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SXSW: Re:Generation Music Project
by Stephen Becker 14 Mar 2012

A documentary pairs DJs with a variety of musicians to see if opposites attract.

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AUSTIN – If you’ve watched the Grammy Awards the past few years, you know that they’ve been heavy on collaboration. Last month’s featured the Beach Boys playing with Foster the People, Bonnie Rait and Alicia Keys and Deadmau5 with Foo Fighters. It’s a smart strategy, really – pair up younger and older artists, exposing one to the other’s fan base.

With Re:Generation Music Project, a documentary that is showing at SXSW, the Grammys have kicked up the collaboration another notch. For the film, five DJs – Pretty Lights, Skrillex, the Crystal Method, DJ Premiere and Mark Ronson – were asked to work with musicians outside of the world of electronic dance music. The film follows that new creative process.

Some of the pairings work beautifully from the jump. Ronson immediately bonds with members of the Dap Kings, Trombone Shorty, Erykah Badu, Mos Def and drummer “Zigaboo” Modeliste of the Meters to cook up a New Orleans jazz tune. DJ Premiere – given maybe the toughest task – creates a hip-hop track using classical music samples  with the help of the Berklee College of Music. And Skrillex’s just happy to be in the same room approach to working with the surviving members of the Doors carries the day.

Not everyone had it so easy. Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland of the Crystal Method bump heads on occasion with Martha Reeves in trying to compose a song about her home town of Detroit. And whoever paired Pretty Lights (aka Derek Smith) with Ralph Stanley in Nashville has a wicked sense of humor.

The basic rule of thumb is that conflict creates drama. But the film’s director, Amir Bar-Lev, says that in making his movie he found an exception to the rule. 

“The moments when it’s going well, I find it just as entertaining as when it’s awkward,” he said during a post-screening Q&A Tuesday night.

And he’s right. Watching the Ronson/New Orleans track coalesce as layers are added to it is thrilling. And Skrillex’s pure joy in seeing John Densmore bang out his beat on a hand drum will put a smile on your face.

Bar-Lev demured when asked by yours truly which track was his favorite. But luckily, you can decide for yourself. They’re all available at regenerationmusicproject.com.

And you can now watch the film on Hulu.

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