If you are working with a group of people making a record, there is one certainty: World class studio or basement pad, you will end up turning a short break into a long one by showing each other ridiculous Youtube videos. That said, if you've worked on a record in the last few years, there's a good chance you've seen one of Andy Rehfeldt's videos. Andy takes live videos of popular songs, leaves the lead vocal and video alone, and then completely changes the music to a different style. Essentially it is a remix done to video. Imagine Adele singing "Rolling in the Deep" to a jazz metal backing track. Or a Slayer song sounding like a Radio Disney song, or Megadeath playing reggae. The results are a form of absurdist humor like the popular "shreds" videos. The difference is that Andy's new tracks are very, very well done. The musicianship is top notch, and the chord substitutions are clever. His tones and mixes also sound excellent. This guy obviously has major talent as a writer, performer, and engineer. I had to know more.
What's your background?
I'm from Redlands, California. My parents are professional musicians. My dad taught me to play flute, bassoon, oboe, and sax. My mom taught me piano. Starting at age seven I became fascinated with rock music; mainly with The Beatles. I taught myself to play drums, and then later guitar. As a teen, I played keyboards in rock bands around town, and started writing my own tunes. At the University of Redlands I studied composition with Barney Childs and received a degree in music composition. Two years later, I moved to L.A. to become a rock star. I played in some crappy '80s bands and kept writing tunes on my 4-track cassette recorder. Half of what I wrote had funny lyrics. When I was about 25, I switched to guitar as my main instrument and played four to five nights a week in a bar band. Most of the music I was writing now was comedy based, as I was influenced by Frank Zappa. After ten years of bar band ear abuse, I met Jeff Elmassian, and became a composer at his company, Endless Noise Music and Sound Design. There, I've learned Pro Tools and Logic, and I've recently learned more mixing techniques, thanks to my talented co-worker Grant Cornish.
How did this idea come about? Were you inspired by the "shreds" videos?
Yes! The "shreds" videos are what made me say to myself, "I can do something like that." But instead of making the artists sound crappy, I wanted to write and play my best on the video dubs while still making them funny.
Where do you find the isolated lead vocals? Is bleed ever a problem?
All the vocals were found on the Internet; either at Acapellas4u.com or on YouTube. Some of the vocals were also sent to me from DJs who liked my stuff. Most of them are pretty good quality, although you will usually hear some sort of bleed from another instrument.
How long does it normally take you do a video?
I work out arrangements when I have some time at work and I can woodshed some guitar runs. I spend about three hours making a tempo map, laying down a scratch guitar, and writing and recording a MIDI drum part. When I feel I'm ready, I go home to my computer and record, which takes about three hours. Then I dwell on mixing it for a couple of hours. I guess it is around eight hours per song.
Wow, that is really fast. I rarely mix a song in eight hours. Do you run the video on the same computer while working?
No. I have an old G4 Mac that's in OS 9, and I'm running an old Pro Tools LE program, so I can't write along with the video. In the past there were a few dubs that I was able to do at work, where I was able to write to picture.
I love hearing about people doing great work on really old systems. I would have guessed you were on the fastest Mac Pro, obsessing over the picture on big dual monitors.
I do spend a lot of time looking at details and making some notes while I'm creating the tempo map. But mainly it works out because you can hear everything that they are doing, although crappy sound in the original audio sometimes makes it hard.
Your guitar tones sounds are great. Are just coaxing great tones out of amp simulators?
Yes. I use either a Boss GT-6 pedal board or my old Line 6 Pod. I've never mic'd an amp for these videos. The guitars are usually my red Fender Stratocaster, but I've also used my Gibson SG.
Once again, it's all in the fingers. I'm guessing that your ability to do these so quickly comes from working at Endless Noise?
Yes, we always write and mix fast because of deadlines. I must give credit to Grant Cornish and Hao Lam, who have mixed some of my video dubs. I always list them in my descriptions. I've learned a lot from them, but there is much more for me to learn. When I mix, I...