Friday, November 30, 2007
Willy Joy mix: This Chicago based messer popped up to my attention recently via the DJC blog, always a source of tasty nosiey fucked pop cheese bizness. Its a fifty plus mix of blends spanning rap, pop, rock, electro, 80s, booty, club and some more in between. Perfect material to soundtrack the disgust of Texan parents who think who fancy the puritanism of Footloose rather than the grinding of their highschool kids.
Toddla T: Prancehall had an interview with this guy where he struggles to put him in a category, concluding he sounds "like someone who is trying to make dancehall/techno/garage/house/hip-hop all at once within the same track without coming across like those dicks who make stuff like Baltimore bootlegs of kuduro tracks with an Akon acappella and a Daft Punk sample hook." It's seriously dope shit that'd have me bouncing off the walls were I to hear it out, it's the bass line evolution; no fucking morbid dull dubstep for this guy, it's like he sacrificed a hyper cat that feeds off pure catnip and made DMZ drink its blood.
Pirate Soundsystem: If even the description of Toddla T has you quaking in your dancing shoes, then do check out Pirate Soundsystem, very much in a similar vein with far more clippings of early rave effects popping over the top for shits and giggles. The remix of Ms Ting's "Love Guide" (at Hypem) is a seriously impatient dance-hall monster. More recently they've screwed with Drop the Lime and Hadouken. This lot played the George Bernard Shaw back in September, any word on how it was? Much of this sounds like the funky house that fella Woebot was bigging up some time ago as a far more significant form than Dupstep. The two most have had a bastard hate child after slaughtering some indie kids in the mean time.
Fela Ani-Kulapo Kuti: Coming out of Lagos, this bloke has a tragic story that you can read over at his Myspace, currently enjoying an album of his - simply called Afrobeat - at the moment. Imagine African percussion and chanting fused to the sound of sixties jazz, with a sharp dash of the black power politics he picked up when he was in the states during the sixties and translated back into a pan-Africanism via his lyrics. Most tracks start off as a flurry of tooting horn sections and then relax as a choir start to bring up the tension. The Hype Machine has some of his stuff and the more contemporary Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra are a group that could easily share the same blog post with him. And so now they do.
I don't mean to be abusive, but I was pretty startled to stumble upon this video clip on a Canadian news archive of a 19 year old William Gibson wondering around down town Toronto, binned giving a CBC camera man a tour of the Yorkville village. Now Yorkville is a place, somewhere at the back of Bloor that started off pretty run down and is now the chief designer boutique and way off the scale up market hang out district for those with a lot of filthy lucre. Gibson was a draft dodger too it turns out, spending his time hanging out round Rochdale College, a student co-op that went well off the map with drug use and the 60's counter culture warbling on about how "sex is regarded as neccesary as a piece of mind," or something. You know that scene of the alternative school in the drugs episode of Brass Eye? Exactly.
Labels: draft dodge
Monday, November 26, 2007
"This is just an era we are in now, this jungle scene, because not so long ago there was another era, through the sound systems and what not, and all the DJ's watching this programme will know exactly what I'm talking about. It's just one of those things, a progression."
Turning into something of an old blogging vidiot box over here at Soundtracksforthem. Anyway, a Toronto friend and old junglist himself burnt me a copy of this half hour documentary last night. Lucky for you it's on Youtube. Coming from way back when in 1993 and all about the origins of jungle, its worth watching - and watching with that massive 18 month long hype around dubstep in mind. Think especially of how that has been treated as a musical form with an explosively new quality to it, it's all quietened down some what now, but you can sense a similar vibe around jungle here. The documentary is short enough and churns through the whole schema of pirates, racial segregation, freezing cold warehouses and monologues on the redemptive quality of rave with a real sense of the innovation at work and the role of technology in pushing it on. It features Rebel MC, MC Navigator, Groove Rider, Goldie, Nicky Blackmarket and of course the Ragga Twins, it's a London Somet'ing Dis. Enjoy.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Anyone who as ever had a peak at the sprawling threads on early dance music clubs in Ireland over at Boards.ie, and then left with their eyes still scouring for more, will be happy to see Cork promising this little piece of recent social history.
