Estate Interview

Recently landing a pair of spots on national television, Minneapolis' Estate is continuing to expand its audience outside of the Midwest. Recently speaking to [City Pages] about the new found exposure, the duo of Dan Kramer also Josh Johnson also spoke candidly about their unique approach to performing live and their affinity for creating remixes.

For those who haven't seen you live, how would you describe the mix between media and music in your shows?

Estate: Like the question implies, our live shows are a blend of audio and synchronous video which was created by both our friends and ourselves. Each song has a unique video made to fit the mood and feel of the song. They're edited to the rhythm and feel of the music. We really like how they reinforce each other both on stage and on screen at home. During the show we project the video on a large screen right on stage with us. We like when other groups give the audience options on what to pay attention to. Watch the band, chat with friends, dance, watch the video, or all the above. It's up to you. We spend a fair amount of time as freelance sound designers so we know the synergy that can arise from mixing interesting audio and with awesome visuals. We love it. We had always been really impressed when we saw bands incorporate a visual element to their show, and the idea to play live with the videos came about after we were in contact with Jon Thompson (local animator and awesome guy) about creating some videos for songs off our first album. After he had finished a few videos for us, we thought to ourselves, "Man wouldn't it be awesome to have these things going while we play live." Easy solution; our musical computer software (and bread and butter) Ableton Live started incorporating video at the same time Jon finished some videos for us. The goal of our live shows is to create an evening of experiences and the visuals are one aspect of the many experiences we hope the audience takes away with them.

When you're recording your music, do you keep in mind how it might transfer to the stage. Or rather, how it might transfer to the way in which you showcase your music?

Estate: We don't seem to feel the need to stick to a single formula which is great for us. It ends up giving us the freedom to experiment as well as lending a unique flavor to each tune. Whether or not a song will work for us live comes very late in the writing process. A few brews, a nice beat, and some new synth sounds usually kick start our songs.

The birth of an Estate song is like a dysfunctional childhood. It's born at an unexpected time and we don't yet know how much love it's going to receive. All songs are kept, but some are favored. If we decide it has potential to become a productive member of (Estate) society, we keep nurturing it. If over time, and two or three Estate dads still feel like it's a really bright bulb, it will make it to our full three person practice. This is often when we decide if the songs graduate to maturity aka the stage. Very few do. Most are neglected. Some songs, maybe more, work well for recordings but not the stage.

Our writing, recording, production, and editing happen concurrently so we are constantly tweaking them all as we go. We do however, typically divide the writing process into two phases. Phase one is the birth of the song. It is the time when we create the sonic qualities, characteristics, melodies and grooves of the song. The second phase is much more analytical as it is when the structure starts to take shape and a majority of the editing is done. At this point, we've boiled down the big sound elements we're working with and now have to figure out how to make them fit together.

If we have a song that has graduated to further practices, we take a listen and say, "OK. Who wants to play what?" (aka Dan you have guitar and synth lead, Josh you rock the bass, vocals and wind sample, Jessie - you blend the acoustic drums, and MPC with the prerecorded beats and rhythms.) Next we give it a try and see what needs to be stripped out of the computer mix and what we can add, if anything. We try to showcase our music live by making a hybrid of what you'll hear on the album and what you would expect from a live band. The end results is something that is has the energy and drive of rock with the smooth sexiness of highly produced electronic music.
Our first concern with our music is making something we'd want to listen to. Sometimes we put a song down for a few weeks and pick it up again, throw on some headphones and see if it catches our ears. If so, that song-child might have a future.

How have the many remixes of your songs helped expand your audience? Last year's split with Nobot was awesome--are you working on producing any other remixes yourself?

Estate: Remixes are one of our favorite things. Whether it's us making one or having one done for us, it's always gratifying. It can breathe a whole new life into a song. When you're working on remix for someone else, you have all these awesome elements to play with and add your sound to. Super fun and rewarding.

The icing on the cake is that the remixes can only help expand our audience. Plus we end up meeting great, like minded, bands/peeps. We have a Toronto remix connection with Madrid and the Cansecos which are two awesome groups, and we know our name is much more familiar up there as a result. Same goes for Nobot and Gigamesh. Every group has their own friend/fan base and it's a great way to get exposed to new people and return their efforts with the same. We end up performing some of these remixes live as well. We liked the Gigamesh remix of our tune so much we ended up performing it instead of our original! We are always interested in working on remixes of interesting groups.

How'd you end up landing your recent national television spots?

Estate: We were approached by a small company out of LA that focuses on commercial placement. We didn't know what they could do but gave them a shot. They've landed some cool stuff for us so far and seem to have more in store. These TV placements and our new album coming out this winter have kept us excited and busy.

[This article was originally published by City Pages.]

Avenpitch Interview

This weekend the TC electropunk scene is celebrating the release of its fifth compilation with a show at Club Underground. In preparation for the event I had a few words with Todd Millenacker of Avenpitch, the band which will be headlining the show. In addition to giving away free copies of the new album to fans who attend the show this weekend, the collective is also offering each of the previous compilations as free downloads via

How has electropunk evolved in the Twin Cities since the first compilation?

Todd Millenacker: I don't know if really has. For me, it's still a motley bunch of musicians throwing stuff against a wall and seeing what sticks! In terms of the "Electropunk Scene" bands just keep coming out of the woodwork. Over the course of five years TC Electropunk has been associated with 43 acts and it seems like interest just keeps on expanding.

It's always hard naming names, but who are some of the rising stars in the local scene?

Todd Millenacker: To be honest my perspective is so warped on things that I really have no clue who is becoming successful outside of each band's own little circle. In terms of Volume 5, I know OBCT, milkbar, Thought Thieves and Pop Inc all seem to be working it pretty hard and I'm hoping someone breaks through eventually.

Have any bands on the compilations had any solid national exposure?

Todd Millenacker: Screaming Mechanical Brain, who was on Volume 4, is probably the most well known. Those guys are road warriors, have a great work ethic and have definitely earned the national attention they've been receiving.

As for the rest of us, every so often a little ray of hope shines through. I know Avenpitch has been pretty lucky in getting music placed in video games, indie movies and (most recently) a TV series.

Who are some of your favorite local electropunk bands?

Todd Millenacker: Obviously my band Avenpitch, but also I'm quite fond of the few bands that have been on all five TC Electropunk compilations - Mach FoX, Thosquanta and Uber Cool Kung Fu/IKKI.

What inspired you to get involved in the genre?

Todd Millenacker: I really like the general attitude behind it. The whole do-it-yourself mentality of getting a guitar, plugging into your computer and making some noise!

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

Har Mar Superstar Interview

The more you get to know about Sean Tillman, the more it seems like the guy never stops living the American Dream. That is, of course, if your version of the American Dream includes becoming a spokesman for a vodka company. And winning an onscreen dance-off with Ben Stiller. And making out with Kate Moss. And touring Australia with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Add to it that he just released his fourth album under his Har Mar Superstar moniker last month, celebrating the release of Dark Touches' first single by inviting his personal friend Eva Mendes to star in the music video—dude's got a grasp on the American Dream, indeed.

In addition to his new release, Tillman played a role in Drew Barrymore's Whip It, which premiered in theaters last month, and is in the process of developing Stitch N' Bitch, a new show for HBO he's been working on with Ellen Page (Juno) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development). Not bad for a guy who spent his formative teen years in Owatonna. Tillman recently spoke to us via email, discussing Dark Touches, his acting roles, and his competitive dodgeball team, the Juggalos.

Are you originally from Marshall or Owatonna?

I was born in Marshall and lived there until I was nine. Then, we moved to Owatonna. I stayed there until I was 15 and went to the what is now the Perpich Center for Arts Education. After that I stayed in St. Paul until I was 24. Then I moved London for a year, and I've been in L.A. for the last six years. At some point I lived in Chicago for a about a year. Can't remember when.

Do you still have any family or friends there? When did you head back there last?

My parents are still in Owatonna, so I end up back there a lot. There are a lot of good people there that I like to visit. Just go to the bar at the bowling alley and everyone's there. Convenience.

