JOE CLAUSSELL spinning as part of Garage 416 at Soul on Spadina (247 Spadina), Friday (April 13). $15/advance, more at the door. www.garage416.com Rating: NNNNN
The great thing about a Joe Claussell remix is that it sounds like the track hasn't been touched. The in-demand New York DJ/producer and Spiritual Life label boss -- who led the return to the acoustic roots move in afro-latin house -- has made his sizable rep on funking up tunes discreetly. Whereas his remixing contemporaries seek associations with top-selling celebrities, Claussell puts the music first, turning down huge sums of money in order to collaborate with artists of substance like Cassandra Wilson, Nitin Sawhney and Ronny Jordan.
He isn't getting rich from reworking Beth Orton joints, but making something stunningly beautiful out of the dreary title track from her Central Reservation album is a much more soul-satisfying payoff.
"In most cases," says Claussell before a gig in Singapore, "remixes are all about the name. It doesn't matter if the remixer just loops a tiny vocal sample and puts on some drums -- the record label A&R guy just wants access to the producer's following.
"The artist's message is important to me, so when I do a mix you'll hear the vocals. With the Beth Orton track, I could easily have taken off the vocal track and dropped on a tribal drum thing to make it all about Joe Claussell, but I wanted to do something that would complement the folky sound."
The combination of Claussell's unseen-hand approach and his reluctance to pursue high-profile projects has probably kept him out of the spotlight, and he couldn't be happier. "When I started Spiritual Life, it wasn't cool to use acoustic instruments in making club tracks -- it definitely didn't get you on magazine covers. Unfortunately, that's what motivates many people making music these days, but I have no interest in that star trip.
"There's a higher power, a spiritual force, using me as a messenger to bring people together through music. What motivates me is seeing a multi-cultural crowd in Toronto dancing and expressing themselves freely. I can't wait to get back."