Jauz: Remixing Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff + Crafting Wise and Wicked Sonic Worlds
Watch Jauz break down his remix of deadmau5’s iconic Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff and read his thoughts on creating music without boundaries.
Watch Jauz deconstruct his remix of “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” by deadmau5. See how he reworks stems, builds drops, utilizes space, and creates seamless transitions. Check out Analog Brass & Winds, as heard in the orchestral builds. 

Electronic music producer Jauz (Sam Vogel) has built entire worlds around his music. Since starting out in 2013, he’s created his own record label, Bite This, on which he released his influential 2018 debut album The Wise and the Wickedan ambitious four-chapter concept album that explores a dystopian future where two warring factions clash and unite. This album enabled him to explore a multitude of sonic territories and work with a wide variety of collaborators including DJ Snake, SNAILS and Adventure Club. Five years later he split those worlds in two — releasing both the Rise of the Wise and The Return of the Wicked, leaning into the dichotomous sounds of each opposing force. His deep production skills and fearless artistry have made him a sought-after collaborator for the likes of EDM’s biggest names — Diplo, Skrillex, Knife Party and many others. We invited Jauz to Output to show off his lush, detailed remix of deadmau5’s iconic “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” and talk all things past, present and music. 

Tell us, how did you get started in music?

I always knew that I wanted to do music in some capacity. I got really serious about music at probably 13 or 14. I started playing guitar and wanted to be in a metal band. I was dead set on it. To make a long story short, trying to get a group of 15-year-olds together to have a band that takes itself seriously enough to be in the studio was next to impossible. My junior year of high school, one of my buddies pointed out this kid in our class making hip hop beats on Reason and it blew my mind. Not long after that I got introduced to electronic music, dubstep, drum & bass and all the super heavy stuff that really clicked with me as a metal kid. I just put two and two together and was like, all right, I’m going to make this electronic music stuff, whatever that is. All I have to worry about is me and a computer, and I am in control of my own destiny. Basically from day one of being a music producer I took it as seriously as I take it now.

Your debut release, The Wise and the Wicked, is a massive achievement — and as a concept album, incredibly unique. Can you share a little bit about that project? 

In 2018, it was a pretty stupid idea to put out an album, especially in electronic music. Everyone has to be aware of the climate of the music industry right now — how fast everything moves. But just for me as an artist, I was kind of like, you know what? I’m going to go do exactly what I’m not supposed to do, and I’m not just going to put out an album. I’m going to put out a 23-track album and it’s going to be fucking cinematic and have all these interludes and all this really thematic concept album stuff. I think at that point, I had never really felt like I did that [big] artistic thing to make me feel like an artist. I had to get it off my chest. 

The whole concept was this futuristic post-apocalyptic world where there were two kinds of warring factions. The Wises were the wealthier, more knowledgeable, higher-tier citizens who were all about technology and knowledge. The Wicked were the kind of, if you go to LA and you see a fucking rave being thrown under a highway overpass with just some crazy renegade shit — that was what the Wicked represented to me. The whole album was kind of a metaphor for the way my brain works as a producer — where one day I’ll make music that’s all the way on this side of the musical climate, and then I’ll do the polar opposite the next day.

You essentially turned that metaphor into two new albums, Rise of the Wise and Wrath of the Wicked. Talk about that progression.  

I always said when the five-year anniversary comes around, I’ll do something — a deluxe album, or whatever. At the same time, I had these two massive bodies of work that I had been putting together. I really needed an identity for all of this melodic, house-y, tech-y — whatever you want to call it — music that I didn’t really know how to package in the Jauz ecosystem. Then on the other side, I had all of this super aggressive, super heavy music. I could never really justify putting these out as Jauz singles because they just don’t make sense. They [both] just fell perfectly into these two worlds that I was already ruminating on from the first album. That turned into, okay, why don’t we do two follow-up albums that really go in depth on these two thematic worlds that I had set the stage for in the first album.

The first album that we put out was Rise of the Wise, which was that in-depth look at the Wise side of the story from the original album, and that is all of the super tech-y, house-y, melodic records. And then the second album this year was called Wrath of the Wicked, which is the same concept, but the total flip side of that. And it’s all the really heavy, gnarly bass music, dubstep, drum & bass, all that good stuff.

Being a artist/producer is unique in that you have to think about the cohesiveness of your output—versus when producing for other artists, it can run the gamut depending upon each project’s unique aesthetic. Talk about some of the challenges you’ve faced. 

You brought up a really good point, which is that if you’re a producer but not an artist/producer, you can kind of go over here and go over here and do whatever you want. But as an artist, it’s a completely different story because you then have fans who are expecting [a certain thing]. If I was just a producer, a lot of these struggles that I have probably wouldn’t be struggles. 

