Concerning ’groupthink’ concernes

A week ago co-founder of The Sixtyone, James Miao, wrote an open letter to the community, explaining what he considered to be 'groupthink' and why he sees that as a thread to T61. His epistle caused quite some upset, mainly because James confirmed that one of the important forces behind all kinds of social activity, the user known by the name KosmikRay, was banned because of violations of the Terms Of Service. The ban eventually resulted in the termination of the KosmikRay account.
The owners of The Sixtyone wanted to make sure that Listeners can make independent choices, something that they see endangered by what they call groupthink and mob mentality. James: "it drastically limits the voice of the community to specific subsets of power users, which is exactly why so much injustice pollutes today's record business."

He doesn't make it all clear what he considers to be mob mentality, although he mentions a phenomena invented by KosmikRay, called Upload Party - more about that later.

Mob mentality

Maybe what he meant was, that no group of members should become influential enough to dictate the success of a song or an artist. But I've never witnessed that kind of groupthink.

Of course there was this bunch of Second Life members who promoted T61 in their virtual world and promoted SL artists on The Sixtyone. They possibly succeeded one or two times in getting some of 'their' artists on the homepage, but you could hardly call that groupthink, or even worse, mob mentality. The SL'ers were supportive to some artists but were never able to push them or their songs into the top charts, or prevent others from reaching the billboard. The Listing part of the T61 community is too individual and too smart to let others determine their good taste, not even if the Second Lifers were really aiming at that, which I doubt.
And than there was KosmikRay. Ever so now and then he came up with some exciting event or campaign to add some fun to the fun and some glue between members. The greatest event he was able to organize, was the Mega Upload Party in remembrance of late blues singer, writer and guitarist Michael Paul Miller (1952 - 2008). KosmikRay got more then 61 artists to upload a new song within the time frame of only a few hours. It was as if Artists and Listeners attended a virtual music festival, where Listeners were bumping every song, instead of applauding for them.
The backside of this type of organized events was, that for a brief period of time attention became drawn away from what was normally going on at the browse pages, causing KosmikRay and his friends being accused of gaming the system on several occasions.

Adding Fun to the fun, playing games within the game

It's quite odd that the term 'gaming the system' is used to brand activities - that were organized with no other intention in mind, then to have some entertaining, social interaction with the community - as an act of violation. Especially when you take into account that the system is a game and that the participants only used the tools that were supplied by the system itself: wall comments, browse zero pages, tuneboxes, multibumps, first bumps, playlists and what not. It's not unlikely that the creators and owners saw these events as a thread to their own plans with The Sixtyone.
To take counter measures against mob mentality is defendable, not only from an owners' perspective, but also from a community's standpoint. Nobody wants to see some big music label spending sky high budgets just to viral advertise anything they like to the top of the game. But none of these things were going on. The Mega Upload Party, the campaign to raise a Temple Scene song to 1000 bumps before it hits the homepage and the First Bump Scramble were no examples of mob mentality. They were examples of games within the game. Nobody who joined these events realized that they did something wrong. Yet, within a few days, the freedom to comment on any wall you like, or send any Listener you like a tunebox was taken away, the account of a very active and highly respected member was terminated and one off the co-founders introduced the terms 'groupthink' and 'mob mentality', associated these with events of good intention, and declared them unwanted.

Game psychology

I believe the whole groupthink epistle was written to justify measures (the ban of KosmikRay and the block-by-default of the Listener walls and tuneboxes) against a certain way of using T61. There was definitely no mob mentality going on. When James writes: " the only way we can reliably shed light on good new music is when listeners make independent decisions", he might be right in itself, but the unbiased mind he wishes for every Listener is not endangered by groupthink.
As a matter of fact, it's not endangered at all, but it is surely influenced by the system. Elements like Leader boards, first bumps, max bumps, points, levels, revives, achievements, listener subscriptions, Sam and James being top 40 Listeners and Artists being featured on the official T61 blog, do have their effect on the ability to make independent decisions. This is just plain game psychology and there wouldn't be a game without it. The amount of influence is determined by the ability of the Listener to recognize and deal with this game psychology. It wouldn't surprise me if the top Listeners are all individuals who master these influences.

In other words, if you want te be good at the game* you have to learn to control yourself, which is not easy with all the great songs that you come across.

A small group of loud members

What happened last week with the ban of KosmikRay, the block-by-default of comment walls and the open letter by James, was rude, unnecessary and poorly explained. It gave way to anger and polarization, which was foreseeable and also dealt poorly with. The Listeners who dared to express their anger were described as being part of a small, loud group. As if the silence majority of members agreed with the measures taken. But it is more likely that the majority of members just wanted to have fun, hear good music and try to become better at the game. They don't want to be bothered by disputes between the owners and a small group of unsatisfied Listeners.
What constantly is being overlooked is, that the small group of members who vent their opinion, is a group of very active Artists and Listeners. People who promote and advocate The Sixtyone outside. People who try to get new Listeners on board, as well as new Artists. People who bring their membership to a higher level, by adding some A&R support to Artists (which was the case with - amongst others - KosmikRay, of whom a professional Artist said to me: "I recieved some good advice from KosmikRay - many actually.") People who take the music they discovered at T61 outside through blogs and podcasts. Their involvement with the site causes some of them to be critical.
Instead of diminishing those as just a loud group of complainers, you should listen to them and talk with them - not talk at them, or ignore them.

Evonity, June 30, 2008

* On a site note: Being critical is sometimes mistakenly being implied as being against Sam and James. Of course the founders of T61 need their fans to applaud for them. That gives them the energy and spirit to continue their work, but they also need their critics to stay sharp and far ahead of the competition.
* I happen to be one of their critics, not by choice, but by involvement. I don't think this will change. But to once and for all make it clear that in the end, I'm on their side, I hereby truthfully declare that:
  • I am grateful for The Sixtyone - the system is a work of art, in fact, it's the best thing I came across in the past thirteen years of surfing the high waves of information and interaction.

  • I acknowledge that T61 is the property of Sam Hsiung and James Miao and that they can do whatever they want with it.

  • I trust the owners to develop a site for the benefit of an independent music industry.

