Mash-up DJs around the world tend to give themselves fierce names designed to strike fear in the hearts of record labels everywhere (think the Freelance Hellraiser or the Legion of Doom). The latest masher to gain fame — or rather, infamy — for his mixes goes by a somewhat less-than-menacing handle, but he’s still managed to draw the ire of one of the biggest music conglomerates in the world.
His name? Party Ben. And while it’s not exactly the coolest or baddest nickname out there, it’s the one on the lips of mash-up fans across the globe thanks to AmericanEdit.net, a site he started with another masher — an Australian DJ named Team 9 — that features a track-by-track reworking of Green Day’s quadruple-platinum American Idiot album.
Though the site was only active for 10 days, the duo’s mashes (including Ben’s “Boulevard of Broken Songs,” which mixes Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” with Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” Travis’ “Writing to Reach You” and the sample of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” from Eminem’s “Sing for the Moment”) earned them underground fame and, unfortunately, a cease-and-desist order from Green Day’s label, Warner Music.
“Originally, the goal was to point out just how similar some of the songs on American Idiot are to other rock songs. And at some points it’s laugh-out-loud funny, because we’re showing people how Green Day just stole some riffs,” Ben said via telephone. “But there are also some tracks we did that created entirely new songs, and they’re amazing. So we decided to put the entire mashed-up album online, and on November 18 we did. Unfortunately, we were e-mailed a cease-and-desist order on November 28, at which point we shut down.”
Neither Ben nor Team 9 wanted to test the patience of Warner’s legal department (“We’re both a bit too old to lose everything,” Ben joked), nor did they intend American Edit to become a rallying point for mash-up fans and free-sampling enthusiasts around the world. But thanks to a like-minded masher in Portland, Oregon, that’s exactly what happened.
“This guy named Noisehead in Portland reached out to us and launched AmericanEdit.org, and he decided to organize a protest on that site,” Ben said. “So he put out the call to have a Grey Tuesday protest, modeled after what people did with DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album back in 2004 (when more than 170 sites posted the album for download after music conglomerate EMI served Danger Mouse with a cease-and-desist order; see “Grey Tuesday Group Says 100,000 Downloaded Jay-Z/Beatles Mix” ). And we were just kind of like, ‘Um, OK man.’ But he did it. And a whole lot of people helped out.”
Ben said that roughly as many sites participated in the December 13 American Edit Grey Tuesday protest as in the 2004 action. Though he’s yet to hear from Warner, he at least knows that he’s got a fan in Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, who, in an interview with MTV Radio recently, described the whole thing as “really cool.” Ben’s hoping that there will be another Grey Tuesday-style protest in the near future — not because he’s looking to cash in on the whole thing, but rather so he can get his music out to even more listeners.
“What we’ve done here is as funny as it is groundbreaking, and I feel that we’ve seeded the Internet with the music, just like The Grey Album,” he said. “So now we’ll see what happens. I mean, Danger Mouse went on to produce the Gorillaz’s Demon Days album, so maybe something like that will happen to me. If Damon Albarn calls, I’ll listen, for sure. But if someone from Warner calls, I’ll probably put them through to my voicemail.”