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.

Divide & Kreate Interview


When did you start making mashups?

Divide & Kreate: December 2004

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

Divide & Kreate: I think it was that Soulwax As Hear On... that got me started.

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

Divide & Kreate: Not from any record company, not yet anyway. My previous webhost didn't look too friendly on having mp3 on my website though...

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

Divide & Kreate: Tone396 mashup with Green Day and Shakespear's Sister.

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

Divide & Kreate: Me, me, me ;-)

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

Divide & Kreate: Don't know really, about 150 perhaps.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

Divide & Kreate: The Timelords 'Doctorin' the Tardis.'

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]