(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Interview with Mark Vidler (Go Home Productions)

Go Home Productions is Mark Vidler. He’s released countless mashups into the wild, getting a lot of attention for songs like “Imagine The Band,” which juxtaposes John Lennon with Paul McCartney and the Wings. His mashups and remixes have been picked up by some artists and record labels to be officially released, including "Rapture Riders" (Blondie vs. The Doors). I emailed Mark a list of questions about his work and musical career.

This is part of a Mashup Artist Summit. Highlighted sections were mixed with other interview segments to create a conversation between several producers.

Jester Jay: How did you get started creating mashups? What was your first mashup project?

Mark Vidler: It started for me around 2002. I used to listen to a weekly radio show in the UK called “The Remix” on XFM, hosted by Eddy Temple-Morris & James Hyman. They began playing a track called “A Stroke Of Genius” by someone called The Freelance Hellraiser. It was a bootleg of The Strokes “Hard To Explain” with Christina Aguliera's “Genie In A Bottle.” It totally floored me! 

I had been doing similar experiments on a Tascam Porta One 4-track recorder back in the mid-80's by overdubbing acapella tracks from 12" vinyl with instrumental sections and breaks from songs but to hear it executed in this very clinical way digitally and getting played on the radio, really left an impression on me.

I set about doing my own bootlegs, as we called them in the UK back then –  “mashups” as a description came a couple of years later – immediately and knocked up Eminem’s “Without Me” vs. Wings “Silly Love Songs” (called “Slim McShady”) and a homage to the Freelance Hellraiser track, also using The Strokes & Christina Aguilera but with “Someday” instead of “Hard To Explain,” called “Genies Revenge.”

I called myself “Go Home Productions” as a reference to Big Apple Productions who did mega-mixes back in the late 80's. I burnt both my tracks to a CD and mocked up semi-official looking artwork since I was working as a graphics designer at the time. I made 10 copies and posted them off to music magazines and UK radio shows. Within four days both tracks had been played on national UK radio. I started sharing the two tracks as mp3s via Audio Galaxy which was one of the early file-sharing sites alongside Napster and soon enough, the Eminem vs. Wings track was getting play-listed on national daytime radio in New Zealand. All this happened in May 2002.

JJ: What's your favorite kind of music to listen to?

MV: I have a fairly wide-ranging taste to be honest, across all genres, with a pretty massive vinyl and CD collection that I've built upon since the late ‘70s when I first started buying records. Anything from ‘70s punk and post-punk to dub, disco, soundtrack, soft rock, indie, electronic, bubblegum...anything goes! But my main focus and love has to be psychedelia. I discovered ‘60s garage band compilations around the early ‘80s. Things like the Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic EraChocolate Soup For DiabeticsRubble and Pebbles collections got me hooked on band like The Seeds, The Chocolate Watchband, Tintern Abbey, Tomorrow, Syd's Pink Floyd etc. I just loved the extreme experimentation at the time from these bands who were obviously dropping acid or pretending to drop acid!

There was also a pretty decent psychedelic revival taking place around this time, with U.K. bands like XTC, Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, and The Soft Boys leaning towards the genre and also in the U.S.A. thanks to Three 'O Clock, Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate and the whole Paisley Underground. The enthusiasm I had for Psychedelic music back then has never diminished.

JJ: Have you experimented with longer form mashups a la Girl Talk?

MV: I did a couple of longer mixes for WFMU radio in NYC around 2003 for their “Remixology” series. These consisted of many individual mashups that I'd created at the time, but were blended together to make a more coherent 50 minute mix. Edit heaven.

JJ: What qualities do you think define a perfect mashup?

MV: Personally speaking the best mash-ups are the ones that contain a big surprise element in the choice of tracks used and the way in which they are put together: two very different musical genres for example or two very different artists that you wouldn't expect to work together but somehow do. I'm not a fan of 'rap' vocals being placed over a hip hop track or two R&B tracks being fused together, because you'd expect them to work with little or no additional creativity being needed by the remixer in question. But splice Captain Beefheart with Abba, for example, and I'd definitely give it a listen!

To be honest, I like to think that I've always delivered mashups with a healthy dose of humor: a big smile-factor.  The best tracks are the ones that make me laugh out loud, because I'm not expecting the combination or the choice of tracks is so disparate that you are not expecting them to work.

JJ: Which comes first for you? Is it the satisfying concept of a particular combination, or recognition of an overlapping sound?

MV: Both of those in equal measures really. I've wasted many hours simply overlapping and testing tracks but I've also had a good share of combination concepts that had a “working more often than not” result to them. I tend to start by working with a favorite artist or track that i am overly familiar with, then set about the detective work of trying to pair them up with something unexpected.

JJ: Have you set yourself a particular challenge as an artist? How do you measure your own success?