What was the inspiration behind performing again recently with Calvin Krime at the Uptown recently? Ever thought about taking Sean Na Na or CK on the road again?

The people at the Uptown Bar contacted me about doing a Har Mar show before closing the doors. I was all excited to help out and get a chance to rock the place one last time. After I thought I about it a bit I realized that I never really did many Har Mar shows there. Calvin Krime would play, and during that era I watched countless bands through the window just dying to turn 21 so I could go in. I got a wild notion to get Jon and Jason to play a few songs, they agreed, and we rocked the encore. It was super fun. I would like to play more with those guys. No official plans. It was just nice to dust off the bass and scream. As far as touring goes, I'm always threatening to do more Sean Na Na shows. If we got a good tour offered I'd put the band together. It's kind of brutal on the road these days though, so no promises.

What sort of impact did Michael Jackson's death have on you?

I was really surprised. Michael Jackson's death was so sudden. I came out of a movie and heard the news. It didn't seem real. I don't think I actually cried. I was more relieved for the guy. He was under such constant scrutiny that it must have been hellish. I feel like he finally got a little bit of peace. I love his music and his life story is legendary. Anyway, I hope his dad goes soon. Motherfucker.

Do you think that songs like "Dope, Man" or "Turn it Around" would exist had Jackson not?

Obviously M.J. was a huge influence on me. Thriller was the first album I learned every word to. I was in kindergarten and would come home and listen to it every day, dancing next to the record player with these giant white headphones on. I think that really shaped my point of view and love for R&B. Simply put, most of my songs wouldn't exist without Motown in general.

When did you guys have the idea to include [Eric Wareheim] in the video?

Eric and I have been trying to get together and make a video for a while now. He was super busy working on Tim and Eric while we were shooting this, but he was all about dropping by and getting slimed. It all came together nicely.

What's the continuation of the DUI theme about in your music?

I think I only reference Dialing Under the Influence once on Dark Touches. I guess it's something I'm prone to doing. Drunk dialing is a blessing and a curse.

"Game Night" has this strange hardcore-synth sound that reminds me a bit of Lords of Acid. How much do you listen to artists like that—or maybe Peaches—who are almost over the top with the openness of their sexuality? Does that sort of music influence you at all or is it the opposite—are you influencing someone like Peaches?

I've never really listened to Lords of Acid. P.O.S handed me a disc of beats and I really liked that one. It's just brutal and awesome. I love that bass sound. It's so gritty and huge. The song kind of wrote itself from there. As far as influencing people, I can't really answer that. I am friends with Peaches, and I think her shows are amazing. In that respect, I totally look up to her. We're peers though, so it's more of a mutual admiration. We've both been at it for a LONG time.

Forget old man Timberlake—think that you're bringing sexy back with Dark Touches bringing?

I love Timberlake. I think he's awesome. I think Dark Touches is my best album yet, so I'm really excited. I think this one's only 75% about sex. It's mostly about jubilation... which normally ends up with sex I guess. I don't know. I can't help it. People want to love me.

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

A Plus D Interview

When did you start making mashups?

A Plus D: We made our first mashup back in 2004, when we mashed up Missy Elliott with The Cure, and produced "I'm Really Hot Hot Hot!!!" Back in those early days of bootlegging, someone once said that your first mashup should always be made with either Missy Elliott or Eminem, due to the tightness of their raps, making them easier to sync up with other music.

But of course, we had been downloading and listening to mashups since 2002, and had already been DJing them at our Bootie parties for over a year. But being so intimately familiar with the art form by the time we finally started making our own definitely helped our craft.

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

A Plus D: We hate to sound cliché, but it's the usual suspects: 2manyDJs, Freelance Hellraiser, and Go Home Productions all initially inspired us to start producing our own mashups.

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

A Plus D: Shockingly, no! In fact, we've even been clandestinely approached by representatives from a few major labels to help them mash up their own artists on the down-low!

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

A Plus D: DJ Tripp's "Just Stop Believin'" (Lady Gaga vs. Journey). Damn, now there's finally another "Don't Stop Believin'" mashup besides our own that we actually like!

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

A Plus D: [As] the curators of the monthly Bootie Top 10, we have SO many favorites. Can we just go crazy? In no particular order: DJ Lobsterdust, DJ Schmolli, the Illuminoids, DJ Earworm, DJ Fox, MadMixMustang, Dan Mei & Marc Johnce, Divide & Kreate, Titus Jones, Loo & Placido, the Kleptones, DJ Y Alias JY, DJ BC, Zebra... these are just off the top of our heads, so if we left anybody out (and we're sure we did!) don't hate us, we're sorry!

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

A Plus D: We actually keep track! We number each mashup in the MP3 ID tags! So far, we're up to 52 officially-released A Plus D mashups... although we have at LEAST a dozen more that we've never actually posted online yet.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

A Plus D: Of all time? That is SUCH a difficult question! We used to say "Rapture Riders" (The Doors vs. Blondie) by Go Home Productions, but now it's getting a little long in the tooth. We can probably say what our "Mashup of the Year" is though, and that would be MadMixMustang's "I Got More Than A Feeling" (Boston vs. Black Eyed Peas). But check back with us at the end of December when we release our annual "Best of Bootie 2009" compilation album!

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]

Haunted House "Guess Who's Not Coming To Dinner" Review

In a time when bands are able to buff out their every last blemish by way of modern production techniques, Mike Watton's embrace of his monotone growl seems that much more unusual. On his band Haunted House's debut, Guess Who's Not Coming To Dinner, the singer's peculiar tone is the first sign of just how unpredictable is the music to come, as if The Jesus Lizard's David Yow were to reinvent himself as a pop singer, layering his nasally drawl beneath dense piano, breezy synths and an erratic rhythm section.

Haunted House began in 2002 as a solo project of Watton's, performing live with a revolving crew of contributors including drummers like Vampire Hands' Colin Johnson, Skoal Kodiak's Freddy Votel, and Martin Dosh. As time went on, a band grew around Watton including Cole Claerhout on guitar and percussion, bassist Jon Davis, and drummer Adam Patterson.

Haunted House deftly combines a host of influences to create an oddly original sound. The keys opening “Mirror” seem like a clear callout to Andrew W.K.'s “Girls Own Love,” while “The Coliseum” bends a dense, brooding rhythm section around late-stage '70s arena-rock. “The Hooker's Imagination” reflects something closer to the bouncing sound found throughout the New Pornographers' bubbling discography. The synth on "Let God Have His Way" echoes 1984-era Van Halen, and there's even a jam-band breakdown in "Rattled Out In Makeup." The parts are all familiar, but the combinations are imaginative and exciting—and the band may yet have more surprises in store, with two more albums (Lesh Is More and Ravage Through The Bum's Hair) already in the works for 2010.

[This article was first published by the AV Club.]

Lookbook "Wild at Heart" Review

Minneapolis is becoming increasingly known for being a hotbed of hip-hop and rock/noise acts, but somewhere in the shadows of the city lurks a stellar electronic scene that is just as remarkable. This often overlooked niche is arguably led by the duo of Grant Cutler (Passions) and Maggie Morrison (Digitata) who, under the Lookbook moniker, first captured the scene’s attention late last year with its acclaimed I Fear You, My Darkness EP. Now returning with its first full-length, Wild at Heart, Lookbook has expanded on Cutler’s dancefloor-friendly synths and Morrison’s enthusiastic vocals with an impeccable follow-up that looks to bring the band, and the genre, further into the spotlight.

After its breakthrough last year, Lookbook were invited to perform at First Avenue’s annual Best New Bands showcase and were named the Best New Band in City Pages‘ 2009 Best of the Twin Cities Poll. Such praise is rarely given to musicians who can’t hang. But not only can Cutler and Morrison hang, they add a genuine warmth and sense of personality to a style of music that has most recently been dominated by emotionless electronic acts a la Crystal Castles. At a time when it’s chic to outfit synths with a cold and distant sound, Wild at Heart is a warmhearted throwback that hearkens back to the most welcoming of ’80s pop and rock.

