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Interview with Taco Zip, Max Tannone and DJAK47

[Conducted in December 2009]

The age old question ďHow do you feel about your music being bootleggedĒ doesnít just apply to the original artist anymore. With bootlegs showing up on line containing remixes by fans, club DJís, and studio producers we thought that it would be interesting to get the answer to this question from three remixers whose tracks (originally available for free download on the web) were appropriated for unauthorized vinyl bootlegs.

The remixers:

  • Taco Zip is a legend in the Beastie Boys remixing community and is currently hosted at Beastieboysremixes.com
  • Max Tannone is a producer of hip-hop beats and dance music whose remixes have been hosted at the official site and received national media exposure.
  • DJAK47 is one of the more prolific Beastie Boys remixers. His catalog is currently hosted at Beastiemixes.com

Vinyl

What was it that first got you into remixing?

Taco Zip: The love for musicÖ

Max Tannone: I started making beats with an old edition of Fruity Loops, when I was 16. I loved it, and began to build a library of sounds, samples, etc. Blending and remixing came a few years later, after I'd spent a lot of time learning how to make tracks. I realized I had a lot of instrumentals, and wanted to learn how to put vocals over them. I love audio production in general. When making a song, you have complete creative control...its enjoyable.

DJAK47: The first thing that got me into mixing was when I bought Mike Jonesí CD "Who is Mike Jones?" It just happened to be the Screwed and Chopped version and I didnít really notice it because I never heard the original album. Then one day I heard some of the tracks played normally and I noticed how I loved "Chopped & Screwed" music way better. Thatís when I started listening to mainly C&S music, and working on my own.

How did you decide what tracks you wanted to remix?

TZ: At the time that I started remixing, there were no more than about 5 or 6 acapellas available. From that limited choice, I just Ďdidí them one by one.

MT: In reference to "Doublecheck Your Head," the tracks were determined by the acapellas I could get from Check Your Head. Once I had the acapellas, I chopped up all of the instrumental tracks from Check Your Head, and basically had a pile of sounds and a pile of vocals - and put together what sounded best.

AK: Well, it started off basic. I remixed my favorite songs first. Pretty much taking an acapella for a song I loved and mashing it with an instrumental I could "bug out" to. When it came to the B Boys I was the same way, but now that I've made so many mixes, I've been more into just finding new songs, beats, etcÖ to mix with them. Itís also helped me broaden my taste in music and maybe some of my listeners. I've pretty music mixed the B Boys with everything from rock to rap, and from techno to lounge music!

Where did you get your source samples, Acappellas, and instrumentals?

TZ: I ripped my acapellaís off the DVD anthology. I also used parts that were acapella in the original song, like Ad Rockís Ďhmm dropí. The music I put underneath the rhymes were just a result of samples I found, from Portishead to Sly And The Family Stone.

MT: Some of the acapellas came from the Beasties web site, one came from their message board, and the rest I got through their studio in New York. The base tracks were the accompanying Check Your Head instrumental tracks, and everything else (drums, synths, FX, etc) is from my library of sounds and plug-ins.

AK: I get all my beastie boys acapellas/instrumentals from Beastiemixes.com, well some of them because technically half of them are linked to the beastie boy's actual website. As for most of the music I mix with the beastie boys, I get it from all over the place (youtube, torrents, myspace, etc.)

How have your mixing techniques changed since the time you started?

TZ: I guess I improved my techniques, but not necessarily changed them really.

MT: I'm better at mixing (as in the process of adjusting the sonics of a track, rather than "mixing" in the general sense), and understanding some of the associated theory with it. In general, I think I pay more attention to detail than I used to. I'm really obsessive - but I think that often works as a positive thing. I also have more influences, just from getting older and being introduced to different types of music.

AK: I've learned how to use some of my software better. I've also managed to teach myself some new things, and I've used these skills to make my mixes sound better than most of my earlier mixes.

What type of gear/software do you use for remixing?

TZ: My PC with Acid Pro at that time, and a turntable.

MT: I primarily use FL Studio, as well as Acid and Cool Edit (now Adobe Audition).

