Skrillex, Diplo and A-Trax went live with their YouTube channel last week. Cleverly titled POTATOwillEATyou (though I still can’t figure out what the name is supposed to mean–if you have then please do share), I’ve spent the last week tracking the channel as new videos have been added.
According to EDMSauce, the channel is modeled on the pre-Laguna Beach days of MTV. Yes friends, MTV still had music programming in the early part of the 21st century. Remember those Spring Break pool parties in the Hamptons? Middle school me does. I’m pretty sure those were hosted by VJ’s. Was more screen time given to co-eds in bikinis, rather than music videos? Probably…but it is what it is. You take what you can get.
POTATOwillEATyou serves as a hub for electronic artists to premiere new tracks, music videos, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage (among other things). The channel has already released the premiere episodes of two rockumentary-esque series: BANG! and BLOW YOUR HEAD!. Whereas BANG! provides insight into the history of the genre, BLOW YOUR HEAD! appears to look ahead into its future.
Featuring interviews with Skrillex, Boyz Noise and electronic music pioneer Kevin Saunderson, the first episode of BANG! focuses on Detroit: the birthplace of the American electronic music scene. The most poignant moment of the eight minute video comes at the beginning; with the juxtaposition of an archival and a contemporary clip, demonstrating EDM’s roots in the city’s socioeconomic strife. Immediately following Skrillex and Boyz Noise’s passionate introductory remarks, an archival clip from what appears to be an educational film dating back to the 50s and 60s, starts to play on the screen. The clip showcases Detroit on a clear, sunny day–accompanied by narration that extolls the cities virtues. “Detroit, today,” the narrator states, “stands at the threshold of a bright new future. One rich with the promise of fulfillment.” The two contemporary clips that follow, however, are bleak in comparison (see below):
The juxtaposition of archival and contemporary footage sets the stage for the rest of the episode, which focuses on how electronic music arose from the depths of Detroit’s urban decay. Unfortunately, the interviews with Mr. Saunderson and Sam Fotias (who is one of the founders of Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival) raise more questions than they actually answer. When Mr. Saunderson states that electronic music was originally only popular in the African American community, he doesn’t provide us with an explanation as to why. Similarly, when Mr. Fotias describes throwing parties at the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant, he doesn’t go into much detail about the inspiration behind these parties and the type of community they fostered. Clearly this episode was produced on the assumption that the viewer will have some pre-existing knowledge about the origins of electronic music. Providing additional context in future episodes of BANG!, however, will not only help educate newer fans, but also reinforce the commitment of seasoned fans because they will feel closer to the music through its history.
BLOW YOUR HEAD!, the other rockumentary-esque series produced by the channel, focuses on up-and-coming electronic artists. The first episode in this series follows a Mexican DJ trio, 3BallMTY, just after they open for Justin Bieber at the Zocalo in Mexico City, in front of over 200,000 people.
Although the video is only a little more than four minutes long, it is an insightful piece of music documentary cinema. I don’t know whether Diplo and Shane McCauley intentionally created a piece that seems to draw inspiration from the tenets of imperfect cinema. But I just can’t help myself from noticing the narrative elements that point toward the comparison.
While this episode is not rooted in politics of any kind, it spends a great deal of time meditating on issues of agency and consumption–both of which are central to Juan García Espinosa’s framework for an imperfect cinema. In his essay, “For An Imperfect Cinema,” Espinosa advocates for a cinema that is not just for the masses, but also created by them. I believe it can be argued that EDM culture has adopted a largely apolitical version of Espinosa’s notion through the concept of remixing–which effectively collapses the traditional hierarchy that exists between producers and consumers. In EDM, DJs and fans are one in the same. If a DJ is remixing a track, he or she is a fan of the track–it’s just that the DJ wants to bring out something in the track that the original producer may have overlooked. Furthermore, every fan is a DJ in his or her own right because curating tracks online can be described as a form of DJ-ing.
Diplo’s introductory voiceover that accompanies the title card at the beginning of the first episode seems to demonstrate this notion of collectivity. “This is our stories,” he says, “from the roads, the streets, the sidelines and the backstages.” The episode goes on to show us that 3BallMTY’s story is as much about the DJ trio as it is about the fans and the cultural elements that influences the music they produce. At one point, one of the boys in 3Ball MTY explicitly identifies how DJ and fan are one in the same. “I’m a producer and I’m the consumer of what I produce,” he says, “I’m going to create the things I want to listen to.”
In addition to the two series, POTATOwillEATyou has also premiered two new music videos for BUTTER’S THEME (Diplo) and TINY ANTHEM (The M Machine). BUTTER’S THEME is a journey through a kaleidoscope of booty shaking women that is reminiscent of the choreography in Busby Berkley musicals from the Classical Hollywood Era. Watch BUTTER’S THEME and then watch the title musical sequence from DAMES (1934) and you’ll know what I mean.
TINY ANTHEM, on the other hand, is a chapter in what seems to be an animated space opera. While you have probably encountered the story countless times within the science fiction universe (i.e. tyrannical space alien trying to take over the universe), that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch. Furthermore, the space alien’s uncanny resemblance to the PowerPuff Girls arch-nemesis, Mojo Jojo, was a nice little throwback to the days when I used to watch Cartoon Network.
All in all, Skrillex, Diplo and A-trax have done an incredible job setting up POTATOwillEATYou. I would highly encourage you to check it out: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBYd5Tf-XOq9YoqN3MqhwEA?sub_confirmation=1
*** You can access Julio García Espinosa’s essay, “For an Imperfect Cinema” by clicking on the following link: http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC20folder/ImperfectCinema.html
FYI – I will post my review of the second BANG! episode later this evening. POTATOwillEATyou posted it this afternoon while I was working on this post and since I already had something going here, I thought it would be best to write the second episode review in a separate posting.