Exclusive Premiere: Depeche Mode "Heaven" Justin Warfield Remix—Plus Interview

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Exclusive Premiere: Depeche Mode "Heaven" Justin Warfield Remix—Plus Interview

Meet Justin Warfield, a musician slash producer slash vocalist from San Fernando Valley, currently residing someplace east of Hollywood—not "East Hollywood," though. If the name rings bell you're probably right as Warfield's musical credits run deep, working with a wide swath of talent (Chemical Brothers, The Freestylers, Bomb The Bass, The Crystal Method, Placebo, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Nico Vega and Timbaland to name a few), most notably as one half of She Wants Revenge alongside Adam Bravin.

That was then and this new Justin Warfield remix of "Heaven" by Depeche Mode is now. So right now that we're premiering it for you here today. Even better... you can download it for free.

Not to sound pretentious, but you really cant overstate Depeche Modes impact on teens in the 80s.

So you've got a bit of history with Depeche Mode, can you talk a little about what they mean to you and how that played into your creative process when remixing “Heaven.”

Growing up in the Valley with house parties and KROQ providing the soundtrack to my teens, Depeche Mode was a staple; ever-present and seemingly always around. You could count on the songs coming on at the school dance, on that drive over the hill or to provide the score to those key moments of your life. Not to sound pretentious, but you really can't overstate their impact on teens in the '80s. Were I to have been a few years older I'm sure I would have heard the songs in the clubs and that would have given it an additional layer, but as it stands, the closest I came was "Master And Servant" and "People Are People" playing at a middle school dance.

Later in life I was fortunate enough to become friends with Dave, Martin and Fletch and hang out with them socially while my friend Tim Simenon was producing their album, Ultra. It turns out that they were also fans of the album I'd just done with my old band, One Inch Punch (which Tim had executive produced), and they asked me to remix their single, "Barrel Of A Gun." This was such a huge opportunity and just really blew my mind. It came out on a CD single (to date things), and was a big moment for me. Putting up the 2" reel and hearing Dave's signature baritone and Martin's instrumentation was unreal, like watching an episode of Classic Albums. They ended up loving the remix I did and that started the friendship.

Exclusive Premiere: Depeche Mode "Heaven" Justin Warfield Remix—Plus Interview

I spent some time with Dave and Martin socially after that, and then it wasn't until over a decade later that I would reconnect with them in a chance meeting when I just happened to bump into Martin in a club in Los Angeles with my then bandmate, DJ Adam 12. We'd just finished the first She Wants Revenge album and there is NO bigger DM fan than Adam, so I introduced them and we hung out and caught up. He told me all about their new album, Playing The Angel and that they were about to hit the road, I told him about our new group and how I thought he would really dig it. Adam ran out and grabbed the CD from the car and I handed it to Martin saying, "You guys influenced this in a profound way, and if ever the opportunity arises for us to open up for you guys, it would be a dream come true." A few months later we were opening up for a band who along with MJ, Madonna, Prince and the Beastie Boys formed the nucleus of our childhood musical vocabulary. Sure there were other more obscure groups whose songs and personas shaped us just as much, if not more, but those are the big 5, and to have them open up their traveling home to us the way they did on tour was life-changing.

Skipping forward, my publisher told me there was an opportunity to remix the new single, "Heaven," so needless to say I took a stab at it. When I sat down and listened to the track the first thing that came to mind was stripping everything away and building a classic DM dance track as a bed, and at a certain point I realized that I actually had a bunch of Drumulator, Fairlight and Synclavier sounds in a library, and wouldn't it be fun to bring back some of those classic sounds that conjure up the nostalgia and sonic bits and bobs of 80's Depeche Mode. From that point on it was only a matter of how retro to take it without making it kitschy, so I tried to make the song a very hard but warm sounding dance track which could bang in a club in a modern way, and kept the throwback sounds strictly for the transitions and outro. The challenge was making it move, as the tempo is way below what constitutes a modern club track, but I feel like I was able to do that.

