Sometimes a remix comes along that completely changes how you see the original track, like an incredible sequel you didn't know you needed to shake your brain cells loose from the single version you'd been spamming repeat on. These perfectly crafted mixes are rare, and that's why they stand out — as purely new imaginings of that song you love. Chew Fu is one of the best pop re-imaginers we have in the business today, and it was a pure delight to sit down and chat with him about his past and future Gaga releases and solo projects.
This is a such a great opportunity, we love your work, Chew. Thanks for making awesome remixes of Lady Gaga for us over the years.
Thank you so much, I love to hear it. I just make those remixes because I like making remixes. So it's always for me, awesome, to hear feedback from anyone that appreciates it, so thanks for that!
You just dropped "Shallow" (The Chew Fu Refix) in celebration of Gaga winning the Oscar for Best Original Song.
I am really excited about that. I figured that when she wins the Oscar I want to release a remix. I've been playing my remix in my own sets for the last couple of weeks, and it went over really well. I am excited to share it! That's always what it comes to down to, you know? I just want my friends to like it. Then I'm totally fine with it.
Tell me about yourself. How did you get started in the music industry?
Well, I'm actually a jazz musician. So I started as an alto-saxophone player, I loved jazz music. That's how I ended up in New York, because a lot of my heroes made their music in New York. I met my current business partner, John Fraiser, and he hooked me up, working for Bad Boy Records. And that's how I got my start in production in the United States. Hip-hop is very related to funk music, which I was already doing as a musician, it was a logical step for me to do that. That's how I started. A lot of hip-hop! And in Europe, simultaneously, I was releasing a lot of dance records. At the time it was like two different worlds.
That's how I got started as a musician. For me, as a musician, you are always waiting for a call from a music producer, because I wanted to play on records! I wanted to be a saxophone player, so for me it was also logical for me to become a music producer, just so I could put myself on records, basically!
Starting out as a jazz musician, you probably couldn't have dreamed it would have led to all this?
No, absolutely not. I always just wanted to make cool music. That's how I've been throughout my career, I justed wanted to make stuff that was interesting, you know? That is how I got into remixes. I was doing a lot of hip hop mixes, and house music, in two different continents. I felt with remixes, you know, sometimes, without permission from the artist—I could create a new style, that would be really inspiring. I could just take a vocal from a rap artist and create a house beat under it.
What is a "refix"? I know you prefer to use the title "refix" instead of "remix."
Well I started calling my music remixes, when I started to do them as remixes. And that was based on the fact that I was using some of the original music, that I would then manipulate into another track. I would bring it from a pop track, and use a baseline, I would use the drums... But at one point, I started to only use acapellas. All the music under it, I composed by myself. Organically. And at the time I was actually only downloading acapellas, because I didn't even want to hear the original first! I was like, I am just going to do what I think this acapella should have. So that's how that started.
That's flipping awesome. I think hands down, if you were to ask any Lady Gaga fan who's even been somewhat hardcore over the last decade, "What is the best remix of Lady Gaga?," they are going to say, "The Chew Fu Bad Romance Remix."
Ohhh yeah. That was awesome.
That was epic.
I love all my remixes, but I feel "Bad Romance" has a different impact than my "LoveGame," or "Paparazzi," or any other remix. That's also how I like to produce every track. Like I said, I go from the acapella and then I'll create the music under it. Why I call some of them refixes was, I started to make all the music from scratch. So I felt like, "I'm gonna call it a refix, if I make the music completely different." Like I did with "LoveGame." I just used the acapella, and I wrote the baseline, and then I wrote the remix. That's why I called it "Refix." And I also started noticing, if I called stuff a "Fix," often the artist would be at least responding to it. Which could be in a negative way, but it would turn positive if the artist then would hear, "Oh, this is actually really fun." Because their first reaction was, "Hey, my music doesn't need fixing." And then they would hear it, and be like, "Oh, this is actually really good! I understand. This is cool." So it went hand in hand.
When I did Bad Romance, I was actually really sick that week! So I got the acapella in from Cherrytree Records, I believe at the time, and they were like, "Hey, we need this remix, and we need it in three days."
Oh my god!
Sometimes that's how it goes, you know? So I was like, "Okay, let's do this!" And I was in bed, but I set up my studio with my laptop, and whatever, and I worked in my "studio" on the remix for 18 hours a day. But from the get-go I kind of knew that it would be cool. That's the feeling I had from the beginning. I had the vocal, then I made the baseline, I started cutting it up a little bit, and then I added a little hookline that I made in the beginning, with "Walk, Walk, Fashion, Baby". And I thought to myself, "This is gonna be cool." So I finished it. But often, when I finish something, I completely doubt myself when I listen back to it. Probably a lot of people have that. You're like, "Oh my God, this is really bad." Right? I have that often. So with Bad Romance, there was that feeling. So I sent it to the label, after three days. And I didn't hear back from them, for like two more days. And I went back to my mix and thought, "Oh my God, this was really bad. They must hate my music!" So I called Cherrytree Records, I'll never forget; I started off, "Hey, I'm really sorry about the remix, I'm gonna do it again, I promise you next week it will be really good!" And then, they were like: "No, we really loved your remix!" And we talked about it. It was really like that. And a weight fell off my shoulders.
