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Sunday, 27 November 2011

ZooFights VI - the final round-up

Hang on to your trousers, little fella, I've left the coalface unattended for too long and there's a fire to finish stoking.

That wonderful and bulbous website of grotesquery, ZooFights, finished itself off for another glorious year recently, with four of my mashups used in it. Before that, there were a couple of semi-finals which again used three mashups from your very narrator. On top of all that, there's the chuffing and honking clutter of the bonus mashups (or: Thems That Never Got Used) from across the tournament for you to plug into your ears.

So, forgive me for being brief, you've got a lot of music to have ruined for you.

Anyhow, the final...


Ministy 'Thieves' vs Michael Jackson 'Smooth Criminal' vs Herbie Hancock 'Rockit' vs Ray Parker Jr 'Ghostbusters (Instrumental)' vs Alfred Newman 'The Fox Fanfare'
Written by Alain Jourgensen, Paul Barker, Chris Connelly, Kevin Ogilvie, Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Bill Laswell, Michael Bienhorn, Ray Parker Jr; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Sire 1989, Epic 1988, Columbia 1983, Arista 1984, 20th Century Fox 1997

...began with this. Which, itself, began a good few months ago with an experiment to mash the 20th Century Fox Fanfare with Thieves. Everything after that point was a Frankenstein composite of tracks I found to be in a similar key and tempo. The Ray Parker Jr instrumental was lying around after work on the mashup below, Michael Jackson's track was something I always wanted to use (and thought the bullhorn instructions fit with the samples Ministry used), and Herbie Hancock's Rockit was an obligation to use in an '80s-themed tournament. The recording of the fanfare was actually taken off my DVD of Fight Club for, y'know, giggles. The mashup was originally intended to be the introduction of the WCW fighters during the rumble, hence "thieves" and "criminals", but was never finished in time.


Yello 'Oh Yeah' vs Styx 'Mr Roboto'
Written by Dieter Meier, Boris Blank, Dennis DeYoung; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Vertigo 1984, A&M 1982

This was the theme for the eventual winner of the entire ZooFights tournament, Hardcore Prawn II: Claws For Concern. Essentially, a cheating lobster hiding in a giant robot with a tactical nuke and secretly controlling six or seven more robot lobster units. Fellow ZF artist The Deleter had requested I use Oh Yeah at some point and, having used Yello's other well-known track The Race in a mashup for a previous iteration of the lobster, it seemed a good fit. Styx's track was always going to fit in with the character but I'd held off using it before as I'd never quite known what to put it with. Mr Roboto was initially sped up to fit with Shellshock by New Order (see below), an aborted early idea, and Oh Yeah was sped up to fit that as hearing the track at intended pace now sounded too slow. Though Oh Yeah is arranged in four chunks, I only used two of them (the last bit at the start, the opening at the end), and repeated a four-bar section to cover the rising finale of Mr Roboto. There's some fiddling with the EQ and a tremolo effect layered on Mr Roboto to bring the vocals and organ stabs out a bit. I'm quite chuffed with the segue between the first and second chorus (around 45 seconds into the mashup), and even more chuffed with the great reception the track got from fellow ZooFights staff when I handed it in about 12 hours before the final.

Ray Parker Jr 'Ghostbusters' vs Mike Post 'The A-Team'
Written by Ray Parker Jr, Mike Post, Pete Carpenter; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Arista 1984, Elektra 1982

Yeehaw. Mike Post got used again. This was a bitch to line up the vocals. Point of note: The word Ghostbusters does not appear in this mashup at all. It's the theme tune for a group of renegade, mystery-solving scaley anteaters that died and turned up in the final as near-corporeal spirits.

Senor Coconut 'Smooth Operator' vs New Order 'Shellshock'
Written by Sade Adu, Ray St John, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, John Robie; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Epic 1985, Factory 1986

I am literally sick of listening to this. Throughout the tournament, I have been thin on ideas of two songs from the 1980s that typify a Tex-Mex wrestling armadillo. The previous two attempts, Orionosaur and Real American Ghost, are two of my biggest near-misses. El 'dillo just seemed jinxed to never get a good mashup out of me. New Order's track nearly got used several times in this year's ZooFights, and was given a try for any mashup for any animal with a shell. The timing wasn't too far off Senor Coconut's lovely version of every estate agent's favourite chill tune, so this happened. The frantic coda was stuck in just to ruin the experience for everybody.

But before all that ill behaviour were the semis. Which I quite enjoyed for different reasons.

