Video mash-up maker Andy Rehfeldt is quite the YouTube cutup
It's likely that cherub-faced opera phenom Charlotte Church would have never opened her mouth to sing “Silent Night” on a British talk show had she known that video mash-up master Andy Rehfeldt might one day set his sights on the clip.
In his version, when the demure singer opens her mouth to sing the holiday classic, she sounds more like the spawn of Satan than a voice from the heavens. Thanks to Rehfeldt's over-dub magic, throat shredding vocals now replace her ethereal solo performance while blistering, metal guitar takes the place of the original, refined orchestration.
The overall effect is hysterical, unless of course you're Church, then it's likely horrifying.
“Usually the editing is the painstaking part. You have to line everything up just right. It can take hours,” said Rehfeldt, 48, a classically trained musician who earns a living as a session player. “But it always seems worth it when it's done and we're in the studio laughing our heads off.”
During a recent session at Endless Noise, a music and sound design company where he works in Santa Monica, Rehfeldt and owner Jeff Elmassian were messing with a clip from an old Archies cartoon. A flat screen mounted on the wall above them played a grainy video of the animated band performing their hit “Sugar Sugar.” Surrounded by a slew of instruments, Rehfeldt meticulously spliced footage of the clean-cut cartoon character with a demonic hard-rock cover version he played and sang himself.
Before constructing his comical world of mash-up videos, Rehfeldt was (nominally) known for something very different. He and Elmassian worked on the Grammy-winning soundtrack “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.” Now, he's a recognizable name among metal heads and YouTube trollers alike.
“When the videos started getting so many hits, I flipped out,” Rehfeldt said. “Now I'm kinda used to it. There's been a pretty big positive response. But there's probably 50 people on YouTube who totally hate it.”
Rehfeldt started his YouTube channel three years ago, but he and Elmassian have been collaborating on mash-ups as a regular gig for the last seven years. Rehfeldt said he was first inspired by StSanders, a mash-up artist who's used musical overdubs and joke lyrics to make Carlos Santana sound like a rank amateur and Marilyn Manson sing like a pixie.
“I started thinking I could do the same kind of stuff, but I wanted it to be more musical and make it sound good instead of just goofing off,” Rehfeldt said.
The method behind his mash-ups requires him to find live concert footage of an artist or band so he can strip out the music and add his own using recording software ProTools. Or he'll find an a cappella vocal online and write a whole new piece of music where he performs, records and overdubs all the instruments. He's also enlisted the help of death metal singers known as Bordi and the Markness, from Luxembourg and Slovenia, respectively, who discovered his videos online and offered to add their vocals to his mash-ups.
Though he sticks mostly to guitar, keyboards and drums, Rehfeldt (whose father was a professor of woodwinds and mother was a piano teacher) is also classically trained in the oboe, bassoon, clarinet and piano.
Elmassian, who's worked with Rehfeldt as a commercial musician for nearly 20 years, said the first successful mash-up they did together was a splice-and-dice of David Bowie's two tracks “Rebel Rebel” and “Never Get Old” for a 2004 Audi commercial.
“We both come from very formal musical backgrounds,” Elmassian said. “[Andy] has an unbelievable set of ears too. But when we go into all the weird mash-ups and arrangements, it kind of allows us to let all the formal stuff go away and we just get to have fun with these things.”
Rehfeldt says that his hobby does come with some limitations. He's not allowed to use any official videos on YouTube, only live footage. In 2008, he got a cease-and-desist letter from the video-sharing site when he posted a viral video of Louis Armstrong's “What a Wonderful World.”
Eventually, Rehfeldt says, he'd like to take some of his biggest mash-ups and make an arrangement album that could help him take his act to the next level. He said he's recently gotten some interest from Monster Beverage Co. energy drinks to do some commercial work.
But most importantly for this longtime metal head, the videos have been a creative outlet that deflates the seriousness of hard rock and pop culture by fusing them together. Occasionally, his hobby garners some major-league validation.
On a popular mash-up of Katy Perry's “Teenage Dream,” Rehfeldt replaced the pop star's glossy power hooks with guttural Cookie Monster vocals. Surprisingly, she linked to the video on her Twitter feed.
“Hey everybody,” she tweeted. “I'm working on a new sound. Check it out.”
Charlotte Church, 'Silent Night' (Andy Rehfeldt mash-up)
Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong,'Birth of the Blues' (Andy Rehfeldt mash-up)
-- Nathan Jackson
Photo: Andy Rehfeldt. Credit: David Teitelbaum. Videos credit: YouTube