Posts Tagged 'radiohead'

SXSW Spotlights Artist-Fan Collaboration in New Film About Music 2.0

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Over the last several months, MixMatchMusic has been busy working on a short film for South By Southwest, titled “Remix…A New Way to Engage Fans”. Well, we’re happy to announce that the film is now live and you are invited to see how artists and fans are turning to remixing to connect and interact with fans in a music 2.0 world.

Emerging hip hop artists, the Bayliens, are poster children for a music 2.0 world that is nearly as much about connecting with fans off stage as it is entertaining them onstage.  This film shows how they’re connecting with fans at an almost molecular level, by offering them the musical building blocks of their songs and encouraging them to remix them into new sounds and new songs. The film also features insights from AmpLive (of Zion I) and Trifonic on the power of artist-fan collaboration.

Musicians are navigating a dramatically changed music business landscape.  More than ever, they have to engage and involve casual listeners in order to build deep and lasting relationships with them.  The group behind the video, MixMatchMusic (aka, the dudes writing this post), is focused on helping musicians make those connections and deepening the bonds that link them with fans.

The Bayliens

Deep Artist/Fan Connections Critical to Success in Music 2.0

More than nine million musicians are trying to connect with more than 200 million music fans, according to some estimates. The huge numbers alone would suggest the odds are in their favor. Yet the channels musicians have traditionally relied upon to get their music discovered, promoted and sold are increasingly irrelevant and as a result, musicians are increasingly on their own, without labels, record stores or radio to help them.

“The artist’s challenge is to convert casual fans into loyal fans, and loyal fans into paying customers,” said Charles Feinn, CEO and co-founder of music technology innovator MixMatchMusic. “Getting your music discovered just isn’t enough. Musicians have to engage and involve casual listeners in order to build deep and lasting connections with them, and to convert them to loyal fans. These connections are what drive sales of the concert tickets, band merchandise and CDs artists need to pay the rent and put gas in the van.”

According to Feinn and many other music industry observers, record labels play a smaller and smaller role in breaking new bands or even promoting signed bands. Record stores are disappearing and radio is less and less of a factor in promoting new music. And it’s hard for a new band to breakthrough amongst the millions of songs in the iTunes Store. It’s also true that music fans have changed, acclimated to the read/write web and the social interaction that comes with it, and looking for the same experience with music and the artists who create it.

“While the business part of the traditional music business is breaking down, music is alive and well and there is more music than ever,” said Feinn. “We’re on a mission to help keep music alive, and we’re doing so by helping artists forge deeper and more meaningful connections with fans.”

Feinn said a growing number of artists are turning to new Internet-based initiatives, such as the remix promotions pioneered by Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, to help them engage with and connect with music fans.

“Involving fans in the creative process by encouraging them to remix and mash up a new song from the musical building blocks provided by the artist, is catching on as one of the best ways to make the artist – fan connection stronger,” he said.

Feinn said that more than 60 artists have launched remix promotions based on MixMatchMusic’s Remix Wizard, a simple-to-use widget that any fan with a broadband connection can use. Artists including Pepper and Zion I have loaded the building blocks of songs – the guitar, bass, keys, drums and other elements called stems, into customized versions of MixMatchMusic’s widget, and invited fans to remix the stems to create new sounds and songs with them. He said the company’s site has received more than half a million impressions since the beginning of the year, and more than 80 thousand plays of fan-created remixes.

Feinn said the Remix Wizard is a fan-friendly approach to the more complex remix technologies employed by Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead. Bands such as Pepper feature remixes submitted by fans on their sites and MySpace pages, and some artists even promise to incorporate especially imaginative fan-created interpretations of their music in future albums.

Feinn said the Remix Wizard is the first in a series of artist and fan friendly technologies from MixMatchMusic designed to forge even stronger and deeper connections.

“Music has the power to bring people together,” said Feinn. “It’s exciting and also humbling to know we’re playing a small part in making those connections happen, through our technology-based products and services that help musicians convert casual music fans into loyal fans, and loyal fans into paying customers.”

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Best of the Live Acts

While fans will listen to CDs, turn on talk shows and read reviews to get to know more about their band, one of the most important facets of the music industry for any group is the live concert. Not only is it one of the largest revenue streams for artists, above the music royalties (although, if you think about it, this is about as twisted as paying 16M a year to Barry Bonds while a teacher or fire fighter makes under 100k), but it’s one of the most seminal ways for an artist to grow their reputation and fan base. Of course, what you hear on a CD that has been produced, mixed, mastered and tweaked by any number of sound professionals isn’t necessarily what the group will be able to present during a live performance, so it makes the judging criteria even tougher for listeners.