The Art of the Cover Song

TheSixtyOne has single-handedly restored my faith in modern music. Amarok has been gathering dust in the corner since I discovered it, in favor of my ever-growing radio playlist. As my addiction drove me to meander about the site for hours on end, I came across quite a few amazing—and certainly interesting—cover songs. I started to collect them,and I found I was able to direct a number of people to ones that had slipped by them, and then there were others who did the same for me.

So, I decided to make a compilation of what I feel are the best cover songs I have come across on this website—put in no particular order, for your listening enjoyment. There are surely some I overlooked, and doubtlessly there will be more to come, but you can't afford to miss these.

#1. Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot, as covered by Derek Kurth
This was the song that got this idea rolling, and I had to start off with a special one. It's interesting how well an acoustic guitar lends itself to the notoriously poetic lyrics.

#2. No Diggity by Blackstreet, as covered by The Klaxons
I suppose you never thought you'd ever hear a cover of this song. I didn't either. This is one of the few songs on this list that is a faithful remake (As opposed to a re-imagining), but it's so well-done that I could hardly deprive anyone of this. One of my personal favorites here.

#3.Toxic by Britney Spears, as covered by Yael Naim
Honestly, I can't personally stand the original. I love this version, however. I think it's that she hits the notes that Britney intended to hit when she wrote the song, but couldn't quite pull it off. Ms. Naim, on the other hand, has one hell of a voice on her, and really nails this one.

#4. Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes, as covered by Vivek Shraya
Has a voice that rivals Jack White's, and the beat is as infectious as ever. There's something of a unique, atmospheric twist here though, and it's definitely worth a listen.

#5. Straight to Hell by the Clash, as covered by the Menzingers
I was a little skeptical of this at first, being a huge Clash fan—and the fact that I think he misses the first couple of notes threw me in the beginning, but they really make this song their own from then on, and it truly is one hell of an homage to the original. It's got new energy, and it's definitely won me over.

#6. Maniac by Michael Sembello, as covered by Mark Nicholas
Yes. It's that song from Flashdance. You love it, you know it, and you're going to like this even dancier cover.

#7. Surrender by Cheap Trick, as covered by Ox
I always thought this song could not be covered. As soon as I saw the title, I figured I should be ready to get pissed off, but I was pleasantly surprised. He stayed faithful while still making it his own—it's pretty awesome.

#8. Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles, as covered by cavestar. Kind of.
The video star's reign only lasted about twenty years, as the Internet star has since killed it off in turn. If you liked the original version, you'll like this one; but perhaps these lyrics will hit a little closer to home.

#9. Across the Universe by the Beatles, as covered by Kate Enlow. Kind of.
Some of you are going to love this. Some of you will probably hate it. The Beatles, meet the Smashing Pumpkins. Smashing Pumpkins, meet Kate Enlow. Play nice.

#10. Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2, as covered by RX2008. Kind of.
Like it or not, you cannot deny that this is impressive.

#11. Yellow by Coldplay, as covered by On the Rocks
I am of the school of thought that Coldplay has far more fans than they will ever know, because it's so fun to hate them. I'm not ashamed to say that I like Coldplay, I like the original, and I like this cover. Chris Martin would be proud.

#12. I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow by the Soggy Bottom Boys, as covered by Rench
Another song I never thought I'd see covered. This guy had the voice to do Mr. Clooney some justice, and, apparently, lots of spare records. Enjoy.

#13. Such Great Heights by the Postal Service, as covered by Rhythm & Blue
Rhythm & Blue are something of a sixtyone staple. Everyone on there has heard them by now, and they rarely disappoint. They're one of the most dynamic groups on there, and it's songs like this that remind me of the amazing things that can be done with nothing but the human voice. If you like this, they have a handful of others here—this one just happens to be my favorite.

#14. Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N' Roses, as covered by Mylo
Another track that will probably find as many lovers as haters. I'm personally in the former category, and having always been a fan of the song, I never thought I'd see it turned into a dance track. I'm starting to expect pleasant surprises from this site, though.

#15. Mister Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra, as covered by Lily Allen
What can I say about this one? It makes me happy; it makes me want to dance; it makes me wonder why no one else thought to cover this gem before. Either way, I'm glad it was Lily, because this is a superb remake.

#16. Careless Whisper by Wham!, as covered by the Gossip
Whether or not you like Wham!, this song has been given a completely makeover, and it is is wonderful. For some, it might take a little bit before you get into it, but if you're not singing the chorus with her by the second listen, I'll be impressed.

#17. Closer by Nine Inch Nails, as covered by T.J. Masters
One of the great under-appreciated songs on this site, I stand by this cover. It's almost reminiscent of Richard Cheese, but its newfound atmosphere gives it a bit of a push in the direction of serious. The kid's got a voice on him, anyway, and as a die-hard NIN fan, I stand by this cover. Lighten up, haters.

#18. Heart it Races by Architecture in Helsinki, as covered by Dr. Dog
We're getting into the more modern songs now. Fewer of you may recognize this song than in previous cases, and that may be true as well for some of the upcoming tracks as well, but you can't miss this song either way. It's catchy as all hell, and I think you'll appreciate the song even if you don't know it as a cover.

#19. Hospital Beds by Cold War Kids, as covered by Florence and the Machine
As one comment on this track so aptly put it, “She sung the hell out of this one.” If you have not yet heard of Florence, get used to hearing her name, because she's got a great future ahead of her if she keeps making music like this.

#20. Teardrop by Massive Attack, as covered by Jose Gonzalez
Fans of House might recognize this one. It was recently featured in an episode, and it just so happens to be a cover of the song that became House's notorious theme. Though indeed I was a fan of Jose's before coming to TheSixtyOne, and had also heard this song, I felt it was necessary to include it for those of you who have been unfortunate enough to miss out on this so far.

#21. Heartbeats by the Knife, as covered by Scala & Kolacny Brothers
I had never even heard of the Knife when I first heard this song, but was happy to find that I got to include it in this list when I discovered it was indeed a cover. This song is beautiful, and the vocal harmonies are nothing short of angelic.

#22. Stronger by Kanye West, as covered by 30 Seconds to Mars
I was tempted not to include this song in this list simply because the band is so well-known outside the walls of TheSixtyOne, but it's such an interesting remake that I felt compelled to include it on its own merits. They really manage to bring out the power of Kanye's deep, poetic lyrics.

