Name: Dominik Felsmann and Patrick Tiley aka Felsmann + Tiley
Occupation: Producers, composers, remixers
Nationality: German + British
Current release: Felsmann + Tiley's remix of Moby's "Extreme Ways" is out via Deutsche Grammophon. It is part of a larger remix collection of Mobys Reprise album, which further includes Bambounou, Ansifa Letyago, Topic, Efdemin, Max Cooper, and Peter Gregson, among others. Preorder it directly from Deutsche Grammophon.

[Read our Moby interview]
[Read our Topic interview]
[Read our Max Cooper interview]
[Read our Peter Gregson interview]
[Read our Bambounou interview]

If you enjoyed this interview with Felsmann + Tiley and would like to know more about the duo, drop by their official website. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.

Many people, even artists, consider remixes a waste of time. From your perspective, what does remix culture add?

For us, a remix is an asynchronous response to an original statement and therefore part of a conversation. Just like there are pointless original tracks, there are pointless remixes. But you can’t blame the format itself for that.

What you might be pointing at with the “waste of time” statement is a situation where the original artist feels obliged to talk remixes and the remix artist reluctantly accepts the invitation. And that’s probably not going to be a fun conversation.

When you’re inspired by a track by someone else, there are legal limits of how much of that you can borrow for your own songs. Remixes or covers are like a playground where you get to play with other people’s toys. It’s supposed to be a fun alternative to working just on your own originals or collaborations.

It’s also a great way for keeping great originals alive or re-surfacing long-forgotten tracks.

So we definitely think “remix culture” and her little brother “sampling culture” are important pillars of music.

This particular project by Moby highlights the liquid borders between different approaches: Re-Interpretation, cover version, remix, and others. For you personally, how do you differentiate between a collaboration done through filesharing and a remix?

With a collaboration, you’re shaping the initial message together, whereas a remix is a separate response that doesn’t need any prior interaction with the original artist.

Other than that, our work is no different for any of the above scenarios. We pick a sequence of ideas of the original that speaks to us and build on it until it starts living a life of its own.

Funkstörung once famously did a remix in which all sounds were created from the bass drum of the original. Other than that, these pieces had nothing in common. What's your own take on the relationship between the original and the remix – are there limits to how far one should go?

Not sure if this is too much of a compliment to the original, but this kind of macro exploration of “what is a remix” is a great idea.

Our take is that a remix should still be a rewarding experience for the listener who is looking for those connections with the original piece. This is why we isolate a small number of signature elements or samples from the original as our starting point in our reinterpretations.

What is a successful remix from your point of view? Tell me about some of your favourite remixes, please.  

Going back to the “conversation” analogy, a remix is good if the remixer adds something interesting to the conversation.

This could be changing up the speed of the track, experimenting with different chords and instruments, re-focusing the original to its core ideas, turning a non-club track into a club track and vice versa and so on. Just parroting what has already been said or changing the topic completely isn’t very helpful in our eyes.

Regarding favourite remixes, this might sound like a cop-out, but we always struggled with these superlative declarations - favourite songs, books, films food etc. It’s all circumstantial, so we don’t keep track.

When it comes to accepting and taking on a remix assignment, do you need to like the original? What did you appreciate about the original in this particular case?

A good setup is actually if you really like a key element, but perhaps not the rest of the track. Because then you instantly have a vision / idea for the remix.

100% loving a track that plays in the same genre as yours is the worst because then the odds are high that you struggle to carve out your own angle. Remixing and loving a track in a different genre is probably the easiest.

Regarding Moby’s “Extreme Ways”, apart from it being an absolute classic, it’s amazing how recognizable that little string riff is, so we made sure to keep that for our Reinterpretation.

Will you usually get a description of which direction your remix should take? Is such a request something you'd object to - or which you'd actually appreciate?

If you’re asked to remix a track, the expectation of the original artist is typically that it’s within the bounds of your usual style and that you’re using some of the original elements, which is fair enough.

But any further restrictions would only kill the remaining creative freedom, so it wouldn’t work for us. Once we have a rough draft we share it with our team and every so often make changes based on that feedback.

How did you approach this particular remix? Tell me about the production process a bit, please.

The idea for the remix was to build on the title and bring in an “extreme” element, which is something we haven’t done with our originals before.

We ran some synths through guitar pedals and amps which created the rough sound that comes in halfway through the track. Once that phrase sounded good we just started stacking melodies, vocals and sounds over it and arranged it all.

It was a fun remix because we probably spent 80% of the time experimenting and trying new sounds and only a short amount of time putting the track together.

What makes this project slightly different is that acoustic instruments were involved. How do you see this concept of combining the worlds of “classical music” and techno in general - and what additional challenges or possibilities does this present in terms of working with the material?

Our music doesn’t have any beats or percussions, we just work with synths and vocals, with some tracks (almost) fitting the neo-classical tag. But we can see the challenge for techno artists. You have to be careful that combining electronic beats and classical elements doesn’t end up sounding forced or cheesy.

Apart from that, we feel genres have blended so much over the last ten, fifteen years that pretty much anything goes and it’s always good to experiment.

Will you sometimes contact the producer/composer of the original to discuss ideas? What does the process look like after you've submitted your piece? How do you deal with requests for changes or rejection?

We’d find that probably too restrictive, because half the fun is to just go and do your thing. If the artist or label requests a change, then we treat that like any other feedback, they might well have a valid point. If it gets rejected altogether, then we curl up in fetal position, cry a little, and move on.

You get used to rejection, but it’s admittedly painful because making music is quite intimate and linked to you as person.

Do you think a remix can reveal something about the original that maybe even the producer/composer did not realise?

Of course, that is probably the definition of a great remix when receiving one. You want to be surprised when you listen to it for the first time.

We have received quite a few remixes for our various projects over the years and whenever that happens, it’s a very strange and exciting feeling.

Vice versa, has a remix ever given you inspiration and creative sparks that influenced your own work?

We get our inspiration and creative sparks from the process of producing and listening to music. So remixes and remixing have definitely sparked some ideas that have later made into our own productions.

One of the great benefits of remixing is that you’re still working on someone else’s track. That comes with a bit more freedom and less self-doubt - which often leads to more radical creative decisions.

With an album remix project, you typically won't know what the other remixers will contribute. In this case, how do you feel about the finished remix album as a whole?

We haven’t heard it yet but look forward to it!