Remixer #23 Robin Skouteris: “There is art in combining things”

Robin Skouteris

Robin Skouteris

The series “Remixer” features interviews with people involved in remix practices and culture, asking them about their experiences and approaches towards remix. This time: Robin Skouteris.

Robin Skouteris is a video & music producer, and a DJ, living in Greece. He does video directing and editing occasionally, but only if they are very music related. Many of his recent Mashups can be found on his YouTube-Channel.

Can you tell us something about your artistic background?

Film or video and music have always been my two huge passions in life. For many years as a kid I wanted to be a film and video director, but music itself was my best companion. I have worked in television, directing some documentaries and music videos for independent greek artists, and ended up leaving that because it was a very social procedure for me. Wanting to work more by myself, I started remixing the tracks I loved, making this my main work. After putting my first mixes on the web and receiving great feedback, I was invited to clubs to present my work, and that was when I started thinking more seriously about DJing. I didn’t like the idea before that, because I never liked to play other people’s music as long as I hadn’t put a personal touch in it. It wouldn’t separate me from most of the DJs out there, and I wanted to have my own sound. DJing and producing remixes and mashups has been my main work for the last years, and it has been a dream coming true. It has been spreading around the world and bringing me some great work and collaborations.

From your point of view, what makes a great remix?

I think a great remix is a remix that stands on its own as a track. You don’t need to compare it to the original. In fact, it should be able to make you forget about the original. I never cared if its way different than the original, because, for example, a great remix can be just an extended mix. But the remixer should be able to find out what made the original good and enhance on that. It’s all about the melody. A great mix is not always a dance mix. It can be slower than the original, which is a rare fact as most of us link the idea of a remix to a club mix. But in my head, the remix should be standing on its own so much that if you heard that first you would think this was the original. It has to feel authentic and well structured.

How do you use or re-use works of others in your own works?

I have done some original compositions, and I am still working on those to release them in the future, but sampling has always been a big part of my work. My most known works are mashups. I always loved the idea of mashups because you get to take something that you already love – and is already loved by the world – and present it in a new way, your way. You get to work with your favorite songs. You combine things that somebody else might never thought would go together. Many people consider this not to be a big thing, but there is art in combining things, if there is thought behind it. It’s still a creative process. I mean.. eggs are great. But you have eggs in an omelette, and you have eggs in a cake. It’s how you use things, to come up with something different and unique that has your signature. The same ingredients can produce different results. Sometimes I don’t care if it’s going to be good or bad, I just care that it has “ME” written all over it. Isn’t that, what represents you out there?

Have you ever abstained from using a work because of legal issues and why?

Personally I haven’t. I do my mixing and put it online and then it is up to the platform to see if they think it violates their rules. Sometimes they take it down for copyright reasons. But this thing with the copyright on youtube and sites like that is getting really confusing. Sometimes I feel they don’t even know what they want either. Mashup artists and bootleg remixers are also creators and artists when it comes to the final result, so industries like that shouldn’t just ignore their work and input. YouTube might take down my video mix because it contained material from Michael Jackson; but that doesn’t mean, in a way, that I did not work on it and that my work should not be out there for other people to see. Besides, if the credit is right, there is no harm. I never claimed to be the composer, I claimed to be the remixer, and that’s how the work should be presented out there. We are advertising ourselves and our abilities as remixers through projects like that, because that’s what remixers do: they create new sounds using existing material.

Does it bother you that a lot what you are doing is illegal?

Just as a film editor is not an illegal profession – s/he is also working on existing material that s/he did not direct or film. Therefore I don’t understand why a bootleg remixer cannot have his work legally out there. Especially when in too many cases, remixing is not just pure editing, but involves producing and composing new elements for their mix. But it feels like a transition period Is taking place now. The digital age of music exploded really fast and all those remixing issues will be cleared in time, when the record companies see what is best for everybody. Besides, mashup artists don’t get paid for the mixes and a remix is mainly an advertisement for the original song too, so the artists are the ones who actually benefit from the mixes.

Have you ever had legal problems related to your artistic works?

I didn’t have any legal problems because I never sold any of my mixes that contained other people’s work, unless it was officially signed. At least that is the law right now. Internet has been the platform that helped my work to be exposed internationally, bringing it to the attention of many great people that I ended up working with. Sometimes websites take down your mixes, and you accept that. It feels unfair sometimes, but we know that is the law for now. And yes, we all wish this would change because there is hard work put in there by the remixer too, so everyone should be awarded for their part. For now, mashups and sampled works are just a demo, for me to show what I do, and you cannot ask the world to pay you for your demo, that would be unfair. But yes, I would love to see my mashups sold officially on iTunes one day.

How do you like the idea of introducing a „right to remix“, including compensation for the original artist?

Of course I would love this idea. You are actually asking me to do what I do, but also get credit and compensation for it. That would be the fair thing. Remixers and producers should get paid and original artist should get paid, too. They are both in the track, in different ways. Just as it is legal for DJ to play music in a club at night and get paid for that, I should be able to do a similar thing on my computer. It’s still work. The legal problems with this though are understandable because who judges when a remix is a remix? I might change the order of the verses of a song and call it a remix. Should I be awarded for that too? It’s a thin line from then on, and it sounds messy, because who will say how much a song should be changed so you can start getting credit as an actual remixer? It is still a confusing thing, but in the next years, we all hope that there would be solutions for everyone to be happy and jobs like these to be recognized for their creativity and hard effort we all have put in.

Finally, what is your personal favorite remix?

My favorite official remix could be Enigma – Mea Culpa (Orthodox Remix). My favorite unofficial remix would be Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence (Dans54 Reinvention Remix) – I still would love to try a mashup with this soon!.

And if you are asking me about my favorite personal work of my own , I would say probably The Moonlight Hotel,

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