6 February

pop @ emp | sfm ftw!

It’s official; professor ben will be kickin beats and knowledge at the annual Pop conference at the Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, Washington. I’ll be joined by fellow artists/appropriationists TradeMark G of the Evolution Control Committee, DJ Gavana, and Kumquat.  The conference theme is “Dance Music Sex Romance,” and our performance and presentation explores some of the questions and challenges raised by electronic dance music to the sexual body.

Check out the conference website for details on the conference and check out our cool flier for more information about the presentation, “Embodying Electronic Dance Music Cultures.”

14 December


Well, I tried out Nicecast tonight and mixed for about an hour.  Nicecast is shoutcasting software from Rogue Amoeba — it basically uploads a sound signal from your computer to the internet, “broadcasting” it like a radio station.  I was mixing on my turntables and sending the signal from my mixer (Rane TTM-56 if anyone is wondering; it’s about 9 years old) to the sound card on my computer (crappy M-Audio Audiophile Firewire box but it does the job) and through Nicecast, which turned it into an mp3 stream (you can set the bitrate) and broadcast it through port 8000, giving me a URL at the click of a button.  It took me a few tries to figure out that I had to open up that port on my router, but once I did that, I was broadcasting.  I pasted the link in facebook and twitter; according to the software I wound up with 19 listeners!  Not a ton but that’s way more than I thought I’d have.  One buddy told me the signal cut out quite a few times; apparently your upload speed will be better if you turn off bittorrent.  whoops!

It was way too easy; I am going to be doing this again frequently, I think.  Paired with a No-IP free DNS pointer, it’s an instant radio station!  I’ll announce on twitter when I’m broadcasting, but if you’re dying to check I’ll be using this URL: http://turntable.servebeer.com:8000/listen.m3u (eventually I’ll add a link for this).

And if you’re still waiting for that SCS.3D review, it’s coming soon… if you just want the short version: ho-hum.  Pretty cool but there may be better things you can do with your $250.  Peace

20 October

traktor, serato, ableton making djs wet pants

Most of the digital DJ world is aware by now of a recent announcement from Traktor as well as a joint announcement from Serato and Ableton regarding upcoming products.  Traktor announced the upgrade of their products to “Pro” versions, due out November 1st.  Their site describing the new products is here; while this is welcome news, I have to admit to being a tad underwhelmed with the new features, and to being a little suspicious that this is just an excuse to make users pay more for an upgrade than we might otherwise be willing to shell out.  I’m particularly bothered by what’s missing in the new Traktor — you’d think by now, for example, that makers of digital DJ software would have taken Serato’s cue regarding waveform display and provide different views of bass, treble, and midrange both by color and by breakdown as has been available in Serato for a long time. The “New User Interface” they’re advertising offers some genuine improvements over the old, but it really is just an upgrade.  Nevertheless, for those who want to use DJ software without turntable control, Traktor DJ Studio is still the best product out there, and Traktor Pro is sure to be welcomed by many users.

Much more exciting — yet far more vague — is the recent joint announcement from Serato and Ableton about an upcoming collaboration.  It’s entirely unclear whether they will release a product together or simply make their two “Live” products (Serato Scratch Live and Ableton Live) more compatible.  (And yes, people are already making the “2 Live Crew” jokes).  Either way, this is a welcome announcement for those of us interested in using both tools in performance situations; they cover very different ground and each product is by far the best in its class.  Serato CEO Steve West announced, “After years of talking together, we’re thrilled to be working with Ableton. It’s exciting to think about what we can offer to DJs and producers: the ability to go beyond just spinning records and add a personal stamp to the music they play.”

Hopefully we will see the result of this creative partnership in action soon, perhaps by the time of NAMM in January.  But Peter Kirn warns us not to get too excited given the vaporware announcement of Ableton’s partnership with Cycling ‘74 (makers of Max/MSP).  Who knows; clearly at this point Serato and Ableton want us wetting our pants about this but they’re not yet ready to tell us exactly what to expect.

On another note entirely, I did finally get “dascratch” from guitar center last week, and I was playing with it a bit while I was in Nashville this weekend.  I’m going to do some practicing with it this week and will post a review soon.

2 October

where dafuck is dascratch?

