Take-Offs and Put-Ons:

There I Ruined It Plunders  Classic Rock



TR:  What a hilarious, what a hilarious gig you have there.

DB: Well, thank you so much. Yeah, more of a side gig, but uh, something fun I do in the evenings for sure. Yeah.

My day job is as an advertising creative director. I’ve done that for a long time. And so I guess in that respect, I’ve kind of trained my brain to day in and day out, come up with funny ideas and in that context, get rejected and start over from scratch.

And, you know, so I’ve kind of like, you know, Maybe hone that skill. Um, but I’m also a musician on the side. I’m a primarily a fiddle player and a violinist. And so, during this all started during COVID, um, when our band wasn’t playing and, uh, I just kind of out of musical boredom, I had posted this one video on YouTube, Or I had this thought of, you know, what if you took a music video, but you completely replaced all the audio and change the genre.

So I did all the vocal instruments myself, but I made sure to line it up to the video. So it gave this effect that um in that case that Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were singing shallow as a polka song And so I just put this kind of dumb thing out there on YouTube It kind of took off on reddit and on YouTube.

And so I thought okay, let’s that’s fine. Let me just do a second one. I got nothing else to do is and, it started out for the first maybe year. So it was a YouTube presence. It was long form, like full songs and like kind of a lot of video editing to kind of create that effect that this is this, you know, alternate universe we’re living in.

Um, and then eventually it evolved into TikTok and Instagram is more shorter form little, you know, daily posts that are also kind of right. Right…

AI kind of makes me sad that we’re born with the voices we’re born with…

TR: And tell us about your numbers. What’s the numbers game? You expanded, you went shorter, where do you, you know, where’s your biggest following? What’s the, what’s the data that you’ve shared?

DB: It really, as far as just number of followers really took off when I got into TikTok. Um, I’m over 3 million followers there. These days, Instagram is just as hot. It’s almost 2 million followers there. Altogether, I think it’s 6 million followers across YouTube. Yeah. So, yeah, certainly way beyond what I ever would have thought.

Just tinkering around in my music room every evening, you know, right…

TR: And what’s your, do you have a schedule? You just sort of do it when you feel like it through once a month. What’s your what’s your output?

DB: So when it was YouTube and it was more elaborate I would try to post every few weeks and then when I got into short form it Jumped to like daily like every day or two.

I try to get some little quirky thing out there. Um, I, I can’t keep up that schedule anymore just cause eventually I was like, okay, I got a job and a family and like, um, so these days I try to get a couple things out a week if I can, but it just, uh, you know, depends on the schedule.

TR: That’s a lot twice a week. Tell us a little bit about your process.

DB: Yeah. So I, you know, it’s a very in one sense, it’s very themed in this idea of ruining music, but I also try to keep people on their toes in the way I quote unquote ruin songs.

And so it can be everything from, you know, AI these days, there’s a lot of stuff to remixes, to mashups, to me doing all the instruments, to, to more just random stuff, like you mentioned, taking out a bunch of yes. And a bunch of songs and compiling them to something totally different. So I’m always trying to think of what new ways to freshen it up.

So it doesn’t get boring for people….

TR: And you have these really wonderful reaction videos from Ed Sheeran and Snoop Dogg. How did you get those?

DB: Yeah, they just, they just sort of randomly came about. I was sitting, the first one was Ed Sheeran. I was sitting at work one day and I got an alert on my phone that said, Ed, Ed Sheeran has duetted your TikTok video.

And of course, I rolled my eyes like, yeah, right. I’m sure it’s the Ed Sheeran. And then sure enough, he was there just listening to like a Super Mario Brothers remix of one of his songs and cringing the whole time. Um, and then yeah, a few months later, Snoop Dogg did the same thing. Um, lots of, uh, reactions and shares from dozens of celebrities.

