Remix music video for Pogo’s Alice
A few weeks ago I came across this most amazing collision of music, animation and technology via a tweet from Youtube ethnographer Mike Wesch. This led me to ‘Alice’ (above), which led me to electronic music and mashup artist, Pogo. Given my own recent explorations of remix culture and interest in transmedia for education, I was inspired to contact Pogo via his Youtube channel and ask for an interview. To my delight, he agreed.
‘Pogo’ (aka Nick Bertke) is a 20 year old Australian musician whose remix music videos have attracted an enormous and devoted following. A virtuoso sampler, Pogo draws on sounds and images from children’s films and movies to produce wholly original works. Pogo’s best known work, Alice, has received over 4, 405, 411 views in Youtube. Pogo’s videos are definitive works of remix art and exemplars of power of user-generated culture.
REMIXING WONDERLAND: Inspirations and explorations
MM: How did this journey in remix begin?
Pogo: My experiences with music began when I was two. My folks had bestowed upon me a state of the art, super sexy desktop tape recorder. Listening to cassettes quickly became my number one pastime (as if one leads a busy life as a child), and it stuck that way until I discovered the MP3 when I was eight. Even then, I must have spent at least three hours a day listening to some of the 90-odd tapes I had recorded to from the club-feeds on the radio every Friday and Saturday night.
When I was eleven, my friends and I formed a rock-band. With me at the drums, we swept through a few talent quests together with covers of ‘Creep’ from Radiohead and ‘Under The Bridge’ from Red Hot Chili Peppers. When I was twelve, I discovered a Playstation game by the name of ‘Music 2000‘. I’d spend most if not all of my free-time sitting in front of the TV on a bean-bag making house tracks. Still content with the convenience of my cassettes, I’d record my work and listen to it proudly in my bedroom.
A year later, I found a demo version of Fruityloops to which I clung immediately and embraced as my one true hobby. Since then, I’ve produced literally hundreds of tracks (many of which never met the finish line), and producing music has remained my biggest hobby to this day.
MM: Who are some of your initial inspirations (musical, visual or otherwise)? Who would you recommend other newcomers to this art form check out?
Pogo: In the abstract and remixing arenas, I have praised the likes of Akufen since first discovering him when I was sixteen. It staggered me how he creates music out of the unlikeliest of sounds, most of which I understand he records from the radio. Highly worth checking out. Also on my list of legends is Prefuse 73. I quickly became ecstatic with his blend of Hip-Hop and electronic. Each and every one of his tracks is a true feast for the ears. I definitely recommend him if you’re thirsty for a new sound.
MM: Your work seems largely drawn from childrens movies. What drew you to these particular sources?
Pogo: Some films just inspire me. It’s not always easy to say why. ‘Alice In Wonderland’ is such a whimsical and mysterious piece of work. It was one of those films that had me truly enraptured as a child. The Harry Potter films struck me as extravagant and energetic – I could watch them for days without yawning. ‘Around The World With Dot’ was so quirky and different.
I suppose when something captivates me like that, it’s reason for me to accentuate that element, expand it, make it longer. I think that’s what making this kind of music is all about – capturing an impact, amplifying and dispersing it as though it were light through a prism.
White Magic by Pogo
Copyright, copyleft and classroom2.0
MM: Many schools and school boards block Youtube, preventing students and teachers from using it as a way into new ways of learning and cultural expression. What is your view on this and what do you think should educators need to understand about remix culture?
Pogo: In a world where technology is constantly advancing, it’s to be expected that the ways people learn are doing the same. I’m unable to sympathize for any facility that bans tools as expressive, accessible and educationally applicable as YouTube.
I think it should be a responsibility of the educators to facilitate for today’s means of absorbing information. Perhaps it’s a narrow-minded opinion of mine, but then again, so might be the opinion that online video is an ineffective means to learn.
MM: What is your defense of the use of copyrighted material for culture making? What is your own philosophy of remix culture?
