In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel is perhaps the premier ‘hipster’ album, and has become a popular meme in the online music world. Released in 1998, the album quickly developed a cult following that still persists to this day. It’s a difficult work of art, featuring lo-fi sound quality, surreal lyrics, and ridiculous instrumentation. But for most listeners, all of this only adds to the appeal.
This article is not about In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, however, but about an even stranger derivative work: In My G4 Over Da Sea, a mash-up album of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and popular hip-hop artists ranging from Pitbull to Nas, to Cali Swag District to Kanye West.
Posted anonymously to the /mu/ board of 4chan in the early 2010s by the creator Psycosis, the album immediately enthralled the Neutral Milk Hotel obsessed /mu/tants. The general reaction was a mix of stunned disbelief, anger, and “this shouldn’t work, but it does.”
The album gained traction over on /mu/, and gradually spread throughout the entire internet. To this day, comments still roll in on the multiple YouTube uploads of the various tracks. Suffice to say, it’s gathered a cult following of its own.
Personally, I’ve loved the album since hearing it back in the day. I find myself thinking about if often, whether I’m listening to “Two-Headed Boy” or “Teach Me How to Dougie,” I always end up returning to In My G4 Over Da Sea.
In typical NEEMblog fashion, my curiosity eventually got the best of me, and I was determined to track down the creator for an interview. So I reached out over his old Bandcamp email, and he enthusiastically obliged.
Below is my correspondence with Ian Kelly, AKA Psycosis, AKA Neutral Bling Hotel, the creator of one of the most bizarre mash-up albums of all time.
NEEMblog: How’d you get into making music, and how did you get into the mash-up genre specifically? Any artists that inspired you?
Ian Kelly: I started getting into mash-ups a little over 15 years ago now. Before I did music I would make sprite animations and games on Newgrounds.com. One day, while randomly watching some new uploads, someone used a song called “Dr. Who Goes on Holiday” as a credit track. I thought this was super interesting and I found it was from a mash-up album called American Edit. My obsession with this album eventually led me to discover The Grey Album and work by Go Home Productions. Like any teenager over their head, I thought “Hey I can probably do this too!” and it went from there.
As far as actual music goes I’m not too good at it, honestly! I played double bass for a decade or so, which translated to bass guitar in my university days. Some self taught piano but nothing to write home about. I’ve always been far more interested in the remixing aspect of music than the playing.
NB: People have made strange mash-ups before, but this one still feels unique. What made you want to make a mash-up of Neutral Milk Hotel and hip-hop/pop hits?
IK: The idea actually came from the album cover, funnily enough! A friend of mine sent it to me on Tumblr and I got a decent kick out of it. Neutral Milk Hotel was at, as far as I’m aware, its peak popularity on /mu/ at the time so there were a lot of these cover edits going around. A few weeks later I was listening to the original album and came up with some rudimentary ideas for the mash-up album and the rest is history.
NB: What was your favorite reaction to the album you saw online? I remember some people were straight up mad about it.
IK: Haha, yeah I remember a lot of anger towards it. I even have some of the, I assume joking, death threat e-mails I got about it. My favorite reactions are always the bewildered enjoyment. As in, a lot of the comments were along the lines of “this shouldn’t work, but it does” kind of thing. The initial thread on /mu/ was also very entertaining. I remember posting a download link, completely separate from my own username, along with the cover art. It was great seeing people slowly realize it was a full album, and then try to figure out who the hell made it.
NB: What track is your favorite? And which was the most fun to make? For the record, mine is “Oh Dougie.”
IK: “Oh Dougie” is great! Definitely one of my favorites too. My favorite overall and to make was “Look at the Two-Headed Boy.” That and “Oh Dougie” was more cut and sampling than the rest, which I think makes them a lot more interesting. I still sing the Chris Brown parts whenever my wife plays the original song, much to her dismay.
I also want to shout out “Untitled Paint Job,” probably the funniest track for me. The original “Untitled” is so… weird. Every time the bagpipes start I burst out laughing. It’s genuinely the best song on ITAOTS. It might have been the hardest mash-up to make because whenever I made any progress on it I’d just listen to the original instead.
NB: At any point when you were making it, did you think it would actually take off? People are still listening to it nowadays judging by YouTube comments, it seems to really have a cult following.
No, honestly! When I was first making the album I posted the first song I finished, “King of Jesus Walks,” online, and basically no-one cared about it. It got maybe one or two likes before fading into nothing. I ended up deleting it and decided I’d just release the album all at once and see if that’d garner more attention.
I even mentioned earlier I first posted it on /mu/ with no attribution to myself, since I didn’t want it to feel I was trying to push my own work. By the time that thread died people had found my Bandcamp upload, and started making follow-up threads about it.
In more recent times I still hear people talking about it here and there, which is very humbling. I still try and read all the comments people make. It’s great seeing people react to its existence, or surprised that it’s enjoyable, or even reminiscing back to when it was first released. I never thought something I could make could have this much of a lasting appeal.
NB: The mash-up genre itself was big in the 2000s and early 2010s, why do you think it’s recently fallen out of favor?
IK: Short answer: Copyright. It sucks but a lot of these projects are at the mercy of DMCA claims. Copyright detectors on websites like YouTube and Soundcloud have really hurt a lot of people who would otherwise make these kinds of mash-ups. Hell recently a friend of mine, Triple-Q, got one of their accounts banned due to multiple DMCA claims at once, with no real recourse to overrule it since every copyright system is managed by robots nowadays. I’m not going to go on about fair use or anything like that, I know mash-ups are in a very legal grey area, but it is saddening that a lot of that creativity can disappear with a click of a button.
However, having said that, I don’t think mash-ups are necessarily dead nowadays, they just changed the presentation. A lot of the ‘SoundClown’ stuff carries the spirit of old mash-up jokes. On YouTube one of my favorite channels is Siivagunner, a collaborative channel that uploads mash-ups and musical edits of videogame music under the guise of ‘High Quality Rips’. On top of that, festival shows have a lot of mash-ups in them now, and even games like Fuser show that mash-ups have a wide appeal.
NB: Any shoutouts or last words you’d like to give?
IK: Shoutout to my wife! Haha we actually met because of my mash-ups, and we’ve been happily married for 7 years now! Find her work at http://store.starsalts.com/
Thank you for the interview! It was a lot of fun looking back on this album for the first time in quite a while. I actually listened to In My G4 Over Da Sea in full and while, yeah, there are a lot of mistakes and a lot of things I’d probably do differently nowadays, it’s still fairly enjoyable. I hope I can keep that kind of energy with my projects moving forward!
You can find Ian’s social media below: