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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Sky Is Bust - Elmer Bernstein v Blackalicious

Sky Is Bust by IronicHide

Elmer Bernstein  'Ghostbusters (Main Title Theme)' vs Blackalicious 'Sky Is Falling'

Written by Elmer Bernstein, Tim Parker, Xavier Mosley

Arranged by IronicHide

© MCA 2002, Arista 1984

Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

This one was made up in a bedroom, underneath a bunk bed no less, in Brentford. It's still one of my earliest finished projects and it'll go on my first compilation of blessed efforts.

I had got stuck in to - and consequently got stuck while making - a mashup concept album (time of writing: 10/14 complete) and was still wondering what to do with those early orphaned tunes, including Burning Over and the electro-jazz-minimal track that now has legal complications.

So I gave myself the morning off to do something unrelated to anything else. It was sunny outside. Or maybe that's only how we shall remember it.

I love Blackalicious. Seriously, Wu Tang, Beasties, MC Hammer, John Barnes, they can all move back one space, Blackalicious are winning at IronicHide's Favouritist Hip Hoppers.

I had a bunch of bits from their Black Arrow album lying around, more spoils from my time at Universal, and wanted to graft them to something upbeat, something that reminded me of childhood.

Ray Parker Jr's Ghostbusters track is everywhere. An ubiquity. A musical gratuity. It's no longer a tune of childhood, it's a tune on an advert so annoying I think I'm going to cry blood every time I hear it.

Now, musical gratuity, as you well know, squirt, is an admirable thing to me. The shame is that there are ten numbers on the Ghostbusters soundtrack and approximately nine of them are better than Parker Jr's track. Including the instrumental version of it.

Elmer Benstein's Main Title Theme (which isn't used in the main title at all, I always remember it from the hotel sequence) has three things going for it: Firstly, it is fun (see the import of which, above), in a nostalgic and (mandatory low-note tuba oompahpah) rollicking way. Secondly, it has a count in at the start (from the tuba) which helps me to time and sequence everything else. Thirdly, under Bernstein's baton, the orchestra really have the rythm of a metronome.

Aside from mucking around with that count in, Bernstein's track is exactly as-is (although sped up an iddy biddy bit), with all the Blackalicious stuff built around it.

The beat, like the acapella, is from Sky Is Falling, taken from the first clear two bars I could find without any strings or bass, recut and rearranged pretty much by hand (by eye, ear and mouse, specifically, yes). Check the stuttering quarter-notes I hit with the bass drum around two minutes, kinda proud of that one.

Dropping the beat out at various points was an experiment at first to see if there were a few muscial phrases I liked and could highlight. I did and I liked it.

So, the beat was stuck to the orchestration. Just had to overlay the acapella rap. Sped it up, didn't fit, slowed it down, didn't work, halfway between the two, didn't work. Got fed up. Started lining up individual bars alongside the music. Better. Made a note to myself not to approach these things half-assed and presuming that everything will work automatically.

The chorus, though, lined up perfectly, first time, and comes in at (what I think of as) the start of the eighth bar, rather than any other, because it's (more) in tune. Again, I chopped it around a bit - listen out for the "Plum-Plum-Plummeting" refrain - I kinda like that, too.

This was all back in 2008, under that bunk bed on what I remember as a sunny morning (the track was actually made over a week or so). I gave the track a touch up in 2011, swapping around the channel arrangements (the chorus and second verses are in stereo, the rest mono).

I still wasn't happy with the way Gift of Gab's rhymes sat in certain places - listen, to the track, there are certainly a few off-beat emphasises in his cadence - so went back to the solution I had with first putting the beat to the music - dropping the beat out at key points. If I had managed to derail Gab's flow from the beat that it was made for, I'd figure it could ride on Bernstein's strings.

The alternative would be editing the acapella syllable-by-syllable (something I have done on other tracks when needed) and, well, I neither like giving myself work or interrupting what I think of as two organic pieces of music stuck together (as compared to most of my work whereby one piece will always be machine-built music).

So, to date, my shortest mashup and Mrs IronicHide's favourite. Coincidence? I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Burning Over - Ministy vs The Klaxons vs Grace


Ministry 'Burning Inside' vs The Klaxons 'It's Not Over Yet' vs Grace 'Not Over Yet'

Written by Al Jourgensen, Paul Barker, Bill Rieflin, Chris Connelly, Paul Oakenfold, Steve Osborne

Arranged by IronicHide

© Sire 1989, Polydor 2007, Perfecto 1995

Ah, Ministry, you crazy chumps.

