Mashing It Up With Jaydiohead

Following his bedroom mash-up of Jay-Z and Radiohead going viral, the king of the cut-ups is set to launch an album. Here he talks copyright, creative urges and guilty pleasures...
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It's the musical success story for the modern age, one person with a relatively humble idea that becomes a sensation almost overnight. But this isn't some apocalyptically awful teenager or a cat playing the organ, this is Max Tannone; a New York native and mash-up artist whose 2009 release “Jaydiohead” combined the eloquent verse of rapper Jay-Z with the musical meanderings of Radiohead and set him on his way to a coveted career in music.

After having further mash-up success with 'Mos Dub', which fused Mos Def with classic reggae samples, and 'Doublecheck Your Head', a reworking of various Beastie Boys tracks, he's now putting the finishing touches on a project inspired by Duncan Jones' sci-fi masterpiece 'Moon' and remaining quite philosophical about the whole adventure.

We'll start with the obvious question. Why Jay-Z and Radiohead? Was it a project you'd wanted to attempt or did it come about more naturally?

Sort of both. I had made the first track "Wrong Prayer" after hearing the Radiohead track "I Might Be Wrong." I mean, I had listened to that song before, but one night I just heard the guitar part and wanted to make a beat from it. I made the beat, and instead of leaving it as an instrumental, put Jay's "Pray" lyrics over it. Thought it sounded good, went back and tweaked it a little, and finally uploaded it onto my Myspace page. It sat there for about a year before I decided to make it into an album - a decision that was spurred by coming up with the name 'Jaydiohead'. Once I got into the process, it became a fun challenge.

Were you surprised by how successful the release was?

Yes. Especially considering the first track had been out for a while before the others, and I didn't really get any feedback regarding it.

What were the legal problems you had with the Minty Fresh Beats moniker?

Lawyers on behalf of Minty Fresh Records, a Chicago based indie-rock label, sent me a cease and desist letter telling me I had to stop using the name. I found this pretty amusing, since the extent of my usage of "Minty Fresh Beats" was a Myspace page and the cover image I made of the first Jaydiohead release. Apparently they were threatened by this. So I'm just using my real name now, Max Tannone.

When you meet somebody who isn't familiar with the particulars of a “mash-up” how do you describe it to them?

Mixing disparate pieces of music together to create something new. I think most people are familiar with mash-ups, but don't know it. The term "mash-up" has been a post-millennium buzzword - but DJs have been doing it for 25+ years. Its just become more advanced now as technology has progressed. Some mash-ups mix ten songs together, some mix two, but the same idea remains. It's like building a Frankenstein song.

I welcome thoughtful and analytical criticism. I don't always agree with it, but do take it into consideration and enjoy hearing the perspective of others. Ultimately, I make what I think is cool. If others disagree, that's fine.

How well received do you think Doublecheck Your Head and Mos Dub have been in relation to Jaydiohead? Have you been able to build on the initial “buzz” or has it been harder to get them out there?

Everything has been pretty well received. Jaydiohead had the biggest reaction for sure. It helped me gain a small following, which in turn helps with getting new stuff out there. I don't look at it as trying to build on past buzz though, each project occupies its own space. I enjoy putting the stuff together and do try to promote it, but ultimately if other people check for it, it's a bonus for me.

Who were your musical influences while you were putting Jaydiohead together? What are they now?

Apart from Jay-Z and Radiohead, I was listening to a bunch of random stuff, and still am. Dylan, Lennon (in particular his Plastic Ono first solo album), early dub reggae music, techno stuff like Boys Noize, Illmatic and It Was Written from Nas, Hello Nasty from the Beastie Boys, Untrue by Burial...too much to name. Sometimes the amount of new music I am exposed to is overwhelming. The over-saturation can make it difficult to digest and appreciate new things.

What do you know now, that you wish you'd known when you started?

That all of my stuff would be bootlegged and sold on vinyl. I don't know what difference it would have made, but I, perhaps naively, never expected that.

Obviously you can't please everyone, and Jaydiohead seemed to really wind up small groups of both artists fans, how concerned are you with criticism?

I welcome thoughtful and analytical criticism. I don't always agree with it, but do take it into consideration and enjoy hearing the perspective of others. Ultimately, I make what I think is cool. If others disagree, that's fine.

If you had to choose between being a producer and being a DJ, which would it be?

A producer. I like the process of creating and sculpting something, then sending it out into the wild.

As someone else who's waded into the murky water of Fruity Loops, did you find that the software restricted your initial creativity or did it enable you to express yourself in ways you hadn't expected?

It's what I started with, so I don't have much to compare it to. I tried out Reason and Pro Tools, but like FL Studio much more. I find it to be very quick and direct as opposed to other programs, though that is very subjective. Whatever works for you.

What are you using for production these days?

FL Studio. Adobe Audition for initial sampling. A bunch of plug-ins. I want to get into using/recording live instrumentation eventually.

What's next? Any exciting projects on the horizon?

I am working on a few remixes for friends who are musicians. Also working on some early sketches for the next remix project. I just finished a five track hip-hop EP inspired by the 2009 science fiction movie Moon, which you can check out here or at my site.

What's the most embarrassing song you'll admit to liking?

The first thing that came to mind was the "Friday" song by Rebecca Black that swallowed up the interwebs. Also "Party In The USA" by Miley Cyrus is pretty ill.

If any readers are heading to NYC soon, where should they go for a good time and some beats?

Depends what you are into. You should eat at Rai Rai Ken in the East Village, then stop by Turntable Lab a few blocks away. Webster Hall or Santos Party House always has something going on. Or you could just put on some headphones and walk around, which is pretty damn entertaining.

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