Album opener “Over and Over” is booming in its production, and finds Cutler underscoring Morrison’s sultry vocals with a tight guitar line. “Yesterday’s Company” and “Way Beyond” glisten with Morrison’s spirited lyrics, but as the album rolls on it’s that same enthusiastic playfulness that some might eventually find offputting. Uncorrupted by the glut of ’80s bands that may well be remembered as some of the tackiest in the history of pop music, Morrison has a fierce tendency to lay a dazzling bounce over Cutler’s almost kitschy beats. Depending on how hostile you might be to the sounds of an era gone by, however, this might come off as too sugary at times. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

As far as ’80s revivalism goes, there’s a thin line between unnecessarily rehashing music that died for a reason and being creative in reinterpreting an era’s essence in a refreshing manner. Wild at Heart is a dramatic representation of the latter. If more local acts were to follow suit, it wouldn’t be long before Minneapolis became known for “that Lookbook sound.”

[This article was first published by the Twin Cities Daily Planet.]

Toki Wright "Devil's Advocate" Video

Currently on the Fresh Air Tour with Brother Ali and Evidence, Toki Wright has just dropped the first music video from his full-length Rhymesayers debut A Different Mirror. "Devil's Advocate" just saw it's debut on MTV—which also acts as Wright's solo debut on the national station—where it is now acting as the emcee's introduction to many across the nation. Time will tell, but hopefully the momentum surrounding the MPLS veteran's June release will evolve into his own headlining tour in the new year a la Ali. Watch out for Mr. Wright's video in the coming weeks as it continues to get play on MTVU & MTV JAMS. The Fresh Air Tour will continue to travel around the nation until late in November when a pair of shows at First Avenue will cap off the production (Nov. 20/21).

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

DJ Schmolli Interview

When did you start making mashups?

DJ Schmolli: I did my first mashup in summer 2000 (Creed vs. Destiny’s Child); after doing a couple more I decided to go for other musical projects as I am a live musician too. I rediscovered the bootleg scene in autumn 2005, going strong since then.

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

DJ Schmolli: Well in 2000 when I started there were no other artists that inspired me. Actually there hasn’t been a mashup scene around these days and I haven’t heard many mashups before, just a few that I heard on the radio. So I just mixed songs for fun, to get better knowledge of the software and to irritate people when I put the mixes on at the DJ sets. Later in 2005 I found some great bootleggers on the web but I’d say I don’t get inspired from them a lot, I get the inspiration from the music itself. And since I listen to almost every musical genre you can tell I get quite a lot of inspiration.

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

DJ Schmolli: No, not yet. Actually quite the opposite is the case. I got feedback from a bunch of artists (or their management) and they were all pretty excited about the stuff I do. For once I thought that I got in some trouble. When I released the Falco Re:loaded album in 2008 I got an email from Afrika Bambaataa’s management regarding the use of his vocals in “Funky Kommissar.” The email sounded pretty bad at first, they were asking why I used Afrika’s vocals without permission and things like that. So I took the mp3 offline and apologized to them. But then they replied and said that A.B. loves the mashup and I should put it back online again.

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

DJ Schmolli: I’m listening to Mighty Mike’s “For No Bop” (Beatles vs. Ramones) at this very moment.

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

DJ Schmolli: There are quite a few, of course from the old days I like GHP, Aggro1, Divide & Kreate, DJ Moule, Lobsterdust, Loo & Placido, DJ Clive$ter, DJ Earlybird and Dunproofin. From the new bootleggers I think MadMix Mustang & LeeDM101 do some great stuff, as well as Marc Johnce & Norwegian Recycling.

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

DJ Schmolli: I released about 140, got quite a bunch in demo status.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

DJ Schmolli: Now that’s a really really tough question. I guess I can’t just name one, I love GHP’s “Rock In Black” and the Futuro mix of Kid KO’s “A Deeper Rigby”. My favourite of 2009 is probably LeeDM101 with “Radioactive Tubular Girls”.

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]

Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles "Special Party Time for Everybody" Review

The past year has offered a world of change to the six members of Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles. Dropping the independently released Orange Peels and Rattlesnakes in the summer of 2008 only added to the budding attention that the band had already been attracting for its live performances around the Twin Cities. By the end of the year the group had received best local band honors in City Pages‘ annual Picked to Click poll and began expanding its roadshow while anticipation at home continued to build. Now releasing their second album, Special Party Time For Everybody, Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles not only buck the highly dreaded sophomore slump, but offer a change in direction that adds an entirely new dimension to the band’s already remarkable sound.

There is no easy way to describe the band. To those unfamiliar, it might best serve as an explanation to include generic terms such as “fun” or “lighthearted,” but with Party Time the band has stepped outside its traditional folkie constraints and sailed further into the seas of jazz and rich, sophisticated pop. This transition might be best represented by the album’s title track, where the band’s carefree harmonies and hand claps eventually blend with Michelle’s whistling and airy call and response. It’s a song that sounds so distant from the Velvet Lapelles of a year and a half ago that it hardly seems like it came from the same set of musicians.

“Magnolia Tree” follows in the vein of a Spanish waltz, if such a thing were to ever be created by a metropolitan band based in the Midwest. Later in the album “Ghost Town” arises as an unofficial second part to the album’s lead track “Mouth of the Beast,” both foot-stompers that take full advantage of the instruments used in each respective song. The smoky sax in “Goodnight” and the playful piano in “Treetop Lullaby” (one that parallels “Chopsticks”) act as additional examples of how the band has furthered its sound through a wide array of instruments throughout the album.

The greatest representation of the prowess that the band have gained since first finding their place within the Twin Cities is the album’s “Hotel.” The seven minute song overlays Michelle’s ukulele with Eamonn McLain’s cello, each given their respective moments to seek the spotlight before eventually fading in with the rest of the dramatic mixture of sounds. Later the song adds horns and piano, both of which echo over drummer Geoff Freeman before each eventually loses its individual nature and becomes a thread in the song’s beautiful musical tapestry. As a whole, it is the most impressive piece the band has put together to date.

Much of the evolution evinced on Party Time might stem from Michelle and guitarist Chris Graham, who were attended St. Paul’s Central High School together—they both played in the school’s jazz band—though it likely has more to do with the rapid maturation of the band as a whole. The contrast between the its two albums is striking, and suggestive of far more than simply time spent practicing or playing together. For lack of a better description, Party Time still reflects the “fun” and “lighthearted” sounds that have been present since the group’s inception. But the new album reflects something deeper; far from a leap into dangerous territory, it showcases a group of artists who have comfortably outgrown their musical wardrobe, now tailoring new remnants of inspiration to their already broken-in sound.

While retaining the essence of what originally landed them so much interest, Lucy Michelle and co. have seamlessly done in a short stretch of time what many bands fail to achieve during their entire careers. One can only imagine where they’ll be in another year.

[This article was first published by the TC Daily Planet.]

Red Pens "Reasons" Review

“It’s not every year that the winner of our Picked to Click poll blows the rest of the competition out of the water, but every so often a band comes along that manages to win over the hearts of the entire music scene.” Though a tad hyperbolic, City Pages‘ recent introduction of this year’s best new band honors, which were given to Minneapolis’s Red Pens, weren’t bestowed without sufficient rationale. Particularly over the past few months, few burgeoning local acts have appeared so consistently on the radar—the excitement surrounding this band is hard to dispute.

A visual artist, guitarist Howard W. Hamilton III originally met drummer Laura F. Bennett after a friend of Hamilton’s suggested that he should check out Bennett’s work. From there they began collaborating until Bennett eventually hit the guitarist with a suggestion that maybe they should play together. Considering that they performed together for a year before actually playing in front of an audience, their album Reasons is more than simply the band’s debut: it’s a sonic time capsule culminating the evolution of their relationship.

Imagine for a moment what an under-produced version of Sonic Youth’s “Sunday” might sound like had it been shortened, amped up, and filtered through a youthful Midwestern duo: that’s pretty much what you’re going to hear on the majority of Reasons. In a half hour Red Pens tear through a dozen songs, shredding and wailing away on their instruments before an undertow encapsulates the last song and carries it out to sea.

