Crate Digger Death-Match, Round One

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Crate Digger Death-Match logoOn January 5th 2008, The ECC competed against 11 other remixers in the Crate Digger Death-Match. The Challenge: with only $12 of materials, create at least 12 minutes of music in only 12 hours.

It was brutal. Only half of the competitors even managed to finish. For those that did, their music -- 6 songs of 2+ minutes each -- will be judged by 3 judges. Also, each competitor chose a "hit song" to be judged by a 4th judge... the public. (If it's not too late, please visit the voting page and vote for The ECC's track, Boom-a-lakka-boom) The results will be announced on January 14th.

Here are all six of The ECC's songs:


Read on for commentary and reax about being in the first ever Crate Digger Death-Match:

It started with a very important decision -- where to spend the $12. Obviously, San Francisco is not the place to try to stretch $12... I was certainly jonesing for the good ol' thrift days of Columbus... but, short of driving to perhaps Oakland, San Francisco it is. I picked the Community Thrift on Valencia, chosen because they (alone?) actually categorize their records. They also tend to have more 12" singles than usual; potentially helpful for drum loops or a capellas. However, 12"s are a risk, since you'll only get one track for the cost of a whole record. Keep in mind that the competition forbids pre-made drum loops or synths -- the music produced must be made from only your $12 of materials.

Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one with this strategy. There was another competitor there when I arrived... and yet another competitor arrived before I left.

As well, it turned out that Community Thrift was charging $1.50 a record -- pricey for a thrift store. I probably would have done better to go to Amoeba, or another record store with dollar records. Luckily the 45s were only 50 cents, so I focused on those. I tended to focus more on spoken word picks, since I can coax music out of spoken word, but not vice versa. Some selections were also made to meet the three "motifs", themes chosen to spices up the competition (they were: 80's, country and/or house, and something backwards). My final selections were:

TradeMark's CDDM finds

  • 45s:
    • Stars on 45 (medley of multiple pop songs... handy)
    • Blazing Saddles (theme song + Madeline Kahn B-side; meets country theme)
    • Desiderata (spoken word 70's hit; potentially good a capella / spoken samples)
    • Willie Nelson, On The Road Again (country theme)
    • Herbie Hancock Mega-Mix (Yessss! Hello, electro drum loops)
    • Will To Power (80's theme + dance samples)
  • LPs:
    • The Dave Brubeck Quartet, In Europe (jazz)
    • Brother Dave Gardner, Ain't That Weird? (spoken samples)
    • Popular Science Publishing, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (filmstrip soundtrack?)
    • Jose Jiminez, Talks To Teenagers (comedy album)
    • Tomita, Planets (synth album, for synth/electronic musical samples)
    • Firesign Theater, Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him (comedy album)
  • CD-ROM: The Learning Company, Logic Quest

Firesign Theater turned out to be the real treasure, as I suspected it would -- they focus a lot of audio production, whereas most comedy albums are straight recordings of stand-up routines; pretty surreal stuff too. When it was nearing the end and I needed to vomit out tracks as quickly as possible, Firesign Theater saved my bacon a few times over, and in the end made it into 3 of the 6 tracks. I thought the Tomita album would be similarly fruitful, but it sucked (for sampling purposes) -- thick sounds awash in reverb; very few distinctive or separate sounds good for extraction. I took a gamble that the CD-ROM would have a number of ready-to-use sound files as part of this educational game. I won the gamble; it got used prominently on two tracks. The Dave Brubeck album was a lucky find; the jazz drumming from it provided rhythms for two tracks.

I spent a long time harvesting samples, perhaps 3-4 hours. I'm not sure whether that was too long or not; having a lot of stuff to choose from was helpful near the end when time was running out, but it was frustrating not having the time to finesse some good starts into some much better results. All of the tracks were made in Sony Acid 6.0.

It got tight. Two hours before deadline, only 3 tracks were complete. The next hour only produced one track. Somehow two more tracks were thrown together completing whole messy album -- with only 3 minutes left.

I recorded a handful of installments in an attempt to make an audio blog of the experience: