Bill McClintock - MASHUPS
Ok, first of all, we’d just like to say we are big fans of your work. How long have you been doing Mashups? What started you on this path?
Bill: Thank you! That’s great to hear! I’ve been doing mash-ups for about one year now. Music has always been my thing (I’ve been playing guitar for 20+ years). However, I’ve never had the desire to perform in front of an audience. I saw making mash-ups as an opportunity to share my creativity and musical ability with an audience without actually having to be in front of people. This was after being inspired by some incredible mash-ups like Danzig’s “Mother” with Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work,” The Beatles’ “Imagine” with Van Halen’s “Jump,” and Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” with Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.”
You seem to have a good grasp of key and tempo. Are you a musician? Do you have any musical training?
Bill: Yes. I’ve been playing guitar for the past 20 years or so and I have a degree in music from Duquesne University with a concentration in both Music Technology and Music Education.
As far as copyright laws are concerned you seem to work in a gray area. I wasn’t able to find anything specific that would preclude you from doing Mashups. Have you run into any issues with copyright? Has any artist or lawyer told you to cease and desist? Can they? I mean do they have legal footing to do so in your opinion?
Bill: YouTube has this magical thing called Content ID that somehow detects when a user uploads copyrighted material, including audio and video. Content ID has detected copyrighted material in just about every mash-up I have published to YouTube. When this happens, YouTube sends me an email as a heads-up to let me know that I used copyrighted material in my video. They don’t block the video, though, because I have agreed to run ads on my videos. Any revenue generated by my videos goes directly to the artists who own the rights to the music I use.
I have not been contacted by any artists or lawyers for any legal reasons—not yet, anyway! One artist—Bobby Blotzer of RATT—did contact me to tell me how much he enjoyed my mash-up of “Round and Round” with Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” He was also hoping I could mash more RATT songs with Motown songs with the intention of recording a RATT mash-up album.
I’ve noticed that the tunes that you mash are so far apart when it comes to style etc. and yet you make them work perfectly. How do you come up with the ideas? Do songs have to be in the same key? What is similar enough that you think these two songs will work well together?
Bill: My goal is always to mash two or more songs that should in no way, shape or form go together, and make them work. I’ve found that this is the key to blowing peoples’ minds!
Musical style really isn’t important when finding two songs that are compatible. First and foremost, the two songs need to be in the same key and have the same tempo, or at least be close. I use music software that can adjust the key and tempo of a song to make it match exactly with another song.
Another important aspect is rhythm. By that I mean that there should be rhythms in both the vocal line and the instrumental track that work well together. This is something that is difficult to explain but it can definitely be heard and contributes to a “good fit” between two songs.
The timing of the vocal line with all of the musical elements in the instrumental track is crucial. If a vocal phrase is two measures long, the instrumental track should allow for those two measures without any fills or accents that would detract from the vocals. This is difficult to explain without an example. Listen to the mash-up I did of the Guess Who’s “American Woman” with Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star.” There is a four measure section that has a horn accent on the “and of 4” in each measure. There is just enough space at the end of each vocal phrase that allows for those accents- “Don’t come a-hangin’ around my door” <accent> “I don’t wanna see your face no more” <accent> etc.
One more thing that I absolutely love is taking a vocal line that was originally sung over just one chord and putting it with an instrumental track that has chord changes. Hearing a vocal line in a different harmonic context makes the vocal line itself sound different, even though I didn’t change it at all! Some good examples of this concept can be found in the Eric Clapton/Michael Jackson and Gwen Stefani/Bee Gee’s mash-ups I did.
Do you use specialized software? Are you ok with giving them a plug or would you prefer to keep it a trade secret?
Bill: I do. I use The Amazing Slowdowner to adjust tempo and key, Melodyne to adjust individual pitches, and Garageband to mix everything together. All of these things could easily be accomplished with one program like Logic Pro X, but I still haven’t upgraded. Once I have the audio finished, I use iMovie to edit the videos from each song together with the music.
Which of your mashups got the most views?
Bill: “I Heard it Round and Round the Grapevine.” This actually really surprised me because I personally didn’t think it was over the top awesome like so many people did. I can see why people like it, though. First of all, it’s Marvin Gaye with RATT, which is hysterical, and just wrong on so many levels. Marvin’s high notes are somehow transformed to heavy metal-like screams when they are put into a metal context. And, by some miracle, the rhythms of Marvin’s vocal line fit better with the “Round and Round” instrumental track than Stephen Pearcy’s. I honestly just got lucky there. Didn’t have to change a thing."
What are you working on right now?
Bill: Nothing. Just kidding. I’m currently gathering ideas to try to find a good match. I would like to do another classic rock, yacht rock, or Motown vocal with a metal instrumental track. That’s one of my favorite formulas. But, you’ll have to wait and see!
Thank you Bill for taking the time to do this.