Posted by Billyjam, July 22, 2009 08:08am | Post a Comment
Eclectic Method
Audio Visual remix masters Eclectic Method will be in town tomorrow performing in San Francisco at the Mezzanine along with the screening of RIP: A Remix Manifesto by Brett Gaylor. SInce forming seven years ago, the group, featuring London natives Jonny Wilson, Ian Edgar and Geoff Gamlen, has been developing its style of audio-visual mash-ups in the Coldcut tradition and has caught the attention of many artists, including U2, who have asked the band to remix their audio.visual material. They've also been commissioned by such companies as Motown to remix music videos, and hired by such tech companies as Apple.
Eclectic Method's SF show should be really good -- especially since the group has a reputation for always delivering unique and different performances each time they play live. In fact, it should be a really entertaining night, between their perfromance, the film screening, plus music by hometown mashup DJs Adrian & the Mysterious D from popular party Bootie SF who, when asked by the Amoeblog what to expect, said,"The best in bootleg mashups, expect to play a musical guessing game with the DJs, and to hear your favorite songs in bizarre and unexpected new ways." I recently caught up with the three members of Eclectic Method, who should never be called "VJs," to interview them for the Amoeblog. That conversation follows immediately below an excerpt of one of their live mashups that incorporates, among other things, The Darkness, Run DMC, and Vanilla Ice.

Amoeblog: Were you guys audio DJs first or did you begin doing video mixing?

Geoff Gamlen: Jonny and Ian were both DJs before Eclectic Method, but I had no DJ experience at all when we started playing live back in 2002. My background was as a guitarist/keyboard player and dance music producer. But as we were mainly working with short loops and beats back then, it wasn't too much of a shock to get on the decks -- I just thought of the CD players and mixers as another way of playing and Eclectic Methodmanipulating samples, which was something I was already used to from making tunes in the studio.

Ian Edgar: Technically, the video came first for me. I used to keep a VCR paused, ready to record when I was watching TV and create old school collage tapes, five-minute versions of movies and super-fast snooker. Then, later, before EM, I was playing around on vinyl, dropping acapellas over funk instrumentals and pathologically trying to keep them in time. Without knowing it, I was practicing for the Method.

Jonny Wilson: I first started DJing when I was 12. I started remixing video/video DJing when I was 21 after spending a bunch of time with Coldcut.

Amoeblog: Is the technology you use in studio the same as in a live setting?

Jonny Wilson: Yes and No. We use Pioneer Equipment in both but we also use Sony VEGAS software on a PC to edit all our video remixes.

Geoff Gamlen: Not really, although we have the Pioneer gear set up in our studios so we can record video scratches and tweaks with real-time effects from the SVM-1000 (audiovisual mixer) as part of our production work. Generally in the studio we are working on PCs using Sony's Vegas software to construct our AV mixes. Vegas is sweet to use for AV editing because it gives you the option to set a tempo for the project and change the timeline to beats and measures instead of time/frames.

Eclectic Method - Metallica VS NAS

Amoeblog: When those Pioneer DVD players and mixers came out few years ago they were hella expensive -- have they or other video remixing technology become affordable lately?

Jonny Wilson: Yes, they have come down in price to almost the price CDJs used to be. The Video Mixer the SVM is still hella expensive, but there are alternatives like using a DJM800 with Midi to control a video switcher or video mixer.

Geoff Gamlen: Yes, the DVJ-X1 DVD turntables were crazy expensive when they first came out. We would never have been able to afford even one live set-up if Pioneer hadn't helped us out by providing the gear back then. When the smaller, current model came out (DVJ-1000), the price dropped a lot though, so it isn't too bad now. Pioneer still helps us out a lot, and we're lucky to have two of the SVM-1000 AV mixers, one in the US and one in the UK, which is really cool. That said, often the best solution is just to hire the gear when it's needed for a show.
Ian Edgar: It’s always getting easier for people to do this. Products like video Serato and Ultimate DJ make the DJ part of it more accessible and portable, but nothing beats the Pioneer gear for reliability and response. Software keeps improving and we see people inventing new ways of doing stuff in this area all the time. It’s a really exciting field and it’s not slowing down.

