As the '80s drew to a close, so did vinyl's dominance. CDs were coming on strong and even cassettes were starting to get nervous. Grunge and alternative were rapidly becoming more and more popular, with bands like Nirvana leading the charge.
As those of us whose music libraries got a lot bigger thanks to Napster and its ilk can attest, the advent of mp3s in the '90s changed everything.
Many took the opportunity to rip all their CDs and either put them into storage or sell them off entirely. Going totally digital became cheaper and easier for the younger generation of music consumers. Me?
You can pry my physical media out of my cold, dead hands.
Not only did I not stop buying CDs, I was ramping up my purchases.
One of my favorite things to do on slow weekends was to head down to the local CD Warehouse in Sunnyvale, which had several listening stations (a cheap CD player and a set of reasonable headphones) set up, so you could listen to something before you bought it. I would look through the endless stacks of CDs for any artist I recognized, or even anything with a really interesting cover and go listen to it. I discovered a lot of obscure but quality music that way.
One weekend I recall going up to San Francisco with some friends and meeting up with other friends in the early afternoon. I'd convinced them to park near Amoeba, which is a famously huge used music shop with tons of vinyl and CDs. On this day they all wanted to go do something a ways off, but I'd only been at the store for about 20 minutes.
Me: "Just leave me here, I'll wait for you guys to get back!"
Friends: "It's probably going to be several hours, you realize?"
Me: "Okay, sounds good! Have fun you guys!"
Friends: *incredulous, slightly exasperated look*
Yep, that was me. It got to the point that anytime I ever mentioned going to the CD store, everyone who was with me knew it probably meant leaving me there while they went and did anything else they had to do before coming back to get me.
Don't worry though, I haven't let it get out of hand. I only have about 4000 CDs!
Speaking of Napster, it was a great place for me to find remixes of songs I'd never known existed. One day I found a remix by someone called Rhythm Scholar. I loved it, and in the file info for the track was an email address, so I wrote to it, thus starting a very strange and interesting friendship.
He was a guy from Chicago who loved remixes as much as I did, which is amazing in itself. I had been considering getting back into making remixes again since it was a lot easier to make them when you weren't limited to your dad's cassette deck. Luckily for me, he was already fairly skilled at using Multiquence, a track editor that allowed for easy slicing and dicing of songs, perfect the crazy kinds of edits I loved in remixes. We started to pick songs to remix together, each making our own versions. Truthfully, he always had a lot more technical skill, and my ideas were usually completely chaotic - I'd use basically ANYTHING that I thought sounded cool, other songs, movie quotes, video game samples...you name it.
We would sit around geeking out about remixes we both knew from the '80s, cracking up about things that 99% of the population would be scratching their heads at. When I told him I was furry, it was an endless source of jokes, yet it never really felt mean-spirited. I think he thought it was crazy and if he didn't want to openly admit it, he liked crazy a lot more than mainstream.
He's actually become seriously talented, enough to have been commissioned by major labels a few times. His mixes are quite excellent, far better produced than I could ever dream of being. You can check out his stuff at www.rhythmscholar.com.
When the mashup craze began in 2001, I had a front row seat. Of course people had mixed different songs together before, but in terms of mainstream cred, pretty much no one knew what a mashup was before a group of music fans created a site called Get Your Bootleg On, which was pretty much The Place To Be for anyone serious about making and posting them.
Bootie, the (self-proclaimed) first and still largest mashup-dedicated weekly club night in the world, located in San Francisco, started about two years later.
I even got to DJ in one of the side rooms in 2016 when they collaborated with Frolic (the monthly furry dance party in SF) in what was the first, and possibly only time I ever played to a crowd of mostly "normal" people. It was incredible, the dance floor was so crowded people were just writhing in union. If there had been a fire, there was no way I was ever getting to the exit in time - I had to climb over equipment just to get to the mixer!
Some of the people who frequented GYBO went on to minor fame: DJ Kue, DJ Earworm, Go Home Productions (the Blondie/Doors mashup "Rapture Riders"). I was just excited to be a tiny part of the scene, occasionally posting my stuff and getting positive feedback on it. "But," you probably aren't wondering, "why did you decide to go by AudioDile, and not DJ Croc or something?"
