Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

“Gangrene Style” March 19, 2013

by Andrew P. Moisan

One day, not long ago, I fried some eggs, walked from the kitchen into the living room and turned on NBC’s The Today Show. This was a bad move to begin with. But then I heard the following:

“Jong su ke bo wi ji man nol ten no nun yo ja/I te da shi pu myon mu ko ton mo ri pu nun yo ja.”

The fork was halfway to my mouth when I stopped and looked at the TV, tilting my head to the side like a dog that gets confused by unfamiliar sounds. The eggs slid off my fork, and the fork followed, slipping from my fingers and dropping onto the plate. And then it continued.

“Eh, sexy lady/op op-op-op/oppan Gangnam style.”

It was apparently some sort of song, and it had come from the maw of a stocky South Korean man who flopped about on stage like an inebriated cowboy on the back of a horny stallion whose ass was on fire. He wore sunglasses for no apparent reason and was done up with a black bow tie and a tuxedo-like jacket that was roughly the color of the retch you’d expect to see on the floor had you overindulged on vodka and guacamole and then failed to reach the toilet.

My eggs and I had both grown cold as I watched this man pump his pelvis in grotesque ways. I presently became sweaty and short of breath, my skin got cool and clammy, and I had numbness in my right hand.

I thought I might be having a stroke.

But no: This was my introduction to Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”

I wiped some egg from my lips, put my plate aside and continued watching, listening. This man resembled most any jackass who wanders drunk after leaving a costume party after midnight, only to stroll into a nightclub about 15 minutes before last call, order a round of shots and begin dancing like an asshole.

His song follows suit perfectly. It jerks, it grinds and it breathes stench all over innocent strangers. And in that vein, it attempts to copulate with listeners using worn-out strategies: the same obnoxious gyrations, tired four-beat measures, bland instrumentation and other wishy-washy, synthesized horse hockey typically discharged amid your standard evening at the club bumping to generic house music. Listen to this and you may think of Los del Rio’s 1996 dance craze, “Macarena.” And then you’ll vomit.

Whatever. The motherfucker ruined my breakfast and left me feeling ill, so I thought I would look into the matter further.

Psy is a South Korean singer/songwriter who, just before Christmas, became the first person in YouTube history to pop the 1 billion cherry, luring this many viewers (and more) into the backseat of his van with promises of candy and making him the most-watched sideshow in the wild circus of online musical absurdity. And in achieving this high-water mark, he brushed back the likes of Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga from the upper strata of the web.

“Gangnam Style,” which to me sounds like some sort of either perverse or extremely wonderful bedroom experiment, was released in July as the single on Psy’s sixth studio record. It debuted at No. 1 in South Korea, peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 last fall, and has putrefied there for 27 weeks, holding now at No. 27. It’s been widely covered, parodied, remixed and in various ways regurgitated in numerous genres. And it’s topped charts in more than 30 countries, which, after doing the math, is approximately 30 too many.

And while decimating the eardrums and searing the retinae of some, Psy has reeled in all manner of high-profile folks who don’t seem to mind it. I’m talking folks like the President of the United States, the British Prime Minister, the mayor of London and the Secretary General of the United Nations. You know: them kinds of folk.

“They’re cooler than I am,” President Barack Obama told People Magazine recently, speaking of his daughters and explaining how he does Psy’s bizarre horse dance around The White House to embarrass them. “There are things I like that they think are cheesy, like ‘Gangnam Style.’ I love that.”

Obama is the only person I will not take to task for enjoying this song. Everyone else is culpable.

Psy is actually a 34-year-old man named Park Jae-sang, now the face of Korean-Pop, or K-Pop, a popular and longstanding movement that basically includes nearly every musical concept: pop, dance, rock, electronic, hip-hop and R&B, among others. He hails from the affluent Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea, an area that he’s likened to Beverly Hills, California, and that is the subject of the song.

But as he told CNN last summer, “Gangnam Style” is actually more comedy than bling, as it mocks people who are not from the lavish Gangnam District yet pretend to be, as no one who is truly “Gangnam” ever boasts that they are; it’s only the imitators who are the braggarts. So he’s basically a Gangnam poking fun at non-Gangnams for being overly flashy in pretending to be Gangnam … I think.

Either way, I didn’t initially get the thrust of the song, since I don’t understand Korean. What I did understand in seeing and hearing Psy is that he bends and twists like an unusually flexible sea turtle dressed in various sequined outfits. He yawps more than he sings, peacocks more than he dances, and then force-feeds the upshot into the hearts and minds of listeners left weak and frail after years of shit radio.

And then he ruins people’s breakfasts.

But Psy isn’t some sudden east-to-west transplant. He attended Boston University and the Berklee College of Music (also in Boston) in the late-1990s, yet received degrees from neither school. Not coming away with big credentials, he upped the ante: He returned to South Korea to pursue a pop career and then busted out like a hell-hound bent on melting the brains of blameless people like British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson, both of whom apparently shamed themselves recently by doing Psy’s “inebriated-cowboy-on-the-back-of-a-horny-stallion-whose-ass-was-on-fire” dance.

The two British officials had met at Chequers, a mansion in southeast England that has long served as the country residence of the British Prime Minister. They later ate at a nearby pub. God only knows how many pints they drank, but I guess they had a fine time.

“After the lunch,” the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported in October, “the men returned to the house in relaxed high spirits. Mr. Cameron then whipped out his iPad and started playing the Gangnam video in the hall of the historic pile. To whoops of delight from their wives, and cheering from their children, he and Mr. Johnson aped Psy’s famed ‘horse-riding’ dance moves, complete with reins-holding and hands-on-hips routines.”

When I thought of the person currently residing at 10 Downing Street doing the Gangnam dance, and when I reconsidered the idea of the person currently residing at The White House doing the same, I suddenly had to hit the bathroom. I spent ten minutes in there; my memory is blurred, but it had something to do with intractable vomiting, heavy sweating and double-vision.

“Oppan Gangnam Style.”

Now, I understand that this is a viable dance song, and that Psy is a competent and veteran songwriter who has simply hit a winning lotto ticket. I also know that it’s catchy, well produced, finely choreographed and a fun thing to have thumping paint off the ceilings of bars and into the hair of frisky young adults. And sure, a deluge of club rats are riding on the backside of this romp.

But that doesn’t make it okay. Yes, it’s currently the flashiest sneaker in the stinking footlocker of contemporary music, yet it’s also the one most apt to cause injury due to untied shoelaces. In a year, I expect this song will go the way of the Reebok Pump, which swiftly attained commercial triumph and then died just as quickly in the early 1990s.

“Oppan Dodo Style.”

The English translations of the song (and there are disparities among them) roughly illustrate a man who is essentially trying to capture the interest of a high-class girl who’s really into coffee, like he is, and who’s both modest yet all about getting wild. Psy paints himself as an adoring and intelligent (yet covetous) fellow who wants to chase the biscuit as opposed to having it fed to him. Nothing we haven’t heard from Axl Rose.

