Earl Scioneaux III continues to explore the relationship between technology and New Orleans music with his new mixtape.
Under the name The Madd Wikkid, recording engineer Earl Scioneaux III has explored the place where technology and New Orleans music interact. Earlier this year, he released Brassft Punk, giving a brass band the challenge of remaking Daft Punk songs, and 2010's Electronola put some of the city's jazz and funk greats next to a host of techno beats.
His newest project is Don't Tell Nobody, a mashup mixture available now as a free download. He visits ground previously visited by Girl Talk and Quickie Mart, merging songs and hip-hop vocals, but he's not claiming to break new ground. Scioneaux focused the project on New Orleans because that's what he knows, but he set out to make something that's simply fun. "If it gets played at a party, everybody in the room can find something in it to latch on to," he says.
The project started as an experiment, merging Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time" with Lil' Wayne's "Shawty Wanna Thug" to produce "Right Place to Kiss My Baby."
"I enjoy exploring those intersections," Scioneaux says. "There's a very different feel between purely machine-generated music and purely live, performed music. They both have their merits. What drove me to delve into this is that nobody had done this with New Orleans music."
The four-song mixtape isn't simply an exercise in track manipulation, though. Scioneaux contributes some keyboards and bass of his own to the recordings. He says the process of adding new parts to a mashup is akin to any composition situation. "You start with the elements that are there and listening for what's not there," he says. "What could augment this? You want to find things that could fit in and accentuate its goodness."
Don't Tell Nobody isn't as ADD as Girl Talk's mixes, which flit from sample to sample in seconds. "Oochie on the Bayou" has "Fiyo on the Bayou" at its core, but a lot of vocalists including Dr. John and Juvenile get moments on the mic. Bounce appears, but not as programmatically as it does with Gypsyphonic Disko. In some cases, scratching can be heard, but Scioneaux didn't do that.
"There were tunes that were never intended to have this happen to them," he says, which meant that some vocals were hard to isolate completely from other sounds on the sampled song, including turntable sounds. "In the process of making a recording, you have be respectful of whatever artifacts remain. Either you mask them or stay out of their way."
On Saturday night, The Madd Wikkid will play a dance party at Preservation Hall, where he'll present the music from Don't Tell Nobody among other pieces he's recorded. The set will be a combination of live and recorded music as Scioneaux and a drummer will perform with the tracks, "playing with that line between live and electronic," he says, just as all his music has.
He sees Don't Tell Nobody is part of an ongoing dialogue with the past. "Throughout musical history, there's been a tradition of building on whatever the last guy did," Scioneaux says. "Technology enables the literal, direct copying of the sound, which is an extension of the process that has been going on for a long time."
Sampling and mashing up almost by definition has a presumptuous dimension as it takes music out of its intended contexts, but Scioneaux doesn't feel that that is at play in any of his Madd Wikkid projects.
"I have respect for everybody I sampled on this thing," he says.
You can download Don't Tell Nobody here. My Spilt Milk is pleased to offer "Brass Steppa," a bonus track for Don't Tell Nobody. He and DJ Fyvestar (today known as Perry Chen, founder of Kickstarter) did this drum & bass remix of a Rebirth Brass Band song in 1997.