In the early 2000's, whenever I made a burned CD of something, I usually made artwork for it too, and started putting the name AudioDile in my fake copyright credits. Besides being a musical version of crocodile, there's the (awful) pun of "audio dial". So when I started making music, I decided to keep using it. My Twitter name "microdile" comes from the same ideology - a tiny version of me, lexically edited down from my preferred length for the easily distracted masses.
The track I am most likely known for (or at least that seems to be most popular) is probably "Anew Contraption", a huge megamix I made of several Boards of Canada tracks in 2004. If you're not familiar with Boards of Canada, their music is incredible: nostalgic semi-ambient drones, melodies, samples of children and kids shows all mixed together with a heavy dose of anxiety and intoxication. There are at least four different videos that random people have made for it on YouTube. Sometimes they even credit me!
In 2006, I made a mashup called "More Werewolves of Alabama", which combined Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London", along with Boston's "More Than A Feeling" cut up to sound like the music from Madonna's "Don't Tell Me". This should give you a good idea of how all over the place my ideas were. Two years later Kid Rock would release a track called "All Summer Long", which mashed up the music but not the lyrics of ...yes, Sweet Home Alabama and Werewolves of London. I settled out of court for never having to listen to another Kid Rock song again.
As an interesting footnote to that song, I was a fan of audio/visual electronic group Hexstatic who had made a compilation that mashed up and remixed various popular songs and movies into witty music videos. The comp was released under the name Exactshit, an anagram of Hexstatic.
So I sent them a message through MySpace (this was 2008) asking if they knew where I could get copies. They wrote back:
"I am afraid they were only available in the Ninja (Tunes) shop and have sold out. We can not press any more soon due to legal reasons. Tell you what though, i like your werewolves track so much i will burn you dvd-r's of the dvd's if you send me a good quality aiff of that track. I'd like to do an edit and cut a video for it to play in our show. whaddayasay?"
I think you can guess what I said.
All my life I've wanted to not just mix music, but actually make it. In the early '90s I recorded a bunch of pretty basic instrumental demo pop/dance tracks on my Yahama keyboard (under the name Casiodile), but I didn't really do anything else in terms of creating music for a very long time.
One of my friends and former roommates, Colson, is an extremely talented musician and produced a lot of underrated music under several different names: The Everpresent Melancholy, Too Small The Limelight, Polite Fiction and Pacific//Hotline, which was a brief but fruitful collaboration with Australian musician Gryff. I legitimately believe that his music was more than good enough for radio airplay, and I think it bugs me more than it does him that it wasn't. He put out some really well done music video covers on YouTube under his real name Travis Ratledge about 10 years ago, that have a few million views total.
One of the things I'll always be proudest of is the track we did together, "Get Chemical". It came together surprisingly quickly, both of us taking turns writing parts. I wanted to make a funky dance track, and he always seemed to know what little extra flourishes and melodies to add to the track to make it sound even better. We even got Rhubarb the Bear to contribute some sweet sax, cause what's more '80s than sax? I really wish I had been more motivated to do more tracks with him. But at least there's one great one.
I've been quite fortunate to have met a few of my musical idols. In 2016, the last occurrence of Elliott's Spring Gathering, a furry event formerly held in Las Vegas, I was incredibly stoked to learn that one half of EDM legends Orbital, Phil Hartnoll, would be in attendance both to DJ and do a Q&A.
The Q&A only ended up having an attendance of about a dozen people, shocking to me but I can't say it wasn't awesome to have a bit more chance to ask him many of the questions I had long wondered about.
ESG was held at The Palms, a really nice hotel with a swanky nightclub on one of the upper levels called The View. It had previously been called Moon and closed to the public in 2014 but we had been allowed to use for our dances at night. Not only was I fortunate enough to have been selected to play there, but I found out I would be opening for Phil himself, who would be playing a DJ set after me. No pressure.
But I was worried for nothing, because my set went great and I even got a few minutes to sit and chat with him. He was such an open, polite person, and I managed to hold back my desire to ask a million different questions about his music and his life. It's such a surreal feeling to be talking to someone whose music you've listening to for most of your life like it's no big deal.
