Sunday, February 1, 2015

How I Met Your Song

Why do I remix? Is it just me putting the source material on a pedestal? Or is remixing itself a distinct art in which the original work is arbitrarily selected? Everything is made out of something that came before, so for someone to point at a remix and say "man, that remixer really likes that thing he remixed" is rather presumptuous. In many cases I would hear a song, whip out my phone and make a note of that song for later remixing. Not necessarily because I enjoy the song on its own, but because I had heard potential for me to add something to it. When the original composer catches word that their work has been remixed, the response is usually surprised elation. Then they ask the question: how did you find out about us?
A while back I remixed a song by Afterbirth Monkey. I created a music video for the remix, and shared it via a Twitter post. They watched the video and eventually asked me how I discovered their work. The short answer is that I saw them at one of their stage gigs, but it goes further than that. A few years back, even. I was invited to attend a chiptune show, which was my first Pulsewave NYC experience. It took place at The Tank; the venue shows up later in this story, because of course the past harmonizes with the present. Incidentally the person who suggested I go to Pulsewave ended up not appearing, but I continued to attend shows on my own long after that invitation. A few tracks from those chip artists would later appear on my show The Duosis Radio Hour.

One of the headliners for Pulsewave was Zen Albatross, who I then added on social media. We've since met a few times at other events, but apparently not enough for me to make a lasting impression. Nevertheless he sent me (and his countless other followers) an invitation to a show he headlined with other acts. These included Uncle Monsterface, a band and creative troupe that impressed me so much that I immediately sought to see them again. The next available opportunity turned out to be a gig in which the group had been temporarily reduced into an act simply called MONSTERFACE. Their performance that night made me realize that even without the visual stage work of the full troupe, the tunes are still good.

During that event I also saw Schaffer the Darklord for the first time. In his case the stage presence and the music are inextricable to me. Even if you hear his songs without seeing him perform, the persona comes through. At this point all the artists I mentioned are on my social media, and are people whose shows I attended. The events I go to only extend as far as the New York City area. Generally I don't see the point of traveling a long distance for huge festivals, especially since seeing many artists all at once would dilute my experience. I would rather have it all come to me in dribs and drabs. A benefit to this is that I can go back and recall the story of how I met a particular song.

Schaffer is a host of Epic Piecast, a monthly podcast I found out about through the aforementioned social media. I was invited to be part of the audience for a live recording of an episode set at The Tank (aha!). Among the things they discussed was Schaffer's then-upcoming album Sick Passenger. Some time after that album came out, I remixed his song "Afraid of Everything" for a Halloween-themed Duosis Radio Hour. My initial idea was to use an excerpt from the Piecast itself regarding the subject of Batman, which would then lead to a Batman mashup of my own creation featuring a Schaffer a cappella. I discarded the concept after failing to find any of his vocal tracks via Google. I later stumbled onto a Twitter exchange that led to me email Schaffer directly for his a cappellas. All of that culminated in my remix of "Afraid of Everything" that I put on my Duosis show, and which later appeared on his compilation Remixed Passenger.

Backtracking a bit, the Epic Piecast also featured some performances by Afterbirth Monkey. I suppose that brings the story near its conclusion. I intended to remix the duo's song "Meryl Streep Is from the Future", which turned out to be rather exhausting task. As far as I can tell the song wasn't recorded to a click track, and therefore drifts in tempo. Another issue remixing it was the fact that the chorus partially jumps over beats and measures, which took a while to get my head around. In the end I had to time-stretch the song in numerous divided segments so that I could apply a constant beat. Somewhat like Uncle Monsterface and Schaffer the Darklord, I would say that Afterbirth Monkey's stage presence is an integral part their act. To convey this I used footage of the duo in my Meryl Streep music video. In particular I made a point to include their "shine, shine, shine" hand gestures. 

My remix ends with the chip sounds of the Super Mario Bros. "game over" jingle, which in retrospect kind of brings the story back to the beginning. My Duosis show allows me to dump out my various remixes, mashups and other transformative work. Doing so satisfies the questions that spurred my productions in the first place. What if I messed with this song I just heard? What would happen if I did such-and-such to this particular sound? What if I remix?

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