“Cave Something” switches up the pace early on in the record, with Bennett introducing the track through a rumbling introduction while Hamilton chimes in with a steady drone of guitar that overwhelms the next three minutes of the song. “Street Issues” later continues the album by dropping a full-bodied sound that raises Hamilton’s vocals over an uncharacteristically bouncy riff. After a few more tracks of violent riffing, “Phase You Out” brings the record to a conclusion by capping off everything off and fading away. As its slow, emotional drive dissipates, it’s hard not to think about the blazing sound that came before it and pressing play once again.

The reason that best new band honors might seem a bit much is because there are hundreds, if not thousands of bands around the world right now attempting a similar sound at the moment as Red Pens. But it’s the delivery of the dizzying shoegaze-inspired whirlwind that the band sets itself apart. Whether it be the wavy “Children and the Kids” or the shredding sounds of “Kick Me,” Red Pens offer ample evidence suggestive of the true quality of their interpretation of the sound. For those who don’t get it, the band is just another faceless entity in the overpopulated populace; for those who do: Reasons is a record to play many times.

[This article was first published by the Twin Cities Daily Planet.]

team9 Interview

When did you start making mashups?

team9: In their current form I started probably about 2002. I think the first one I did was Shola Ama vs. the Pet Shop Boys, I’ve got no idea where that is now–long deleted. I used to mess around with mixing tapes into records though back in the '80s. I had a mate that was the DJ at the local skating hang out and I remember him mixing Nitro Deluxe and Michael Jackson together–it blew me away. So if we want to get technical my first mash up was Milli Vanilli "Girl You Know It's True" vs Bobby Brown "My Prerogative." Maybe I shouldn’t admit to that.

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

team9: Freelance Hellraiser, Richard X and GHP were the first that really stood out for me. I still love listening to the first wave of mashups. Some of them weren’t really that good in hindsight but it felt really fresh. I still admire those three though as producers. I think Richard X is up there with Trevor Horn as a pop producer—legendary!

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

team9: I suppose the only one I had was together with Party Ben as a part of the American Edit stuff. Scary but exciting because of all the press and web coverage that it generated. I was slightly disappointed that nothing came of it. I wouldn’t have minded being the mashup poster boy. ;-)

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

team9: Probably Copycat's latest with "White Wedding"–very nice. High rotation though would have to be Party Ben's MJ "Rock with You" vs. Nelly Furtado thing. My kids love that one and its on my summer playlist for this year.

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

team9: I’ll probably miss someone here: Earworm, Copycat, WFAH, Party Ben, Girl Talk, Go Home Productions, Dunproofin’. I’ll download anything new by them. I’m sure there are more I just cant remember right now.

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

team9: Far too many.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

team9: I’ve got a playlist set up of my favourites. I’m crap with track names but Zebra’s "Come Together’" vs Nine Inch Nails and Earworm's PJ Harvey, Thom Yorke duet are the first two that come to mind. GHP’s Hendrix vs Beyonce, Freelance Hellraiser's Stars Wars vs Hatiris, Phil Retrospector’s U2 vs Marivin Gaye – all brilliant.

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]

As His Future Remains Uncertain, Roger Huerta Looks to Mickey Rourke for Guidance

During a post-fight interview following his loss to Kenny Florian at UFC 87, Roger Huerta commented on remarks he had previously made about his future in the UFC, "All I was saying is that as a business decision—and you can't argue about this, it's in all business—if a company offers you something better for you and your family, then you would do that, right? It's the logical thing to do. And that's all I was saying." And now, without a contract with the UFC or any other fighting promotion, Huerta is again searching for what is best for both him as his family.

Roger Huerta's story is one that has been well documented, and the adversities he has overcome in his life list like those from a Hollywood screenplay. His father, who was plagued by drug and alcohol abuse throughout his life, had a history of infidelity that eventually led to the separation of his family. Little support came from his mother following the divorce however; often physically abusive, Huerta was eventually removed from her custody at the age of seven. Following further tribulations with both parents over the next five years, including being tragically abandoned, Huerta eventually found himself living on the streets at the age of 12, surviving through gang life.

As City Pages' Kevin Hoffman explains,
"His salvation was wrestling. Through wrestling he met the teacher who became his adoptive mother. She helped him find Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where he joined the wrestling team. A teammate introduced him to Mixed Martial Arts. MMA introduced him to the world."
Now, no longer under contract as an MMA fighter, Huerta's future is again in the air; though under far better circumstances than in the past.

The first MMA fighter to ever be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated (pictured above), Huerta's final bout of his six fight deal with the UFC came with a split decision loss to Gray Maynard at UFC Fight Night 19 last month. Maynard, who was recently ranked third in the world in the lightweight division by Five Ounces of Pain, pushed Huerta to his limit, leaving Florian, Huerta's previous opponent who was acting as a commentator for the fight, in awe. "I don't know how Roger is not tapping on that. You can see his shoulder blade popping out of his back. This is the heart of Roger Huerta!" Earlier in the fight the UFC's Mike Goldberg had alluded to the uncertainty that would follow the bout, and as Maynard's hand was raised in victory, Huerta's immediate future with the UFC looked increasingly unclear.

Now the free agent is looking to, of all places, a career in acting to help add a new sense of fulfillment to his life. Speaking to MMA Weekly in September, Huerta discussed his direction,
"I’ve just got to balance it out with my life, my social life,” said Huerta. “Balance it where I’m not fully just focused on one thing – I’m focused on fighting, and fighting is everything I do. I have to balance it out where fighting is my job, and outside of training, I get to hang out with my family and my loved ones, then the acting thing. Acting, that it’s just my job, and not making it where it’s all that I’m about."
And at the request of the once-troubled Hollywood actor, and former boxer, Mickey Rourke, Huerta looks to have an opportunity to pursue that next stage of his life. Insisting that Huerta join him in New York, Rourke recently flew the fighter out to East Coast where they began working together. “Mickey took him under his wing,” noted Huerta's manager Jeff Clark in a recent discussion with MMA Weekly.

And under Rourke's guidance Huerta has now found a role in Ling Bai's (Crank: High Voltage, Entourage) new movie Circle of Pain, which is set to being production later this month. The film comes as Huerta's second role in a major motion picture, his first will reportedly see release in theaters next month as he's featured as Miguel Caballero Rojo in the screen adaptation of the popular video game Tekken.

Despite Huerta's new direction in life however, it would be surprising if the 26 year old failed to set foot in the octagon again. "After the Maynard fight, he realized how much he loves fighting, and he definitely wants to fight again," Clark later commented. Prior to his consecutive losses, Huerta had been undefeated in his last 17 fights, with his final loss (which was subsequently the first loss of his career) coming in June of 2004 to Ryan Schultz.

At such a young age Huerta's options are seemingly limitless. Given his ability to find success against odds that would likely crush most people, he deserves the opportunity to pursue every avenue available to him. And regardless of which of those directions he decides to focus on, Roger Huerta should be celebrated as a champion.

[This article first appeared on Examiner.]

No Bird Sing "Devil's Trombones" Video

In preparation for the release of No Bird Sing's self-titled debut earlier this summer, City Pages interviewed the band and attempted to draw an accurate description of its music. "[No Bird Sing] is a hybrid, a product of a city where the MCs listen to NPR, musicians feel free to mix partying and post-modernism, and making something honest is preferable to making something perfect... The work is referential of hip-hop mechanics but humanized through the nuance of live performance." Pretty complicated, huh? And now No Bird Sing is replacing the written word with an increasingly abstract form of interpretation: a music video. "Devil Trombones" is dark stop-motion project created by 14 year old artist Malone Mischke. (Hey, that name sounds familiar.) No Bird Sing's next performance will be this coming Sunday night when the band opens for Saul Williams at the Varsity Theater.

[This article was originally published by City Pages.]

Lyoto Machida

Despite giving up some 60 pounds to the Heavyweight Champion, the UFC's current Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida said in a recent interview with Sherdog's Marcelo Alonso that he would jump at the opportunity to fight Brock Lesnar.

Alonso: "I also heard you said if you can defend your title for five times you're thinking about facing the UFC Heavyweight Champion. Is that true?"