AK: I had a Marathon MA-DJ12WLT-Battle 12" Mixer but I had to sell it so now I just run software such as Virtual DJ(Main Program), Sony Acid Pro 7, and FL Studio 7.

What motivated you to remix Beastie Boys material?

TZ: The original stuff sucked so I decided to improve itÖ Just kidding, Iím a big fan of them, and back then hanging out on the boards on a daily basis so it was the most logical choice to do Beastie stuff.

MT: It coincided with their re-release of Check Your Head, and I had finished the Jaydiohead remix project and was looking for something new. I was able to pass my Jaydiohead (Jay-Z & Radiohead) remix project along to Adrock, and he thought it would be cool if I could do something involving Check Your Head. Of course I jumped at this chance. Check Your Head is an amazing album so I wanted to make sure I did it justice. I wanted to be sure this remix collection stood out from the countless others.

AK: I was always a fan of the beasties. Ever since I saw Intergalactic and Alive on my TV I was hooked. I remember going to Best Buy in search of one of their CDs with those songs and I hit the jackpot with their Beastie Boys Anthology. Then I started buying all their CDs until it got to the point to where I was online looking for remixes. Then a friend of mine came upon Beastiemixes.com and we used to download all kinds of mixes from there. Then one day it clicked and I wanted to be a part of the Beastiemixes family :)

How did you discover that your mixes were being used to press bootlegs?

TZ: I just found out 2 days ago when Beastiemania informed me about it.

MT: This is actually the 3rd time I've been bootlegged in the past year (the first two were Jaydiohead and Jaydiohead: The Encore vinyls...) I did a random search for "Doublecheck Your Head" and found a few German websites selling the vinyl. Without the internet, I definitely would not have known.

AK: One night I was at my girlfriends house, nearly half awake when I get on the "Shout Box" on beastiemixes.com to see how everyone is doing when I noticed Silence7 (The God of Beastiemixe.com) trying to urgently get in touch with me. He wanted my cell number which was a bit odd, so at first I was hesitant and asked why he needed it seeing if it was a joke or not. Anyways I had him email first but my email was having difficulties getting his email that night so I decided to wait till the next day. I however had class, then work so I wasnít able to get back to him until later that evening. Anyways to get to the point he called me and told me the good/bad news and how some "slooch" in the UK was bootlegging my remixes. He found out from a friend who actually purchased the bootlegged vinyl and immediately noticed the remixes were mine

What was your initial reaction when you discovered your mixes were being used?

TZ: I was amazed. You donít expect your homebrew remix to appear on vinyl somewhere.

MT: I was happy. I'm not thrilled that someone is making a little money from it, but ultimately something like this only helps me. The Jaydiohead vinyl bootleg has been way more prevalent, I've even seen it in 2 record stores in NYC in person - not to mention dozens of sites selling it online throughout the world. I never expected to make money from any of these projects - I'm just glad people are hearing the music.

AK: At first I was like "Sweet!", because I was glad my music was being listened to and being promoted and put out there, but then the bad news kicked in which was, I didnít get any credit whatsoever for my music. It's nice that this so called "DJ" was actually listening to my remixes, and appreciating them...well to a certain extent, but the fact that he was profiting off of my work kind of plummeted my cheerfulness. I could actually care less about the money though..."All I need are my "Boats 'n Hoes"".

Since you've had time to consider it have your opinions changed in regard to how you initially reacted?

TZ: Well, when I checked the link to the bootleg, I noticed they didnít even give me credits. The guys renamed the mix to BS funk mix. I guess BS stands for bullshit.

MT: No. This project never could have happened without the internet and file sharing, etc. Mashups and remixes are often products of bootleg culture. Itís all collaboration and sharing, so to be upset over a vinyl bootleg would be hypocritical. I'm cool with it.

AK: No not really. I mean thereís not much I can or could do, especially since my remixes were using copyrighted instrumentals. Besides I've already put this in the past. I tend to not let things get in my way. Like Mr. Paul Slayton aka Paul Wall said "I'm never falling off cuz I stay on my note".