Don't know how I missed it till now.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Avi Lewis On Occupied Factory Movement In Argentina: "This phase is less overtly political, certainly less overtly revolutionary."
Anyone living in Toronto, a city with sidewalks wheat-pasted wildly with posters knows this; the Brunswick Theatre is creating an extraordinary space in a city bereft of places to engage with cinema. Regular discussions and talks happen, with documentaries sharply matched to a purpose rooted in popular education. If there is a criticism, it's that ticket prices are pretty steep. Last night's Avi Lewis lecture cost 15 dollars, but running a cinema at the location and with the frequency they do can't come cheap.
The poster for this screening foregrounded Lewis' public lecture, so at the start a moment was taken to see if watching the movie was actually worth while. Just over half of the raised hands had already seen the 2004 documentary that follows the fortunes of workers in the Forja auto plant as they struggle to turn it into a worker cooperative, yet the organisers ploughed ahead as planned. Using it to give ground the inevitable more abstract discussion to follow in human insight to the recuperated factories movement.
The night also doubled as something of a launch for Haymarket Book's translation of Sin Patron, a collection of interviews with participants in the recuperated factory movement. Lewis called this "a living document in the words of the workers themselves with an absurdly, provocative and piercing analysis by the Lavaca collective." A second edition is coming out soon with updates from some of the 160 something factories and workplaces indexed at the back of the present edition.
Shortly into The Take, there's a montage of boorish interviewers throwing demands for alternatives at Klein, so she explains the purpose of the movie as a search for alternatives outside the model of neo-liberal development. On the night Lewis glanced back at The Take as a glimpse of a moment in very recent social history, where large swathes of people realised "that changing pieces on the chessboard is not really changing the game." This bursting of the ideological bubble in a country where even the street signs were brought to you by Mastercard under Menem needs a closer look now that Argentina has largely stabilised, again "in the grips of a capitalist dream, where Kirchner does a good job of railing against the IMF, a bit like the NDP here, yet governs to strict IMF rules."
After the film with attention rapt for updates since it was made, the most pertinent question as Lewis saw it was more abstract: "is there a memory of struggle there, just beneath the surface? Is there a strengthened social movement that has built real bases in the communities and the workplaces?" The tone of his voice suggested a very optimistic "yes."
He'd just spent an hour and a half talking to somebody who works with This Working World in Argentina prior to this Brunswick talk, so Lewis was able to give some decent updates on the state of play in the factory movement at the moment: "this phase is less overtly political, certainly less overtly revolutionary as it deals with the nuts and bolts of making sustainable businesses work."
A friend of Zannon's ex-owner, who appears in the film as a cliche of bourgeois vampirism with the champagne bottle lurking in an ice bucket in his opulent office, recently used his position of governor of the province to run for president. The discourse he used in his campaign was largely a return to the language of the dictatorship, but he got less than 1% of the recent vote. Zannon under workers control now employs 480 people and provides more than the domestic demand for ceramics in Argentina.
On a visit to the Brukman suit factory that is dramatically re-occupied in the film, Lewis couldn't find anyone to talk to him, forcing him to comment that: "if there's a social movement or co-operative that doesn't need journalists; then you know its a success.
More recuperated businesses are coming on stream, including a landscape gardening co-op that works creating city parks. This sector tends to be controlled by Mafia type groups linked to Peronism so it was necessary to use political force for the city to sign a contract with them. Using the strictures created by the business practices of the previous operators, the new co-op was able to pull a massive scam loan legally to fund other co-ops in the region. A meat packing co-op has been set up that employs 800 people, a river boat casino is coming under workers control and the only balloon manufacturer in Buenos Aires is under workers control and supplies the whole province.
On a bleaker note many of the recuperated factories and businesses will be facing new difficulties as the legal system allows only a two year term of expropriation. With workers successfully turning failed businesses around, the bosses may try coming in through the back door of the courts leading to hazards ahead. The balloon co-op for instance may have to up stakes and use its capital to open elsewhere. For a movement that has concentrated so much effort on carving out spaces of dialog and popular education with communities, this geographic displacement may well blunt part of their projects, leaving them more easily prey to future evictions.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed (Harper Collins, 2004)
Potter and Heath are right that counter cultural rebellion can sometimes suck energy away from making "concrete improvements in people's lives," providing excuses for not engaging mass society but their counter cultural imagination is limited to MTV, Adbusters, a host of mainstream Hollywood movies, the authors' own dashed ex-punk background, Kurt Cobain 's suicide notes and anything mall rat in between.