Machida: "Yeah, but my focus right now is in my class: Light Heavyweight. But in the future I would like to do a couple fights... like Brock Lesnar. I respect Brock Lesnar as a fighter, but I know that I can fight with him. Brock Lesnar is a big challenge for me because he is a big guy, stronger, very very strong, very very power... very fast. And for me, I like the challenge."

The 15-0 Machida also discussed the possibility of coaching an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, just as a number of Light Heavyweight Champions have done in the past. Noting that he works on his English daily in an effort to prepare for such a show, Machida bluntly said that he would be very interested in coaching a season of the UFC's reality program if given the chance.

Before Machida even considers Lesnar or The Ultimate Fighter however, he will have to focus on his forthcoming title defense at UFC 104 against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Priming fans for the bout, Machida currently appears on the cover of the November 2009 edition of Men's Fitness magazine. UFC 104 will take place October 24 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Ultimate Fighter is currently in its 10th season and can be seen Wednesday nights on Spike.

[This article was first published at Examiner.]

Copycat Interview

When did you start making mashups?

Copycat: Depends on what you categorize as a mashup. I've been laying tracks on top of each other since the '80s. But as regards the modern equivalent, doing it on a computer, using parts of different tracks to create entirely new ones, I'd say around 2002/2003. But I didn't have the guts to start sharing them until a year later or so.

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

Copycat: Well, Soulwax and their 2 Many DJs project, of course. Another factor was the Freelance Hellraiser and his "Stroke of Genius"—brilliant then, brilliant now. Not to mention Mark Vidler and his Go Home Productions. However, not everyone was as good as those guys, and I suppose that's essentially the reason for my getting into the game. I thought I could do better than many of them...

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

Copycat: Not really, no. Had a few tunes/videos taken down from my various sites every now and then, without a word or notice, but no major hassle. Yet.

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

Copycat: Listened to Mighty Mike's "Papa Was In Your Hands" the other day over at Audio Porn Central. Brilliant.

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

Copycat: Um... How much time have we got...? There are tons of good ones. But I rarely miss any of Team9's releases. That guy has it all. Apart from being a nice bloke, he's got an eclectic and great taste in music, cool ideas, and excellent production skills. Check his latest project, the Memorabilica album under his Found Sound Orchestra guise, and you'll see what I mean. Magic.

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

Copycat: Don't really know. Some hundred probably. And some 20-25 remixes. But the past few years I've become much more restrictive about what I post. So I suppose you'll only find some 50-60 tunes out there. Tops.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

Copycat: Rather impossible to answer. But I'll go with either Jacknife Lee's Eminem mash from a few years back ("Cleaning Out My Closet" vs. ?) - or "Stroke of Genius." Mostly for the sense of infatuation that still comes over me when I hear either of them; few other mashups can match that. Both make me rush off to my computer to do one of my own...

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]

To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie "In People's Homes" Video

Continual Stereogum darlings Jehna Wilhelm and Mark McGee have popped up on the music site once again, this time debuting a new music video from their latest album Marlone. If anything, "In People's Homes" is an outlier in terms of what can be expected from the band, but a diversion that is as enjoyable a listen as the rest of the catalog from the talented Minneapolis-based duo. Alluding to the track as the record's "most surprising" in a review earlier this year, Pitchfork's Joe Colly added that "Homes" is "a buoyant two-minute pop cut that springs up virtually out of nowhere to loosen the seriousness of Marlone's second half." Complementing the comparatively light sound of the short two-minute track is the kaleidoscope of airy visuals cast throughout the video. To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie's next local appearance will come at the Hot Roxx Halloween Hextravaganza which will also feature Invisible Boy, mystery supergroups, DJs Nick & Jen, more.

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

Illuminoids Interview

When did you start making mashups?

Jells Mayhem: Back in 2006, after listening to some CDs that where floating around, and we would always listen to DJ Paul V.'s Mashup of the Day that used to air on Indie 103.1.

And we became so fascinated with the whole concept. And then seeing that there was this whole scene (GYBO, Bootie, Mashuptown, etc.). It was just like "Fuck, we got try this out."

It's funny because those CDs were treated like top secret government documents. People used to be real nervous about duplicating them, due to them being illegal. It was weird.

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

Jells Mayhem: 2 Many DJ's and Mark Vidler.

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

Jells Mayhem: Nope. We have actually had a lot of the bands really dig the bootlegs we have done, as well as the labels too, ironically.

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

Jells Mayhem: DJ Faroff's The B-52s vs. Lipps Inc., spun it at Bootie LA last Saturday.

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

Jells Mayhem: Wow, tough question. I'd have to say A plus D, DJ Zebra, DJ Moule, DJ Schmolli, Divide & Kreate, Aggro1 and there are some more that I can't really think of right now, but those are usually the ones that put out consistently good boots.

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

Jells Mayhem: 45-50 and about 5000 scrapped ones... haha.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

Jells Mayhem: Salt N Pepa vs. The Stooges, that was the one that really got me hooked into the scene.

[This article was first published by Mashuptown.]

dj BC Interview

When did you start making mashups?

dj BC: In about 2004, after hearing some made by other folks. But before that I was making them for a few years outside the 'computer realm' and was thinking of them more as hip-hop remixes. But Sony Acid opened up a whole new world for me.

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

dj BC: Go Home Productions, and of course, Danger Mouse. "The Beastles" was basically a rip-off of his "Grey Album". And pretty much everyone on McSleazy's GYBO, that community in general was hugely

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

dj BC: Yes, I have been asked to take things offline a few times. EMI does not like 'The Beastles', and asked me to take it offline. Some sampled artists I spoke with objected to "Wu Orleans;" though others quite enjoyed it, a few were not fans at all, and I took it offline out of respect for their personal feelings. Philip Glass' management asked me to take my 'Glassbreaks' album down, as well as the photo of him on the page. No one has been overly threatening or a jerk about it, though.

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

dj BC: By French mashup duo SUYT, "I Gotta Walk Away." Party staple, I predict.

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

dj BC: Go Home Productions, Party Ben, G3RST, DJ Moule, DJ Schmolli, Divide and Kreate, Martinn, Mei-Lwun, DJ Jay-R, A+D, Earworm... There are really too many to list, but there are a few, if people want to hear something new by a talented masher. And now Dj Y alias Y is one of my new faves.

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

dj BC: A few hundred, I guess? Not sure. Probably less than a thousand. Also it depends on how you categorize mashups! I do a lot of remixes and sound collage things as well. Not everything gets released, of course.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

dj BC: It constantly changes. Classics are "Rapture Riders" by GHP (Blondie vs The Doors) and "Let It Be Me" by Soundwasta (Shaggy vs Beatles), but I also admire DJ Earworm's "United States of Pop" boots from 2007 and 2008, which took the top 25 tracks of the year and combined them.

He basically does what a lot of "10,000 source" DJ s try to do, does but in a much more coherent, musical, in-key and satisfying way than almost anyone. I also love LeeBuzz's "Easy Waiting" (Bob Marley vs Lionel Richie). I could go on and on, really.

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]

Ben Frost Interview

To call Ben Frost unique would be an understatement. The Australian-born experimental composer now resides in Iceland and is on the brink of releasing By the Throat, his second release on the Bedroom Community label. The album is a chilling listen that scans Frost’s environment, picking up on the majesty of nature, and the welcoming the sounds of its most primal inhabitants. Part Richard D. James, part David Suzuki, Frost’s cross between the digital world and nature creates a soundtrack which is as delicate as it is aurally impressive. In this interview Frost discusses his disdain for much of modern music, his collaboration with the Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara and his admiration for the world’s natural sounds.

Through your connection with Valgeir Sigurðsson on the record, it didn’t surprise me to think of Medulla when listening to “Hibakúsja.” And with “Leo Needs A New Pair of Shoes” I felt as though the track wouldn’t have been out of place amongst Aphex Twin’s Drukgs. Do you find yourself being influenced by other artists when creating your own compositions?

Ben Frost: I listen to a very limited palette of music nowadays, the vast majority of modern music bores me terribly.