That’s been probably the most surreal, surreal part of this is just the attention it’s gotten from, you know, musicians I respect. I mean, I’ve got also celebrities that follow me, Jack Black, and I finally started a list because there was like more than I can keep track of. We’ve got. System of a Down, Peewee Herman, rest in peace. Drowning Pool, Twisted Sister, Foreigner, uh, Disturbed, Megan Trainor, Joe Jonas follows me, Rick Astley, Ed Sheeran, Lizzo, um, Charlie Puth has done some reaction videos, Michael Bluble follows me, Nicki Minaj has commented, um, Doja Cat, Slash, I mean it just goes on, so.

TR: Wow. Unbelievable. Okay, but you know, I know everyone out there is wondering, what about Taylor? Has Taylor checked in yet?

DB: You know, the um, I’ve done a few Taylor songs. The recent one, um, with A. I. as a breakup song. And there’s also a Johnny Cash one that’s out there. Right. I got to think when those are getting into the tens of millions of you, surely one of her friends has said, Hey, Taylor, check this out.

But yeah, she hasn’t officially commented on anything. Yeah. We made it to the 50. We made it to the 40.

We made it. Yeah, so that was. That was unique. And it’s the first one with original lyrics that I didn’t write. So I, that started as a, uh, a guy just on, uh, TikTok had written the song. He played it on guitar and I thought it was really hilarious. So I reached out to him and I said, Hey, if you want to make this sound like Taylor Swift, which is kind of the intent of the song to be a Taylor Swift.

Breakup song and then I can AI version and post it. And he was like, yeah, yeah. So, you know, obviously I tagged him and gave him credit and made an AI version of what he had done and did all the instruments and singing myself and then ran it through an AI model that I had made. that was kind of some great social media teamwork to make, make this weird thing that existed out in the world and it’s kind of taken on a life of its own.

So what’s that person’s name? Will King, I believe is his name.

TR: And so you did all the, uh, you did all the instruments and the singing, and then you had AI transform your voice into Taylor Swift’s voice?

Yep, so typically what I do is, uh, so say it’s the Johnny Cash song, uh, I’ll do my best imitation of Johnny Cash. It helps that I’m a Johnny Cash fan. So I just, you know, I’m a Barbie girl. And you just do the best you can. And my voice obviously sounds nothing like Johnny Cash, but if you get the intonation right, um, and then you run it through the filter and get the key honed in, and there’s some other variables to kind of hone in on the sound, then yeah, it can get pretty, like, creepily, uh, similar to the original.

TR: It’s hilarious. And then you mix it with the, uh, the sound from Folsom prison.

There’s, there’s this pulp fiction thing where you actually do the notation of the guys yelling. Yeah.

TR: Tell me how you did that.

DB: Yeah, that, that falls in the bucket of totally random experimental stuff that I just wanted to try. Um, yeah, I had just noticed that certain actors, Samuel L. Jackson is one of the prime examples, have kind of a sing song way of talking, especially when they’re yelling.

Yeah. I’d seen before by accident that when you put speech into, uh, into like software programs, it can sometimes identify notes. And I thought, I wonder if I can kind of do the opposite of what I normally do and take the existing spoken, uh, track and like retrofit music to it and notated and like complimented and try to find a rhythm and a, a key, you know, making forcing chords that fit what he’s saying.

And it kind of built it backwards like that. And yeah, the final effect was pretty fun. Oh, so fun. So fun. So do you have ideas for other movie musicals? You know, I love, I love how that turned out. And it’s really hard to find, uh, people that talk that way that you can get a clean audio, uh, sync from and like, yes, I’m still keeping my eyes open, open to suggestions.

There’s nothing fancy to it. Yeah. Most of what I mentioned, pretty lo fi I’m using a ratty pair of headphones and a pretty, pretty cheap setup.

You know, I’m certainly not a, an odd, a big time audio engineer. It’s just kind of a hobby. Yeah, but it sounds like you’ve gotten, you’ve gotten a few more layers deep.

