DJ Jez & videographer Kieron talk shop (2010)

After the creative discussion of their Crackdown remix and protest video for Billie Ray Martin’s cover versions of Cabaret Voltaire’s classic Crackdown, Jez and Kieron talk about copyright and the state of the creative enterprise in music.

L.A. Roka: How can one be successful in today’s music economy?

Kieron: The success lies in those who reinvent themselves.

Jeremy (Jez) Biggs: One of the great things about mashup culture is that it’s completely anti-genre and about breaking down all the marketing boundaries. One of the things about rave culture was that you could go out and hear all kinds of dance music in one night. As rave culture progressed, you had sub-genres which were just bollocks basically.

Kieron: They lent themselves to a snobby attitude and exclusivity. It all boils down to greed. A lot of these record labels said, “we are the authority of this particular genre of music and therefore, we’re going to open a club just for the people we like.” So it manifested itself into something far from the original ideology. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, you could be listening to something as slow as dub reggae and then by the end of the night you could have something like hundred forty-hundred fifty beats per minute. And the dynamic and diversity of music you listened to was a huge part of the enjoyment as a music fan.

Jez: The Beastie Boys are an excellent example. They have really been ahead of the curve in supporting the remix culture. They released the acappellas of all their songs on their website. For free. Trent Reznor also has been a spearhead by showing new models of business for musicians to earn a living. It’s great to be able to have file sharing but also people have to afford a living. As long as you can feed yourself and have a place to live, I think that is all anyone can ask for.

L.A. Roka: How do you see the notions of intellectual property and copyright in today’s media environment and as linked to the Crackdown video?

Jez: The bootleg scene took off online in 2001 and 2002 with all of these disparate collections of mashup artists all around the world. They were really starting to congregate around GYBO [Get Your Bootleg On] and there was a blog as well. Mashups came from Napster and that was what interested me and brought me into the scene: this idea of sharing music and being a bit wrong—a bit illegal, if you know what I mean.

What interested me about mashups is the whole notion of intellectual property breaking down. With a mashup, it’s really a collage of two or more disparate elements to produce a new original work and it seems to be happening in all elements of the art world. The idea is not new but the technology now is that anyone can do it.

Kieron: Looking at the news lately, a lot of the sentiment expressed in the video from my perspective is that the videomaker reflects very much this debate about copyright law and, of course, taking it further into Wikileaks. There is a war at the moment, really to put in as blunt terms as that. It’s an ideological war between the freedom of information and the stripping of all copyright—all notions of copyright—and, in music, it’s mostly running up against the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] and every nation, of course, has something similar like this.

It’s interesting in following the Wikileaks case where they gravitate towards Sweden which has very relaxed copyright laws and Julian Assange is trying to get [residency] there because of the problems he’s had with the United States government.

On a larger kind of geopolitical scale, what we’re doing musically doesn’t really compare but, at the same time, there is a comparison to be made. Certainly at the forefront of my mind, when I was working on this project, the notion of cracking down on copyright—keeping the Internet free—does obviously transpose to that level of argument.

Click to read Jez, Kieron & Roka’s discussion of the remix and video: The Celebrity Murder Party Crackdown.