Tagged: inspiration

Three Things Digital Creatives Can Learn from Hip Hop Beatmakers

One of my biggest interests over the last couple of years has been building beats. For the uninitiated, “beats” in this context equals instrumental hip hop tracks, focused mostly on texture, juxtaposition and getting a good head nod going. You can hear my take on this art form here, but that’s not really what this post is about.

Damu the Fudgemunk is a musician who has been using YouTube to showcase his approach to making beats for a few years now. He’s garnered a solid reputation and landed production gigs by using YouTube to get his name and style out there. So that’s one reason why he should be interesting to the Fauna Corp faithful – he has brought his art and passion together and built a brand for himself via online video, and people keep tuning in because he’s got skills and charisma.

Damu’s latest video (filmed and edited by JNota) has him playing live drums and talking about his approach to rhythm. I thought this video was especially relevant for Fauna Corp because the production values are solid without being flashy (text overlays in capslock, san-serif fonts, video shot with slight vignette effect, nice saturation, and solid editing), and the subject matter is so particular.

If you are new to the world of beatmaking, the considerations that Damu discusses (poly-rhythms, tone and placement of hi-hats, different producers’ techniques for kick and snare textures, etc.) are the very same ones that beatmakers obsess over every day. For a musical form often referred to as “boom-bap”, It is a style filled with surprising subtlety, and reinterpreting / re-purposing the licks and riffs of  previous masters is part of the art.  So for Fauna Corp readers that means: learn from the best, lift what you can, make it all your own.

So Damu’s latest video is instructional to Digital Creatives in three ways:

  • It shows how being passionate and genuine in online video can be a way to further your craft, reach new audiences and establish your brand;
  • It shows how simple, tasteful production techniques can be used to make engaging videos that resonate with audiences both inside and outside your community;
  • And it shows how the minutiae of any interest or past-time – whether it is beatmaking,  visual art, weird sports, or even political upheaval in Sudan – can be studied and obsessed over so that your own output is a natural (but not unconscious) extension of what you’ve learned, hybridized and interpreted.

Check out Damu’s latest video, and see if you agree that there are things to learn from, regardless of what your digital output is about.

Get into what you are into, and you can get others into it too. And, as always, feel free to leave a comment here on Fauna Corp.

Recommended Viewing: Mike V & The Brooklyn Banks

As a kid growing up weird in a town that didn’t really like weird, I found myself drawn to those sectors of society that didn’t even try to fit in.

For example, I didn’t really become a punk, but I listened (voraciously) to the music, understood the culture, knew the history, and was influenced by the artistic and political movements that punk drew from. I still am, in some ways, even though I’ve changed so much over the years.

Another example is skateboarding. I only skated hardcore for about seven years, but I firmly believe that skating is a “once, always” kind of culture that never really leaves your system.

Maybe that’s because skating makes you see the city in totally different ways. Or, maybe it’s because once you choose a pastime that requires you to repeatedly smash into concrete to get better, you never really forget it.

Either way, there’s a rich continuum in skateboarding that most skaters choose to learn, add to, reference and build upon both inside and outside skate culture that goes on long after you quit. “Mike V & The Brooklyn Banks” showcases this continuum quite nicely.

Nowadays, Mike Vallely is a bit of a celebrity on the Vans Warped Tour side of things, a pro skater who also fronts a punk band. When I skated he was just a skinny kid with a shaved head and combat pants who had lyrics from the Smiths on his grip tape. In other words, he was just like me. Key difference: Vallely is an insanely talented skater.

The short video, below, could just be an indulgence to me, but maybe there’s something in it for everyone that has ever been immersed in an underground culture. I found it fascinating to hear Vallely talk about being changed by the same videos, photo spreads and scenes that I was impacted by, and I think there’s a neat fold-in that Vallely eventually became one of these influencers too, inspiring kids to try things they’d never thought of and learn from those who came before them.

You may not know who any of these people are, or why the Brooklyn Banks were important to youngsters living hundreds of miles away (in my case, living in a different country), but in the age of instant access, I hope a video like this touches again on the raw inspiration that we used to feel when we were fully immersed in the underground and had to consume VHS tapes and print (that’s right, print!) magazines to get our fix.

