Skeeter Interview

It's been half a decade since mp3s came into common usage, and there's a new generation of artists who have started their musical work in this context, relying on digital mediums for their tools, sounds, distribution, community and so on. Skeeter is one such artist. In the following interview, Skeeter discusses the mindset behind a net-centric musician. The following interview was conducted over the phone, with Skeeter talking from his home in Toronto, Canada.

Better Propaganda Editor Terbo Ted talks to Skeeter

Better Propaganda: What does Skeeter do and how would you explain it to someone else?

Skeeter: Well that's uh, I don't know. I have no idea. What I do? I guess just simply, I take the piss. I like to take the piss out of things, I like to make fun of things, I usually treat things in a sort of a jovial manner, and just like to have fun with most of the things. I really don't like to take things too seriously, you know, just have fun with it, about that.

BP: You're not afraid to do some crazy remix sampling of songs and make points out of it. You've grown up as an artist, and you're doing all this sampling, and here, you're in a world where that's technically illegal, but you're not someone who's not going to attract enough attention to get in trouble, what's that like?

S: Well, actually, the theory I have behind it, or just my thoughts on the whole thing, is that music's going to be around a lot longer than any of these copyrights and that, you know, when you get really down to something, I mean like, you know, say you take like a guitar phrase, which is like three different notes, if you break it down far enough, say, a single note, then who really owns that? Does Gibson own the sound itself? (laughter) Does Les Paul? I mean, you could take it down to like such a level that it just gets totally inane. Its a phrasing of three different notes, I mean obviously, somebody used that phrasing of notes before, or someone said that phrase before, sound is universal. Being able to copyright sound seems absurd to me.

BP: Throughout your musical work, you've relied mostly on mp3 portal sites for distribution, that's correct, right?

S: Yeah, that's correct.

BP: And you've run into sampling problems at some of those sites?

S: Um, most of the sites, because they're running a business and they don't want to get in trouble with copyright laws, they have a policy against, you know, using blatant samples. But what I found using various sites, that you can really sneak stuff by. You know, obviously the people working there have like a body of work that they have to go through each day, and so if something's a little more obscure, or not so blatant, like, for instance like a britney spears sample and so on, you can usually get stuff by if its more obscure. But I've had success with getting certain things past some of the mp3 censors, like you know, Limp Bizkit samples and really funny stuff, that totally plays- and really makes- I have a lot of fun trying to get samples past the censors, it's kind of like a little game I play.

BP: You're someone that's done a lot of deliberately low-res 8-bit music online, and you've worked in super lo-res formats deliberately, and even encouraged other people to do so, and that's becoming a bit of a movement now. Malcolm McLaren- you might remember as being one of the masterminds behind some of the Sex Pistols marketing- has been taking a lot of credit recently for 8bit music, what's your take on that?

S: That's kind of interesting, I mean, you know, Malcolm McLaren has his fingers in everything. I actually was just reading the other day that he and Yanni actually wrote the British Airways theme, the uh... I forget what it's called. I mean that's kinda funny, that guy seems to have his fingers in every pie. But, regarding 8bit music: the way I feel about music is that, I like a kind of raw quality in music. I think music, when it's overly polished- you know sort of like a prog rock, prog trance, UK drum and bass, when you know, it's really just an engineer style of music- and what people seem to appreciate is more how it sounds over the emotion, or the ideas that the song is trying to convey, and i say screw all that, it's like an immediate, pure reaction. If it happens to be a lower bit quality, or a bad quality mp3 or whatnot, it's not really important, because it's really what the idea and message behind the track which is really important, not really how CRISP or whatever the hell it sounds like, those type of qualities really do not interest me in electronic music.

BP: So musically, you would be doing something that the fashion world equivalent would be called 'deconstructivism,' where they've got like the stitches on the outside, and everything unfinished and kinda crude, that's where you're getting at, right?

S: Yeah.

BP: And this spitbass movement you were working on was part of that, what can you say about that?

S: Um, not much to say about it, i mean... like... hmmm.

BP: What was the basic premise?

