Mashup Therapy: A Reboot For Creativity
So, yeah, mashups. One might ask, “Why would a band like Endless Blue ever do these weird one-off mashup albums?” Well, One, think of it as mashup therapy.
After the long hours and laser-like focus of finishing an album for a six solid months, you just can’t dive back into it and have any perspective or freshness. I spent a good three months after releasing Move On completely neglecting my studio, cobwebs and all, and then spending a summer playing live shows. Getting back into the rhythm of writing new music has been a little rough (something I might write on another time). Mashups allow me to get results right away.
The process is dead simple — find an a capella you like, beat match it, find a track you like, match it to the a capella, and you’re pretty much 75% of the way there. I can know whether a certain mash is going to work well or not in under 30 minutes, which is practically a instantaneous when compared to the writing, tweaking, and rewriting I have to do with our original music. I mean, there’s a track on “Move On” that took seven years to complete… Doing the polar opposite of that is totally refreshing.
My first run at mashup therapy was with my Mosby album. I was coming off the recording of the Unfriend EP feeling slightly disappointed with the results. I was also having a pretty rough time with the production of The Ultranauts album going through endless iterations with a perfectionist cohort. At the time I was quite obsessed with dj BC, especially he Jay-Z vs. Brian Eno album Another Jay On Earth, listening to it constantly while running. The Moby / Mos Def pairing hit me one day, and while puttering around the studio smoking my pipe (I could do that at the previous EB Labs) I started hunting for a capellas.
There was something intriguing about the arbitrary limitations the mashup imposed — I had to be creative and thoughtful about how to hook the two pieces together. Often a single track would not quite do the trick requiring you to add extra tracks and loops into the mix. There was also intrinsic experimentation baked into the process. There was usually no way to test out a mash that to, well, just do it. You dump two tracks on your multitrack, fiddle with the timing a bit, and see where you get.
With EMNINEM, I went even deeper. I decided that the backing track would consist only of Nine Inch Nails tracks — no loops, to additional instruments, no nothing. Granted, Reznor provides a rather massively deep catalog of material to pick from, but it still really pushed my limits and really got the creative juices flowing. Finding new ways to manipulate audio and mix it all together was really inspiring. As I move into our next album, I have a lot of new tricks to try out and consider.
As I see it, mashup therapy is always going to be there to heal my creative roadblocks. Next session? Maybe some blues hip-hop… Hmmm…