Take Hip-Hop for example. 75% of all hip-hop shows I have seen are garbage. Rather than fully rehearsing songs, artists will perform the first verse, maybe two of a song before launching into the next radio single. More often than not, the back-up singers are there because the rappers constantly forget lines and need someone to fill in the gaps for them. Furthermore, rather than put on a show that gets the crowd moving and dancing through sheer enjoyment of the music, most artists will constantly fall back on crowd gimmicks, “Put your hands in the air, wave them back and forth,” and other involvement tools of that nature, forgetting that if they rip the microphone, the audience will do what it feels, which is way more important than having them wave one finger in the air.

But Hip-Hop isn’t the only genre where live performances come up flat. Wide is the range of artists who just can’t translate themselves in a live setting in any way that resembles the studio work that they’ve patched together with the help of numerous technicians and producers. Songs come out unrehearsed, or the band is incapable of reproducing the sound. Even worse is when artists, dealing with personal excess or some sort of stage fright, get completely obliterated with substances on stage and turn into a mess by the end of their set. But who puts on the greatest live act? Is it the group that can seamlessly reproduce their album note for note, or the group that can take something stationary and make it into something much more on stage?

Take for example the Rolling Stones. They’ve been touring for around 40 years now, and I’ve seen them in concert twice. While the crowd is into it simply from a historical and pop standpoint, and I think the energy these guys give, even past their prime and middle age is solid, it doesn’t come off as anything I couldn’t hear by listening to an old recording of theirs. On the far extreme are groups like The String Cheese Incident and Phish, which jam and improv so much in their concerts that one is left to wonder if they even have a CD with tracks on it. But let’s not forget consistency. If you go see three shows by a group, a great group will give you three different shows that were all excellent. But some of the best artists happen to be inconsistent on stage. Take Del the Funky Homosapien for example. He might be one of the most talented lyricists and freestylers in rap, but all the times I’ve seen him, he’s hit or miss. Either he’s on that night and no one on the stage can come close, or he’s not and he fades into the background.

So what makes an incredible live band? In my mind, it needs to be a group that brings energy and presence to the stage. Anyone could get up and sing karaoke on a track, but can you bring that true sense of musician and celebrity to the set? Beyond energy and presence, the group needs to be well-rehearsed. A concert that ends up coming off as un-prepared as an elementary school talent show isn’t giving the fans what they paid to see. There needs to be set diversity (unless someone is doing a full album, but I’ll get to that later.) And finally, they need to be able to present their material in both studio form and a live, extended format.

And all of those things are a lot to live up to. When you consider the fact that these groups go on two month or more tours where they need to pull out all of those factors night in and night out, the type of money made touring starts to make sense. With these things in mind, here’s a list of some of my favorite groups to see live, what makes them great and what could make them better.

GZA: A member of the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA a.k.a. Genius is most known for his solo album Liquid Swords. Knowing this, GZA will, on occasion, do tours where he performs the entire album from start to finish. This is an example of an exception to the set diversity rule in that most people have come to see that entire album. When I saw GZA do this at the Independent and the sound glitched 5 seconds into the second track, he was so intent on giving the audience the full version performance that he had the DJ start over from track one. While his delivery and stage presence isn’t the greatest in this bunch of performers, his preparation and ability to go through an entire album in order is nothing short of impressive for a performer in a genre where most live acts shrink and cut their music as much as possible.

Blue Scholars: This rap duo out of Seattle performed at the same show as GZA and offered a stark contrast in what hip-hop performances can be without lowering the bar. Focusing on a diverse set list derived from their two albums, Blue Scholars brought more stage presence and energy to their set, getting the crowd involved through good music and verbatim vocals. Many rappers seem to forget this when in concert, but most fans know the words to their songs. If they don’t, or they try to change the words, the fans inevitably lose interest and focus. While GZA was flawless through the album, he lacked the same energy that the Scholars brought. This enthusiasm, combined with faithful representations of their work made them an excellent hip-hop show.

Zion I: Hands down the best performers I’ve seen in the hip-hop genre. What’s even better about this rap duo is that they’ve slowly progressed their stage presence. When I first saw them, they were a two man gig, beats and raps. However, as they’ve evolved their sound, they’ve evolved their show and now feature a live drummer, vocalist and keyboard player. They’ve been creating music for the last 10 years, and show incredible set diversity. They use material off their newest album to form the backbone of the show, while sprinkling in old favorites that keep the long-time fans happy. Their energy on set is supreme, with Zumbi rapping with every part of his body and Amp creating every imaginable sound. But more than other hip-hop acts, Zion I isn’t afraid to improvise. Both on beats and lyrics, every show has at least a portion of freestyle, and it doesn’t come out weak. While every hip-hop group I’ve seen has one or two of the characteristics of a good set, only Zion I brings them all together in a hip-hop show that feels more complete than the competition.