These days I’m feeling like the things that used to be so critical to me are more important than ever, especially as the tools for creative expression become more ubiquitous and varied. I may not want to crack a kick-flip over a set of stairs (well, I may still want to…), but I do still want to be tuned in to why that felt so important, in both the small and large scale of things.

Check out “Mike V & The Brooklyn Banks”:

Have some gritty underground inspiration of your own (or others’) to share? Let me know in the comments!

Recommended Viewing: Choose Not to Fall

Part of what I love about digital creativity is that if you are always receptive to inspiration, the internet’s tangential structure will eventually reward you.

For example, at work this week, I needed videos of epic fails and colossal wipeouts, and instead found a beautiful doc that basically showcases the opposite perspective. It won’t directly or immediately help my work, but it dovetails with my other interests and can inspire forms of creativity that may.

Choose Not to Fall is a short (3-or-so minute) documentary by Matthew Marsh and Sam Rowland of 63 Productions, focusing on parkour / free runner Daniel Ilabaca.

In the doc, Ilabaca talks about the mental aspects of parkour, and how going “all out” is important but only secondary to the real liberation of free running: recognizing the freedom in living in the moment and gaining confidence in choosing your own path.

That’s powerful stuff, especially for those of us who want to document and capture our unique (though still collective) perspectives.

Check it out:

For those of you looking for the “how” elements of this, I found some info about how 63 Productions made the doc.

The filmmakers chose to use a tripod for the shooting because they believed a hand-held camera makes the viewer aware of another person (ie: the filmmaker) being present, which they felt was a distraction. Also, the filmmakers could only shoot 8 seconds of slow-motion footage at a go, so they had to time their shots perfectly to capture the tricks they wanted. If they missed hitting record at the right moment, they missed the shot (which apparently happened). Note the Explosions in the Sky-style music, and the “vignette” effect on the footage as well – subtle elements, but shorthand for “this is meaningful”. Still more impressive, is that this video was shot in one day and edited in two.

Choose Not to Fall is another fine example of mini-docs, and their ability to move us, inspire our thoughts and document our lives together.

Recommended by Fauna Corporation!

Have some mini-docs or digital inspirations of your own (or others’) to share? Let me know in the comments.

Lessons Learned from Secondhand Sureshots

Dublab released a short video about 2 months ago, called Secondhand Sureshots. It was probably only about 12 to 15 minutes long, but I think it will have a lasting impact.

The concept for the project was to take four well-established (but still largely underground) instrumental hip hop producers, send them to different LA thrift stores with $5 each, and have them shop for records.

The producers would then return to their labs and create a beat (ie: musical piece) using only the records they bought within their $5 cap limit. These beats were pressed to vinyl, and each copy was given a handmade, art-piece album cover. Beautiful. Copies of the finished product were then taken back to the thrift stores and reinserted into the thrift store record bins. I don’t know what that’s supposed to say, but I like the reciprocal symmetry of it all.

The whole art project was documented and Secondhand Sureshots was released online, for free, for about a week. It was then it was pulled down and some trailers remained online to promote the film.

Now Dublab and Stones Throw Records are selling the DVD, a vinyl copy of the finished tracks wrapped in hand-made album covers, and 2 slip mats for $60. I think it is a great deal, and a great way to market what is a wonderful and strange little project. Also, by putting their emphasis on engaging consumers in a full experience, Dublab and Stones Throw are able to sell this larger package (at a higher price) rather than only the CD and DVD of the documentary.

In an age of instant digital downloads, this emphasis on a handcrafted object that music fans understand and engage with at a deeper level could offer another option to the music industry, or possibly, some inspiration to journalists, digital storytellers and other multimedia producers. The value-add has never been more of an added value.

In spite of all the digital marketing speak above, let’s not lose sight of the core cool: this is ultimately a nifty little documentary and album aimed at a niche, dedicated audience. One that includes me.