The actual translation of “Oppan Gangnam Style,” according to The Wall Street Journal and ABC News, is, “big brother is Gangnam Style,” with Psy referring to himself in the third person. But there is some cloudiness about this, as some English translations have it as “Oppa is Gangnam Style,” which may have to do with the Korean-to-English translation of “oppa” and “oppan,” where “oppa” is apparently a term used by Korean women to refer to older male friends or siblings, while “oppan” is an abbreviated form of the noun phrase “oppa-neun,” a contraction suggesting that a more accurate translation might be, “Speaking of oppa, I like Gangnam style.”

By the way, I just discovered that I have a rogue nipple hair nearly half the length of my pinky finger. I took care of it, though. I also found a nickel in my shoe.

Sorry. Anyway, going back to Guns N’ Roses, the bulk of Psy’s official video is simply the same sort of butt-sniffing claptrap that some of us recall seeing every afternoon, back in the days when kids came home from school, grabbed some Ho-Hos and Fruit Roll-Ups, turned on MTV and actually witnessed music videos and not a phalanx of hormonal 16-year-old girls bitching about how they had accidentally gotten pregnant.

But let’s not forget the sins of Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, New Kids on the Block, the Backstreet Boys, etc. Certainly, Psy is only the latest in a long line of blessed mediocrities sucked into and spat out of the same revolving door from which too many foul specters have emerged like wet belches (courtesy of such awful music deconstructionists as Simon Cowell), only to assail young innocents and leave pockmarks across their souls for eternity.

And sure, there are some dubious scenes in the Gangnam video. For instance, in the opening, he’s filmed clad in short pink shorts, his legs spread widely apart in some kind of come-hither fashion as his face seems to indicate that he’s having a major orgasm. All the while, he’s hanging out in some playground, where little kids are dancing around him.

“Oppan Gangnam Style”?

Well that’s neither here nor there. In the video, Psy mostly sticks to his dances. I mean, this guy just loves to dance! He dances under a bridge, he dances with very attractive and scantily clad women, he dances in a horse barn, he dances on a boat, he dances in a parking garage, he dances next to a carrousel, he dances in wind tunnels, he dances through busy intersections, he sits in a steam room while another guy dances next to him, and he even tries to dance in a pool.

Hell, I can’t understand why this guy sells! I mean, it’s not as though he’s drawing interest for the same reasons that exotic birds keep binocular sales booming. He’s not all that fascinating to watch, is he?

No, he is. And I suppose it just comes down to human habit: What people see, people do. Need I mention monkeys?

I must point out, however, that YouTube views of the inauguration of the nation’s first black President currently stands at 5,161,571, while views of “Gangnam Style” now stand at about 1,446,917,453. Now, to anyone interested in numbers, this means that Psy is about 231 times more popular on YouTube than the man who won the most historic presidency in the United States since George Washington. Of course this doesn’t surprise me: Many people simply love to chase things that move.

And speaking of this, I spent a painful time recently imagining this guy trying to come up with his signature dance, alone in his bedroom before a full-body mirror. He must have done this at some point. I considered these thoughts for a few moments, and then escorted myself into the woods, where I threw myself to the ground and beat myself unconscious with a slab of raw meat. I always carry beef when I walk in the woods, in case I have to redirect the attention of a coyote, or a disco horse-man.

After knocking myself out, I woke up later with a nosebleed, freezing, exhausted and missing a shoe. But I got up, stumbled back to the house, warmed up and fell fast asleep. I then had a dream, however, and it had something to do with fog machines, perfume, vodka, tight pants, heavy cologne, slutty women and the sort of insufferably repetitive bass beats you’d expect to be shot like stink-darts from the foul end of a sleek DJ set on making oatmeal of your brain.

Now, despite that this song has infiltrated the skulls of certain people currently holding the offices previously held by certain other people, like John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill, do we need further evidence that “Gangnam Style” has become some curious form of black death?

Oh, we do? Okay, here: Psy was even lauded by the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who, according to Reuters, told him in October on a visit to the U.N., “You are so cool; I hope that you can end the global warming.”

“Fuck me!” I said as I read this. “I agree with the Secretary General! I also hope that Psy can end the global warming!”

“Oppan Cuckoo Style.”

But it’s not just powerful world leaders. Heidi Klum, at the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards, called Psy the “undisputed king of pop.” Now, maybe I’m cuckoo style, but I thought we already had one of those. And as if belittling the spirit of our dear king of Motown wasn’t enough, the refrain, “Oppan Gangnam Style,” was entered into The Yale Book of Quotations as one of the most famous utterances of 2012. This is a publication that has for years authoritatively quoted the words of folks like President Abraham Lincoln, Groucho Marx and President Bill Clinton.

All this adds up to why I’m so gun-shy about touching the radio dial. It’s like walking by dark alleyways in bad neighborhoods: You never know when someone might throw a poison dart or slice your throat. Or it could be worse, in that someone might make your ears eat the musical upchuck of a short, chubby man who acts like he’s ordained to be musical gold, yet whose disposition suggests he would be more aptly placed entertaining at a kid’s birthday gala or as a fool in the court of some monarch.

Were the sovereign to behead him after a poor performance, however, I’m betting some crazy bastard would snatch Psy’s stupid sunglasses and sell the fucking things on eBay. I would.

Look, the current estimated world population is about 7 billion, and again, for anyone interested in numbers, this means that roughly 16 percent of the planet Earth has been exposed to this ass-stink (not accounting for repeated hits by individual viewers, of course). So I’m betting plenty of folks have heard it.

But for the few people who haven’t, I’d offer the same warning I received in the third grade from a good friend. He told me never to stand before a mirror in the dark and repeatedly say “Bloody Mary,” as this might conjure up a horrifying ghost. As such, I’d advise anyone that, if you listen to “Gangnam Style,” even once, you might summon a dreadful pop apparition that may thrust its junk at you and cause you to try pulling parts of your brain from your ear with a pair of tweezers.

I know this from experience. So please, be careful.

Anyway, after the performance ended on The Today Show, I shook off the sick and regained my appetite. I warmed up my food and tried to pretend that I hadn’t just dry-heaved for the last five minutes, and that the whole thing had been a bad dream. But it was no use. I looked at my eggs, and in the yolks, I saw the face of Psy. His mouth hung open, all orgasmic and smiling, and his neck moved as though it did not contain bones. He still wore big sunglasses, and he looked a bit like an ant or a housefly.

So I gave up and put my breakfast in the fridge. In the meantime, however, in my state of dismay and sudden lack of hunger, I had an epiphany. The music industry is like any living creature we tend to: It gets hungry, we feed it, and while it only makes us smile sometimes, it’s our job to try to nurture and clean up after it. This may mean we’re sucked into and spat out of the revolving door. But who isn’t?