Nine Inch Nails 'Dead Souls' vs Alessi 'Savin' The Day'
Written by Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, Bill Alessi, Bob Alessi; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Atlantic 1994, Arista 1984

Yet another track that was partly for the armadillo and is, therefore, partly cack. Two years ago, I was playing around with Nine Inch Nails' cover of Joy Division and managed to totally wipe the vocal with no loss of integrity to the track but this time, I couldn't get the same (inversion) trick to work. So what you hear here are instrumental segments from the track lined up in a different arrangement. There's a lot done to the Alessi Brothers' song. It's inverted, had the EQ altered, and been shifted up a half-tone. Both tracks were sped up until at the same tempo and every 16 bars, there's a (passing) note taken out of the fill on the Alessi track. Ach, maybe it's not so terrible.

The B-52s 'Rock Lobster' vs INXS 'Need You Tonight' vs Glen A Larson and Stu Phillips 'Knight Rider' (Including samples from 'Hardcore Motherfucker' by Ultraviolence)
Written by Fred Schneider, Ricky Wilson, Andrew Farris, Michael Hutchence, Glen A Larson, Stu Phillips, Johnny Casey; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) DB Records 1978, Atlantic 1987, NBC 1982 (Earache 1994)

The original idea was that both semi-finals would happen at the same time, so this mashup and the one above were made alongside each other as 'Day' and 'Night' (ironically, because the fights are actually set the other way around). I also helped script both fights, so one is an arrival to a ticking-bomb scenario while the other is a chase to a climax. The B-52s track (which got an '80s re-release and totally doesn't count as me arsing up my '80s-only ambitions) was another piece I always had in reserve for signposting the lobster / cray fish / prawn character. Even though the guitar line is played clean twice in the song and even has a count in, it is a pain to get at the right tempo to suit anything else. I already had the INXS song lying around in pieces from an earlier attempt to make a piece of music for a ZooFights News sting which never happened. Larson and Phillips' theme just plays through as is. Because it's based around a chromatic bunch of notes (E - G#), I had to take out certain bars of the guitar line from Need You Tonight and replace them with just the drums.

John Williams 'The Forest Battle' vs Alan Silvestri 'Jungle Trek' vs Front 242 'Headhunter' (Version 1.0, Version 3.0) (Including samples from Predator)
Written by John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Daniel Bressanutti, Patrick Codenys, Jean-Luc De Meyer, Richard Jonckheere; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) RSO 1983, Varese Sarabande 2003, Sony 1988 (20th Century Fox, 1987)

This is another instance whereby I totally disagree with the largely-ignorant public. This is one of the best things I've done. Or: It's one of the few tracks I've made that I don't cringe when I hear and I know just how much work went into it. So why has it only got a quarter of the hits of The Race Under The Sea? I've used John Williams' music from Star Wars before (another case of wondering why it wasn't more popular) and like the full-stop tempo he uses when he wants to throw some bombast in there. Also, the Battle of Endor was a big reference for the artwork for the fight. As was Predator, which I had a lot of fun sampling. Mac and Billy are my boys 4 lyfe. I've referred to using both album versions of Headhunter by Front 242 but actually the bits I've used here are single bars here and there taken from a sweet mashup produced by A Plus D. I think this mashup actually makes Alan Silvestri the musician I've most used in this project. Though turning his 7/8 music cue into something that could fit two solid 4/4 pieces was a bugger. I'm still amused at how much it sounds like the bongos used on Rock The Casbah.  

So that's the actually-used stuff, here's all the extras from across the tournament:

Alan Silvestri 'Back To The Future Overture' vs Wu Tang Clan 'Wu Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit' vs Ford Kinder and Anne Bryant 'The Transformers (Series 2 Opening)' vs Public Enemy 'Yo! Bumrush The Show' (Including sample from A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors)
Written by Alan Silvestri, Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, Clifford Smith, Ford Kinder, Anne Bryant, William Drayton, Hank Shocklee, Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, Joseph Anthony Carter, Moe Daniels; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) MCA 1985, Loud Records 1993, Sunbow 1985, Def Jam 1987, United Artists 1975

My second-shortest mashup of all time, also produced in pretty much the second-shortest amount of time and, to my addled mind, a pretty accurate soundscape to the (planned) surprise re-emergence of a Freddy Care Bear riding a time-travelling transforming tiger with a 'fuk mi lyfe' attitude. Initially, Wu Tang would have featured more but speeding up their track to fit Kinder and Bryant's sounded ridiculous. So, as I've done before, Public Enemy (or the first 16 bars and another 16 bars from the bridge) stepped in as a late substitute. This mashup was entirely composed while the final fight was happening.

Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page 'Come With Me' vs Faith No More 'Epic'
Written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, Sean Combs, Billy Gould, Mike Bordin, Roddy Bottum, Jim Martin, Mike Patton; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Epic 1998, Slash 1989

I apologise. No matter Jimmy Page's endorsement, I feel dirty using this version of Kashmir. Though the giant snapping turtle hooked on PCP that is represented here does suit Puff Daddy's attitude. Major Failure, the omnipotent kingpin of ZooFights asked for something off the Godzilla soundtrack. It was only after work was well-begun on this that he explained he wanted lots of dinosaur roars and sound effects, not this. So that's why there's a big roar at the end. Also, the Faith No More acapella comes in a bar too late but tallies up with the chorus. I guess Mike Patton only raps 15 bars at the start. 

Slayer 'Angel Of Death' vs Milan Kymlicka 'Babar' vs Anwar, Kishore Kumar & Aziz Nazan 'Qurbani Qurbani'
Written by Jeff Hanneman, Milan Kymlicka, Farooq Qaiser, Kalyanji-Anandji Biddu; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Def Jam 1986, Nelvana 1989

Slayer are pretty much the aural equivalent of the ZooFights VI elephant to me. An animal used as destruction equipment that, through political authoritarianism, eventually becomes a god. I used the opening credits of Milan Kymlicka's score this time and the theme from Qurbani was used because the opening recital sounded like the kind of poetic call at the end of the world that would suit Angel Of Death and the one-bar percussive break I took from the second half of the track fit the big riff pretty well. There's not much in Angel Of Death that doesn't include a lot of thrash guitar so I made the most of Dave Lombardo's drumwork to cover some gaps and ended up making a joke of it with the jungle chirps from Kymlicka. Well, I laughed.

Prong 'Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck' vs The Turtles 'Snappy Together' (Including sample from MTV Video Music Awards 2009); Written by Tommy Victor, Paul Raven, Ted Parsons, John Bechdel, Gary Bonner, Alan Gordon; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Epic 1993, White Wale 1967 (MTV 2009)

Several times I spoke to Major Failure, suggesting mashups I could make for contenders in previous ZooFights. One of those was this mashup for The Snapture. Happily, the great big snapping turtle with a PCP habit was making a comeback in this tournament. Initially, it was planned for him to beach during the semi-final, crushing thousands of spectators. This would have been the soundtrack. The sequence got cut from the fight, so this never got used. Happily, because The Snapture was not of the 1980s, I had free reign to use Prong and The Turtles (and Kanye).

Foreigner 'Cold As Ice' vs Dead Kennedys 'California Uber Alles' (Including sample from Snap! 'The Power')
Written by Lou Gramm, Mick Jones, Jello Biafra, John Greenway (and Michael Munzing, Luca Anzalotti) 
(c) Atlantic 1977,  Optional 1979 (Ariola 1990)

I have no such excuse for breaking my '80s handcuffs on this one, though. I thought all three tracks were from that decade. Still, they're two favourites of mine. The use of Foreigner's track is obvious enough for a snowmobile-riding pair of walruses with a freeze ray, and the Dead Kennedys song likening West Coast liberalism to cultural fascism was picked because one of the Walruses is a Reaganite capitalist, so, actually, neither liberal nor fascist, but the whole thing's a touch ambiguous and the walruses are meant to be German). The DKs got cut up quite a bit for this as only the drums and half the bass lines are in tune with Foreigner. The idea of the big dramatic 1st-beat chords in the chorus of each song put together was the real reason I wanted these two songs mashed. It works in a lovable and clumsy way, I reckon. Secretly, this is one of my favourite mashes.

Europe 'The Final Countdown' vs Air Supply 'All Out Of Love' vs Poison 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn'
Written by Joey Tempest, Bret Michaels, Clive Davis, Graham Russell; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Epic 1986, Capitol 1988, Arista 1980

This wasn't part of the tournament. The ZooFights forums encourage users to make outlandish bets on the outcome of the fights, I lost one to a giant squid bartender, and agreed to make a mashup of Europe and Air Supply for him. He also mentioned he liked Poison, so a bit got added on the end. Also, the Air Supply track is pitch-shifted up half-an-octave to get it roughly in tune. While most mashups make me loathe the source material through over-familiarity, the more I listen to Europe, the more impressed I am by Joey Tempest, particularly his voice. My first proper girlfriend had a poster of him on the inside of her bedroom door, so I've always felt he was judging me.

So that's it. ZooFights done with for another year. I'll stick up a Best Of (?) album and a long-form ADHD mix to celebrate soon enough.