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones: This group is a wonder to see in concert. Between their wacky instrumentation (Banjo and Drumitar) and their incredible improv skills, no two concerts are ever the same, and every one is always amazing. But with the range of material they have, it can be hard for the new fan to get involved without knowing some of the songs. The group often does a good job of getting around this by introducing songs and making them accessible, but it can be a bit daunting. More importantly though, these four (Béla Fleck, Futureman, Vic Wooten and Jeff Coffin) are incredibly tight on their instruments, and unbelievably well rehearsed. They can feel the music as they play it, and the result is a palpable energy in the audience.

Dave Matthews Band: If there was ever a band that showed the power of concert revenue and touring in order to engage fans and enlarge a fan base, it’s this one. There’s a lot of back and forth on DMB. For starters, their live shows always pack an energetic crowd, and they always play longer set lists than most live acts (always over 2 hours.) Furthermore, there’s a great mix of songs that are played straight up as they appear on the album, and the improv songs that end up extending upwards of 20 minutes. This not only shows their ability to reproduce the album sound, but also the talent of the musicians that is sometimes constrained in studio recordings. But if there’s one drawback to this group live, it’s that the studio recordings have lost some of their luster in recent years, and the set lists are becoming slowly more filled with new material that is honestly a bit weak. The band doesn’t seem to know this though, putting new songs that sound like shadows of their former creators next to amazing catalog songs that show the band as they were in their prime. It is this drawback, the inclusion of too much new music, that remains this group’s one fault live. It should also be noted that the group tours more than almost any other, and has consistently set records for concert revenue.

Radiohead: Where the Flecktones might improv too much, and Dave Matthews Band relies on old material too little, it is my firm opinion that Radiohead does their shows just right. Old material and new material all find their home in a Radiohead set, and pieces of studio coexist with pieces of improv, demonstrating a remarkably well-rounded band. Radiohead routinely employs some of the most advanced lighting systems in their stage show, bringing both visual and aural entertainment with the price of admission. The Flecktones let their chops do the talking for them, Dave Matthews Band likes to let the Dave speak for them, but Thom Yorke and Radiohead prefer the method of pure, unadulterated energy. Every member of the band is fully engaged, and their energy comes out in their instruments. Old cuts sound re-booted and the new songs rip with electricity, and the preparation of it all oozes through the crowd. In short, when it comes to all of the factors that make a live performance, Radiohead manages to find and balance the important parts of all of them.

In the end though, every fan has a different moment of enjoyment in a live set, and a different set of standards that they hold their bands up to. Some will be happy as long as they play every radio single, while others won’t be happy unless they hear that one song from an album five years ago. Some fans don’t want to know what’s coming next, while others are bored if an improv goes on too long. One thing is certain: it’s only when musical ability, preparation, energy and presence come together on stage that a performance transcends the idea of “concert” and fully realizes the ideal of “live act.”

New Trend Connecting Artists & Fans: 50+ Bands Engaging Fans with the Remix Wizard

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Today, we’re happy to announce that MixMatchMusic has achieved an important milestone in the adoption of its Remix Wizard with more than 50 bands hosting fan engagement promotions since October! Artists including Pepper, Zion I, Camp Lo, and Julien-K are among the bands using the MixMatchMusic Remix Wizard to power remix contests for their fans. Each of the bands have loaded guitar, bass, keys, drums and/or other music stems into personalized versions of the Remix Wizard, and invited their fans to remix, mash up and create new sounds with them.

Pepper and Zion I recently wrapped up contests for fans to remix popular tracks from their respective newly released albums. The response was tremendous, with Pepper receiving 50 remixes, 2,000 votes and 22,000 plays of Freeze. Zion I’s contest around its track “DJ DJ” received 35 remixes, 1,900 votes and close to 11,000 plays.

“The response way exceeded our expectations and it was super gratifying seeing all these fans putting their own flavor on our song… one guy even paid to ‘liven’ a sample from another band and use it in his version,” said drummist/ vocalist Yesod Williams of the band, Pepper. “Getting the fans as involved as possible was the goal and we accomplished that tenfold with MixMatchMusic!”