I’ll say this, though: If any of us are the custodians of music’s current state, in that music is a plant or animal we’re nourishing, we ought to feed it wisely or not bitch when it tastes sour or grows to be petulant. There can be no generous output without generous input, right? So here’s how I see it: Hit radio has been hardily fed since its inception, yet for the last 15 years (with few exceptions), we’ve hardly fed it anything even approaching decent. So what has it been pooping?

“Gangnam Style.”


Call Me Nauseous December 9, 2012

by Andrew P. Moisan


It is not news that Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” has caused widespread illness, infecting millions of people’s heads with bubblegum and stuffing their souls full of hell. A moth flew by the other day and landed near the computer, and when I played the song, it flew off. It, too, had had enough.

Of course, this is not the first hangnail we’ve had to put up with in hit radio, nor will it be the last. But like any hangnail, all we can do is chew on it, yank it away and try to stop the bleeding.

The song is not bad per se, as it serves its purpose: It feels young and comes off as fresh and fast. If you’re 19 years old and away from home for the first time, this is the mood you’re probably in: Just fly free and give in to abandon. And aptly, there is a simple chord progression, with a blend of teen-pop, a bit of disco and an animated dance tempo. Plus it includes a pretty lead singer whom girls might want to emulate and whom boys might want to think about at night…overall, a good formula, if the point is to pump cash into the pockets of moguls.

But if we were to leave the boardroom momentarily and see music as a vehicle for emotional ideas, and if we compare what 20-somethings were listening to back in the early 1970s, then we would be forced to place a song like John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” right next to this song.

Some lyrics from Lennon: “Instant karma’s gonna get you/gonna knock you right on the head/you better get yourself together/pretty soon you’re gonna be dead.”

Some lyrics from Jepsen: “Your stare was holdin’/ripped jeans, skin was showin’/hot night, wind was blowin’/where you think you’re going baby?”

YouTube views of “Instant Karma”: 5,706,837.

YouTube views of “Call Me Maybe”: 344,450,353.

Obviously songs about hormonal, infatuated kids have always sold. And yes, it’s a bit absurd to highlight a YouTube clip of a record that’s currently charting and compare it to a hit that came out 42 years ago and wasn’t on YouTube to begin with.

My point is not the numbers, however; it’s the substance. Lennon wrote about geopolitics and American culture. But for the last 30 years or so…on and off, of course, as we’ve had respites here and there…the subjects in contemporary music have drifted, meandering from concerns about love, fear and politics, and wandering, in a general sense, toward deeper concerns about things like people’s butts.

Undoubtedly, Jepsen did not set out to write a song about love or politics. This was a song about butts. And again, in this respect, the song is pretty perfect, since it achieves what it aims to do: It encourages young men and women to freak each other in nightclubs, get to sniffing and then tell lies to their mates about where they had been until 4 a.m.

But the triumph of a hit is measured neither by the content of its character nor the character of its listeners. What makes a Jepsen a Jepsen are unit sales, marketing mannequins, focus groups, bar charts, PowerPoint shows, standard deviations, nerd-talk at Starbuck’s and rambling inexactitude on the part of know-nothing, pencil-pushing trust-fund ken dolls who, for some reason, are able to very accurately predict what the proletariat will drink up.

I’m actually starting to depress myself a bit here, so I’ll move on. Besides, I need to take a break since I have a little bit of throw-up in my mouth.

The 27-year-old Canadian artist’s hit debuted on the U.S. charts last March, entered Billboard’s Top 10 in April, hit number one in June and stayed there for nine consecutive weeks. But it’s so far passed the nuclear smell test: As of Nov. 26, 2012, the song lingers, rather like a cockroach or a dirty diaper, holding at 31 on the Hot 100.

Jepsen told Rolling Stone earlier this year that “Call Me Maybe” had started off as “a folky tune,” which I expect is even funnier than finding out your favorite professional wrestler likes to drink chamomile tea, decorate for the holidays and make scrapbooks.

She wrote the song with her guitarist Tavish Crowe and Josh Ramsay of the Canadian band Marianas Trench, whose song “Desperate Measures” may help inform us as to how Jepsen’s song migrated from “a folky tune” to what now spews like butt vomit from radio speakers.

Ramsay “helped us kind of pop-ify it,” Jepsen told Rolling Stone, basically explaining how he is really the one to blame. “He’s really good. He’s got a little bit of pop genius in his blood. It was written, recorded and produced within four or five days, tops.”

And to think aristocrats have been deposed in less time.

To be fair, however, she isn’t a total disappointment. In Canadian Idol’s fifth season, in 2007, she hazarded a rendition of Queen’s “Killer Queen” in a cabaret-style performance that was interesting and charming. And while it bugged me that her bangs hung over her pretty eyes, like caterpillars dangling over the rim of a nice glass of lager, I thought she did a good job. Now, I’m a lover of Queen, so I may be partial.

But like any veteran of a singing competition…and despite that she didn’t win the race…she has had a handicap. Original songwriting done subsequent to these prime time spectacles tends to leave the artist looking unimpressive, as we had come to know them as glorified karaoke performers—conduits through whom we could hear our favorite hits reborn in younger vessels. So as they try to carve a place of their own in the music business, the point of comparison becomes a Whitney Houston or Madonna song versus their own material. The emerging singers mostly lose in the end. In Jepsen’s case, her musical innovations went head-to-head with Freddy Mercury. This is like trying to outrun an airplane.

But even though she failed to become the Canadian Idol, losing it to some fellow named Brian Melo…whose song, “Soundproof,” is an unremarkable blight that resembles what would have popped out had Linkin Park and Maroon 5 mated—she bounced back after the defeat and gave Justin Bieber night sweats as her YouTube hit climbed up very near to his comfy chair in the celebrity sky.

But here was something I didn’t expect.

“She has such a twinkle, like a little star,” Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen, said on Canadian Idol. He had just watched Jepsen sing. “You can’t possibly watch a performance like that and not smile.”

I wasn’t sure whether to hate May for liking Jepsen or hate Jepsen for seducing May. I nearly put a pistol in my mouth that night.

By the way, YouTube hits on Queen doing “Killer Queen”: 3,717,498.

YouTube hits on Jepsen doing “Killer Queen”: 51,219.


But the problem with Jepsen is also the success of Jepsen. This is a song that is hummable, like any hit on any successful record ever pressed. Hearing it on the radio recently, it was like being sprayed by a skunk: You didn’t mean to be there at the time, but since you were, now you’ll spend days trying to wash the stink out.

In fact, A-sides like this…to use an antiquated term…will follow you to your casket. The utter simplicity of it drills through your skull and wets your brain. If the damn toilet flushes at just the right pitch, these sorts of hits will enter your body and possess you. Next thing you know, you’ll be pissing all over the living room carpet in the middle of your parents’ dinner party…and then, if you’re lucky, some priests will show up.

