The closest analogue to Chicago mashup DJs The Hood Internet is probably Girl Talk, a comparison that the duo—Aaron Brink (ABX) and Steve Reidell (STV SLV)—find flattering, though they have a wildly different style from Greg Gillis' hyperkinetic remixes. The Hood men are musical alchemists of sorts, distilling a mixture of indie and hip-hop into dance-your-ass-off gold. Los Campesinos! guitar riffs overlayed with Young Jeezy’s rapping? They’ll make it happen, and they’ll make it awesome. With The Hood Internet's fourth mixtape collection of mashups on the way this fall, and a full album of original material planned for 2010, Paste recently chatted with Reidell about how the duo came about, their creative process and his take on the state of mashup culture.
Paste: How did The Hood Internet get started? Walk us through it.
Reidell: Aaron and I, we were playing in a band in Chicago. We had heard a lot of stuff floating around the Internet—dudes like Sammy Bananas, or Them Jeans—and said to ourselves, “Hey! We can do that!” We put the blog up in March of 2007 and started posting tracks. Aaron and I had a past history of beat-smithing, doing that sort of work in college for fun. So we started making beats from samples of bands we like, putting top 40 or underground hip-hop on top of it. We put the site up, and definitely started catching ears. Now, 300 tracks later, here we are. [Laughs]
Paste: How do you feel about the comparisons between you and Girl Talk?
Reidell: Yeah, that dude is awesome. Well, conceptually we’re the same thing. I think a lot of the comparisons come from how big he is.
Paste: He’s the first mashup artist that comes to mind for most people.
Reidell: Right. I think the difference between a Girl Talk joint and a Hood Internet [track] is that his stuff is more composed of fits and starts, little moments from other songs, where we try to make entirely cohesive tracks that are thoroughly recognizable as A and B, more or less. Whereas his are like A through M. [Laughs]
Paste: What’s the creative process? How do you approach putting songs together?
Reidell: As you might imagine, there’s a lot of trial and error. We both have very musical backgrounds, so a lot of times we’ll hear a particular vocal cadence that we think would go great over a certain song, or that same concept in reverse. There’ve been a bunch of moments where I’ve heard a song out in public, or heard a band play a song, and just been possessed to write a note down about it. And some of it’s the exact opposite, totally off-the-cuff stuff that comes together in the studio.
Paste: What’s your take on fusing indie pop and club hip-hop music together? There’s not a lot of clear overlap between those subcultures.
Reidell: I might argue with that. There’s a fair amount of crossover, especially compared to when we were younger. The Internet has really taken music away from the album-based way of listening to things to a singles-based mode. A lot of people are getting their music track-by-track from the Internet. And people still listen to the radio too. Top 40 might not run a lot of the “indie” stuff, but that’s not entirely the base of what we do. The top 40 stuff and the accessibility of music on the Internet means that kids can grab some new pop single and then in the next moment grab the new Broken Social Scene song. The categorization of music has totally blurred.
Paste: How do you think people are reacting to that?
Reidell: We do get comments here and there from fans who say, “I love this song, but I had never heard this other one before. I’m checking out this band now.” That’s cool, because it’s opening things up for people. I think the boundaries are already in the process of being shattered—we’re just helping things along. When I was in junior high, there was a very distinct line between Nirvana fans and Dr. Dre fans. The line has blurred, and that’s great, because that’s the way it should be.
Paste: Have you ever done a mashup that you think is better than the original? The whole being greater than the sum of the parts?
Reidell: I don’t think that anything is necessarily better—it’s more of a lateral move, if that makes sense. It would be hard for me to really say that and believe it, because what we create isn’t even possible without the original songs.
Paste: Is that your take on mashup culture, or the culture of appropriation in general?
Reidell: Well, sampling is nothing new. But again, with the Internet, it’s become almost like the bootlegging scene was however many years ago. The stuff we do is just a virtual white-label 12”. And its interesting, because sometimes you do know remixes as a better version of a song.
Paste: Have you ever had any legal dust-ups about your sampling?
Reidell: Not once. If we ever hear from the artists, it’s almost always positive feedback. I think the music industry has come around to realize that what we do, and what people like us do, is positive for them. At the very worst, it releases part of an artist’s song for free, but it’s not like Internet-savvy people couldn’t get at it anyway. It’s free promotion.
Paste: Do you have any favorite mashups you’ve done?
Reidell: The Broken Social Scene and R. Kelly mashup that ABX did stands out to me as our flagship song, and it was the first one that a lot of people heard. There was another one we did early on with T.I. and Fujiya & Miyagi, that one got a huge response from people.
Paste: How long have you been doing DJ sets and live shows?
Reidell: For about two years now. It started as a friend approaching us to play a show. We said okay, but we didn’t really know what we were doing, and definitely mixed a lot of it in advance. Then more show offers started to show up around Chicago, so we developed a way to play live, on-the-fly, a one to four hour set. Then we started working with a booking agent, and did shows all over the States, and a few in Canada. And it’s awesome—we just played Lollapalooza, which was super-exciting, definitely the biggest crowd we’d ever played in front of.
Paste: When can we expect The Mixtape Volume 4 to drop?
Reidell: Four is gonna drop in the fall, and then we’re working on a Hood Internet record for next year. That’s going to be an LP of original stuff, not mashups. But taking the concept of what we do—fusing disparate musical elements—and getting musicians and rappers we’ve met along the way to contribute bits here and there. It’s really going to be a new record from the ground up. Produced by us, but contributed to by many.