#23. Hey Ya by Outkast, as covered by Obadiah Parker
On one hand, I had heard this well before coming to TheSixtyOne. On the other hand, it's been spread so far and wide that I was hesitant to put it on this list. But, as of this writing, it currently stands as the single most-bumped track on the entire website, and deservedly so. I could not, in good conscience, exclude it. So, if you've heard this amazing piece of work already, I am sure you won't mind hearing it again. Otherwise, sit back and relax, because you are about to experience something beautiful.

What once was the 24th song is no more. Sorry.

I'll have some Brie with that baguette: Parisian take-away shows

I just came out of one of those never-ending youtube sessions... One clip leads to another, and another and another…and before you know it, half the day's gone. Well, this time, I discovered a goldmine for music magic. It’s a youtube channel called “LaBlogotheque” and their thing is to capture live performances in very intimate/unusual settings in Paris. What got me all excited was the fact that so many of my current favourite artists have taken part in these “concerts a emporter” (“take-away shows") and that it all takes place in my hometown (I can now see on the original blogotheque website, that they've branched out to other cities such as New York)

the website is called Here's a link to the English version

Here’s a small sample of these moments of pure magic:

Alela Diane outside a Parisian church

Arcade Fire in an elevator

Beirut on the streets of Paris, making good use of the trash cans

Grizzly Bear in a Parisian bathroom

Vampire weekend in a van

Bon Iver – there are so many to choose from, so I’ll go for the one that features this funny French building attendant at the beginning. Make sure to watch this one till the end for they hit the streets half way through the performance.

On the road with d: Cassettes Won't Listen

One of my favorite albums that I've been listening to this month is Cassettes Won't Listen's Small-Time Machine. Now, this isn't a particularly new release; the album came out in March, but I hadn't given it a listen yet until earlier this month and I'm glad I checked it out.

Cassettes Won't Listen is Jason Drake and he's a one man band blending electronica and indie rock. When he started, he was just having fun with it and he wanted to trick people into thinking that it was a full band. He fairly effectively did this with his early songs including the first song he had written under the name Cassettes Won't Listen, Cutting Balloons.

Cassettes Won't Listen - Cutting Balloons

In 2007, Cassettes Won't Listen released a free EP called One Alternative, his most recent in a string of EPs that were released only in digital form. This 5-track EP consists mainly of covers of songs that Drake used to listen to growing up and two songs on the site are from this EP: his cover of Blind Melon's Change and his cover of Sebadoh's The Freed Pig.

Small-Time Machines is the first physically released album that Cassettes Won't Listen has made. Small-Time Machines shows Drake's skill in layering putting many instrumental lines together and making the countermelodies work. The site already has one of the album's strongest songs, Paper Float, layering electric guitar, piano, and synth with his vocals into a catchy song. Below is another track from this album.

Cassettes Won't Listen - Large Radio

Cassettes Won't Listen also has various remixes to its name such as one of Pela's Lonesome Hearts. On his remixes, Drake has said, "I approach a remix from a hip hop producers mentality. I rarely use anything other than the vocal track and I usually don’t listen to the original song much. I feel it would have a negative effect on the outcome. I usually scrap the chord progression and song structure and create the music from scratch. I often look at it as a puzzle where I have to unlock the music within the vocals. I can usually listen to music and hear a completely new song underneath the vocals. That's usually how I start."

Pela - Lonesome Hearts (Cassettes Won't Listen remix)

Cassettes Won't Listen website
Cassettes Won't Listen MySpace

AnnieB's Detour: Minipop

For me, this week’s t61 highlight was that San Francisco-based band, Minipop, joined the site. Honestly, with so much music from the SXSW sampler, I was easily overwhelmed, especially with more of the rock stuff. However, Minipop was one of those bands that just stood out to me after listening to their song, “Like I Do”. If you don't know already, I have a slight bias toward dreamy indie pop songs. I actually thought about blogging about them before, but now that they’re t61 official…even better!

Minipop’s website

Minipop’s myspace

Another take on Radiohead's "Nude"

Big Ideas (don't get any) from James Houston on Vimeo.

Obviously with the whole contest and all, there have been numerous remixes floating about. Here's an interesting one that missed the deadline. (Be patient, the song begins at 1:21)

...and here are a couple mixes on t61 that posted (in case you missed them).

Thanks, James!

AnnieB's Detour: Moulinex and SymbolOne

A double post!

Before t61 came along, I had no idea I’d be digging this electronic, 80s-vibe sort of dance music. Particularly, I’ve been very pleased with the two mixes from Moulinex that have come to the site, and I hope more are on their way. Not to be confused with the French manufacturer of small household appliances, Luis Moulinex is a Portuguese dj/German producer who is part of D.I.S.C.O.Texas, a collective of artists (think RAC). I didn’t think anything would come about my random question during my interview with Andre (of RAC) about being from Portugal, and then I read this interview with Luis Moulinex who also admitted Portugal not having a thriving music scene. Portugal sure looks like it's missing out as these artists are fleeting their native country and going elsewhere. Anyway…Moulinex = good stuff!

Cazals – Somebody, Somewhere (Moulinex Remix)

This is the first remix of his I heard.

…and obviously I immediately liked SymbolOne too. Apparently these are long lost “musical” twins that reunited. Not only that, they are Justice and Danger-approved! Justice featured “Love Juice” on their (rejected) Fabric Xmas Mix, and Danger has put his own spin on the track as well.

SymbolOne – Love Juice (Danger TV Remix)

This is another SymbolOne track I like. I should say they have Erotto’s seal of approval too as it is featured in his mix, "The Double Edge".

SymbolOne – Everything Louder Then Everything Else

Moulinex’s myspace
SymbolOne’s myspace

Review: Lux Lisbon - When I Hear The Culture I Reach For My Revolver

Lux Lisbon, one of the first bands to really catch my attention at The Sixty One, makes infectious pop rock. Their mini album is called 'When I Hear The Culture I Reach For My Revolver', four tracks of monumental epic guitar rock. Their bio on The Sixty One declares a clarion-call guitar sound (a clarion-call is a powerful request for action or an irresistible mandate). They're pretty spot on with that assessment. The sound erupts with a confidence that you don't often see in a band's first release.