Despite their stated central preoccupation they ignore well articulated differences between “sub cultures” and “counter cultures.” You see sub cultures hang under the mainstream's belly, dependent on it and lacking a real critique. Counter cultures at least try to foster alternative values and ways of being to replace a dominant culture - so one contains at least some revolutionary purpose, the other doesn't. This failure to distinguish gives the authors an easy job of ripping into a series of piss poor straw men.
There is no discussion of the very real and needed role of counter cultural forms in political movements. How could they have overlooked the IWW's folk song tradition, the working man's clubs of the UK and Ireland or the foot ball leagues and community groups of pre-Nazi German social democracy - were these too just "pseudo rebellions" to be ignored?
Alongside historic blind sight, they completely skip the well trod over subjective reasons for engagement in counter cultures. Still note how an awful lot of school yard bullying stopped once they and their nerdy friends went punk. Counter cultures can be a very ordinary thing, a form of self defence or demarcation of space. Think of struggles around silly work uniform rules or piss ant fussy supervisors having their authority eroded by a shop floor black humor.
Really the book does contain some great pop culture writing, but the attempt to weave it into a general theory of counter culture falls a little flat even if their reason for writing it comes from a decent impulse: movements that define themselves by being on the margins of society, will stay there.
Much of the weight of their book is just a re-hash of Thomas Frank's quip that "ever since the 1960's hip has been the native tongue of advertising." The authors claim to "shatter central myths" turns out to be just restating the obvious with much weaker conclusions. They themselves do not want to "eliminate the game, but level the playing field" and so call for traditional social democratic measures to over come market failures. They even suggest bans on cosmetic surgery, ignoring how thwarted society really is by contemporary forms of alienation in their call for a rewind to the '50's.
Face it anything that opens with the claim that Adbusters selling Blackspot sneakers was a “turning point for western civilization” is bound to piss you off along the way. With sky scrapers of argumentation erected on foundations of sand, the Rebel Sell smacks of a pair of grad student academic enfant terribles - the perfect stuff for drunken conversations, mindlessly frustrating yet deeply challenging to your own steadfast opinion.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Much to his own disappointment no doubt, Tariq Ali's Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties is now a staple on bookstore over stock piles after its recent re-publication two years ago.
It's one of those works that confirms history is easier to digest if people can hinge events on individual characters, Germany had Dutschke, Paris Cohn-Bendit so here Ali consciously stands himself in as that token foreigner who through a few waves of a well educated Oxford finger summoned a mass movement into being against imperialism abroad.
He excels at describing how the development of the sixties movement was intertwined with the dashed hopes of the Wilson government and social democracy. Not that many had illusions, but for a generation it signaled a final confirmation of failed method - a path that always pushed radicalism beyond the horizon for bigger election margins and conservativism by consensus. As a new immigrant Ali was none impressed with how many Labour MP's demanded and attempted to have him deported during the Enoch Powell period.
For trainspotters Ali drops some context on the origins of the revolutionary party crops of the seventies, who he eventually threw his lot in with, its hard to imagine now how the SWP could ever have been the cutting edge of youthful radicalism but squeezed between Stalinism, social democracy and whack job Maoism its no wonder they gained currency.
In a related sense where the book does shine is Ali's discussion of his involvement in movement publications such as the Black Dwarf, the New Left Review and later Red Mole. It carries an acerbic but good natured open letter to John Lennon published by the Red Mole and a startling riposte from the songwriter that eventually led a day long interview with the paper.
You do get a strong sense of the period covered through Ali's own whirlwind prose fueled by national liberation rhetoric in the south and student uprisings in the North. But mostly its a collection of anecdotes as our hero swans from one international crisis to another, from addressing college crowds as part of the Oxford Union alongside Malcolm X to dining with leftist actors like Brando and Redgrave and generally ingratiating himself across the board. So despite the title there is very little brawling with power.