Many of the songs on the album carry a very primitive, sort of animalistic sound (in “The Carpathians” it’s fairly explicit with the howling of wolves). The liner notes refer to the inclusion of orca recordings and also feature pictures of wolves. Was there an aim to make the album reflect the raw sounds of nature?

I have been perpetually fascinated by the natural world my whole life. By the Throat is certainly the most explicit example of that, but its always been there — I grew up surrounded by animals, and was always encouraged to explore that world. When I was leaving school I was very torn between art school and the zoology department, it’s a left brain right brain argument. The orca recordings I used in By the Throat were given to me by a marine biologist in Norway, Heike Vester, whose work I have followed for a number of years — she studies orca language, which fascinates me. The beginnings of By the Throat were born pouring over her hydrophonic recordings, often sleeping with them playing. My fascination with them probably goes back to my mother, reading me a book called The Killers of Eden when I was a small boy.

Sonically, as with most things, truth is stranger and more captivating than fiction. There is simply more honesty and more power in the tone produced by the snarl of a lion than by the same tone performed on a bass synth. I am not setting rules to make an “animal record,” these things, just make sense to me, I am not trying to be eccentric. I am inspired far more a by breathing snow leopard than by a new max patch.

This perpetual adoration of mediocrity, taking the past, the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s, or whatever is in fashion at the moment, and just microwaving it just makes me want to hardwire my radio to the BBC world service and never enter a record store again. It’s aural Botox. People demand so little from the music they listen to these days I don’t even blame these “artists” for supplying it to them — why bother struggling with art when you can be acclaimed for producing vapid, pointless drivel. I am actually working in Australia this week, this is particularly evident here.

If anything By the Throat is me expressing, explicitly, my need to hear things that scare me and shallow my breathing - I want flesh in my music, it has to bleed to mean something to me. It's just not enough to make the notes fit together for me anymore.

Winter also plays a significant roll in casting a particular feeling when browsing the liner notes. Is that feeling meant to reflect something of a bleakness within the sounds on the recording?

Have you ever seen a wolf pack running in the snow? Bleak is not my intention at all. By the Throat is a celebration of nocturnal, carnivorous joy — it’s not evil, it's simply visceral. It is drawn from, if anything, primal, elemental forces. I crave that, especially now. It is no coincidence to me that vampire culture is so en vogue again — clans, bloodlines, unity — we are not supposed to operate alone to the level we do, unplugging ourselves from the pack, our undeveloped caveman genes are screaming at us. Bleak? I cannot think of a time I have felt more joyful than when I was running around in that blizzard with those beasts.

Is there a relationship between Bill Murray’s character in the Ghostbusters movies and your songs “Peter Venkman (Parts 1 & 2)”?


If there is one, what is the concept behind the final three “Through the…” songs on the record.

In the early stages of this record, just after I was kind of done with Theory of Machines, I started listening very purposefully to quite a lot of ceremonial music, both western and eastern—music whose design is solely to convey a sense of order and ritual and provide space for something else to happen. It amazes me how instantaneous those ideas can be conveyed in that music, similarly though in some pop music like Control by Joy Division or Disintegration by the Cure. The elements of those pieces of music are all presented within the first four bars of the composition and they exist wholly, together, like “Fascination Street,” for example, an unchanging un-evolving rhythmical and melodic structure that simply provides a stage for Robert Smith’s voice.

Structurally this approach was the antithesis to Theory of Machines, and up until this point the majority of my work actually, where the idea has generally been to accentuate each element and its relationship to every other element - to build: the crux of “post rock.” This is simply not the case with By the Throat. My focus here is not the music, but the drama operating within it, and as such, for the most part the elements that create that space are there from the start, until the end, the point is to put you there and keep you there. I mean, it’s more like Part or maybe in a physical sense more like the Rothko room at the Tate Modern. In place of single infinitely detailed landscape, it's not about revelation of detail but presenting a three dimensional space whose singular atmosphere alters the drama that occupies it.

Also how did you become acquainted with Jeremy Gara & did he lend any insight during the recording of “Through The Mouth of Your Eye”?

Jeremy Gara was the Big Lebowski‘s rug for that piece, he just really tied the room together.

Dj Doc Rok Interview

When did you start making mashups?

Dj Doc Rok: I first started doing remixes of songs in late 2006, the first one was Mims "This Is Why I'm Hot." It was a vehicle to promote my production skills, I didn't mix it with another famous song I just put my own beat underneath it instead. I did this for about a year, exclusively with hip hop songs. Whenever a song came out that I thought had a weak beat ("This Is Why I'm Hot," "Crank Dat Soulja Boy," etc), I'd put my own beat underneath it and send it out to my email list. Then, in 2007, a friend sent me the American Gangster album a capellas about a week before everyone else had them, and I decided to sample Led Zeppelin tracks as the foundation for a whole remix album. I put the whole thing together in about three days, Perez Hilton posted it on his blog, and the rest, they say, is history.

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

Dj Doc Rok: When I first started it was really just a novel idea to promote my beats.The American Zeppelin mashup/remix album was definitely inspired by the knowledge of Danger Mouse's Grey Album, though I hadn't had it specifically in mind when I started.

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

Dj Doc Rok: Yeah, the fuzz has been all up on my shit. After American Zeppelinblew up, they deleted my MySpace page due to "copyright complaints" and then a while later also randomly deleted my YouTube account too. Universal is pretty cool about allowing their stuff to be used creatively, Warner Brothers and Sony are complete dick holes. It also sucks because these projects really don't do anything but help expose all the people involved. I haven't made a cent off of any of the remixes I've ever done, but a lot of people have discovered either rock and roll or rap artists they didn't know they liked because it hadn't been presented in the unique way the remixes exposed them.

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

Dj Doc Rok: Eric Pryds vs Sean Paul Temperature, we played it at the Epic Dance Party last night. It's a banger.

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

Dj Doc Rok: I've done four album remix projects, American Zeppelin, Biggie Hendrix, 50 Cent's Golden Oldies and Motown Electronic, plus probably fifteen single remixes of songs. That's in between trying to get my own shit off the ground and working.

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]

James McMurtry "We Can't Make It Here"

I’m a fairly laid back person. I throw shitfits every now and then like most people do, but like most people, the vast majority of my pissiness is superficial and is forgotten almost immediately. It takes a lot to honestly get me riled up, so when I do become angry — honestly angry — it’s got to be for a good reason. And as true now as it was the first time I heard it: listening James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here” makes me angry.

I was first introduced to the musician by a roommate in college. To lend a bit of context to this, it should be noted that this particular roommate’s favorite musician of all time is Garth Brooks. (He and I don’t particularly see eye to eye on that one.) One day he came into my room and told me I had to listen to this CD he just bought, that being McMurtry’s Childish Things. Having gone through this before, I had done the “suuuuuuure, I’ll listen to it” routine, fired the disc up, and shut it back down as soon as he left the room. But he pushed this one on me, and in particular this very song. It was 2005, he a College Republican and I a politically confused Canadian, but we both sat there, listening, with frogs growing in each of our throats and tears swelling up in our eyes.
"Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin, or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in? Should I hate ‘em for having our jobs today? No I hate the man that sent the jobs away."
James McMurtry is a country musician from Texas, he doesn’t take shit from the industry (ie: his 2008 independent release Just Us Kids was his first album to chart on the Billboard 200 since 1989), and he seems to be set in his ways. But he’s also a badass, he knows when to call a spade a spade, and is not afraid to do so. With this song he does just that. Saying that “We Can’t Make It Here” touches on the war, the effect the failing economy, and white collar crimes would simply be scratching at its surface. I can’t think of a more moving social critique that I’ve heard in a song. Ever.

