A heart-warming tale of two men with terrible record collections
Making the worst mixtape of all time isn't high on the agenda for most DJs. Or on the agenda at all. But then DJ Yoda and Beardyman aren't ‘most DJs'. One of them isn't even known as a DJ, full stop. But do you think that stopped him?
"If something wrong is worth doing, it's worth doing to the very worst of your abilities," states Beardyman, the non-DJ of the partnership, in a somewhat stern, fatherly fashion. "It's imperative you make sure it's as bad as it can possibly be."
He doesn't mean ‘bad meaning good', or ‘so wrong it's right'. He just means straight up terrible. The pits. The worst thing you can possibly imagine. Something you can't sit through without cringing, crying, despairing at humanity or simply wanting to die. Something both artists secretly hoped "no one would ever want to talk to them about or ever give a fuck about."
So why do it? "Because 2016 was shockingly shit," laughs Yoda. "We'd actually started pooling the worst records we owned a few months before, and we didn't really know what we were doing with them. But 2016 turned out to be so terrible that the project had a purpose. A celebratory audio adventure of everything that's gone to shit."
Cue WRONG: The Worst Mixtape Of All Time - a self-styled ‘fuck you' to 2016, officially the weirdest year of the century so far. The mix arrived on the planet via Yoda's Soundcloud just after Christmas with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever... and has since been listened to across various channels almost 50,000 times.
So much for no one giving a fuck about it, eh?
The problem, if you can call it a problem, is that while Yoda and Beardyman have maintained winsome airs of wryness, humour and satire in their work since their respective day ones, they're equally renowned for taking the details, presentation and the whole creative process incredibly seriously. So even when they're trying to do something that's absolutely terrible, the attention to detail and conceptual thoroughness create a statement that's rather profound.
The resulting mix is so wrong it's remarkable. Due to the pair's outright musical crate-digging nerdiness and passion for subversion, this mix manages to capture decades of the oddest, funniest, weirdest and occasionally pretty offensive songs ever recorded, in a way that references - or at least tips a cheeky nod to - an age-old musical tradition that dates back to vaudeville and music hall, or perhaps even further to the role of the court jester.
From Ivor Cutler's zany yarn of a woollen-eyed man and Tim & Eric smelling like their dad's socks, to Nigerian royalty such as Prince Zimboo's legendary cover of Biggie Smalls and YouTube superstar Queen Of Vagina, by way of Paul McCartney, a drum & bass remix of the Animal Hospital theme, Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Russ Abbott, WRONG is a singular collection that guarantees to bring a smile (and possibly, at points, a bit of sick) to your lips. Don't take our word for it, though…
And while some of it is knowingly terrible (Whitest Kids U Know - Hitler Rap) and some of it is accidentally terrible (The Shaggs - My Pal Foot Foot), all of it can be found in Yoda and Beardyman's collections.
"Whenever we've swapped music in the past it was always this really weird, fucked up stuff," explains Yoda. "Other people I swap music with, it would be hip-hop or drum & bass, but with Darren we always ended up sharing ridiculous stuff like ice cream van music or Satanist metal. That seems to be the level we're happiest with each other. We thoroughly enjoy wronging each other out."
With this level of bad bantership at play, we thought it might be interesting to get them to interview each other about the unique role wrong music plays in our lives. This is how it went down…
Beardyman: What's your earliest memory of hearing something so bad it was good?
Yoda: "My memory is terrible in general but I can pinpoint a few tracks on this mix that I did like from a young age. The Patel Rap, for instance, must have come out in 1989 and I remember liking it at the time because it was so terrible. But the first record I ever bought was a 7-inch picture disc of Roland Rat rapping. So as soon as I was into music I was into shit music."
Beardyman: So your entire relationship with music, and your career, is all based on the foundation of terrible music?
Yoda: "I've never considered this, but I guess so! Music, for me, is about entertainment. I want to be entertained and most of the time that means laughing. That's why my favourite MC is Biz Markie. He's funny. He's a comedian. I'm not into music that takes itself too seriously."
Beardyman: You're not too into Radiohead, then?
Yoda: "I totally appreciate them and how talented they are, but I wouldn't choose to listen to them, no. It's not entertaining for me. I'd prefer to listen to some lunatic!"
