Friday, November 30, 2007

Band of the Week

Flying White Dots

When I say mashup album what do you think of? Chopped-up classic rock (i.e. The Beatles, Queen, etc) and the latest hip-hop or pop tracks laid over the top seems to be the standard of success. Maybe you are thinking of the hours spent in front of the computer screen carefully cutting and layering, matching tempos and beats. You could be thinking of Dangermouse, The Kleptons, Dj Riko, Party Ben... The mashup album is an incredibly complex collections or fluent mix of the DJ's best work, and quality examples are few and far between. However, when you have found a classic you know it immediatly.

Bryan Whellams (aka Flying White Dots) has created two classic mashup albums in his short career. His latest album, Into The Great Unknown, blends primarily atmospheric instrumentals, from bands like Plaid and Squarepusher, with well-known vocals from anyone from Elton John to Peter Gabriel to Outkast. It is remarkable how he pulls the entire album together while blending each second perfectly. In a fast-paced world, Bryan show restraint and understanding through his gracefully chilled out tracks.

Recently, Bryan took some time to answer a few of my questions on his work and the genre as a whole.

Orange Alert (OA): I've read that you have been a DJ for many years, how did get started making mashups? Who were some of the bootleggers that inspired you?
Bryan Whellams (BW): I got into bootlegs alot later than most. At first I didn't really get it, and thought stuff like "Smells Like Booty" was sacrelige. Being heavily into electro at the time led me to liking 2manydjs and through them I heard stuff like "A Stroke Of Genius" by Freelance Hellraiser which I thought was fantastic. But it wasn't until I heard "A Night At The Hip Hopera" by the Kleptones that mashups really became my thing. That album was astonishing. It turned out I knew one of them cos they lived in my home town. And we became great friends. I started making quite alot of bootlegs in late 2005, which is when I first heard of people like Go Home Productions and DJ Earworm, but it wasn't until March 2006, funnily enough when the EPs that preceded the Kleptones "24 Hours" came out, that I started trying to make original and interesting mashes that were not aimed at the dancefloor and sounded clean in production. Ever since then, I've spent way more time making mashups than listening to other people's.

OA: Into the Great Unknown is a really remarkable album. Did it start out as an album or was it put together after the fact? Where did the concept begin?
BW: It was always going to be an album, because I wanted to follow up Staring At The Sky, my first album, which I'm still very proud of, because alot of people really liked the first one because it was a journey album you could immerse yourself in and it was a grower. I've always preferred albums to singles, and the best albums have tracks on that only make sense in the context of the album. That's what I wanted to do. But whereas the first album was influenced by Dark Side Of The Moon and Sgt Pepper, I knew my newer stuff was more electronic so thought it would be a great idea to piece it all together like The KLF's Chill Out or The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld , who themselves were blatantly stealing from the Floyd. Those are the underlying ideas, but neither of my albums has a concept as such.

OA: The album is more atmospheric then most mashups, as most tend to be more dance oriented. It seems like this type of music would be harder to mix, is this the case?
BW: This type of music is much harder to mix than dance orientated stuff, because dance stuff is made to be mixed whereas alot of the source material I use is not, and most of it is live rather than beat perfect quantized. For instance, Your Poetry took a long time and a lot of editing and restretching to get Elton sounding right over the Squarepusher track. Anyone can take a house instumental and a house acapella that are in the same key and mix them together, but there's nothing exciting about it whatsoever. I'm very tired of most styles of dance music and don't hear much innovation happening in dance music, even though I used to love it passionately, which is why I prefer to work with stuff that is more interesting.

OA: What is you opinion of the current state of mashup culture in general? Has it died down recently or is it going strong?
BW: To be honest, I don't listen to many new mashups. If DJ Earworm puts out something new I'll give it a listen, but he along with many of the people who've been making tunes for a few years have slowed down their production because they're losing interest in mashups. Mark Vidler (Go Home Productions) has stopped doing mashups now, which is a real shame. I don't hear many mashups on the radio, in pubs or clubs as much as I did a few years ago. But when Eric Kleptone gets behind his laptop people go batshit. That's when it feels like it's still going strong and has some life in it yet.

OA: What do you hope to accomplish with this side of your career? Remixes, original material, artists consent and release?
BW: I've never done a remix but if I was approached by the right artist, or vice versa, I'd give it a go. Only thing is I'd probably want to use other samples which would mean getting clearance. And I'm not aware of any of the artists I've sampled having heard any of my work. Not yet anyway. It would be nice to have an official release, but only if I had 100% artistic control. For now, I'm content making beautful music out of other people's tunes.

OA: What's next for Flying White Dots?
BW: I'm working on a live set. I'd like there to be a strong visual element so I'm hoping to work with a VJ. For this I will work on some new music, and I expect some of this will make it onto my next album, but don't expect anything new for quite a while. These things take time. So if you want to hear new stuff from me, you'll have to catch one of my live sets. I'm hoping to have something good enough to take to some festivals next year.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
BW: Coffee makes me go jittery so I try to avoid it as much as possible.

OA: I've always felt that two important parts of the mash is the song title and the artwork. What is the best mashup song title you've ever heard?
BW: Making Plans For Vinyl is pretty funny.

For more information on Flying White Dots and to download his two albums please visit his website.

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