dj Erb Interview
Published in Blog, Mashuptown. Tags: Interviews, Mashups, Music.
When did you start making mashups?
dj erb: In keeping with what I’ve actually heard from quite a few DJs and producers, it probably all started with a dual tape deck. I always loved Pantera and metal music where there’d be just a groove to it and there would usually be a breakdown part in the middle where it was just a stripped down hard and heavy groove riff. And just as hip hop producers and DJs extended funk breaks, I started out by extending heavy metal breaks. I would make tapes where I would extend the breakdown from something like “5 Minutes Alone” and record it back and forth on the tape decks 4-8 times so I could get down to that part longer.
I was also always the one people would look at my CD collection in high school and go “huh?!” I’d have my Pantera collection sitting right next to 2Pac’s new album and have a Steve Ray Vaughan album on the next page along with the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans which was next to Notorious B.I.G. and then some crazy new techno thing called Daft Punk. Not many people I knew at that time could honestly put on Pearl Jam’s Ten and follow it up with Snoop‘s Doggystyle and then pop in Exit Planet Dust and then listen to Tool’s Undertow and then end up with the soundtrack to Rising Sun and enjoy them all the same. My CDs were so varied that people always looked through them and just shook their head wondering how I can like this but still like this while also liking this and that. You can’t actually like all of these?! But I did. I couldn’t decide what I really liked because I saw something great in all kinds of music.
My freshman year of college in 1997 a friend of mine named Ravi and a bunch of other people around campus found a file sharing method of some kind. Not sure what it was, but file sharing of any kind like that back in 1997 was pretty new as far as I can remember. So I’d hit up his place and we‘d get a few songs here and there. One of the things I got from this was a rap song I always wanted but when I got it home and gave it a listen it was actually the a capella version of it, which at that time I had no idea what that even was. I remember that I was going to just delete it but I figured I’d keep it anyway just for novelty value.
It was only the next year that I figured out something to do with that a capella. At that time I was messing around recording original music using a Cakewalk music program. I think it was Cakewalk’s Guitar Studio, can’t really remember. I realized that the program was basically working off WAV files that you were supposed to record using the mic input or line-in so I figured why don’t I just convert whatever I want to use to a WAV file and drop it in that program. So I’d mess around putting the rap vocals over instrumental parts from rock songs or mixing up heavy metal breaks like I used to do with cassette tapes and so on. But I really couldn’t loop the instrumental parts and I couldn’t match the tempo of the songs if they weren’t the same so they didn’t really work at all most of the time! But after messing around with it here and there I did come up with some things that worked decently well and got to the point where I could sequence parts repeatedly to make it sort of loop and then put a rap verse on it or maybe a beat from a rap song.
So the first actual finished mashups or remixes I made came in 1998, but I didn’t let anyone hear them for a quite awhile after that because a) I didn’t think anyone would like them and b) they really weren‘t very good at all at that point anyway! I was just making them for myself as a way to combine all the different kinds of music that I enjoyed. So that’s how it all started for me and I just kept playing around with stuff from time to time throughout the years after that. And as new music programs and DJ technology came out it became easier and more accessible to do as I went.
Are there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?
dj erb: Again, I seemed to find this on my own so nothing really inspired me to get into mashups and remixes other than my desire to mix up all the different kinds of music that I enjoyed. But if I did have to name one influence I think it would have to be DJ Shadow. I first heard Endtroducing from an old friend of mine named Dylan. I remember sitting up in his room at his house and listening to it and at first not really getting it, but after a bit I was blown away by it. It was amazing to me that Shadow took samples from basically every genre of music and put them together so they were now something completely different. And it wasn’t just 2 or maybe 3 different sources mixed together, he was taking just a sprinkle of this song and a dash of that song with the drums from this song and a vocal hook from that song and on and on and on to create something completely different. So if anything I’d probably have to say DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing opened my mind to the possibilities of taking samples and bits and pieces of songs and mixing them together to create something of your own. There’s a line I always liked from the movie Finding Forrester that I think sums it up well, “You’ve taken something which was mine and made it yours. Quite an accomplishment.” And that’s what Endtroducing showed me was possible.
How many mashups do you think you’ve made in your life?
dj erb: Wow, it would definitely be a very large number over the years. I’ve made over 50 CDs full of music since 1998 but a lot of those are original music and some are DJ sets so they probably don’t really count in that respect. I’ve also made countless other remixes on the side like all the Class(X) mixes and a mountain of stuff that I’ve still never even given out to anyone. So it would definitely be a very large number whatever it is.
What is your favorite mashup of all time?
dj erb: I’m assuming you mean what’s my favorite mashup of my own? Maybe not, but I’ve hardly listened to anyone else’s work at all so I wouldn’t even be able to say what my favorite is of other people’s stuff unfortunately!
So it’d be hard to narrow down to just one, but I think I’d have to say the “Hollaback Girl Ohio State” remix would probably have to be my personal favorite. I could write quite a lot here about the history of that one – how it came about, the effect it seemingly had, all the copycats afterward, the requests from other schools to remix their music even including some high schools that asked, and everything to do with that one remix. But I think it’s just extremely special to me because I somehow created something that became however a small part of the Buckeye football experience. And it’s an amazing feeling to have had anything remotely at all to do with the traditions of Ohio State football and it’s probably the mix I’m most proud of due to that fact. O…H…
[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]