Erin: Any favorite or memorable dance team projects you worked on? (and why)
Mark: Cannon Falls has allowed me to do some pretty interesting mixes over the last few years. I did a Ke$ha mix last year for a camp routine for Hayfield what I liked a lot. Most of the teams will trust me to make some changes and additions to their plans, though not all will have the finances to do complete remixes. I recall a mix a few years ago where I had to literally add instruments to the mix to make it work the way the team wanted. I was composing new string parts, new brass parts, new synth parts, all to supplement what was there in the mix but not giving it the energy that they wanted without the additions.
Erin: I think you’re talking about our mix for Cannon jazz in 09 – The Wall. Now THAT was something new. We had a costume we couldn’t reuse from the year before and the song fell into place after hearing it at a dance party (while complaining about the situation we were in). When we brought it to you we had no idea how something with so little to dance to would work, but you wrote some key changes to make it mesh with our techno song underneath. I think only 20 seconds of the original Pink Floyd was actually used when all was said and done. That same year you wrote all of the “straightline” music for the TLC kick dance we did. There wasn’t a highlight of the dance until you made one. If you want that though, it took extra planning and lots of extra time and money. Fortunately our school paid for the music without giving us a budget. Needless to say the next year they wanted a cost estimate. haha
Erin: So after a project like that one, are there any key elements to making sure you get a good mix? Something other than saying I want it to sound like this other song or team? I know you mentioned lots of source material and the possibility to isolate single vocals or sounds.
Mark: It is always easier to build a complete remix if there are lots of isolated elements in some of the songs. For example, sections of a song with just beats, but no vocals, bass or guitars. Sections of vocals without beats and harmonic backgrounds. Any time I can find and isolate a vocal part (a word or a phrase), or a beat, or a guitar lick, or some off the wall talking thing or funny sound effect, I can recombine them with other elements of other songs in the mix, often in very surprising and unexpected ways. I can totally amuse myself at times with things that seem to come together. I mentioned beats per minute is a good thing to be aware of. Also, be aware that technology does not yet let us remove elements from a mix, so I can’t pull out a vocal part or other sound from an existing song. Also, layering different songs together (ala a mashup) often works less well than one would hope. You have too many competing elements like keys, bass lines, drum parts, vocals, etc. Even if you can get things in the same keys, the results are usually kind of disappointing.
Erin: Agreed. It can be tough to understand what will work in the real world when you hear LA DJs doing mashups, but they have the source tracks with all the elements isolated down to each and every kick drum, vocal, bell, and whistle. We don’t bring that to you so its not the same to pick it apart they way record labels can. I also think you’ve also had me bring in many versions of the songs you I want – live, acoustic, remixes, dance tracks can all have snippets of something to make it what you want. Even if it’s only a one second edit.
Here’s some shots of Mark’s gear: Notice the Chemical Brothers CD?
This pup is the original dirty dog: Boris! (who sleeps through all the mixing sessions)