World-renowned mashup artist Robin Skouteris, was born in London but grew up in Greece. Obsessed with music as a child, from an early age he was often seen running around with his Walkman on, listening to 80s pop gems such as Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Black, Pet Shop Boys and many more. After studying film direction, it soon proved difficult finding work in Greece, so the logical next step was to learn music technology and start producing the musical ideas that had existed in his mind for years.
“I was always a huge music fan, spending all of my allowance on new albums, singles, tapes and vinyl. I always dreamt of making new versions of the pop hits I was listening to. So when the time came, I thought I should get a computer and make those thoughts a reality. I heard my first mashups when searching for music on the web back around 2004. I thought this is such an interesting thing. Two songs I already knew but mixing them both together sounded fresh, with a new personality! I immediately started working on my own ideas and played them at a local café I had started DJing at. I thought this could be the different thing that could make my sets stand out from the competition. It gives your own personality to already known hits, so I wanted to invest in this. As a DJ, I didn’t like just playing other people’s music without adding my own art to it. Something didn’t feel right, until then…”
Although one particular stand-out creator has never existed for Robin, he cites Marc Kinchen and Michael Cretu as his most influential producers and admires the likes of Dan Mei, Titus Jones, DJs From Mars and Kill_Mr_DJ from the mashup scene.
“I would say Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’, Enigma’s ‘MCXMC a.D.’ and ‘Introspective’ by the Pet Shop Boys are some of my most influential albums. ‘Bad’ was a pop gem. Amazing crystal-sounding production, and such a different sound from all of MJ’s previous work. Who didn’t admire that guy back then? Enigma’s first album was a masterpiece. People didn’t even know producer Michael Cretu was behind this project. Everything was so mysterious, so moody. His use of samples in the early 90s was impressive, but the whole project was so original and unique, it actually jump-started the whole New Age movement for the whole decade. ‘Introspective’ by the Pet Shop Boys was also quite different for its time. It was an album of 6 extended tracks that were later edited as singles. Those long versions let the tracks evolve and breathe in a very housey and creative way for pop music. As far as I know, it was also one of the first mainstream dance records that included recordings of a full orchestra. I always admire albums that are game changers and bring something new to the table.”
From remixing the Scissor Sisters to creating official mashups for Ministry of Sound and the X Factor, collaboration has always been a large part of his work ethic.
“Ministry of Sound asked me to produce a house mashup for a collection of house tracks they released under the name DECADE, and it includes hits from the 2000 up to 2009. Such a fun project and crowd pleaser – I always play this mashup in my sets! Also, X Factor UK asked me to produce a remix to mark their 10 year anniversary, including winners and stars that came out of the show! I wasn’t familiar with all of the stars that resulted over the years, mainly because I don’t live in the UK, so it was fun to discover so much cool pop music to choose from! In the mashup scene, I have also done some cool collaborations with Kill_mR_DJ and I think we have some good chemistry and ideas when we work together!”
But which mashup creation is he most proud of so far?
“That would be a difficult question. How can you pick your favorite child? Hahaha. If I had to pick one, one of my latest mixes, POPLOVE 8: 2019 Vs 2010s comes to mind, because the concept was to combine the hits from 2019 with major hits from the whole decade, and that was so challenging and fun at the same time. To be honest, I didn’t like much of the music of 2019, so I came up with this concept where I can squeeze in some of my favorite hits from the last decade. I had a great time mixing this, with plenty of nostalgia hitting me in the face, listening to all those hits from previous years gone by. I think nostalgia is a very strong part of my mixing generally.
“I’ve just finished my 8th mashup album called “Music Therapy” which I released through my website and social media. It was during the coronavirus lockdown that I saw all of my projects and live gigs getting cancelled and this started to make me feel lonely and isolated in the house. But I pushed myself to make the situation creative, listened to lots of uplifting pop retro music which made my day and started mixing stuff with it. The result is a very colourful upbeat remix album, which takes hits from the 80s, 90s and some more recent hits, giving it a fresh take. I am so excited about this, I wish I had some gigs to play these tracks and enjoy people having fun with it. This record is made to make you dance.”
Interestingly, with 200k followers on Youtube and some hugely viewed videos, he says there isn’t any particular secret to his success.
