Reach At The Stars

The new article is now published on 4Talent. Here’s the original transcript with added Youtube goodness.

How did you start doing this?

I had been making music within the Hip Hop/Breaks end of the spectrum since as far back as 1997 with really basic equipment. However during 3 years working in a record shop I became frustrated at the pigeon-holing and genre classifications of dance music, and began making tracks which were either parodies of a particular genre (e.g. Trance, Trip Hop) or just mashed together stupid sample tracks which served as an outlet for my twisted imagination.


Who influenced you to begin with?

In terms of the Plunderphonics side of things, it’s hard to say. I’d already started mucking about cutting up people’s vocals before I’d heard of the likes of Cassette Boy or DJ Yoda, and didn’t know it could be taken seriously, most tracks were just piss-takes for making my mates laugh. Through being into Hip Hop and stuff I suppose my influences were guys like ColdCut, DJ Shadow (and through him Steinski), Aphex Twin…er and my group of friends, who all share totally different tastes in music.

Tell me about the SP1s…

Working in the hardware department at a DJ store you get to meet some right nutters. I met Spats because it was my job to keep him off the in-store decks – he’d just be in there scratching 8 hours a day! Switch was just a wee 13 year old nipper who came in one day, asked to have a scratch on the decks and just left my jaw on the floor with his skills. We decided to form a DJ team because Birmingham didn’t seem to be represented in any of the DJ competitions, and thus the Special Ones were born.

How did your interest in hip hop feed into the cut-up technique?

Most of my favourite tracks on Hip Hop albums were ones where the emcees shut up and let the DJ show he wasn’t just there to stand in the background. Guys like DJ Premier, Jazzy Jeff, Prince Paul et al would use sample based tracks or skits to break up an album. Plus the whole idea of “Hip Hop” to me is just taking things you weren’t meant to use, screwing around with them so you can try and get a point across or make people move.

Was humour or anger the strongest emotion?

Bit of both… Obviously I might be lying there one day thinking “I wonder what George Formby would sound like over Aphex Twin” and if it makes me chuckle to think about it, then I’ll bosh something together just for a laugh. If someone’s a dick and they appear more often than not in the national media, then it’s all too easy to record them and “have some fun”. There’s very rarely any real malice in the cut-ups I do, I’ve steered clear of political stuff for a bit now as the thought of listening to hours and hours of politicians talking bollocks drives you mental!

In some cases it’s the furthering of comedy say – for example Saxondale and Alan’s Lapdance, does this come from an affection for the comedy and a desire to further the joke?

Oh definitely, but the one thing is that I find that the love of genuinely hilarious comedies/sitcoms has a potential to cross more personal barriers than music. Whack a hundred people in the room and play Hip Hop- well 50% might not like it. Put Alan Partridge on a giant screen and most people will probably laugh! I don’t know if it’s really trying to further the joke, I think it’s about giving people something they might not normally expect in that situation. Most of the best club nights I’ve ever been to have been the ones where I’ve laughed the most!

Then with adverts you seem to be more on the attack with Cillit Cillit Bang Bang and Always Fresh (Lillets) –what makes adverts such a good target?

Just purely because some so hopelessly miss their audience target they generate a “cult” appeal, coupled with the fact that a normal TV advertising run might last as long as six months; meaning you might unwittingly watch a shit advert more than five hundred frigging times – that really gets on my tits. In terms of playing live, adverts do what adverts should: grab your attention!

There are certainly some aspects which appeal to students, is this a conscious effort or just because you’re a student at heart?

I’m a work-shy, anarchic, piss-taker so probably yes. We just try and make ourselves laugh. If that works then hopefully other people might find it funny too.

Tell me about your work with Matt (Roger Species) and the Chop Shop compilation. Are your targets different when working with him?

The Chop Shop came about as he moved in next door, we both realised we were making “stupid” music and just thought we’d start releasing the compilations of our dirty hard drives. If we make at least one person in the room go “What the fuck?!” then we’ve achieved something. We find the same things funny and just want the stuff to be seen and heard by as many people as possible.

Tell us how you moved from audio cut up to using video?

It just seemed a natural progression- plus even we admit most of our stuff’s too intense to just stand in a room and listen to it, sometimes you need something to focus on other than us just standing there grimacing in shame and getting ready to do a runner!

What kind of technology have you used to achieve this?

I use Ulead Videostudio 9 to simply layer the video over audio we’ve usually knocked up beforehand. It’s meant for making family videos and photo albums so it’s really crap for what we do but I’d rather knock stuff out quick than spend yonks creating some Peter Jackson epic. You have to manually layer every muted clip to the audio that’s playing. Obviously if you’re re-editing a speech by Tony Blair for instance, some of the separate sound clips might be as short as half a second, which means you have to do a bit of lip syncing! Sometimes it might be just a case of putting another video clip from a piece you originally sampled over an alternative audio clip, because it fits the mood or is funny. Playing live couldn’t be easier- once you’ve burned your creations to disc, you turn up at a venue and hope they’ve got a DVD player & projector!

Explain to me the role that you play in the on-line community has provided?