Pogo: The purpose of copyright today is very questionable if I do say so myself. It may have originally been conceived to serve the creative mind in its expressive endeavours, but nowadays its used by business trolls as a mousetrap for profiting from equations and technicalities.
It’s inevitable that if something is beautiful and inspiring to people, it will be used and promoted by thousands if not more. The human spirit is relentless. I don’t think Disney can copyright Alice’s voice any more than the inventor of the violin could have copyrighted its sound. The very idea is ridiculous.
MM: What do you think of Creative Commons and other open source, open license approaches to remix?
Pogo: It’s an excellent idea. We human beings have built upon each other’s ideas and intellectual property since our beginning, and I think there’s no questioning that this nature has played a significant role in advancing us forward in culture, knowledge and technology.
Life its self is a transformation of something else. I think the way Creative Commons is trying to employ this concept into today’s court is most sensible.
MM: What is your advice, if any, for schools and teachers who want to make learning more relevant, interesting and appealing to a generation who are so actively engaged in this kind of culture?
Pogo: I don’t feel particularly qualified to say, but if I had to throw in my two cents, I’d encourage everybody to take full advantage of today’s advances in internet video. It’s on-demand, it’s fast, and it’s accessible. Live streaming is looking more promising than ever before, with free services like BlogTV offering quality video at impressive speeds.
I think the opportunity to revolutionise today’s methods of education here is tremendous.
Getting started with remix: Pogo’s How To
MM: Can you tell me a bit about the process of making these tracks? How long did they take? What’s involved?
Pogo: ‘Alice’ began life as a solitary creature. It existed only my iPod, and I would listen to it on my bus trips to work and back everyday. The track was my first operation on the film ‘Alice In Wonderland’. I had worked on films such as ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘Oliver!’ during my earlier teens, but I believe it was my girlfriend’s idea to rent this Disney masterpiece a few years later. The track probably took me no more than a day in total to put together.
As typical of the way I prefer to work, I hunted through the film thoroughly for sounds that possessed a distinct harmonious or rhythmic quality. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I decided to piece together a video for it, which was a rather tedious process of capturing each clip frame by frame. I have since found more convenient methods for doing things.
After posting the video to YouTube, it was later in the year that it was spread around a few blogs with overwhelming positive feedback, and without intervening in the slightest, I watched it explode with views and comments over just a few weeks. Watching a large group of people experience the sensations I feel and imbue into my tracks is so overwhelming I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s an exhilarating sense of connection, and I couldn’t possibly feel more fulfilled as an artist.
MM: How does a newcomer to remix get started making this kind of music and video? Can you recommend particular tools or approaches?
There are some great (Audacity) tutorials on YouTube. They’re relatively simple applications to learn, and once you’ve got the basics down pat, you should be ready to get sampling.
It’s a good idea to find material you can love as it is. This way, you’ll find it both easier and exciting to create something new out of it. I typically begin developing my tracks by pulling together a library of sounds that appeal to me using Audition.
Next, it’s straight into FLStudio where I begin picking and sequencing these sounds to my liking. It’s kind of like traditional painting. It can take hours, days, sometimes a few weeks. It depends largely on the zone I’m in. Next, if it’s been on my player for a few days and I’ve enjoyed it frequently, it’s time to produce a video to accompany it. Vegas from Sony is my weapon of choice here. It’s great for cutting short productions together. The work flow is efficient and well designed, and there’s little if anything I’ve needed to do that Vegas hasn’t facilitated quickly and efficiently.
Remember that above all, you’re not making music to please other people, you’re making it for yourself. You are your most important critic. Your own ear and tastes in music are the most important weapons in this arena.
MM: What are you currently working on and where are you going with your work?
Pogo: I prefer to keep my pipeline behind the curtain. As for the future, I’m working towards expanding as an artist, and performing is definitely on the horizon. Rest assured there are always more tracks on the way.
Stay tuned and many thanks for everybody’s amazing support!