Really it's hard to eye the book up as as anything other than Ali's astronomical rise to be a token thorn in the side of the British liberal media. Don't get me wrong, its a page turner to wile away work hours and even more perfect if you are new to sixties mythology.Tariq Ali's Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties (Verso, 2005)
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Whatever about those that hoot for the progress of history as if some grand design were at work, the working class of the nineteenth century were more than aware of what had been lost with the onset of the industrial revolution. As someone who had lived through some of the rougher years of hunger in 1840's Manchester - albeit removed from discomfort - Mary Gaskell produced her novel Mary Barton as a reaction, capturing a world with direct memories of the "pleasant mysteries" of a romanticised rural life abandoned for the urban where, as Engel's had it "the rapid extension of manufacture demanded hands."
For a novel so remembered for its dealing with working class life, its stunning how little happens in the work place. The consequence of a middle class lady's inability to access factory life beyond a sociological or philanthropist basis, it could also be re-read as a striking concern about how the effects of work seep over into every day gossip, struggles and love - unwinding in manifold hidden injuries of class. It's through this space that Gaskell traces her tale of a love triangle, between a beautiful dress maker, a factory engineer and a masters son against the background of the second charter.
Gaskell's work is intertwined with the sociology of the day: best filtered down to us through works like Engel's The Condition of the Working Class in England but also in a plethora of titles like The White Slaves of England, Distress in Manchester and tonnes of government reports on factory conditions. Compare Engel's opening exaltation to the radical movement with Gaskell's introduction, and the tensions of her fear of new working class communities become clear. Aside from her main plot she strips Charterism to an atmosphere of hauntology bubbling in the background.
On the surface the novel hinges on a very private world interrupted by economic recession. Mary Barton tries to use her beauty to escape a classed faith through upward marriage. A missing aunt Esther returns as the "hooker with a heart of cold" to end themes whims, relating her own experience of where economics intersect with sexuality in a morality tale for the reader.
Crudely skim the surface of images and Barton's potential beau Henry Carson is very much the bourgeois vampire, sucking the life out of the living in the factories by day to fuel his life as a dandy at night. As her aunt Esther advises, she is best ignoring this sexual adventurer, who combines business and pleasure, to literally "screw" working class and settling for the simple childhood friend Jem.
Her father, the channel for the public world, is set on the path of murder and removed from the "the gentle humanities of the earth" once his wife dies, letting his "rabid politics" of Chartersim interfer with love interests that could naturally play themselves out. Gaskell's editorialises on the working of his mind steeped more in the criminology of her age, than the politics of striking workers like John Barton.
Ripped up and brought together in awkward patches of customs and commons by the new social forces of an advancing capitalism, a nod to Shelly's Frankenstien seems appropiate, but Gaskell as Raymond Williams noted, is more gripped by lurid fantasy than poetic reality in describing the Charterists as "a powerful monster, yet with out the means for peace and happiness ."
Whole subcultures of working class experience are ignored in Gaskell's pious treatment: drug abuse, petty theivery, sexual relations and alcohol are all filtered out through her religious lens. There is one glimpse of this as Jem sleuths around Esther's old haunts, discovering a rooming house where people bed down all day and roam the streets at night - the opposite of the work-a-day blues dominating the rest of the text. The gap left by the absence of the Manchester Irish is large too.
Her description of John's trade union meeting echoes her own work in gothic literary form, "strange faces of pale men, with dark glaring eyes peered into the inner darkness" - it's all disembodied beckoning hands, whispered desperate talk and ghostly voices murmouring through the floor boards. During the strike, a rough cartoon of starved strike leaders by Carson, is too sore an acknowledgement of the master's disdain, yet its very much a visual sketch of Barton's descriptive prose, and for John it is enough to justify murder against the masters.
The footnotes too are an ambiguous beveling of the text, they exoticise the voices within - making them more alien than they need appear, similar to Edgeworth's Rackrent and its treatment of the Irish peasantry. The tools of their life and trades are foreign to Gaskell - and she roots their slang in colloqialisms going back to Chaucer.
