Canadian James Teej nominated for McCartney remix
Music producer James Teej never expected Paul McCartney would give his stamp of approval to a dark remix of one of his songs.
And he certainly didn’t think his collaboration would take him to the Grammy Awards either.
On Sunday, the musician will be in the running for best remixed recording alongside German producer Timo Maas for their update of “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five.” Their version takes the song from McCartney and Wings’ 1973 album “Band on the Run” and reshapes it with a new edge.
“Quite frankly, doing an electronic remix of a rock ‘n’ roll song is pretty tricky,” says Teej, who spent his childhood in Quebec and Alberta.
“You’re going to have some people that absolutely love the outcome and ... some people that absolutely hate it.”
Teej says this collaboration came out of a happy series of events that began while he was staying at Maas’s European countryside home in 2015.
As they kicked back with glasses of wine and music samples, Teej - whose real name is Thomas Mathers - stepped outside for some fresh air. That’s when he heard the unmistakable voice of McCartney playing over Maas’s soundsystem. Stunned at how his friend could’ve obtained isolated vocals of the former Beatle, he bolted inside to confirm his ears weren’t fooling him.
Maas had been hanging onto multi-tracks from the original studio recordings for about six years. Unable to formulate a version that met his own expectations, he shelved the idea.
Both of them agreed it was time to take another run at the song, which McCartney recorded shortly after his departure from the Beatles in 1970.
Using their own club sensibilities, Teej and Maas stripped away layers to find new sounds in the original recording. The changes help lift McCartney’s vocals to a more prominent position in the mix.
Pleased with their retooled version, the duo circulated the track to industry players who could get it into McCartney’s hands. It didn’t take long before word returned that he loved it.
“Obviously to get the green light from the man himself was ... the moment that validated a lot of the hard work,” Teej said.
Teej hopes the Grammy nomination will draw attention to other Canadian producers toiling away with little recognition.
“What I’m looking forward to at this point is having the opportunity to shake McCartney’s hand,” he says.
“And thank him for giving us the chance to let us rework a very important song from an important album.”
The Grammys air Sunday on City and CBS.