I suppose sites like Myspace, YouTube has just been a big middle finger up to the big record companies and the old “send out as much of your stuff as you can until you make it” idea. Now you can set up a music and video portfolio type thing in minutes and actively have people seeking YOU out. Now you don’t even need to know a thing about HTML/Graphic Design or Webspeak to create and update your own personal band/artist/producer page on the net. For the cost of a PC/Mac and an internet connection, you can broadcast your videos and tracks to ANYONE in the world.

Plus with the amount of copyright infringement in our tracks, we know that there’s pretty much no chance we’d ever get a record deal, so the internet serves as an easy way of getting to hear our stuff and similar types of cut-up music.

How do adding Mpegs enhance your appeal on myspace?

People on the internet have very short attention spans, just one click of the mouse and you can be looking at someone else’s page in a second. I think having videos can be an extra way of getting and keeping that attention, plus it’s just like having your own mini TV channel that people can turn on at any time, with no subscription charge.


Are any videos made with the visuals in mind?

Mostly it’s a case of work with whatever you can get, we doubt we’re ever going to get access to any BBC Vaults or anything so sites like YouTube are a god send as people post the strangest things, and clips can be downloaded easily. I use hixxy.net, a free transcoder site which allows you to convert a URL (Video location) to an .AVI or .MOV movie file from YouTube. Plus for the mean time- it’s free!

Have you benefited in other areas from showing your talent on myspace?

Mainly just through a few live shows we’ve already done. Getting them for our kind of stuff can be hard, but at least if people have a webpage to go and look at, there’s an easy way for them to go and see if you’re going to be their cup of tea or not. Plus, through word of mouth we’ve been played on quite a few radio stations, including Radio One a few times, which in turn draws a few people back to the myspace pages.

Do you have any tips for film makers and video people who want to take advantage of the virtual scene?

Just don’t be put off with the idea that you need to have really expensive video editing software or loads of money to get up and running. Muck about with clips that are already out there using the basic software on a start up PC/Mac, and just make sure you follow the basic idea that made you think of doing it in the first place. Don’t get bogged down with details- if it’s a self promotional thing then if you spend months perfecting it no one will get to see it… get yourself a video profile page and whack them out there!

Name some like minded individuals who are making similar types of music?

In terms of whether there’s a “group” of people doing the same stuff as us, well it’s hard to say as most people who make cut-up parodies/pastiches have tended to do it because they’re fed up with genres so most of them make hugely different types of music. Sample fiddlers definitely worth checking out include Cassetteboy, Osymyso, V/Vm, Shitmat(and the whole Wrong Music crew), People Like Us, Wayne Butane, Cartel Communique, The Evolution Control Committee and blimey, there’s loads but I ‘d be here for weeks….

How have the audiences taken it?

Mixed really! People either love it or hate it. Half our audience might be weeing themselves, the other might be open mouthed in disgust, certainly we had an angry bunch of Birmingham City fans who walked out of one gig on hearing their beloved team reduced to a gay orgy match against Chelsea. Some people have likened it to stand-up. Well we haven’t been given any chairs to sit down on yet, and I suppose it helps if there’s a notable presence up there other than us hiding behind a laptop and gadgets.

Are you utilising your scratch talents – would you be able to scratch this work with DVJ equipment?

I think at the moment the real bummer is that a lot of the high end equipment where you can scratch, loop, effect videos with simple movements is exactly that, high end. I think in a couple of years or so the ability to muck about with DVD’s in the much the same manner as Vinyl and CDs will become much more affordable and commonplace. In the meantime, you can still create acceptable effects, loops etc. with cheap video editing software. At the moment we hook up a turntable and mixer through some of Roger’s Effects, then have added extra bits to the tracks that are playing.

What do you have in planned for the future?

Chop Shop Vol II is still gathering tracks, 35 at last count, that will be available to get from our myspace pages, and we’ve already had a few songs from that out there on Radio so that’s cool. Viral Videos seem to be a huge medium for short attention grabbing tracks like we make at the moment, so we’re going to turn a lot of our shorter tracks into easily e-mailable files to spread out there like a Brummie plague. We’ve got a gig in Leeds for AV night “Look & Listen” coming up on April fool’s day (when else?) and are in the process of sorting out some more live AV gigs up and down the country at the moment so keep ‘em peeled. We’ve started our own night called Krapaoke Roger has a couple of upcoming releases planned for Wrong Music this year, I will be back practicing with SP1 crew for this year’s DMC Team comp, plus we’re playing live at Birmingham’s “Drop Beats not Bombs” anti-war night this coming May, so come down and check us out if you’re in the area!

Check out DJ Reach’s hugely entertaining myspace. I can’t recommend Alan’s Lapdance enough.

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About dandavies23

Editor of whatsonuk for 2 years, co-founder and editor of Blowback magazine. Left in January this year. Wrote for Gum (Saatchi and Saatchi), Virtual Festivals and recently Knowledge magazine. Currently helping Ten4 (Channel 4) magazine expand their brand. This site is going to be a resource for the writing I am most proud of. View all posts by dandavies23

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