Wednesday, 25 May 2011

PJ Parents, in which I CROWDSOURCE and use OBJECTIVITY

Yesterday, the BBC ran a news story about Gateshead parents being banned from school property as long as they wore pyjamas to drop off their children in the morning. I had done my favourite thing when I found this news story, which was catch it right before the phetted-up comments biled their way onto my screen, and so I had a fresh, calm view on the implications of this.

Courtesy of Original caption quotes rather sinisterly:
"Some parents were still wearing pyjamas at the end of the school day"
(I read that out like I was Rip Torn. I hope you got that.)
Rather than discuss it in my own self-righteous way however, let us remember that I am no Polly Toynbee. I've called men in flip-flops categorically cunt-like without exception. I make sweeping generalisations. I assume that I'm right (as all good cash cow columnists should). I wanted to crowdsource. After all, don't we live in a world of free media out the yin-yang? Let's all have a say in an arbitrary probably-not-going-to-be-followed-through rule from a state-owned institution. Remember: Crowdsourcing isn't laziness. It's WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT.

What do you think? Are you actually going to comment this week? Or am I not being provocative enough? How about now? (I'm dancing provocatively. You should also know I have the flu and am in my PJs that have an owl on.)

Friday, 20 May 2011

Daft Punk Anatomy of a Mashup: An interview with Cameron Adams, the man in blue.

Last week Twitter went totally kaka for coco poops over a Daft Punk mashup with matching visualisations. Now, I know what you're thinking - of COURSE we went mad for it, anything touched by Daft Punk, even indirectly, is incredible. Even Tron. Perhaps ESPECIALLY Tron. Okay, not especially Tron.

This mashup, however, was one of those rare moments in Internet browsing when you sit back in your swivelly chair and gasp. Cameron, an Australian web technologist, DJ and graphics twiddler, cut up 23 sections of glorious Daft Punk magic (yes, I do happen to be a fan) and mashed them all together seamlessly, in what he says is an attempt to let the listener visualise how a mashup is constructed, and how they work.

This is done in two ways - via a bar at the bottom to show which songs are playing throughout, and the circular visualisations which are rendered in real time, creating a music video in your own browser. Pretty fricking cool. Being a huge fan of both the DP and visualisations, like many of the people furiously re-tweeting the video I thought this might be the best thing ever put into my eyes and ears. If you haven't seen it, here it is:

Courtesy of

Visualisations are an important part of any live music set, and it's not surprising that they can have such an impact when sound and sight can be so closely connected. Have you ever seen a sound that was green? Perhaps not, but people are more prone to synaesthesia than they think. Perhaps I'm just projecting my synaesthesic weirdo tendencies on you all, but I reckon a great visual is enough to tip a song from great into fantastic. How often have you seen a music video make or break a track?

I wanted to talk to themaninblue a bit more about what possessed him to create such a thing of Web Joy, and so I sent him an email with some admittedly stupid questions. Enjoy!

I guess first of all I want to ask - why Daft Punk? Are you a huge fan? How long have you been into them? They got me into dance music when I was but a wee bairn, so they mean a lot to me, which is why I wanted to talk to you in the first place. I promise not all the questions will be about Daft Punk.

Yeah, I'm a pretty big fan of Daft Punk. And so are a lot of other people, which makes them great material for a mashup -- they're popular enough that you can make a new song by cutting and twisting their sound but still keep it recognisable to a mainstream audience., which I think is one of the primary aims of a mashup.

Have you seen them live? If so, where? What was it like? (I cried, but to be fair when they came on stage it started raining and a rainbow went over the stage so I thought I was having a religious 'episode'. JD out of a plastic water bottle can do that to you.)

My Daft Punk drink of choice was Jaegermesiter and Coca Cola. Well, I say choice, but Jaegermeister were sponsoring.

The only time I've seen them live was in Melbourne, for their Alive 2007 Tour. We actually flew down from Sydney to see it and I can quite honestly say it's probably the greatest concert I've been to. The combination of music and visuals was simply mindblowing. I think it's set the benchmark for every touring electronic act since, and none have surpassed it.

The next day I was online looking for $500 tickets to their second Melbourne show. Alas, none were found.

Do you dabble in music often? Who are your faves and your inspirations? What gear do you use to mix?

I've DJed since about 1999 and played around at a few venues in Melbourne over the years, but never really took off into the professional ranks. I've mainly focused on doing it for the love of the music and have put out a few studio mixes in various genres: progressive house, breakbeat, drum & bass and most recently in a mashup/cut-up style.

Over the years my tastes have grown to include a much wider variety of sounds, which is probably what has lead me to do more mashups -- it's easier to bend the rules and include whatever you want. Early on I was very into progressive house, so Sasha and Digweed played a big part in influencing my tastes. Then, breakbeat was the only thing I would listen to and the Freestylers, DJ Hyper & Stanton Warriors were my absolute favourites. Now ... I like to leverage that heritage to be more inclusive and listen to everything from jazz to house to dubstep and drum & bass.

When I'm playing out I still stick to two vinyl decks, but recently I've been using them with Serato scratch, as it's great to not have to lug around so much vinyl and be able to looping and sampling on the fly.

In the studio, I'll use Ableton if I'm going to mix more than two tracks at a time. It's just so much easier to get the studio quality you want rather than having to worry about beatmatching everything on the decks perfectly.

When you looked at putting sounds to colours and shapes, was that a conscious decision, or something you figured "ah, that might be fun to try"? Have many synaesthetic folks told you what they thought about it?

