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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An Interview with Dashiell Driscoll the Man Behind Audiobytes for Autobots

A new mash-up album by Audiobytes for Autobots has taken the internet by storm. Released on May 18th, 2008, the new album entitled simply 2.0 is the brainchild of 21 year old Dashiell Driscoll. The tracks on 2.0 have been characterized as a “dramatic shift towards a cleaner, refined and generally more danceable sound.” Imagine hearing the cartoon Batman theme song mixed with Kelis’ “Milkshake”, Broken Social Scene’s “KC Accidental” superimposed over a hip hop beat, or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers mashed with Dr. Dre. There are even clips from Jurassic Park and Knight Rider thrown in there. 2.0 can’t adequately be described in words, it has to be listened to. Recently, Jetcomx’s head writer was lucky enough to chat with the man who has opened for artists such as Dead Prez and the RZA.

Boni: So, tell us a little about yourself. Who is the man behind Audiobytes for Autobots?
Dashiell: My name is Dashiell Driscoll and I’m originally from Los Angeles. I go to school about 40 miles outside of Los Angeles at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. I’ll be a senior in the fall.

Boni: What made you decide to begin mashing up songs? It seems like an odd hobby to pick up.
Dashiell: I used to really enjoy making mix cd’s and wanted to make a mix cd with every single song I was listening to at the time. I started to notice little similarities in songs and would sometimes hear where a song might fit over another one if it was in heavy rotation. Plus, when I started in March of 2004, there really wasn’t anything like it. I just wanted to see if I could make something new out of old material, or something original out of something that wasn’t even mine.

Boni: Audiobytes for Autobots is a pretty atypical stage name. How did you decide on it?
Dashiell: I’m a pretty big Transformers fan and I just sort of liked the idea that if there was a genre just made up of digital timelines and cuts in audio files, it would be made by a robot. I’m also an admittedly huge Daft Punk fan, so robot vocabulary just felt right. …If that makes any sense at all.

Boni: Who are your biggest influences in the music world?
Dashiell: When I started, old school rap and motown was pretty much all I was listening to. Now I’m definitely more influenced by clear cut digital feeling music with really rigid beat structures. I’d say on 2.0 the biggest influences were Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, Ratatat, and Mike Relm, who’s been a huge influence on me for quite some time.

Boni: I’ve read that your first release Prime Cuts took 3 years to make. Is this true?
Dashiell: Yeah it’s true, but it’s kind of a misleading way to phrase it. I started Prime Cuts in 2004 and put it out in 2007, but most of those songs were completely done in 2005. I just could never get comfortable deciding what would be on the final version. I would drive myself crazy fixing little things or making new songs. Then, I went to college and was frustrated [with the project] my freshman year, so I just threw up my hands to the whole thing. The following year I decided to put the time in and finish up the project, so I could just put it out there and know I had a definitive copy.

Boni: So are you completely satisfied with Prime Cuts, or are there still parts that you would like to fix/change?
Dashiell: Yeah sometimes I listen to parts of it and just cringe, but I try to use that as an opportunity to do something different with those tracks, if I choose to play with any of them live. I think there are always going to be rough patches considering I had no formal training and no idea what I was doing. I was just messing around on GarageBand in my spare time. I just had to let it go and put it out there.

Boni: Your new album 2.0 made big waves on the internet, especially after you made Digg’s front page. Did you ever expect to gain the amount of notoriety that you did?
Dashiell: I’ve been lucky enough to have a pretty solid base of internet support from various communities for a long time, including Digg, but I definitely didn’t expect what happened. The original zSHARE link I put on Digg hit about 17,000 downloads, my last.fm listens shot up, and I’ve been getting contacted by a ton of people who just want to express their interest. It’s a great thing to be able to share something you spend time on with so many people and have such a positive response.

Boni: Have there been any offers of a possible signing with a label (Illegal Art, etc)?
Dashiell: [chuckles] Not yet. I doubt that’s going to happen, to be honest. I contacted Illegal Art when Prime Cuts came out but never heard back from them. I guess it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do that again.

Boni: Yeah, it couldn’t hurt. Have you begun to make any profit off of your releases?
Dashiell: Nope. My server costs actually went up so I’m losing a little more money per month than usual. I don’t really plan on making any money off of this in the foreseeable future, it’s just a hobby I enjoy sharing with people. And for the time being, I’m lucky enough that there are people who are showing some interest in it.