Well, I promised I wouldn’t call the new Stanton MIDI controller by its insulting marketspeak nickname, but the title above was too easy to pass up.  The question is, where is it?  I put my order in September 19th and paid for it with my Guitar Center credit card, even though it wasn’t in the store like the Guitar Center mailing had assured me it would be.  (In fact, there was nobody in the store who even knew what I was talking about until they looked it up online).  I got the impression it would be ready in a few days, but here it is October 2nd and it’s still not there.  I don’t want this to become a MIDI controller site (I chose not to call it “MIDIcontrollerpoetry.com” for a reason), but I do plan to write a review once I play with this thing a bit, which I’m really looking forward to doing in spite of the fact that the “scratch” functions won’t actually work in Serato.  Guitar Center assures me that it will be “any day now,” so I’ll try to remain patient a little longer.  It seems a shame for Stanton not to have been able to capitalize on the hype that they themselves created with the September 19th release date; I’m afraid that by the time it is available, a lot of people will be saying, “daWho?”

Speaking of which, I’ve been saying that anyway, thanks to the atrocious name of this thing — “DaScratch” was clearly coined by some jerkoff in Marketing who thinks he’s being clever and hip.  As was posted on djforums

And, yeah, I’m gonna need them to change the name …. Did they even think about how it sounds to use the word in a sentence? “I’m gonna go home and play with my dascratch”. “I’m bringing the dascratch to the gig.” Yeah ok douchebag I’m just gonna bring my needles; you know what, fuck the gig, I’m gonna throw my own party with hookers and blackjack. In fact, forget the party. What were we talking about again?
2 October

rehashing cash

I can’t say I’m an expert on country music, and as an electronic music & hip-hop DJ I’m probably not supposed to admit to liking any country music at all.  But I do, and I’m particularly a fan of the Man in Black.  So when I heard that there was a Johnny Cash remix album coming down the pipe featuring the likes of Alabama 3, Mocean Worker, and Philip Steir, I was naturally intrigued, and I rushed out to check it out.  Well, it’s not in stores yet, but you can stream some of the goods from the official site, and I hear that you can download high quality MP3s from the usual places.  Official release date is either October 14th or January 27th, depending who you believe, and in addition to all the hype surrounding this release, you can enter a Remix Contest at Acid Planet — the winner’s digital release will accompany the release of the album.  (Deadline is in a couple days, unfortunately; I wish I knew about this earlier).  

I suspect the pre-release version of the album is missing some songs, as I couldn’t find my most anticipated track, “Hey Porter” remixed by Mocean Worker.  Based on what is available, however, I’m mostly disappointed though not really surprised about that.  Once I heard that Snoop Dogg was a major force behind this compilation, I knew there was going to be trouble.  It’s not that the beats are lacking on the ODT Muzik remix of “Walk the Line” that Snoop raps on — quite the contrary.  It’s just that when all is said and done, this is basically a Snoop Dogg song — all of the ego of a Johnny Cash original with none of the justification for it.  The Johnny Cash vocals come across as flat and empty, clashing badly against the phat beats, and who really wants to hear Snoop echoing bits of Johnny Cash’s chorus?  And does anybody believe that the creator of “Ain’t No Fun (if the Homies Can’t Have None)” can even relate to the sentiment of the original?  

Other tracks on the record don’t fail nearly as badly, and there are some genuine gems on here.  Philip Steir’s reinterpretation of “Get Rhythm” is positively inspired — a dance floor hit.  You wouldn’t consider this one a country song, but the original vocals fit perfectly into the mix rather than contrasting awkwardly with the electronic dance music like the Snoop song.  And the Alabama-3 track is outstanding - as to be expected; these guys are well known for their incredibly interesting work across genres (particularly country and electronica).  But this is definitely a whole new song inspired by Cash rather than a “remix” per se.  

Overall, this collection is definitely worth a listen, but don’t expect consistency or to be blown away by a new musical trajectory.  In parts, this comes across as a little too blatantly shameless an attempt to, erm, cash in.  When Johnny Cash covered songs like Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” or (with Joe Strummer) Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” he showed an incredible amount of respect to the originals while at the same time making those songs his own.  This isn’t an album of covers per se (though some of the songs on here might be better described as that), but it seems to me that when someone goes through the trouble of remixing and reinterpreting songs of a well known artist, they should do something similar.  Most of the time that’s not what’s happening in this case.  By the way, speaking of just cashing in, there is apparently a “documentary” in the works about the making of this album.  Are you kidding me?