MixMatchMusic’s Remix Wizard is a solution for the masses. By comparison the remix promotions pioneered by seminal bands, Radiohead and NIN, were limited to the relative handful of fans with Digital Audio Workstation software. The Remix Wizard is available to every band with a song and every fan with a browser and broadband connection.

“The chance to remix Zion I’s track ‘DJ DJ’ was an opportunity for me to show off my producing chops to the Zion I crew, Amplive and Zumbi, and to my own fans,” said artist/producer Stinj-e. “Remixing tracks from bands I admire gives me a different level of interaction with their music than if I’m catching Zion I at one of their live shows. It lets me tap into my creativity.”

To get your remix on, or to listen to all the remixes that have been made, check out the Remix Wizard gallery.

Zion I Remix Contest from The Take Over

Bay Area hip-hop duo Zion I is well known over the course of their discography for exploring musical sounds and genres not typically associated with the sounds of the streets. Zumbi’s introspective and intellectually based lyrics have found an excellent match in the musically curious mind of AmpLive, who aside from remixing Radiohead’s In Rainbows album has brought soul, funk, electro, house and rock vibes to hip-hop in a way that makes Zion I both incredible and enlightening to listen to.

Silent on the discography front since their 2006 collaboration with The Grouch, Zion I has poised themselves for a new group release, their first since they brought the Japanese only release Break A Dawn over the Pacific for a stateside release in ’06. Their new album, The Take Over, is scheduled to drop next Tuesday, and in keeping with their format of engaging their fans and examining ways to evolve their own music in our current remix culture, they have launched a remix contest for one of the tracks off the new album, “DJ DJ.”

Today, Zion I released their stems from “DJ DJ” to the general public, using MixMatchMusic‘s simple Remix Wizard. If you’re an audio wiz already, just download the stems and work them out, but even for those with less musical experience or musicians not interested in downloading the stems, the MixMatch wizard provides the stems and the mixing interface to make this contest accessible to anyone with a computer. What’s excellent about the format here is that it doesn’t require any previous experience, as the wizard is very intuitive and easy to use.

Finish your remix and upload it by March 12th and you’re in the running for some excellent prizes, including a spot for your remix on Zion I’s Myspace page and lots of great Zion I stuff for the winners. For more information or to enter the contest, click here.

Lawrence Lessig, The Colbert Remixes and Where We Go From Here

Early in January, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert sat down with Lawrence Lessig. The interview was typical Colbert tongue-in-cheek, but good for a laugh. For those of you not closely following the implosion of the music industry and subsequent recreation as a more inclusive forum, Lessig is the author of Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, a book that examines methods of creating revenue out of creative work. The example Lessig used while talking to Colbert was Flickr which allows users to post pictures which Flickr can then create revenue from. But Lessig’s primary argument is that the war on Peer-to-Peer file sharing has failed (he’ll get no argument here) and that the copyright laws are outdated with the vast number of increasing ways people can share, remix and alter original work while making something new. In a way, every blog does this. This post in itself is a remix of two interviews, the functions of two websites and my arrangement of these facts with my thoughts. It’s about as close as I come to making music. The DIY explosion in music is part of the culture that has helped spawn mash-ups like Danger Mouse’s Grey Album (The Beatles’ White Album/Jay-Z’s Black Album) and AmpLive’s Rainydayz Remixes (AmpLive remixing Radiohead‘s In Rainbows.) The point is that technology and the rapidly evolving music industry need to find common ground with artists, and not just other musicians, but all artists, as the mixed media medium is something that can only grow from here.

Well, when Colbert was very specific about becoming “possibly litigious” should anyone take portions of his interview and remix it with a dance beat, he had to do so knowing full-well that someone would. He wasn’t disappointed as two days later, internet upstart IndabaMusic jumped into the fray with a full site devoted to remixing the Colbert/Lessig interview. But it didn’t end there, did it? With Colbert, how could it? Never being one to avoid an opportunity to poke fun at himself, Colbert remixed a video of his own work to a pulsing dance beat, and told the remixers to lay off again, to of course encourage them to remix more. Enter Dan Zaccagnino, head of Indaba who had an interview on Colbert the other night (interview at 14m in) to talk about the remix culture. Of course, these types of remixes are nothing new over at MixMatchMusic, which has had success with their Remix Wizard. While the Indaba/Colbert remix contest is excellent, it is Indaba based. MMM’s Remix Wizard is a free widget that can be set up and used by any artist on their website to host remix promotions. It doesn’t even need to have anything to do with music, as evidenced by Remix Sarah Palin.