I've been listening to the album on my iPod on morning walks and it definitely gets the blood flowing. Track 1, 'Plastic Lullaby' has a luscious jangly guitar sound, reminiscent of U2, with beautiful boy/girl harmonizing. Stuart Rooks vocals take off in the chorus and I caught myself singing along after just a couple of listens. Total ear candy.

'Poppy Fields', the second track, has been some compared made to the chorus of U2's 'City of Blinding Lights' because the line "Oh you are so beautiful tonight". Yes, they're the same words, said in a similar manner and I do hear some U2 influence in their music. However, my take, it's a completely different song. I mean, how many songs are titles 'All I need?' I was thinking about that on my morning walk yesterday when Radiohead's All I Need came on. It got me thinking about Jack Wagner's sappy song with the same title. Air, Fat Joe, Matchbox 20, Amerie and probably 1000 other bands have songs of the same title, but I digress... 'Poppy Fields' is a fantastic song.

'Cherry Blossom Tree' is a sweet, softer song, just as the title suggests, but the guitars get going in the solo and the song crescendos into a grandiose spacious sound. It's another song fromt the album that lodges firmly in your brain and you can't get it out of your head (but do you want to?!)

'Animals' has great hooks and lyrics, but it is so steady and rocking that you're almost tired after hearing it! OneMonkey of The Sixty One commented that "You need to check your pulse!" True true.

The final track 'Sunflower' is in the same vein Rob Thomas sound, a mid-tempo pop-rock that really shows off Rook's flourishing vocals.

Technically, all of the musicians play tightly and it's obvious that they've pushed themselves in their craft. Stuart Rooks vocals are always powerful and emotive, allowing him to sing both the ballads and the more rockin' music with equal skill. The band has clearly found their own distinctive sound and if they can get the exposure, they could be chart toppers.

What I don't get is the title of the album, When I Hear The Culture I Reach For My Revolver. I should have asked them about this in the interview. Is it a commentary on the bad music that is so popular and pushed by the RIAA (like the 'New country' genre that I so loathe)? Is it some statement about gun culture?

Experts say that music with exercise boosts brain power. The extra cerebral assistance obviously hasn't helped me figure out the meaning of the album title, but it certainly keeps me from getting bored and quitting my exercise routine early. My only complaint is that five tracks clock in at just over 20 minutes and it's simply not long enough to satisfy my needs. It's finished just as I'm completely into the groove. Gimme more, Lux Lisbon!

Lux Lisbon's mini album is available at iTunes.

Batface89 on Elijah Saint's Podcast!

Listen to me blabber about The Sixty One on 'As Real as it Gets', podcast 29.

A Conversation with James Miao, Co-Founder of The Sixty One


This was an interview that Silkworm did with James a month or two ago but it never saw the light... until now. A Max Bumps exclusive interview with The Sixty One co-founder James Miao!

Silkworm: Hi James. Thanks for taking the time to do this, I know you guys are busy so I appreciate it. Our blog contributors are curious - what's an average day like for you guys? Is the majority of your time working on spent coding or planning, or in some other ways?

James: Our day starts pretty much like everyone else: get up, get dressed and go to work. Except "going to work" means walking 2 steps from bed to desk. It's quite the luxury.

Tasks generally revolve around development, though we spend a good deal of time analyzing site data/trends to help keep the game elements of thesixtyone fair and balanced. I also spend a fair amount of time prototyping new features.

Silkworm: founder batface89 was wondering, what kind of bandwidth are you guys burning through, and how are you managing to pay the bills so far? What's your vision for future revenue apart from click-through ads?

James: Funny question.  I'll just say that it's expensive, but we've invented some clever techniques to help keep costs under control without affecting the user experience.

Silkworm: Speaking of, what does it feel like to have a fan blog for your site? Have you guys been able to check out any of the content on the blog or forums?

James: It's neat.  We aren't too involved but check in from time to time.

Batface89: Thanks, James!

Silkworm: In what ways does the embody what you guys set out to achieve, and in what ways is it different? How do you see it evolving over the next year, or five years? For example, one blog contributor wanted to know if your eventual goal is to sell the site to a bigger company. 

James: I'd say we're pretty much on target. I won't bore you guys with "big picture" mumbo jumbo (since the beginning of time...), but I will say that Sam and I didn't start thesixtyone to flip it.  We made thesixtyone because we believed it would help people by empowering listeners and artists alike. It wasn't -- and will never be -- about money.

Silkworm: A recent changes that has generated the most controversy since the removal of browse:new are the use of meta-data to recalculate artists rankings (the gripe for some of the artists being that this reduced their ability to upload songs, while others benefited)

James: We realized that artist rankings were being gamed across the board, which -- this may sound harsh -- unfairly rewarded some for progress they didn't actually achieve. The goal behind the change was to use more reliable means to calculate a far more accurate measure of artist progress.  We're well aware of the expressed discomfort from existing parties in the artist community (it does suck to feel like you've "lost" something), but it's important to remember that this was a problem that we simply wouldn't have been able to anticipate until thesixtyone grew to a certain scale.

Silkworm: The adjustment to the bump reward formula which saw drastically reduced points being awarded to listeners... could you address what you were trying to achieve with the changes, and how these have been re-balanced since the controversy, if at all? What specifically would you like to achieve in terms of bump usage and the gaming aspect of the site?

James: We observed that too many people were getting rewarded for doing very little.  While it can be a great feeling to earn point rewards, it only stays fun when points are actually earned and risk (spending points) is properly balanced with rewards.  In this case, we had a mini bubble on our hands where pretty much everybody was hitting the jackpot because we hadn't adequately scaled our rewards algorithm with traffic growth.

Silkworm: It's clear from reading the forums that the site inspires a lot of passion and commitment, in both artists and listeners, in what's ostensibly a late-stage Beta site. There's been a lot of sentiment expressed in both the t61 and maxbumps forums, from both artists and listeners (including myself) that there needs to be more frequent and more specific communication from you and Sam. Blog contributor iyzie notes that he doesn't think users need to know all the formulae, but when major changes occur, users may deserve a) some advance notice, and b) some specific reasoning as to why the changes have been implemented. What do you feel could be done to improve communication? Do you guys have any procedures in place for keeping users in the loop?