Boni: What exactly is the legality of sampling all of these artists’ work? I’m assuming you didn’t ask each one for permission.
Dashiell: Yeah I have no idea, to be honest. I know I’m not making any money but it’s probably some gray area.

Boni: How much time exactly did you spend working on your latest album, 2.0? How did this compare to Prime Cuts?
Dashiell: I started 2.0 in September 2007 and put it out in May 2008, so about 8 months. I would work on it for hours some days and then just ignore it for a week or so when I felt like I was hitting a wall. I definitely spent more minutes messing around with the tracks in Prime Cuts but it wasn’t as focused as the time i spent on 2.0.

Boni: The album art for 2.0 is pretty cool since it looks hand drawn. Tell us about it.
Dashiell: It goes back to the whole relationship between humans and technology, which robots sort of represent to me. I’m a huge fan of the film Tron. I’ve been a big fan of that particular artist rendering of Tron for a long time after I found it on Deviant Art a while ago. It also seemed especially appropriate because this was an artist who took the time to re-interpret and re-create someone else’s iconic pop culture work.

Boni: How did you decide on which song/beat/lyric to mash up with what? It seems like there are millions of different ways you could do it.
Dashiell: It’s all trial and error. I just decide I want to sample some song I’ve been listening to a lot lately and drag it into Ableton Live. Sometimes I’ll drag it into a track I’ve already been working with and completely re-work everything to fit it in. Other times I’ll just start something new around it. The worst part is struggling with the pieces and just realizing it’s not going to work any way you re-arrange it.

Boni: Most people say that you are essentially another Girl Talk. Do you like this characterization?
Dashiell: It’s a little frustrating just because I can hear a lot of differences between us. I think we’re both definitely part of the same genre but we do things a lot differently. He samples a lot of things I probably wouldn’t and I’m guessing that’s just based on his own personal music preferences. I think he definitely exploded and it’s hard to stand alone and not get compared to him, but I’m genuinely flattered that people would even put me in the same sentence as him. I have nothing but respect for his work and think he’s one of the better live performers I’ve ever seen. I actually hesitate to listen to his albums just because I’m worried it will somehow affect me to the point where we would start sounding alike. I’d like to keep as much difference as possible. I think two artists can occupy the same genre at the same time, but there needs to be some differences.

Boni: Speaking of Girl Talk, he just released his new album Feed the Animals via a pay-what-you-think-is-appropriate system. What are your thoughts?
Dashiell: The whole Radiohead archetype is genius. I absolutely love that. Offering music up for free is great, but giving people the option to pay isn’t capitalistic or greedy - it’s just a fair exchange between the person with the product and the consumer. I gave the album one full listen just to make sure we didn’t have some serious overlaps in samples. I really enjoyed it a lot and then had to put it down to make sure it didn’t influence me too much. He really did a great job with it though.

Boni: Do you have any tips for people who are looking to make a name for themselves in the mash-up genre?
Dashiell: [They need] patience. It’s so time consuming sometimes and you can’t expect to go anywhere too fast. You need to really learn to read the soundwave and make cuts that do more than just playback a song you like. Re-arrange parts, loop, layer and take chances. I try to make it a rule of thumb to only sample songs I enjoy listening to in their entirety, but that’s really for the person in front of the sequencer to decide.

Boni: Is it possible that we could get the full list of all the artists sampled on your tracks? A lot of people are dying to know.
Dashiell: [chuckles] Wow, didn’t realize a lot of people were interested…I saw what Girl Talk did with his Wiki page for Feed the Animals and might put something like that up in the near future. To be honest, I couldn’t even tell you everything. There are some samples I still have to manually look up when people ask me. I drag so much random stuff in there and cut it up beyond the point of recognition that I can’t always hear what the original track is.

Boni: Can we expect any new releases any time soon? What about performance dates?
Dashiell: I’ll definitely be doing some shows over the summer in the Los Angeles area. Nothing is confirmed, but I’m working on putting a few things together. As far as new material, I’m guessing it will be at least 6 months. Six months is the very, very low end of the amount of time it might take.

Boni: Alright. This concludes the interview. Is there anything else you want to say?

Dashiell: That was pretty painless [chuckles]. Shoutout to Coachella music festival founder Paul Tollett! I named the track “Sahara Tent” on 2.0 after a tent at Coachella that had Chromeo and M.I.A. playing back to back - both of whom are featured on that track. If he wants to have me do a set in there next year I’d be more than happy to.

The first album Prime Cuts can be downloaded here via zSHARE.
The newest album 2.0 can be downloaded here via zSHARE and streamed here via Last.fm.

Original here

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