When John Barton returns from the delegation that delivered the second great petition, he grimly declines to tell "what happened when ye got to th' Parliment House" - any space is quickly subsumed to Job Leigh's vapid anecdote of his own trip there and back. From his perch as the self educated botanist he mediates through religious guff with Carson at the end for industrial optimism: "I'll never doubt that power looms and all such inventions are the gifts of god. I have lived long enough to see that it is part of his plan to send suffering to bring out a higher good."
This throw them all in the shit and let them sink or swim impulse of methodism chimes in perfect with the economic philosopy of Carson: "still facts have proved and are daily proving how much better it is for everyman to be independent of help and self-reliant." No wonder EP Thompson was driven to term it "a physic mastrabation" that was later replaced with the social Darwinism of consumerism as a new disciplining, secular religion for worker drones.
Ultimately she renders the working class as a useless parcel of the equation, a puzzle better left to a moral awaking in Manchester's masters than challenges to their rule. While she does develop a contrast between two ethical systems: that of the working class based on sharing and forced co-operation and that of the masters, based on ownership, authority and the law. Mary Barton is a good artifact of early capitalism, as Harry Cleaver noted she gives "various views of the beast in all its spiritual and fleshy reality."
This is most apparent in the journey to the Carson's house and the image of his tantrum stricken wife, bringing to mind Marx's comment that even the propertied classes share human self alienation but "feel comfortable and confirmed in this self alienation knowing that this alienation is its own power and possessing in it the semblance of a human existence." At leisure from work and need they are shown to place themselves in different dramas, the choice between this commodity or that, fractures of that social etiquettes or another.
Charterism was a dual moment, alongside a growing political voice through the vast networks of the unstamped radical press there was an aesthetic self-representation. Short stories, poems and accounts from within working communities from journo's like the work of Thomas Cooper (archived online...) . It's a pity one of the periods lasting literary impressions is the work of Elizabeth Gaskell, especially with her patronizing methodology to to "give utterance to the agony which from time to time convulses this dumb people" as she describes in the opening.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
(Photo from Oct on Flickr)
Bacardi rolled out one of those massive B-Live parties in Toronto last weekend. The city's cultural weeklies were lolling in full page advertisements for the event featuring Diplo and James Murphy for weeks now, so the inevitable mental queues languished in the Fall cold, snaking around the block for what seemed like a kilometre, slowly inching towards the arch of lights that signaled the entrance.
Silver and gold hand bag wielding American Apparel devotees dived out of taxis and rushed head forwards in packs to the front of the cue, a taster of the sort of casual disregard that leads to drinks being splashed around as they rush through crowds, surprised they don't part at their feet.
Queen West kids circled in their club kid cliques, some jaw chawing and all in ridiculous levels of style one after the other - recycled synthetic '80's fashions that lay ignored in now ravaged vintage stores for years and old-skool Nike's de rigor in a pantomime of glam and new rave kitsch cross bred with stateside hip hop and some damn clever use of the high street. If you never had a complex about body image and presentation of the self, then Toronto is the city to come to in order to pick one up.
Savvy to the blag I'd emailed in a competition on some website to win free tickets that allowed me to skip the queues outside to get in before eleven, battling through the line still led to rough greetings from over worked security and list checkers. They tried compelling the two of us to the back of the queue but our insistence prevailed. Their recognition of upsetting a Bacardi competition on the eve of a branding fest shone through and they reluctantly ushered us through into a ware house used as an academy for circus arts.
The typical farce of Toronto's licensing laws clogged the place up - over there near circle pits around vendors dishing out six dollar drink tokens, and in that corner two trailers quaking with the bass being used as washrooms - fight your way through that lot to the rushed bar staff lining up and spraying shots into glasses and filling them with pre-mixed pitchers of cock tail fillers. And at the back of it all, moving up towards the speakers the place was quite empty - the queue outside obviously being more important a statement than actually letting people in.
If you want to sell people an idea of a particular drink being more conducive to sex'ed up partying then for christ's sake don't charge them six dollars each for a cocktail when you own the damn manufacturing plants, the distribution networks, the brand and are running the event. That's like the brewery that drag people through on tours with the promise of a complementary drink and then sucker punch them with the small print reality that serves up shot glasses of lagar.
