Masters of the mashup, The Cut Up Boys will blend together just about every musical genre at Chi on May 28. But how do they do it? James Wilkinson finds out
You’d be hard-pushed to find two men as fascinated and excited by such a broad range of music as Nick Barnes and Matt Brooks. Better known as The Cut Up Boys, the UK duo have spent the best part of five years chopping, changing, mashing and mixing everything from house to indie to dubstep to R&B and beyond on Ministry of Sound’s best-selling Mash Up Mix series of albums, with the latest – Mash Up Mix 90s – covering house classics of the decade. They’ve also produced more than 200 mashup mixes for BBC Radio, with 150 of those being snapped up by Judge Jules himself for his popular Friday night show.
But hey, anyone can produce mashups if they have the equipment and the time. The real test is in the DJing, and that’s exactly what they’ll be showcasing at Chi on May 28.
Go on then, lads: why should we go to your show? Nick: We never play a straight CD: everything is mashed up and changed, and it’s all unique to us. Even when we play a straight track it’s edited to how we think it should be. And the show itself will be a mashup of genres. We can go all over the shop with it: that’s the twist.
That may ring warning bells with some of our readers – DJ Yoda’s last Dubai gig fell flat because it was jumping from genre to genre all the time. Can you say anything to reassure them? Matt: Yeah, you can get caught up with trying to switch tracks too often and that can make people lose interest. But we give the tracks time to breathe before we drop into something else. Nick: And we’ll play 15 to 20 minutes of house, then 15 to 20 of drum ’n’ bass, rather than jumping genres with each track. You need to keep the dancefloor flowing. Sometimes it’s fun to switch it up, but usually you ease the tempo up and down without those big jarring leaps. Matt: It also depends a lot on what people are into. If they’re rocking along to a certain thing, we’ll try to keep that rolling. We won’t change things just for the sake of changing things. You have to read what the crowd wants. Nick: If everyone in the club wants banging trance, we’ll give them that – we’re being paid to make sure they have the best time possible, and if they’re rocking to a particular sound, whether that’s hip hop, drum ’n’ bass, trance, house, whatever, you have to go with the crowd.
Let’s get a sampling of your tastes. What’s the best classic house tune? Matt: Best classic house tune? I’ve gone completely blank! Nick: [Ambient electronica track] ‘Papua New Guinea’ by Future Sound of London. Matt: Is that a house tune, though? Nick: Well… sort of. It blew me away at the time – it was so different to everything else around [in the early ’90s]. I was driving along in my Ford Escort, listening to it on this stupid little speaker, and it still sounded absolutely amazing. Matt: That’s a hard trick to pull off, making a dance music track that sounds brilliant in a club and in your car. For me, it’s The Golden Girls’ ‘Kinetic’. I’d been into early house stuff, but I drifted out of it until I heard this track on [UK radio station] Kiss FM [in the early ’90s]; it has the silkiest, smoothest sound.
What about the best recent house track? Matt: Um, er… You’ve stumped us with your very simple, but very deep question! So many tracks, so many tunes… Eric Prydz always hits the nail on the head.
Aren’t you sick of his ‘Pjanoo’? Matt: Everyone’s sick of crap piano tracks, but you can’t beat a good bit of piano house – and that is definitely good piano house.
Best pop tune? Matt: The love of my life musically is Prince; I’ll go for ‘Raspberry Beret’. When it comes to a pure, sweet pop tune I just don’t think there’s anything better. The whole 1999/Purple Rain era was the soundtrack to me learning about life.
What about rock? Matt: A track we’ve been playing for years, but which has been played out a bit of late, is Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name of’. It’s a monster tune, one of the best rock tracks ever. Nick: It’s full-on attitude. You can really tell that they mean what they’re saying. It’s just like one of my favourite tunes of all time, Public Enemy’s ‘Rebel Without a Pause’. It has a similar vibe to Rage – the absolute attitude, spitting it all out. I find that exciting.
You guys certainly have a wide range of interests… Matt: There’s just so much out there – there’s more music in just one genre than you can ever hear in one lifetime. But we’ve grown up listening to so many types of music, we just can’t ignore all the millions of possibilities out there. Nick: Mashups are what we do!