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Thursday, 30 June 2011

ZooFights Round One bonus stuff and things

Oh, there you are. Excuse me while I tidy up. Make yourself comfortable. There's a lot to wrap up.

If you're here about the ZooFights Round One bonus material, grab a drink and read on.

If you're here about the IronicHide debut album (under construction), check my Soundcloud account.

Pet Shop Boys 'Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)' v Dire Straits 'Money For Nothing'
Written by Chris Lowe, Neil Tennant,  Mark Knopfler, Sting; Arranged by IronicHide; (c)  Polydor 1985, Vertigo 1984

To be honest, I never thought this would work. I knew I wanted to use the Pet Shop Boys. Money For Nothing was on the radio that morning. There's no way two such staple hits of the decade would go together. I abandoned the idea as a fancy not to tease myself with.
Then I isolated Dire Straits' guitar line. Speeding up the Pet Shop Boys by about 10% to match didn't sound too terrible. This was a goer.
Isolating the guitar also brought out Sting's voice toward the end of Money For Nothing, which worked not just as a background harmony but as audio masking tape to cover some of the cuts. It also worked because Neil Tennant's voice was buried so quietly in the mix of Opportunities compared to the Dire Straits song and this allowed me more freedom to reset the levels myself.
And may whatever deity bless the Pet Shop Boys for the bd'm-bd'm-bam they use a couple of times throughout Opportunities. That covered a few gaps in a pinch.
Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko speech from Wall Street was slowed by 20%, echoed twice, with each running through a different stereo channel. In case you were wondering.

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - Four Double Dragon Men Weighs A Ton.mp3

Kazunaka Yamane 'Opening (Double Dragon)' v Metallica 'The Four Horsemen' v Public Enemy 'Miuzi Weighs A Ton' (Including samples from Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn)
Written by Kazunaka Yamane, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Dave Mustaine, Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, Hank Shocklee, Aretha Franklin, J Cameron, J Zachary, Kurtis Blow, JB Moore, Herb Rooney; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Apollon 1988, Elektra 1983, Def Jam 1986 (Paramount Pictures, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 1987)

Ah, yes, the Pangolins. This was a bit of a committee job. I had nothing. You come up with a song about scaly anteaters, go on. Think of one. Nope? Me neither.
Those lovely people at ZooFights pointed me toward the music from Double Dragon. Initially, I was using the factory level background track - check it out, it is dubby industrial 20 years ahead of its time - and didn't want to use the main title theme, thinking that the melody was too strong to mix.
The Four Horsemen by Metallica (which was nearly their third use so far by me in ZooFights) was a candidate for the Pangolins' opponents' theme but, these guys were also a quartet and I'd already started to chop it up, so what the hey, chuck them together, see if they rumble.
As I posted this one up early for the ZF team to have a listen to, one of the fight artists contacted me with the idea of some industrial sounds to go with the Pangolins' weaponry and a request to stick some "dope beats" in there.
1980s, industrial weaponry, iconic sounds... Evil Dead II? Groovy. (The squeaks you hear is from Sam Raimi's crew's on-set pet rat, Senor Cojones. I've no idea if pangolins squeak. I hope they do.) And my collection of beats don't come doper than a touch of Chuck and Flav.
By the end, I had to duplicate the last eight bars of Kazunaka Yamane just to fit in Cliff Burton's breakdown and the first squeals of Kirk Hammett.

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - Hungery.mp3

Duran Duran 'Hungry Like The Wolf' v Spectre General 'Hunger'
Written by Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Larry Gillstrom, Barry Gillstrom, Victor Langen, George Criston, Raymond Harvey, Spencer Proffer; Arranged by IronicHide; (c) EMI 1982, Pasha 1987 

This was another track with many options. I didn't want to use two tracks with such similar names but I had a decent acapella and instrumental of Duran Duran to play with. And, yeah, I wanted to use something from the '86 Transformers soundtrack.
The entire thing was made just with isolated bars of instrumentation from Spectre General, sometimes made up of no more than single bass drum hits or echoing guitar chords, with the acapella overlaid. I didn't want to ditch the chorus from Hunger as the words surmised Hippos With An Eating Disorder perfectly.
I couldn't seem to find the right beat to lay the acapella on so brought in Duran Duran's instrumental as a scaffold (I can see it on screen but not hear it in the mix) to line up Simon Le Bon's voice. As it was, I had a go at letting the instrumental play at certain points, liked it, and added it to the chorus parts. 
Seeing as it worked, and given that I wanted to get the chorus from Hungry Like The Wolf in there, I built a minute-long coda with the crescendos from both songs just played together (there's an eeny weeny bit of editing on Hunger at this point to make them fit). Think of it as the prototype for the Blue Air Tonight mashup.