James:I'll be starting a development blog in the near future (editors note: The blog was launched last week. A blanket answer to your question would be:

- We hypothesize and implement a lot of changes throughout the day, most of which goes largely unnoticed.  Some tweaks work and some don't. The bottom line is that there's such a quick turnaround that it's not practical to document such madness.

- The unfortunate fact is that there are people out there that will take advantage of any transparency for unsavory goals.  We'd rather be tightlipped (safe) for now until we eventually work out an optimal balance in communication flow.  There's a reason why Google doesn't maintain a comprehensive change log on their search engine algorithm.

Batface89: Yes, I can see how you wouldn't want anyone stealing the forumula.

Silkworm: Blog contributor radhruin is wondering how you feel about the creation of user-generated scripts to effect the behavior of the site on the client side?

James: Don't always see the need, but it's cool that somebody's taken the time to share tweaks with others.

Silkworm: Lastly, are you guys still having fun at this?

James: Of course!

On the road with d: The Virgins

Annie's interview with André Anjos of RAC last week reminded me that I wanted to talk about The Virgins, whose new album I've been listening to a bit recently. The Virgins are a New York City-based band formed in 2005. Frontman Donald Cummings and guitarist Wade Oates met on a photo shoot. They became friends with Nick Zarin-Ackerman and met final member Erik Ratensperger when they were auditioning for a drummer.

I'd really been looking forward to the LP (released June 3) after hearing the EP that they released last year. They released that EP back then because they wanted something to give out on tour and they didn't have enough songs properly recorded to make a full length album.

The new album is full of fun danceable rock with a taste of funk and disco. Their songs don't cover much ground lyrically focusing on the rock staples of girls, sex, and drugs, but the songs themselves make up for it permeated with brash energy and fun choruses while maintaining a catchy groove throughout.

The version of Rich Girls that appears on site is actually the version from the EP. When I was first listening to the new album, I was actually caught a bit off guard because I hadn't realized that the songs on the EP had been noticeably redone. For instance, my favorite thing about Rich Girls off the EP had been its fun bass line and this was in fact the most noticeably changed aspect of the song. In the earlier version, the bass line is repeated a lot more throughout the various sections of the song than in the newer version, but I really liked that because that bass line really got under my skin. I did find that I liked some of the other updates to the song such as shortening of the song, but at the end of the day I actually preferred the EP version over the version on the new album.

Rich Girls isn't the only song where I preferred the version off the EP, I felt the same way about Love Is Colder Than Death, which was slowed down on the LP. This isn't to imply that I dislike the LP; this album is still one of my favorites so far this year.

The Virgins - Love Is Colder Than Death (from EP)

The Virgins - Love Is Colder Than Death (from LP)

Another song from the EP is below.

The Virgins - One Week of Danger (from EP)

The Virgins' website
The Virgins' MySpace

A Conversation with Prompter


I started listening to Prompter when I first joined T61.

I think the amazing thing about music and a site like T61, is that upon hearing a piece of music, the last thing that comes to mind is the age of the musician. It wasn't until around the time of the Michael Miller wake that I started to chat with him about his music. I was a bit surprised; though not entirely, that although I thought him young it never occurred to me that he wasn't studying music on at least a university level.

There is a lot of maturity influencing the themes of his music. Not a dark cynical, angst-driven type of maturity that people mistakenly assume is the badge of youth, but a willingness to explore all avenues of the medium with an openness that shows how very much at ease he is with himself and his art.

...but he explains himself far better than I ever could...

Prompter: My name's George Feledichuk. I was born in Victoria, BC, raised in an Edmonton suburb until suddenly we moved to Texas when I was 10.

Mom is a music teacher and singer and Dad enjoys music as well. Inevitably I got my appreciation for music from them. Around 8th grade I started writing some music, but didn't pursue it too intensely until recently, when my first album "" was released on Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, etc.

myktoronto: Do you have any close friends that have influenced your music and music appreciation?

Prompter: Definitely. my friend Taylor perral1 on T61. He's the one who introduced me to the site and was really the one who convinced me that my music was actually worth putting out there.

Taylor spotted me the money to put my album up on iTunes and Amazon through Tunecore, He's been the most encouraging person in this whole thing; although my mom and dad are both really supportive, too; which is definitely helpful.

myktoronto: What kind of outside stimulus seems to trigger your creativity? Do you go for walks or is it stimulating activity that makes thing happen?

Prompter: ... well, I don't know if this is the healthiest trigger, but my best songs have been written while either incredibly angry or incredibly depressed by some situation. I can sit and stare at my monitor for hours and put out maybe an 8-measure loop. But; if I'm inspired by something emotional I'll have a fully scored song out in maybe half an hour. Of course, normally when such a situation occurs, I'm nowhere near my computer. One of these days a laptop should solve that.

myktoronto: Do you constantly write or score tunes in your head ? (I had to ask because; I do that and I just don't know if it's common or normal *yikes*).

Prompter: Actually, I always find myself beatboxing or drumming on desks (to the point where people constantly tell me to shut up). What's ironic is that I can beatbox on the spot, but I have trouble writing drum parts because I can never get the sound I'm looking for. As far as full songs go, I've had occasions where something happens that just causes me to hear one; and I'm lucky when I can get one of those out. Fire's probably the best example of that.

Example: A kid was threatening my sister at school and the whole situation really upset me, but I heard about it sitting in front of my computer... so full songs, like with Fire, come occasionally, but not as often as I'd like.

myktoronto: Are you involved in any other artistic pursuits?

Prompter: That depends on when you read this. I'm tentatively starting a band with a few friends. The idea is to try and get different styles together and see the child of that musical union. The guitarist likes modern electro rock and industrial, the drummer in the style of Incubus and 311, a classically trained pianist in the group happens to love U2, and me on bass (another reason it's tentative) with my amalgamation of influences... so we'll see how it pans out...

myktoronto: How do you relax?

Prompter: Most of the time I listen to as much music as I can. I've got like; 34 days of straight music in my library and to be honest, I haven't heard near enough of it.