This is the meat-and-potatoes tack that worked magic for Elvis Presley, Wal-Mart, M&M’s, Starbuck’s, and who knows how many other enterprises: modest but rich; bold yet accessible; colorful but not too pricey. And yet, with Jepsen, I’ve nary a teaspoon of respect for her with which to take sugar for my coffee.

There will always be these hangnails in pop music, just as there will be in life: like how there will always be morning breath, impurities in drinking water, guys like Bonaparte, influenza, unscrupulous business owners, bedbugs, America’s Funniest Home Videos, gorgeous people who stroll by when you are very, very single, etc. To some extent, we must accept these hindrances, fall to our knees and just pray for better days.

In life, though, I find meaningful moments reside at the very busy intersection of simplicity and honesty. And so it is with music. This is a hectic juncture, and many accidents occur. But if you can navigate it, what comes out the other end is some part of your soul suddenly made tangible. And maybe, for nearly half a billion people, “Call Me Maybe” fits the bill.

But for me, this is a lot of horse apples.

The best news is that, before writing this, I listened to “Call Me Maybe” about eight times, and then, right after, I played “Killer Queen”…Mercury’s version. I had played it only once. And as any degree of common sense would tell you, Mercury trumped Jepsen, and all became right with the world. There will be no more bubblegum-pop or skunk spray riffs. The moths and I will sleep well tonight.


On the sound and release of their new album “Love and the Human Outreach”… September 22, 2012

Warped Tour 2012 – July 21 – Nassau Coliseum

DF – David Fowler – Keyboards

SF – Stephen Fowler – Lead Vocals

DTK – Dave the Klone

TNT, as herself

One of the amazing highlights of the 2012 Vans’ Warped Tour was getting to catch an awesome set from, and hang out with Echo Movement, the band from the Jersey shore bringing their own brand of sci-fi to their Reggae / Classic Rock fusion sound.  Take 2 parts Bob Marley, 1 part Beatles and 1 part Pink Floyd, and you just start to scratch the surface of what Echo Movement has perfected with their latest album, Love and the Human Outreach.  The guys were super cool and more than happy to go into depth on the finer points of what makes Love and the Human Outreach more than just a mind-blowing album, but a scientific work of art.




TNT:  So it’s already been featured in CNN, MSNBC, Wired Magazine and other media as a scientific work.  Would you explain how this album is a scientific work?

DF:  Yeah, absolutely.  There are two things in there that would qualify as such, three things if you include the subject matter of the lyrics.  The two physical things that are in there, one is…well, actually this is our second album that features binaural beats.  What they are essentially are two sinusoidal frequencies that are ever so slightly out of tune with each other.  And when you pan one of those frequencies hard right, so that it’s only coming out of the right speaker, and you pan the other hard left, so that it’s only coming out of the left speaker, and then put on a set of head phones, your brain goes through a neurological process where it identifies the algorithm between those two frequencies, and it becomes what we call an audible artifact.  It’s something that doesn’t physically exist, but because of a certain exchange among elements, you hear something that may not exactly be there.  To get your brain working that way is always a great thing.

DTK:  Wow, it sounds like you’re creating a certain kind of big bang in someone’s head when they listen to your music.

DF:  Ha. We’d love for that to happen.  If there’s any sort of output of energy, or any sort of transformation of energy, I think that’s a beautiful thing and in this case, it’s a cognitive process that’s responsible.  It’s pretty fascinating because you can use binaural beats, and they have been used for therapeutic reasons.  It’s something we’ve studied for a pretty significant period of time before we used them on the last album.  On this one we used them on the first track, “Rising Sunset,” and a little bit on the second track, “Spaceship Earth.”  I feel like they put you in a nice relaxed state to set you up for the album, and then you proceed from there.

DTK:  That sounds incredible. [Referring to the explanation, as I had not heard the album at this point…but before you ask, yes, those binaural beats worked, and it was so fucking cool.]

DF:  It’s a good way of bridging the gap between reality and the world of the album.

TNT:  Could you explain Reggae Bubble?

DF:  Reggae Bubble is essentially a rhythm that is used commonly in our genre of music, and I guess in our case I’ve updated it or textured it with different sounds, but originally it had started to emerge thirty or forty years ago, if not more.  It’s a great rhythm, because the only beat that’s not hit is the first downbeat of each phrase.  That’s something that’s awkward and foreign and, for the lack-of-better-words, uncouth to any sort of western tradition of music, where everything falls on the down-beat rhythm.

DTK:  So is Reggae something that has always been with you guys, or did it come from growing up in the beach culture?  How did you guys wind up in the genre you’re in, which clearly involves a scientific component as well, so I can’t wait to hear how that plays into this to create Echo Movement.

SF:  You know, as far as Reggae, Bob Marley Legend was one of the first albums I got when I was younger.  We listened to a lot of Bob Marley growing up.  We also listened to Michael Jackson, a lot of Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Doors.  Those were the big players as far as the soundtrack at our house between ourselves and our parents.  Dave, you wanna explain the science-side?

DF:  As far as the science, that’s really just something we wanted to do.  We were into doing research in different areas that we’re interested in as far as from a scientific point of view, and then just use the genre as the communicative medium through which we express these things.  We use it as a vehicle.  Regarding the binaural beats, it’s something I discovered two or three years ago, but they’ve been around for something like 70, 80, 90 years, so it’s existed for some time.  It’s been used in the medical community as a treatment for certain neurological disorders.

DTK:  That’s really cool.

DF:  But the real science project on this album comes as a result of spending the last seven years contacting SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence…

DTK:  Whoa, really?!  Can I just tell you, I am so happy that’s the direction this is going, myself probably more than TNT.

TNT:  Haha, yeah.

DTK:  As soon as you said SETI, I was like, ‘Ooooooh!! X-Files!!’  So awesome.  So, you contacted SETI.

DF:  I did.  I was looking for any audio they might have that we could possibly use, and I wound up talking to Edna Davore, the Director of Education at SETI.  She introduced me to the Keppler mission, which is a space telescope that trails Earth, with the primary goal of discovering exo-planets, or planets outside our solar system.  To date, since it’s been launched in 2009, it’s discovered over 2500 planets, as dead-on confirmations.  It does this by observing the apparent magnitude of the star, because planets don’t emit light, it has to observe as the planet transits a small cross-section of sky, passing through our line-of-sight between us and the distant star of the galaxy where the planet is orbiting.  Passing in front of the star over a period of time will create a discernible pattern.  That pattern is charted by an organization called, headed up by a Dr. Debra Fischer at Yale University.  So I reached out to her, at Edna’s suggestion, and she was able to talk to me about how to read and understand their charts.  So over a period of months, I searched through the data points on the charts until I found some that seemed to me to be sinusoidal, and something that I thought would translate well into music.  Then I found a sonification team at Georgia Tech, led by Dr. Bruce Walker, and he put one of his undergrads, O’Riley Winton in charge of putting together a small team of undergrads to help me sonify this data.  And over the course of four or five  months, working with them, I would say diligently…

DTK:  Yeah, I second that, diligently sounds like the right word.