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - This Monkey's Brass.mp3

Beastie Boys 'Brass Monkey' v The Pixies 'Monkey Gone To Heaven'
Written by Michael Diamond, Adam Yauch, Adam Horovitz, Rick Rubin, Black Francis; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Def Jam 1986, Elektra 1989

This was a blast. I had a Friday night to myself and four different songs with Monkey in the title. The Pixies and the Beastie Boys, however, were in the exact same tempo. To the nanosecond. Go on, listen to them separately: 1.05 seconds to the bar, consistently. (Which was, at first, a worry as the other two songs I had lined up were already acapella tracks, in theory, easier to mix.)
Also, starting the songs at the same time won't sound brilliant but, if you let them play, you'll get the Beasties' chorus play over the lead guitar outro from the Pixies' chorus. That sounds boss. That was the jumping-off point.
Using Black Francis' "If man is five..." bridge had to be done. It means nothing and it is delivered with fury. Like all pop music should be. The trouble is that the Beasties' synth brass opening (which I was using) is not just quiet, it's a thin sound. Boosting the gain and the bass won't make it that much louder or dominant. Ideally, you would be hearing a lot more of it in the breakdown.
From this point, Monkey Gone To Heaven just plays out to the end (with four bars cut from the middle for concision), with a loop of Brass Monkey over the top. The intro was made last, finding my favourite line from the Beasties and stapling it to the first isolated bass bar from the first verse of the Pixies. I found the lead-in bass part later in that same verse and used it as a segue into the chorus and guitar.
All wrapped up by the time Mrs IronicHide got home, tired and emotional. She loved it. Made me play it again and again, whirling her sangria and antacid around the lounge.
Also, yes, this was intended to be PEP Simian's intro music and was written before the fighters were announced but, within two days of voting, it seemed I had already foreshadowed his demise.

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - Horses Whip.mp3

John Sullivan 'Only Fools And Horses' v Devo 'Whip It' (Including sample from Red Dwarf)
Written by John Sullivan, Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) BBC 1982, Warner Bros 1980 (BBC 1988)

This was the first of three mashups made in a single day, inspired by the script for the fight between Bull Market, a rampant capitalist bovine, and Murducken, a giant bird with muscular arms and a microwave chest. (The music for her Kitchen Brutalizer infomercial is here.)
Knowing that the beasts would crash through the set of a family sitcom during the battle, I knocked this up as theoretical theme music for the show. John Sullivan's theme from (British sitcom) Only Fools and Horses was inverted and the bass boosted, knocking out the drums. (Yes, Only Fools and Horses may be obscure to a non-Brit audience, I tried using Fresh Prince of Bel Air but it just did not work.)
Whip It by Devo was another track that was always on the cards for abuse during an '80s-themed ZooFights and got picked just because it was the exact same tempo as Sullivan's work. Luckily, it also has long passages of different combinations of drums, bass riff, guitar chords and the main refrain. These were chopped up and placed to fit Sullivan's uninterrupted theme, with a hint that the line 'I say whip it' was a reply to the call 'I say God bless Hooky Street' from Sullivan.

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - Express Change.mp3

Kraftwerk 'Trans-Europe Express' v Scorpions 'Wind Of Change'
Written by Ralf Hutter, Florian Schneider, Klaus Meine; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) EMI Kling Klang 1977, Mercury 1990

This was an afterthought, really. There's no way I could have an intro theme for the Berlin Walrus made in time.
Ironically, this is the quickest mashup I have ever made. About 45 minutes. Most tracks I make have dozens of channels of different sounds going on - at last count, one piece of second round music had over 40 channels - this one had five.
Chop up some of Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express, making sure I've got that synthesizer melody used in Planet Rock (to give the piece a bit more '80s authenticity), speed up Wind Of Change by the Scorpions to fit (making sure I have that whistling melody as a counterpoint to the synth that reflects the two conflicting heads of the Walrus), drop the beat out on those awkward bits when the Scorpions change the tempo for a single bar at the end of a phrase, and we are set. Add in the monotone "Trans. Europe. Express" at the end and fade out.
(Actually, I did come back to this three times in the past month and tweak the odd bit here and there.)