Has being bootlegged changed your views on how copyrighted material should be used in your own (or others') remixes?

TZ: No, not really. I made that stuff for fun and put it on the internet. Everyone should do what they want to with it. But this guy really stole it by changing the name, and now heís making money out of it. Thatís lame.

MT: Not really. I do not support people profiting from copywritten material - however I am a big proponent of sampling and remixing. I think its great when artists release acapellas and stems of their tracks. By doing this, they are encouraging fans to become participants in their music, thereby stimulating further interest in the group. Yes, bootlegging original or remixed material may hurt the artists financially, but it can also help them as well. For example, (regarding my Jaydiohead project) I have received dozens of messages from people saying how they weren't into Jay-Z or Radiohead before, but now they bought some of their music and are really into them. By doing remix projects like these, you turn people on to the music.

AK: Eh, sort of. I mean DJs should respect each others work and not try to profit off of it. Thatís just shady in my opinion. I donít mind if you use my remixes or even get samples from them, just donít sell them or try to get any type of financial gain from them. If they do I feel bad for the buyer because instead of spending their hard earned cash, they could have just went to my page and download the songs for FREE!

Have you, or will you, purchase a copy of your own remixes?

TZ: Nope. Iím not going to encourage this guy to steal more of my (or other peopleís) stuff by sending him money.

MT: I already have. I bought a vinyl copy of the original Jaydiohead project at a record store in Brooklyn. It was a funny and cool experience - to go from making it in my apartment, to it being on the wall in the store as the "hip-hop pick of the week." Itís a small worldĒ.

AK: No, thatís just preposterous!

Do you believe that remixers hurt or enhance the original artists' ability to profit from the original material?

TZ: Thatís a good one. I guess not, because most people want to have the original stuff as well. And besides that, the Beastie Boys even encourage the making of remixes by spreading acapellas.

MT: I think all of the additional material that remixers create generates interest in the artist's original material. So I think it enhances the artists' ability to profit.

AK: Hmm this is kind of iffy, but I'd have to go with enhance. If the remixes are good then of course people will want to eventually hear the original material, or if they love a song that was remixed, then they'll love hearing different versions of it which then include the original. Now on the other hand if a remixers remixes suck, people might grow to hate these songs, and think the original material is even worse.

Have you heard the sound quality of your bootlegged remixes? If so, how does it compare to the quality of the original remix?

TZ: I did not hear the record, but since the file on my website was only 128 kB, the quality canít be too good.

MT: I have only heard the original Jaydiohead on vinyl, and it sounds really good. Whoever pressed them up did a nice job - so I'm definitely happy about that. It sounds the same as the digital version. How these bootlegs came to be is interesting within itself. For example - I collect Beastie Boy acapellas from random sources, including some that were ripped from 12" singles, converted to mp3s, and uploaded to a message board. Then I download these, chop them apart into little pieces, add a bunch of original sounds, FX, synths, etc, bounce it back as an mp3. I then upload this mp3 file back online. Someone downloads all of the mp3's in my album (.ZIP format) - then has them pressed back into the analog realm via vinyl. Itís a crazy world.

AK: Yes, and in my opinion, they actually sound a lot worse. It kind of makes the hard work I did making the mixes go to shit. Ya know?

Do you believe that bootleggers hurt or enhance the original artists' ability to profit from the original material?

TZ: If their intention is just to make a profit out of it, then yes. But on the other hand, most bootlegs consist of rare stuff and are bought by collectors who also buy all of the original stuff.

MT: Bootlegging the artistsí original material obviously hurts them - since someone who could have purchased it legitimately is now purchasing it from a bootlegger or simply downloading it without paying anything. However, the financial influence of buying a bootlegged vinyl of a remix album (that is freely available online) is negligible.

AK: Probably hurt because now they are making money off of the mixes you could be selling. This kind of slashes your customer base in half, and plus in my case it hurts because Iím not profiting and Iím not being credited for my work.

All of you offer your remixes for free, does it bother you that someone is profiting from your work?

