Late in my college career, I became obsessed with mashups, may still be a little bit. I love the way these sound engineers and producers found a way to bring all these different kinds of music and mash them into one epic song. Mashup-Germany was one of those artists who became a favorite in that category. His success was not that he just mashed up popular music, but he found a way to bring in classic music that fit in beautifully that spanned genres. I reached out the mastermind behind Mashup-Germany, who goes by the name Ben Stilller, and we had a great conversation about his unique craft.
To give you a little background, Ben is German with American Roots. His dad is German and met his American mother while at university in the United States. The rest is history. Since then, Mr. Stilller has been working like crazy on his various mashup projects, many based out of Germany. “I started in late 2008, I used mashups to communicate. I tried to combine different feelings in my work. I started creating things that people weren’t playing so I created that music for myself with my kind of touch. What I always try to create lies in the life level. I want them to have fun with my stuff and at the same time to see the people who listen to this music. I want to bring all these known musicians and music to the unknown for production and the life side of things.” Now, Mashup-Germany is considered one of the many masters of the mashup world. His mashups are all over Sounds and YouTube with people downloading and enjoying the work across the globe.
My favorite mashup is I Did It My Way. I asked how that mashup came about. “Its funny, a festival fan came up and said he grew up with my music and I Did It My Way was one of those that worked. I started the mashup feeling bad and I wanted to show the exact feeling I would imagine on my last day of my mashup career. Usually, the six to seven hours of work is a disappointment. However, that day I got the goose bumps, when you get that feeling it’s pretty raw.” I love the collection of artists and music in this mashup. Not only does Sinatra’s song hold a powerful message within, the supporting music just gives it a moveable vibe that is addicting. Some other great examples of Mashup-Germany’s work are I Just Came To Say Hello, My Bitter Cheap Symphony and Top of the Pops 2011.
“Mashups take up a lot of problems. I love to do mashups of known music whose identities are recognizable. I never do a gig or put it online without using known people and not an unknown band. To use other music you need to use mainstream stuff to drawn in an audience. Its always fun. The thing I love about mashups is that there are so many genres of music from different ages that can work. I love when a person at a show asks me, ‘dude what kind of new band is that?’ I laugh and then respond, ‘It was actually The Beatles.’ I then tried to explain that they are the biggest band in music history. Sometimes I play at festival and see a reggae, a rager and a metal head all digging the same tune. Mashups can bring together subcultures and different cultures from all over. Part of the fun with my mashups are that I want to combine German and international music and vice versa for music fans everywhere.” That seems to be a recurring theme in all of his music videos, produces by other artists that combine the music with the musicians who make them. The collective makes it apparent that they are all ambassadors to a music realm where the mashup allows for a seamless congregation.
I was curious to hear what Ben thought about music today. “Everyone gets bored pretty quickly. Especially when people share songs over and over again at home and on the radio. The constant feedback is that most music is the same stuff as before. Although it is great for audiences, the downside is that so many have destroyed the good intentions people have left for new music. Good stuff doesn’t stand out too much anymore. 90% of music is total crap and ruins the reputations of other artists.”
In the mashup world, I am always fascinated to hear about the difficulties copyright and licensing must be. Mr. Stilller remarked on this. “The legal backlash hasn’t started until recently. A media person at Soundcloud told me that they are going to close my profile. Since I have gotten so many strikes, I have 7 days or so to close. Sony universal, called too. I am currently trying to plan out next our next avenue. I am not too worried about the stuff, only worried about political content and copyright that may shut down mashups everywhere. I don’t blame Soundcloud; they have tried to keep me on for a while. It has just been the new pressure to remove mashups. Copyright in Europe and the United States are not the same. Both countries react differently. I remain hopeful because young people are changing things for others in music. I feel like that is concept of life in general for music and art.” Lets hope they find a new way, Mashups not only help broaden the musical spectrum but they also help unleash musicians to the masses in an engaging way.
Making money seems like a difficult venture for Ben. However, he seems to find a way. “Selling merchandise helps but does not support my living. Most of my profit goes to charity. I do not want to gain income from the mashups I make. I have made about 300 mashup in last few years. Sometimes I need to take a break. Since I need to listen to song over and over again, it gets to be too much. It is important to travel, for week or a month. I try to have no contact with music or listen any music all. The only option is music that is new and different. It is important to evolve my style. There is quite a difference in all my work. I have to stick to changes in musical styles and various musical tastes. The young generation can change their mind to think outside the box. People today are not able to emphasize and think outside the box some are not able to relate. I think that will change.” I think so too. It fact, it has already happened via the connection of music to the general public. Musicians who are working to get their music out there have such an eclectic skill set, that there is no one band that has the same repertoire. The experience in music is evolving and so goes along with it the business. Lets hope it works out for the best.
I love mashups and probably always will. As long as artists like Ben Stilller and his project Mashup-Germany continue making these great songs, I will be a fan. I think you should be too, if you are not already. Take a listen to Mashup-Germany and all the greats like DJ Earworm, Titus Jones and the myriad of others on the scene. You might just discover something new that you love. Enjoy and mash it up.