DF:  …they came back with some results, and successfully translated this star-data.  The data we used in this case was actually a binary star-system, but they still create a series of data points that oscillate at the rate we were looking for, it just had a more consistent, more stable pattern that was easier for sonification.  On top of that, we “fitted” the data, which is an idea I borrowed from a Dr. Charles Bailyn, also at Yale University, who was doing a lecture series where he discussed how he would “fit” the data.  He discovered radio velocities of stars…so, you know the planet would go around the star, and it would wobble from its center of mass…and he would take those data points, which weren’t as stable because they were Hubble observations, and they used to just “fit” the data in order to make for cleaner digestion of the information.

DTK:  So, it used to be inaccurate and they’d fill in the gaps?

DF:  Well, it was more accurate eventually, but they were able to draw more conclusions and extrapolate more information from the data they had at the time.  Using that information applied to the binary star-system sample we were using, they came up with these sounds.  So when I got them back, I composed them into a five-part harmony and put it on the album, and then we dedicated it to Carl Sagan.

DTK:  Oh my God, that’s so awesome.  So now how many songs is this going to be happening in?  I mean people are going to be hearing these star sounds and not even be realizing that this is part of the music, right?

DF:  That’s fine.  If they don’t understand, that’s absolutely fine.  And those who do, more power to them.  It’s no problem.  At the end of the day, someone made a comment that they could’ve made these same sounds on their CASIO.  And I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, so could I have.  But what you can’t do, is make those sounds from a binary star-system on the other side of the galaxy.

DTK:  I love that you guys are hiding all of these little…I like to call them clues.  These would be kinda like, for people like me who watched the show LOST, these would be the Easter Eggs that are being left to explain what’s really going on.  I mean, the fact that scientists are actually figuring out where other planets are, and if they’d be able to support human life, and all while we’re sitting here drinking lemonade and listening to music, this is what the universe is throwing around, all around you.  I think it’s awesome you guys are incorporating that into your music.

DF:  Those scientists make very easy idols.  I idolize them, we idolize them, and they’re just fantastic human beings who are looking out for knowledge and the welfare and the progress of humanity.  We honor them through our music when we do things like this.

DTK:  Congratulations, guys.  That is definitely a lot of work, and I can’t wait to hear this for myself.

TNT:  What are some of the other bands you guys have seen on the Warped Tour that you’ve liked?

DF:  The top of that list is Streetlight Manifesto.

TNT:  How about the band name?  Can you tell us, does it have any meaning, where did it come from?

SF:  We are part of the echo generation.  The echo generation are the sons and daughters of the baby boomer generation.  Dave thought of the name.  He came up to me one day and was like, I thought of this…how about Echo Movement, like the movement of our generation, the momentum that is going to bring about big changes.

DTK:  Have you been seeing any of these big changes happening yet?

DF:  They happen at the pace of life.

SF:  I’ll tell you what, technologically we are moving at such an exponential rate, it’s noteworthy.

DTK:  Scary even.

SF:  If you think about it, hundreds of years ago, a father would teach his son a skill, I don’t know, how to make an ax or something.  And then the son would teach his son, who would teach his son, and so on, and so on.  It would always be the same exact method to make the ax; they’d heat the metal to the same temperature, they’d use the same materials, they’d live their whole lives in the same small town.  Now, every year we get new cell phones, with completely new applications and completely new technologies and peripherals that we hook up.  I mean, it’s like Ray Kurtzweil says, do you know Ray Kurtzweil?

DTK:  Of course, the singularity.

SF:  Yup, the singularity.  Some of the predictions he’s making are just awesome.  We’re going to have the human brain mapped out, in another two decades or so he’s estimating, and he’s been right about a lot of things.

DTK:  I think I had read that he thinks by 2025 we’ll have the human brain reverse engineered.

SF:  I mean, think about that.  We’re on the cusp of being able to digitize what a human brain is, and if you can do that, well then what defines a human, what is a human being?  Is it a collection of thoughts and memories, are we tissue, are we spiritual or what are we?

DTK:  I suggest you check out Battlestar Galactica if you have free time after the tour.

TNT:  Oh, God.  It’s so not for me.  Are you guys’ fans?

SF:  No.

DF:  No.  I think Noles is a fan though.

SF:  The only reason I know about it is through friends and now that you mention it, yes I believe that Noles is somehow a fan.

TNT:  Anyway, so did you guys catch Streetlight Manifesto today?

DF:  Not today, but we try to catch them as often as we can.  They’re pretty good friends of ours.

TNT:  Have you played together live or on albums?

SF:  Dave has.

DF:  We played a 5-show run with them in late 2009, and we’ve played with them on a couple isolated dates since then.

SF:  When I said, ‘Dave has,’ I meant he’s played on albums with them.

DF:  I played on their album 99 Songs of Revolution: Vol. 1, I played the organ solo on “Skyscraper,” which is a cover of a Bad Religion song.

DTK:  Nice.

TNT:  So, do you think sponsorships are the best way to tour and get around?  How did you guys start getting sponsors?  Is there a process?

DF:  It’s enabling.  Any sort of capital is enabling in a capitalist society.

SF:  It’s unfortunate that artists have to worry about such things.  But the sponsors that we’ve been lucky enough to hook up with are really, really cool.  Like Silver Surfer Vaporizors.  We hung out with them when we were in Denver.  They were awesome.


Don’t forget to order your copy of Love and the Human Outreach, out now!  If you hurry, you might be able to catch the limited edition version, which includes a piece of art from Brothers With Glass featuring the album cover-art!  Go my friends, be awesome and spread the word and music of Echo Movement.  Nevermind the Posers shares new music with you so that you can share new music you discover here with the world.


REPUBLIC OF LETTERS: The Band that Broke this Camel’s Back May 1, 2011

By Orin Louis

Ohhhh dammit.  After Wiki-ing “indie rock,” I can say that, from this genre, I enjoy and regularly listen to Elliott Smith, Interpol, Arcade Fire, and MGMT – but have only heard pieces of others, including The Killers, Modest Mouse, and The Get Up Kids.  Yes, I am one pathetic loser, because these bands are huge.  They sell out shows to tens of thousands of screaming little bastards; they are crucial links in our musical zeitgeist – indelible landmarks on our cultural landscape…blah blah…I know, and am hesitant to reveal this ignorance to you.  But I suck at lying.