23 September

red headed sasquatch for jesus

Here’s a plug for the latest release from Kumquat while it’s still fresh and tasty — the Sarah-Palin-sampledelic “redheaded sasquatch for jesus” incorporates dubstep and drum n bass styles (and tempos) in a manner that will be enjoyed by VPILFs and flurges alike. Enjoy….

17 September

free scratchfodder

Getting sick of scratching that “aaahhh” sound over and over again? Super Duck Breaks no longer doing it for ya? Thanks to the ubiquity of digital DJing solutions, you no longer need to wait for someone to make a scratch record pressing that South Park sample you love so much on wax. Jamie Dubs (who is behind the Free Art and Technology lab) has made a couple of break records available in mp3 format, including the terrific Internet Meme Breaks, which you can see him scratching in the video at the link. You too can make your own breaks records using found audio from various sources available on the internet. The One Laptop per Child initiative (OLPC) may have blown it by selling out to Microsoft, but they have nevertheless started something really cool with their free sound sample library, which we have a permanent link to on this blog. And if you’re looking for a searchable topic index of samples of politicians saying stupid things, look no further than GAUDI, the new audio search engine from google focused on political videos and sounds. And of course the Internet Audio Archive from archive.org is a great source of public domain audio material from public service announcements to poetry readings to Grateful Dead shows and who knows what else. Happy scratching!

11 September

dascratch — stanton’s secret touchpad controller for DJs

Well, this is supposed to be hush hush, but I got a flyer in the mail from Guitar Center so I suppose nobody will sue me for mentioning this a week early.  Coming September 19th, Stanton will be taking orders for DaScratch – a touchpad based MIDI controller for DJs.  At about $300 MSRP this should be affordable for many DJs - certainly a lot cheaper than Stanton’s current offerings in this arena, and possibly more useful.  The website and flyer are thin on details (and there’s a surprising dearth of information available on the internet about it), but a quick look at the interface suggests you’ll be able to set this baby up to mix and scratch using software like Traktor or Serato by dragging your fingers around the touchpad.  The brochure suggested you could use your fingers in a circular motion, up and down, back and forth, or tap your fingers to control it; I assume there may be some multitouch capabilities as well, and with a release date of September 19th, we’ll be seeing a lot more of these in the wild than Scott Hobbs’ very promising looking Attigo TT touchpad turntable, which is still in development.  I’m waiting to see what kind of software Stanton will support with this thing — if there is a way to use this with Serato I will be picking one up for sure.  
9 September

mp3 mixes

Below are some links to mp3s of my mixes.  They are large files, each about 40 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes long.  Enjoy!

  • Woozy Braps for Great Justice - this is the latest mix I’ve done (not including some burning shithead mayhem) and probably the most eclectic… a little bubble gum rock n roll, a little lounge, a little electro, and a lotta dubstep 
  • Dance While You May - About a year old; this started as a short breaks mix at Scratch Academy for the 151 class and developed into an extended breaks/drum n bass mix with some other goodies thrown in (and one song I never shoulda played, see if you can guess which).
  • Carnaval of Batman - This one is a couple years old I think … a little ethnic percussion oriented house and electronic … there’s sort of a train wreck in there but I try to ignore it; most of the mix is pretty good ;)
  • Che’s Lounge - Slow and loungy, this dates back to 2003 I think, and still may be one of my best recorded mixes.
29 July

born rich?

When I’m really bored I sometimes check out bornrich.org, an amusing blog of expensive gadgets and toys for the conspicuous consumer. So check out these speakers: beautiful, and a steal at $21,600. Even more enlightening is reading the market-speak that accompanies such products: The “conceptual superiority of an open baffle”? That must explain why I’m openly baffled at the cost of these things. But if that seems cheap to you, perhaps you’re in the market for a set of these babies from Acapella Audio Arts. No word on pricing yet, but if they’re anything like the other fine items produced by Acapella, expect them to be upwards of $150k. Yeah really, for a set of speakers.

But as a DJ I was drawn to this piece, touted as “the best mixing table money can buy.” Are you kidding me? I mean, it’s cool looking and all, and it could be nice to have the speaker stands built into the unit, but there’s no easy place to stack vinyl, and no laptop stand or easy way to attach one. The light show seems like an unnecessary gimmick. I’m sure for 3300 euro they’ll custom fit your equipment but what happens when you upgrade your mixer? Ah well; I built my DJ stand out of an old countertop and a metal saw horse for under $50 so call me old fashioned….