The Music Industry's Remix Champion on Grammy Nom & Crazy SXSW Collab
André Allen Anjos of indie-electronic project RAC is no stranger to collaboration or interactive technology. He's one of the go-to remixers in the music industry, and much of his collaborating is done entirely through the internet. So for SXSW, he not only delivered a killer set, but helped to create an activation that allowed for strangers and non-musicians alike to collaborate through interactive technology. But before we get to that... let's catch up with RAC.
RAC, which comes from 'Remix Artist Collective,' is an indie-electronic project started by André Allen Anjos, who's originally from Porto, Portugal. André launched the RAC project in Greenville, Illinois around January 2007. Since then, RAC has released hundreds of remixes for artists including The Shins, Lana Del Rey, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Edward Sharpe, Two Door Cinema Club, Kings of Leon, Phoenix, Washed Out and Foster the People.
"I have to like the song and I have to feel like I can do something interesting with it... I've always thought of it as a service in a way on the industry side. But there’s the creative side, and that’s really where I get to do whatever I want. I feel like I’ve tricked a bunch of people to pay me to be creative to do whatever I want. I feel lucky because I’ve been stubborn about what I want to do, and it’s sort of paid off because now I get to do whatever I want."
André comes from a band background, and has done it all - from playing in wedding bands to cover bands, but today he is considered one of the music industry's most venerated remixers and indie producers, with high-profile artists seeking him out regularly. RAC has even remixed U2, Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani.
"Sometimes when you’re working with a label or an artist, they’ll have a couple of notes here and there, but for the most part people let me do whatever I want. And that as an art form is amazing, to be able to do that."
The first original RAC song, "Hollywood," was released in 2012 and featured Chris Glover of Penguin Prison, and RAC's debut studio album as André's solo project, Strangers, dropped in April of 2014.
"The reason I called it 'Strangers' is because even to this day I have not met a lot of those people. It’s all done through the internet. And that’s why I called it 'Strangers'… everything these days is done that way. It’s kinda bizarre. And that’s what that album is about - those weird internet interactions."
This year was a big year for RAC, as the project received its first Grammy nomination for a remix of Odesza's popular song "Say My Name."
"I’ve thought a lot about this. I really wasn’t that bummed about not getting it. Going from zero to a nomination was massive. For the rest of your life, you’re 'grammy nominated.' The jump from a nomination to a win - obviously it's big, but it's not that big… that first one is monumental, an absolute game changer."
Attending the Grammy Awards as a first-time nominee was remarkable in itself for André.
"That was bizarre. When Tony Bennet walks by, and Quincy Jones is over there and then Stevie Wonder is on stage and Lady Gaga is sitting nearby… It was a surreal experience. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it."
So what would be André's dream collaboration? Although he deems it to be a long-shot, André fantasizes about working with one of his musical heroes: Paul Simon.
"I’m a huge Paul Simon fan... I grew up with Simon and Garfunkel.. that stuff just speaks to me in some way that other stuff doesn’t, especially Paul Simon’s solo records."
After putting out a song a month from June to December of 2015, André has been taking a break to write new material at his studio in Portland, Oregon, where he now resides with his wife and kids. He's thinking about doing an EP, which he says might turn into an album
"I think something is starting to take shape."
Some fans may remember when RAC has performed as a live five-piece band at festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza and Firefly. André is currently touring with his good friend Carl as RAC, and I was lucky enough to catch their intimate performance hosted by Deloitte Digital at Palm Door in Austin as part of SXSWi. But RAC and Deloitte wanted fans to be able to join in on the music-making fun, too...
The ARC, which stands for Audience Reactive Composition, was designed to provide an interactive experience in which anyone can become a musician and collaborate. Presented by Deloitte Digital, the ARC (pictured above) is essentially a giant soundboard with "instruments" activated by simple human interaction and intuitive technology. RAC provided the music for the activation while multimedia artists Gabe Liberti and Dave Rife and visual/light designer Beau Burrows designed and built the actual fixture.
Throughout SXSW Interactive, visitors could play and experience the ARC as part of Deloitte Digital's Interplay Lab. It was easily one of the most fun and most fascinating brand activations of SXSW Interactive. Check out the ARC in action below.
"Deloitte Digital’s a creative digital consultancy that creates new interactive experiences for all industries, be it retail, television or anything in between. At SXSW, we’re using the medium of music - an industry old as time - to show how we think about the future of interactive - moving way beyond the glass of touch screens. The ARC represents our Creative Digital Consultancy and speaks to the culture of Deloitte Digital. We work as a broad network of creatives and artists to imagine, deliver, and run the future of our clients. This activation is a fun and creative way for us to express ourselves, and get people thinking and talking about the larger definition of digital and what the future of interactive could be." - Rob Frazzini, Chief Transformation Officer, Deloitte Digital