So why is my opinion here worth a turd?  I’m rational, skeptical, and most importantly: fucking hard to please musically.  There’s a solid reason I’ve avoided this style so long – it’s often sappily two-dimensional.  I can’t ever tolerate country music because my dog hasn’t screwed my wife in the old Chevy pickup on the farm; likewise, I simply don’t relate to most indie.  It just doesn’t speak to me.  I was raised on classical, classic rock and a tinge of electronic.  Truth be told, I rarely enjoy music with any words at all, especially anything current.  High quality instrumentals plus meaningful prose is as common as hetero unicorns.  Lo, WTF – suddenly, my car’s been blasting an indie rock album on repeat for weeks?!  Republic of Letters’ new EP, Painted Hour, packs the emotion of Arcade Fire, the wisdom of E. Smith and the punchy pulse of MGMT.  The resulting sound floats past those less desirable, but all too familiar, indie rock traits, while staying true to the genre.  Artists of any medium who consciously work toward stretching a cluttered style in new directions – and are successful at it – are the only ones worth experiencing.  ROL’s music addresses common themes – love, hope, loss, desire, frustration, but from new angles.  Profound lyrics over meaty, hungry instrumentals take me somewhere else, somewhere I want to be.

In my favorite track, “Running From,” a reverby piano accompanies lead singer Chris Venti’s mellifluous voice so perfectly.  Picture “November Rain” vs anything Radiohead.  “Running From” never loses energy as it effortlessly builds and breaks, hitting me deep in the gut.  Lyrics like, “Cause the writing on the walls today / yeah I don’t know just what they say / was stolen from a haunted past,” do not entirely make sense to me, but jeez, I don’t want to understand immediately.  Robert Frost said: “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”  I say the most valuable art is not that which is immediately accessible, but that which reveals clear intention, while leaving room for discovery.  Every track on Painted Hour has this effect.  The music is intelligent; it holds back the right amount to keep me engaged yet, with each play, I hear something new.

I meet the band at The Red Fox Room in North Park, CA.  I’d expected lanky, drugged-out assholes; yet, to my relief, they are sharp-witted and genuinely personable (but still lanky).  They’re also snappy dressers.  I ask them to start at the beginning.  Guitarist Adrian tells of when he was a kid, watching his parents’ band: “She dressed up in cheetah print…they played so loudly, I’d go up the stairs and try to play along with them on keyboard.  But I really wanted to be a drummer, and began by playing bells.”  I asked if that was a helpful experience.  “Hell no!” He retorts.  “Carrying around a bell kit, you’re a target.  I got beat up a couple times.  But I used the bells on the last record for one tiny part.  Nick gave me shit, but it worked, ya know?  Now I practice guitar usually around eight hours each day.”  An aspiring, yet busy, guitarist myself, I can’t help but envy the guy – perks of being a professional.

Bassist Martin began on the recorder “‘Hot Cross Buns,’ dude,” he tells me (now regretfully).  “I played trumpet, then got good at baritone horn.  Even got to play in a Charger halftime show.  One day, my dad told me, ‘Get good at bass and you can be in any band you want.’  I started going to shows, even if I didn’t know which bands were playing.  I spent all my money on CDs.”  I ask if playing for a pro football stadium was difficult.  “It’s much scarier playing for friends intimately.  That’s the nice thing about touring—you can be whatever you want in front of people you don’t know.”  I imagine meeting ROL in a few years to see if they’re still pretending, or if they will have become these alter egos.
 The Venti brothers’ (singer and drummer) mother is a classically trained pianist and vocalist.  Nick recalls, “Music was always around.  We were always in a creative environment.”  I ask about how/when he knew he wanted to be a musician.  He tells me of a night in his teen years, at a Bad Religion show: “Riding the mosh pit, I got thrown into that space between the stage and the crowd.  Security was walking me out when they became distracted by two punks climbing the rafters.  Everyone rushed over there and I had a moment to decide…I jumped up on stage while they were playing.  My friends were like, what the fuuuu?!  Was just one of those moments.”  He reminisces on ROL’s early days: “We were a piece for a year, until Adrian came in to raise up the musicianship, and we finally found that sound. All our music now is about creating a mood. If we all like that mood, we’ll continue with it.”

I ask Chris from where he gets his lyrics. He explains: “I go through notebooks of crap to pick out a few winners. I’ll build a song after that. I’m always trying different writing methods to grow, like maybe starting with the idea in a chorus and then going to verses. Although, I’m not totally bound to that because there are songs I love that I have no idea what the words are about, but they’re my favorite songs.” I ask why. “Probably because you can attach your own meaning, and then start to build a story around it. You connect the dots in your own way. The interaction between music and listeners…I always thought that was cool.” His brother adds: “For our sound, the song is the most important part of the song, if that makes sense. The music around it should be tasteful and interesting, but if you were to strip down one of our songs and play it on the acoustic, that’d be the most important thing.”  ROL is not an acoustic band; they play electric guitars, basses, and keyboards.  I am still digesting this idea, that the song is the most important part of the song.  Something profound here.

Nick tells me, “It’s not real methodical.  We all look at it like, how can we write a better song?”  I ask, “What’s a better song?”  “Cliché, but one that pulls on the heart-strings.  It’s a never-ending process.  If you feel it…the song will create an emotion in you.  It’ll make sense.  I mean we don’t wanna make people cry, but hopefully the song connects and make sense.  There are rules, but it’s cool to break ’em if you can do it.”  Chris adds, “It’s enjoyable when things click with four people.  You don’t have control of the other people but, from nowhere, you all tap into something and it just starts to work.  You might have heard that from other artists.”  Adrian interjects, passionately: “What was burning behind all of it was this feeling, this energy, this basic drive from the beginning.  We didn’t know how to write a song…we just kept putting one foot in front of the next and here we are.”

I ask their thoughts on the San Diego music scene.  Nick says: “It’s great.  Small, everybody knows each other, real supportive.  SD’s missing real industry though—labels to help bands move from here to there.  LA has all that, but it’s not real inviting.  You come to LA to play, just to do your thing.  SD’s more communal…supportive radio and people.  In the 90’s there were a few labels here…but there’s just not a lot of good deals anywhere out there anymore.  People who that think the music industry is dying are wrong.  It just needs to evolve.  It’s in that middle period.  I know groups who’ve signed to labels and it works for them…but the label takes a cut of everything…which is fine if they’re making you a lot of money, but often it’s not like that.  A band now gets momentum on its own.”  I ask him, “Advice for those trying to break into it?”  “Don’t quit,” he says.  “Every band that started when we started is not around anymore, at least on the local level.”  I can’t help but marvel at their determination.  Although, it doesn’t hurt that they rip and, should they ever forget, they will be quickly reminded by their massive local following.  They invite me to a rehearsal.