While Colbert’s thoughts in the interviews with Lessig and Zaccagnino are clearly meant to be humorous, they serve a larger purpose in that these episodes help create buzz for a rapidly growing and increasingly important segment of the music industry: collaborative pieces brought about through alternative means. Indaba has managed to create a large community of musicians from around the world who are engaging in internet based musical collaboration, and this is a huge first step in breaking down barriers within the recording industry.

But with every broken barrier comes the question of the next frontier. While Colbert asked Zaccagnino what happens to girlfriends breaking up bands if the musicians collaborate on the internet, he failed in his attempts at humor to get to the root of the issue, namely monetization of content. While not many musicians will actively think internet collaboration as a means to avoid break-ups with their significant others, a most serious topic of interest to them is how they can profit from their work. No artist likes the idea of losing control over their work, but if knowing that the usage of their work by others would create tangible income for them, the concept of collaboration and other artists who liked them enough to mix them with their own pieces becomes a much more appealing, and therefore widespread trend. As with the foresight of their DIY remix widgets, MixMatchMusic provides the ability for artists to monetize collaboratively made songs, as well as contribute stems to their social sample library to earn royalties.

The monetization of artist work and internet collaboration is the next step in the rebuilding of the music industry. As fans become more involved with the artists because they are part of a shared internet workspace, the desire to support an artist will increase. Add to that the ability to remix their favorite artist’s work, and the fan interaction with the music becomes uncaged. Forget making a mixtape for a friend. Imagine taking your favorite songs and going Girl Talk on them. This interest and desire to support the artist would in turn funnel revenue back to the musicians.

The recording industry would say that this has been the goal of their war on file sharing, but that is an outrageous lie as most artists never see a dime of the few settlements the RIAA succeeds in obtaining. Little wonder then that the RIAA is backing down. In fact, one could argue that the backlash against the recording industry has been fueled by the consumer perspective that the artists aren’t seeing the profits they should. Furthermore, as revenue streams move away from the major labels and into the artists’ pockets, the majors will be forced to work with both musicians and consumers on more viable distribution and revenue models.

But forget about the money and the labels and the upheaval in the industry. How will this help music evolve? As more artists turn to internet collaboration because their work is safe and profitable, the inevitable evolution of genres and musical landscapes will grow exponentially. Think The Beatles and Jay-Z were cool? What happens when you can take a French hip-hopper’s lyrics, a tribal drum beat from a musician in Africa, a flute melody from Tokyo and a guitar piece from Columbus, Ohio, and add it to your piano piece from the comfort of your home and computer? Sure, you could make money, but look at what your collaboration has created musically. When internet collaboration is monetized and all-inclusive, the community becomes the music industry, and the listeners become the musicians.

Girl Talk Interview

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Over here at Evolving Music we love musicians who are willing to shun convention and adopt bold new paradigms when it comes to music creation, production, or distribution. Or those who simply take risks with their music. Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) is one such musician. Known for his masterful musical mashery, Girl Talk “has turned the cut-and-paste process into a jams-packed jigsaw puzzle.” (Wired)

With the release of his fourth album, Feed the Animals (available through Illegal Art), Girl Talk continues his remix magic, in this case combining over 300 samples. Curious what songs were used? Click here. As if his peculiar art form wasn’t unique enough, Gillis went ahead and endorsed the Radiohead model, by selling his album online with a name-your-price system. The young fellow has been rather busy lately what with his new role as the unassuming rockstar. Check out his tour schedule on MySpace to catch him live. Greg was kind enough to let us pick his brain for you for a few minutes.

Sandra Possing: For the sake of any readers who might not be familiar with your music, let’s start with the basics. Girl Talk. Where did you get the name? Does it have a special meaning?

Greg Gillis: When I started doing laptop music, there was a theme in Pittsburgh, and even internationally, of people doing live electronic music at the time and I thought that some elements of it were stiff, stoic, very borderline academic… I was cool with that stuff, but I kind of wanted to challenge it a bit. I knew I was gonna do a project based around the idea of appropriating pop music and culture, so I wanted to pick a name that was sort of glossy and over the top that would challenge the stiff underground of electronic music.

SP: So there’s not one specific meaning to the name?

GG: It’s so many different things… Boardgames, books, previous bands. It just sounds like some Disney band name and that’s the kind of vibe I wanted in the early days.

SP: You used to be a biomedical engineer. You kind of did the double life thing for a while – nerd by day, badass DJ by night. What was that like?