I'm obsessed with web-comics such as Questionable Content and Sam and Fuzzy, and I'm always anticipating updates. Plus, I'll go ahead and confess that I play role-playing games (the old kind where you roll dice... remember dice?) As well, I mooch off of my friends' riches and go over to their houses to marvel over the various available consoles. Other than that; I read (more than I should).

Actually I failed a class before because I was too busy reading. My favorite author is William Gibson. Oh, man, I wish I could write like that. There are plenty of others too.

My general literary interests are sci-fi, philosophy, and scientific non-fiction.

myktoronto: What musician living or dead would you most like/have liked to spend a day with?

Prompter: Aaahhh.... that question isn't fair. I'm going to finish the other ones and come back to ponder this one for hours....
...okay, I'm back.

You sure I can't just make a list?... got to choose one?... I'll make a list of candidates and throw a dart (seriously.)

...alright, looks like we're going with Brian Eno - man! He's a genius. It's like every album he even puts his name on becomes instantly that much better from the influence he has. I'm in awe of his work; the way he's helped produce so many pinnacles of what music today 'is'.

I was talking to KRay recently about the 'shape of sound' and how few people know it. Eno was the first person to come to mind. That's the best way to describe him. He knows the shape of sound. (thanks to KRay for the quote.)

Man, I wish I could go on about some more people, but alas, the dart has already chosen the fate of this interview.

*Some other incredible people are Scriabin, Boards of Canada, Armin van Buuren, Gabriel & Dresden, Mike Foyle, and Daft Punk.

myktoronto: Is there anything funny or odd that happened to you either in the school band or when you were performing? (or both)

Prompter: Well, I'm a percussionist; so hijinks abound (we're all crazy). Thinking of a specific incident...let's see; the biggest problem is the sheer amount of inside jokes that wouldn't make any sense to the readers. I'm trying to think of something that could be standalone.

I guess the day I tried out to play tenors. I hadn't come to any of the clinics and I had written the solo around 4:00 a.m. that morning (I always write required music a lot later than I probably should). I had put on my tryout sheet that tenors were my first preference, and I listed being in 'pit' (mallets and xylophones and such) as the very last thing I wanted to do. I'd say that tryout influenced me quite a bit, as my horrid failure led to my being placed in pit and realizing "hey, I don't have to carry heavy drums like those other poor guys! sweet!" and I stuck with it.

Next year will be my second year as pit captain, and I'm proud to say; I still don't have to carry those heavy drums.

myktoronto: If you could meet any artist on thesixtyone, who would it be?

Prompter: I'd have to say BEARBOT. I've maxbumped each song (on my listener account) and not only has it been incredible on the point payback, but I have enjoyed every track and played them all several times. Plus, the Daft Punk mixes are all brilliant. My favorite song is $m0k3 d4t cR4cK... go check it out if you haven't.

myktoronto: Thanks so much for sharing some of yourself with us, George. At the rate you're going, I think we on the outside, can all foresee a bright and productive musical career ahead of you.

You're an interesting individual that I am pleased to have had the opportunity to get to know better.

Visit Prompter on T61 and MySpace.

Prompter's music is available at and iTunes.

Podcast Interviews from Elijah Saint

Listen to Interviews with Alex Gloworld, Sumkid, Suzen Juel and others at Podcast alley.

On the road with d: Russ Chimes

There are a lot of Chromeo remixes floating around so I was a bit caught off guard a few weeks ago when I clicked to listen to yet another remix and found one by Russ Chimes that totally wowed me. In Russ Chimes' re-envisioning of the song, he makes it into an epic-sounding retro electro number. Quite frankly, it's one of the best remixes I've heard of any song in quite a while.

Chromeo - Fancy Footwork (Russ Chimes remix)

Russ Chimes is all about that 80s electro house sound. He started his involvement with music as a guitarist while in school, but eventually he moved to London to play before he got interested in synth and producing. The song on site of his is actually a remix the Cryptonites did of his song She's Got the Heat. You can compare it to the original below.

Russ Chimes - She's Got the Heat

Below is another of his songs that I like.

Russ Chimes - Mulsanne

Chimes has been working on a number of remixes lately. His most recent are the aforementioned remix of Fancy Footwork and a good one of Sam Sparro's Black & Gold.

Sam Sparro - Black and Gold (Russ Chimes remix)

Chimes recently returned from a tour in Australia and he's working on new original material for his first official release.

Russ Chimes' MySpace

Bagel Bites

Keep On Keepin' On

As I enter my eighth month here at the sixty one I am noticing quite a few things. It was apparent a few months ago that a camaraderie was being formed when many of the users that are involved with the site changed their avatars to little gerbils (or was it hamster?) during a period of user confusion. I admit to feeling as if I was being experimented on and even jokingly brought this up here. Now I am seeing this camaraderie blossom into something more meaningful. I know that this has been brought up elsewhere and that all of the pictures are shown on the Max Bumps site but I would like to say that I am truly proud of the way the community has embraced supergrover and his battle with cancer. In the midst of all the changes the site has gone through and the few who make it difficult to want to stay at the site I find that this involvement and support of supergrover is an amazing reason to stay. Why wouldn't you want to be around such good people? Supergrover, I can admit that I do not know you well and that my contributions and efforts pale in comparison to others but I would like to say that each time I log on to the site I think of you and wish you and your family the best. Your humor has always made me laugh and I know it will be the thing that gets you through this trying time. Keep on laughing and keep on keepin' on.

More From the Underrated Vault

Hammer No More The Fingers

I find it very hard to believe that this song hasn't gotten more attention. It has all the elements that should make for a home page song. A lesser known band with a great hook and good vocals.

The Buddyrevelles

Here is a band that has had some good success on the 61 with a track that got left behind. I don't know who the hell Rodney is and I don't dream of men much but I think I get this song.

Bidding on Revives
This is a relatively new (last hour or so as I am writing this) feature on the site. Already there are a few tracks that have bids over 7000 points. I am curious to see how this plays out as it was very difficult to get a revive before though the purchase price may make it down right impossible for some people. All that being said I would like to dare someone to bid all of their points on a revive. Race to Zero not so difficult style.

Bon Sportage
That's all that I have for now. I am hoping to post more often now that I am out of class and find myself with a little more free time. If you have any thoughts on new features (bites) let me know and I would be happy to give em a go.