“I just really do whatever feels good at the time. I always loved pop music, so pop means popular anyway. Sometimes it’s about a cool idea you might have and sometimes its pure luck that your videos go viral. Sometimes it all depends on who will post your stuff and advertise you. So you have to work on your own and try to push yourself out there. Sometimes I find myself complaining that my personal favorite mixes never get the credit I was hoping for, while others I did for fun or very quickly, became viral. You can never know what people are in the mood for, you can always hope and appreciate what’s coming for you!
Preferring to work on solo projects the last few years, he’s been taking his time on them in his home studio and believes that the younger you are, the more sociable and collaborative you are, but later in life you tend to isolate more, focus on your art and do your stuff quietly.
“At least I see that’s what happens in my case. I prefer to work alone at the house and then present the work in front of crowds and DJing which is exciting! I’ve always mainly used a computer, nothing too special. I always believed it’s how you use stuff, not what expensive equipment you have. I remember while studying music technology in London, as I delivered my projects, two teachers told me that my stuff sounded like I had taken it to a professional studio and not worked on it in my room on my pc. I was so flattered because I knew how much time I had spent the previous night tweaking the details on my headphones to make it sound good. So my computer and equipment was never nothing expensive and special. I could even work on a budget laptop, as long as I have my favourite software. That’s the trick I guess, I keep upgrading the way I work through software and plugins.
My process has changed over the years and I like to try different stuff. Sometimes you just have an idea that works right in your head, so you try that out. But maybe some lyrics sound good combined? Every time, the reason to bring some songs together can be different and that’s the beauty of it. There is no specific recipe and music brings out different stuff in you. I might try mixing two things in some DJ software, or I might try something in an editing program. I ALWAYS start with two songs and then decide what I can create from them, unless I have a themed mashup and that requires me to fit many tracks together under one roof. This is usually the most challenging kind of approach, but the rewards are great in the end. For example, on my new album, there is a track called ‘Loneliness’ and all the songs in it talk about being lonely. I didn’t know if they would fit together, so I tried many things and I think the result sounds good enough. Ironically, it’s not a sad song.
So what does he like most about Hit’n’Mix Infinity?
“It’s very original. I saw the demo online and I was stunned with what it can do. I still have a lot to learn, and I can’t wait to use it full-time on my next projects. I used it on three tracks on my last album and it was so helpful for chopping and alternating vocals and cleaning sounds and acapellas for remixing. What I like the most is how it analyses the sound and its many layers, and manipulates one specific sound without affecting the others. For example, on my disco mashup ‘Funking Outside’, George Michael was singing over some backing vocalists, and the whole acapella was sounding so full, that I couldn’t use one specific phrase he sang. With Hit’n’Mix Infinity, I was able to separate his solo performance from the background and use only the phrases I needed. I have never been able to do this before with any other software and the polyphonic analysis is astounding. Hit’n’Mix Infinity seems like brand new technology that will be very helpful in the future for us remixers. There are so many other things that the software does, and I can’t wait to really dig in! Seems I’m just getting started with it!”
So what does he believe is the future of music technology and interactive media?
“Hit’n’Mix is on the right track, taking audio files that are out there, and manipulating them in ways we couldn’t do before. I guess technology is heading that way. We’ve been using natural sources since the day we started making music, but technology is bringing so many new possibilities to the game by manipulating what we already have. If I had to talk about us remixers, mashupers and DJs specifically, we heavily rely on technology and the manipulation of sound. Our whole lives and careers are online and that makes things move so fast, that we are not even sure what the trends are anymore, but that’s what we need to take advantage of. Now that the whole music scene relies on online exposure, any one of us can make a difference. WE can set the trends because we have a voice. Anyone of us could be the next big thing, if we prove that we do our thing with passion. It’s a time where anyone can shine.”
Finally, for anyone wanting to be a future mashup star, he has some valuable advice.
“I am not saying anything new that people haven’t been saying that for years but just be yourself and do what you do. Do what you love. Don’t compromise. The music industry has been evolving into record company-driving robotic hits that have no soul, and that only comes from people that compromise. They compromise about fame and money, but we need to change that, and take music back to where it belongs. The art.
We have to give our personalities to everything we do, otherwise there is no point in doing it at all. Ironically, that comes from a mashup DJ that has been working around pop music all his life, but the whole thing is that we have to put our own ideas on things and create new stuff. Even if a remix is based on something that someone else did, that’s how things in art work. You take an idea, add your own and then take things in new directions. So express yourself, don’t be afraid of your ideas, show them to the world. Everything can be creation, everything can be art, everything is a mashup.”
Check out Robin Skouteris here.