Why I Don’t Play That Many Mashups

In a rant response to a thread on Mashstix responding to this post on FMITracks, I thought I’d post here as it fairly succinctly explains why I rarely play mashups on what was a formerly mashup podcast.

Ahh the state of mashups…I got there in 2008, what kept you guys

I’ve noticed there is two sorts of masher/bootlegger – one that does it for love, and the other that does it for fame/money/gigs. It’s the latter sort, or ones copying the likes of Girl Talk ad nauseam that are the ones creating the deluge (like that FMI guy, I get loads at Radio Clash you would not believe).

There isn’t a problem with using a well known source, but two current Top 40 tracks ISN’T a mashup, it’s just a wannabe radio blend or a medley mix (don’t get me started on terrible ‘theme’ or no theme multimashes which are like a music bore going ‘And this IS IN THE SAME KEY! OMG!’ every 30 seconds – yawn).

Mashups and bootlegs need a WTF factor, they need to cross some boundary – genre, taste, time/era, musicality even – to really qualify. Yes you can mash similar things together, but I think for it to work it needs some originality or space between the sources. Mixing LFMAO with Lady Gaga or Black Eyed Peas (for example) isn’t original, they are doing roughly the same thing, and are current pop stars. Mixing LMFAO with Benny HIll, or Gaga with Pantera, or Black Eyed Peas with Extreme Noise Terror with all the BEP filtered out (can you guess I’m not a fan :-P) would be at least something new.

But there are loads of lazy pop vs pop, hiphop vs pop, hiphop vs rock, hiphop vs anything (really unless you are mixing hiphop with AFX twin or Babe Rainbow or some really fucked up or rare shit – World music? Egyptian pop? Ethiopian reggae? Country? Noise music? – then it’s so been done to death, sorry)

What we get now are loads of wonderfully produced but FUCKING BORING mashups – interesting that the FMI guy posted the Madeon track which for me was the best mashup of 2011, no question. Shame about some of the other mashups he posts for me don’t really fit the criteria he sets out in the post, especially that recent guy that’s copying Girl Talk – when the original GT is bad enough…like Skrillex he’s all about the ‘mad’ performance and ticking the existing boxes, not the music.

What I’m saying is, if you or others think it’s original go look and listen to Avalanches, Prodigy Dirtchamber, Greg Wilson or Freelance Hellraiser mixes or any of the classic mashups….look at the sources. You find that in most of those classic ‘greats’ unlike Girl Talk which is just a 30 second ADD reference machine (remember this? remember this? remember this? YES I DO, STOP DOING THAT AND LET THE TRACK PLAY FFS!) and the whole putting hiphop over electro thing has been Jivebunnied to death – there is a lot of weird shit – industrial, rare 80’s goth rock, weird funk singles, novelty songs (Cut Chemist and DJ Yoda please stand up), adverts, just sources that people still don’t use (well apart from rare funk 7″s).

So the originality for at least A vs B is choose stuff people don’t know and mix it in with the candy – stuff people do know – and it’s a great way to introduce new music to people which has been one of my aims through the years. But you do need to LOVE the music you’re using – or at least take the piss out of it in a funny way – cos that shows in the mashups. Far too many clever yet boring mashups out there…and I don’t think it’s hard to go listen to a different genre for a bit and find stuff you like…when I hear a completely new song or something that inspires me I have to rush off and play with it.

Mashing the latest thing in a sad FIRST! fashion I do understand (the latest acapella or instrumental/stems become quickly stale) but it does lead to overuse – LMFAO, Coldplay, Gaga, Americano, MIA – dead to me. And most of the uses are completely obvious (hence my mashup alter ego Captain Obvious – although strangely what seems fucking obvious to me others say ‘no that isn’t obvious to me’ – must be how my mind works?).

To me it’s all about the IDEA – if the idea is good. Churning out the latest thing isn’t probably going to create that unless you have a good idea…there’s a real lack of those at the moment. In fact always was – but seems to be unusually a lack even in the well known names, except a few people. Churning out the latest electro hit with Gaga or LMFAO or Avicii/Leona/Lana Del Rey seems to be latest order of the day, and it might be what the drunken dancefloor punters want at 3am (the sort of thing past shamefaced DJs hide in their record bags as a cheesy DJ tool but would never post it anywhere) – but where’s the education people? I thought DJs were supposed to EDUCATE?

Lecture over!

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Tim B Written by:

12 Comments

  1. Well said, Tim. To my eyes and ears what’s going on in mashups is what’s going on in the wider world of music and beyond – people don’t want to be challenged or educated, they want the safe, the boring, the familiar. I can understand why those paid to keep people happy – or numbed and distracted at least – stick to the safe option but for mashup producers, 99% of whom will probably never see a penny from what they do, where’s the harm in being more creative, more experimental?

    • January 26
      Reply

      That’s what bothers me, that the X-Factor and Glee has won, that rather than rising up to hard times and a recession people have bought the dumbing down, kind of like the 1930’s dancing competitions fatured in ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’ although the music during the depression was good. It’s a monoculture.

  2. Agree with every word. The only reason I got into mashups was the WTF factor and in many cases the incredulity. It introduced me to so many new artists as well as made me look less critically over others including many a pop song that I hated but grew to appreciate the craft involved (begrudgingly).