The producers, Ras G, Nobody, Daedelus, and J-Rocc are all talented weirdos, and I’ve been influenced by their music for a while now. I found it very cool to hear their thought process (or feel process) for diggin’ in the record crates and making beats. And because I didn’t know in advance that the documentary was only going to be online for a week, and was so impressed by the well-crafted final product, I’ve decided to buy the full package.

Maybe you should too. Or release your own multi-format art piece?

The Trailer:

dublab presents…SECONDHAND SURESHOTS (preview) from dublab on Vimeo.

Have some multi-format art pieces to share (of your own or otherwise)?

Let me know in the comments.

Television is a Drug and Skateboarding Still Rules

I came across these two pieces, which I thought were great examples of people reconfiguring or re-thinking a commonly accepted form of content.

The first is Beth Fulton’s kinetic text interpretation of Todd Alcott’s poem. The piece, and I assume the poem, are entitled Television is a Drug:

Television is a drug. from Beth Fulton on Vimeo.

The second, Tilles Singer’s piece, Skateboardanimation, is a nifty hybrid of fast-shutter photography from print, and motion graphics or stop-frame animation in digital video. If we also consider that the video is being distributed digitally, pieces like this can really represent the evolution of our media across the years, in a single piece:

Skateboardanimation from Tilles Singer on Vimeo.

Got something to share (of your own or otherwise)? Let me know in the comments.

Recommended Viewing: William Hoffman’s anyoneeverything Site

So much of the emerging wired world (and web!) is so highly designed that we sometimes lose sight of the substance in all that style.

This morning, I spent some quality time on Multimedia Shooter and was directed to the short films of William Hoffman. His work is a revelation to me, as it pulls at the edges of fiction and non-fiction, and creates a momentary pocket where the real subject matter seems to be our shared humanity. What a gift, to be directed to something that makes you feel more you while simultaneously feeling so everyone else.

I recommend checking out Hoffman’s Moments and Parabolas pieces as a great intro to his work, but perhaps the Everyone Forever Now series would be the most journalistic option for Fauna Corp readers.

Finally, you could have a look at this post to read a bit about Multimedia Shooter, and a few more multimedia journalism websites that I think are totally indispensable. Each shows that style is great, but style plus substance is a combination that puts us in touch with the deeper truths about our selves.

Very cool stuff.

Review: Anderson Cooper’s Dispatches from the Edge

On top of the stack this week: Dispatches from the Edge

On a recent trip I picked up Anderson Cooper’s memoir, Dispatches from the Edge, and read it on a long flight home. Equal parts “war stories” (ie: tales from the field that journalists share with each other over drinks) and autobiography, Cooper does an excellent job of giving context for his journalistic decision-making while also pulling back the veil a bit on his (very) private life.

The son of Gloria Vanderbilt (which was news to me) who lost his father to heart attack and then his older brother to suicide, Cooper decided to pursue a career as a Foreign Correspondent seemingly to compensate for the pain these deaths caused in his life. By surrounding himself with the suffering of others, he was both excused from publicly investigating his own pain, while also being given the external stimulus that could allow him to grieve for his personal losses.

Reading Dispatches from the Edge so soon after losing my own brother was both painful and therapeutic for me. I could see why Cooper decided to throw himself so heavily into his career, but I could also read the toll that this decision took upon his mental and emotional well-being.

While not a perfect memoir (after a certain point, Cooper begins shifting between conflicts and emergencies so quickly that they all blur together – possibly a deliberate technique, but one that inhibits the deeper understanding that most of his journalism looks for), Dispatches from the Edge still offers a lot to journalists, whether professional, freelance or Citizen-styled.

Of particular note was Cooper’s early decision to arrive in a foreign country in the midst of a civil war, with no command of the language, no flack-jacket, no contacts, no media outlet supporting him, and only a fake press pass and a Hi-8 camera as his defense. While he acknowledges it was a stupid decision, it should also be noted that this led to his big break in journalism. Is there a lesson here for you?

Dispatches from the Edge is recommended by Fauna Corporation. It can be found at most major bookstores, but is also available from time-to-time used, should you need to save up your cash until you can buy your first Hi-8 camera and a one-way ticket somewhere.