Even if you don’t know his name, chances are you are aware of Max Tannone. The man’s mashups have garnered him attention from his subjects, praise from all reaches of the internet, and blown up enough to see bootlegs made the old-fashioned way. After bursting into the public eye with his remarkable Jaydiohead LP (mixing Radiohead’s music with Jay Z’s vocals), Tannone’s output has remained consistently engaging and creative. Now riding the wave of his latest experiment, Ghostfunk an album combining Ghostface Killah with various African funk music, he was kind enough to take a few moments to answer questions both serious and humorous.

 

How did you decide to start mashing up disparate sources? To what degree does the wordplay of each release’s title play a factor?

It was just an experiment. Jaydiohead was the first collection of tracks I did with a running theme. Before that I had done a few blends, really just to learn how to match tempos and add small effects and weird sounds. After that it was just a process I wanted to continue, trying to marry different musical interests. The titles aren't that important. I like to have a catchy title, but its the music that matters. I will sometimes get emails suggesting title combinations for new projects. Some of the Frankenstein titles are pretty good.

You’ve described the process you use to create a track already. How much do you choose to limit yourself in this process in relation to the editing and choice of methodologies?

I suppose I have a methodology that works for me. This can be a double edged sword. When you always work with the same set of tools, the process can become somewhat rote. What lifts me of out of this is the concept I am working on. So for example, spending a few hours chopping little bits of audio becomes tedious, but at least I am working with a new (new to me) type of music like African funk. Ultimately, the process is enjoyable or I wouldn't be doing it...but there are times you want to throw everything away and force yourself to do something new. So I guess I limit myself enough to help meet a personal deadline, but is a fair amount of trial and error in that time frame.

Who has influenced your style the most? Why?

So hard to say. Two albums that come to mind are Paul's Boutique and Odelay, which both involved the Dust Brothers. But really there are many sample heavy albums, and non-sample heavy albums, that have influenced me. There is such a strong DJ culture and electronic beat scene now which is an influence as well. Listing my influences is really just listing my favorite artists and musicians, which is a pretty long list. Whenever I try to answer a question like this, my response always feels incomplete. A lot of influence comes from my favorite hip-hop producers as well. DJ Premier, Q-Tip, Just Blaze...the list continues. 

How has the free download scheme treated you? I know that bootleg 12” have popped up – does that make you angry or more proud that you’ve attained that level of popularity?

My goal is to share the music as quickly, cheaply, and easily as possible with as many people as possible. So I've been offering free downloads of zip files directly from my site and using Soundcloud for streaming. So it has worked out well. The goal was never to make money, and I haven't, but the bootleg stuff doesn't make me angry. It is what it is. There will always be people who try to take advantage of something for personal gain, I can't worry about that. I don't think it takes much to get bootlegged by people these days. 

What is your opinion of the still looming possibility of net neutrality litigation in the US?

I am not an expert on the issue. My understanding is that opponents of net neutrality want to discriminate between different types of Internet traffic, and for a number of different reasons including the protection of intellectual property. I would like the Internet to remain free, open, and anonymous, though this is all changing. Any great new technology creates disruption, and we are seeing that now, especially in media. The record companies got it wrong. Now they are trying to play catch up. The movie studios and television networks are trying to adapt new models, while companies like Netflix and Apple are setting precedents for how we access our movies and music. Regardless of net neutrality litigation, piracy will always exist. I think any efforts by major telecom companies (and thereby movie studios, etc) to shelter their copy-written data packets will not only fail to bolster their bottom line, but will also result in a loss of convenience for the average consumer.  

Since you host and mirror your own music, you must plan in some way for widespread reposting. Do you actively seek out reposts or just let them go and anticipate more traffic on your own page?

I let it all go. Even I didn't want people reposting download links on sites like rapidshare or mediafire, it would be impossible to stop. However, since its just helping more people to hear it, I'm all for it. I encourage people to share it in whatever way they want. Don't just share it, chop it up, remix my remix. Put a video to it. Whatever. Its fun to partake in creativity.

What is your opinion of the remix culture at large? In an industry where a B-side remix can be as popular as the single, do you see the remix as a more valid form than an original in some cases?

My generation, and especially younger generations, are growing up in a culture where everything can be re-appropriated in an instant. And then those re-appropriations can be re-appropriated several times over. I like how computers and the internet have removed the barriers to entry for creating and distributing content. It makes me feel like things are attainable. I remember not being able to imagine how a techno song was made or how a film could possibly be edited together. Now a 13 year old kid can do them on a cell phone. Its crazy. I love it. As far as remixes being more valid than an original, I've never really thought about it in terms of validity. Its just a different take on something. When you start to try and define or map out varying degrees of derivation and their associated worth, it can drive you crazy. Computers are fun and people have a lot of time on their hands. I just leave it at that.

Why the change from Minty Fresh Beats to your own name?

In 2009 I got a cease and desist letter from Minty Fresh Records, a record label from Chicago. I guess they felt threatened.

Do you have any particularly amusing stories as a result of the attention your music has received?

Doing the Jaydiohead project led me to the opportunity of doing a remix project for the Beastie Boys, thanks to Ad-Rock. I also got to meet Talib Kweli which was very cool, and he said he like the Dub Kweli project. Its always an honor to get feedback from the artists who inspire me in the first place.

Who is your dream collaborator? Who would you most like to see remix or mash your own output?

Again it's really hard to say. The artists I like have already done so much, it's hard to imagine how I could contribute to their body of work. As far as someone remixing something I have done, there are a lot of people. Madlib or Doom would be cool.

Where do you see yourself artistically in five years?

Honestly I don't know. Most likely I will still be doing similar stuff. I don't really have an end game, so to predict anything concrete or grand sounds foolish to me. Who knows.

Quick – favorite deciduous tree and favorite past participle verb.

Full disclaimer, I had to look up what both of those mean. That being said, "willow tree" and "dreamt."

 

Any closing words?

Shut, seal, secure, plug.



The work of Max Tannone can be found and downloaded free of charge at maxtannone.com.