It is three years since the groundbreaking “As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt. 2” album was released. Three years since the bootleg scene went off like a firework burning its way into the popular consciousness with any number of cheeky bootleg mixes rising to the fore of club culture and to the point where mainstream radio was picking up on the best examples and giving them worthy rotation.
The bootleg scene (also known as mash ups, cutups and bastard pop) is no new phenomenon. The joyous amalgamation of two (sometimes more) otherwise unconnected pieces of music can render a new masterpiece in its own right (it can also of course create an abomination but I like to focus on the positives here).
Since bootlegs came out of the darkness of the musical underground and wandered squinting into the light of the mainstream there have been no shortage of glory moments waiting for the casual listener or the dedicated followers of cut ups. It seems like every artist regardless of age, genre or credibility rating has been worthy of this aural mutation. By the time the genre had boldly gatecrashed into chart friendly territory Kylie had taken her greatest hit (La La La, anyone?) and drenched it in the seminal beats of Blue Monday at the Brits.
But that was then, and this is now.
Well there have of course been the music media proclamations that mash ups are so “last year” (or maybe even the year before that), that the genre is precious little more than novelty but the fact remains that when something as significant as this has gone out into the world it can’t be taken out of it again.
Yes, folks as we approach 2006 the bootleg mix is here to stay. Admittedly the bandwagon jumpers who saw something fit to jump on have more or less climbed off and gone looking for something else to hang their trendy hats on. However there are more than enough people who still have persevered with this arcane magic and the web is still the best place to go looking for results.
A quick hop across the net takes you to Get Your Boot On, for my money one of the premier portals for all this mix related madness, its here where so many of the new tracks take their first (and sometimes last) breath. Not only does the site play host to contributions from the big names on the scene but also to those who are just starting out in their cut up endeavours.
It doesn’t take long browsing the forums before you find results. The site acts as a link to some of the best work in this genre (only yesterday I was listening to John Travolta/Olivia Newton John Vs Snoop Dogg), some of the tracks do play up their differences for laughs and they can be genuinely funny. However for the most part the craftsmanship involved in the cut, the splice and the blend of theses tracks is often deadly serious and the results while being somewhat unexpected can sound very effective and undeniably dance floor friendly. The message boards are crammed with old and new practitioners alike hosting their efforts and for the most part the feedback is constructive, so if something doesn’t necessarily work then the creator often finds out why.
Next up is Mark Vidler’s Gohomeproductions site, Vidler has been putting out mixes of consistent quality since 2002 and his discography shows up some of the impressive collaborations he’s worked since then. Some of the older stuff is available in mp3 format but he’s been putting out releases on vinyl for a while (well worth checking out), to the point where Blondie’s latest Greatest Hits compilation features his classy Blondie/The Doors mix. His work deserves a mention just for the fact that here is the man who brought us Madonna and The Sex Pistols together on the same slab of vinyl (Ray Of Gob remains a personal favourite of mine).
McSleazy is another longstanding cut up merchant. His site hosts mixes that date back to 1999 and you can find reliably diced versions of Britney and Franz Ferdinand as well as some less likely candidates such as The Pixies. His talents have been noted outside the immediate confines of the genre as well, this has seen him working on the soundtrack of ‘Take The Lead’ a film due for release in March 2006. The site hosts a user friendly media player that lists much of his work for your listening pleasure (his slice up of Franz Vs Beastie Boys – Triple Take being a particularly worthy listen).
So as we prepare to move into 2006 its clear that we have a genre that has survived its explosion into popular culture. A good deal of the gimmick factor that many labelled bootleg culture with has gone and in its wake the people involved have proven themselves to be a resourceful bunch (often creating their own acapella track when there is an absence of an available one) with no shortage of talent. Some of the creators here don’t just cut up the work of others but they actively make their own tracks. If anything with the influx of talent arriving on the scene, the cut ups will keep on coming.