The Penelopes’ audacious David Bowie remix

French synth pop duo and disco lovers The Penelopes - Axel Basquiat and Vincent T - have done an audacious unofficial remix of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, to “honour our hero”. It’s had an amazing response and is in the top 50 of the most popular tracks on Hype Machine, which aggregates the favorite songs of music blogs all around the world.

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We filmed with The Penelopes a little while back, and couldn’t wait to find out how this extraordinary new project came about and how they actually achieved it. It turns out they wanted to do something a bit different after recording for their new album, and the original track held a special place in their hearts, as Axel explained.

Since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by this track. I love Bowie and I think the Let’s Dance album has been underrated for a while as it’s very commercial, and it’s been a bit bad to admit you liked it!

I really like the combination of disco, funk, and new wave, and it’s very tight, very precise. The production is very contemporary: the tempo, the mix between disco, you can dance but it’s still a pop song. I love Nile Rodger’s guitars. In France we love this kind of thing.

Also it was the start of programming, a mix between that and live, I like the fact that you don’t know which is which.

So what exactly did the Penelopes mix from?

I found these accapella stems on the internet. You can hear it’s a bit rough sometimes, especially in the chorus, but it’s great to hear the vocals like that.

The track is available as a free download.

I started by playing bass then reprogrammed the bass line, a basic groovy bass line. It’s a mix between a program, and some real slide bass lines. There is Juno in there too. I used the real bass for low frequencies, I always start this way, and I also put a little loop in the intro.

The duo took some drastic action on the guitars though, despite Nile Rodgers being a hero of theirs.

We replaced Nile Rodgers with keyboards! We added a big disco/house kick snare clap, and used a little trick - we put it a bit before the snare, which is a very French thing to do.

We used a lot of arpeggio at the end to make a big texture, and some hihats from a previous studio session. It’s done like a Bowie thing, a mix between real and programming.

They key kit they used on the track was a mix of their vintage specials such as Roland Juno-6
Korg Poly-800, and newer gear. They played some of the bass on the Juno and put it through a Waldorf Pulse, and also used a Hohner “Stick” Headless Bass.

The Penelopes’ beloved Roland TR-707 also featured, and they constructed the track in Cubase.

So just how murky and legit or not legit is the remix we wondered.

It’s a bootleg and if Bowie said delete it, we have to do it. If its not commercial you have the right to do it.

It would be a dream if it could become an official remix - these things do happen sometimes.

Bowie is my main influence, and influenced all the artists I like, such as The Cure and Joy Division. The key thing is that we did it because we love the track.