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - Rabbit Run.mp3

Chas & Dave 'Rabbit' v Iron Maiden 'Run To The Hills' (Including sample from Watership Down)
Written by Charles Hodges, David Peacock, Steve Harris; Arranged by IronicHide
(c) Rockney 1983, EMI 1982 (Cinema International Corp. 1978)

As soon as I was thrown the idea of Hare Metal I knew that I'd be using Iron Maiden and Rabbit by Chas 'n' Dave. The idea made me laugh. I kept laughing, telling friends about what I was going to do, how silly and fun it would be.
Then, later, I had to make the thing. That was a pain.
Can you keep a secret? I don't like Iron Maiden. Yes, yes, we metal fans must pay our dues, sure. But, really, Slayer rule. Maiden were always a bit silly, to my mind. I like my British metal grim. Fudge Tunnel, Godflesh, etc.
The version of Rabbit used was a live 1981 recording from Hamburg, the only one I've got. Still, the 'rabbit, rabbit, rabbit' scat (there are two different ones in the song, both of which are used here) is good quality and Mick Burt keeps their time exceptionally tight. 
Also, it may not sound like it but the two sections - the intro and the middle-eight - from Run To The Hills used here have been manipulated so that they are in the exact same tempo (theoretically, they are both in the same time signature, if you take the hi-hat, then the muted guitar, to be measuring the beat, respectively).
And, yeah, Watership Down is 1978. Not '80s. Silflay hraka.

So, that just about covers that little lot. Look out, there'll be more of this nonsense in the Losers' League and Round Two.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Blue Air Tonight - New Order v Phil Collins

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - Blue Air Tonight.mp3

Blue Monday - New Order vs In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins

Written by Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Phil Collins

Arranged by IronicHide

(c) Factory 1983, Virgin 1981

You remember that song about the song about the guy who saw the guy drowning? That was me. I'm your biggest fan.

Drowning. Not singing a song. Phil Collins saved me from drowning.

I'm glad you asked.

Ever since this year's ZooFights began, with its 1980s themes, I knew I would use Blue Monday by New Order. Duff-duff-dededededede-duff. Unlike Creep or Teen Spirit, it's an overplayed song that doesn't get old or doesn't fade in to musical wallpaper. It just keeps going. It's an enigma. And, best of all for a mashup maker, it has long stretches of ponderous instrumentation with an atomic-clock-accurate beat.

Ever since I got sneaky previews of the contestants, Teslacorn was one (of three) that I was teeth-grindingly excited about making something for. Dr Manhattan crossed with My Little Pony? Winning.

The good thing about making an '80s mashup about an animal that flies is there are a gorillion songs with 'air' in the title. There was no trial-and-error procedure, I was always going to mix this with Walking In The Air by Aled Jones, which I'd already started manipulating.

I'd taken the first verse and chorus, bounced them down a couple of times, inverted and duplicated, and put through a filter that left pretty much just the piano and Jones' voice floating in this reverb-heavy ether. It sounded like it was floating in from a mile away.

The snag was that, although Walking In The Air and Blue Monday sound in time (without much manipulation), they're not. Two bars of Blue Monday is about 1.8 seconds long. A bar of Walking In The Air is 1.2. Laying one over the other, they will sync up but in an artificial tempo of 3/8, sort of.

The other snag is that, after weeks of planning this, getting excited with early experiments, and cutting up nearly eight minutes of Mancunian proto-electro, one tends to go a bit blind to what does and doesn't work. The night before I was due to publish, I played the track to Mrs IronicHide (my intermittent quality controller). She put me straight. Like a surly child without cake, I didn't speak to her until the next morning.

She was, however, quite right. A few days before, I'd published a track before it was anywhere near finished and regretted it. Now I had about four working hours to come up with something else entirely. Drowning, not waving.

So, of all the songs earmarked 'For Flying Beests' in my home folder, Collins' number was one of the first to be rejected. Speeding it up (from about five minutes to three) to fit Blue Monday made it sound ridiculous. The last chorus after the Big Drum Bit, would not sync at all.

Later, in frothing desperation as the metaphorical salty waves dragged me down, I gave it a last whirl and realised something: Whether on purpose or not, there's an extra half-beat in the first two bars of the last chrous. Go on, listen to In The Air Tonight. Right after Those Drums, there's a false step before the snare picks up the timing.