Eclectic Method - The Colbert Report Remix feat Lawrence Lessig

Amoeblog: Since you started out seven years ago, how much better has the technology become? Are there any new specific technology products that you currently endorse?

Jonny Wilson:
The computers have gotten a lot faster. We can now remix in HD on our laptops (Sony Vaios), which was impossible just 2 years ago.
Geoff Gamlen: When we started out triggering video clips from laptops using VJamm (Coldcut/Camart VJ software) the options were pretty limited, and clips' lengths had to be kept short for reliable playback.  Computers have become so much more powerful since then that pretty much anything is possible in terms of real-time video manipulation these days. We still prefer using Pioneer gear for live performance because it's the only deck we're aware of that produces a truly sweet sounding scratch, and of course all our live experience is founded on the DVJ playing surface. But we're all looking forward to the day when that combination of Pioneer playable hot cue buttons, time-stretching options, sweet turntable and overall rock solid reliability is available as a direct interface to a computer hard drive -- then there will be no need to change DVDs anymore! It's also great to have all the new beatmatched AV effects available on the SVM-1000 mixer -- this is something we'd been waiting for many years to get our hands on. It's really important for us to have any audio effects we are using represented in the video too.

Amoeblog: I love your Temptations remix. As I watched it and some others of yours, I wondered what order the creative process works for you guys in -- does the image or the audio come first?

Jonny Wilson: The audio sort of comes first but we don't work with it unless the video that accompanies it is sick. So I guess when remixing music videos we go through and look for spots where both audio and video are sick, then we make audio remix and then we tighten up the video.
Geoff Gamlen: We all work in slightly different ways here. But on the whole, getting the underlying music right is the most important thing, so that tends to come first. When it comes to the video, our most important guideline is to use clips that clearly show the sound you're hearing being produced (e.g., if you're hearing a guitar riff, you should be able to see the guitarist playing it). That way you maximize the AV experience in the mix.

Eclectic Method

Amoeblog: What are some of the biggest obstacles you face as video remixers, both technically and legally?

Geoff Gamlen: Technically we've worked around any obstacles we've come across easily enough. When computers were slower we used shorter clips, and went for a more punky feel where the video quality wasn't so great. Now we can produce AV mixes in HD quality when required, which looks really slick and is still an exciting new development for us in the Vegas software. On the legal front, the greatest challenge has been to secure the clearances we need for the kind of wide-ranging music video and film mixes we really want to release to the public on a bigger scale. But all that is changing now -- it's been amazing to work with full permission on more recent projects, e.g., the Motown archives and Activision video games, knowing that the major media companies are coming round to the video remix idea. Luckily, where we have produced remixes without permission, the owners of the material almost always get behind us, and often commissioning official mixes as a result. We've never had a "cease and desist" notice issued against us.
Ian Edgar: With our particular style, immediacy and a wide range of material are important, so there’s a hurdle in just the pure logistics of that. Getting a hi-res version of the funny shit that just happened is sometimes a tough ask, but then there’s the ripping, converting, tweaking, beat mapping, re-synching, burning. It’s not so much an obstacle, I suppose, more a necessity.
Jonny Wilson: Technically, it's finding good quality video. Legally, no problems at all, except maybe that the music industry hasn't offered to release anything but thank god for the Internet age that doesn't really matter. I think a record deal would be the worst thing that could happen to us.

Hello Hello - versus

Amoeblog: How has the experience of working with U2's music been? Do you get total freedom or is it a back and forth creative process?

Jonny Wilson: Total freedom. They are well cool, or, rather, Larry is well cool, I think he's the cool one... that's the impression I get. He found one of our videos on YouTube and just got in touch saying, "you must mix our stuff." They just sent us a pile of resources and we got to it. We still play tons of U2 in our live sets; I friggin’ love them. Achtung Baby is basically one of the greatest albums of all time.