Yeah, so as soon as that, as soon as I started, like all of us hearing that this was a thing, AI voice generation, yeah, immediately my eyes were open to like, all the possibilities. I almost wanted to go back and recreate everything I’d ever done with the original artist instead of my own bad singing, because it just It, uh, that was really the original vision is to create this world where this person is singing a song that they weren’t supposed to be singing or a style.

They weren’t supposed to be saying. So, yeah, I’m not that tech savvy, but I was like, I got to figure this out. There wasn’t really and still isn’t a very user friendly way to do it. It’s a long glitchy process sometimes to get to the, the end, but figured it out. Um, Eventually I figured out how to train the models myself and to use them and what works and what doesn’t.

And yeah, I’ve used, um, AI in a number of ways. The simplest is just to, uh, you know, create a, a genre swap or mashup using the original voice or changing the lyrics to things. But also, um, like I have a RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, one that’s called what red hot chili peppers sounds like to people who don’t like Red Hot Chili Peppers.

So that’s a very different way to use AI to make more of a, like a parody of a sound in a band. And so, yeah, I think I’m only scratching the surface of different ways to use it, but it’s a pretty fun era that we’re living in. And also, I thought so. Yeah. I thought the Red Hot Chili Peppers was hilarious.

TR: And then I went to the Pearl Jam one and I thought, well, that’s just Pearl Jam. That’s just realism. That’s documentary realism right there. That’s just a Pearl Jam record as far as I, oh my god, that Eddie Vedder parody is just hilarious.

DB: Yeah, that goes to show that, you know, that was pre AI, and sometimes you don’t That was pre AI, interesting. Yeah, that was literally me just chopping up the actual vocals and scrambling them into something that, sounded like a extreme version of a Pearl Jam nonsense.

TR: So have you tried stuff that, um, just didn’t work? Like you had this great idea, but you just couldn’t make it work?

DB: Oh, certainly. I would say for everything that gets posted, there’s probably two or three things that were just completely abandoned at some stage in the process. Yeah. Uh, you don’t want to share any of that with us.

Let’s see. I was trying it. Yeah. I tried an AI model last night of, trying to think of what it was. It was a Frank Sinatra 1 because I had a Frank Sinatra usually does well and AI, but just certain song, just the way it laid out in the key and stuff. It just wasn’t working. So, yeah, sometimes. I try to catch early on if it’s worth pursuing or not, sometimes you get toward the end and you’re like, uh, this, I don’t want to put this out here, you know, we’ll, we’ll try it tomorrow.

And you think your ratio is like two to one, like you, you throw away twice as much of what you use. Well, if you start all the way at the conception period, where I just, I keep a list on my phone of here’s like a hundred random ideas that popped up during the day, then yeah, 90 percent of those don’t go anywhere, but it’s a pretty bad at batting average.

You know, you never, you never know what’s going to take off in social media because of the weird forces that happen there.

But, I had a Eminem mashup of Super Mario Brothers that I did. It was the Super Mario Brothers theme song set to, uh, uh, “Lose Yourself,” I believe. And so the, the video was funny. The song was funny. I liked how it turned out. But then it started getting shared by these, like, uh, teenagers with this TikTok trend of, um Uh, so the song goes, snap back to reality.

Oh, there goes gravity. And when the word gravity would hit, they would like fall to the ground. It was just a typical, like, dumb TikTok thing. And that, that, you know, just through that TikTok trend got an extra, I like, if you add it up, it’s like hundreds of millions of views. That way I can’t even fathom just because of a trend.

So you never know what’s, there was another one. It was a mashup of losing my religion with, uh, the little mermaid song. And that took off as a trend of people kind of spilling their hearts out about the way their experiences with negative experiences with religion growing up is how that kind of took on took off so but you know that nothing to do really with Anything I intended, but I put it out there and people use it in the way they’re going to use it.

And it’s kind of interesting to see things take off that way. Um, sometimes it’s literally me just.