Throughout the process of going to music school, one of the classes that I was in was about the creative and mental side of being an artist, and it really helped me realize how much I was limiting myself. Once I let go of the expectations that I put on myself, that’s when I really started making everything under the sun, and that’s when I felt really fulfilled. I used [my diverse interests] as the backbone of what I wanted my artist brand to represent — being able to do everything under one moniker and it still feel cohesive — which obviously has come with its fair share of struggle, but I think if I did it any other way, whether it would’ve worked better or worse is kind of secondary. 

A lot of artists have to make that decision between [doing] what you want, or [doing] what you think is going to make sense or make you successful. I’ve always been the person who would rather die on the sword than tuck my tail and just do whatever is going to get the most Instagram likes or fucking whatever. So if I had to do it all over again, would I change things? Of course. But my method of putting out music and everything from that perspective, no, I would do it all the same way.

You’ve credited your skills as a producer to the time you put in doing remixes. How did remixing other artists’ music help you grow? 

That’s how I cut my teeth — making remix, after remix, after remix. I didn’t know how to start a song on my own. I needed some sort of backbone that would give me the literal structure because I came from playing music on a guitar, and I would just make these little motifs and try to string them together. Or even if I knew the song structure of how to write a rock song or a metal song, it’s completely different [from] dance music. From a very basic level, remixing is a really essential tool for someone who’s trying to learn how to make music, because there’s just so many ways that it can teach you — especially if you get stems and hear all of these separated parts. [It’s] like, oh, this is what this should sound like. These drums are really not as powerful as I thought they were, but in the context of the whole song, they sound massive —  or this thing I thought sounded like this, in the context of the song, it sounds like this. It was really the mental and creative side of getting into the heads of these other producers or artists.

Even to this day, I use a lot of the techniques that I used in remixing to write original songs, or I will literally remix a song that I have no intention of ever doing a remix for, and then change a bunch of this stuff and make that an original song. [I’ll] take a vocal that I think is cool, make a whole song around it. It’s my original keys, my original melodies. At the end of the day, if you’re doing a remix with nothing but a vocal and you’re not following their chord structure and their song structure, you’re writing your own song. Even 15 years into making music on a computer, I still use these techniques all the time.

And now some of the biggest artists send tracks your way to remix. Tell us about “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff”.

So getting to take a crack at arguably one of the greatest electronic songs of all time was scary, but fun. It’s probably one of the top 10 most iconic dance records of all time, written by deadmau5. At first I almost didn’t want to do it just because I knew that it was going to be a serious undertaking. When you’re remixing a song of that magnitude, there’s a lot of self-imposed or external pressure. You really can’t fuck this up. I really tried to not use a lot of the original song and play it safe. I wanted it to feel like you were hearing a completely new song for the first time, but with elements that still made it feel really familiar to you. I definitely went through all of the phases of being excited and then being frustrated and then having my back against a wall and not knowing if I was even going to be able to finish it or even make anything good. And then finally breaking through that wall and being like, okay, I can do this. You need those experiences every once in a while to remind you that you still got it.

Also just because I know deadmau5 as a producer and a person, he’s such a freak about details. I do things the most basic way I can with the least friction possible. But when it came to this remix, I knew I wanted to make it super orchestral and epic. There were a lot of layers, and I was going to have to take a lot of care. I was like, okay, this is where I would’ve topped normally, but I did all this layering and all of this detail and I think it actually unlocked a lot of stuff for me as a producer that I realize I’m capable of doing.

Share a little bit about how you use Output products in your work.

Every time I open Output, whether it’s an effect plugin or an instrument, it always feels like a fresh new world. The first was Exhale. Especially for me as a big remixer, finding vocals to use in tracks was impossible. But then when you actually get into Exhale and you realize how crazy these lead sounds are, and all the modulation that you guys build into everything, it’s really like the voice becomes much more of an instrument than a voice. And then every time you guys would come out with something new, I would always buy it and explore it. The ones that I use the most often now are the Analog Brass & Winds and Analog Strings just because it adds that extra layer of depth and excitement. And that’s not even getting into Thermal or Portal or any of those crazy ass plugins.

Have you ever used Arcade? 

Arcade is just instant inspiration. That’s always the hardest part for me—finding that seed that then takes you down the rabbit hole of whatever that [new] song is. Sometimes you need to just be able to hit buttons and just drag things around until something cool happens. I’m a big believer in happy accidents and letting the music guide you versus trying to come in with this preconceived notion of, I’m going to make this kind of song today. Having a workflow where you can just — I almost equate it to artists who just throw buckets of paint at a canvas. They’re not doing anything on purpose, they’re just letting it rip and seeing what happens. And I think that the more tools I can have like that, the better.

Try Arcade Free: https://output.com/products/arcade
Keep up with Jauz: https://www.instagram.com/jauzofficial/

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