Part of The Weekend Never Dies
My good friend Tom Tremewan may have changed my life. Searching for a sense of sanity on a recent excursion to Captain Crunch’s World of Weird and Wacky, situated just 5 hours north of Dunedin, he turned to me and fumbled for the only topic that could save us from the Netherworld – music. “Have you seen Part Of The Weekend Never Dies? The Soulwax documentary?” No, I muttered honestly, feeling awfully ignorant conversing with my musically superior friend. “Who the fuck is Soulwax?” I thought. Probably some lame funk/hip hop crossover from the blogosphere, AKA classic Tremewan content. “Oh man, you have to see it. I’ll give it to you.” I obviously assumed that he would never give it to me. Not because he’s unreliable, but because it was a very late-night conversation, in a situation all too familiar to most of us, where many things are said, and more things are forgotten. But he did remember, and he did visit me, lowering the CD/DVD combo gently into my hand, slowly caressing my finger as he disengaged, our gaze holding for that extra second. You know, guy stuff. I loved it. Not my moment with Tom, although that was very special, but the documentary itself. The music. The band. The cinematography. But most importantly, I liked the ideas of the two brothers behind Soulwax.
Soulwax is a rock band. James Murphy, of DFA Records/LCD Soundsystem, announces that to the camera at the beginning of the film. They don’t really sound like a rock band – they are more like LCD Soundsystem than Grinspoon (old irrelevant rock band reference!), but hey, I’m not going to argue with King Murphy. Maybe he means in attitude or ambition, because Soulwax has a lot of both. Long story short, this documentary covers a tour called Radio Soulwax, featuring 2 Many Djs, which is the two Soulwax brothers on the decks playing other people’s music, and Soulwax Live, performing electronic remixes they wrote, of their own popular album and renamed “Nite Versions”, live. Add a bunch of their famous friends including Klaxons, Digitalism, Justice, and of course Murphy, and you have a Radio Soulwax night. Confused? Basically, Soulwax does whatever they like.
Now, big nights with lots of famous musicians are cool, but that’s not the concept that enchanted me, it was the idea of self-remixing. I get bored between releases from bands. Most people do; that’s why Six60 exists – to fill the gaps between Shapeshifter albums. And while Soulwax reimagining their own album with a newly discovered electronic bent is satisfying and exciting, it’s still too long between sounds. Live self-remixing is where the party is at.
Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 is the textbook example. A live set consisting of only their original material, mixed-up, sampled and mashed together. It’s amazing, mind-blowing, and energising. Kanye saw it live and just had to use its excellence to make up for his own shortcomings, and “Stronger” was born. Babies were probably conceived to it. Justice, our generation’s Daft Punk, do much the same, just with more dark, baroque, rock’n’roll energy and less helmets. DJs and electronic acts seem to be the only bands attempting this live, maybe because the instruments they perform on give them the unique ability to do so. Maybe it’s the different crowd expectations. Fans of rock bands want to hear the song they know, the “hit”. The songs are generally written with varying but full structures, songs as stories with beginnings and ends, played one after another. Electronic music has none of these constrictions, however, and sometimes makes me wonder if electronic DJ gigs are actually more fun than live bands. There is still a beginning and end, but the path between is more of a mystery, more dangerous, more exciting. Songs and samples could be bought in and out of left field on a whim. Master Of Puppets can be combined with Slam, creating pure chaos. DJ fans expect a smorgasbord of different artists or songs they love, and they are less focused on “the song” than enjoying the ride of the whole set.
It is this unknown space that can be acceptably filled with anything that makes remixing and self-remixing extremely enjoyable to both the fan and the artist. Both offer the chance to hear old songs in new light, in different contexts and with different preambles. Metallica and Pendulum. Soulwax and Soulwax. Because it’s not the familiar that really gets the blood going, it’s the unknown.