The rest of the song is easy to work with. An inversion trick won't isolate the vocals but doing it and giving the bass a boost will go some of the way. Beyond that, taking a profile of the opening bars and then cancelling that sound in the rest of the song will leave you with an (affected, metallic-sounding) acapella plus that 'pock' percussion sound that marks the on-beat.

So, that was doubled up with a muted original version of In The Air Tonight, and put over the Blue Monday framework I'd built for Aled Jones. Though the verses could have been, kept, something had to be chucked to keep this thing short and everybody knows the chorus (and I am a sleazy commercial whore desperate for exposure). Though, for the sake of not being called lazy, the three choruses you hear are all from different bits of the song, not duplicated.

That was it. The man from Hounslow (where I used to live and mash, and Hendrix recorded two albums) had thrown me a life ring, wrapped an arm around my chest and pulled me to the shore (of the Thames, somewhere between Kew Bridge and Olde Isleworth).

Pulling seaweed and prophylactics from my hair, I realised I would have no time to finish a mash begun for Teslacorn's opponent, Achilles Eel.

Luckily, for you and I, the eel also flies and is electric. So, please, consider this mashupas a soundtrack to the fight between horse and eel, rather than dedicated to either.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Orionosaur - Rodrigo y Gabriela v Was Not Was

Orion - Metallica vs Walk The Dinosaur - Was (Not Was)

Written by Cliff Burton, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, David Was, Don Was, Randy Jacobs

Arranged by IronicHide

(c) Ato Records 2006, Chrysalis Records 1987

(If you're looking for my non-ZooFights debut album, check out 3/4 of it here, you lovely thing.)

OK, so this is a great big cheat when it comes to keeping things strictly 1980s. I've had problems like this before. So I watched Miami Vice.

When ZooFights, a zoological knockout tournament of theoretical fisticuffs currently set in the 1980s, went Mexican with Luchadillo, they found a hole in my record collection.

Brazil in the 1980s, I got Caetano Veloso, Golden Boys, Merielles. Cuba in the 1980s, I got a ton of dodgy salsa. So I watched Miami Vice.

Mexico, hombre? Not even my early Brujeria tapes are '80s.

Luckily, the entirely fantastic Rodrigo y Gabriela (who I first got turned on to backpacking like a dog around Europe in 2003 and had the chance, but missed, to meet working on a TV show in 2009) covered (instrumental '80s metal anthem) Orion. So bite me, I'm using it. So I watched Miami Vice.

Luckily, too, Luchadillo had some Glyptodon DNA injected in him and that gave me a chance to use an old acapella I had knocking around of Walk The Dinosaur by Was (Not Was). Unluckily, the line "So I watched Miami Vice" is sung out-of kilter and forced to fit the original syncopation. I want you, dear and blessed reader, to understand how many times I have had to listen to that one line, shift it a hundredth of a second, and repeat. So I watched Miami Vice.

Honestly, just play it on repeat with the Battletoads pause music underneath at my funeral. Play it on loop through a tinny speaker above my grave. I doubt it can ever leave my ears.

As with much of what I'm putting out right now, the two songs were selected by the following scientific method:

1/ Size up the beast you have to make music for. Cast your brain-net as far as possible by imagining every possible tangent. (Is the creature an ape? Songs about jungles, bananas, and poo-slinging are justified. Is the monstrosity capable of flight? Songs about anything that involves wings or rotorblades come in to play. It's all good, amigo.)

2/ Divide those songs in to those with at least a spurious claim to being of the 1980s and those with no such claim. Weep over your unused Jungle Book soundtrack.

3/ Play every one of those songs against every other one of those songs, in some infernal matrix of audio bilge, until something works. Play the songs at different speeds and overlaying them at different parts. Why not use the verse from Jump with the chorus to The Chicken Song? Or the breakdown and bridge of Theme From Flashdance? Keep doing this until you can't feel anything in your head any more. A loved one will collect you and usher you to a bed.

But, yes, indeed and anyway. Orion was easy enough to split in two - the second half being the exploratory solos that are a real marmite test of Metallica fans. Rod y Gab fans love them. I enjoy them but ditched them. The first half was split in to five identifiable chunks by changes in riff, tempo, Spanish picking technique and the acapella overlaid as it best fitted.

Originally, I only intended to use the refrains "boom, boom, shakalakalak boom" and "everybody walk/kill the dinosaur" at key points and trim the rest of the mashup down to around a minute long. Which I did for an intro piece for the fight.