But it's often like that. I guess you know, I always put a lot of pressure on myself to make something super good. Always in those last minutes you start to doubt, like, "Wait a minute, because I did something so completely different, did I do the right thing?"
You knocked it out of the park with that one.
What was it like working with Lady Gaga and Marilyn Manson on "LoveGame"? That turned into a really big one, that they ending up using on The Remix album.
That really set it all off. It was so special by itself. I was at the time then where I was already releasing a lot of remixes, but I was just releasing them on blogs or whatever, and I was really starting to build up a name for myself. And how "LoveGame" started was me getting an acapella from my friend who worked at a radio station called Ghettohouse Radio. That may explain the name a little bit! So I got Gaga's acapella, I started to do the music, and the demo leaked. And she apparently got that demo, she heard that. And I'll never forget how she called me that day.
I thought it was one of my friends in the Netherlands prank calling me. I knew "Poker Face" from her, and then "LoveGame," but she was huge already. Everyone was like, "Oh my God, where was this gonna end?" It was amazing. So I got this call, and it was Troy, who was her manager at the time. And I thought this was a prank. Troy was like, "Look, we heard the demo, do you think we can work something out?" And I was like, "Yeah, sure, we can work something out!" Because I though it was my friend from the Netherlands all this time. And then he was like, "Well, can we set up a call with you and Gaga? We have this idea where we want to record Gaga and Marilyn Manson on the mix that you have. And we could finish it all together." It was like in two minutes time, right? From the time someone calls me, and then someone tells me Lady Gaga really loves it, and then we have this great idea, Marilyn Manson on the track? I remember coming off that call, and I didn't have anyone around me to tell it to. So I called my manager, and said, "You are not gonna believe this. You're gonna get a call from Troy Carter." And my manager was like, "Wait a minute, I know Troy." So that really worked out well, because Troy already knew my manager. So it was just spectacular how it all went down. I was so excited when they started using that for the live show, had the whole band play it... That was just huge for me.
Speaking of bands, are you going to do another album with Breedlove?
Yes. Actually, after Magic Monday, we worked on a new album that's called Tragic Tuesday, and we have been performing with that in New York for the last year or so. And this year we recorded our first music video for our first single, so that should be something maybe in May, that we are going to release. That is a full album that we are really excited about! It's gonna be really cool. Breedlove is still busy writing his musical. But we get on stage like at least once a month together.
The tour we did with Gaga in Europe was awesome, of course. She has always been so supportive of that. There was a really magical time, when we did Magic Monday... So there was this little party that we threw, in a bar called St. Jerome's in New York. And it would literally only fit fifty people. I'll never forget the day when this enormous Bentley stopped in front of the door, and Gaga comes out, and she just starts partying with us! Really amazing vibes. And I remember everyone walking in, thinking like, this cannot be true. Because at one point, she was standing on the bar, with her band, singing jazz songs together with Breedlove. So if you'd walked in there, to that bar, it was just like an amazing sight, you know? So from that point, she's really been supporting us in a really great way. She's always trying to motivate us. So I can only be thankful for that.
As an artist, to be on the tour, to see her action really blew my mind. The amount of energy, she's such a professional. It's like, when you are around someone like that, the level is set so high, you can achieve more yourself. So I am really grateful for that.
Where can we see you live?
I'm doing mainly gigs in New York at the moment, at Club Cumming, Three Dollar Bill in Brooklyn, and St. Jerome's. That's been my home base with Breedlove. Right now we are working on the tour for Tragic Tuesday. Dates aren't set yet—but we are working on that!
Are you going to remix more tracks from A Star Is Born?
I've actually done one more that I want to release. I actually want to tell you about it—this remix has actually set off my releases for 2019. I'm doing this new thing called Project X. The basis of it is that I am releasing one single a month, and one official remix per month. So the first month is "Shallow," and the the second song I remixed is "Is That Alright?" The first remix I'm releasing is Shallow, and the first single I'm releasing is called "Judy." And I'm doing it together with my friend Timothe, called Chew Fu X Timothe. And then the next release will be "Is That Alright?" together with a saxophone track that I'm releasing. It's gonna be really interesting!
I am talking with the label about officially releasing them. This is the first step of that. Because I just want to share, you know? And be like, "Hey, listen to this! This is cool!" That's where it starts. Every month there will be a new release of the Chew Fu Project X.
We all thank you very much.
Thank you! It's all about having fun releasing music. I'm always on the look out for the coolest stuff to remix. It's all so inspiring, it really gives me a kick. I can just release it [on my own] and go, "Okay, this is what WE love!" and there's no label in between it, it's all like, these songs are just cool. And also, if anyone has a request for me, if you ever hear anyone say, "Chew Fu should remix this track," I also like that challenge. You guys really have the finger on the pulse of what you want. It's always really interesting for me to hear because I'm in my bubble, so if you say, "Chew, you should really listen to this Gaga song, " I'll definitely give it a shot.
That is such a nice offer for the fans, thank you!
I'm just really grateful for people just liking my music. It inspires me enormously, I'm grateful for that energy. It gives me the fuel to keep going. A really big part of all the remixes, are the fans, it's this continuous energy that keeps going. Thank you, guys!
by Katharine Styles-Burroughs