Taking a look to two lists of songs and trying stuff and kind of humming it in my head and thinking where do the words lay out with the original melody in a way that’s, you know, where the tempo and the rhythm sort of maybe already kind of match. So it’s more effective that way. Like, I think, had I heard under the sea and, uh, let’s see how did it go?

Um, Oh, that’s me in the corner kind of had a similar them. And so I kind of took it from there and experiment.

TR: And where do you see yourself in the space of like, mashup people on TikTok anywhere in the, in the, in the whole larger social media space, like. Are you, uh, are you R. E. M. level? Are you James Brown level? Are you, like, Tony Orlando level? Like, where do you see yourself fitting in?

DB: Yeah, I, it’s, it’s a weird, like, I remember, I don’t know, when was that? 15, 20 years ago, there was kind of this mashup, like, that’s when I probably first heard the term mashup and people were doing some fun things that I wasn’t like a super fan of that, but, uh, you know, you’d hear something and you’d get a laugh or you’d think, Oh, I never thought of that.

I remember Genie In A Bottle by Christina Aguilera. Yeah. You know, I was an early master. You remember that one? So there was that that was kind of in the back of my head when I started the channel, you know, with that random video I mentioned it was never intended to be like a a mashup channel. And in fact, I kind of pushed away from that when people would use the term mashup, cause I was like swapping out the, uh, is more of a genre bending thing. But, but then I eventually kind of embraced it as a part of my toolkit of ruining songs, cause there’s, especially when the Melodyne autotune kind of stuff opened up a way to do a mashup that was totally different than things you’d heard in the past, cause.

Then it became almost an experiment of how different can I make the song until you’re almost like disoriented and don’t recognize the original and it kind of right. So in that sense, there’s not really anybody that I know of that’s doing those kind of extreme mashups. I have no idea where I fit in, but, uh, I’m trying to kind of carve my own niche.

TR: But do you, do you follow anybody,

DB: One guy that comes to mind that early on, I was realized it was really good at what he does is Bill McClintock. He’s been doing a really good mashups and he also incorporates kind of a video component, like I was trying to do for the full effect and yeah, if you want to check him out, he’s, he’s been doing this for, I don’t know, a decade or more. And yeah, so he’s, he’s kind of on the bar of like clearly putting effort and musicianship into what he’s doing.

TR: Yeah. And, um, one of the things I like about your videos is you’ll often, um, I mean, there’ll be a jokey, uh, concept, but you’ll put the Pro Tools video right up there so that you can actually see how the things are layered right on top of each other, and that actually, as, as like a visual aid, that sort of does something to your awareness of what’s going on, right?

I mean, for me, it makes it more, I don’t know, it, for me, it reveals how intricate what you’re doing is, and sometimes, like, with your, with your Whitney Houston one, like, you do this, or the silence before the chorus, and you, the screen says, last chance to, last chance to bail, and then you do this huge, Tell us about that one and, and what, you know, what, what inspired you to like put the actual like Pro Tools thing going on up there?

DB: Yeah. So a couple of things. So originally it was all videos, like a really elaborate edits and, and like, there’s a lot with the video component on, and this was when it was YouTube. I was, I found that when I put that kind of stuff directly and on TikTok, it actually performed worse. Cause people, when they go through tick tock, they want, they want to kind of see themselves in your shoes that they’re much more likely to respond to somebody who’s just tinkering around on a computer than somebody who has well-polished thing that they probably assume they’re just some big studio that’s putting this out there.

And so, yeah, the more lo fi I got, the better because it’s more relatable. And then I, I sort of embraced that lo fi. I just screen grabbed. Look, I also never really wanted to put my face on it because I didn’t see that. Enhancing the humor. Any, um, a lot of people like they kind of make their face the brand, but that just wasn’t really my thing.

I kind of like my privacy.