I love Ministry. That is, I love The Land Of Rape And Honey, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste and Psalm 69. Most of what came before and afterward, well, kiddo, it all gets a bit samey once you're my age.

I had The Mind Is... on cassette back in 1994. It was a time when kudos in movies was earned by referencing Vietnam. And kudos in music was earned by referencing those movies.

I wore out my cassette of The Mind Is..., specifically from rewinding it again and again to listen to the first track, Thieves, and it's samples from Full Metal Jacket. There are two things I never appreciated back then: Good tape heads and Burning Inside, the track after Thieves.

(The fact that NWO, the opening track of Psalm 69, had samples from Apocalypse Now in it didn't matter, I'd upgraded to cds by then. Because I'm big time, kiddo.)

The Klaxons, on the other hand, are probably more your thing, really, aren't they? They're a bit Shoreditch to me. Meaning, they get more attention from girls and probably have really tight jeans on. However, as things that are a bit Shoreditch go, they're on the amenable end of the spectrum.

Like the Electricity Showroom bar. Not like T4 presenters.

But this is all guff and chaff. Back in 2007, in a basement lounge in Ealing, when I was first poking at tunes like rodents in a shoebox, seeing if I could prompt them to fight, I resurrected my love of industrial music. Largely because of the repetitive instrumental sequences with precision-tight timing. Useful for a mashup.

I had a few mashups going but the first to catch on and demand to be worked on was this one, welding the rattling 16/8 main riff and drums from Ministry with the nee-nah guitar phrase from The Klaxons.

Maybe I was wrong in 1994 and right in 2007, looking back through the slew of opinion pieces on industrial music - and you're lucky I took that bullet for you - I realise that Burning Inside was much more respected than Thieves. Then again, I reckon Hizbollah is the best thing on The Land Of..., so what do I know, bubba?

Plus, Totom had already hit the ball out of the ground with his Thieveshake mashup.

Plus, plus, I already knew and loved Grace's original version of Not Over Yet from the 1990s. Yes, I so totally did. Getting the samples from Grace took longer than should have been necessary - downloading all five remixes, legally, I assure you, recasting them as a Wav file, playing with that in my editing software, finding the 29 seconds (of over 30 minutes) I would use, then exporting that as an MP3.

Still, the bit when her synths collide with Will Rieflin's drumroll around the two-minute mark sounded like a little bit of magic to me and was, I admit, more fluke than design, but one of the few moments I'm proud of in these first early mashups.

Although most of this track was done in 2007, I only added the Klaxons vocals in late 2010, taking out some of Grace's. I probably spent more time getting their amplification where I wanted it in the mix (and I'm still not happy) than I did chopping together the Ministry instrumental skeleton.

This was also the first mashup I made using what I think of as the Lego block method - chopping tracks in to four or five clips to be used (each being four, eight or sixteen bars long) before even starting a mix - building the resulting blocks together to make a rough edit.

So there you go. The first mashup I've made available. Not the first I intended to make available, though. A record label have taken their ball and gone home with it. So no jazz-electro minimalism for us today.

Thoughts, comments, threats, etc, are always welcome.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Well, hello.

You look tired. Come on, sit down. Pull up something comfortable and take off something that isn't.

Have you been hitting the gym? You look good. Are those new shoes? And how is everything?

Really, that's great.

Now that we are so well acquainted, please indulge me. This is where I'll be keeping the mashups I make, along with a story of how they came about and probably a pic cobbled together in desktop imaging software.

Enjoy. Or don't. Just let me know where you think I've gone wrong and how I might be going right. Please, always with a smile on your face. There's one on mine.

So, to date:

There will be eight individual tracks turning up soon, made over the last three years, that I think of as my first lowly efforts. Four are complete, one is nearly mixed, one is only an idea (strangely, I've already done the artwork though), and two, frankly, don't exist. Why not send me some request ideas - two songs that would amuse you to hear squeezed together.

There is a full-on concept mashup album in the works, currently 9/14ths complete, which will also turn up here with the artwork and other ephemera, one track at a time, then collated as an album.

There are works planned beyond these but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

All being well, there will be a fair bit of crossposting from my Mixcloud account and/or my Soundcloud account. So there's that, too, you lucky tyke.

In case you would like to know, or are searching for a bonafide mashup producer with entertaining works available, these are a few of my favourites (off the top of my head):

The Kleptones, DJ Earlybird, Mighty Mike, Party Ben, The Reborn Identity

Please expect a substandard variation on their work available here somewhen.