Is it the real thing or is it strangely-familiar?

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Imagine walking into a club and the familiar beat of a well known song starts to play in the background.

Then, just as you are getting ready to belt out the lyrics along with the singer as your booty begins to move with the music, the words to another well known song that is totally unrelated to the music that is playing accompaniment start lilting through the speakers in a strange cacophony of mixed-up genius.

Chances are, if you’re in a club in Nashville where that type of music called a mash-up or “Bastard Pop” is playing then DJ Jeff Hinds is in all likelihood behind the turntables. Recently chosen as the official DJ for the 2005 Night in White, Jeff took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with O&AN and chat about his passion for the world of mash-ups and the website dedicated to that passion: Strangely-familiar.com.

OAN: How did you get into DJ-ing?

JH: I had never wanted to be a DJ before I got into mash-ups. My primary motivation was getting this sound out there for everyone to hear. I wanted to go somewhere to hear this type of music and dance to it, but there was nowhere so I started doing it myself.

OAN: Could you explain the concept of mash-ups for those who may be unfamiliar?

JH: Mash-ups in their most basic form are the instrumental track of one song interwoven with the vocals of another song. Ideally, they are at their best when the two types of music used are opposite or very disparate and far removed from each other. There are so many different types now that it can get really complicated. There can be three or four songs mixed. For example, Michael Jackson singing Billie Jean to the music to Nirvana’s Teen Spirit or Janis Joplin singing Mercedes Benz to Bach.

OAN: Where were you first exposed to mash-ups?

JH: Strangely enough I was reading a 2001 year-end edition of Time Magazine that contained an article about the state of music and downloading. Kind of as an aside in the article they recommended that the reader “brave the internet police to be able to hear the Strokes vs. Christina Aguilara performing A Stroke of Genie-us.” I was unaware of any projects involving the Strokes and Christina Aguilara so I started researching and found this whole world of music that was totally underground in the U.S.

OAN: It’s my understanding that the mash-up scene is really big in Europe.

JH: Yes. It’s huge. MTV there has already started commissioning mash-ups specifically designed so that they can make mash-up videos to them. The U.S. is really the final frontier when it comes to this music style.

OAN: How does the state of the mash-up underground in the U.S. compare with the way that it is in Europe?

JH: We are just beginning to see signs of activity in America. America is about in the place now where the rest of the world was in 2001 as far as mash-ups are concerned. It is so well-known and widely recognized that almost all of Europe is exposed to it on a daily basis. Australia is the same. Even South Africa is embracing it as an art form. In the U.S. the epicenter is undoubtedly San Francisco. They have the biggest gatherings of people in the country. Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and LA all have mash-up related shows. Rick Dees played a mash-up on the air a few weeks ago. It’s really starting to gain some momentum.

OAN: Most people are familiar with sampling in music. What is different about mash-ups from sampling?

JH: In a way I don’t think they really do differ much except that most times people associate sampling with Hip-Hop and Dance music, but mash-ups include all types of music.

OAN: Is it easy to make mash-ups?

JH: Anybody with the right tools can do it. We are in the middle of a do-it-yourself age and people are more able to make music on their own now. Anybody can be a DJ now. I’m not saying that it’s easy, but like any art if you are passionate about music and have an ear for mash-ups you can do it.

OAN: Are there artists who approve of their work being mashed up?

JH: Often, the artists and the management are responsible for vocal or instrumental tracks being leaked to DJs in order that they can have a mash up done. They want street cred and that’s a way to get it especially in Europe. In the UK the mash up is every day so in order to remain relevant.

OAN: In the US with all that’s going on with the RIAA and the “internet police” what have been the legal implications of the practice as far as they are concerned?

JH: By and large I wouldn’t claim that they are ushering it in but as long as the mash up artist doesn’t try to sell it they rarely get bothered. A DJ called Dangermouse caused some controversy because he mashed up Jay-Z’s Black Album with the Beatles’ White Album and started selling it as “The Grey Album” so they came down on him. Most mash up DJs aren’t trying to go that route. We’re doing it just to show what can be done and if someone hires me to play in their club I can play whatever I want as long as all of their SESAC, BMI, & ASCAP fees are paid.

OAN: I understand that you run one of the biggest mash-up websites in the world from here in Nashville.

JH: Yes. Strangely-familiar.com is actually more than that. It’s a doorway to all types of art and artists around the world but it primarily focuses on music and mash-ups. There are artists of all stripes represented there. One of our most visible recent additions is RuPaul.

It’s really a kind of a DIY found art ethos; creating something unique and original out of something that already exists. That really transcends any one art form. I really want to help artists reach their potential.

Anyone interested in the Strangely Familiar Music Club or the world of mash-ups should visit www.strangely-familiar.com.