    I see mashup artists as artists in their own right. Most artists do cover version early on as a right of passage and to hone their craft. Mashup artists do electronic cover versions. At least we are being honest with our influences. I write (bloody hundreds of) songs too and if you ask me they ALL are basically a mash by any other name (as is Lady Gaga – please never mash her again anyone). Every artist is copying what they heard before to some extent.

    Reborn – totally agree. I can only hope that in this time of economic and social malaise music can return as a reaction to what is dominating music. I’m thinking punk, NWOBHM, Grunge etc – hang on they all sold out in the end too.

    I saw this tweet earlier and it sorta sums up how mashup artists (even bad ones) should think of their responsibility:

    @MyndsetMusic Never would’ve known who Gotye is unless you remixed his song. Your track (note the difference) opened me up to a rad artist!

    I’m gonna reblog both your comments if you don’t mind (at some point) as I feel a rant of my own coming on.

    Cheers Tim

    • January 26
      Reply

      No I don’t midn and thnaks for commenting!

      Interestingly the only artistic group I know of who didn’t sell out was the Beats…why I have upmost respect for Ginsberg, Keroauc, Burroughs et al. Might’ve sold a few books, but they kept underground through the 60’s counterculture and beyond…

      • You know that would be worthy of a post in itself, how many artists have been able to reach the top without selling their souls. I love AC/DC’s music but when they brought out a wine it made we want to gag (real ale any day ;)) and I think it made it into an annoying list of 2011. Doing chart mashes, at least with no humour, is the same. I was doing a post on Gaga going metal inspired by your Gaga/Pantera comment and came across this which although about covers not mashes sums it up
        “Instead of metal covers of [Gaga] songs being witty juxtapositions or ironic statements about the bubblegum nature of mainstream artists (which they probably wouldn’t be even if she were bad), all these covers are just needless prostration at the feet of a “not that bad” artist.
        To me covering LG is like a red flag warning of a band that thinks they’re doing something witty or original, but is in fact an unimaginative zeitgeist which shames us all as we sink into the cesspit of attention grabbing.”
        After checking to find a cover of Gaga I had to give up they were terrible and just a cover with the guitars turned up. I think in retrospect I can see much of what Kurt Cobaine said in a diff light now.
        Come to think of it this is not a blogpost it’s a frickin mission!
        Thanks Tim will give you the headup when post is, up this is the first of what will be a series by the looks of it! 😀
        http://thebleedingnoseshelter.blogspot.com/2012/01/gagas-bad-metal-legacy.html

  3. February 9
    Reply

    you know right tim! thanx for that nice article! you pretty much nailed it!

  4. domdip
    February 9
    Reply

    I’ve been saying this for the last few years. I’m not a producer but very much a user and I am now finding myself looking back into my archives because I forget what it is that got me into it in the first place. As the GZ says, it introduced me to a wider spectrum of genre and artists as a result. It helped me seek out differing styles/combinations/methods etc.
    I think that the other thing that bugs me is the ‘stick-it-on-Youtube’ thing as well. Why spend all that time and effort just for it to sound like shit. but that’s another rant for another day.

  5. February 9
    Reply

    Well said Tim, I couldn’t agree more 🙂 Unfortunately, as Gav already said, it seems that people nowadays do not want to be educated. Chances are that more casual listeners will download a Rihanna mashup than give a listen to a track featuring Cabaret Voltaire or Throbbing Gristle.

    As you said, it all comes down to why would anyone want to create a mashup in the first place. If producers think of mashups as an artistic way to express themselves, experiment, or just create something that THEY would like to listen to on their iPods, my guess is that they won’t stick to Lady Gaga and the like (unless they actually *listen* to this kind.of music – it’s all a matter of taste – or lack of it – after all). At the end of the day, what’s the point in creating something that will get 1,000 downloads but you can’t bear listening to it yourself?

    If, on the other hand, they seek fame and fortune (which would probably never come, but you never know), crave for a larger audience, or just want to see the track they spend hours of their free time working on receive some recognition and numerous downloads, they will probably play it safe and produce yet another Adele track or anything that will appeal to the masses.

    As for the Beats… using Burroughs in a mashup sounds like a good idea. Cheers 😉

  6. IanFondue
    February 9
    Reply

    Great post and totally agree. As you say, it’s the stuff that challenges, excites and educates that has the long terms appeal, certainly for me. I love going back to the Frenchbloke mixes for example – getting techno, Ulrich Schnauss, guitar groups I don’t know of and just enough candy to keep it sweet.
    Or DJ Food, Avalanches mixes, etc … Lots of the 3 minute pop ethos in there, but in a broader context.

  7. Felix Five
    February 10
    Reply

    ya old grump… your completely on point!

  8. Felix Five
    February 10
    Reply

    your = you’re

  9. riscy
    February 22
    Reply

    Totally agree, the WOW factor is gone, as it the WTF is this factor. I love that in some mashups, I often wonder how could someone conceive those tracks as fitting together, but THEY DO, much to my amazement.

    Going to post a link to this on Twitter, even though most of my followers have no idea about BP. Ah well, some of them may look here.

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