EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE...

2 MANY DJs


{Continued from Part 1}

-So you answered one question there which was, that you come to these mixes in the clubs.

Stephen: Well there's two things. There's the live thing where we go out and DJ. And then what we did is four years ago, somebody at the National radio station in Belgium said "Would you guys be up for doing a mix show?" And he called the show "Hank," like the Dutch name, "Hank the DJ." And I always understood it was "Hang the DJ," like we're gonna fuck things up. Which was not his idea, apparently, but anyhow...! So we started doing this, putting our favorite music together, and then Dave, for some reason, he came up with the "Saturday" song, the Soulwax song – he took my vocal and he put "Billie Jean" underneath there. At first it didn't work that well, and then we started tuning it a little bit and were like, "yeah, this is cool," and then we went into the Residents...And it was just a track that we put on our first radio show, and we put it on our website. Some guy at the radio station thought it was so cool, and started playing it like mad. And they have a National chart where you could call in or e-mail, and we were number one with a track that wasn't released. So people would be coming into record stores like "where's that track with Soulwax going over 'Billie Jean?'"

-And of course you can't get permission for 'Billie Jean'?

Stephen: No, no! The thing for us was like, "Wait a minute, We bypassed the record company, and the industry – we just did this thing and it went off." It was amazing, and it was just something that we did for fun. And that was when we started thinking, there's another a capella we could use. For some reason, nobody was doing that, nobody was busy with that. Cause a lot of people were still into House, and I think a lot of dance music was getting very samey. The same thing with hip hop and stuff like that.

-That was the point that I was getting at: ten years ago when the techno/rave scene really took off, that thing that we started our club with - the idea of playing different musics on top of each other - ceased. I was feeling "This is not fun." And it seemed like for seven or eight years, you'd go to either a Drum n' Bass night, or a House night, or a Techno night.

Stephen: I hated it. I hated it, I hated it, I hated it. [I think he hated it.]
David: And I think that even in that period, the best DJs were the ones that would do their set and then put, like "Crosstown Traffic" on, you know, that one thing that makes you go, "Aah, this person knows more than what came out two weeks ago."

-But there weren't many people doing that. I think on a very humorous level, Fatboy Slim was great about that in his DJ sets.

Stephen: Honestly, I think he was very close to what we're doing, in that period. He was doing a lot of funk and soul stuff, and mixing it up with a lot of other stuff, like old acid stuff. We were asked to do the beach thing he did in Brighton, I was really honored that they asked us, but I really didn't like his set. His set was, completely Housey, and then I realized that he was also taping for his CD. And he probably only played the records that he had the clearances for.

- I remember the first time in New York that he played "The Rockefella Skank" over the Stones' "Satisfaction," which of course, he couldn't get permission for, so fuck it, he pressed up his own 12". Of course everybody's standing on the floor going "hear him mix?" And he's standing there, he's not mixing, he's got his own 12."

David: But you wouldn't be able to mix it. Like a lot of our stuff we've got on acetates just because it's physically impossible.
Stephen: But that was a good idea, that whole thing with "Satisfaction," I like that.

-It's similar to "Billie Jean" mixed with your own track.

Stephen: Or even 'Dub Be Good To Me,' which is the fucking Clash ['Guns of Brixton' underneath the SOS Band's 'Just Be Good To Me']... I think he was there way before us.

-But there weren't many. Even people who have really good taste. Carl Cox has great taste in music and I love him to death, but a Carl Cox set is techno, techno, techno

David: You know this DJ called Danny Howells? He's normally a very progressive DJ, and I met him in the elevator. The bellhop introduced us. He said "2 Many DJs? You guys changed my world!" All of a sudden he doesn't want to be a progressive house DJ anymore, and he did an Essential mix, and he was mixing Donna Summer and the Beatles in there, so we're like, Hmm this is interesting.
Stephen: But in England we've had people come up to us and go "You can't mix up the Stooges with Salt'n'Pepa, that's not right!" Like it's really political.

-I hope you told them.

Stephen: Honestly, I don't go into it. I just go, "yeah, I'm sorry, I'm doing it." And coming from people who you would think would be very open minded – and I can tell that what we did, it's also an invasion in what was their little community.

-That would be true.

Stephen: And for that I'm really happy, honestly.

"Wait a minute, We bypassed the record company, and the industry – we just did this thing and it went off."

2 Many DJs on having a hit song without making a record.

- Of everything that is on your album, the one that most amazes me is the mix of the Stooges 'No Fun' with Salt'n'Pepa's 'Push It' mix- it just does something to Salt n' Pepa-

David: Cause we EQ'ed the vocals. When you listen to the original it's more a hip hop, R&B kind of thing. We just EQ'ed it and distorted it a little bit so that when they sing, it's like "fuck yeah."

Stephen: One guy got really mad. I was saying, here you are, trying to be fuckin' indie and alternative and all and like, we're different from most of the dance acts and he was getting so mad at me.

David: The best one we've got was from Peaches, she came up to us and said, "When I first started to make music, I wanted to get, like, something that combined the music of the Stooges with hip hop vocals, and you guys did it."

-Out of everything that you've done, both on record and not on record, which ones are you most likely to wake up and say "I don't know how we did that but it's brilliant?"

David: I think the one that works best for me is Destiny's Child with "Dreadlock Holiday." With the break, and the chord changes, I'm really happy with that one.
Stephen: (Thinks, pauses.) I like the one that we did with The Beatles and Kraftwerk. That was one of the early ones, we mixed up the strings from "Eleanor Rigby" from the instrumental on Anthology, and we put it on Kraftwerk, and it sounds really good.

