Sunday, September 24, 2006

In the Mix: An Interview with Bobby Martini

v. To take elements of two or more pre-existing pieces of music and combine them to make a new song.
n. A song comprised of elements of two or more pre-existing pieces of music.

This dictionary explanation of a mash-up is among the first things one will see upon visiting the website of British DJ Bobby Martini. The subheading stands as a reference point for any newcomer to this growing form of music. A successful 'mash' will combine two or more songs together in such a way that it will stand on its own, as a valid piece of music. It takes an astute ear to find songs that fit perfectly together, and mix them together so they sound like they were meant to be one song all along.

For years, DJs have been mixing alternative versions of songs, and would often seg live between tracks by fading, and mashing, two songs together. Now, mash-ups have proved themselves to be worthy of hearing on their own terms. DJ Danger Mouse brought public attention to mash-ups with his highly talked-about Grey Album - in which he mashed songs from Jay Z's Black Album with the Beatles' White Album. Today, Bobby Martini is one of many DJs specializing in mash-ups, and since I first came across his website earlier this summer, he has become one of my favorites. Martini even took a song that I'm not terribly fond of (Pussycat Dolls' "Buttons"), and mixed it with one of my favorite Madonna tracks ("Secret") to form one of the catchiest songs I've heard all year - which he appropriately titled "Secret Buttons."

Recently, Mr. Martini was nice enough to answer some questions that I had for him.

Bobby Martini - 'Lullabye In Your Eyes (The Cure vs Peter Gabriel)'

How long have you been doing mash-ups, and what influenced you to start?

Bobby: Strictly speaking I have only been doing proper mash-ups since May this year (2006) but I first started 'mixing' as it were back in the mid 80's. I was a huge fan of mega-mixes then and used to attempt quite a few using the basics (old cassette recorder, turntable etc.). Nothing ever came of it as most of my work was only ever heard by friends and family. Some of it did get played at local clubs but nothing to get excited about. I decided to start doing mashups because a mate of mine had pointed me in the direction of a mashup site he visited. I thought 'I can do that' - Got some software and just started doing what I have wanted to do for quite a few years now. I have had some really positive feedback so far so I guess I'll stick at it.

Tae: What is your favorite part about making music? Your favorite part of the mash-up process?

Bobby: There is no better feeling than when you put 2 different pieces together and they just gel immediately. Sometimes it can take ages before you find the right ingredients but when it does it's just awsome. A great example would be my mash of 'Lullaby In Your Eyes' (Cure vs Peter Gabriel). I took the Cure instrumental and just placed the Gabriel vocal on top. I knew I had something special straight away. You just get that 'right' mix and it's a great feeling.

Tae: How do you choose which songs to use? Is there a point when you know you want to mix two songs together?

Bobby: I don't have any set procedure so to speak. Quite often I will have a mash in mind that I think will work perfectly but in practice won't work at all. I also like to get ideas from friends and fans. Some of my best work has been ideas from other people. Like most mashup artists, what you mash depends on what is available. So often you know that a certain track will blend perfectly with another but you can't get an instrumental version of it or an acapella of another. I know there is software out there that can strip this and isolate that but I have yet to find anything that does a really great job . I like to try things that are a little bit different if possible. I'm working on something at the moment that will show this in no uncertain terms!

Tae: If you had one artist/group you had to use in every mix, who would you choose?

Bobby: Peter Gabriel - everytime. In fact some would say I have overdone him already, but tough! More to come from Pete I'm afraid. For me, personally, he is the greatest rock artist of all time - who continually delivers the goods everytime - bloody excellent live too!

Tae: What's next for you to remix?

Bobby: Without giving too much away... A Classic British Rock Act vs A Classic British Video Game... trust me, it's gonna be good.

I have no doubt that it WILL be good. Thanks again to Bobby for his time. Be sure to check out his website for more information, and to listen to his whole catalog of mash-ups!

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