GG: It was pretty crazy. I never told my coworkers about what I did. I’d never considered myself a DJ in the traditional sense and it would’ve been hard to explain the performance, just cause it was such an underground thing. They were an older group and they were cool but I didn’t want to go in there and be like ”Look, I have a band called Girl Talk, where I play computer and rip my shirt off, and remix pop music on the fly and jump on top of people. It would have been too much to push on them.

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And in the early days of the job, it was like I’d always done Girl Talk since 2000 but it was something that was never intended to bring in money or be a career or anything like that so when I used to work there there was just really no point in telling them. It was just something where I’d make records in my free time and play a show once a month or something like that. So once it got very big and started taking off, it was at the point where it was too late to explain to them. You know what I mean? I would have loved to have told to them at that point, cause it turned in to me playing shows every single Friday and Saturday. You know, jumping on a plane and coming back and doing work Monday through Friday.

But, it was like 3 years into the time that I was working that job so I didn’t want to be like ”Look, btw, I forgot to tell you, I have this thing called Girl Talk and I happen to be selling out shows now”. It just would have seemed too weird. So ya, I didn’t tell them. So it was like a steady year of that where I basically had like a hidden personality. It was nuts. I’d sit in a cubicle all day on Friday then run to the airport, fly out, and then be signing autographs for playing the computer 4 hours later. It was very bizarre.

SP: How did they react once you told them?

GG: Um, I never told them. When I left the job, I basically… I didn’t lie to them… But again, I planned on eventually doing engineering work again – that was my first job after college. So I wanted to not break the ties with them, I didn’t want to be a weirdo. So, I told them that I felt that if I stayed with the job then I might be there until I’m like 50 with kids. And I was worried about taking advantage of my youth and I wanted to travel the world. Which, you know, was kind of the truth, but I didn’t really explain the music thing to them. But since then, I’ve had a lot of coworkers hit me up on Facebook and see like a thousand photos of me shirtless sweating on people. But they were cool with it. I knew they would be. It’s just kind of an awkward thing to tell people.

Sp: Do you miss it? You day job – sitting in a cubicle?

GG: Uh… no, not at all. I mean, with the music thing now, I really feel like I don’t have a job. I just, you know, do what I would be doing anyway and somehow I’m living off it.

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SP: Would you say that your engineering experience has influenced your music.

GG: Ya, I mean I think… I think it’s the nature of going to school for 4 years to study something like that and then getting a job. I have no traditional musical training, and I’ve always been obsessed with and passionate about music and it’s kind of been my main thing forever. But, basically, in approaching this project with the computer, I had to come up with an alternative solution for making music. I knew I wanted to remix pop music and things like that. I had no idea how that would go down. You know just the nature of this project, where its very meticulous, and you’re working on small elements – somedays I’ll work for 10 hours on like a 30 second segment and then that goes on to influence a much bigger picture – I think that definitely relates to the world of engineering.

SP: So you’re using analytical, detail-oriented part of your mind.

GG: Ya, just kind of getting down and working on the small chunks and focusing on the small little bits that will piece together to solve a bigger problem. Not that there’s necessarily a problem but, you know, in the case of music, like a goal.

SP: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing with music or if you weren’t doing engineering like you have in the past, what else could you see yourself doing?

GG: Oh man, I don’t know. I mean, I did ok in high school, studied, did well in every subject. I kind of picked engineering randomly, so… I think I’ve always been good in math and sciences, so I think anything related to that like just straight up biologist or something like that which is kind of related. But, outside of that world, I have NO idea what I would do. Maybe… professional basketball player?

SP: Are you good at basketball?

GG: Ya, I used to hoop a lot. Not anymore. I don’t get enough time. My game is kind of sad to me. I was thinking about this… It’s probably the first time in my life where myself 10 years ago would totally kill myself now, and that’s always just a sad thing.

SP: You obviously have a lot of music or have access to a lot of music, given your style. How do you obtain your music? Do you still buy albums, download stuff off of iTunes…?

GG: I primarily buy CDs. At any point in time I usually have about 50 mp3s on my computer, so I don’t have a digital music collection. I usually download songs to hear them or if I have an idea for something I want to try out I’ll download it and hear that song then I’ll usually delete it after I’m done with it. So ya, it depends what I’m buying. I keep up with a lot of underground releases and independent releases. In that case I’ll go to the local indie retailer. Then I also buy a lot of just mainstream music released on majors and I love going to Best Buy and just dropping a ridiculous amount of money, and coming home and opening up the packages and sitting around listening to CDs. So, ya I primarily buy CDs. I still buy some cassettes and vinyl and things like that when I can. But I’ve been an active CD buyer for the last 15 years now.

