Colatron is the UK's Andy Smart. He's a mashup artist, and one of the minds behind the Bastard Pop concept album, "Mashed in Plastic." He has well over seventy mashups listed at his last.fm page, and you can find new ones posted regularly at his website as well. As evidenced by his photo, he has a lot of fun doing it! Check out his website HERE.
"Mashed in Plastic" was put together in 2008 by 1086 Productions, an international group consisting of Colatron, The Reborn Identity, Wax Audio and Linus. It features Bastard Pop tracks by artists such as Phil RetroSpector, RIAA, ToToM, Voicedude and The Who Boys.
Colatron's latest release is called "Welcome To My World." The ambient mix album was two months in the making, and inspired by The Flying White Dots "3-D" release. You can check it out HERE.
Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Colatron...
*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: (Colatron is) sometimes abbreviated to CLT. I’m also a member of the collective known as 1086 Productions; a bunch of mashers and one writer/soundscape maker, consisting of myself. The Reborn Identity, Wax Audio and Linus (Alan Black). Last year we got our heads together to plan, create, co-ordinate and release the global mash phenomenon which was Mashed In Plastic (over 27,000 downloads and counting), and to this day, we still swap ideas, previews, thoughts etc.
*Do you use a pseudonym? Oh yeah! My real name is Andy Smart, which lacks that certain enigmatic charm of Colatron! If only I’d been christened with a good strong name such as Vance Battleaxe or similar, no need for pseudonyms in that case!
*Members: Haha, we don’t use names…. We refer to each other by numbers - 6, 23, 49 and Φ. In the real world, I’m a solo artist, making all my tracks by myself. However, on one or two mashes I’ve released over the years, I have had contributions in the form of ideas, tips, requests, advice from various other faces on the ‘scene’, such as Bobby Martini, DJ Brother Darkness, and all the guys from 1086. In fact, during the course of tweaking “I’ll Be There In Twin Peaks” for the album, a last minute edit was the removal of drums sampled from a DJ Shadow track, and the addition of original drums by Wax Audio. The change worked for the better I think. I am currently experimenting with Linus on making a dual mash/soundscape, i.e. he works on a section, I add to or twist the section before adding my own section of the track and returning to him for further work. It’s not an original concept for a mash by any stretch of the imagination, but the results so far are truly different than anything I’ve heard before, and I’d describe it as the soundtrack to the greatest movie never made.
*Founding Members: We just kind of came in to existence really. Last summer, I came across a collection of Angelo Badalamenti soundtracks, and being a huge fan of all things David Lynch, and in particular, Twin Peaks, I was determined to make a mash using the iconic jazz-based score. I found that Kylie Minogue was perfect over the top of Dance of the Dream Man (the backing music to THAT scene in Twin Peaks). It sounded sleazy enough to be a lounge bar singer in some backstreet cocktail joint pouring her heart out, whilst retaining a touch of the bizarre, so I threw it out to the masses on premier mash-up forum GYBO, not expecting too much response. How wrong I was. It became one of the longer threads on the boards that summer, and before I knew it, there were whispers abound of how an album should be made of all things Lynch. I think the original suggestion came from either Gav (Reborn Identity) or Alan (Linus), though I did find out at a later date that Alan and Tom (Wax Audio) had suggested such an album about a year previous after RIAA’s fabulous ‘Eraserhead Serenade’ was originally released. The guys quickly set up a thread appealing for contributors, and before we knew it, Wax Audio had come on board as both a contributor and sound engineer/producer. And thus 1086 Productions was born. The rest as they say, is yesterday’s news!
*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: Definitely Digital Deconstruction. I’m no Steinski, and if you were to put a pair of Technics or CD-Js in front of me, I’d have trouble powering them up! When I first got a PC at home, I’d spent several years listening to mashup, bootleg, bastard pop, glitch, electroclash, or whatever the genre name of the day was, and I was determined to have a go myself. I got a hold of a copy of Sony Acid Pro 6.0 and like an idiot, I rushed straight in, making a full length ‘mix’. It was shambolic. The mixing was all over the shop, there was no beat-matching. The acapellas I used were so far out of key, the local dogs would be at my door howling! Fortunately, I realized I was rubbish so I took a step back, and spent the next 3 or 4 months practicing, adjusting tempos, cutting up loops and samples, spending more time trying to get an ear for combinations that worked (I played guitar for 10 years so my musical ear wasn’t too bad). Those early works are still not the best, and in fact, many of them remain offline out of sheer embarrassment. But I plugged away, slowly getting more confident. I next got Adobe Audition 2.0 which I loved as it had some great FX included in the software with some very useable presets. It opened up my ears to the art of mastering, getting levels correct and so on. Changed ‘my sound’ no end, and added that level of polish that had been missing. Acid 6.0 remains my weapon of choice though, as it’s so intuitive with its waveform visualizations meaning easy track cue ups. So, to generalize how I come up with tracks, I’ll often get an idea in the car, listening to CDs whilst driving. I’ll whistle a melody over another track or count the beats to think about what may fit. Then I’ll scour the net or my CD collection looking for those tracks in instrumental or acapella form. I drop both in to Acid and work out a rough layout with beatmapping applied, before working through the structure, fine-adjusting the tempos or cutting and repositioning if required (my friend has christened my process ‘Click and Stick’). I’ll then render this to separate MP3 or WAV tracks, before loading all in to Audition to make further fine adjustments (audio muting and noise reduction on the rough parts, fades on vocals, reverb, mastering etc.). Then I’ll render my mixdown before ID3 tagging and putting the artwork together in Photoshop. Occasionally, as any good bootlegger can tell you, Acid is terrible for extreme beatmapping or timestretching, and so you are left with ‘wobbly’ artifacts which can really ruin a track, and so recently I’ve been using Ableton to ‘warp’ acapellas or instrumentals. The algorithms are so much more powerful giving a smoother stretched source track. But don’t ask me to make any tracks wholly in Ableton – I know many producers swear it’s the easiest software in the world to produce with but its gobbledy-gook to me (and I’m a qualified Astrophysicist!). As mentioned, I’ll source the majority of my instrumentals or acapellas from online, but when occasion demands, I will make my own through the usual phase inversion and centre channel extraction techniques. I’ve been tempted to try the 5.1 Surround Sound extractions which some of the bigger name producers have dabbled with, and recently I’ve come across MOGG files (multi-track audio files used in games such as Rock Band) which has given me access to a whole new fresh batch of records. Sometimes I’ll use the full original version of a song, with both music and vocals, which can be so much more demanding, but the results if realized, can be stunning. Finally, I’m a huge fan of using snippets of dialogue and movie samples in my work, so I’ll generally get these from the multitude of movie WAV pages there are online, or a couple of internet pages that specialize in obscure recordings. If I can’t find it in WAV form, I’ll rip it from Youtube. If it doesn’t exist on there, I’ll generate it myself using a text-to-speech generator!