Bacardi as always do their home work but still do they get it disasterously wrong. My rusty brain scratches around and tries to remember some of their ads; usually they are Carribean laced and dashed with a lifestyle centred around wild parties of afro beats, calypso rythyms anything tinged with exotica - in this instance the global fusion of Diplo and the disco to acid house wanderings through the crates of James Murphy are the perfect complement to fleshing the theoretical image of what Bacardi are about.
When you look up and see several trapeze artists contorting themselves on rings and rolling along ribbons like yo-yo's fuck it dawns you are in the ad. Except in the real ads and not just their brief flight into reality, Bacardi aren't crass enough to ruin the visions of the dancehall with almost pornographic relays of their bottles and caps.
And even more telling of the mirage between lifestyle branding and reality was the painful murmurs of "Diplo, Diplo!" from sectors of the floor during Murphy's set. It was a pained disquiet that dawned with realization that he wasn't playing a sound track for professional something-somethings to play Toronto's mating game of pulling model poses, dragging fingers across your chest with a staring pout - but something to be danced to with your eyes closed and none of that every day hang up of the everyday celebrity multitudes like being caught in a Facebook photo unprepared mattering.
And despite this fucking barbaric rudeness to Murphy and in another constant Toronto peculiarity, once Diplo came on the crowd ignored him. He peeled off some violently good dance hall from the islands, and then he ran into some commercial hip hop just for that shot of invigoration, some Baltimore smacks and then some nasty nasty from South Rakka's crew - and all within ten minutes and then he stopped. "Come on Toronto" he begged, starting again from the outset to get the crowd into it through slightly twisted mainstream numbers in a process that seemed to happen every fifteen minutes.
Finally he seemed to give up, wielding out uninteresting and over used mainstream techno with the more interesting material simply featuring as very rare commas in a long drab sentence. For this the crowd went off and respect to Diplo he played to it but still within half an hour of it taking off they all still cleared the floor - far from the decadent promises of your typical Bacardi ad.
Toronto's night life is quite an interesting spectacle and one I haven't bothered engaging with or exploring beyond some of the more obvious events. The city is lauded by the likes of Richard Florida as a template for the cities of tomorrow, enviroments that have moved the old manufacturing class out - allowed the old industrial haunts to become ravaged with inner city decay and drug addiction finally to be restructured silently through underground artist communities.
This is the cultural electrical shock that eventually lets them swim in global capital with a whole new purpose as geographically sprawling think tanks for market innovation with building after building of indie galleries, collectively run fashion boutiques, design houses and concept shops that deal in the immaterial idea of what a space should suggest. Then the nightlife becomes a double job of further innovation, brimming pots of experimentation re-defining the landscape of aesthetics that re-packages the age old product of music and intoxicants.
Check out the spin being put out by CIRCA, the city's latest super club coming in at a cost of over six million. In Dublin places like Spirit do the dance of body and soul, selling some badly digested hippy philosophy as a cover for the trashed up mainstream that persists in all the other clubs but here CIRCA has given itself the mission of actually fundamentally transforming how mainstream club culture performs it's masquerade.
They've hired dozens of queer performers, define its musical terrain through the indie dance scene and dragging the whole alternative club culture right into the centre of the commericial one- mashing the weekend antics of the mental venting of the 60 hour plus a week professionals with the cultural legitimacy of bohemian hedonism and fashion stakes. Like Bacardi they are recruiting cool hipsterdom as an internal innovator that helps them skate over the cracks in the nightlife commerce caused by the mainstreams fluctuating tastes.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
(Photo: Moe Train on Flickr)
Music writing hyperbole often seems misplaced but when it comes to a Girl Talk show it's entirely justified. At the first leg of his North American tour with Dan Deacon nearly a month ago, Girl Talk weaved a messy mix bag of down town hipsters and fresher week college drunks into a sweltering, unified but squirming beast of jiving bodies, sending 'em ga-ga with his irreverantly mashed beats and acapella. I caught up with Girl Talk a week or two after the show and chewed the fat over crowd control, how he re-defines sampling and the politics of piracy. This interview was first published in Fact Magazine in the UK.
Can you give Irish readers some idea of what to expect from your shows and do you have any plans to make it over this side of the Atlantic any time soon?