TR: Yeah. Yeah. I hear you. I, I’m, I, uh, I think there’s a lot of people who should, should stop embracing the brand. Um, Very good. So, um, what, uh, with numbers like yours, I’m sure you’re getting like our admin approaching you and saying, Hey, you should sell ads of this stuff. Or like, I’m sure that you’ve drawn attention and some from some quarters, what kind of people are approaching you?

Yeah, there’s been some things that it’s a little tricky with what I do, because you can’t have a paid ad that pulls in a Lady Gaga track or something like that. So the few things I’ve done have have had to have been, uh, original music tracks. Using for instance, there was a, a progressive insurance.

[A] paid post I did where I basically took the audio from the commercial and I’m mute. I song-ified it, if you will, and added an original track behind it. So I’ve done a few things, but it’s a little, first of all, I don’t, you know, I never really went into this trying to make a living off of it. So I’ve always tried to never to just keep it fun and not, do a whole lot of advertising unless it really made sense and I thought it.

Had potential to make people laugh, but yeah, there’ve been some opportunities. I’m also now trying to branch out into live music. I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re creating a live band version of there, I ruined it.

I’m a performer at heart. So it’s fun tinkering around in my little room and, you know, saying on your phone that, oh, so many millions of people saw this, but it’s all it’s, uh, it’s kind of intangible. So I’ve always been interested in figuring out ways to perform these live, uh, mashups and remixes with actual musicians.

And so I pulled together a band of eight people. Um, it, it requires a lot to cover, like, all these different genres with one band. So. It was kind of a task to find really good musicians that could do this and the, and having double up on different instruments, for example, to kind of pull off everything from polka to pop to whatever show tunes.

But we’ve been rehearsing for maybe five or six months and yet the show is really coming a lot. Like it’s making us laugh every time we get together. And so I think that’s going to translate to the audience, and that’s harder for there to be, you know, everything I post on YouTube for the most part gets demonetized because they’re really aggressive about all the copyright stuff. Even if it is covered by fair use, it’s just, that’s another conversation about, uh, how the labels are kind of have the upper hand in that.

But, uh, when you’re on stage and you’re doing a live cover, if you will, then yeah, there’s, that’s much easier to, then it becomes more like a post modern jukebox where you’re, you know, performing these and you can do it as a proper live show.

It’s a little, a little, uh, easier on the short form platforms, but. Yeah, YouTube has a content ID system that will automatically anything that’s sampled, say there’s a background instrumental that I’m using, it’ll flag it. Now it’s gotten so good or so bad, depending on your position that even, um. Even say I have a guitar riff that I’m performing, so it’s not from the original studio track, and there’s no words, it’ll still find and identify it.

So there’s really, if you’re using lyrics, even if you’re changing the melodies, it finds that you really can’t get away with anything. And it’ll either pull it entirely, or it’ll more often than not just demonetize it, so the money goes to the original label. Um, so yeah, it’s awfully hard to make a living doing this just through YouTube videos, because nine out of ten times you’re not making a penny.

If you take, for instance, the Red Hot Chili Peppers song, which is clearly a parody of their sound. Uh, the lyrics are my own, the AI was based on my voice, and there’s not yet a, a copyright.

There’s not yet a law that deals with AI and that being a copyright issue. So everything about currently is clearly covered by fair use. However, they and even the background track wasn’t the studio recording. So everything about that. I thought if anything is going to get covered by fair use, it’s that I have a lawyer that assists me in these and I, I went to him and I was like, okay, I know we never get anything through.

But like, if anything goes through, this is going to be the test case. We still had no success. They have this whole process where you can dispute it and appeal it. And then the label comes back and disputes it. And like, if you’re just a small, small potatoes creator like me, you’re never going to win that fight unless you just want to spend every waking hour in like some lawsuit and, you know, risking family’s income to battle something that only stood to make me a few hundred bucks in the first place.

TR: What would that, what would a legal framework look like in your ideal world? Uh, with a caveat that I’m not an expert.

