For music, transformative works include things like sampling, remixes, mash-ups and to a degree, turntablism. As the internet has become more pervasive, the ability to transform other works has become easier, and more tangled. Because of current copyright laws, most transformative works reside in a legal grey area.
Dr. Brixx is a young mash-up artist – he takes two songs (or more) and weaves them together to create an entirely different song. And as the idea of a remix culture becomes more and more embedded our society, artists who embrace this transformation are going to be the ones who succeed in a landscape of manufactured Auto-Tuned pop music.
Fr.U.N.T. Music had the opportunity to ask Dr. Brixx some questions and he was kind enough to endure my barrage of questions.
Cardiac_in_Overdrive: Tell me about this album you’re working on. Are you in a band, or is it a solitary endeavor? Do you play any instruments? Sing? Or is this an album of mash-ups?
Dr. Brixx: The album is something I’ve been working on on-and-off for about 10 months. I’m aiming for an hour of continuous mix with almost exclusively alternative rock samples. I’ve been working on a few original songs for a band but if that ever happened, it’d be a completely separate project from Dr. Brixx.
CiO: What are your creative influences? Music, movies, video games, books? What inspires you to create?
Dr. B: As far as creative influences, more often than not, music inspires me to create more music (or poetry, but that’s also a separate thing). I’m always looking for weird things to sample–I think all mashup artists are–and so I’ll just be jamming out to my music on my phone on the bus on the way to school and hear an instrumental bit of a song I think I can play around with or have an idea of something I’d like to do with the song. A lot of my inspiration, too, comes from just a desire to be original. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m bragging or being cocky or anything but I’ve kind of cornered the market on the pop-punk mashup crowd, and there have been times when I’ve made a mashup not because I was particularly in love with the samples (which is how I started out: just mashing songs I like with songs to dance to), but because I think my fans (it’s weird to think that I have fans but if you have 5300 soundcloud followers, you can only live in denial so long) would like the samples. So it basically boils down to a desire to continue to push my own originality, whether it’s for my own sake or for the sake of those who listen to and enjoy my music.
CiO: Okay, so you get inspired by a bit of music, or you have an idea you want to work with. What then? Can you give me an outline of your creative process? And how long does it take you to complete a song? And once you are done, are you done, or do you go back and fiddle with the song?
Dr. B: Well regardless of how inspiration strikes, I always have to figure out what options I have. Not every song has stems (acapellas or instrumentals) available so I figure out the key/bpm of whatever it is that I want to work with, and then check that against my available resources. After that it’s a lot of trial and error, figuring out what works in terms of structure, etc. Most of it kind of happens on the fly rather than being planned. I’ll be listening to what I have so far and think “I wonder how it would sound if I did this?” and so I do it and then if it sounds good I keep it. It sounds rather haphazard, I realize, but it’s hardly a science. After I get everything in place, then I come back and make sure that everything sounds fine relative to everything else, volume-wise. Then I put any effects on the tracks that I feel would improve the mash as a whole, be it reverb, panning, filters, etc. Once I get it sounding like I want, I take down the volume levels on the tracks until I stop redlining, then slap my mastering effect on it. Normally the initial sample placement only takes like 30-45 minutes, but the actual mixing, in terms of volume, effects, mastering, normally takes a couple of hours and I’ll usually come back to it for at least another day.
CiO: You say that music is the media that has influenced you the most. Which bands, musicians, songs have left the strongest impression on you?
Dr. B: I obviously draw a lot of my influence from the music I mix, so stuff like Fall Out Boy, who I’ve sampled 9 times, or Relient K, who’s my favorite band and so I look to sample them as often as possible, even if their traditional mashup samples aren’t really available.
CiO:What about other mash-up artists? Do you have a favorite, someone you want to be when you grow up?
Dr. B: As far as other mashup artists, though, there’s a LOT more I can talk about in terms of inspiration. My biggest inspiration, and basically the reason that I’m making mashups at all, is a now-inactive mashup group called The Legion of Doom. In a time when mashups were all Jay-Z acapellas over top 40 pop or oldies vs. more oldies, these guys mashed bands like Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Senses Fail, Dashboard Confessional–the music that I actually listened to. So obviously that held a lot of appeal for me. Once I actually got into the world of mashups, though, there were a lot of other mashup artists that provided help, inspiration, or both for me while I was learning. An Australian masher called envision that basically took me under his wing and taught me how to use better software than I was using, taught me how to master my tracks, how to properly mix, etc. Honestly, without him, I wouldn’t be half the masher I am now. And then I draw a lot from my peers as well, like Ricky Cervantes, Isosine, Frail Limb Purity, or Pennwallace. However, especially given my attempts to make this continuous mix album, I’ve been leaning heavily on Bruneaux and Girl Talk for inspiration.
CiO:How did you get into mash-ups? At what point did you realize that you could smush together two disparate songs like Rihanna’s California King Bed and the Used’s Taste of Ink to create something different and awesome?
Dr. B: I had been aware of mashups for a while because of DJ Earworm’s United States of Pop Series and Linkin Park and Jay-Z’s Collision Course album, but I really started to get into them April of my freshman year of college. I stumbled upon (literally, using StumbleUpon) Mashup-Germany’s Hey Jude, I’ll Be There, and it just set off a nearly obsessive fascination with transformative works of music. Much more mashups than remixes, but I was suddenly a lot more interested in remixes, too. I began hoarding mashups from anywhere that I could find them (it really weighed down my hard drive, as I amassed multiple hundreds of mashups), partly because of a fascination with the genre and partly so that I could play stuff when my friends came over to party in the fall, as freshman year had found my music library almost entirely bereft of music that wasn’t angry and loud.
I had a decent knowledge of musical theory at that point and so I figured I would give it a shot. Like pretty much any mashup artist will tell you, my early stuff was TERRIBLE. But that’s how you learn. I started off with a lot of pop on pop on pop simply because that’s what was available to me, but I was always most intrigued by mashups that completely clashed the genre of two (or more) songs, so combinations like Rihanna and The Used or One Direction and My Chemical Romance or PSY and Fall Out Boy were kind of a natural progression from there. When I go in and look at what might work with whatever sample I’m looking to use, I look for something that’s as unlike the original sample while still maintaining musical similarity.
CiO: So, what’s next for Dr. Brixx? Finish the album, then what? Where do you see yourself as a musician in five years? In ten?
Dr. B: As for what’s next, this coming Sunday marks the 3 year anniversary of the day that I decided I’d give it a shot, so I’ll probably release some sort of “Essential Mix” or something of the best of the last 3 years of Dr. Brixx and then I plan on kind of disappearing to work on the album and original production. By this time next year, I’ll hope to have the album out, obviously, but hopefully I’ll have my first remix out. I’m really looking more towards original production through remixes as opposed to continuing in mashups, simply because remixes, especially ones that I would make, are a lot more conducive to my goal of doing more with live performance. I’ve seen a lot of my friends make the transition and it’s something that’s definitely attractive to me, both as a thrilling experience and as a way to pad my wallet a little bit. So in five years, I hope to be playing shows, opening for my friends or even DJing bars or clubs (though that’s a much more difficult thing to do than just playing a planned out show). In ten years, I’ll either have totally abandoned music as something that I do on this large of a scale or it’ll be one of my biggest sources of income. Most American mashup artists are kind of weirded out by the guys with grey hair still making mashups, mostly because they take it way too seriously and most of us see mashups as a stepping stone rather than the end game. I don’t wanna be one of those guys.
Stay tuned for part two of the interview where we talk more about the future of transformative music.