I haven't been over to Europe much in the past year because I was holding down a day job and only doing Friday and Saturday shows. I quit that job about 3 months ago, so I'm planning on traveling world wide very soon.
My shows are highly dependent on the people who come out to them. I play a single laptop. I mix and match a bunch of samples and loops on the fly. It sounds like my records, but it's a bit more free form. I like to party every time I play. I get sweaty. I get in the crowd. I dance with people. But, it's really up to the people as to how insane we're going to get. I'm ready to take it to the distance.
People like to read into things like an artist getting fans up on stage, or playing in the crowd like Lightening Bolt or Dan Deacon even, whats your reason - is it just a better party or do you like levelling it out and reducing that 'me the artist up here, you the fan down there' buzz?
To be honest, I never made a decision to have it happen. I've been playing live as Girl Talk for seven years, and sometime last year, fans started jumping on stage. People saw video of that on the internet, and it spread. Within a few months, it became this standard for my shows. It makes sense to me now. There's only so much I can physically do on stage to entertain people. I actually have to click the mouse every 10 seconds to keep the music going.
I think the people on stage is pretty much the best visuals I could have. There are some people who just like to come out and hear me do the music live, and to them, there's also some entertaining to watch. To those people who want to come party, then there's a whole dance floor and stage for that. I'm just a dude playing a computer; I'm not Steven Tyler up there. I like people to be able to interact with me to any level that they want. I like to minimize as many pretensions as possible with the music and shows.
I caught you at the Toronto show, it was pretty hectic, I'm not sure what your other shows are like - but have you ever seen bouncers do anything particularly stupid in getting fans off the stage and has the hectic crowding around you ever interfered with your ability to perform, like knocking your laptop over and people hitting keys drunk off their face and stuff?
With my shows, it's probably a bit more work for bouncers than the normal gig, so I really respect them for putting up with any bullshit. But yeah, it can get crazy, and sometimes, people cross lines. I always talk with the security before the shows and let them know what's going to go down.
I've had tons of problems in the past people stomping on cords, equipment, hitting the computer, spilling things, not having any room to even move my arm, and so on. I don't like it when those things happen, but it comes with the turf. The shows to me oftentimes feel like house parties, and I love that. It doesn't feel like going to a standard dance club or a rock show where nothing is going to go wrong. When the music stops prematurely at my show, that's a sign that things are truly getting insane. That's cool to me. It's part of the experience. I like when the shows are just barely staying together, everything is on the verge of falling apart. That's a great party to me.
I heard you recently posed for Playgirl in the man of the year issue, how the hell was that?
They wanted a "sexy photo shoot," which I think meant nude. I ran it past my parents, and I decided to keep my pants on. I've been a lot more nude at some of my live shows this year, so it wasn't too big of a deal.
You've talked before about how being Girl Talk and an engineer by night was like leading this double life, you sort of kept it quite from your work colleagues - when you finally made the decision to quit did the people there discover your other side and how did they react?
They never officially discovered about my music world. I told them I was quitting to travel the world before I was too old to do something like that, which isn't really a lie but not the complete truth. I'm still convinced that someone there knew but chose to not call me out.
You refuse to be seen as a DJ, hence those famous "I'm not a DJ t-shirts" - so what sort of live set up do you use and how much time do you think you spend on each track, from the initial idea to its readiness to be played live or dropped onto a CD?
(Photo: Tom Purves on Flickr)
I perform live on multiple copies of a program called Audiomulch. It allows me to cue up, mute, and manipulate a bunch of samples in real time. I perform it all live, but it's a rehearsed set. I think people get my records and come see my live to hear the compositions, rather than to hear me improvise. So I spend a lot of time on doing arrangements prior to performing.
It's tough for me to calculate how much time I put into specific tracks. I'm constantly working, and most things I sample don't see the light of day. I'm about ready to put together a new album right now, and it's been about a year and half since I finished up my last one. I've been averaging releasing a 40 minute album every 2 years. That's about as quantative as I can get.
I've heard you were in a few noise outfits before Girl Talk, when did you make the switch to party music and how does it relate to the sort of projects you were involved in before Girl Talk? I'm just wondering where the name comes from too?
I was in a noise band in high school. It definitely laid the ground work for Girl Talk. We worked with many different forms of experimental sound collage. We made music using physical tape collages, skipping CD's, and manipulated four-track machines.