A Conversation with RAC


From the artist leader board, there is no doubt that RAC is a t61 favorite with their remixes of some great indie tracks. With the release of RAC Vol. 1 through stereogum, André from RAC was kind enough to answer some questions for our very own Max Bumps!

AnnieB: Obviously you're known for your remixes, so how did you get started with that, and what encouraged you to establish RAC?

André: One of the main reasons I started RAC was because I was extremely frustrated with the remixing scene of the time. Things are definitely better now, but I really wanted to go out and try and do something different than everybody else. I saw remixers like Cornelius taking chances and trying new and innovative things, so that kind of made me decide to create RAC.

AnnieB: And we’re absolutely glad you did. So while you currently do the majority of the remixes, RAC also consists of a few other members: Crookram (Chris Angelovski), Aaron Jasinski, and the latest addition, Andrew Maury. Since you guys reside in different places all over the world, how did these connections come about and what is the common thread that unites you guys under the RAC name?

André: Oddly enough, we haven't met in real life yet. Crookram pretty much taught me everything I know about recording. I "met" Aaron after I saw that he was winning a lot of remix contests around the web. Most recently Andrew Maury did a Ra Ra Riot remix that caught my attention which got us talking. I think the thing that binds us is really the objective of creating something fresh and unique. I'm not sure that always happens, but that's the objective at least. Pure intention hah.

AnnieB: This is sort of random, but you're originally from Portugal. What brought you to the States?

André: Just the lack of a music scene to be completely honest. Portugal has a great potential and lots of great artists, but little to no infrastructure to nurture the talent. It's kind of one of those things that everybody complains about, but nobody knows how to fix. Maybe it is because the country is relatively small. I chose to come to the US after things kind of stalled there, so the next step after high school was naturally to go to college. It was probably more to put my parents at ease then for myself, but I'm glad I'm finally finishing it up.

AnnieB: Alright, speaking of Andrew Maury earlier, were you the one who introduced him to thesixtyone? If so, you definitely deserve some referral points. He's a wonderful addition to the site! What else can we be expecting from him?

André: Yeah, this was before Andrew was part of RAC. I showed him the site and he really liked it and he started uploading his stuff. Unfortunately artist accounts can't bump anything, so I couldn't really help him in that sense. Oh he's always busy working on stuff for us. He's got Jukebox the Ghost, Tiger City, Snowden, Weapons, Tokyo Police Club, and Ra Ra Riot remixes coming up.

AnnieB: Also, will we be hearing any new mixes from the other two members in the near future?

André: Totally, I can't really say anything now because it's too early, but you'll definitely hear more stuff from them in the near future. Crookram recently did a mixtape on the site, check it out.

AnnieB: RAC remixes have a distinctive sound, often with an upbeat fun factor. Unlike other mixes that tend to zone into a particular part of a song, you seem to reinterpret and reconstruct an entire song while still upholding its integrity. What do you aim for when it comes to a mix, and what characteristic do you feel signifies a RAC mix?

André: What's the fun in taking a section and beating it to death? It's great for dancing, but to a fan of the band or casual listening, it's kinda lame. I know this is obvious, but I construct a remix to how I would like it to listen to it. The same thing applies to the structure, which generally is intact. I try to take the song in a different direction. The first time I tried this was with Bloc Party's single "Helicopter”. I did an upbeat version and it was okay, but then I did a very mellow slow version which kind of worked with his vocal lines. I really really like using acoustic instruments which still, not many people use in remixes. I also use mostly analog gear which gives it a certain vintage vibe. About them being upbeat, it's probably because I tend to focus a lot on melody and hardly use dissonance.

AnnieB: A bunch of us are curious to know, on average, how long does it take for you to plan a remix? And what's your approach when you first receive a file? Do you immediately start thinking of how you would alter the song, or is it a much more complex thought out process?

André: As soon as I get word that I’ll be remixing a song, I tend to listen to the original obsessively. I try to analyze every detail and think of how I'll do it. As far as time goes, it really depends case to case. As soon as I receive files, it generally takes me from a day to a week to finish a remix. The Radiohead remix was done in about 6 hours. I've been working on a new Ra Ra Riot remix for 3 weeks and I'm still not entirely satisfied with it, so it really depends. When I start a remix, very rarely do I know how it will come out. I will have basic ideas and melodies, but the rest is just pushing through it. I'm sure everybody has their own method, but this is kind of what works for me.

AnnieB: You've primarily mixed tracks by notable indie artists. During the early stages of RAC, I'm assuming you had to take the initiative of requesting songs to mix. Is it different now with RAC's growing reputation? Are more artists seeking you out?

André: Our first client was The Shins, which still blows my mind how lucky we were. After you remix The Shins, a lot of doors open up and people actually listen. So after a lot of hassling artists, we built up a decent sized portfolio and now we kind of lay back a bit and see what comes in. Most of the stuff we get now is from word of mouth within the industry.

AnnieB: And having done numerous remixes already, are there still any particular artists you haven't worked with yet whose songs you'd love to mix?

André: Well, just recently some opportunities came up to remix two of my favorite artists, unfortunately I can't really talk about it because it's not confirmed, and if it fell through I'd look like an idiot. But… I've always wanted to remix M83! I actually even talked a bit with their management and I thought it might happen, but they already had enough people doing remixes, so the thing kinda fell through. N.E.R.D. would be pretty cool too. Cornelius would be a dream come true.

AnnieB: Aww, that's too bad. Would’ve been interesting to hear what you would’ve done with a track by M83, and I'm sure you can pull some strings with the others. Anyway, I know I'm not the only one when I say this, but I'm constantly on the search for something new to hear. Considering you worked with such clients as Ra Ra Riot and Tokyo Police Club before they gained wider recognition, are there any rising breakthrough artists who you recommend we should be keeping tabs on?

André: Well, The Virgins, which I just got the files today for. Their song "Rich Girls" is a killer pop song. This French kid called Surkin, he has an album out on Institubes. Tiger City, Sam Sparro…This shouldn't count because they have been around for a bit, but I’ve just gotten really into The Cribs.

AnnieB: Ah, I like “Rich Kids”. I’ll be looking forward to your mix of it. Apparently the internet has become a vital tool to the success of RAC, particularly through music blogs. Financially, how is it working out for you?

