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Remixing, Bootlegging and The Cure by 65daysofstatic man Paul Wolinski
Paul Wolinski , August 11th, 2008 17:00

The front man of 65daysofstatic got pissed off waiting for The Quietus to ring him and wrote us an article instead. Good man, say we. Pictures by Steve Gullick and Scott Bartlett.

Last week I got a text from a man named Scott, a living legend amongst London-based music journalists. His unenviable task is to try and make some of these journalists write stuff about my band 65daysofstatic. The text told me that John Doran from The Quietus was going to be calling me later that day to do a phone interview. At the time we were in the middle of remixing all four of the new Cure singles, which was pretty exciting, kinda tough (we had a really tight deadline) and something that I wasn't sure I was allowed to talk about, which made me think that it might be quite a quick interview. So I visited the Quietus to read a couple of things Doran had written.

The first was about Kanye West and how mobile phone companies trying to associate themselves with music is a terrible thing. I was impressed with this because The Quietus (and its brother website DrownedinSound) are ultimately in the hands of BSkyB, so it was heartening to see that Rupert Murdoch's all-seeing eye wasn't stopping them mentioning what an increasingly patronising, heartbreaking trend it is to see these multi-nationals eat away at every aspect of our love of music. The other was the blurb he'd written for a competition where to win you had to untangle a specially-made mash up of 50 songs by DJ Osymyso. He claimed: "The punk ethos as stated by Mark Perry: 'Here is a chord...Here is another...And here is another, now go and form a band' in the 21st Century could be 'Here is a cracked copy of go and make a bootleg.'" I was curious to know if this was something that had just occurred to him as he was typing it, or something he'd been thinking about for a while, and decided I would ask him when he called.

I had also been informed that Doran was the same guy that had hi-jacked the decks at The Cure's aftershow party at Wembley earlier this year and used nothing but two copies of our Dance Parties EP and some FX to DJ with for a couple of hours. We weren't there, (by that time we were back in Sheffield, heaving our exhausted equipment up three flights of steep, rotten stairs and wishing we were still on tour) so I was eager to establish the finer details of this. The phone call never arrived and the conversation was never had. But I kept thinking about what would have been said. The Cure remixes were constantly in my head, and remixing is a similar discipline to bootlegging, or at least it is as far as how 65 approaches them both. But there is still a significant difference between the two and I kept trying to work out what that was. Also, I was wondering whether I thought that remixes were more important than bootlegs and eventually decided that they were, even though most remixes are not very good. On top of that I kept remembering that 65daysofstatic has all kinds of roots in the early bootleg scene - something I would have completely failed to mention in an interview because it's only just come back to me.

So I thought that it might be a good idea to write it all down, try and explain why I think remixes are more important than bootlegs, send it in and see what happens. As far as I am aware, the UK bootlegging scene was, if not invented, then at least curated by a 15 year old kid named Daniel from Manchester. We used to know him. Back in the early 2000s he started a website called boomselection. It became a central hub for bootleggers from around the globe. This was back when Soulwax were still just a band, before Cassette Boy (although perhaps it helped give rise to him?), before Kylie performed Erol Alkan's 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' / 'Blue Monday' mash-up at the Brits... He was already compiling CDs filled with hundreds upon hundreds of MP3s and swapping them at school and through his website. I think this is the case anyway. I might have got some of the chronology wrong. In fact, truth be told, I have no idea. I don't even know what year this was. I'm not a music journalist, I'm in a band. Sweet.

In any case, it was around this time 65daysofstatic heard 'AM to PM' by Christina Milian, which remains an INCREDIBLE pop song. More importantly, at 2minutes 27seconds, she sings the words "65days". Hearing this for the first time in a taxi somewhere in Sheffield took us on a whole different tangent while trying to find our sound. Shortly after, we played an indie night in called Fuzz Club where we used 'AM to PM' as our intro music. Everyone was dancing for the first two and a half minutes, but then the song got stuck and started to loop the words "65days..." over and over. Then it got blanketed in a ton of white noise and kept looping for another couple of deafening minutes. We walked on stage to an ocean of confused faces and proceeded to add to the mess. It was glorious. This wasn't our first bootleg though. Back when the Dustpunk nights were happening in Sheffield (the scene we were born out of: magical, mythical, noisy and short-lived) we had done something called 'White Noise Christmas', which made its way onto the very first Boomselection compilation CD. I think this was the first time we had ever had anything on a CD that we hadn't made ourselves, so was a big deal for us. More a 'collaboration' than a bootleg, we had mashed-up a Christmas song by Christina Aguilera with something we wrote ourselves. We used to play it live all the time, though Christina never showed up.

We kept on doing these things in tandem with writing our regular songs. Throughout the writing, release and touring of The Fall of Math (our first album), we also made compilations called Unreleased/Unreleasable Volumes I and II. You can sometimes find them on the torrents or the messageboard of our website. These feature quite a lot of Avril, Joy Divison, Bruce Springsteen, John Carpenter, happy hardcore, more Christina, Underworld... all bit-crunched and time-stretched and cut to pieces and basically subjected to all the things you never used to be able to do with samplers but could suddenly do on laptops.

