The pseudonymous artist Pogo has become a bit of an Internet sensation with his amazing sample-based music and videos. Many of them take clips from beloved children’s films, creating beats from slivers of score and dialogue to create really great dance music; Pogo’s work can stand with the best of the genre. He’s got several compilations of music available for free download at MySpace and Last.fm, and he’s also done a really cool original short “Out With It“. If you’ve never seen any of Pogo’s videos before, take a look. After you’re done being gobsmacked, come back here and read this interview I conducted with him. I’ll wait.
Part the First
KS: At this moment in time, what is your favorite song?
KS: What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?
Pogo: Look into the works of Prefuse 73. He blends Hip-Hop with a glitchy kind of electronica to produce what sounds like a whole new language. Definitely a feast for the ears.
KS: What, if anything, is on any particular wall (your choice) in your domicile?
Pogo: A large fabric poster of Link on his horse fromThe Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
KS: What’s the strangest thing you own?
Pogo: A round, plastic gremlin that blows its tubular tongue when you squeeze it.
KS: What’re your top three movies?
KS: What is your favorite game?
KS: What is the most boring thing you’ve ever experienced?
Pogo: Sitting outside the principal’s office all day for a few weeks.
KS: Why’d you have to spend a few weeks outside the principal’s office?
Pogo: I found it very difficult to concentrate in class. I’d always joke around and it drove my teacher crazy, so she literally dragged me into the principal’s office where I was sentenced to spend my school days for the following few weeks.
KS: What is your favorite meal?
Pogo: A regular Quarter Pounder meal with an apple pie from McDonald’s.
KS: What is reality?
Pogo: Reality is what you make it. You are where you choose to be.
Part the Second
KS: Do you have a filmmaking or music background?
Pogo: Not particularly. I drummed in a band my friends and I put together when we were 10 and I took a small number of piano lessons, but other than that, I just listened to a hell of a lot of music as a child. I remember developing a fascination with video cameras at a very early age, and I enjoyed writing stories a lot in school. Ultimately, I think surrounding myself with these things is what most contributed to my abilities today.
KS: Your videos are very well-crafted — do you typically do them at the same time you’re doing the music?
Pogo: No. That’s a common misconception. I always begin producing my track first because the music is what it’s all about to me. Producing a video for my latest track is never a high priority.
KS: Your short film “Out With It” is likewise very well done — do you have any other short films in the works?
Pogo: I have a short science-fiction in the pipeline that promises to be very visual-effects heavy, but I won’t say any more at this time.
KS: Did you also do the music for “Out With It”?
Pogo: Yes. Scoring isn’t really my thing, but I was after very specific moods and I couldn’t find anything that worked.
KS: For those of us not in Perth, what’s a Pogo live show like?
Pogo: Playing live is a top priority, and I have big plans for the near future. As I spin my tracks and play with their samples, their videos will be projected in sync onto a giant screen behind me, and the entire venue will be lit using a rotating rig of projectors connected to the same feed. Pogo Live will be all about maximum immersion, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to it.
KS: One of the things I love about your stuff is how your samples are tiny but recognizable; if you had to guess, what’s about the average length of a sample?
Pogo: I’d say the majority of my samples are under two seconds, and many of them are much less.
KS: How do you put together a track? A video?
Pogo: Making this kind of music is all about weaving together sounds that you can love individually, so finding those is where I begin. Once I’ve built up a sample library, the next step is to sequence them into different sections that will eventually make up the entire track. There’s no magic tricks or formulas here, just constant attention to what pleases the ear and what doesn’t. When a sample hasn’t sounded right where I’ve placed it, nudging it just half a beat forwards or backwards has often sent it from mediocre to perfection. It’s very easy to over-think, too. I’m often tempted to approach a track strategically rather than by ear, but doing so has almost always resulted in failure and frustration.
The last item on my list of priorities is producing a video. It’s the easiest part of the game, but certainly not the least time consuming. I begin by finding all of the clips of a scene or film that correspond to the samples in my track, and lay them down appropriately to form the simple-most core of the video. Next it’s a matter of finding as many other clips as I can, typically footage of lead characters dancing or moving in a way that I can deem visually exciting. After layering these clips to break things up, I take a step back and analyze what it is about the video that doesn’t sit well with me. Sometimes two shots don’t gel. Other times things get too repetitive. Again, it’s a process of feeling and acting on instinct.
KS: Do you have any plans to release an album?
KS: How long does it typically take you to put a song together? One of the videos?
Pogo: Tracks can take me anywhere between a few days to a few weeks to complete. It depends largely on how often I’m in the zone. My videos probably take me two days to pull together in total.
KS: How did you decide to name yourself “Pogo”?
Pogo: I used to draw a lot of comic strips at school, and one series was about little round yellow creatures made of a flexible goo that could suck their hands and feet into their bodies and fly about. I called them Pogos for some unimaginable reason. When I started posting my tracks on the net for my friends, I decided to call myself Pogo. The name has stuck with me ever since. It’s short and easy to remember.
KS: When it comes to copyright issues, where do you stand? Do you agree with the ideas of the Creative Commons?
Pogo: I think the purpose of copyright today is very questionable. It may have originally been conceived to serve the creative mind in its expressive endeavors, but nowadays it’s used by businessmen as a mousetrap for profiting from equations and technicalities. It’s inevitable that if something is beautiful and inspiring to people, it will be used and promoted by thousands if not more. The human spirit is relentless. I don’t think Disney can copyright Alice’s voice any more than the inventor of the violin could have copyrighted its sound. From my point of view, the thinking behind Creative Commons is far more sensible.
KS: Do you have any other projects you’re working on, or anything else you’d like to mention?
Pogo: Rest assured I always have tracks in the pipeline, so stay tuned and many thanks for everyone’s terrific support!