LA’s finest noisy punk maestros, HEALTH, have culled quite a cult following through both their original music and their excellently curated DISCO remix series. When not melting ears, the three piece dedicates a serious amount of energy into re-framing their works through the eyes of other artists. The results are a testament to what a good remix can be: a conversation with, and re-definition of, the original.
We spoke with the group to discuss the generation of the project. In honor of DISCO3‘s release, we had the band pick some of their favorites from the three disc set and break down the stories behind them. —Will Schube
I. “Triceratops (Acid Girl Remix A)”
Acid Girls takes two cracks at “Triceratops.” Why did you decide to let them remix the same song twice? What do you prefer about the first one?
HEALTH:Acid Girls just sent us two, and both were great, so why not?
This is from the first HEALTH remix album. How did the idea initially come about?
HEALTH:After receiving pure gold with our first ever remix (Crystal Castles, “Crimewave”), we got excited about getting more. Also, the mid aughts/Myspace era was a rich time for music blogs and there was tons of excitement for remixes, which bizarrely were nearly always pretty damn good. We kept noticing we had great remixes of all these terrible bands in iTunes, so if it was working for them why not us? Eventually we had so many good ones, and we were still on tour so we felt we could make a legitimately good record with them.
Do you ever encounter a remix that you prefer to your original?
HEALTH: Yes. This one!
This remix is a four on the floor, brutalist, dancefloor death march. What qualities did you find in Acid Girl to make them seem like the right fit for the remix project?
HEALTH:We are just fans, a remix album is like a box of chocolates…
II. “HEALTH vs. Crystal Castles”
I love how “Crime Wave” serves as a single for both you guys and Crystal Castles. How did that idea come about?
HEALTH:We were big fans of Castles from the moment we heard them on the blog 20jazzfunkgreats. I heard their remix of DFA79 which would later get renamed “Untrust Us” and was pretty blown away. So we messaged them asking to do a split or a remix, they opted for both.
Can you break down the songwriting process for “Crime Wave?” Was it collaborative with Castles?
HEALTH:No collaboration, really. We sent them the earliest recording of “Crimewave” we had and he sent us back pure gold.
How did these two bands become collaborators?
III. “Lost Time (Pictureplane Rmx)”
I love this remix. What about Pictureplane’s music do you most enjoy?
HEALTH:We’ve always loved Pictureplane’s music ever since he gave us a CD-R after we played together at the DIY venue RHINOCEROPOLIS. We passed it on to our label at the time LOVEPUMP UNITED, so we take full credit in ‘discovering’ him.
He has a really cool approach to dance music. Were you anticipating he’d make this track as dance-y as it is?
HEALTH:We had no clue. But it’s good doe!
Travis appears on both Disco and Disco2. Did you ask him to do anything differently the second time around?
HEALTH:No direction. Actually, we rejected the first remix he did, and so instead we put the vocal over this track, which originally was a demo Pictureplane had made for us to do a possible collaboration together.
IV. “Before Tigers (CFCF Rmx)”
There are four “Before Tigers” remixes on Disco2. Why is the CFCF one a particular favorite?
HEALTH:This one is so great. It feels like its own song that could soundtrack some movie with the two romantic leads meeting at night for the first time on a beach at night, only lit by bonfire…or some shit like that. Man, it’s good.
Did the artists know other artists would be tackling the same song? Did you ever consider overlap?
HEALTH:Nope. We never cared about overlap, if it’s good it’s good.
This remix is almost unrecognizable as a HEALTH song, which I’m sure you guys love. Is that always the case with these really out there remixes? Do you enjoy your music in an entirely different light?
HEALTH:Yes we love it. No rules, and this one is just…sublime.
V. “Nice Girls (Little Loud Rmx)”
Little Loud is a bit hard to track down on the internet. How did you come into contact with the project?
HEALTH:Little Loud changed his name to Tourist, who, you’ve heard of I’m sure (funny enough he had a different name when we originally contacted him and right before release he changed it to Little Loud, we sent an email begging him to not to choose that name ‘cuz we thought it sounded too cute for his music).
What’s the general process like for deciding A.) which acts to include and reach out to and B.) which artists tackle which songs?
HEALTH:Finding artists we like, hearing their music, and using our imagination to try and pick the best song for them, then cross your fingers.
VI. “Before Tigers (Blindfoldfreak Remix)”
This is almost a minimalist, ambient piece. It’s really, really beautiful. Blindfoldfreak is another relatively hidden artist. How did you first encounter his music and what made you think it’d be right for a remix?
HEALTH:Blindoldfreak is a project by Allessandro Cortini. In addition to his myriad solo work, he is the resident modular synth master in Nine Inch Nails. We met him when we were on tour with them, so of course we were honored to have him tackle this song.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in comparing this remix to the CFCF remix.
HEALTH:Having two remixes that are based around the same vocal melody end up so distinctive is pretty fascinating. It really demonstrates how extrapolating on few elements from one of our songs becomes a new musical statement that is completely dependent on the creative tastes of another artist.
Are you fans of ambient and minimalist music? If so, can you point to some favorites?
HEALTH:We wouldn’t call ourselves an authority, but we have a deep and abiding love of artists such as Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, William Basinski, Richard James, etc.
VII. “Victim (Born In Flames Rmx)”
This is the band’s first pick from the new remix album. Were there any reservations about doing a third remix record?
HEALTH:Yes. The current climate now is very different and the music blog itself and its culture is a distant memory. So the environment that birthed a HEALTH DISCO doesn’t exist anymore.
Disco3 includes some original music from the band, including the previously unreleased “Victim II.” What went into the decision to include unreleased music by HEALTH?
HEALTH:With DISCO2 we opened with an original new single, which fans loved, we were working on an EP and concurrently trying to make DISCO3 with mixed results so we figured why not combine them?
Have you ever considered/have you performed any of the remixes in a live setting?
HEALTH:We’ve never performed any but we’ve though about it.
This remix album is significantly shorter than the first two. Why?
HEALTH:There actually is a “2nd disc” to DISCO3 called DISCO3+ (previous disco albums also had “bonus” discs stored as Data portions on the CD), which has a separate release date. In the age of streaming it’s a big no no to have too many tracks on a record, especially a deluge of remixes, so we split them up.
VIII. “Dark Enough (Vessel Rmx)”
How do you sequence the remix albums? Is there a flow you’re trying to achieve?
HEALTH:Yes. The challenge is making these listenable and feel like a real album, they’re sequenced out of necessity, it’s hard to make certain songs follow others.
The last three picks here are the last three tracks on Disco3. Why are these the tracks at the end of the record?
HEALTH:We knew we wanted to close with the Purity Ring Remix, and the one-two high-powered nonsense punch of the Roly Porter remix into Marcus Whale’s was gonna be hard to place, so that’s how we had to do it.
Vessel is a really cool, young musician. Do you take pride in maybe introducing unknown artists to HEALTH fans?
HEALTH:Oh, most definitely.
IV. “Life (Purity Ring Rmx)”
This is probably the most popular act you got to remix a song. Is it ever difficult to procure higher level acts?
HEALTH:Yes, and in our experience not worth it.
Are you ever nervous that more popular acts won’t take the same risks more unknown artists with less to lose would take?
HEALTH:Our biggest fear is that a big producer/artist most of the time will throw your vocal on some random shit they have lying around…It’s happened before, and it doesn’t make a great addition to our remix records.