-I don't know if I have that.

Stephen: No, not a lot of people have it, it's one of the first ones that we did.

-What Kraftwerk track?

Stephen: We mixed up "Tour De France" – just the beat – with "Numbers," I think.
David: I think that was the same show where we did "Billie Jean."

- So when you were doing the radio show, did you practice beforehand?"

Stephen: Basically what we would do is, David's on the computer, I put on a record, like, "oh, this record is good," we pitch the two records the same - cause you can't do it on the computer, it's really hard - record it, and then we start fucking it up.

-Let's get technical just for a moment. Would you try to record the two tracks together on to Pro Tools, or would you record them separately?

Stephen: Separately.

-But you would already try to have them synched up?

David: Yeah, well it depends... To get really technical, if it's an a capella then you can pitch it in the computer because there's not a lot of other sounds going on. But to pitch a whole track in the Mac, it's going to sound muddy, messy, so what you do is you either get the tempo straight, or the tuning, and then you sacrifice one for the other. Either you cut it up so that it sounds in the same tempo, or you pitch it so that it sounds in the same key.

-That's fine. That's not too technical.

Stephen: We've gotten really good at it. We would have 12 shows in a row, so every Monday, we would be in the studio, and in one day we'd make one show. Making the 2 Many DJ's record took us a week. We just started doing one now, not for sale, but I'm really happy because we mix up Polyphonic Spree with DJ Shadow – more rock-y, but it's good. It's just fun, we always look forward to it.

-One more technical thing... You dump it into ProTools as close to the final mix as you can, and then you fine-tune it?

David: You know, ProTools isn't actually made for that kind of thing. ProTools is like just what we used to record our songs, so we had it. There is software out there that is more for that kind of thing, but whenever it's used, I think you can hear it.

-Well what I was saying when I wrote about the record the second time is that you need more than ProTools to make an album like yours, you need the know-how and the intuition and skills.

Stephen: Yes, I spoke to a few people who have done their bootlegs, and for them, it just takes one or two hours. David: Because they do it in AcidPro, or SoundForge, which is designed to do that kind of thing: you line one up, and the other one, and it's really like a robotic kind of thing, you just think of the idea and the computer tries to do it for you. But the ones that we've done, most of the tracks that we combined are, first and foremost, not in time. They're played by a band so there's no way of getting it right, so it's really work, you have to find solutions to make it sound seamless.

-So for all of this, your background as rock musicians must be very important.

Stephen: Yes, because we recorded before, we knew how to fix our own flaws.

-You're not just coming from a world of BPMs, you understand about keys, times, pitches.

David: That's why we didn't like a lot of the other stuff that came out, because it sounded like an exceptionally good idea, but not done right. Sometimes you hear these things and you're like, "Can you not tell that this is in a different key?"
Stephen: Nine out of ten were really bad.

-When you were just doing this for the radio, were you taking the view "Hey, it's all music, it's all out there, it's all been released."

David: Yeah, of course. And it's public property.

-And then when was the first time that you realized "hey, it's not public property, we can't just release what we want to release?"

David: (laughs) When they told us!

-Was that with "Billie Jean"? Did you turn around and say "Can we put this out?"

David: We didn't even ask, they told us we couldn't!

-And were they able to stop you playing it on the radio?

David: It wasn't even us playing it on the radio! We just played it once and the radio just kept playing it, like every hour.

-Then were they able to stop the radio station playing it?

Stephen: Yes they did. Sony said to the radio station, "If you keep on playing this, you won't get any of our other records." There was a big row about it, but we didn't care, we were laughing in the background. The weird part is though, the 2 Many DJs album comes out after all this, gets all the attention. We'd cleared Destiny's Child, and um, I wonder if you can write about it because we were supposed to be quiet about this whole thing, no? (Look at David, who gives him the go-ahead.) The guy from Sony's Belgian Publishing sued us, like "You haven't specified how you guys were going to do this," that it was a problem to use it with 10cc. And we were like "You know what? We cleared your a capella, that would mean we would do something, you must be very stupid if you thought we were gonna just put the acapella on the record?" But they sued us " it was the most horrible thing.
David: They said that we didn't intentionally tell them that we were gonna put 10cc behind Destiny's Child. There's a rule for mix albums that you have to have four second cross fades.

-That I didn't know, because I've always been upset that more people haven't done what a lot of people do in the clubs, i.e. mix it up.

David: No one knows that rule.
Stephen: So we went to court – PIAS went for us - and we won. The lawyer said "You knew what they were gonna do, I mean you gave them permission to use it." And it's not like we're making money on it, they're making money on it because we paid Destiny's Child! So the guy who did it, he gets fired from Sony, goes and works for EMI and sues us again! For Kylie, which we got from her, herself and her manager because they're really into what we've done. [2 Many DJs' mix of Kylie's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' is hidden before the start of their CD: you have to rewind from track 1 to find it.] And then again, we won, and now all the publishers have asked us to keep quiet about everything, and if we make a new album, that we specify and be more precise about what we do. The good thing though, was, this was happening in Belgium and Holland. When we'd go to England, a lot of big companies asked us, "Do you need any help, because we like what you're doing? Would you be interested in doing this act, or this act?"

-To me, your stuff works when you're doing it yourselves, and it's your idea. But I know you're getting a lot of remixing, and then it's got to be a different process because suddenly you have to work with this artist.

Stephen: Yeah. With all the remixes we've done – Sugarbabes, Ladytron, all of them - we said, we're not making any mash-ups. What we're going to do is play as Soulwax. I mean, that's a side of us that's really going to be in the picture in a couple of months from now.

Back to Part 1
Continue to Part 3


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