NEW YORK (Billboard) - This year marks a decade since Grammy organizers started recognizing remixers with dedicated awards. House music legend Frankie Knuckles won the first remixer of the year, non-classical trophy in 1998.
Other well-deserving dance/electronic heroes like David Morales, Hex Hector and Louie Vega took subsequent honors. But not once throughout those 10 years has an award gone to a remix of a track not originally recorded by a major pop artist.
And with four of this year’s five nominees in the best remixed recording, non-classical category (the name changed in 2002) on major labels, it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.
The UK production outfits StoneBridge and Moto Blanco snagged nominations for originals by Ne-Yo (“Closer”) and Mary J. Blige (“Just Fine”), respectively. The Los Angeles electro-dance specialist Junkie XL got recognized for Madonna (“4 Minutes”). And flavor of the year Justice remixed the hipster duo MGMT (“Electric Feel”) for the nod.
“I do think the original artist does weigh heavily in the nominators’ decision,” says Jason Bentley, music director for noncommercial Los Angeles radio station KCRW-FM and host of its “Morning Becomes Eclectic” program.
“That may have had something to do with the Public Enemy win (for remixer Benny Benassi) last year. I feel like people were rooting for Public Enemy.”
Even from 1998 to 2001, when the Recording Academy was recognizing bodies of work rather than individual tracks, original artists played a factor: Knuckles won the year he remixed Janet Jackson, Toni Braxton and Lisa Stansfield. But this year’s lone indie nominee just might be potent enough to reverse the years-old trend. The nod went to Morgan Page’s “The Longest Road” on Nettwerk, as remixed by the biggest story in dance this year, the underground upstart Deadmau5.
“This is probably my biggest achievement to date, and it totally took me by surprise,” says Deadmau5, a.k.a. 27-year-old DJ/producer Joel Zimmerman. Since bursting onto the scene in 2006, Zimmerman has extended his juggernaut brand from production to remixing to touring. He’s now one of the hottest properties on the international nightclub circuit. “Deadmau5 has been a phenomenon over the past two years in the club scene,” says Bentley, “and it would be completely fitting if he won because he is just everywhere.”
It also fits that Zimmerman, who plans to attend the ceremony, has a different philosophy on remixing — one more focused on the remixer himself.
“In the past, remixing has always seemed like just throwing a kick on something or speeding it up with some cuts here and there,” he says. “But I guess as time went on, (it became) less about editing and more about creating.”