Beardyman: "Me too, I grew up with musical nonsense. Victor Borge stands out. An absolute musical comedian but a serious pianist. He had serious chops."
Yoda: "I was brought up on the Marx Brothers and Danny Kaye. who are in the same category: comedy with music and the ability to be really silly, but coming from somewhere with great talent."
Beardyman: Do you like Spike Jones?
Yoda: "I love Spike Jones! I did a track with Michael Winslow that was inspired by a Spike Jones track called The Sound Effects Man, which was beatboxing before beatboxing existed."
Beardyman: "Wow, I didn't know that existed! Anyone who doesn't know Spike Jones should check him out. It's lunacy, it's pastiches of popular songs of the day and classical music deliberately ruined with such skill. He had all these gunshots and hooters and cowbells - a giant wall of them. It was him doing it all, chewing gum all the time and wearing this preposterous suit, but he would never crack a smile. He knew it was funny and he was taking the piss. It was incredible."
Yoda: Do you think it's interesting that both of us have come from a mindset of making new sounds? As a turntablist or a beatboxer, the first thing you want to achieve is a sound that no one has made before.
Beadyman: "Definitely, that's true. It's sounds that have always fascinated me. In relation to the WRONG mix, a lot of the outsider music and lo-fi or DIY recordings where the phasing is all wrong and the acoustics are terrible... it's an imprint of the time and place it's from that's totally unique."
Yoda: "You really get a flavour of the atmosphere and environment, so much more than a very clean, digital production which doesn't capture any of that. With a mix like this one you get a flavour of so many countries and decades."
Beardyman: Out of all the tunes on the mix, which one has the most interesting story behind it?
Yoda: "That's hard. Can you answer your own question first?"
Beardyman: "The Shaggs. The whole story is weird: they were three teenage girls in the 60s, and their mother had a vision that they would be the next big girl band. Their father, who was this overbearing religious zealot, believed their mother's vision, so he trapped them in the basement with guitars and drums, but didn't give them any lessons. They practised and practised, and came out of the basement ready to record a single.
"Their parents paid for a gig for them and there are reports of the audience being completely baffled. They made this album and the recording studio said they'd never heard anything like it. It's insane, there's no musicality whatsoever, the drums are out of sync with the guitars."
Yoda: "There's a special skill to being that terrible. My favourite is the Animal Hospital remix. I love the fact this exists. Doorly gave it to me because he thought I was the only person in the world that might give a shit about it. It's sat on a hard drive for years and it's great to be able to give it a place in the world. He thought no one would ever hear it."
Beardyman: "It's especially wrong now, because we know how especially wrong Rolf Harris really was!"
Yoda: There's a thought... how do you draw the line between something that's wrong and something that's really wrong? I don't know where it lies, but some of the stuff that didn't make the mix definitely crosses that line...
Beardyman: "If we put some of those in, the police would have been involved! The whole process of making the mix was ridiculous in that way. We'd be trying to make decisions on what to include or how long it should be, and it would get very intense and serious for a second, then we'd crack up, thinking ‘What the fuck are we doing?'."
Yoda: "There were points where it drove us insane. It went on for hours, and we had to take our heads out of it. It was toxic."
Beardyman: "But for all that, it does fit in with a great tradition. It reminds me of this amazing Kenny Everett compilation of the wrongest records he would play each week on his radio show. There were instructions on the cover that said ‘After listening to this record you might feel like destroying it. Please do this in a creative way like warping it into an ashtray or soup bowl'."
Yoda: "We should have had a similar instruction manual with this mix. After listening to this, you must wash with bleach, then listen to six hours of yoga meditation music to cleanse your soul. Do NOT listen on acid."
iDJ: So is this the start of a blossoming relationship?
Yoda: "Well, we got together to make something and it came out completely wrong. Do we spin that Russian roulette again and see what happens? Who knows? It's not the last we'll see of each other, that's for sure."
Beardyman: "No, this is the last time we see each other. I've decided. After listening to some of the shit we had to cut out of the mix, I can barely look you in the eye!"
Words: Dave Jenkins DJ Yoda pic: Trisha Rankin