When I was done I immediately called Martin and told him I had something for him to hear, and when he wrote back that he loved it… I was so stoked. You want the artist you remix to love what you did, and that's not always the case, so when it is appreciated by someone who's a hero of yours, then it's just that much sweeter. He was especially impressed that I was able to make it dancey without changing the tempo, so that was great to hear coming form one of the pioneers of electronic dance music.

Production is truly my first instrument and my most natural talent; song structure, lyrics, melody, rhythm, working with the artist, the palette of sounds, that’s my shit. I love the studio.

We're curious about musical phases, can you walk us through yours?

Haha. Ok. school yearbook…
• DJ at house parties in my neighborhood and occasional Hollywood teen clubs
• Rapper/Producer (Justin Warfield solo album)
• Singer in a confused but endearing classic rock/grunge band (Supernaut)
• Singer/Producer of a very forward thinking, possibly ahead of it's time indie-rock/beats/rhymes band (One Inch Punch)
• Singer of Los Angeles garage-gaze band (Tape)
• Singer/Producer of She Wants Revenge
• Return to hip-hop through producing various MC's, making beats every day and putting my foot back in hip-hop
• Full-time record producer
• Secret projects coming

Lets talk skills, were you born with yours?

I wasn't born with any ability to play an instrument, though I could always keep time on drums and had a photographic memory for lyrics and melody. I started on turntables and drum machines and as a rapper when I was 14, and from there picked up a guitar and bass. I still don't really consider myself a guitar player though I'm proficient enough for rock and roll. Remixing comes naturally, though I am rarely satisfied with my remixes. I'm my own worst critic when it comes to those. The good ones usually come easy or are just exercises in experimentation, and when it's labored it sometimes sounds that way. Production is truly my first instrument and my most natural talent; song structure, lyrics, melody, rhythm, working with the artist, the palette of sounds, that's my shit. I love the studio.

Is there any mentor you owe “big time" for helping you out?

Yes, several. Kevin Hicks (Los Angeles rapper, formerly of the group, Mannish), Goffrey Moore (early bandmate and musical mentor), Jack Waterson (gear guru who owns Future Music in Highland Park), QD3, Quincy Jones, Tim Simenon and Atticus Ross. Each for very different reasons, but without whom I wouldn't be who I am today as an artist. I feel like I'm forgetting someone, not sure who though.

Do you have a moment in life that changed the course of, or defined, your music aesthetic / philosophy?

The first two things that immediately pop into my head are when I first bought the cassette of Follow The Leader by Eric B. & Rakim and when I first heard My Bloody Valentine (see this blog post for that story).

Discuss a musician or an era that has influenced you as a producer/remixer.

Rick Rubin, Flood and the 140db guys, Daniel Miller, early Dre, Andrew Weatherall, The Bomb Squad, Native Tongues, Beastie Boys and Mario Caldato, Jon Brion, Tim Simenon, Nellee Hooper, Allen Moulder, Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, John Hughes movies, Steely Dan, and more recently, Kanye, Just Blaze, and Benny Blanco. Of newer guys I really like Epworth, Diplo, Jason Lader, John Hill and Dave Sitek.

Are there any producers or remixers right now that you find interesting?

Flume, Christian Rich, Battleroy, Cook Classics, Ludwig Goransson, Ryan Hemsworth, Disclosure, Oliver, Grandtheft, Aeroplane, Duke Dumont, Hippie Sabotage and Friendzone.

I dont sit down to write or create based on a feeling or incident or to get something off my chest…when I want that I talk to someone...

Can you tell us about the hierarchy of skill (craftsmanship), style (your unique aesthetic) and emotive content in your work?

If I am understanding the question correctly then this is very interesting because it is something I think about and discuss often with friends. I start with the inspiration, then move into craftsmanship and style, and eventually the emotion comes. I don't sit down to write or create based on a feeling or incident or to get something off my chest…when I want that I talk to someone or go jogging…however, sometimes the impetus may be some subconscious emotion, but more often than not it's a sound or part that elicits and emotion that unlocks the key to the song and everything seems to fall into place from there.

If you were starting out now as a musician and/or producer/DJ, would you do anything differently?

