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Artist Spotlight Q & A

Brad Sucks

The following Q&A was conducted by Randy Cherktow and Jason Freehan, authors of the Indie Band’s Survival Guide for ccMixter in September 2008. They are also part of the band Beatnik Turtle, a Chicago-based horn-powered rock band with 18 albums. In 2007, they released one song for every day of the year.

Brad Sucks is an Open Music pioneer and as such, one of the first artists to post a cappellas for remixing at ccMixter in 2005. Since then he has accumulated several hundred remixes of his work. In September 2008 he released his second album, Out Of It, online and promptly posted the a cappellas to the entire album to ccMixter to great anticipation. Brad was featured prominently in Randy and Jason’s Indie Band Survival Guide and were happy to interview him again for ccMixter’s Artist Spotlight.

IBSG: So for the most important thing first. Brad, you are well known for saying that you try to hate all of your gear equally to keep the balance of power in your favor. But, just between us, which one do you really hate the most, and which do you love the most? We won’t tell your gear anything, we promise!

Brad: Right now I’m angriest at my half-broken PreSonus BlueTube, my slowly dying Behringer UB1204 mixing board and my M-Audio Axiom-25 keyboard that never works the way I want it to.

Gear that hasn’t angered me yet: my Event 20/20bas monitors, my M-Audio Delta 66. I also like my Boss GT-8 but I’m slowly getting angry at how large and heavy it is for traveling.

IBSG: You are among the top remixed artists on ccMixter, and you’ve been letting people remix your music for many years. When did you start letting musicians remix you and what made you choose to allow this?

Brad: It was one of the first things I wanted to do. I always wanted to have the opportunity to take apart tracks by other artists so it was an obvious thing to me. Unfortunately back when I started bandwidth was harder to come by — I tried to offer the source on CDs but that was a hassle. Eventually I had enough bandwidth to put the source up and not worry about it.

IBSG: What do you think is the reason your music inspires so many other musicians to remix it?

Brad: Beats me. I think I got in there pretty early which helped. I wonder if the simplicity of the songs on my first album might have something to do with it — maybe people can easily picture changes they could make to them.

IBSG: You have a new album, Out of It, which will be released September 8th that your fans have been long awaiting, and ccMixter remixers are salivating to get their hands on it. We have a feeling that there’s going to be a race to be the first to do a remix. Which of the tracks do you predict musicians remixing the most? Which might pose the biggest challenge?

Brad: That’s a tough one — I’ve had requests for the source for Certain Death (track #2) since I put the demo on my website a long time ago. I think “Out of It” might have potential as there are a large number of alternate vocal takes on ccMixter from the background vocal contest I did.

Toughest? Maybe Bad Sign. Not sure why, I can’t really visualize what people would do with it.

IBSG: When you wrote and recorded your first album, you did so offline and on your own. With this one, you wrote and recorded out in the open, in front of your fans, and online. How do you feel this affected your writing? Do you feel you have to live up to expectations? Or, doyou feel more supported?

Brad: I did the first one online but there were fewer people paying attention. I got a bit neurotic about receiving feedback from strangers before a song was “done” in my mind. But I’ve come to realize the alternative — working in isolation — is much harder, slower and less rewarding.

IBSG: Not every musician learns to record themselves, so where did you learn to do that, and what equipment did you learn on? Did you ever own a Portastudio? Or Casiotone?

Brad: I started off on trackers (Scream Tracker, Impulse Tracker, etc). I have a Fostex 4-track in my basement that I did some stuff on but I found the analog way of working bizarre and counter-intuitive. I couldn’t understand why anyone would work that way when we had computers that were basically capable of this stuff. But it was a while before software caught up.

IBSG: What would you advise other musicians as to how best to prepare their music for remixing by others? To make it as easy and flexible as possible? Are there any tips you learned as you prepared your first album? Anything you’ll do differently for this one as you upload them to ccMixter?

Brad: My first album was simple and very loop-based. Out of It has a lot more parts and changes so I’m likely going to upload track-length exports of various groups (guitars/drums, etc) and let people do whatever they want. I cut everything into loops for the last record’s source packs but people often complained they wanted to start with the entire track laid out as they hear it on the album. Which is something I can understand, so hopefully they’ll like it this way.

IBSG: You got on ccMixter back in 2004. How did you discover it?

Brad: I don’t really remember, I spend a lot of time online checking out new things. I was paying attention to the Creative Commons and Victor Stone’s a pal of mine, so it was probably through there.

IBSG: Desert Island tracks - is there any artist or song that you would want to remix if they made their tracks available at ccMixter?

Brad: I’m not much of a remixer in the usual sense. There are a lot of albums that I’d love to work on fixing up the production to be more in line with my tastes. Three I can think of:

- Black Sunday by Cypress Hill.
- The Land of Rape and Honey - Ministry
- Nevermind - Nirvana

Mostly I’d want to make them sound edgier, louder, more modern but keep the arrangements and everything the same. I’d also like to somehow remove all the 80s-sounding production from Pink Floyd’s The Wall and make it sound more like Dark Side of the Moon.

IBSG: The word sucks is defined as “to be disgustingly disagreeable or offensive.” Given your success, when are you going to change the band’s name and what will it be?

Brad: I have no ETA, but I think “Brad’s Not Too Shabby” has a ring to it.

IBSG: Now that this album is done, what’s next for you?

Brad: Gonna sleep. When I wake up I’ll see if there’s any sense in touring. Then I’ve got some more music and a screenplay to work on. I have no end of projects, just gotta hold the discipline together to finish them.