Having such a quality acapella, however, is too good not to use. I had over three minutes of Rodrigo y Gabriela to play with and it pained me to discard any more of it. So what you hear above is sort of a full-length version I did to amuse myself.

Also and in addition, ZooFights used the full-length version of the mashup I had created but I was unhappy with my work and reworked it. Pity was taken on me and this newer rejig of the mashup got stuck up after a couple of  days. That first full-length version of the track is dead. We killed it. With fire. Out back.

Monday, 6 June 2011

(Another) Chicken Bites (The Man) - Queen v Alan Hawkshaw

Free MP3 download: IronicHide - (Another) Chicken Bites (The Man).mp3

Another One Bites The Dust - Queen vs Chicken Man - Alan Hawkshaw
(Including samples from Kentrucky Fried Chicken advertisements)

Written by Alan Hawkshaw, John Deacon

Arranged by IronicHide

© EMI 1980, Thames International 1978 (Kentucky Fried Chicken 1967, 1987)

Previously, on IronicHide's One Song To The Tune Of Another: I'm making some mashups for ZooFights.

ZooFights is awesome, awesome to the max. And 1980s-themed.

When one of the contestants decided to use the tournament to host infomercials for its own range of Kitchen Brutalizers, well one of my mashups got used as the backing track. Slick, Rick.

Some of you may notice that my first ZooFights entry didn't actually include any music from the 1980s. Technically, one song was from '71, the other from '91. Which means, on average, the track was from '81.

Well, technically, Alan Hawkshaw's Chicken Man, otherwise known as the theme from Grange Hill, is from 1978. Congratulations, we can both use Wikipedia. 

Howsoever, I will forever think of Grange Hill as a 1980s show. Pointing out that it started in 1978 is liking pointing out that Margaret Thatcher was, technically, elected prime minister in May 1979. And you don't want to be like Thatcher, do you?

At least Another One Bites The Dust is from 1980.

Making a mashup for a beast engineered from two birds and a microwave (and keeping it bodaciously '80s) throws up a lot of possibilities: Birdhouse In Your Soul, Pollywanacracka, the theme from Count Duckula, Wings Of A Dove, You Will Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties, etc.

A good part of one day was spent in IronicHide's anti-technical audio suite (heretofore: my lounge), performing a difficult selection process: Playing different combinations of any two songs at the same time.

Another One Bites The Dust was held in my repository folder of 1980s Pop To Be Used In An Emergency When Nothing Else Is Working, which I'd cracked open after about half-an-hour. It's a great song to mash because it has so many identifiable and instrumental parts with many combinations of drums, bass, sound effects, treble-heavy rythm guitar and muted single-string riffs. Even the part I've used here with Freddy Mercury's voice doesn't carry a tune that prohibits use over another track. Oddly, for Queen and Mercury, the track does not have a convoluted lyric (something about 'machine guns' and 'not getting along') and relies on one simple hook.

Of all my bird-themed songs, Chicken Man came to me late. It was only a  coincidental reminder from the internet that confirmed its actual name (not "Grange Hill") and also told me that it was used as the jingle for a Spanish supermarket.

Knowing that the portrayal of Murducken would involve kitchen infomercials and the use of its beak, the deal was done and I got cracking.

Hawkshaw's piece is a quirky 4/4 tune, played through twice, the second time with more washboard rattles and percussion. To cut them out, I took out the second half entirely and repeated the opening 30-odd seconds.

Another One Bites The Dust had about six usable chunks cut out of it and arranged in a way that amused me, separately from Chicken Man but lasting for the same number of bars. When overlaying the two together, the Queen track was more adaptable, being in several smaller lumps, rather than just two. So the bit with the drums and bass was stuck toward the end, the track with just the drums, right at the end, the guitar-y bit moved in to the first half; y'know, just mucking around until it fitted but keeping the section with Mercury's voice (the post-chorus breakdown originally) where it was to hide any gap between the two halves of Hawkshaw.

Getting the fried chicken advert samples was a bitch and I'll say nothing more. I don't like their levels here, their recording or their placement. If you're ever playing with spoken word tracks, I've found a tremolo effect works very well in giving the human voice a natural tone or cadence.

Also, this was one of three tracks produced in two days flat for the fight against Bull Market. More on them at a later date, chuckles, we don't want to get you too worked up.