A rookie audience usually needs a moment to absorb what they’re seeing. Imagine a dance-music set with video screens flanking the DJ. When the music starts, President Obama provides a vocal sample as he appears on the screens singing Al Green. Rapid-fire edits of Kill Bill fight scenes develop into a rhythmic beat, while chopped-up R2-D2 beeps become a synth line. Not even Eddie Murphy’s goofy chuckle is safe from becoming a melody. The type of crowd dictates the musical style—EDM, hip-hop, rock, funk, et al—but the videos provide the samples and bring the set to life.
“It is making music with video,” explains Jonny Wilson, the Barcelona-based Brit who goes by the alias Eclectic Method. “There is a gunshot, and the gunshot develops into a drumbeat, or an actor’s cough is made into a melody. I am not an editor first or a composer first. I do them both together, integrating them and building them simultaneously. For me, it’s important to hear what you see and see what you hear.”
While some DJs only seem to press play and turn the occasional knob, Eclectic Method mixes the videos in real time during the live performances. As a result, Wilson can read the audience and jump to the appropriate video sample at will. He scratches and manipulates the clips, and like a pop-culture curator, he takes advantage of the latest zeitgeist moments.
“I can play a Fraggle Rock clip from the ’80s, and a pocket of the audience will react, but I get the biggest reactions when I remix something that currently dominates social media and online video,” he explains. “I can take trending topics and immediately add them into the set.”
Piracy laws limit the release of commercial product—a situation that might soon change—but Wilson promotes Eclectic Method with a steady flow of video singles that reach a wide audience. Last year’s Wolf of Wall Street remix, for example, had more than 5 million online views, 600,000 plays on SoundCloud and 25,000 downloads. The Colbert Report is one of many shows to play his remixes on the air, and Eclectic Method joined Chuck D (Public Enemy), ?uestlove (The Roots) and Clyde “The Funky Drummer” Stubblefield in 2011 for an all-star live performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
While Eclectic Method has a long history of official remixes for artists like Snoop Dogg and Childish Gambino, companies that once viewed him as a copyright crook now seek out his services. Record labels and TV channels regularly recruit him for remixes, and tech companies have him consult on apps, software and products. Last month, Wilson performed live at Apple stores in Berlin, Paris and London using nothing but an Apple Watch, and live performances can potentially include camera-phone footage streamed from the audience and mixed live to music.
“Do you remember how audio production took off in the ’90s with all these home studios?” says Wilson. “That’s what’s happening with video production right now. You won’t believe the things we’ll be able to do next.”
Wilson started out as a traditional club DJ in London, but life changed dramatically when his father started the War Child charity and moved him to Bosnia. The conflict had just ended, but the violence had not. Wilson arrived to a town where the Muslims were sectioned off, undiscovered landmines exploded at random and mental health had derailed in mass. Those who think Napster got it bad should try talking down armed militants who don’t like your choice of music samples.
Bullet dodging aside, the Bosnian years led to Wilson’s video-remix inspiration and a music mentor in Brian Eno. The famed U2 producer took him under his wing and provided hands-on studio experience. A few years later, Wilson launched Eclectic Method back home in London before moving to Brooklyn in 2007. He previously avoided cannabis content because he feared it might affect his visa renewals, but he made the move to Spain in 2013, and his first 420 mix debuted the following April.
Eclectic Method is arguably the poster child for cannabis-primed art, and Wilson now has more freedom to match green-themed visuals with his green-friendly audience.