In 2008, two college students were looking for new ways to procrastinate. One started to produce mashups in 2008, musical restyling’s of popular songs that take the vocals from one track and the instrumentals from another to create one cohesive new song, and now he and a friend work in tandem as the electronic/mashup duo “The White Panda.”
The White Panda have produced 27 number one singles on the popular music discovery site “Hype Machine,” and have also cranked out six full-length albums. A mashup album is essentially one long continuous mix (typically around an hour) of different mashups sown together. One album will cover an endless amount of genres, will feature dozens of artist’s tracks (through vocal or instrumental cuts), and will sound like one smooth song the entire time if the artist produces it well.
On December 1st, The White Panda released their sixth album- The Pawprint. A two and a half year hiatus from album production resulted in plenty of hype around The Pawprint in the mashup community. As per usual though, The White Panda once again proved that they are the premiere artist(s) in the mashup scene, and I was privileged enough to get an interview with the man who began it all on the day of release.
Before I get into the actual interview, a bit more background is useful. The White Panda came out with their first full-length album (Versus) in 2009. They produced one album a year for the four years ensuing, and then took a bit of a break from the mashup world to work more on remixing popular songs by adding an electronic twist- much like the popular group “The Chainsmokers.”
The White Panda still worked on mashup projects though, and eventually The Pawprint was born. Personally, I find the album to be another great success for the duo. It is evident their electronic work influenced production, and the high artistic benchmark that The White Panda set for themselves on previous projects was met. The album features many phenomenal clips, such as “$ave Dat One For Me”- a mashup of Lil Dicky’s “$ave Dat Money” and Great Good Fine Ok’s “You’re the One For Me.” I HIGHLY recommend giving The Pawprint a full listen.
Mike- “The Pawprint is your sixth full-length album, and obviously you’ve been perfecting the process of production more and more as you go. What are things that you try to do in order to make the albums better each time?”
The White Panda- It’s not a conscious effort as much as I think it’s my taste and production skills improving. I’ve honed my ear over the years, and am much better at identifying what kind of mixes are fan favorites. That combined with a mastery of the audio programs leads to an overall better product I think.
M- The Pawprint is more electronically oriented than some of your older stuff. Did you have specific themes in mind when producing your other albums?
TWP- It’s never intentional, I think it just reflects my taste in music at the time. Listening to The Pawprint will give you a much better idea of what is on my iPod now than listening to Versus or Rematch (their first and second albums, respectively).
M- Do you see yourselves continuing with the production of mash-ups, or moving more toward the EDM/Remix scene?
TWP- A little of both probably. The remix opportunities allow me to further develop my skills and challenge myself, but I’ll always have a soft spot for a good mashup.
M- Subjectively, what are your favorite mash-ups albums?
TWP- Of others, I’m going to go with others and say Night Ripper by Girl Talk. That was the album that got me interested in the genre to begin with.
M- Who are your favorite artists in the mashup world? Outside of it?
TWP- I spend so much time making mashups myself that I don’t really listen to other artists. I’ll end up just kicking myself for not coming up with their ideas first. Outside of it? There’s a bunch of EDM guys I track pretty closely, but my favorite music is classic rock – Zeppelin, Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, etc.
M- What’s the best gig you guys have ever performed at? Also, can you talk about the atmosphere of the crowds you gather when you tour? Are they partial to your more popular mashups or do they like listening to experimental pieces?
TWP- Our best show was Lollapalooza 2012. For a few reasons: it was in my hometown of Chicago, and we had a ton of friends out for the weekend. Additionally, we had a huge turnout that blew away our expectations. It was a really gratifying feeling to be placed on that lineup. Really felt like this project had become something substantial. Our crowds over the years have been spectacular. Our fans come with such positive energy and vibes, just ready to light the room on fire and have an awesome time. As a result we usually end up playing very high energy sets. We’ll drop some lower key popular mashups to give the dancing feet a rest now and again, but generally we find people like to keep jumping and moving.
M- What do you see for the future of White Panda? The guys in Super Mash Bros kind of fizzled out, but you’ve obviously had a bit more success. Can mashup artists make it?
TWP- We’ve been lucky to have supportive fans coming out to see us over the years. I think Girl Talk is a great example of the fact that yes, mashup artists can make it. Popularity rises and falls, but there’s always going to be a demand for that kind of music. You still see mainstream media (NYTimes, Mashable, Billboard) posting mashups when somebody comes up with a neat one. Remember Carly Rae Jepsen vs. Nine Inch Nails? That one was everywhere.
M- Last question- how many hours in studio does creating something like The Pawprint take?
TWP- Thousands. A few hundred in the final few months to really put it all together, but the process of making all of those mixes – I probably made 400-500 and then whittled the selection down to the final 32 – comes from thousands of hours of work.
For those of you interested in hearing more of The White Panda’s work, check out their website or their SoundCloud page. I highly recommend listening to their albums- they provide both fantastic upbeat dance-type mashups, and mixes that are, to put it simply, artistically amazing. Fans of all types of music will enjoy the product that The White Panda produces.
UPDATE: This article has been edited to remove the names of those involved in The White Panda, to uphold their anonymity.