Arguably my favorite musical artist just in terms of how I relate to the music, is piano prodigy Ben Folds. The day I bought Whatever and Ever Amen, it literally blew me away how good it was. I'd never heard anyone play the piano with such sheer intensity and power, matching amazing melodies and harmonies with lyrics that ranged from bitingly sarcastic to deeply poignant. It all spoke to me in a way very little else, outside of maybe Alanis Morrissette had. Songs like "Best Imitation of Myself", "Smoke" and "Evaporated" felt like I could have written them myself. I saw Ben Folds Five play several times over the next few years, and a few more when Ben went solo and released his opus Rockin' The Suburbs.
Then, a few years back I found out he was playing a couple hours away, but this time there were VIP tickets available that gave you access to a Q&A, a soundcheck and...what's this?... a photo with Ben?!
Well, if you know me, you probably know what the first thought I had when I read that was.
I was getting a pic of Croc and Ben unless security dragged me away.
At the concert, about 20 people apparently purchased the VIP package, and we were let into the roughly 1000 seat theater to sit in the first two rows where Ben and a music teacher moderator were sitting on stage. I sat in the first row, directly in front of Ben. He looked a lot like Hugh Laurie in House with his beard.
The Q & A was interesting, and I did get a chance to ask Ben a question about the fact that he collaborates a lot with other musicians, and was that because it was easier to write songs with others, or more because it was more fun and enjoyable to work with people he admired? He said that he viewed most of his work as a collaboration because even when he was doing "solo" work he still had to work with his studio musicians or producers, etc.
When the meet & greet photo op portion started. I decided to go to the end of the line, since it was going to take me a second to become my cutest self and I was hoping to draw as little attention to the transformation as possible. Without anyone else there with me to assist, getting in full suit was pretty much out of the question, and too time consuming even if I had been able to. The woman next to me was very interested about what was in my bag, and when I told her matter-of-factly that it was a gator, she had Questions about it, so I constructed a tale Based On A True Story while steering away from furry. Somehow I sweet talked my way into getting her to help take a photo of us.
Finally it was my turn, and my nerves spazzed out as I rushed to put my paws on before walking up to Ben and shaking his hand. I very unconvincingly asked "can I get a photo with you in costume...in honor of Halloween" (which was a scant 9 days away) or something equally embarrassing. Look, if we'd had 30 minutes to chat, I would have been more than happy to talk about furry, but we had about 30 seconds.
Ben looked at me with an understandably puzzled expression, laughed and said "oh, I just thought you had a phobia about shaking hands." There was a person with a real camera taking pics so they could be posted after the event, which was considerate of them but also probably intended as a time-saving measure.
He then said something about once losing a race to someone in a costume, but I was too distracted obsessing about what if anything I should say, to catch exactly what it was. It was all happening so fast, and there would be no time for any the conversations I'd mentally rehearsed (but likely would have butchered anyway). I heard someone I couldn't see say "are you sure that's just a [Halloween] costume," but they were too classy to say the F word.
Quickly grabbing the black and white photo of Ben they'd given us to have signed, I asked Ben to please make it out to Croc. He started to write K and I said as unsarcastically as possible "It's a C, you know, like a crocodile". I actually wondered later if he did that on purpose, because he IS a well known smart ass.
I managed a few brief compliments and just like that it was already over. I said "Thanks, man," and jumped offstage without taking the stairs or my head off, feeling like I'd just stolen the crown jewels and was escaping in broad daylight.
Later, Ben and I would write a song together about a pandemic.
Well.... a really short song, maybe.
Honestly I'm not sure what else I could realistically ask for at this point. Who gets to do all that with their favorite musician?
And hey, if Ben remembers anyone from that meet & greet, it's probably the weird but friendly dude in the gator suit. I'm pretty okay with that.
And that's most of everything really significant that's ever happened to me musically to date.
If you'd like to check out more if my music, there's a music player built into this site which is currently loaded up with mashups, but you can also find my mashups, remixes and sets, both dance and chill, at www.audiodile.com, my slightly outdated website, or on SoundCloud for the shorter works and MixCloud for the longer dance sets.
Thanks for taking this journey down memory lane with me. I hope it was enlightening.
Until next time, as Scooby-Doo's best friend once said,
"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."