I have decided to make my Black Album – and we all know what that mean don’t we kids? Yes I am out of the mashup making business (and sadly it is a business) for a while, it’s not really making me happy. It’s called Black Block and is 11 tracks in no real order, and named after the creative block I have been struggling with and the black unhappiness. And also a pun on feeling anarchic against the whole thing, the whole alienation and hamster-wheel feeling of a lot of this. I am not here to make bangers so people can make money.
“You don’t like it? So what, I don’t care” to quote Rob Base.
So in that vein the first mashup Spiralling (Every Circle In It’s Right Place) (Post Malone vs Radiohead) – played on podcast #346 when I release it – seems really appropriate with it’s lyrics which is reflected in the Black Block artwork. I did a lot of glitching and fiddling on this, vocal production is the only thing I have enjoyed of recent times. And given the themes of most of the album – loss, depression, lockdown, longing – the Radiohead track ‘Everything In it’s Right Place’ is perfect detailing Thom Yorke’s breakdown. I also use Melodyne to take a lot of his Larry the Lamb warbles out 😉
Yeah this isn’t a pop mashup album….but there are poppy/silly episodes, just like me.
“Maybe you don’t understand what I’m going through It’s only me, what you got to lose? Make up your mind, tell me, what are you gonna do? It’s only me, let it go”
Post Malone – Circles
Second track from Black Block is Surprise Daddy (Fleetwood Mac vs Radiohead) a personal one, and probably one of my better mashups of recent times…been holding onto this for a long while for a never to be finished Fleetwood Mac album/EP. Maybe like the Ballroom EP I’ll finish it in 10 years. Maybe.
This is Fleetwood Mac – Oh Daddy vs Radiohead – No Surprises – yes I really got into Radiohead in lockdown and did these two mashups of them. This is for a certain person – my best mashups are usually about him, and also weirdly quite often bird related…hold that thought.
Dolly’s Joint – Adonis vs Dolly Parton (live mashup demo) There are a few demos in here, this is from last year where I was experimenting with VirtualDJ in lockdown. It is Dolly Parton’s great attempt at disco – Baby I’m Burning with Adonis – Reck The Joint. Acieeed! Although it’s a small clip. I meant to work it up properly but I don’t think I will for a long while. It’s fun and it works. And it’s not all doom and gloom on this album. Well it mostly is, but not all.
This album has three – count ’em THREE Fleetwood Mac – Songbird mashups. Completely by accident, I was working on this Better Songbird (Fleetwood Mac vs Khalid) and then very recently a new downtempo idea came along which I had to try the reverse as well it’s all in the vocal. You’ll see later in this post, I think it’s a sequel to Her Breath Is The Wind.
I really like this Khalid track, Better, great video – and Songbird seems to reflect the bird sounds in it. Yes birds again. What is it with me and mashups about birds?
Wicked Games Everywhere aka Everywhere’s WIcked (Fleetwood Mac vs Chris Isaak) is a good one, another variant of my Daft Punk vs FM one, which I think works better, and after the months of struggling with the DP one, this one just slipped out. I like the interplay in the choruses with Chris Isaak – Wicked Games and the FM gang on Everywhere. Their harmonies are a nightmare, hence why the DP one took so long and is still not 100%. I had to futz around with a free trial of Melodyne, deleting harmonies like crazy to get it to work…whereas here Chris does the work for me. Thanks Chris!
The genesis of the proposed FM album – called Tempo in the Night or something – was to try and use the acapellas from Tango…which have hardly been used because there aren’t any acapellas, using RX8/AI extraction. I found the hard way that it leaves weird resonances and odd stuff in, hard to tune extracted parts, even harder when Christine McVie writes in weird jazz keys and sings around the key.
Is it an early Summer track? A late Xmas track? It’s both! Celebrate Xmas in Summer, or summer in Xmas…I did this just after Xmas and was keeping it for next Xmas, but I doubt I’ll work on it more.
I did go through a Don Henley – Boys of Summer phase, partly because I’ve always been obsessed with the coda here which resonated in lockdown – you can’t look back, you can never look back. And it cheered me up to think of summer and American Californian highways rather than dull grey Britain in total lockdown. And Wonderful Christmastime is a classic, despite annoying off-key pretend kid singing.
I wrestled to whether include this – that Don Henley extraction is a nightmare. Friends and I peered at it for weeks like some broken engine – it SHOULD work, it’s in the right key, etc. But something about either the exctraction or his vocal is off, and I don’t have the musical chops to make it work 100%.