TZ: Since he stole the credits, I think itís just a bit pathetic. But Iím not having sleepless nights or anything.

MT: A little. But ultimately, I'm glad that people are listening to it. I wasn't going to have vinyl made - so I'm glad someone took the effort to do so. The project is freely available - I don't think that is a secret. Nobody has to pay for it.

AK: Yeah, just a little. Like I said, I donít mind if their profiting, I'd just like the credit I deserve.

Has the fact that you have been bootlegged caused you to consider attempting to take any measures to make certain it does not happen again?

TZ: Nope, since the stuff is on the internet, itís out of control. If I had the perfect solution for this problem Iíd be rich by now.

MT: At this point I'm not concerned about it. The benefits for me are far outweighing any possible negatives.

AK: No, not really. The only thing I can do is take my remixes off the internet, but Iím not going to deprive my fans of my remixes just because of some bootlegger.

Have you ever received feedback from anyone in the Beastie camp about your remixes? If so, can you share it with us?

Yep, back in 2003 Yauch responded to my Sure Shot no 2 remix on the board. I archived the page on my website at http://www.beastieboysremixes.com/yauch. Itís about 10 posts from above.

MT: They were digging them. I had feedback from Adrock, he was into it. He was encouraging me to make them as funky and weird as possible, which I did! They posted four of the tracks in the NEWS section of their website, which you can find if you scroll down a little.

AK: If you're referring to the "Beastie camp" as just being any fans of the beastie then yes. Once in a while I get people giving me props on my remixes, mainly through youtube because I upload some of my remixes onto there. One guy called me a ďgeniusĒ haha.

What are your general thoughts on the Beastie Boys remix scene (favorite remixers, quality of remixes, etc)?

TZ: I have to admit that Iím not really into the beastie remix scene anymore since I canít find the time for it. We started out with just a few remixers, but pretty soon the number of creative people kept on growing. I donít know what itís like right now, but Iím sure all of the remixers are pushing the level upwards. I wish them lots of fun remixing!

MT: The amount of activity is amazing. I don't know too many other groups that have a website devoted to collecting their fan-made remixes...so that's pretty awesome. As far as favorite remixers, its hard to say - I would have to get back to you on that. I think itís great that technology enables everyone to mess with this stuff. That being said, itís not hard to take instrumental A and layer it with vocal B. The remixes, blends, etc. that I like have a concept they stick to, or are doing something beyond keeping two tracks on tempo.

AK: I think itís amazing! I donít know if I've ever seen so many remixes for a group before like the Beastie Boys. I personally love mixing the Beastie Boys...maybe thatís why I have the most remixes on beastiemixes.com after only being here for a little over a year...donít playa hate (laugh out loud). Quality is also big, ANYONE can make a remix, but the outcome and work put into a remix definitely shows. Some of my favorite remixers are definitely "The Biologist", ďnYgel", "Globemallow Spike" and many more.

What projects are you working on now?

TZ: I have my own web design company, so thatís what Iím working on right now J

MT: I'm working on another mash-up remix album. Iím in the early stages, so I don't want to give the idea away. Its not going to change the world or anything, I just want to keep it to myself until I'm confident that it will work.
EDITORS NOTE Ė AK responded to this question, but the answer has been excluded due to bandwidth constraints.

After talking to these guys I am left with the impression that different permutations of shared music will be increasingly a part of the remix scene. From my point of view the question of whether or not it is good can only be answered by the listener. With original artistsí music being remixed and pressed on vinyl by fans, there are an infinite number of combinations that will exist in the future. Remixes of fan remixes, and mash-ups of fan mash-ups are already showing up on the web, which motivates me to agree with Max Tannone: indeed it is ďa crazy worldĒ.


Links:

Taco Zip http://www.beastieboysremixes.com/
http://beastiemixes.com/remixer.php?id=108
Max Tannone    http://www.myspace.com/maxtannone
http://www.jaydiohead.com/
http://www.doublecheckyourhead.com/
DJAK47 http://beastiemixes.com/remixer.php?id=97

 


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