In February 2011, DJ Meme’s remix of “The Ones You Love” came out and immediately shot to the top of the download charts. His rework of the Frankie Knuckles & The Shapeshifters’ track – one of the overlooked gems from 2009 – was classic Meme: an overwhelming adrenaline rush of peak hour House with Disco influences slathered around like a secret sauce.
It was another hit for DJ Meme (facebook twitter), Brazil’s leading House Music DJ and critically acclaimed producer, who has worked with everyone from the BeeGees to Shakira, New Order to Mariah Carey, Kenny Bobien and Jamie Lewis to Toni Braxton and Dimitri from Paris…
You recently did a mix for Defected with Sandy Rivera. I love it and the two of you make a really good combination! How did that come about?
First of all, thank you for your kind words. As for the album, it all started with an invitation from Simon Dunmore. He already had the whole project planned out in his head. I jumped in to complement the idea, because with Sandy being an American, my role was to add the necessary “Brazilian flavor” to it.
The best of it all was that Simon and Aaron Ross gave me total freedom to create the album as I thought best and to choose tracks that would reflect my own sound, going from House to Disco and ending with Latin beats… which is exactly a reflection of Brazil and its sounds – an endless mixture.
You are known for using live musicians and sometimes full orchestras, and I understand that may have come about from your work with major labels with major budgets. Have you ever tried going around it and using technology instead?
Hahaha… Yes, I have tried to do that many times. But let me ask you this: Didn’t you jump out of your chair when you listened to my remix of “Cure and the Cause”, or Dimitri’s remix of “The Way You Love Me” – or even “Give It 2 U” by Quentin Harris and Ultra Naté?
When Louie and Kenny used Gene Perez on electric bass for the first time, or when George Benson played on “You Can Do It Babe”, didn’t the House Music world drop to their knees?
If you were touched by all of those, it’s because live musicians or orchestras have made such a dynamic difference. Our ears are so used to keyboard sounds and samples since House Music came to the scene, but it does not matter how good the music or arrangements are – there is no doubt that certain real elements (when well played) cannot be replaced. Marshall Jefferson already knew this when he used the piano on “Move Your Body”. It made all the difference, and this was the case also for the whole “mega-production” on “That’s The Way Love Is” for Ten City. It changed the way we produce nowadays.
The way I understand music did not come from House Music alone, but before that, with Disco and Soul, so it’s natural that once in a while I miss some non-electronic elements to reach the results that I’m looking for.
But I don’t always use musicians. I use what the piece of music asks from me, and each case has different requirements. The advantage I have is that I live and normally record in Brazil and budget my tracks in euros or pounds, so ventures like that become possible when I convert the budgets to Brazil’s local currency.
I’m always fascinated by producers who work for mainstream artists. How do you approach remixing a commercial song? What considerations do you have when executing that as opposed to doing just a regular old remix?
When you remix for dance artists, you think of the dance floor. It is there you want your remix to be played, and it is for that reason they hire you.
In the case of major labels and artists, they do want an approach to the dance floor, but deep inside they think of the results they will have on the RADIO, ’cause that’s their environment. That’s where the difference is. Look what happened with Black Eyed Peas when they collaborated with Guetta. It obviously hit the dance floors, but the radio appeal was there from the beginning. This was also the case with Shabba Ranks with “Mr. Loverman” in the ’90s: it received treatment from David Morales, but it ended up exploding worldwide because of the solid execution on the radio. That remix is a good example of what I am saying. The same happened with Whitney Houston in “It’s Not Right, But It’s OK”. It is only a disguise to “look” cool and say “it came from the dance floor”, but at the end of the day, the preliminary target is the RADIO.
Besides being a DJ at night, I also worked for radio stations during the day between ’85 and ’94. This gave me a pop music vision that made it easy for me to understand mainstream artists and their needs. I won a few awards in Brazil for bringing mainstream artists to the dance floors, and then back to radio. It’s amazing to listen to your music 24 hours a day, everywhere you go.
You’ve reached superstar status and yet you are incredibly accessible. How does that happen considering your touring and production schedule is ridiculously hectic?
Well, besides any other reason, I come from a time when DJing did not mean or have any glamour, money or champagne on ice, so back then I understood we were not rock idols, even though today we are compared to them.
I became interested in this career because I like music and I like showing it to people, to the point of making them dance. If I meet someone with the same interests, I feel like talking further, ’cause you may find out a lot of precious things in a good conversation and it doesn’t matter if it is a conversation with an idol or a fan. Fortunately today we have these social networks to help us to promote our work, and also to know what people are thinking and saying about it.
I am not stupid enough to enclose myself in a shell and lose the opportunity to be in contact with people that like my work and those that have become fans. Of course there are people out there that don’t like my work enough to add a beneficent opinion. BUT… after all this time… at the end of the day, I can recognise and filter the wankers and freeloaders!
To me Frankie Knuckles’ song “The Ones You Love” was one of the highlights of the last couple of years, and I was excited to see you remix the song!
Aaaw, that’s nice of you. Thanks!
You’re right, Czarina… this song is beautiful, it is beyond my comprehension why it was not noticed the first time it came around. It has to be just a matter of bad timing. In reality this song has a beauty in itself. I did very little with it. I changed the beat and re-edited the bass line using its original line, and I changed a little bit of the structure. I kept a lot of the original arrangements, out of respect and because I liked it the way it was. It’s a masterpiece!!!
Many people feel that as people are getting older, Soulful House will soon pass. I personally refuse to believe that, but the numbers aren’t always looking good. What is your feeling about this?
I believe this prediction is right, but only if the songs are not capable of crossing over into the mainstream anymore. House Music, in any form is for sure underground – and please notice that I love and respect that, ’cause that’s where my roots are tied.
But remember what kept it alive for a long time were songs that reached a much higher number of people – songs such as “Gypsy Woman”, KOT’s “Finally”, EBTG’s “Missing” remix, “Most Precious Love” and the recent “Hey Hey”.
I have seen a lot of people abandoning their positions as Soulful House music producers to worry about showing the world they are as underground as possible. In reality they are not: they’re there just to dig a little spot on Beatport along with Tiesto or Richie Hawtin.
I want to take this opportunity to remind you all that giving up on the tracks that make people sing will only help this prediction come true. It is up to the old generation not to be intimidated with the growth of other genres and continue creating songs the same way as was done before, even if you have to change your beats. Because that’s not the problem. The success is not in the drum programming, it’s in the quality of a song that can be remembered the next day.
Hits are needed to keep a certain music segment in the market. With those hits, you call the attention of big crowds, and spread a genre’s name everywhere. And by doing that a new generation keeps the music alive. When you listen to Cee-lo Green or Amy Winehouse and enjoy them, you quickly end up interested in soul music from the ’60s or ’70s because of the similar sound, and that is what keeps music from that time alive and selling. So long as there are hits, there will still be hope for all the Soulful House music jedis!
Will you be in Miami this year? What is 2011 looking like for DJ Meme?
I’m there every year, since 1995, this year I’ll be there as of March 9th. I can’t complain about 2011. The year started very well with the compilation by Defected being so well received, including my remix for “The Ones You Love” that reached #1 on Traxsource. There is also the release of my next single with DJ Meme Orchestra, “Love Is You”, featuring our dear Fish Go Deep’s Tracey K on vocals. All of that in only 3 months! There is a tour already scheduled for the summer, and another brand new song to be released in that same season. That being said, I am already planning for 2012!