In the wrong hands, a mash-up is a trite, unimaginative attempt to create poorly designed art. And then there’s Max Tannone. His work as the mastermind behind the acclaimed Jaydiohead project drew the attention of Jay-Z (!) and the Beastie Boys. He followed that up by working with the Beasties for the “Doublecheck Your Head” remix. Now he has released another great mash-up, combining the work of Mos Def with great Jamaican dub music. We interviewed Max in April of 2009 to discuss his work on Jaydiohead and thought this was a perfect time to touch base to have him explain his great new project. You must listen to this, to appreciate what a great concept this is. Listen, learn, enjoy…..
TDOA: Love the new project! Can you tell us what led/inspired you to mix Mos Def with dub music?
MT: First off, thank you. I’ve been a reggae fan for a long time, but only recently discovered dub specifically. For those that aren’t familiar, dub is essentially an instrumental genre of reggae, or remixes of reggae tunes created by reshaping and manipulating the recordings with editing, effects, new rhythms, etc. In other words, really dope and innovate remixes.I began listening to dub artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry, King Tubby, and Scientist (my favorite.) I learned about how they created the tracks, usually recording all of their mixing board edits live to tape…manipulating delay feedbacks and reverbs just by ear and by feeling, muting and unmuting tracks on the fly. I couldn’t really picture anything more awesome, and these guys are the originators of this.
While listening to these dub tunes, which are often heavily based on the drums and the bass, would also sound great if sampled for hip-hop tracks. Being a huge Mos Def fan (and Mos who sometimes breaks into a Jamaican patois himself), I knew he would fit well over the tracks. His lyrics are often socially poignant – a common theme with reggae music too. He is one of my favorite musicians and I hope he heard Mos Def and enjoyed it. Let me know Mos!
TDOA: Can you talk about your own musical taste? Some would say that your average Radiohead fan isn’t indulging in dub and hip hop. Are these different genres vehicles for your musical output or do you actually listen to this wide variety of music?
MT: I definitely listen to all these types of music. If they aren’t, Radiohead fans should be into dub music – I see a lot of parallels between the studio wizardry of Radiohead/Nigel Godrich and these classic dub legends like Scientist. In fact, I think anyone interested in modern electronic or experimental rock, or hip-hop for that matter, owes it to themselves to check out some dub tunes. Dub is the original remix. At any rate, I can’t do these projects unless I really love the sources – it would sound too forced.
Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Lennon’s solo stuff (I think his first solo record, Plastic Ono Band, is incredible.) Been listening to a lot of Beck. I just saw Rusko in concert and that was really fun. Listened to about 60, A Tribe Called Quest songs on shuffle the other day. Random stuff – thanks to the internet the amount of music is overwhelming. Its a blessing and a curse…mostly a blessing though.
TDOA: Have you heard from any of the artists involved in your projects (Mos Def, Radiohead, Jay-Z)?
MT: Jay-Z tweeted about it, yay internet!
I haven’t heard from Radiohead or Mos Def.
TDOA: Can you tell us the story of how you became involved in the Beastie Boys remix project and if there’s been any follow-up with them?
MT: Adrock from the Beastie Boys heard Jaydiohead and came up with an idea for me to do something similar with their Check Your Head album (as they were re-releasing that at the time.) But instead of mixing them with another artist, I would mix them with themselves, hence the name, “Doublecheck Your Head.” The Beasties are really great and supportive regarding remixes of their material – one of the reasons why they are iconic. They’ve always been pushing forward and figuring out ways to embrace changing times and technology rather than fight them.
TDOA: What’s next?! Any news on the Jaydiohead video that you were working on?
MT: I’m not sure. I really enjoyed working with dub music so I may do something further with that. I have some other ideas for another “mash-up” album. I’d like to start working with some artists…I love concept albums – or at least albums with a running theme that don’t come corny (that’s still possible right?)
I love the whole producer/artist team in hip-hop like DJ Hi-Tek and Talib Kweli when they made Reflection Eternal, or Gang Starr’s albums, or the Beastie Boys working with the Dust Brothers on Paul’s Boutique. I’d like to be part of a team like that…
Finally, thanks to the readers and to The Dumbing of America for the continued support and interest in what I’ve been up to. I definitely appreciate it.
and for those of you who haven’t heard Jaydiohead….