Wax Audio's Tom Compagnoni: Portrait Of A Mash-Up Artist

Rocks Off is quite keen on YouTube mashups. Whether it's famous ones like the contentious "Boulevard of Broken Songs," which melds Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" with Oasis's "Wonderwall" - and Noel Gallagher still says Green Day should pay him for ripping off his song - or the absolute perfection of parody that is Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" semi-featuring Danzig, we just instantly fall in love when heroes and villains team up.

The latest one we've come across is Wax Audio's workup of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall Part II" and the Bee Gees's "Stayin' Alive." You're picturing it, aren't you? For the first time you're realizing just how similar those guitar parts are. Take a listen:

Rocks Off sat down with Tom Compagnoni of Wax Audio to ask what drives someone to Human Centipede together two iconic '70s bands into this phantasmagoria of fusion.

Rocks Off: Other than some similar parts, what made you want to combine these two songs?

Tom Compagnoni: It just seemed like an obvious match. I composed the whole thing in my head, singing it in the shower, before sitting down to bash it out on the computer. Once I started I realized that it was going to be way harder than I first imagined.

The two tracks, whilst having similar structures harmonically, are in completely different keys. To get them to work together required some serious pitch-shifting and meticulous beat matching. Every single beat in the track is manually corrected so it fits perfectly.

RO: Do you think the mashup gives the songs a combination of their original messages, or a whole new message all together?

TC: I think it's interesting because "The Wall" is about alienation and "Stayin' Alive" is about struggling through life - heard together, they give off two different perspectives of life's hardships and challenges. But to be honest, that didn't really occur to me when I was making it. I was more struck by how well the songs complemented each other stylistically and harmonically.

RO: How did you get started doing mashups?

TC: I have always had an interest in audio editing and producing. I used to make remixes as a kid on the tape recorder using the pause button excessively (breaking several of them in the process). When computers started becoming widely available to consumers along with professional audio editing software, I just jumped all over it.

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When I first heard mashups in around 2002, I just knew this was something I had to get into. I knew I would be good at it; it's an instinctive thing for me. Plus the advent of the WWW meant there was a huge and accessible audience out there. It was a technological and cultural revolution and I wanted to be a part of it.

RO: Has there been any backlash from offended fans of either band?

TC: The responses I've received have been almost always positive. I've been contacted by several of the artists who I have mashed and complimented on my work. Just recently AC/DC put one of my mashups featuring them on their Facebook page, and the track has gone completely viral across the Internet.

Only once have I ever been asked to take a mashup off my Web site (for legal reasons). Sure, you can't please everybody and I read the odd humorous comment [on] YouTube suggesting I should be publicly flogged, but that's all par for the course.

RO: What's up for the future?

TC: More mashing! Though since becoming a dad for the first time nine months ago, a lot of what I will be mashing will be the baby's dinner! But I'll never give up, it's become a very serious hobby of mine and it has entertained millions of people around the world which is totally amazing. Sure, I don't get paid a cent for it, but most people don't get paid for their hobbies.

I've been approached by numerous industry people over the years with vague offers and I still hold out hope that one day someone out there will offer me a ton of money for my skills, but until then, I'll just keep on mashin' for the fun of it.

Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.

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