Today marks the release of The Desire Remixes, a companion album to last year’s album, Desire. For core member of mrmoth, Michael Bird, the record became a way to keep that album alive in a time when, out of necessity, he couldn’t promote it any other way. “In January, I had started putting together what I’d hoped would be a live set that I could start performing live in late spring. And then of course, by March those plans were scotched. Since I was already knee-deep in the tracks I decided to make a remix album.”
Bird’s interest in dance music really begins with the concept of the extended remix, which was somewhat common for pop music released from the 70s through the 90s. A little different than what listeners might think of as a contemporary remix, songs were either re-performed as a longer, jammier version, or as studio techniques evolved, cut from the original tracks and completely reorganized.
“I remember quite clearly the first time I heard an extended remix of a song. It was the Night Version of Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like Wolf.’ A radio station in Wichita was playing it late at night as we drove through the city. I was surprised when the song took a different turn than what I expected, giving extended focus to the arpeggiated keyboard with the bass and drums locked in. My mom was always a fan of dance music and one of her records I always loved so much was her copy of Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s ‘I Feel Love,’ which had some commonalities. But this felt like something decidedly new and something that belonged to me. It was an invitation into the layers of the music and I was fascinated.”
For Bird, his love of dance music was codified through that experience. “As a kid, if I had the choice, I would always buy the 12″ version of a single. The extended remix was a way to really delve into a song and admire its component parts in greater detail. You weren’t just left with the rush of a song, but rather you could live in it a little and vibe. For the songs that meant so much to me, that was a huge part of the experience.”
Given the opportunity to reconsider the tracks from Desire, Bird had a particular mission in mind in re-approaching the songs. “When you work on a track, you spend an inordinate amount of time on each layer, selecting the sound, reflecting on how it interplays with other layers, creating a sense of depth and architecture. Each element is poured over surgically. Then, with my music, it comes time to layer vocals in and the voice draws so much attention to itself. Obviously, my lyrics and my voice are important to me. But it breaks my heart sometimes to hear aspects of a track that I really appreciate jumped over quickly or buried in the mix. These remixes were a chance to rectify that. To really explore all that they are.”
“I had begun working on this album during and after my time in People’s Punk Band. Tim (Mohn) and I really tried to keep that material lean, mercilessly cutting anything unessential or unnecessary for the songs. I was still in that mindset when I made Desire, somewhat, but that’s really out of keeping with my back catalog. This was a chance to reimagine the songs in such a way that they’d fit more in line with what most people appreciate of mrmoth.”
The Desire Remixes features a surprising breadth of styles and variety, ranging from more aggressive takes on “And Now the Reckoning” and “Autonomy” to classic club versions of “Gone Down,” “Shark Eyes,” and “Metropolitan,” to lush reinterpretations of the afore-mentioned “And Now the Reckoning,” “Gone Down,” and even a sprawling, orchestral-inspired re-envisioning of “Call On Your Stars.”
“‘Call On Your Stars’ has become the most popular of the newer tracks and I knew I needed to include it on this project, but it doesn’t really need extended or monkeyed with very much. It was the last thing I completed for this album and once I figured out what to do with it, it fell together quite easily.”
The Desire Remixes also features two new songs, both worked on during the Desire sessions, but ultimately yet incomplete at the album’s completion. “I like making remixes but they’re not the same as making something new. So I really have to walk a balance with making remixes, in that I need to feel like something new is coming out of the experience and I’m not just rehashing the same song over and over again. I had a couple of songs that were in the offing, and I decided I would come back and finish those. Those tracks would go on to be the new songs that are added to the remix collection — ‘Desolation’ and ‘Sleep.’”
“Desolation” was released as a single earlier this month, paired with a cover of Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth” and a selection of supporting remixes of both tracks.
“‘Desolation’ is about this ecological quicksand that we’ve found ourselves in. But it’s also sort of more than that I think. Greta Thunberg had gotten me thinking about speaking to the future for this moment we’re in presently. And that’s where the lyrics came from. It sort of a reflection of the discourse around what we see happening why we seem so paralyzed from doing anything at all about it. I had the lyrics written and finished, and then COVID happened, and in a weird way, it was apparent that the same mechanisms of greed and misinformation were being leveraged. As you started to see the number of dead growing, it became apparent that this is a pattern we’re stuck in. It’s so note-for-note similar it’s hard not to see it as intentional, and masochistic, and systemic.”
The other new song on the album, “Sleep,” is a quiet and tender ballad and closes The Desire Remixes. The song has its roots deep in the original run of mrmoth. “It was written just after I finished Unto the Waste Land in 2003. I was feeling so ambitious and empowered after that album, but that song was just beyond what I was capable of at the time. There’s a version of it from that era, but every pass I’d take at the vocal left me dissatisfied. I wasn’t developed enough yet as a singer. I had earmarked it as a song that would fit in naturally on Desire, but when the title track came together, I knew ‘Sleep’ wouldn’t be needed just yet.”
For Bird, more than a mere celebration and appreciation of the Desire songs, this album also marks an important ending. “This is really meant as closure for this era. The next work I make will be a return to the classic format of the band. But more on that another time…”
The Desire Remixes is available at all online merchants and digital streaming platforms. An exclusive cover image is available on the Bandcamp version.