André: I can finally afford to pay for legal software. hah. I get paid by record labels. Very rarely do I see income from sales. Our objectives are a little bit different in that sense because our target audience are record label suits, and since the smart ones check music blogs for upcoming acts, I need to make sure our stuff pops up every once in a while.

AnnieB: Alright, so since thesixtyone brought us together, in a previous conversation of ours, you mentioned that you thought it was just another music site. In your opinion, what sets thesixtyone apart from the others?

André: Yeah, well there can only be one myspace, (even though they suck lately). There are plenty of knockoff sites, but they all pretty much do the same. At first I thought t61 was just another place to upload some music and hope people actually care. After uploading I figured out the point system and I was really drawn to it. With a built-in user base hungry for music, it was perfect for our remixes. I liked how responsive the community was.

AnnieB: I agree. The community over there is quite something. Your recent Super Mario and Zelda remixes spurred fond childhood memories of the Nintendo vs. Sega rivalry. Were you surprised by the reception of these tracks, and what prompted you to create these?

André:: Me and Andrew were chatting and he sent me this sonic song that he had started. Immediately I had the idea of a battle album in between Nintendo and Sega. Andrew finished the sonic tracks and I did the Mario and Zelda ones in a couple days., which is a part of gawker media, had expressed interest in posting about it, so that drove a ridiculous amount of traffic to our site. Over a month after we first put that up, people around the world still blog about it almost everyday. I was definitely surprised at how popular it got, which was great because it exceeded our expectations by very far. We were honestly just having fun.

AnnieB: Fun is good. Straying from RAC for a moment, you have another musical endeavor. Just last week, thesixtyone had the chance to preview a couple tracks from a band you and Karl F. Kling started up called The Pragmatic. Can you tell us more about it?

André: Yeah, I play synthesizers in The Pragmatic. I recorded Karl's old band a couple years ago and I noticed that we were on the same page a lot on what we did. Meanwhile that band broke up and we decided to try and start something electronic with analog synthesizers. Our first recording session was over spring break and in 4 days we wrote and recorded 4 songs which are still some of my personal favorites. We actually just recruited a bunch of friends and we've started to play live a lot more often. We hope to go on tour full time in December while trying to release some 7'' singles. Things are definitely looking good. I've always played guitar with bands and playing something different has been a ton of fun. Check it out at

AnnieB: And do you find it any more rewarding being able to write your own songs as opposed to remixing other artists' songs? Does this also provide you more of an outlet to perform live?

André: Most of the time it's equally rewarding because in a sense I'm doing the same thing in both situations, because I can't sing to save my life. I think sometimes I'm maybe a bit more attached to my own compositions, because if a remix sucks, I can blame it on the original. I take comments a bit more to heart when it's my own material. But other than that, I take great pride in both kinds of work. I get to DJ with the RAC stuff, but it's so much more fun to play live with a band.

AnnieB: So this week, RAC released its first compilation of remixes through stereogum. How stoked are you? Does this mean we can expect more subsequent volumes to come?

André: I am beyond stoked for this. It's taken nearly a year to get this project together and I'm really happy with how it turned out. You can most definitely expect more, I've already started working on 2 and maybe even 3. Things will be a bit different, and maybe we'll do a physical release.

AnnieB: Lastly, what is your hope for the future of RAC? Where do you want it go?

André: Well, for starters, I want it to be a recognized brand name, no matter what product/service we provide. Most importantly, I want to further advance the art of remixing into something a lot more respectable. People have all kinds of different expectations when it comes to remixes, and I really hope to break those. I'm also starting several different sides of RAC, such as RAC Records and RAC Fashion. We're preparing an album of world music and we're going to release it for charity later this year or next. Basically all the money will go to buy gear for underprivileged musicians in developing nations. So far we have people from Guatemala, Belize, Uganda, Australia, Netherlands, and plenty of others. It's gonna be a massive collaboration that can truly be called world music. We've already gotten into writing scores and music for television. RAC Fashion is basically a merch store. I currently write for HBO's Entourage show and we also hope to further that. One of the main things that made me start RAC was producing, and in the next couple of years I really hope to get into that as well.

AnnieB: Looks like there’s still lots more in store from RAC and we wish you all the best! Once again, thank you for taking the time to do an interview for our little t61 fansite. I'm sure you've got bigger names to work with. Much appreciated, André.

RAC's website
RAC's myspace

On the road with d: The Black Ghosts

When Simian broke up in 2005, two of its members went on to form the more dance-oriented group now known as Simian Mobile Disco. Simon William Lord didn't; he ended up joining forces with Theo Keating of The Wiseguys in 2006 to form the electronic dance pop group The Black Ghosts.

The Black Ghosts first came to my attention thanks to their cover of Olivia Newton John's Let's Get Physical. However, they really captured my attention with what I consider their strongest song, Any Way You Choose to Give It, with its catchy synth-bass line. Keating has admitted that when they were getting started that they got a bit over-excited in getting people to remix their music so there are a lot of remixes of this song floating around. The remix by Fake Blood is on the site, though I do prefer the original (Boy 8-Bit's is my favorite of the remixes, but there are a number of other good ones).

The Black Ghosts - Any Way You Choose to Give It

The Black Ghosts - Any Way You Choose to Give It (Boy 8-bit version)

The Black Ghosts - Let's Get Physical

Their lyrics are often a bit darker than the sound of their songs and that's intentional. On the choice of lyrics to put over the music, Lord's said, "Part of it is a reaction to the inane lyrics usually used in dance music, ‘oooh baby, make me dance, 1234, yeah yeah yeah, sweat, love, shake it oooh’ etc. I just see it as lazy and unadventurous, there’s no reason that lyrics in dance music can’t be more interesting and tell proper stories."

Two remixes of their song I Want Nothing and a mixtape of theirs are also on the site and worth a listen.

If you're interested in music videos, they have an interesting one in their video for their modern take on a torch song Some Way Through This that is worth checking out (the video is done all in LEGOs, which offsets the sort of dark material that the video covers).

The Black Ghosts - Some Way Through This

The Black Ghosts are releasing their self-titled album on July 8, their first full-length.

The Black Ghosts' website
The Black Ghosts' MySpace