The Mash-up Revolution - Salon

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<ul><li><p>7/31/2019 The Mash-up Revolution - Salon</p><p> 1/6</p><p>18/08/2012 13:04The mash-up revolution -</p><p>Page 1 of 6</p><p>Destiny's Child vs. Nirvana! Britney vs. Chic! The Ramonesvs. ABBA! How pop's hottest DJs are creating those wildbootleg remixes -- and why they're so hard to find.</p><p>In the 1993 club hit Rebel Without a Pause, Chuck D. raps over Herb Alpertschirpy trumpet: "A rebel in his own mind/ Supporter of a rhyme/ Designed to scat-ter a line/ of suckers who claim I do crime." That incongruous hybrid of hip-hop and bouncy pop, created by the group Evolution Control Committee, sounds as startlingand amusing today as it did a decade ago, and still ripe with meaning.</p><p>The wacky juxtaposition spawned its own kind of revolution, inspiring legions of theclub remixes now called "mash-ups" with one classic example being "Smells Like</p><p>Booty," in which Destinys Child wails over Nirvanas classic dirge and drone. Alsoreferred to as bastard pop, mash-ups involves blending samples from two songs generally, one songs vocals atop anothers instrumental or rhythm track. The sum of the parts often surpasses the originals. The more disparate the genre-blending is, the better; the best mash-ups blend punk with funk or Top 40 with heavy metal, boostingthe tension between slick and raw. Part of the fun is identifying the source of two fa-miliar sounds now made strange and then giggling over how perfect Whitneysounds singing with Kraftwerk.</p><p>Exploding onto Britains dance club scene in the last couple of years, mash-ups arecut n pasted by superstar DJs whose aliases sound like email monikers: Ultra 396,Kid606, Anon, Mc Sleazy. Distributed free on the Internet, on bootleg CDs and on 12-inch "white labels" in U.K. shops, mash-up recordings may be becoming yesterdaysnews overseas, just as theyre beginning to attract a si gnificant audience on this sideof the pond. Mash-ups are easy to create on home computers with software any com-</p><p>petent downloader can find for free. But because the necessary artistic clearances aretough to obtain at best, mash-up devotees are bootleggers almost by definition.</p><p>As in a wrestling match or a courtroom battle, the two "mashed"acts are presented asopposing each other: "Kylie Minogue vs. New Order," "Tag Team vs. Marilyn Man-son" or "The Ramones vs. Abba." Mashing the titles of the two tracks adds anotherlayer of wit: Soundgarden matched with Joni Mitchell is "Like Woodstock." Splice theBee-Gees with Michael Jackson and you get "Billies Alive"; Chris Isaak vs. Eminemyields "Wicked Superman" and Christina Aguilera vs. the Strokes turns out to be "AStroke of Genius" (which it is).</p></li><li><p>7/31/2019 The Mash-up Revolution - Salon</p><p> 2/6</p><p>18/08/2012 13:04The mash-up revolution -</p><p>Page 2 of 6</p><p>Mash-ups might be the ultimate expression of remix culture, which has grown out of a confluence of influences: widespread sampling, DJs as performers, and the prolifer-ation of digital technology, as well as a tangle of diverse musical styles from jungle tohouse to garage and techno. To lapse into postmodern jargon for a sec, mash-ups arethe highest form of recontextualization, recycling toasty tunes by fusing pop hookswith grunge riffs, disco divas with hardcore licks. The groove and crunch combina-tion melds black music back into rock, or pulls out a songs surprising inner essence.Toss in something vintage, obscure, silly or unexpected and the duet totally tran-scends all musical formats and canons of taste.</p><p>"The Remix," a Friday-night show on Londons XFM radio ("where dance rocks") hasproudly championed mash-ups, providing their primary on-air outlet, says JamesHyman, the shows co-host for three years. Though mash-ups are a side dish in theshows diet of remixes, the listeners devour them, and The Remix has launchedsuch hot DJs as Freelance Hellraiser, Jacknife Lee and Audio Bullys, whose work can be found on the album "The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever," a critical fave (and a bootleg itself).</p><p>Belgian brothers Stephen and David Dewaele, aka Soulwax and/or 2 Many DJs, as-sembled and released the nonstop, album-length mash-up "As Heard on Radio Soul-</p><p>wax, Part 2" (there was no Part 1, although there have been several subsequent in-stallments), morphing Prince into Sly and the Family Stone slipping into the VelvetUndergrounds "Waiting for My Man" over the throbbing "Peter Gunn" TV showtheme. All 45 samples were exhaustively cleared for the Benelux countries only. So buying the album as an import is legal (you can easily find a copy on the Web rightnow), even if owning and playing it in the United States is a legal gray area at best.</p><p>From Vanilla Ice to the Verve, the controversy over sampling rights and the prohibi-</p><p>tive costs of clearance payments, potentially due to publisher, label and artist, keepmash-up bootlegs underground, perhaps contributing to their allure. Ironically,artists who sampled aplenty in the 90s, such as the Beastie Boys and the ChemicalBrothers, arent necessarily eager to grant permissions. Touting the "buy it dont burnit" philosophy, Missy Elliot, whose "Get UR Freak On" has been mashed 50-plustimes, tells consumers to turn their backs on bootleggers.</p><p>After radio stations received cease-and-desist letters for playing mash-ups, Freak Like Me, mashed by Girls on Top (aka Richard X) with Adina Howard backed by a</p></li><li><p>7/31/2019 The Mash-up Revolution - Salon</p><p> 3/6</p><p>18/08/2012 13:04The mash-up revolution -</p><p>Page 3 of 6</p><p>Gary Numan track, was re-recorded with The Sugarbabes vocals to circumvent legaldifficulties and hit No. 1 on the U.K. charts.</p><p>Labels should love mash-ups, insists Jon McDaniels, program director of C89.5, aSeattle high school radio station whose teen DJs constantly play bootleg imports on</p><p>the daily mix show. "They breathe new life into old stuff,." he says. (A current fa-vorite is Dannii Minogue vs. Dead or Alive: "I Begin to Spin.") Admittedly, mash-upsmay not inspire the purchase of Celine Dions CDs, but they may rekindle interest ina forgotten career. Consider the example of the proto-mash-up, Run-D.M.C.smid-80s collaboration with Aerosmith on "Walk ThisWay."</p><p>It wasnt until a landmark case in 1991 that casual sampling of borrowed materialwas deemed illegal, when Gilbert OSullivan sued Biz Markie for unauthorized useof "Alone Again (Naturally)." The judge quoted the Seventh Commandment, "Thoushalt not steal." Would hip-hop have survived that long without widespread pilfering and where would the already crippled music business be without the rap"fad"many thought would fade?</p><p>Though credited as the grandfathers of mash-ups, Ohios Evolution Control Commit-tee is more into satirical audio collage ("plunderphonics") than reinventing popsongs. When threatened with a lawsuit by CBS for sampling news anchor Dan Ratherover AC/DC for a track on their latest compilation, "Plagiarhythm Nation, Vol 2.0,"ECC responded that copyright law allows "fair use"of materials for parody purposes.</p><p>With Madonna and the Sex Pistols giving permission to Go Home Productions for its"Ray of Gob," mash-ups may yet go mainstream. "If its official, things could get inter-esting," suggests XFMs Hyman. On the other hand, says Osymyso (aka Mark Nichol-son), whose "Intro Inspection" crams 100 songs into a 12-minute tour de force, "Legit-</p><p>imizing these tracks will remove the spontaneity that made them work in the firstplace."</p><p>Though there are gazillions of club DJs in the U.S., its tough to find mash-ups onAmerican airwaves outside a handful of free-form stations. WFMU, the legendary in-die station in Jersey City, N.J., features turntable artists during the show "Re: Mixolo-gy." Program director Ken Freedman (aka DJ Jesuspants) has scheduled suchrenowned mashers as Go Home Productions and the Australian DJ known as Dsico,</p><p>that No-Talent Hack (sic).</p></li><li><p>7/31/2019 The Mash-up Revolution - Salon</p><p> 4/6</p><p>18/08/2012 13:04The mash-up revolution -</p><p>Page 4 of 6</p><p>"What does it matter if the remix of Justin Timberlakes Cry Me a River with Let ItWhip as the track came from the label or not?" asks Sean Ross of Airplay Monitor, aradio trade publication. As long as 15 different mixes are provided for every song bylabels and radio, he adds, "Theres no reason listeners wont keep doing their own."</p><p>While a growing core of fans adores mash-ups, some consider them one-gag novel-ties. Some dont get them and others those who arent willing to spelunk in thedarker corners of pop cultures gray market literally cant get them. Disclaimers onmash-up sites generally state that music copyright is held by the artist, that remixeswill be deleted on request and that listeners are downloading songs for "evaluationpurposes only" and agree to erase all material within 48 hours.</p><p>After the Recording Industry Association of America succeeded in suing three stu-dents for file-sharing, launching a new front in its battle against piracy, presidentCary Sherman proclaimed: "When individuals share copyrighted music, withoutpermission of the copyright holder, they are liable." The RIAA is now gathering evi-dence to prepare a new round of lawsuits in mid-August, potentially targeting any-one who downloads copyrighted music. To say the least, mash-up entrepreneurs arein the crosshairs.