S: Once again, just taking the piss, just like having fun with things, you know make fun of things. It was sort of this perpetual thing, not so much a rhyme or reason to it, just sort of like playing off the other person that sort of came up with it with me, and we just sort of like went back and forth. I was working on sort of short little fifteen second songs, and then he did something, and then I did something, and eventually we came up with sort of like a formula and sort of like a guide of how to do this, and we sort of christened it as spit bass.

BP: And not just spitbass- which was an online community- but you've been in a bunch of online communities, of different kinds of music. You've organized a number of remix contests, you were part of the speedbass movement. That's totally a different era and mindset than music traditionally, where it's been about a local club scene, or about getting on to the airwaves, or getting your record sent through a distributor, I mean, it's something totally different. But that's how you've been all along, isn't that right?

S: Yeah, that's correct. I guess just for the way, the style of music I do is not completely palatable to, you know, the masses- not to generalize- but, it's not really something that I'm going to have a chance to play out very often in a club setting towards lots of people, so I have to take other avenues, and one of the avenues I took is the online community. Since I can find all three people in each city who are into this music, we can all communicate online. It sort of builds sort of like a scene, but it's not really so much a scene because it doesn't exist physically, but we all know each other, we see each other every once in awhile when we go visit each other. It's more cohesive, yet it's not really cohesive at all, it's sort of virtual cohesive. So, I guess that's a road I had to take, um, because, you know, there's just not enough people to warrant doing this in my city physically. So online is the way to go.

BP: And you're in a really big city, so you must be really out there with the stuff you're working on. (laughter)

S: Oh yeah, completely.

BP: So the net centric thing allows you to get to a specific community that wouldn't necessarily exist in realtime.

S: Yeah. It's like a virtual community. It's like a hub for like-minded people who all meet and work together, it creates an interesting atmosphere.

BP: Can you give an example of how that would work to an artist? You know, if someone isn't familiar to this sort of idea, can you describe what it feels like, or what the process would be to join a community, make a track and share it?

S: Well it's fairly simple. I mean, the best example would be currently with soul seek. With soul seek it's kind of set up like an IRC chat room, and there's certain rooms devoted to different genres. And so, you enter the speedbass room or the breakcore room or whatnot, and other people will be chatting, and ideas will start formulating. I'll give you an example, one of the ideas that we're formulating and we're working on right now is a compilation of artists who really spend way too much time in the breakcore room. So we're putting together a compilation, and it's themed around Ninja Turtles and pirates and totally bizarre ideas that we totally throw off each other. And you know, this is not a commercial release, nobody is going to get this pressed or anything, it's totally like fly-by-your-seat DIY like half-assed mp3 compilation that we put up online for other people to download. And the whole point is just to have some fun with it, totally take the whole ego aspect out of the whole thing, of you know, releasing vinyl and looking cool and all that shit, because you know, I don't think anybody is really interested in that, and take a really amateur approach to the whole thing, just so the whole purpose is just to have some fun with it.

BP: It seems that like a lot of your work is not only standing in total polarized opposition to the mass media, but even the underground, you'll lampoon and make fun of. So where does that leave you, are you always gonna be off on the edge, far away from accepted standards, or is there room for you in the major media corporations, I mean, how do you see your future for this?

S: Uh, oh yeah, I do have to agree with you that, you know, like... I guess that's just who I am, that I'll lampoon anything... I'm just not really comfortable with being conventional, or conforming, even conforming to like really marginal things like an underground culture. I just... that's who I want to be, and you know, just do things differently. Maybe one day, the big indie IDM labels want to put out country-influenced fast dance music, (laughter) but you know, that's not gonna happen anytime soon.

BP: So you're content with your station in life, and you're able to find like, uh, expression and community through the internet, and that's just all working fine for you.

S: Yeah, that's correct. Once again, I'm having fun with this. I don't do this to pay the bills you know. I knew that from the get-go, that this was not bill paying music. If I was interested in paying bills, I'd rename myself DJ Ballwasher and play epic trance to a bunch of losers, but you know, I'm not interested in doing that. What I'm interested in doing is expressing myself, in a certain way, even if that means going against the grain, even from the masses' point of view, but even from an underground perspective. That's just who I am and that's what I want to do.

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