man that's, that's a lot of fun and I really missed that.” And it just made sense for the material that I was writing, and that material that came out was very natural. Like, it as -- it's very true to my taste, and to what I want to do. It was actually closer to what I want to be writing than a lot of the remixes. The live band came about just because it made more sense, you know, and yeah, I mean that was really where it started.
Danny: The thing is, when it came out, I listened to your record, and then I relistened to it yesterday and this morning while I was driving around, and it's cool because it does, it does seem like you -- and when you were talking about finding your artistic voice, I don't know if you sat there and reflected on your remixes or what you did or how long it took you, but you did find your niche. And yeah, it's almost like, it's more dance-y than I think you give it credit for. And I don't know again if I'm reaching here, but it's kind of got those like minimalist sort of, I don’t want to say sad melodies or progressions. But it's not like “Wow wow.” You know, like you actually take your time with these songs and you let them build. There's not like a ton of filtered sweeps. You're writing like, very straightforward pop songs that are quite unique to RAC. So, in that process of discovering the artistic voice, was it just reviewing your previous work, or what did you have to sit in the studio for a while until you went, “OK that's it?”
Andre: No, it was, it was really -- I kind of distanced myself from the remixes a little bit, because I didn't want to do the same thing like that. I mean, I think that's where it first started, like, where it was like, “OK I'll do a couple dance singles or something like that and I'll keep the deejay thing going because you know, whatever.” And then when I got into it, like, you know, I like -- basically, I sat down to write dance music and nothing like that came out. It was all -- I was playing all kinds of influences from like stuff that I grew up with and you know, Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac things like that and like pop music. And you know I think inevitably, some of the tricks that I learned from remixing and from dance music is seeped in there and you know yeah maybe there are a couple of tracks that are dancey, and -- but it's not I wouldn't call it a “dance album” or anything like that. And that was conscious,m and that was something that I spent a lot of time on. And what I mean by spending a lot of time with is really I had almost 40 songs for that record. So now basically getting rid of songs, which, that sucks -- and getting the tracklist right, and getting the songs to flow into each other and to create a cohesive piece of music you know because that's really important to me. And one thing that I did a lot, and kind drove me insane -- but I think I needed to do it -- was were after I kind of figured out the track was that I wanted, I would go through and listen to it from the top and whenever I would lose interest or whenever my mind would wander or like I would make a note of it where it was, what time was, and then I'd go back to that song and either cut it out or change it or do something. So like, it's very much an album.
Danny: I like that you approach it and you like full pieces of work because I think that that really adds to the longevity of an artist. But it's funny because simultaneously, you're a remix artist you know? And the remix is kind of like what has contributed somewhat, I think, some people would say to like a single-driven culture, it's cool because you're the remix guy and you're like, “No, the album is important.”
Andre: With that said, I still I still wanted to make sure that the songs worked on their own, you know? Singles are important and that really is kind of how it works. Now of course, that's okay.
Danny: Oh yeah. Did you write the album -- were you alone during that process or did you have people coming in? Because you know, there's a lot of features on the record. Like, would you write the vocal parts, or would they come in? How would that work?
Andre: I would write a very basic demo, of verse-chorus-verse-chorus, that made a very basic progression; a couple of drums, things like that. The only direction I would give them I told him that I wanted to pop music with substance. So they interpret that however they want. And that's literally all all the direction I give. After they work on it and send me something, which is all done remotely by the way --
Danny: Right. Did you ever get anything sent to you and your just like “Ah, no.”
Andre: Oh yeah, plenty of times. Yeah I mean there was a lot of disappointing moments where I got like a huge artist and then the song I was like, “Oh man that’s really not good.” You know, a raw demo is sometimes not enough to say “no” to, you know. It's just disappointing sometimes, you know, because it’s like, “Man, did you really write this?”
Danny: So you’re in your bunker, and you start to get stuff, and the record comes together and it comes out -- Do you like the process, now that you've been touring with the band, and did it make you consider maybe making this more of like a group project again?
Andre: Not really, because especially in the band, you know, we're obviously -- we're all great friends, we all love playing together; but we kind of stick to what I write. You know, there's a pretty clear hierarchy, and nobody has any issues with it.
Danny: Did you have like an audition process?
Andre: No no. I just, I got my friends. I didn't audition anybody else. Like, I just -- I only want to work with my friends. I generally work with people that I've known for longer than I've been doing RAC because their intentions are a little more clear to me. You know you can, you can see right through -- people think they're being like, sneaky , but you can tell when people just want something out of you, you know? And I just didn't want to be involved as people like that. I just wanted to be involved with my friends that I've known for a long time, and I know are cool people, and that that's been -- that's been pretty much how I’ve handled the live side of it.
Danny: It seems like you're kind of a workhorse just kind of like isolated a bit away and you can get to indulge in whatever you'd like whenever you like occasionally. But you kind of separated yourself up there.
Andre: That is the ultimate goal, is to be in a position like that. And I mean, I'd say to some degree I've achieved that. But like, that’s the ultimate goal, to be able to do whatever whenever I want whenever I'm on.
Danny: You know you want to be like Daniel Plainview at the end of There Will Be Blood, in like this massive isolated mansion just like, shooting pins with like a gun you know, like being pinned.
Andre: You know, it's not like, an isolating thing. It's really -- it's more, it's just about following whatever is interesting to me at the time. Musically, and other stuff too, you know photography, and other things like that. You know to be able to have that freedom is true freedom. And that's amazing to me.
[So. After recording this episode Andre aka RAC was nominated for his second Grammy for his remix of Bob Moze’s “Tearing Me Up.” So here is a clip from the original. And here's a clip from the RAC remix.]