*Another genre descriptor: I’d class myself as a red wine based mangler of sounds! Seriously, my better work tends to come from when I’ve had a drink or 5, I guess because there are no inhibitions to throwing some of the more bizarre combinations together (Marvin Gaye and big brass band music anyone?). Drinking is highly encouraged in the Mash-Cave at Chez Colatron. I guess the correct term would be a living-room DJ (no room for the PC in the bedroom!) The majority of my tracks are straight-forward A+B mashes (I still find something exciting in hearing a track being sung in a completely stylistically different setting), but as of late, I’ve begun veering towards more thoughtful, almost ambient-style soundscapes, describing a journey or personal emotion. I don’t know what you’d call it though….art for art’s sake?
*Is there a story behind your name? The name Colatron came about as a result of a bizarre conversation with my friend, local chip shop magnate, Colin Cola in the pub one night. He proclaimed if he were an alien, he would come from the Planet Colatron. He’s an old Greek guy I’ve known from the pub for some years now, and he works in refrigeration, so here was the surreal sight of an elderly guy claiming to be an alien, shooting blocks of ice from his fists. It somehow stuck with me. A terrible nom de plume, but it’s stuck now and it’d be a struggle now to get recognized as anyone else (though I would still love to put something out under the name of the Midnight Phantom).
*Location: 1086 is a worldwide operation, Gav and I being based in the UK, Alan out in Southern California and Tom out in Australia (the name of 1086 Productions comes from the time differences between our respective bases). The wonders of email and the internet, eh? I’d probably wither away without my trusty ADSL connection now…
*Original Location: I’m originally from a small village on the outskirts of Birmingham, UK. I’ve moved around the country a bit though, living in Leeds when at University, a lot of time was spent in Nottingham (Robin Hood country!), a brief time was spent in London when working down there (I somehow ended up working at the Home Office at the rear of St. James’ Park), and now I’ve come home like the Prodigal Son I am, living in Birmingham City Centre right now.
*What is your creative/artistic background: I’ve always been a fairly creative person, certainly at school. I studied A-Level Art, which is possibly where my eye for Photoshop madness comes from (self-taught, probably doing it wrong, but some of them turn out pretty cool). As mentioned, at University, I studied Astrophysics for some bizarre reason, so I wasn’t so creative in that respect, though it was at Uni, I first picked up a guitar, and spent the next few years coming up with some nice chilled acoustic melodies. As a result that got me into Indie music, having previously only ever listened to old school hardcore and house. However, after discovering my first mash-up I started to veer back towards electronic music and beats, getting into the likes of the Scratch Perverts, DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist and Z*Trip. Big influences on me. So whilst not a artistically gifted person in the true sense of the word, it’s always been there bubbling away under the surface.
*History: I began mashing approx. 2 years ago. As I say, you can probably wipe out the first 6 months of the existence of Colatron. Dark days. I like to think I’m halfway there now though!
*Born: I was born back in ’78 in a small town called Marston Green. But if anyone asks, Colatron has existed since the dawn of time, and came in to existence in a cacophony of light and sound. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
*Motivations: Because I can? Umm… it’s a mixture of things really. It’s my creative outlet. It gives me pleasure. You can’t beat the feeling of euphoria you get when you discover two tracks blend so well. I am sometimes inspired by events in my personal life (extreme emotions such as falling in love or loss and despair have inspired me to make tracks to accordingly fit those moods) or even something I have seen on the TV can inspire a track (religion-based, political statements etc.). Sometimes, I can hear a live mash-up whilst out and about and try to recreate it with my own spin on proceedings (for example, DJ Shadow mashing Six Day War and Walkie Talkie live, Orbital spinning Halcyon with Belinda Carlisle and Opus III mixed in, and so on). I do what I do for me. Always have done. And if anyone else enjoys it, it’s a huge bonus and ego booster.
*Philosophy: Depending upon what style of mash I am making, it’ll either be to give people a smile on their faces and a good time (out and out dancefloor friendly), to make them join in a good old fashioned sing song (some of the more guitar based tracks) or to take them on a journey through space and time, and force them to think about the bigger picture (my more ethereal mixes – check out the “Welcome to My World” mix for example). But whatever the style, the key element is always to entertain.
*How would you like to be remembered: As the long-haired, tattooed science geek who made the world a slightly fuzzier place through some crazy messed up sounds.