Friday, July 3, 2009

Question: When is MTV not MTV?

Answer: when the "M" stands for "Magyarország," the Hungarian word for Hungary. That's right, the TV station that was interviewing me when I arrived at the VOLT Festival here in Sopron wasn't "Hungarian MTV," like I thought, although I think the miscommunication is understandable since that's how they referred to it in their initial e-mail, and a youthful hipster such as myself would obviously interpret that to mean the local offshoot of Music Television. But no, this is, literally, Hungary TV, one of the four or five Hungarian channels on my TV here at the hotel, and a national broadcaster of some note. Neat. Apparently the interview already aired last night, so if you were watching, I hope they didn't edit me to look stupider, since that always happens to me, but in the interest of clarity, here's basically how it went:

Interviewer: So, Party Ben, what makes you so brave to take music and change it?

Me: … Brave? Er… well… um… I wouldn't really say "brave," I would say, "easily bored," I guess? It's more like a disease, I can't stop changing music.

I've heard you're making some Hungarian mashups to play?

Me: Yes, I'm working on mixes of Omega, Belga and Beatrice [the final two didn't turn out so well, more on that later].

You stay up late every night DJing and it's of course a difficult lifestyle. How do you stay looking so young? [I shit you not]

Me: [Collapsing into hysterics] What? Seriously? Oh, stop, just stop. [Desperately thinking of something to say] Uhhh, I guess since I live in California, and we all eat our vegetables? [Realizing that was dumb.] Also I have a deal with the devil. [Realizing I'm digging myself in deeper, shutting up]

Interviewer: Thank you Party Ben!

So, as you can imagine, there's been some hilarity here in Hungary ("Hungilatiry"?) but things are basically going alright. First I should mention the brief visit to Vienna (Sopron is just over the border from Austria, and Vienna, about an hour's drive, was the meeting point for most artists on the bill). Mashup connoisseurs will remember that Vienna (or at least its outskirts) is home to DJ Schmolli, and he braved rush hour traffic to meet me at my hotel downtown and then heroically whisked me around the city to see as much stuff as possible. I finally got my TV tower fix in, and then we also hit up the old Vienna carnival, and by "old" I mean like "older than America," whose giant ferris wheel was featured in The Third Man, film buffs.

But my stay in Vienna was to be all too brief as I had to rush and meet the car that would take us over the border into Sopron. Also coming along in my van from Vienna: Delinquent Habits, a rough-and-tumble LA hip-hop combo whose first question to the VOLT representative when we got in the van was "Hey, you know where we can score some weed?" The VOLT guy ("Zoltan"!!!) said he thought so. After a beat, I piped up: "And I'd like a Red Bull please." Everybody thought I was very funny.

VOLT booked me to play all four nights of the Wednesday to Saturday festival, and so inevitably there were some first-night technical issues: the room they had us set up in was supposed to magically transform from a couch-filled chill-out lounge during the day to a thumping club at night, but of course, come night time, there's no one to actually, say, move any couches or anything. Plus the sound had been set up for the local radio station, also ensconced in the same place, and was weirdly compressed and quiet in the actual room. So, after a first-night fail, they got their act together, admirably (thanks by the way to DJ Poszi for helping out with that) and moved me to a DJ booth sort of straddling the VIP area and a general-public bar/dance tent thing, directly opposite the main stage, and scheduled me to go on right after the headliners. On Thursday night, amusingly enough, that was none other than Limp Bizkit. I was dreading their set, which I kind of had to sit through in anticipation of their who-knows-when ending, but in all honesty it turned out to not actually be that bad, just repetitive, since every song is kind of in the same key and stuff. For his between song banter, however, Fred Durst sank to hilariously idiotic, they-can't-really-understand-me-so-I-won't-even-try-to-make-sense lazy platitudes: "the feeling we have to play for you, you give us that feeling, so thank you, we are happy, to get that from you" kind of junk. Which was pretty awesome.

Then I got to play some tunes and stuff, which went pretty well, I kind of did a mix of mainstream rock/hip-hoppy kind of stuff to appeal to the Bizkiters and then more of my patented electro nuttiness. Fun times. I do want to point out one totally weird but kind of great think I've noticed here at the festival: there are about 5 or 6 various dance tents/rooms/platforms of varying sizes, and each of them, every single time I've walked by, has been playing breaks, or maybe drum 'n' bass. Every time. All breaks. It's crazy. Some of you may know I'm a big fan of the breakbeat tunes and in fact my DJ incarnation just before my mashuppy pseudo-fame was in the "nu skool" breaks genre. But correct me if I'm wrong, at least in California it seems like that scene has totally died out, except for some Burning Man types, and even they have mostly moved on to dubstep. I feel a little awkward since my current work is very much in the 4/4, bassline-centric electro-house zone. Anyway, whatever, I am what I am, but I did pull out that old breaks mix of the Gorillaz which got some cheers last night.

By the way, a torrential downpour in the evening meant that the entire festival was one giant sloppy mud pit, making me pine a bit for the dry roasting heat of Coachella, and also giving me that sinking feeling you can only get when you've got one pair of pants for 2 months and they're getting covered with brown slime. But hey, it's a rite of passage, right?

Hungary itself I haven't seen much of, except for a bit of wandering around the town center of Sopron. The city has about 50,000 people so the VOLT festival with its equivalent attendance is a big thing here, and the charming little restaurant I ate at for lunch had a "special VOLT menu": giant local Soproni beer, funky meatball soup, chicken cordon bleu with the ubiquitous fries, 2000 forints, or about $11. Obviously I don't speak more than the most basic Hungarian, and people don't even seem to understand me when I try out the most simple words like "Köszönöm" ("thank you"). My English fumbling and goofy sunglasses were likely what led to my waitress at the aforementioned restaurant asking for my autograph in scrambled, halting English that took me about 5 minutes to figure out what exactly she wanted.

Of course, a crazy new language does make for chuckles, and first among them, the name of my hotel:

Yes, that says "Hunguest." Joke 1: How do you think they knew? Joke 2: Glad I wasn't booked at the Micropenis Lodge down the street. Joke 3: I suddenly look at Super 8 and Motel 6 in a whole new light. Et cetera, tip your waitress.

Also, does anybody need any throat lozenges? Actually, I don't mean "anybody," I mean…

Oh boy. You know, I imagine Bill O'Reilly could spin this as reverse discrimination somehow.

Two more days of VOLTing around then I'm off to Budapest for gigs at the exciting-looking outdoor Zold Pardon, then off to Munich to hang with the craziest dudes this side of Stuttgart. Internet service comes in 30 minute, 300-forint chunks here at the Hunguest, and only in the lobby, so I've had to type this in Word and then upload it as fast as I can, and I haven't been able to stay on top of the e-mail or blogging as much as I'd like, but hopefully I'll be back on top of things by Monday.

1 comment:

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