Mousse T. is a legendary dance music producer whose hits back in the 90s paved the way for a three-decade – and counting – career in remixing and production.
It has taken him everywhere from the top of the charts to Eurovision, and co-writing a Tom Jones smash to being a judge on the German version of Pop Idol. Here he gives us a couple of lessons in remixing, three decades apart…
“I have these tracks that I would love to share some insight with you about. One is from 1996 – Quincy Jones’ Stomp! The other one is a Norman Doray track, Tell The World, featuring Sneaky Sound System that I did more recently. So you have two sides of my philosophy which hasn’t changed much. Basically I’m using modern techniques but I still love the analogue side of things which is a part of my sound – the analogue warmth and dirt is very vital to my music.”
How Mousse T. made his Quincy Jones remix, Stomp!
“Back in the 90s, I was able to remix this little beauty, Stomp! by Quincy Jones. Oh. My. God! For me as a remixer, this was like getting a request to remix the greatest music producer of all time. I think I fainted! It was really, really cool.
“You’ll probably already know the original track Stomp! by The Brothers Johnson and that was originally produced by Quincy Jones, written by Rod Temperton and The Brothers Johnson.
"They had a crazy cast of musicians with Rod Temperton on keyboard and with backing vocalists including, I think, Michael Jackson. So Quincy Jones originally produced it but he did a project in ’96 where he took his favourite records and did them in a new way.
And as Mousse explains, he got the gig to remix this remix, but little did he know what he would get in terms of the original material. It turned out it was a gold mine!
“First of all, Quincy sent me four of these two-inch multitrack 24-track tapes. Crazy! So you needed a tape machine for them. It was 24 tracks times four, so 96 tracks, and he had some crazy stuff on there: crazy music, crazy sessions and musicians, and for me as a remixer, obviously that is gold. He had an all-star cast on there like Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Charlie Wilson from The Gap Band, Melle Mel… I mean crazy stuff!
“With all this music I was in heaven and what I did back then in ‘96 was sample all the music which I wanted to use, which was mainly the vocals – all the backing vocals by Chaka Khan and Charlie Wilson and so on – and sampled them into the Akai S1000, S1100 and I think I had the S3000 back then too.
"I used three or four of them for all the audio. I was using timestretching and then using some for beats. Back then it was a lot of hard work, but you had really creative ideas because you didn’t have all the possibilities you have now with a DAW.”
In the video above, Mousse T. reveals how he ended up doing several mixes of the Quincy Jones rework.
“My remix philosophy is that I take the most beautiful elements of a track and just mould something new out of it, hence all the mixes. Sometimes I can’t decide and just do more mixes. Here I had Charlie Wilson and Chaka Khan and, as you can tell, it really triggers me. I really love great vocals and if you give me a great vocal you can do anything and that is actually how I work.”
So enthused was Mousse by these original vocals that he ended up doing (at least!) three remixes of Stomp!.
“One has a groovy mid-tempo vibe – a real soul/funk kind of vibe. I did my own bass, my own keyboards, recorded some horns for it… The differences between this and the original are that the verses are not sung by The Brothers Johnson, but are done by hip-hop artists like Coolio and Melle Mel. The bridge went a bit more musical and then the chorus is like the original. Then it becomes a kind of improv section towards the end of the track.”
Mousse then runs through a second hip-hop remix before detailing a third remix which turned out to be his favourite mix ever!
“It has a very subtle name: Mousse T’s Ultimate Stomper. It’s uptempo and house-y and all of the beats were recorded with this [Akai] along with some live percussion. I had Chaka Khan’s vocals in all of the samplers which I could then cut up and have on all my keys and play them.
"That’s how we did it back then. I also used a Nord Lead sound and cut up the bass I recorded for the mid-tempo mix and put that on my keys too. It has a live feel about it and is still very groovy.
“This remix goes away from the original vibe of Stomp! but it is still very soulful, has a nice piano and works around Chaka Khan and Charlie’s ad libs. It’s beautiful, you know, it has some nice elements of Stomp! but is almost like a new composition. And even though it was done in ’96, this track still works today. Play it and see!”
How Mousse T. remixed Tell The World by Sneaky Sound System
“The next track is more recent, Tell The World featuring the beautiful Sneaky Sound System from Australia,” Mousse tells us before admitting that he lost all the data for this mix in a hard drive crash. “Tip number 1, save your stuff,” he laughs.
Onto the track and Mousse explains, “I got the remix parts and I really like the vocals. Then I heard this vocal sample and it really triggered me. I thought ‘this is like the ‘argh!’ in Robin S’ [ubiquitous 1993 track] Show Me Love’.”
Mousse then explains how he put this together using the Spire softsynth which then inspired a keys line using the classic Pro-53 synth by Native Instruments (which required bridging into the latest Logic by way of DDMF’s Metaplugin64).
Finally Mousse T. has some words of advice for remixing which also can hold true for music production in general…
“It’s all about the philosophy of how you approach a track. Don’t have too much of a formula. It’s great if you have your signature sounds that you always like to use, but always be open. And let yourself be triggered by great vocals or audio. This is basically how I work, you know?
“I have my setup but I almost approach every production and remix I do as if it’s my first one; really starting from scratch with all of my sounds. And again, you can cut up sounds and put them in a sampler to replay stuff in your own style or come up with some or all original key or basslines.
“And finally try to combine digital and analogue sounds – it’s beautiful. It does something to your sound, adding a kind of esoteric movement which you almost can’t describe in words.”