I started the Girl Talk project in 2000, and I initially had a glitchy and avant-garde sound. I've always been a pop music fan; it just took me a few years to be comfortable making more accessible music. I started playing house parties around 2002, and I think this is when my music started to take more traditional form. The name Girl Talk comes from Yes lyrics.
You like to see your own compositions as original mash ups and sort of separate yourself from the whole mash up movement, are you still critical of it and why?
I just don't feel comfortable with many genre names in general. They are all silly to me. I like mash-ups. I don't want to separate myself from anything. For me, I was influenced to get into this style of music by people like John Oswald and Kid 606. I also listened to bands like Public Enemy growing up. These are all people who are sample-based at times but aren't usually labeled as "mash-up" artists. I'm down with all types of music. I just thought the label "mash up" might mislead people with my music. Maybe not, I don't really know.
One thing that interests me about Girl Talk, and I've heard a lot of people say this is that you are legitimizing listening to forms of commercial music that people would otherwise scoff at, sometimes this music is damn good but people need to hear it through an irony filter before admitting this. How do you feel about being this "cool" filter for people, do you think they should just drop their pretensions and recognize a good track when they hear it and not when its a safe "classic" years later?
I sample everything sincerely. I like all of the music I sample. There is no irony. I'm definitely not trying to act as any sort of "cool filter." I'm down with people being turned on to new forms of music in any way. I like how people have major differences in their interpretations of my
music. Some people like it because they love the source material; some people like it because they hate the source material. I've always hoped that my work is transformative. I want people to hear my songs and say "That's a Girl Talk song," rather than "That's song A mixed with song B mixed with song C."
I think the act of sampling music to make new music, and the fans of the new music not necessarily being into the original source material is not a new thing. Think about the history of hip hop. Producers will sample anything to make a hip hop beat; that doesn't mean that the people into the beat will be into or should be into the source material. Most young kids who jam Kanye West could probably care less about Chaka Khan. It's the context and the additional production that makes people get down with it.
Your congressman Mike Doyle seems to be quite taken with you, you are well aware too of the dangers you face from major labels around being sued for copyright breaches and have played a benefit for the Creative Commons project - how does it feel to be turned into something of a figure head for "free culture"/or the fair use movement? Can there be a reconciliation with existing copyright law or do we need a complete rupture with the economic mentality they base it on?
I've never pushed a political agenda with my music. I've always made music with samples because I simply enjoy it. If my music makes people think about these type of things, then that's cool to me, but it's really a side note.
Fair Use is a progressive idea with the existing copyright law, but it's very black and white to me. I think the current law doesn't taken into account an album that can be made from 300 samples that most major music sources and publications treat at as an original work.
I see your website links to Drop the Lime, who I've interviewed before, he's really one of my favourite DJ's and producers, have you been up to any of the Trouble and Bass parties he puts on and what do you think of the whole thing thats going down at the moment from "bass music" to new rave/french electro etc? Is there something in the air and people are just looking to dance?
I haven't been to any of those parties unfortunately. Luke and I go way back. We did one of our first tours together in 2003 or so, back when he was called Dysis. He seems like he's really shaking things up in New York right now, which gets me pumped.
I notice as well you mentioned elsewhere you liked Kid 606, Shitmatt and Jason Forrest, do you think the whole breakcore thing, aside from the frantic amen breaks and cut up sampling technique of it had any influence on your approach to music production?
Yeah, to a degree. I was more into the music known as IDM when I first started doing Girl Talk productions. I think the quick-paced nature of my music is influenced by guys like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher more than anything else. It seems like some breakcore artists came from this sort of background, so I think it's related.
I've always felt more connected to guys like Jason Forrest than more standard mash up artists. He's another guy who's make original music almost completely out of samples. I was reading on your blog about a remix project that you're working on called Trey Told 'Em. Could you tell me a little bit about that and what you have planned for the future?
It's a project with Frank Musarra and I. I'm dedicating all of my remix work to it. I want to concentrate on other material for Girl Talk. Frank and I are also doing beats together. We work with samples at times, but it doesn't have to be appropriation-based. We also do original instrumentation.
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