I haven't heard from many synaesthetic

It was with that aim that I went into creating the visualisation for my mashup. So yes, the shapes and colours were a very conscious decision.

What's your next project going to be? Are you planning on doing more music/visuals work or have you got it all out of your system now?

My next project is a big screen visualisation for TEDxSydney, but that doesn't involve any sound.

A project that's in the works, though, that you might be interested in is a collaboration with a singer here in Sydney that is going to utilise live vocals and visualisation to create an audio-visual concert. Something I'm really excited about. Hopefully it should be ready for performance by the end of the year.

Visit Cameron's site here, buy his javascript book here, see the mashup here.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Heeloooo! I feel great! Aaaabsolutely wonderful!

Hello. The title of this post is not from the heart, I'm afraid, but is in fact my favourite quote from last week's Eurovision Song Contest (Or Euro SoCo if you're a total dick). The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the musical highlights of my year, not so  much because of the quality or craftsmanship of the music itself - as everyone who's got enough brain cells to make speech come out of their mouths has already commented, it's all total rubbish - but the fact that it's so very unashamedly rubbish. It's like being transported back to a 70s game show hosted by a plastic-faced future paedophile/circus act. Resistance on the basis that the music is rubbish gives you about as much integrity (in my hostile opinion) as somebody in a Wetherspoons claiming that a particular ale isn't up to scratch. Of course it isn't, it was £1.20 a pint. Be quiet and get a massive horrible pitcher of liquid nitrogen and the insides of striplights and drink it through curly straws like the rest of us.

Another great thing about the Eurovision Song Contest - and oh gosh, there are so many - is that is signals the beginning of Summer, which in turn signals the start of baggy t-shirts and massive sunglasses weather. Now, I know this isn't a fashion blog, but I just have to show these sunglasses to you all because I'm wasting away without them, and I'm fairly sure that once I get paid and I can own them, my life will be complete.

Summer also means barbecues (the gorging of frankly award-winning amounts of meat and grilled halloumi), dancing around in circles in bare feet in gardens and parks, running about like a pillock on oh-it's-much-colder-than-I-thought-it-would-be beaches, camping (which of course also means cans of Strongbow and hilarious pun-games involving imaginary people named "Scott Chegg") and the ever-present Music Festival.

This is a fantastic representation of why I don't usually go to festivals.

In previous posts I have made it clear that traditional music festivals are not my favourite places to be. In fact, music festivals are usually where my enthusiasm for life goes to die. This year however, I've made a pact with myself to stop being a joyless cynic and to start joining in with fun things, even if it does feel like people might resume their endless tomato-chucking at any moment. At my mum's 50th the other week she forced me to do karaoke  and I did it (in a sense). A year ago this would have never happened without a fist-fight and a night in the cells. It's for my own good.

The festivals I am attending this year are:

Rough Beats
Kendal Calling
Love Box

And perhaps some more, including Cocoon in the Park, funds permitting.

So I'd like to know what festivals you're going to this year, and which are your favourites. Tell me why you like them, and I promise that unlike last year I won't call you a sheep or slap you in the face and ask you what went wrong in your childhood that you might want to spend so much time in a field with such insufferable poshos in order to listen to the musical equivalent of soggy cardboard. I won't.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Travelling on my sofa

I have a new hobby, and it takes up quite a lot of time. I've always loved reading maps, and I was told when I was young that I got this love from my Great Grand-Nan who read them when she was bored like books. I suppose when your lust for travel is stopped by two world wars and a growing family, the best you can do is imagine the amazing places that are out there. My sofa hasn't got several atlases tucked down the side for as-and-when perusal, but I have to confess, I do generally have a tab open on my laptop with Google Earth at the ready. I used to be happy to click away at random in various countries, zooming into cities and waterfalls I'd never heard of before, but I've discovered something a bit more specific. The largest country in the world, to be precise.

Russia was never a country I gave much thought to. It was too big to comprehend, like the sky or the universe. It got on with it's own mysterious business, and I got on with mine. recently, however, I accidentally came across a website for the Russian wetlands (while feeding another obsession involving Fabergé knick-nacks), and a new obsession kicked off. I had absolutely no idea that Russia had such huge expanses of gorgeous scenery and wildlife out the wazoo, and frankly, it made me feel incredibly ignorant. Clicking away on Google Maps I became annoyed at the poor quality of the images for one lake.

It only occurred to me later that perhaps I might have been the only person since the beginning of Google Maps who wanted to see ozero pyatamyato in any kind of detail. I'm now still searching around Northern Russia an hour later.

Courtesy of Google Maps

This is part of the Ob River near Nizhnevartovsk, and I've been looking at it for ages now. There's something incredibly fascinating about finding parts of the world I'd have never even thought of before. I've never once imagined there might be a place called Nizhnevartovsk, and now I have I want to visit and meet people who've lived there forever. My second favourite place to look at is the Siberian Traps.

Courtesy of Google Maps

They are a huge ancient lava flow attributed to the "Great Dying" Permian volcanic eruption 250 million years ago on prehistoric earth where it's thought 95% of all the species on the planet died out. It is the size of Western Europe.

I, by chance, came across an incredibly interesting and historically important natural wonder I had no previous knowledge of, despite it covering the same landmass as the continent I live on. That's fucking staggering. If I had been talking at the time I started reading about it, I'd have been gobsmacked. E-touring Russia is my new hobby. The internet can be a wonderful place.
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