A lot of people thought we were taking the piss with these, glitching up Avril's choruses, dropping beats all over Justin Timberlake, oh - splicing Deftones and Tatu together, that was a good one - they thought we were doing this because we hated them. But that wasn't the case at all. All 65daysofstatic has ever tried to do is write pop music. We haven't worked out how to do it yet, but I think with these cut-ups of songs, we were trying to make what we wanted pop music to sound like. On the back of Unreleased/Unreleasable Volume 2: How I Fucked Off All My Friends we wrote quite an eloquent explanation of our intentions. At least I think we did. I don't have a copy so cannot remember what it says. (I should add that we never made any money out of the Unreleasable series, just in case Rupert is reading and tells his buddies at Mr. Big's Records to sue us).

Anyway. We've been doing bootleg things since then. If you ever come to a 65 live show then during the 20 minute changeover before we start playing you'll hear our latest efforts. (Last time out Blood Brothers married with Britney was ace). We've stopped burning them onto CD because we can't afford to get into trouble and, besides, while some people are really pushing the idea to its limits, like Osymyso, it isn't something that fills us with the same kind of excitement as it used to. For a start, if you listen to something like the 50 song mash-up made for the quietus, it's amazing and incredibly clever, but not something that would ever move you to tears. Unless you're a music lawyer.

Now, perhaps that's not what you're supposed to go looking for in every single genre of music and perhaps that's why 65daysofstatic remain so resolutely unfashionable. But that's what we seem to look for in most things. So there you go... Remixes, on the other hand, can affect people on an entirely different level all together, although like I said earlier, most remixes these days are really bad. Bootlegs are usually immediately good, because the strengths of the songs they pull from remain unchanged. But when you're remixing, you are undoing all of the work that the original artist put into the arrangement and switching it around.

The Quietus mash up isn't something that would move you to tears. Unless you're a music lawyer.

This is risky territory, especially if you're trying to dismantle a pop song, because there are tried and tested ways of making these things work. If you're drawn to wanting to remix it in the first place, chances are it's because the existing song has already pulled off the necessary magic to win you over. Why on earth would you want to rip that apart? The answer is you probably shouldn't bother. There are too many remixes these days or at least too many done to make up the numbers on singles or to give away as web exclusives, or done by 'name' remixers for cash to add a bit of that 'cross-demographic marketing sparkle' to a release. A particularly disappointing result of this is the rise of the Indie-Guitar-Band-Remix. They always end up sounding like a 'My First Pro Tools' project to my ears. Just because you can write pop songs doesn't necessarily mean you can remix them (how do you remix on a guitar!?)

For a remix to be any good, in my opinion, it needs to take on the identity of the remixer for a start (which is why 65 ones always end up well-noisy), but what's more important is that it should play to the strengths of the uniqueness of what a remix is - a song that is all about its context. A remix should exist as a standalone piece of music of course. But it also needs to understand how the listener's knowledge of the original will directly affect how they hear this new version. As a remixer, you get to reward the listener by taking the familiar, hiding it from them, and then throwing it back at them when they least expect it. Or taking the best, loudest hook and playing it over and over and building melody after melody on top of it and beats on top of beats and taking the whole thing louder and louder until the thing you always wished would explode on the original actually does!

The Cure remixes have been finished now. Although all four songs are new ones, we have been listening to The Cure play them more or less every night since the start of the year and I think (I'm hoping) we are familiar enough with the songs to make something useful from them. We recently found out that the 65 mixes are sharing CD space with the unlikeliest of bands for the actual release (Fall Out Boy? 30 Seconds To Mars!?), yet The Cure have managed to include all four of our remixes onto the EP by mixing them into a single track, which is extremely good of them. It's gonna be interesting to hear whether the radio-friendly unit-shifters applied themselves as eagerly to the remixing as we did... So I realise there's a lot of contradictions in all of that. And if Doran had called then I probably wouldn't have come up with this. I would have talked about what an incredible time we had supporting The Cure around America and how now we are going to disappear to write our new album and how we have absolutely no idea what that's going to sound like and until we've figured it out you probably won't be seeing us out and about playing shows and we're already going crazy not-being-on-tour. If we'd have gotten on to the subject of bootlegs then I might have mentioned that there is a track on our last album, The Destruction of Small Ideas that contains more samples in the space of about thirty seconds than The Quietus DJ Osymyso track does in total and then later regretted mentioning it because it's the kind of thing that can only get us in trouble. If anyone spends the time trying to figure out which track it is and what samples they are then 65daysofstatic will not give you a free iPod touch. But you will have our pity.

65daysofstatic are, as described, working on new material. Doran is drafting some kind of reply as you read . . .