In revisiting it now the song has lost little of its emotional charge. Even when taking into consideration that we now have a different administration, a “Yes We Can” attitude, and a President in office who the majority actually voted for, I think McMurtry’s words are as vital now as they were four years ago. Sometimes that painful reminder is a good thing, even if it does leave you feeling mad as hell.

dj Erb Interview

When did you start making mashups?

dj erb: In keeping with what I’ve actually heard from quite a few DJs and producers, it probably all started with a dual tape deck. I always loved Pantera and metal music where there’d be just a groove to it and there would usually be a breakdown part in the middle where it was just a stripped down hard and heavy groove riff. And just as hip hop producers and DJs extended funk breaks, I started out by extending heavy metal breaks. I would make tapes where I would extend the breakdown from something like “5 Minutes Alone” and record it back and forth on the tape decks 4-8 times so I could get down to that part longer.

I was also always the one people would look at my CD collection in high school and go “huh?!” I’d have my Pantera collection sitting right next to 2Pac’s new album and have a Steve Ray Vaughan album on the next page along with the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans which was next to Notorious B.I.G. and then some crazy new techno thing called Daft Punk. Not many people I knew at that time could honestly put on Pearl Jam’s Ten and follow it up with Snoop‘s Doggystyle and then pop in Exit Planet Dust and then listen to Tool’s Undertow and then end up with the soundtrack to Rising Sun and enjoy them all the same. My CDs were so varied that people always looked through them and just shook their head wondering how I can like this but still like this while also liking this and that. You can’t actually like all of these?! But I did. I couldn’t decide what I really liked because I saw something great in all kinds of music.

My freshman year of college in 1997 a friend of mine named Ravi and a bunch of other people around campus found a file sharing method of some kind. Not sure what it was, but file sharing of any kind like that back in 1997 was pretty new as far as I can remember. So I’d hit up his place and we‘d get a few songs here and there. One of the things I got from this was a rap song I always wanted but when I got it home and gave it a listen it was actually the a capella version of it, which at that time I had no idea what that even was. I remember that I was going to just delete it but I figured I’d keep it anyway just for novelty value.

It was only the next year that I figured out something to do with that a capella. At that time I was messing around recording original music using a Cakewalk music program. I think it was Cakewalk’s Guitar Studio, can’t really remember. I realized that the program was basically working off WAV files that you were supposed to record using the mic input or line-in so I figured why don’t I just convert whatever I want to use to a WAV file and drop it in that program. So I’d mess around putting the rap vocals over instrumental parts from rock songs or mixing up heavy metal breaks like I used to do with cassette tapes and so on. But I really couldn’t loop the instrumental parts and I couldn’t match the tempo of the songs if they weren’t the same so they didn’t really work at all most of the time! But after messing around with it here and there I did come up with some things that worked decently well and got to the point where I could sequence parts repeatedly to make it sort of loop and then put a rap verse on it or maybe a beat from a rap song.

So the first actual finished mashups or remixes I made came in 1998, but I didn’t let anyone hear them for a quite awhile after that because a) I didn’t think anyone would like them and b) they really weren‘t very good at all at that point anyway! I was just making them for myself as a way to combine all the different kinds of music that I enjoyed. So that’s how it all started for me and I just kept playing around with stuff from time to time throughout the years after that. And as new music programs and DJ technology came out it became easier and more accessible to do as I went.

Are there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

dj erb: Again, I seemed to find this on my own so nothing really inspired me to get into mashups and remixes other than my desire to mix up all the different kinds of music that I enjoyed. But if I did have to name one influence I think it would have to be DJ Shadow. I first heard Endtroducing from an old friend of mine named Dylan. I remember sitting up in his room at his house and listening to it and at first not really getting it, but after a bit I was blown away by it. It was amazing to me that Shadow took samples from basically every genre of music and put them together so they were now something completely different. And it wasn’t just 2 or maybe 3 different sources mixed together, he was taking just a sprinkle of this song and a dash of that song with the drums from this song and a vocal hook from that song and on and on and on to create something completely different. So if anything I’d probably have to say DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing opened my mind to the possibilities of taking samples and bits and pieces of songs and mixing them together to create something of your own. There’s a line I always liked from the movie Finding Forrester that I think sums it up well, "You’ve taken something which was mine and made it yours. Quite an accomplishment." And that’s what Endtroducing showed me was possible.

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

dj erb: Wow, it would definitely be a very large number over the years. I’ve made over 50 CDs full of music since 1998 but a lot of those are original music and some are DJ sets so they probably don’t really count in that respect. I’ve also made countless other remixes on the side like all the Class(X) mixes and a mountain of stuff that I’ve still never even given out to anyone. So it would definitely be a very large number whatever it is.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

dj erb: I’m assuming you mean what’s my favorite mashup of my own? Maybe not, but I’ve hardly listened to anyone else's work at all so I wouldn’t even be able to say what my favorite is of other people’s stuff unfortunately!

So it’d be hard to narrow down to just one, but I think I’d have to say the “Hollaback Girl Ohio State” remix would probably have to be my personal favorite. I could write quite a lot here about the history of that one - how it came about, the effect it seemingly had, all the copycats afterward, the requests from other schools to remix their music even including some high schools that asked, and everything to do with that one remix. But I think it’s just extremely special to me because I somehow created something that became however a small part of the Buckeye football experience. And it’s an amazing feeling to have had anything remotely at all to do with the traditions of Ohio State football and it’s probably the mix I’m most proud of due to that fact. O…H…

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]

G3RSt Interview

When did you start making mashups?

G3RSt: When I was younger, I used to make a lot of tunes and remixes using tracker software on the PC (ScreamTracker, ImpulseTracker, that kind of stuff). Most of it was very experimental and not very good. Ha! After a few years, my interest in that waned, so I pursued other things. I went into art school and started working in web design and such. At that time I thought the whole mixing scene was as good as dead, but a few years ago I noticed some DJs were starting to make mixes in a very specific format: mashups. In the summer of 2006 I was in a bit of a funk—I had just come out of a long term relationship and I had a lot of time to myself. At that time I had been listening to mashups for about a year. By then I had already registered to GYBO and downloaded songs like crazy. All of a sudden it occurred to me: I should try making mixes myself. So I installed Reaper, and some other sound editing software, and so it started. And yes—it did help putting my mind on other things; talk about therapeutic. ;-)

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

G3RSt: Of course, as I said, I listened to a lot of stuff in that period, but the mixes that struck me as the most original were those done by the likes of DJ Schmolli, DJ Moulé, Wax Audio and PartyBen. A lot of people will say they were inspired by 2 Many DJs, but since they only did long mixes, it didn't really interest me at that time. It was only until I heard rounded off songs that I really began taking interest in mashups and the mashups scene.

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

G3RSt: No, never. I do think it's an interesting topic though. I can't deny that I partly got interested in doing mashups because of the illegal aspect of it. It's a form of music that is not condoned by the music industry in any way, and the anarchistic nature of it alone is reason enough for me to participate. But to get back on subject... I understand there are producers that have received "cease and desist" mails and letters, but I reckon those are either people that have tried selling their material or who are living in the US... or both. The reason I'm saying this, is because European legislation (or in my case: Dutch) is less restrictive than in America. Here we have the right to sample (8 seconds if I'm correct) and the right to download (though not spread) online music. So er... as long as I'm staying in this country, I'm good.

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

G3RSt: That would be FM24's "Might Like Your Wonderlust" (Gogol Bordello versus Amanda Blank), an excellent genre clash!

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

G3RSt: There are a lot of producers out there that make excellent stuff, but the ones that keep churning out quality material on a regular basis are Schmolli, Phil Retrospector, DJ Not-I, Wax Audio, Aggro1, DJ Moulé and ToToM. I must admit that if you ask me this next week, the list will be different. ;-)

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

G3RSt: Real mashups? 67... and I'm not taking into account the ones that I half finished, or tried mixing and threw away, et cetera...

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

G3RSt: That's a hard question... but if I really have to choose, it would be Dysfunctional DJ's "You're the One That I Want in the Next Episode" (Grease versus Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg) - that shit's awesome!

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]

Pearl Jam "Backspacer" Review

At that particular time in my life I had heard of Pearl Jam. I was familiar with whatever radio-friendly singles they had in rotation on the local classic rock radio station, and was a casual fan. But my first real introduction to the band came during the 1996 Grammy Awards. At the time I was a big fan of Primus — probably more of the music video for “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” than the band itself, actually — and had my hopes set on seeing the band win the award for “Best Hard Rock Performance” that evening. In the end however, Pearl Jam ended up winning with “Spin the Black Circle” (which was originally released in 1994; c’mon!). The short clip of the winning song which the house played as the band made its way to the stage immediately captured me though, and I ended up buying Vitalogy shortly thereafter.