MV: I guess my ambitions as an artist have been the same since being a teenager in the ‘80s. Form a band, release a record, get played on John Peel, do a BBC session, get in the NME and  play the Marquee were what I hoped for. Luckily, that all happened by the time I was 25. Then it was a case of getting a remix in the charts, producing an album, headlining a festival, traveling the world and meeting Andy Partridge of XTC. As fate would have it, I've done all of that, too, so if I died tomorrow I'd be happy. The only ambition I have left is to have a book published.

Seriously, I just consider myself fortunate to be in a position where I'm making some kind of living from doing something I enjoy and meeting and working with people I have admired since childhood. So that, for me, is successful, I guess.

Here’s a bit more detail of my history:
I played in a band called Chicane from 1987-1995 and we had achieved a fair degree of success. We got enough press and radio coverage and released several EPs and an album. We were bundled in as part of the shoe gazing scene that was around at that particular time. It was great fun while it lasted. I left the band / business in 1995, but by 2002 I was missing the action. I was convinced that I could use bootlegs or mashups as a vehicle to getting back into the music business.

I was still writing and recording my own material and remixing tracks as a hobby whilst being a graphics designer in the intervening seven years but the whole bootleg scene that suddenly rose up overnight really pulled me back in. After creating those initial Go Home Productions tracks in 2002, there was a lot of interest and offers coming my way, to the point where I gave up the day job, signed a management deal with Avalon in the UK and within a couple of years was producing official remixes for the likes of David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, The Doors, Blondie, Bob Dylan, Alicia Keys and producing a mashup album for EMI Records, deejaying the world over, etc. Now I'm in Addictive TV, still with the mashup attitude but visually as well as the audio side.

JJ: What your favorite piece that you've created?

MV: I guess "Ray Of Gob" (Madonna vs Sex Pistols) (2003) was the GHP catalyst, so that holds a special place for me. "Rapture Riders" (Blondie vs The Doors) (2005) was a personal fave official release and it was the track that brought me into working with Addictive TV audio visual artists, which is now my full-time occupation.

JJ: How do you answer critics that dismiss mashups as inferior or derivative art?

I used to staunchly defend mash-ups and what they represented, in interviews 10 years ago, saying it was the new punk in terms of attitude. You know, doing it in your bedroom, no need for record labels, software. It was the new guitar and the internet was the new distributor, etc. And with hindsight, it was at the time. MP3 was new technology, internet was only 56kbps, file-sharing was in it's infancy and torrent hadn't even appeared when I made my first tracks. It felt like mash-up culture or attitude was at the forefront of something new.

All music or art borrows from the past, whether it be using a few blues licks or Beatle chords to create a new song. Hip hop was the first to physically borrow little bits of other people’s works, namely James Brown, but with the advent of computer software and digital recording, we could sample whole tracks, not just little pieces and create
a third track out of two existing ones. It was fun basically and certainly caused a stir at the time.

Inferior and derivative? Yes. Just like Punk was. But it was exciting for a moment, too.

JJ: What do you feel you owe the original artists whose work you build on?

MV: Nothing :). As I've mentioned before, I tackle the mixes with a healthy dose of humor and also respect for the majority of artists that I've used before.  In the early days, I anticipated some of the artists being highly offended if they got to hear my work on their material but this was never the case. On several occasions, my unsanctioned mashups, put out online for free, led to the artists getting in contact with me to set about having them officially released – Blondie vs. The Doors being the obvious one.

There was a good period of years when artists and labels were more than happy to have mash-up remixers plunder their material and upload, as the mixes were free viral promos for their back catalogue!

JJ: How did you get involved with record-label supported projects?

MV: A fair few of my early creations led to artists and labels contacting me directly, to work for them. So, it was very much the result of me creating a track, uploading it to my website for people to download, getting it played on radio, shared online and creating a buzz. I ended up doing official work for EMI, Sony, Warner Brothers, etc simply on the back of ignoring copyright issues and creating what they considered were cool versions of their artists’ work.

At the end of the day record labels are only interested in making money. At one period in time they considered mashups the vehicle to carry that money back to them.

JJ: Do you have much interaction with other mashup artists? Is there much of a scene?

I really don't know if there is actually a scene anymore and, if there is, I'm certainly not a part of it!! I create the occasional GHP mashup quite simply for fun these days. As Addictive TV we do the odd musical mashup in our own audio-visual way. I must admit I was taken aback by the sudden interest in the GHP Lennon/Wings "Imagine The Band" track that I created 2 years ago and sank without a trace :)

I would imagine that any mashup scene is back to being underground these days. I'm not aware of one.

Between 2001-2005, it felt like a scene was definitely developing out of the initial Freelance Hellraiser / Curtis Rush / Richard X / 2 Many DJ's (Soulwax) headwind. Boomselection, King Of The Boots (Bastard Club) and GYBO [Get Your Bootleg On] all set the wheels in motion. There definitely were names producing some exciting stuff and getting some industry attention. However, all those names no longer do mashups or they have moved onto other things.

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