The following week, we meet at their studio, a room in a building made specifically for bands.  Walking down the hallway, I hear and see musicians all over, smoking and jamming out.  To my surprise, Republic of Letters sounds exactly the same or better than they do recorded.  I try hard not to lip-sync, though by now I know most of the words.  I enjoy a private show for myself and two photographers.  I don’t intend to stay long, since I’ve other assignments beckoning, but I end up staying the couple of hours through their entire set.  Each musician is focused, professional and deliberate.  It is clear in their expressions and through their playing.  I leave feeling extra special, having experienced this young band, no doubt soon to be a household name.  Imagine seeing the Stones before they were the Stones.  Yeah.  Feels like that.

Sigh.  Guess I’m into indie rock now.  Not ready for the tight jeans yet (I’m not lanky), but I am eager to check out some of the band’s other musical recommendations, including Louis XIV and Transfer.  At the bar earlier this week, Nick described Republic of Letters’ songs as “new kids, which we get to see grow and grow.”  Pick up their new album ASAP, catch them live and witness their talent and notoriety grow and grow.  Hendrix said: “Music doesn’t lie.  If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”  This band has something to say and the skill with which to say it.  If their music doesn’t change this world, at worst, it is guaranteed to alter the entire indie rock genre forever.


The Musical Creative Process April 22, 2011

By Sean Davis

Musicians take a variety of approaches to composition; in the world of popular music alone several schools of thought inform the process of song writing.  John Lennon insisted on writing meaningful, poetic lyrics bathed in metaphors and expression; while Paul McCartney’s focus was on musical precision, making sure every note was carefully planned and perfectly executed.  McCartney was well-known for filling in melodies with nonsensical syllables, replacing them with words later (and often with John’s aid).  This compositional discontinuity is found not only in modern popular styles, but also throughout all western musical history.  Chopin was famous for laboring over minute details for hours, trying to discover the perfect combination of tones.  Monteverdi believed in the concept of text dictating the flow and direction of the music, going so far as to break the fundamental rules governing musical composition at the time.  Regardless of how one composes, the end result will almost always beg questions from listeners.  What inspired such and such song?  What did you mean by this lyric?  I really love the chords in that song, where did you come up with that?  It is these questions, and more, that spawned the fields of musical criticism, music theory, and continue to guide people into a musical life.  The problem with such questions, however, is that the creative process is almost always just as unique as the individual creator; there is no blanket truth we can ascribe to song-writers and composers that will reveal an objective musical process for creating good music.  What we can discover through analytical and historic study, are commonalities that might provide useful insight into how we can discover our own unique musical identities.  By understanding what aided those who came before us, we can capitalize on that information, and possibly use it to enhance the evocative powers of our own compositions.

Let us examine the two different approaches used by Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both systems, which is probably why the music that came from the collaboration between these two was so expressive.  Lennon’s practice of allowing the text do the work for you is not new, as mentioned earlier the baroque composer Monteverdi famously claimed that the music should follow the expressive motions of the text.  This idea can create wonderfully striking relationships with the listener, every word reflected in some musical gesture; we see this notion take form in Lennon’s famous single “Imagine,” the harmony is relatively simple, however the focus on major 7ths and circuitous, repetitive progressions signify a dream-like, ethereal atmosphere.  We can surmise from Lennon’s view on composition that he probably wrote the words first, and then crafted the music around them, trying to match the emotions he felt were in the lyrics.  Composing like this is effective for many, however it does exhibit a few pitfalls.  When the music takes a subordinate role to lyrics, very often it fails to express all that it can.  In other words, the music may not live up to its full potential.  I may be crucified for suggesting this, but in my opinion this dilemma is the main problem with the music of Bob Dylan.  Lyrically speaking, his songs are evocative, poetic and worthy of great praise; however, the music is stale, boring, and goes on far too long without variation.  Also, many times when the words predate the music, it can be difficult to find a way to seamlessly integrate the text with the musical syntax.  Clunky transitions, awkward phrases and misconception of text are often the result of a poor marriage between lyrics and music.

Paul McCartney approached song-writing from a different point of view, he would sweat over the harmony or melody of a song long before even considering the words.  When a composer or song-writer creates in this manner the instrumental aspect of the music tends to be just as important, if not more so than the words.  Focusing on the purely musical allows for a wider range of expression and interaction between musical devices, thus increasing the music’s ability to signify deep and meaningful concepts.  When listening to the opening bars of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” one can commiserate with the singer’s confusion and dejection.  The progression sequences down by fifths, cycling through all of the chords in A minor.  The descending lines coupled with the interaction of the piano chord voices evoke a musical atmosphere separate from the lyrics.  When we finally hear the words, the music has already set the scene for us, coloring our interpretation from the onset.  These kinds of expressive devices come from a learned set of syntactical symbols, arranged in various ways to extract an emotional (or physical, or psychological, etc…) response.  Most people are familiar in some way with how most songs unfold: two or more contrasting sections presented with lyric alteration guiding the listener from beginning to end.  Of course there are any number of variations on this framework; the fact is that because we know what to expect, due to exposure to these symbols over and over again (via radio, television, dance clubs, internet, etc…), we develop a sense of music’s ability to signify.  The skilled composer and/or song-writer has such an understanding of these symbols that she/he is able to utilize them to either fulfill, or stifle, an expectation.  However, ignoring the capacity of lyrics to resonate with individuals can cause even the most well-constructed songs to fail to connect.  Sometimes when composers, especially song-writers, place too much emphasis on the instrumental and non-verbal in their songs the listener is left with a vague wash of expression devoid of any real form.  In the worst case scenario the words and music are almost contradictory, would anyone have listened to “I Want To Hold Your Hand” if the title was “Please don’t hurt or murder me,” and the lyrics grim depictions of armed robbery and muggings?  The imagery of the words would not have matched the imagery of the music.  This kind of extreme case rarely occurs, however poorly worded songs can cause a disconnect with the listener.  Musical creators do not want poetic lyrics with drab music, or poetic music with drab lyrics, the true artist finds a medium between the two, balancing the forces and dipping one way or the other as the situation calls.

It is our job as musicians to learn from these techniques, and to use them to further enhance musical expression.  The famous axiom “you must learn to walk before you can run” rings true here, for we must learn the language of musical signification before we can create artful music, capable of expressing our most intimate thoughts and desires.  Want to be a rock-star?  Want to write the next great song, and not the next hit pop-tune, but the next “Erlkönig” or “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”?  Then your greatest assets are your ears, listen to as much music as possible, and to the greatest variety of music possible.  Learn the symbols and how they manifest themselves in music, use that knowledge to your advantage to create new styles and new symbols, and music will continue to grow in expressive capacity.


Are You Hooked on the ‘book? The Facebook and Social Networking Abhorrence March 4, 2010

Filed under: Editorial,Rants — NVMP @ 3:32 AM
Tags: , , , ,

By Alexander Castiglione aka Stigz

“That’s sick…I gotta update my status.”
“O man, I gotta harvest my crops before they wither.”
“Dude, this pic is so my new default!”
“Make sure you tag me in that!”
“Stop writing dumb shit on my wall!”

Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have made any sense.  Maybe even five years ago.  However, now, we speak is Facebook-isms.  We update our status religiously.  We search for “people we may know.”  And we even play dumbass games, and in some cases, spend real money to have fake money in said games.  All of this, because of the infamous social networking site which has captivated, and subsequently disembodied, millions upon millions.

I’m as guilty as any other twenty-something, as I update my status.  Send out Facebook events.  Send people virtual sheep.  Tag myself in pictures.  Share witticisms with the world at my heart’s content.  But is this, all of this, really healthy?  Or sane?

Do you find yourself updating your status, and then religiously checking it from your phone or the nearest computer?  When you get a new notification, do you get stoked in the most detached, technological-barrier based way?  My point in all of this –  this isn’t making us any better.  It’s making us worse.   More dependent.  More self-involved.  More egotistical.  More, well…this could go on for hours.

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Zynga, and whatever other social networking distraction I don’t know about yet, turn us all into raging egotists.  Our status is now the funniest shit ever.  Our albums cleverly named for the world to see.  Our profile pictures meticulously planned, taken, and posted.  We even use our posts and status as ways to get back at exes and people we don’t like.  And yet we still bitch about the lack of privacy.   We bitch about the government.  We bitch about GPS in our phones.  Yet you’re creating your own little paper trail, voluntarily.

We create these profiles which try to take a snapshot of who we are.  Now ask yourself, can you: all of you and your quirks, loves, hates, eccentricities, colloquialisms and favorite bands, books, and quotes, sum you up as a person?  Can you be reduced to a few HTML encoded pages?  If you say yes, I feel sorry for you.

And if I’m wrong, and human beings really can boil down to a bunch of lines of text and numbers, then we all have failed miserably as a species.

Why am I bringing up all of this, as I am just as guilty as the next person who takes a “what song are you” quiz, and why am I pointing all of this out?  Because, something, somewhere, doesn’t feel right.  We weren’t meant to create our own little digital world.  We weren’t meant to say shit via FB that most people wouldn’t say in real life (Gladly I am not one of these people, but if you are a “facebook tough-guy” go back to playing Mob Wars and call me when you grow a pair.)

I just wanted to point out, that we as a culture are becoming addicted to a self-obsessed, egocentric, digital analog of our physical selves.  This, I fear, will only get worse.  And it can’t be healthy.  I’m not a shrink, but it seems to me that getting approval and validation from comments and BS games, being “friends” with people who you have never met but who happen to know the same people as you, is a sterile, antiseptic, and socio-psychologically stunted existence.

I just think we should all be a little more wary of our technological dependence and spewing every little detail of our existence.  Do you really need to twitter when you’re going to the mall, or the movies, or on a booty call?  Social networking sites are indispensable for networking and using them for business, promotions, and to stay in touch with old friends or family.  However, I can do without, us – as a culture – spewing our meaningless everyday bullshit on to the dis-information superhighway.  Please step outside the box for a minute and have a look.  I implore you.

I have a status update for you guys.

Stigz says cut the shit, and learn from the lost art of face-to-face conversation, still almost better than a college education.


The Many Trials (Literally) of Lil Wayne: An Editorial February 25, 2010

Financially draining, time-consuming, and often, silly lawsuits are nothing new in the numbingly complex music industry.  It runs especially rampant in the world of rap.  Just type in a rap artist or producer’s name along with the term ‘copyright infringement’ to see how common it is.

Lil Wayne

So it comes as no surprise that yet another artist becomes entangled in the intricate webs of lawsuit-dom.  In a February 22nd blurb in Uncut Magazine (online)[1], rap artist Lil Wayne and his label, Cash Money records, are being sued for copyright infringement over the tune “Mrs. Officer”, from his 2008 album Tha Carter III.  According to the $2.5 million dollar lawsuit, producer of the song Darius ‘Deezle’ Harrison and music publisher The Royalty Network[2] claim they own the rights to the song, and rights to any profits from ring tones, music videos or streaming media[3].

Regardless of your level of expertise in the industry, it is not hard to see that there are a lot of people involved in the recording process.  Having a look at the liner notes inside of an album’s booklet shows just a fraction of the people involved in the making of a record.  Being that there are so many factors, it is not surprising that someone at some point would have a problem.  For this particular case, let’s quickly examine the two biggest trouble areas in this case, songwriting and producing.

The task of songwriting is very self-explanatory: they are hired to write and usually arrange a song, tailoring it specifically to fit the hiring artists’ wishes.  In the case of “Mrs. Officer”, reviewing the credits on the album would show that the writing credits are given to not two but three people: Dwayne Carter, Darius Harrison, and Robert Wilson (Lil Wayne, Deezle, and guest artist Bobby Valentino, respectively)[1].  From a publishing standpoint, this would suggest that any money a publishing house collects off of any media use would then be awarded to and divided between the credited writers.

A producer is a bit more involved; they are essentially responsible for the overall recording process.  Their multiple tasks include but are not limited to: finding a studio, determining recording dates, hiring the necessary mixers/engineers/additional musicians, etc.  And if one hires a more hands on producer like a Timbaland, Dr. Dre, or Kanye West, the responsibilities can grow to include: performance, sampling, programming beats, weeding out demos, song arrangements, track list selection, and even personally mixing and engineering the record.  In this area, ‘Deezle’ Harrison is credited as the sole producer of the song.

But does performing either of these difficult tasks mean that ‘Deezle’ has the right to claim ownership over a song that isn’t completely his?  Not necessarily.

Don't get ahead of yourself Deezle

In the process of recording an album, it is fairly normal for both producers and songwriters to be hired on a work for hire basis[2][4]; they are hired independently for that specific task and are paid some type of set fee upfront.  More importantly, this means that unless it is specified otherwise in the contract for the job, being for-hire involves the limiting or giving up of rights to the song and waiving collection of any future publishing money, so long as they are paid for the task and (usually) credited.  Basically, once they complete the task that they have been paid to do, they are absolved from any further involvement with the album, unless stated otherwise.

This doesn’t improve things on the Royalty Network front, as their ability to collect money from profits depends on whether or not the work on the song was a work for hire.  If not, then they are not entitled to anything; if it was a collaboration with any type of specific publishing details being worked out, then it’s time to pony up.

But this still doesn’t address who lays claim to the actual ownership of the song, which seems to be the big deciding factor here.  It would be great to get more in-depth with the rights and laws that are involved within this type of case, but there are only so many hours in a day; only so much a person with a life can devote.  So unfortunately, not much else can be said without conjuring up a migraine of technicalities.

But if you were to ask me, I’d say that it’s just another case of a producer greatly overestimating his importance, mixed with a publishing company’s attempts to milk the current cash-cow that is Lil Wayne on the back of one it its clients.

It’s nice to know that in an attempt to make a living off of creating, there are always money-minded sharks willing to ruin it for everyone.  Shame, shame, shame.

-Mark B.