SP: Do you ever poke around the internet to find music? Do you listen to Pandora, or use any social music sites?

GG: Um… I’m excited about that stuff. But I’ve never done that. My friends are telling me about Pandora – that seems cool. I don’t really read music blogs or anything like that. I’m pretty low key when it comes to exploring stuff on the internet.

SP: Where do you see the music industry going in the next couple years? It’s obviously changing.

GG: I don’t know. I mean, I think the obvious answer is that CDs are going to be dying out at some point. I think there’s a chance that vinyl will still live on just cause the format’s a lot different whereas the digital audio quality on a CD vs a wav file or a nicely compressed MP3 is very similar. So, um…I don’t really know, but I think it’ll be interesting. I still feel like my friends and I go to the record store and buy albums because we have, you know, this moral code ingrained into our minds to support the music industry. It’s also like a nostalgic thing that I will never drop just cause that’s how I grew up listening to music.

But, you know, 10 or 15 years from now when there’s a bunch of kids who grew up just used to downloading music for free, it’s gonna be a whole different world. I can’t imagine them ever being excited about buying CDs, which is fine. I’m gonna stick to my ways. I’m gonna buy CDs until they stop being made. I’m pumped about CDs, but simultaneously I’m excited for that to die off and ultimately it’s just gonna change the reason people start bands, change people’s positions at records labels, change all that in ways that I could never even articulate.

Just the way we understand being in a band 10 years ago vs. 20 years from now will be a lot different. You know what I mean? I grew up seeing, like, Nirvana or even like Guns’n’Roses or something like that. Rock music – even as a kid you just knew it as this huge industry. You pour in all this money to these guys who are millionaires and then they produce a bunch of millions for you. And that might change, you know what I mean? I don’t know if that’ll be the case anymore. I think right now is a great era for touring musicians. It’s so easy to get exposure via the internet. Granted, there’s so much stuff out there, it’s hard to get noticed because right now there are probably more bands than ever, more projects, but simultaneously you can do something weird in 2008 and be noticed on the internet if people take to it.

It’s in the people’s hands rather than the mainstream media. So that’s exciting how you can continually grow like that to the point where… I don’t know what major labels will do or how they’re gonna hang on twenty years from now, but I’m sure they’ll come up with something.

SP: So, on that same note, obviously the way that artists are distributing music and the way the fans are consuming the music, that’s all changing very quickly. Is that why you decided to release your new album online with a set-your-own-price model, the Radiohead model.

GG: Ya, I mean, the label that puts out my stuff, Illegal Art, threw the idea out there. I thought it was great, you know. If we had released that album just as a CD it would have been a major delay, which is frustrating because it’s something I work on for two years. It’s exciting to just see it, to piece this thing together and to finish on a Tuesday and put it online on a Friday. And outside that, I just want to acknowledge that if we did release this on a CD, then some kid’s gonna buy it, rip it, put it online and immediately everyone on a file sharing network can get it for free. That’s just the reality of music now and I think that’s a great thing. I’m excited for the music to be spread through the internet. So it seemed like, why play dumb about it when you could just be upfront about it and acknowledge that reality and say to people ”Look I know you can get it for free, go ahead and take it for free if you really want to, or if you wanna pay us that’s cool too. I think pay-what-you-want model was novel enough that a lot of people were excited to be a part of it. A lot of people were hitting me up and telling me ”Greg, I paid $15 for the album!”

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SP: Fans are much less patient than they used to be. They want their music how they want it and when they want it. They’re not willing to wait so you might as well cater to that.

GG: Sure, ya. I mean, I’ve only been really living off music for the past year and a half and I don’t want people to lose their jobs at labels and I like the idea of musicians being able to live off that. But, that’s also very foreign to anything I knew to being involved with music. All of my friends’ bands and my bands, Girl Talk when it first started… it was never like ”Man, I hope I can live off this”, it was just ”Let’s create music and get it out there to as many people as possible.” And when you take money out of that equation it’s like… right now is a beautiful time. You can get your music exposed to so many people.

SP: And that way it’s more genuine too.

GG: Ya. And even financially too. I see a lot of indie labels thriving, via merch etc. I always think about the project I’m doing now in terms of the bands I was into when I was in high school and going to someone like Kid 606, or going to see Pavement, or The Jesus Lizard, or anything like that. Just thinking about the size of shows that they played versus the size of shows that I play or any of my contemporaries play… the audience for underground music is enormous right now comparatively. That’s a very cool thing.

