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I've Been Remixed!

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I've Been Remixed!

Digital Life

I've Been Remixed!

I've Been Remixed!

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Contributor David Was used to be half of a band called Was Not Was. They had a club hit in 1979 called "Wheel Me Out," and it has now been remixed into a big hit in England. David Was explains what a remix is, how it's done, and how it feels to have your work run through a technological blender.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Now to contributing writer David Was with a personal tale that he calls I Was Remixed.

DAVID WAS:

In 1980, an old school chum of mine from Detroit called me in California and said he was about to rob a dry cleaner's if I didn't return immediately and cut a couple of records with him, as we did avocationally through high school. I decided to save him from a life of crime, and we did indeed record two funky dance singles, one of which was called "Wheel Me Out" featuring my mother on lead vocals.

(Soundbite of "Wheel Me Out")

Ms. LIZ WEISS: You did it to me, and I'm next.

WAS: I wrote the lyrics and played sax. My partner Don Was, future Grammy-winning producer, did all the rest.

(Soundbite of "Wheel Me Out")

WAS: Lo and behold, we were signed to Island Records right out of the box. "Wheel Me Out" caught on with the dance deejays in London and New York, and we were on our way to worldwide obscurity and near minimum wage. We called ourselves Was (Not Was), spelled W-A-S, which we also took as our nom de plume.

(Soundbite of "Wheel Me Out")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) You ...(unintelligible) and I'm next.

Ms. WEISS: And I'm next. You--you did it--you did it.

WAS: A quarter century later, after a bit of luck on the pop charts here and abroad, we got a call from our music publisher in London. He said a deejay record producer named Eric Prydz wanted to remix our old groove. We agreed immediately, especially as we would retain 100 percent of the new copyright. And, oh, yes, the publisher wanted to know, Eric would like to rename the new track "W-O-Z not W-O-Z," "Woz not Woz," if we didn't object. `Sure,' I said, `I don't care if he names it "The Woz Brothers Are Has-Beens."' What the heck.

(Soundbite of "Woz not Woz")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible)...

WAS: Basically, all the good Mr. Prydz did was sample a few four-bar segments of the original...

(Soundbite of "Woz not Woz")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible)...

WAS: ...and start overlaying it with new beats, sending the signal through filters and compressors and digital delays.

(Soundbite of "Woz not Woz")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible)...

WAS: It's the modern-day version of how bluesmen used to embellish each other's material. Even Duke Ellington did it. Reportedly, Duke would keep a keen ear on his soloists as they played, then use their spontaneous improvisations as the kernel for a new song. He'd slip them a hundred for a composition that might wind up being a standard.

(Soundbite of instrumental jazz)

WAS: Well, like all good fairy tales, this one has a happy ending. Eric Prydz is now a household name on the dance charts in Europe, having had two smash singles last summer, one a revamp of an old Stevie Winwood hit and the other the aforementioned "Wheel Me Out," now known as "Woz not Woz." If you Google the new spelling and not our band name, you'll find a million different remixes, and you can even download the song as a polyphonic ringtone. Who knew?

(Soundbite of "Woz not Woz")

WAS: And now my good friend Mr. Prydz has added a new lyric to the remix track. He's putting it out on his new album that'll probably sell a million copies or more. And, yes, he wants a better deal now that he's the big man and I'm the mere senior citizen who wrote the original track. I told my publishers to give him what he wants and keep an eye out for my new self-help guide, "How to Have a Hit Record While Playing Golf in Maui."

CHADWICK: Musician and DAY TO DAY contributor David Was.

(Soundbite of "Woz not Woz")

Unidentified Woman: ...(Unintelligible)...

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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