</p><p>"Record companies use the Web as too much of a scapegoat," says Hyman, of Lon-dons XFM. He notes that Apples iTunes Music Store sold millions of songs in itsfirst few weeks, clearly indicating that people will pay for music they just dontwant to pay $20 for a crap album. Late to jump on the Internet bandwagon, the musicindustry is scrambling to recoup revenues it believes it has lost to bootleggers andfile-sharers. (The industrys own numbers suggest a catastrophic 26 percent salesdrop since 1999.)</p><p>The RIAAs refusal to accept downloading is like its fight against blank cassettes inthe 80s, says E. Michael Harrington, a music professor at Belmont University inNashville who specializes in intellectual property issues and has served as an expertwitness in copyright lawsuits. Harrington compares the industrys effort to criminal-ize customers to the Titanics captain ignoring the iceberg: "Oh, were sinking. Letssue the passengers. Creativity is being stifled by copyright laws that are outdated,unrealistic and misinterpreted."</p><p>There are potential violations galore in the world of sampling, Harrington explains, but the law is tricky. In some cases the lack of qualitative similarity between different</p></li><li><p>7/31/2019 The Mash-up Revolution - Salon</p><p> 5/6</p><p>18/08/2012 13:04The mash-up revolution -</p><p>Page 5 of 6</p><p>songs has led judges to conclude that sampling is not copyright infringement, as withthe U.S. Supreme Courts 1994 decision that 2 Live Crews parody of Roy Orbisons"Oh, Pretty Woman" was acceptable under the fair-use doctrine. "At its best, the lawreflects our values," says Harrington. "When its not, it just regulates them."</p><p>As far back as Mozart, he adds, "Theres an age-old tradition of fooling around withmusic everyone knows and casting it in a new light, giving it new meaning." Its amurky business when ideas of authorship and artistic control come into question.When is it filching, when is it flattery and when is it just funny?</p><p>Mash-ups may further muddy the legal waters because they can transform their orig-inal sources so dramatically. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundationand Musicians Against Copyrighting of Samples say they are seeking "reasonablecopyright" reforms that would permit sampling. Members of Negativland, the Cali-fornia experimental band sued by Island Records for its 1991 parody and remix of U2! s "I Still Havent Found What Im Looking For," support a "sampling license" forremixers use. BoomSelection, the now-defunct online clearinghouse for bootlegs, re-ferred to the "plundering nature of pop music" in its last-ever Web posting, creditingmash-ups with pushing the boundaries of cool. "Theres no longer any shame in lov-ing Hall &amp; Oates," read the site when mixed with Daft Punk, something new and</p><p>improved is created.Mash-ups might be better understood as part of a continuum rather than a newtrend. They will likely mutate further and encourage more bands like Detroits Elec-tric Six, described as "White Stripes gone Studio 54." Anyone who wants to candownload the vocal track to their song "Gay Bar," create their own remix and submitthe new version to XFM for possible airplay on "The Remix." So far, Hyman says, thesubmissions have ranged from "the diabolical to the hilarious to the surreal." He hasplayed "brave, cheeky and genius" versions backed by the "Batman" theme, reggaeclassics, the Village Peoples "YMCA," 50 Cent and Motorhead.</p><p>In DIY culture, consumers are the producers, owning the tools of production a lap-top instead of guitar, bass and drums. The bedroom is the studio and factory machin-ery moves out of the nightclub onto the Internet for millions to access. The media mo-nopolies are fighting back, but with the airwaves gobbled up by conglomerates,homespun mash-ups may be the peoples digital antidote.</p><p>Hot Aussie remix DJ Dsico that No-Talent Hack, who mashed Britney Spears vs.</p></li><li><p>7/31/2019 The Mash-up Revolution - Salon</p><p> 6/6</p><p>18/08/2012 13:04The mash-up revolution -</p><p>Page 6 of 6</p><p>Chic to create Goodtime Girl guides the budding mash-up maker with how-tolessons. Select compatible melodies (mix an a cappella vocal with a different musictrack say, Snoop vs. Foo Fighters, or maybe J.Lo vs. Ben Folds). The possibilitiesare endless. Tweak tempos, mix and fix pitch, time loops with cheap or free software(audio apps such as Sonic Foundry, Pro-Tools Free, Cool Edit Pro, Acid, Wavelab orPeak). Arrange, adjust, upload. "You gunna be da next Freelance Hellraiser," Dsicodeclares. "The future is now."</p><p>Close</p></li></ul>