The point is that everyone has different moments in time when someone or something makes a dramatic entrance into their lives. For some, their Pearl Jam moment came during grunge’s heyday, for others it came in the form of a blistering guitar riff at the ’96 Grammys, but for some other people out there, believe it or not, it likely came when the band unveiled “Got Some” during Conan O’Brien’s debut as the host of The Tonight Show. For those bold enough to call themselves die-hard fans, it’s likely extremely difficult to imagine the idea that there are people who haven’t actually sunk their teeth into a Pearl Jam album. But with 9.2 million people watching that night, chances are high that there was at least one person watching who would fit into that category. And chances are also good that there is one such person who had their Pearl Jam moment that night.

Following the release of a deluxe reissue of the band’s classic debut, Ten, this past spring, information began to trickle down regarding the band’s previously announced ninth studio album. And by the time the band was confirmed as the first musical act on The Tonight Show under its new reign, the internet was already abuzz as someone had leaked a rough recording of “The Fixer” following the Cameron Crowe-directed Target Commercial shoot. From there, fans were treated to the televised live performance, and additional bits and pieces began to fall into place.

The album — while still being an easily recognizable Pearl Jam record — parallels bits and pieces of the band’s previous releases this past decade, but is an animal all unto itself. The first step in shifting the band’s direction was returning to producer Brendan O’Brien for the first time since 1998′s Yield (O’Brien also produced No Code, Vitalogy, and Vs.). The explanation behind the change had less to do with returning to a time period and more to do with the band necessity to be comfortable with someone who they could trust to do the job of trimming its songs down. And after initially reconvening at their first session for the album together in 2008, that’s exactly what he did. Previously the shortest Pearl Jam album had been the record-setting Vs., which runs about 46 minutes. Backspacer is 10 minutes shorter.

This trimming to the core attitude is immediately reflected in the band’s first three — maybe even four — songs on the record. Following the trend set by Pearl Jam, the band ignites Backspacer with the straightforward “Gonna See My Friend,” the previously mentioned “Got Some” and “The Fixer,” and the gritty “Johnny Guitar.” Though not as raw as the opening set of tracks on the band’s 2006 release, these songs nonetheless represent the core of the album’s energy.

“Got Some” and “The Fixer” are the two among the first few tracks that really stick out, though they do so for completely different reasons. “Got Some” is a blazing track that is primarily attractive due to just that: its explosiveness. “Every time you can try/But can’t turn on/A rock song/I got some if you need it,” is a bit of a play on a drug dealer pushing rock (not plural), but ultimately the lyrics are dissolved by the pure enjoyment of the music flowing through the sound of Eddie Vedder’s voice. That last point could be made about “The Fixer” as well, had the song not been slightly slower and oddly funky. Throughout the song Vedder’s voice is highlighted, and despite the lyrics being fairly basic, with each new verse the attraction to them becomes greater and greater, “When something’s broke I wanna put a bit of fixin’ on it/If something’s bored I wanna put a little excited on it/If something’s low I wanna put a little high on it/If something’s lost I wanna fight to get it back again.”

“Amongst the Waves” and “Unknown Thought” both offer a ripple effect, allowing different aspects of the band to alternately take the spotlight throughout each song. Combining an increasingly booming musical presence with uplifting lyrics “Amongst the Waves” eventually blasts through an invisible roadblock and soars, “Riding high amongst the waves, I can feel like I have a soul that has been saved.” Similarly “Unknown Thought” builds slowly, the first two and a half minutes leaning heavily on Vedder’s lyrical focus towards embracing our universal surroundings while the band slowly chimes in behind him. As the song moves forward it again reverts to Vedder’s lyrics, “See the path cut by the moon/For you to walk on/See the waves on distant shores/Waiting your arrival,” before hitting another moment of cohesion before ending the song.

It’s songs like these last two that lend themselves as evidence of the band’s decision to “rehearse” at bassist Jeff Amment’s home in Montana; something Pearl Jam hasn’t done since Ten. As Vedder explained in a promotional Backspacer short, the concept of playing and writing together before hitting the studio was “all based on the idea… ‘let’s write the songs before we record them.’ ” But just as the album seems to level off, we’re given “Supersonic.”

“Supersonic” opens with a riff that essentially adds a slide to that from “Mankind” before continuing the trend that was set by the album’s first string of tracks. Unlike anything on the record to this point, the song breaks down half way through into a fun trade-off between Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, the guitarists blending a heavy jam under a solo, before kicking back into the chorus of the track.

Ten years ago, had you asked what I thought Pearl Jam would have sounded like as its members grew into their early to mid-40s? My response would have probably been something close to what “Speed of Sound” and “Force of Nature” sound like. The songs are on par with much of the band’s output this past decade, but don’t necessarily reflect the same cohesion that is represented through the majority of the record. From there, the album ends with Backspacer‘s second best delicate, brooding love song.

It’s funny that the album’s opener, “Gonna See My Friend,” was described by Vedder as something of a drug song, while the aptly titled “The End” tells a heartbreaking tale that is easily translated as something of a “drug song” itself. The track rests primarily on Vedder and an acoustic guitar, building up as a tale of lovers coming together, before their relationship collapses, "Help me see myself, ’cause I can no longer tell/Looking up from inside of the bottom of a well, it’s Hell, I yell/But no one hears before, I disappear, whisper in my ear/Give me something to echo in my unknown future/You see, my dear, the end, comes near, I’m here, but not much longer." While its pace and tone isn’t entirely different, the gentle sadness of “The End” is ultimately trumped by the album’s best track: the equally sentimental “Just Breathe.”

In first listening to Vedder and Corin Tucker’s rendition of Indio’s “Hard Sun,” released in 2007 on the soundtrack to Into the Wild, I felt as though I had found something that had touched me far deeper than much of anything had in quite some time. The lyrics are one thing — beautiful and deeply moving — but it was the execution of the song that resonated within me. And if “Just Breathe” had been developed along those same lines — Vedder performing a rendition of someone else’s song — I’d say the exact same thing; however, this isn’t someone else’s song.

“Oh, I’m a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love.” Connecting various aspects of life that are easily overlooked, Vedder continues the song by defining aspects of common ground that we all—at some point in time—share, “Under everything, just another human being/Yeah I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me breathe.” After assessing the value of finding the humanity within us, strings accompany Vedder as he casts out a line that is repeated throughout the remainder of the song, “Everything that you gave, and nothing you would take.” Vedder himself has called “Just Breathe” the closest thing to an actual Pearl Jam love song, and after boldly addressing that for which he yearns the band safely chimes in, and the song ends as he quietly confronts their mutual morality. Each step in the song enables a touching moment that creates a bond between the songwriter and the listener, and as Vedder carefully allows his love to know that her selflessness is what he finds most beautiful in her, “Just Breathe” — which is lodged in the middle of the album — reaches its “Hard Sun”-moment.

Neither Pearl Jam nor “Spin The Black Circle” are for everybody. Had I not been so fixated on the television set that evening, I might not have developed the intrigue to explore a band that has since become one of my favorites. Chances are good that the majority of the viewers watching that episode of The Tonight Show didn’t make it through the entire episode, didn’t find Pearl Jam to be of their taste, or ended up completely forgetting all about it a few days later. But for some, that had to be their moment; their moment in time when Pearl Jam’s music reached out to them and secured their attention. And to those people I say Backspacer won’t be a bad place to start. It essentially covers the music that the band has made as it has transitioned through the past two decades, while not allowing you to forget that this is Pearl Jam in 2009. While at times there are songs that pull away from the body of the record, Backspacer demonstrates that the band still has fire, it still has cohesion, and above all it demonstrates that Eddie Vedder is still lyrically able to crush giants. What Vitalogy was to me, I hope Backspacer is to at least a few new Pearl Jam fans.