Shame because I think the feel is there, even though like a few tracks on this sort-of-album, it has almost zero genre clash. The Cars – Drive has real depth and gravitas after Live Aid, so it brings a sort of ennui to Don’s vocal, stripping it of that AOR sheen.
The Michael Mayer track is a total steal/loving update of Chic’s I Want Your Love, even down to the bells. I don’t know why that album isn’t bigger, and amazing for 2016 how fresh it sounds.
This refrain ‘What Am I Gonna Do…’ which was used in an edit of that track seemed to sum up the first lockdown, as a clubber.
Reverse Angel / Upside Down Songbird (Fleetwood Mac vs Madonna / ABBA) Weirdly although I knew the other version worked best, I did this mashup of Madonna – Like An Angel Passing Through My Room (ABBA) vs Fleetwood Mac – Songbird in reverse order, i.e. first. Reflects the topsy turvy nature of this album and my life, really. But also because I had already done ‘Better Songbird’ I had the acapella warped already, so it made sense to do this first. As it turns out, the other worked best and I knew that….but I wanted to play with the Madonna vocal and instrumental.
Sadly although the acapella worked well, the RX8 extraction of the ABBA track didn’t – as I said, not many ABBA parts and no instrumentals bar the ones on the albums. And the poor music box synths got rather crunched by the AI, so that was a no-go.
But I suddenly remembered that Madonna has covered this song with William Orbit and never released it – the acapella and instrumental leaked online many years ago. So I did have a cover instrumental of Angel, and a Madonna acapella. Not sure what she did with the tuning, but the vocal doesn’t work over Songbird, but the Songbird vocal does work pretty well over the instrumental – with a few Mads interludes, courtesy of the acapella, remaking the original track that I couldn’t find in decent quality anyway.
I quite like the Orbit version – she released an orchestral version of this on an Xmas album, without the drums or synths. Shame, given the original’s electronic feel, I think that worked better, rather trip-hoppy.
If you don’t know me personally – this mashup is me. Completely me, rarely has a mashup or piece of artwork summed up totally how I am feeling and who I am like this one. There has been three like this in my career – Golden Beard about a certain someone like Surprise Daddy above, Her Breath and this one.
In lockdown I have been doing a lot of what the ABBA song talks about – sitting in the gloom or dark thinking about better times. And although Frida’s vocal is quite stately and reserved, there is darkness and sadness within – at the end:
“So the present runs into the past Now and then become entwined, playing games within my mind Like the embers as they die Love was one prolonged good-bye”
ABBA – Like AN Angel Passing Through My Room
A very personal mashup, and a reminder why I make them. Not for commercial gain, not for fame (a little would be nice) and most definitely not for pop hits or happy times. I make music that reflects how I feel – and part of the struggle is my feelings haven’t been exactly pop or happy recently. And that pressure to be pop/perfect/pre-eternally happy has just depressed the fuck out of me and taken the joy out of it.
I’d be happy if this was played at my funeral, hopefully that won’t happen soon, but that’s how I feel about this track. It is completely and utterly me at this moment in time.
And like a late arrival as the party just ended, here’s the last mashup I have done – Never Arriving Back Again (Fleetwood Mac vs ABBA), I fixed some of the tempo and most of the tuning issues (Stevie was singing OOK on the demo, sorry!) and the rest will have to wait for another lifetime. IHNI what beat Arrival is on, maybe it’s in some odd time sig…*shrug*. This will have to do, ending on an incomplete mashup, how apt.
There aren’t many ABBA instrumentals, Arrival is one of the few, and seems a little, well, sparse with it’s synthy folky bagpipeness (is that a thing?). I noticed Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Never Going Back Again’ fit well and the lyrics seem to be the best to bow out on:
“Been down one time Been down two times I’m never going back again”
Fleetwood mac – Never Going Back AGain
I never say never – that was the joke with people ‘leaving’ making mashups, they’d be back a few weeks/months/years later usually. The people who stopped totally never announced it, they just did. So who knows…but this is how I feel at the moment.
The arrival is also a departure, it cycles around. I did my first return mashups in late March 2020 after a break of over two years, and it’s been over a year of struggle. I have other things to do, really. Still doing the Bootleg Archive and the podcast, but I feel making them is too time intensive and not good for my mental health.
P.S. I forgot to say thanks to ToTom and Ian Fondue for the help they’ve given over the last year with the more trickier mashups (and some of my others, like the Daft Punk vs Fleetwood Mac one which almost belongs on this album) – musically these mashups have stretched a lot of my limited music knowledge, especially Radiohead’s weirder timing and chords and FM’s harmonies.
Their help has been indispensable, and a lot of these mashups wouldn’t have been finished without their advice.