SP: Let’s talk about the artists that you sample. Obviously, what you do is a little controversial. What’s the typical response? Do they not reach out, do they reach out and say ”Hey awesome, this is positive promotion for us” or has anyone gotten upset yet?

GG: I’ve had no issues. It’s a rare case when people reach out but it’s definitely gone down a few times. A lot of people at labels have reached out and been cool with it and I think that a lot of people in the industry kind of understand my work is almost a tool of viral marketing and they see it as transformative, as something that’s not negatively impacting the potential sales of their product, so they’re into it. On the artist end I’ve had a few. One of the ladies from Yo Majesty sent me an email recently, the manager of Sophie B. Hawkins reached out cause she wanted to collaborate. I heard from a songwriter for Donnie Iris. I met Thurston Moore one time… He was not familiar with my material but we played a show together and I was explaining to him that I put out samples of his stuff on my CDs and he was (without hearing it) theoretically cool with it. I’ve had Big Boi from Outkast come out to a show of mine in Atlanta and chat it up and he was cool with it. So… If you pay attention to music right now, you know your song is blowing up when there’s a bunch of remixes of it. That helps put fuel on the fire. I think anyone who looks at the internet on a daily basis is probably aware of that phenomenon.

SP: Do you feel like this whole mashup, remix culture is exploding right now? Do you find that other artists are emulating you specifically? A lot of people do remixes, but we don’t see many people remixing that many songs into one track.

GG: I see it on the internet, people on my Myspace hit me up all the time telling me to check out their stuff and I check out what I can and I see a lot of people kind of mocking the style, which is great. When I started I was heavily biting the style of Kid 606 and I think it went on to evolve into something else. To me, that’s how you make music. You start off jamming to Nirvana covers in your basement and all of a sudden you’re making original music. Every idea is influenced by something, whether it’s physically or just an idea. I think it’s crazy and I definitely think the whole idea of remixes is blowing up culturally right now. That’s what the internet has brought to the table. People are allowed to be interactive with the media that they consume. If you go on youtube, there are a million fan videos for random songs, movie clips spliced together, people taking images from the public and splicing them together in photoshop. It’s like everyone is becoming so used to being interactive with the media that’s around them, which is way different than even 10 years ago. The tools are available now. It’s exciting.

I remember when I started doing Girl Talk, people were definitely remixing pop music but it’s like if a new Destiny’s Child song comes out and I do an unsolicited weird remix and put em on the internet, I could be pretty sure that maybe a couple others would be out there, whereas now it’s like the new Beyonce single comes out and they release the a cappella and instrumental on the internet and within 48 hours there are 1,000 new remixes and there are a bunch of Yubetube videos and there’s a chipmonks version set to a cartoon. It’s just like we’re living in an era of appropriation right now based on what the internet’s provided for us.

SP: Have people remixed your music?

GG: Ya I’ve seen it. There’s a brand of southern stuff – hip hop – called Chopped and Screwed, where things are slowed down and kind of chopped up a bit. I saw a Chopped and Screwed version of my album. Some other people have done some kind of experimental takes on my stuff. So I’ve seen it a good bit and I’m happy to be a part of that dialogue. It gets me pumped when I see people actually appropriating stuff that I’ve done and making something new with it.

SP: So, last question. It seems like you’ve been putting out an album about every 2 years – ’02, ’04, ’06, ’08. Should we expect your next album in 2010?

GG: I’m not sure. The last two albums were kind of like cousin albums for me. Both of those I worked on as one cohesive whole so it’s not like I work on individual songs. I work on one 15 minute piece of music until I feel like I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish meaning that I don’t know if I’d be able to replicate that again. I’d like to mix it up again at some point. Kind of break out of that mold. It’s intense to dedicate two years to one … and then be stressful and you know you’re kind of putting all of your eggs in one basket. I’d like to fool around even , maybe put out an EP or put out some individual songs on the internet, just kind of break the tradition of what’s been going on. I work on music every day and I have no idea what it’s gonna go toward. When an idea comes out it just exists and right now I have really no view of the future beyond this month.

SP: One more last question. What do you enjoy more, doing live shows or working in the studio?

GG: It’s two different things. The live show is instant gratification. It’s fun. It’s in your face. It’s like the payoff. And working in the studio is more like a long term relationship where it can be really miserable and grueling and tough but at the end of the day it’s very satisfying.

SP: So if making an album is like having a long term relationship, is a live show like a great one night stand?

GG: Absolutely.


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