Spotlight \

Party Ben

By: Peter Gaston

Recycled materials have become just as commonplace in record stores as they are in your local Hallmark aisle. Whether it’s Kanye West resuscitating old soul records or Interpol channeling Ian Curtis or nouveau bands making waves on the strength of covers, pop music seems fascinated more than ever with its past highlights. And, quite sadly, in some of its worst hairstyles and fashion trends. But artists paying homage through a guitar lick or a sampled hook are only making broad strokes. San Francisco DJ and producer Party Ben is operating closer to the cellular level, deconstructing existing catalogs into their essential bits and pieces, then marrying them to other popular tracks within bite-sized morsels perfectly suited for our chemically truncated attention spans. They’re called mash-ups, and Party Ben might be America’s most agile mash-up pusher.

A ton of bands claim they make no money in the rock’n’roll game, and for Party Ben, not getting paid for his creations is a necessary choice since loads of other folks actually own the original tunes that he rips apart. Instead, Ben offers these mixes on his website as free downloads, and spins them on the air for San Francisco station Live 105 and at his monthly Club Bootie party at S.F.’s Cherry Bar. On the radio waves, Ben seems to feel most confident as far as legal issues go. “Songs are altered all the time for airplay: shortened, edited, talked over, mixed live, stuck in commercials,” says Ben on his site. “If there was a law against ‘playing altered versions of songs’ on the radio, I’d like to see it get enforced. You can talk over the intro to Fugazi, but you can’t play Beyonce vocals over the middle part?”

And combos like that one are exactly the type of fodder Party Ben loves to concoct. He’ll find a common rhythm or bassline between two songs and slap it all together, like on “Independent Room,” a pairing of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” and Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women,” where DC’s chant of “All the women who independent” busts out over the shredded chords in Fugazi’s chorus. Some tracks seem like totally seamless integrations, like a silky, detail-heavy mash-up of Gorillaz’ unexpected summer anthem “Feel Good Inc.” and Cake’s slacker jam “Never There,” where Cake’s jiggling guitar riffs weave in and out of Gorillaz bass-heavy groove. Ben reaches even further back for two standout odes to the Clash, one layering Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” chants over “This Is Radio Clash” in true booty-moving style, and another matching “Rock the Casbah” with Brandon Flowers’ bratty vocals from the Killers’ “Somebody Told Me.”

Like all pop phenomena, mash-ups are totally prone to a rapid and brutal exit from our collective consciousness, but with rock regurgitation so prevalent among actual bands these days, maybe Party Ben’s cheeky bedroom recordings are the freshest things going.

You can download lots of Ben’s work at his official site, partyben.com, and also find out about his upcoming events including his Club Bootie nights and a Love Parade afterparty.

Link: Party Ben official site

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