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.

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