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Shep Pettibone Interview : Like A Fanzine

Shep Pettibone - Like A fanzine Magazine / Winter 1990

Shep Pettibone, mega-remixer extraordinaire. Shep has worked with the best musical artists today. He has collaborated with Madonna on many projects including “Vogue” (the biggest hit in Madonna’s career so far, and best-selling single of 1990) and Rescue Me (another sure hit.) He co-wrote and produced them both. Shep also remixed the entire “Immaculate Collection” LP in Q Sound. She and his manager, Jane Brinton were responsible for coordinating Madonna’s Greatest Hits collection. Here is a list of his remixes for Madonna: True Blue, Express Yourself, Causin A Commotion, Keep It Together, Into the Groove, Justify My Love, Where’s The Party, Like A Prayer, Vogue and Rescue Me.

How long does it take you to do each remix?
Three days / 30 to 40 hours. A lot of times remixing is also reproducing.

How many offers do you get a week?
There is only a limited amount of time that I have to do remixing. I have to choose the song which has the most potential of becoming a hit. I get anywhere from 2 to 20 offers a week.

Is it the Record company or the artists themselves who appoint you to the remixing job?
I think a lot of times it’s the artists now. In the beginning, it was the record company. I get a lot of call backs from artists who like what I did on their last record, and say that they want me to do the next record also. I also get calls from artists who have heard my remixes for other artists and they want me to do it to their songs.

Which artists do you admire?
Madonna, definitely! I think she has come a long way. She proved to everybody that she is more than just a “disco artist.” She works very hard. She takes vocal lessons, dance classes, and exercises all the time. She doesn’t do drugs, she eats right, even under the pressure of being a superstar. I admire that a lot.

How do the artists or producers feel about your remixes?
A lot of times they really like it. You would count on having some producers who don’t like you, tempering with the original productions. The biggest stars in the world, like Madonna and Janet Jackson, really like it when you mess with it, and make it different from the original. When I work, I never have the artists around. They always like the way that they did it. It’s better that they hear the remix after it’s been completed, instead of during the process of being remixed.

How did you manage to remix all the dance singles from Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” album and Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” album?
They like what I do. They trust me with their tapes. There is a certain amount of trust for big artists like them. There is a lot of money involved, the tapes were all digital. All of the remixes I’ve done for them go to #1 on the dance charts, and I think that’s why.

Let’s talk about Madonna. I think you’ve done excellent job on remixing all of Madonna’s hits. How does the Material Girl feel about you? Have you done anything that she didn’t like?
Not yet! (Chuckle).

Shep Pettibone - Like A fanzine Magazine / Winter 1990

On the extended remix you did for “Like A Prayer,” the ending chorus is missing. Yet it is on the shorter radio remixed version… why is that?
That happens sometimes. When it come to 12″ mixes, I’m not really concerned about ending choruses. In the clubs I go to, I’ve never seen DJ’s playing songs to the end, ever. They either mix out during the break or at a certain point of the song. It may not always be the editor’s fault. I do editing on a lot of my remixes, but don’t always take the credit for it.

On “Like A Prayer” and “Keep It Together,” there are other versions done by other remixers. What do you feel about them?
The record companies want them that way. I don’t know why. I’m glad they put them on. Personally, I’m not crazy about them. I don’t always like my versions better. It’s just that they didn’t blow me away at all. I didn’t think they were all that wonderful.

Madonna’s live version of “Into The Groove” from last year seemed to have been structured the same way as your remix for the song, is my guess correct?
She liked the way I did it, so she did it that way live. When she tried to do sampled voice live, it sounded a little funny. On the “Blond Ambition” tour, she did my house versions of “Like A Prayer,” “Express Yourself,” and “Keep It Together.” She didn’t do the album version.

Have you ever been told to go back to do a remix by either the record company or the artists?
Oh yea. It’s either they want the vocal to be louder or lower, things like that. I’d say it happens maybe one time out of thousand. It’s very rare.

Is there any song that you have remixed in the past that you would have remixed differently today?
Always! I think anyone who is an artist always feels that they can do better.

Tell us some of your favorite remixes, and why.
“Express Yourself” definitely. I didn’t like it when MTV started to air the video with the album soundtrack. Apparently, they thought my remix was too housey. Also, “Let No Man Put Asunder” by First Choice.

What unique quality do you feel that you have, that makes you different from other remixers?
I think it’s my musical background. The way I do things that differ from other people. I was actually the innovator for doing additional productions on remixes, so that put me in front of everybody. Of course, my ability to choose to do good records in the first place. I managed a record store when I was 18. I did editing for WBLS when I was only 20. By the way, I was doing “master-mixes” for KISS, when I was 21.

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