move over grey album, the kleptones "a night at the hip-hopera" seems to be gathering plenty of buzz with the cool kids in intarwebland. i was lucky enough to exchange some mail with eric kleptone who agreed to answer a handful of my amateurish questions.
the answers he returned to me were as extensive and well thought out as the mix he contributed to. with his permission, i've gone ahead and reproduced our impromptu q and a below. i hope you enjoy it.
okay, seriously. why queen?
Erm...why not? It was a combination of things - we chanced on some really good source material to start with, and we're already huge fans anyway - I've been listening to Queen since I was knee-high. They made so much excellent and varied music during their existance that we knew we could do something that had a good range to it - it wouldn't get boring after a couple of tracks.
Also it was light years away from The Lips...and we wanted something that had stuff on it that people could get down with, and that we could take out and DJ.
obviously you put quite a bit of work into this. how long did it take to put everything together?
The actual album came together in about five weeks. That's evenings and weekends only, too - we have day jobs also, you know. The idea had been germinating for a couple of months before that so we were digging around, accumulating source material. Listening to shitloads of rhymin'. Getting it ready.
We're sample-whores anyway, so there's a serious collection of vocal stuff that's been accumulated over the years - I can't help it...if I'm watching a film and I hear a good line, I'll be scrabbling for a pen to note down where it is on the DVD so I can go back and slice it - even if it doesn't get used for ages, there will come a time when it's exactly what you need, and you dig it out and blow the dust off it.
There was stacks of the stuff we gathered for this one that never got used also. And stacks of tunes that never made the cut - we had over two hours of finished tracks to choose from, that's why it's so long.
it seems like the album is a bit more sample happy than "yoshimi". do you like driving the trainspotters in the crowd batshit?
Yeah! I'm one of those trainspotters too! Ask anyone who knows me!
"Yoshimi" didn't really need too many samples as it already has it's own mood and sense of development - The Lips already did that part in spades. The Queen stuff is all over the place, and there's no set tracklisting to follow, so the samples help tie it all together into a whole. It's good to have a flow going on, almost like a narrative.
on average how many different source tracks and pieces of dialogue went into each track.
See Waxy's sample list for that one. Everyone there has done a far better job of answering that question. They even pin-pointed samples that we couldn't remember where they'd come from. My hat comes off to those guys.
speaking of samples, where'd you score such clean instrumental versions of the queen tracks?
Don't know if I should reveal this, heheh. Some people must think we got the magic vocal filter :) The main source was a Japanese-only Karaoke CD - Usually karaoke backing tracks are cover versions, but some bright spark had the idea of putting out some original backing tracks especially for the Japanese market. We found one track, wondered where the hell it had come from, did some research and a few yen later, we were movin'. There's also stuff from a bunch of 12" versions, instrumental versions of a couple of later tracks from B-sides, and some even more dubious sources than that for the more obscure tracks ;)
what equipment/programs do you guys use when you're throwing a mix together? are there any tools you just can't live without?
Well, we're PC folks, so Sound Forge is essential - can't live without it - And equal measures of Cubase SX and Acid. Acid is great for kicking stuff off - chucking stuff at the wall. Cubase is great for finishing, tweaking the mix and mastering.
what got you into making bootlegs? was there a particular track that blew your mind and made you say "fucking hell, i've gotta start doing this"?
Not really - I mentioned to Waxy in a mail the other day about the Beats International track "Dub Be Good To Me", from which we used the acapella for "Expose" - The original of that (No.1 in the UK in 1988/89 or so) was a mix of the SOS Band song vocal with the backing of "Guns Of Brixton" by The Clash - so even though they replayed and resung the track, that was one of the first bootlegs for me - it took a track out of context and turned it on its head completely in the process - a whole different crowd suddenly got it that probably wouldn't have got either of the
originals. (And you know 99% for sure they must have been using the original loops before they went in the studio and re-recorded it).
Out of recent stuff, the one that still stands out for me is The Freelance Hellraiser's "A Stroke Of Genius" - Christine Aguilera's vocal fits The Strokes backing so well it's unreal. As I'm not a massive fan of either, this was a revelation to me - taking two really average tunes and turning them into one classic. It didn't make me go, "wow, I gotta do this", but it did plant the seed that it was possible to create something spectacular this way.
are there any bootleggers out there that you think people are sleeping on?
I think everyone is working hard and doing pretty good for themselves at the moment. The net has given a lot of talented people a platform to get their thing heard, and there are some good communities about that can provide advice and friendly criticism to newbies while they hone their skills, and provide a whole load of crazy ear-candy to anyone who just comes to listen.
If anyone wants to hear a serious wide range of styles, they should do some digging around the Get Your Bootleg On forum - that's pretty much the heart of the UK Bootleg scene. They're the first people that we play stuff to outside of our friends - if the folks there are into it, we know we're onto a good thing.
gratuitous "high fidelity" question: what're your top five albums of all time?
I cannot answer this - honestly. If I tried you wouldn't get these answers back for years.
If you want an idea of my kind of all-time selection, check out the set-list from the night I played at "All-Time Top 100" - A club night here in the UK. Each DJ has 3 hours to play as many of their all time favourite tracks as they can (and you only get one chance to do it). For an obsessive music-head like me, it's probably the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
what's next, the who?
Don't you mean "Who's Next?" ;) - Woah, if anyone has the backing tracks to that one, give me a call!!! Although I think Z-Trip has done the perfect take on "Baba O'Reilly" already.
To be honest, we don't know. For a while after Yoshimi we weren't gonna do another one, then this one came along, and proved to be ten times harder to do. So is the next one gonna be a hundred times harder? Shee-it.
There will be some more of our EP-style "more original" stuff coming out next, I think. When I say, "more original", I just mean more chopped up, layered and re-arranged, both vocally and instrumentally. A couple of people commented that the music on Yoshimi and Hip-Hopera should have been more remixed, but for us, that's completely missing the point. It didn't have to be remixed; it really didn't need it. If we're gonna take something and chop it, cut it up and fuck it about, then we'll add a pile of other stuff and make something totally different out of it. There's no point in showing off and squeezing every trick you can do into each and every track you make just because you can - nine times out of ten you'll end up killing the thing that made it work in the first place - it can end up sounding really tiresome.
thanks for this. i dig the fact that you're taking the time to indulge me. cheers!
Hey, the pleasure is all mine, boogah.