Geoff Gamlen: U2 makes great music and videos so of course it was a real joy to work on. I personally had a great time producing a full length remix of "Vertigo," which has a really dynamic video, perfect for the kind of cutting we do, and it's still one of my favorite remixes that we've produced. I guess they must have liked it too, as there were no changes required on that mix. On the whole, we are usually given total creative freedom at the outset, and then there is a bit of back and forth to finalize the mix, although it's often only about presentation of the video and certain effects the client does or doesn't want to see. It's pretty rare for them not to like the underlying music remix.

Amoeblog: I read somewhere that Apple and Blackberry have commissioned you to do some production? How did that come about and what was it like?

Geoff Gamlen: Yes, Apple invited us out to their HQ in Cupertino, CA back in 2006 to demonstrate what we do live to an invited industry audience. That felt pretty good at the time, and we made some really valuable contacts. It was around that time that the first video iPods were coming out and it was cool to see some of our mixes turned into podcasts for the first time. The Blackberry job was to play at the London launch of the Blackberry Pearl, which was totally awesome because they built a special back-projected room for us to play in -- floor-to-ceiling video on all four walls, totally immersive and one of the most exciting display environments we've ever played in. Damn, the more I think about it, the more I think we should do that again....
Jonny Wilson: Apple was funny; we turned up at Apple Headquarters with a bunch of PCs. Strange Microsoft haven't been in touch yet! Actually, Microsoft gave me a free copy of Windows XP once. Blackberry was cool -- it was for a fashion week party.

Eclectic Method - The Michael Jackson Mix

Amoeblog: I've been told that your live shows are truly amazing because they are not scripted, always different and innovative, but I wondered just how spontaneous can you be? Do you have a member with a Flip Cam roaming the club audience gathering footage to replay minutes later or alternatively a live feed back to your main mixer from a roaming camera?

Geoff Gamlen: It's true the live show is completely improvised, and different every time. But we do give some thought beforehand to the type of underlying music we're going to play, in order to match the mood of the event. Like any good DJ, we are always looking out for what is working for the audience and adapting our performance to that. In general we like to play a pretty tear-up dance floor set, which spans as many genres as possible without losing the crowd. We have worked AV footage from the event into our set in the past -- notably at the Playboy Mansion last year, when we filmed interviews with guests arriving and quickly cut up the material before we played to incorporate it into the show. That worked really well and got a lot of excitement going in the crowd; I'm sure we'll be doing more of that in the future.

Ian Edgar: We have to make it an improvised performance or I’m sure we would have got bored playing these last few hundred shows.
Jonny Wilson: We have only done live remixing of what just happened a few times but that is coming in droves soon. We have a new home in New York, the Brooklyn Bowl, which is basically the sickest venue for AV and interactivity on the planet. In terms of improvisation, it's true, we just have hundreds and hundreds of fragments of sounds and video and we are almost randomly cutting them up. We're just trying to impress each other and take the piss whilst still rocking the club. Most of the time I really, really laugh hard at what the other guys are doing -- I don't think anyone gets it but us.

Eclectic Method - Badass

Amoeblog: What can people expect at your San Francisco engagement at the screening of RIP: A Remix Manifesto?

Geoff Gamlen: Sadly, I'm not going to be there, so I can't really answer that. Hopefully Ian or Jonny can...

Ian Edgar: We’ll be busting out the old classics, the new classics, bits from the movie and leaning towards an agit-prop copyright-incinerating beat manifesto.

Jonny Wilson: We're going to be cutting up RIP and lots of people talking about copyright and samples -- that's the theme -- over our usual party driven set. San Francisco is always sick; I think it's basically party central for America.


Eclectic Method
will be performing tomorrow (July 23) as part of the San Francisco Film Society's (SFFS) SF360 Film+Club series screening of Brett Gaylor's RiP: A Remix Manifesto plus a DJ set by Adrian and Mysterious D at the Mezzanine (444 Jessie Street at Mint) in San Francisco. 7pm Doors. Tickets are $12/SFFS year-round members, and $17/general, available here.

Relevant Tags

Mash Up (5), Pioneer (3), Eclectic Method (2), Mezzanine (9), Bootie Sf (7), Brett Gaylor (2), Rip A Remix Manifesto (1), Coldcut (1)