Put out more music and don't hoard or obsess, just get it the fuck out there and let it live.

What do you think has been the secret to your success?

A life-threatening work ethic, instincts, good fortune (karma?), the kindness of others and without sounding like a prick, I actually think that I'm pretty good at what I do. God knows I put in the time…

Exclusive Premiere: Depeche Mode "Heaven" Justin Warfield Remix—Plus Interview

Style can be changed, as evidenced by my musical output over the past 22 years, but character forms everything and should never change.

Does character invent musical style or does style invent character?

Style can be changed, as evidenced by my musical output over the past 22 years, but character forms everything and should never change.

What life activities do you think are made better when listening to music?

Washing the dishes, driving, very little else.

If you visualize music as your listen, what (generally) do you imagine?

Wholly dependent on the music.

Is there an artist whose album artwork consistently inspires you?

My Bloody Valentine, Beastie Boys, Morrissey, Belle And Sebastian, Pulp, Oasis, Placebo, Verve, Primal Scream, 4ad, Kanye, Jazz records from the early '70s, hip-hop album covers from '88-'92, Jesus And Mary Chain.

What value do you place on studio environment as a creative springboard?

Nearly everything.

…for a kid from the 80s, sharing the stage with the Psychedelic Furs, Peter Murphy, Depeche Mode, Echo And The Bunnymen and The Cure sure doesnt suck.

Talk about a “classic” memory of touring in She Wants Revenge; What city, story, or unique experience stands out to you?

There's so many. It was one of the greatest times of my life. I made music for fun with my best friend, someone liked it and believed in it, we made an album, we started playing shows, I met my wife, fell in love, toured the world with my best friends playing for thousands and thousands of appreciative fans, supported myself through music, collaborated with great artists, shared stages with heroes, had a son, put out 3 albums, 2 EPs, remixes and a slew of b-sides which I still believe in. But to answer the question, I will just say this…for a kid from the '80s, sharing the stage with the Psychedelic Furs, Peter Murphy, Depeche Mode, Echo And The Bunnymen and The Cure sure doesn't suck.

Exclusive Premiere: Depeche Mode "Heaven" Justin Warfield Remix—Plus Interview
Exclusive Premiere: Depeche Mode "Heaven" Justin Warfield Remix—Plus Interview
Exclusive Premiere: Depeche Mode "Heaven" Justin Warfield Remix—Plus Interview

Outside of collaborative efforts, do you discuss or exchange ideas with other writer/producers?

Constantly.

What’s the biggest misconception about being a producer/DJ?

I couldn't tell you, though Technics 1200's were my first instrument in 1988 I am not of the producer/DJ generation. This month I will be 40 years old and no offense to those who do it so well and who live it in the clubs, traveling the world, busting their ass and creating music; I'm a different kind of producer. I'm a studio rat, engineer/recordist, and I produce music much more like a traditional producer from the '60s and '70s. Though I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way some kids are pushing music forward with creativity and risk taking, I'm not a laptop baby. I don't just make tracks or remix, I am a hands on, roll-up-your-sleeves record producer. I aspire to have a body of work like those I mentioned earlier.

How much of an artist’s importance and relevance comes from their ability to sense what’s gong to happen next before the rest of the population?

I think one can be a great artist and ahead of the curve but I don't think you have to do both, HOWEVER, those who do are the tastemakers that shape popular culture, and regardless of what anyone says, no one does that better than Kanye. Nevermind who is in the room when he does it, who does what, who blogs for him, who writes with or for him, who shops for him, who dresses him or anything else…he changes the sound of popular music with every offering and I truly admire what he does.

Exclusive Premiere: Depeche Mode "Heaven" Justin Warfield Remix—Plus Interview

With all the talk about electronic music, where it’s been, where it’s going…what should everyone shut the fuck up about?

I don't know, labels beget hyphenates and things get so niche that it's nearly Portlandia, but good dance music thrives. I'm by no means an expert and I don't get too deep, but right now I feel like Oliver is on fire, and I look to people like Destructo, Mad Decent and Fools Gold to see what's up.

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