DB: Yeah. I feel like what I’ve seen of the, um, you know, the fair, use includes like three or four frameworks for how to decide if something is covered by fair use. The thing is a lot of my songs check all those boxes. It’s just that the actual, when it comes down to the actual nuts and bolts of the YouTube process and appealing that and going through the system, they don’t care because the label loses nothing to say, no, we disagree with you.

It’s just the whole automated process. Kills it the fact that you’re guilty until proven innocent and the and the labels have no reason not to just put dispute Like I don’t know how to get through that if are there are there any cases that you’re watching or any test cases that you’re hoping to see go public that might actually help help improve the landscape? Uh, honestly, I don’t really follow what’s going on in the business, but you’re definitely interested in, uh, in seeing things on the horizon.

TR: And when you, um, when you play with eight different musicians and you’re doubling up on instruments, that sounds to me like somebody is writing a full score for that ensemble. Is that right?

DB: Yeah. So that’s for the most part, been falling on me to get that framework down. Usually what I’ll do, cause yeah, it’s much more difficult than past bands.

I’ve been in as far as, uh, figuring out how to do a full two or three minute version of these, you know, multiple songs clashing together and like, what does the arrangement look like, even, even down to like labeling. This is verse three and course two and the pre course when, when the two songs don’t even necessarily line up that way.

So it’s, it’s been a fun experiment, but it’s, it kind of messes with your head. Um, but yeah, we found some great musicians and even getting into the. Are you, have you gotten press anywhere else? Uh, just today there’s an article in Wired that came out if you want to check it out.

So yeah, there’s things that come along from time to time. Oh, great. The AI stuff has been a lightning rod for, yeah, for press. It’s been interesting. You know, one of the big misconceptions about AI is that it’s like, uh, oh, he just typed something in the computer and it makes some AI song and he’s, he’s, he’s sold out and he’s not putting effort into these anymore. It’s just like, and I’m like, no, it’s, it’s really just an extra whole seven steps on top of what I did before to like, train a model and put it through my voice and get the inflection right.

And like, create this. Yeah. So I guess that would be one thing is that, uh, yeah. I, AI can be used in a artistic and musical way to create this thing that never could have existed before. So it’s certainly right.

TR: Has AI gotten, has it made you start thinking differently about music itself?

DB: Um, I’m sure in several ways. Um, in one just more personal way, it kind of makes me sad that we’re, we’re born with the voices we’re born, we’re born with. Cause it’s like, as soon as you put a, you know, Johnny Cash filter through the exact way you’re performing a song. And you can realize that, oh man, we, we don’t have to be chained to like this voice that God gave us.

We can, uh, be any number of voices. Um, it kind of opens the door to, yeah, there’s all, it’s, it’s like switching guitars, you know, why, why should I be stuck with one guitar for my entire career? That’s not fair. It’s slowly getting worse and worse as I age, you know, if there’s a point where I can sing into a microphone and there’s like, here’s 20 synthetic voices that sound like human voices, and I can kind of cater the voice to the song I’m playing or the emotion I want to evoke, that’s kind of a interesting way to think about the future of music to be a little less, uh, human, which is not good, but, uh, I dunno, yeah, opens up a lot of possibilities.

TR: Are there bands that you think are too good and too precious to go near to parody that someone just would never, never think of parodying? Or is it all open game?

DB: That’s a good, well, you know, as soon as I took, uh, the {Leonard Cohen] song “Hallelujah” and turned it into a death metal song, there’s really no turning back. So I’d say anything is fair game. My, I will say my, my wife is a huge YouTube fan and she’s like, he can’t touch you too. I was like, Oh,

TR: Uh, Dustin, it’s been so fun talking, so much fun talking to you, thank you so much for your time. Uh, let’s stay in touch, I’ll send you a few of the links that I talked about.

DB: That’s great, thank you so much, it was great to meet you.

TR: All right, take care, keep, keep up the good work.