MP3 rev.99 - Everything Changed After 7-11
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This is the second CD from Rev.99, the multimedia collective led by legendary New York saxophonist, spoken word artist, and filmmaker 99 Hooker. Their first release, "Turn a Deaf Ear," prompted Ben Watson to say, "If musicians hip to Eugene Chadbourne formed a Spontaneous Music Ensemble cover-band, they might sound like Rev.99." Filtering real-time inputs from sources such as video, field recordings, live improv, and spoken word through post-production shaping and sculpting, Everything Changed After 7-11 is a chaotic reaction to pre-apocalyptic consumer culture.
Due to copyright concerns, two tracks were withdrawn at the CD manufacturer's request: "Britney Spears Autopsy" (track 3) and "Notes on a Nervous Breakdown" (track 17). Since the booklet had already been printed, these remain on the CD as silence for the duration of the original tracks. You can read 99 Hooker's thoughtful reaction to the matter and get free mp3s of the two controversial tracks at www.paxrecordings.com/linernotes/rev99.html.
For Everything Changed After 7-11, Rev.99 features 99 Hooker, Jeff Arnal, Ross Bonadonna, Anita DeChellis, Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Chris Forsyth, Jody Kurash, Donald Miller, Akio Mokuno, m2, LX Rudis, Glenn Sorvisto, Rotcod Zzaj, Bob Marsh, and Brother Russell Scholl.
rev.99 Liner Notes
Unlike the first CD which was 99 "as-was," Everything Changed After 7-11 incorporates post-production improv. Our goal remains to create improvisational environments from which the process documents itself and creates by-products. The studio is no exception. Normally I would describe how the sounds came about and why we worked certain ways, but because we were unable to use "Britney Spears Autopsy" and "Notes on a Nervous Breakdown," I will address the asinine laws covering sampling and copying.
Two separate issues dominate the discussion of sampling; straight copying (Napster, Kaaza and the Chinese software industry) and recontextulization. The conflating of both as theft attempts to keep artists passive.
Straight copying: I have no sympathy for Metallica, the recording industry or their years of commercially strip-mining youth culture. Except for mega-stars who are industries unto themselves, the recording industry is a form of indentured servitude. A newly signed band is saddled with the cost of production and forced to tour in order to balance the books. As one band stated, "We eat better, sleep in better rooms and travel more comfortably, but we don't have more money." After the industry monopolized production and more importantly distribution, it was run like any other multinational corporation. The goal of shareholder profits destroys the atmosphere all creative endeavor require: experimentation, risk, and potential failure. I'm partial to Wallace Stevens' remark that poetry should be an avocation. I have no sympathy for those careering in the arts whether they are demanding government grants or charging $75 a ticket. I subsidize much of my music because it allows more control. Once your livelihood becomes dependant upon your art it is just a matter of time before your art begins to sound like a paycheck. I think this is true from Satchmo to our adventurous composers who have converted their experiments back into ye olde head, solo, solo, solo, out structures. But this is a personal opinion. The issue of recontextualization is of larger import.
"The Britney Spears piece, whose name by the way is trademarked, does not fall under fair use. We can't manufacture this. Ditto the Enya." We could have found a willing manufacturer but the printing and deposit were fait accompli. Having signed an agreement that our material was legal, the refund was shaping up as a battle. The company cited a recent case in which a manufacturer was sued for over 2 million dollars for unwittingly reproducing unlicensed material. The onus of enforcing copyright thus has shifted to the factory. Labels have always been subject to lawsuits, but independent labels with no money to go after have been able to release music under the irritating but non-catastrophic threat of "cease & destroy." Such actions even generated great publicity. Now, we are forced to put the tracks on my website as a download (99hooker.com, or at the bottom of this page). Hopefully people will burn complete CDRs. Ernesto and I decided to leave the tracks in as silence. (The manufacturer! suggested it would be a bit of "biting social commentary.") I'm no stranger to being silenced by copyright laws -- Bible Launcher was destroyed by Tzadik (hats off to Mr. Zorn for not demanding the production money back and allowing us to re-release the masters on an underground label in San Francisco (Radical House). But when The New Yorker stated that Tzadik publishes anything, I realized how outdated the concept of radical content was. The censorship I'd grown up with was based on content: sexuality, drugs, race (Ulysses, Naked Lunch, Huckleberry Finn, Nazis marching in Illinois, George Carlin's 7 dirty words). Nowadays one can say and show anything if it falls under the jurisdiction of art. Even the New York Times obituary for William S. Burroughs noted his sex with children.
One might not get a grant, but as Jane's Addiction said and G.G. Allen proved nothings shocking. The new censorship is economic. The status quo is enforced by copyright laws that allow and protect those who can pay to reproduce any message at factory levels. W.E.B duBois wrote that justice is a matter of wealth. So is using the material of our culture. The law provides for satire and parody (as if the only valid response were ridicule) but the de facto victory of whomever has the most money eviscerates even this proviso. (Cheers to Larry Flynt) The independent (poor) artist is denied public response to an increasingly invasive mass culture bent on branding all available space. The old argument that you can just turn it off no longer applies when your neighbor's radio bleeds through your walls and you can't walk out the door without being subjected to endless visual and auditory advertising. Moreover the commercialization of culture has a profound effect on how people think and feel. We don't want to turn it off, we want to react with it. Without being able use our material, the individual becomes a passive consumer. Production is reserved for those who can pay to join the game (thus immediately compromising the endeavor unless you're Malcolm McLaren). As the world becomes more and more "manmade" it falls increasingly under laws protecting the producers, the ruling class. The effect is momentous. Just as corporations powerfully undercut the democratic process, their protected products undermine the revolutionary idea of public space. Consider a painter legally prevented from painting their natural environment or their village life. Consider Braques or Rauschenberg or Warhol under current copyright law. Consider the effect upon classical music if the church prevented "sampling." Or folk music. Our sense of public domain is antiquated. Once "Oops, I Did it Again" becomes fair game, its use will be lost.
It is bad enough that things like water and air have been commodified. "Free" speech in an age of mechanical reproduction is either reserved for the rich or banished to private ghettos of expression and connection. Thrillingly, technology has fostered a new post-modern "folk," but adventurous labels and players need to be free to use their own vocabulary and play with dominant languages. Otherwise independent music become pathologically introverted.
Without reference to society at large, new music will become but an modest form of ghettoized entertainment. Silence used to be a space discovered between notes, now it is an imposed absence. This real theft takes the power of reaction, criticism and creativity from patriots. Nor is this power simply an attack. By syncopating the bass line against itself I tried to extend an already interesting bit in Britney. And by using Bob Larson's studied indignity -- "Wake up America" -- from his infamous phone link up with Boyd Rice and Sharon Tate's mother I was skewing both the underground and pop culture -- which kids walking the streets are scary? Isn't being for-Mason or anti-Britney pat moralizing? I'm not that innocent. As our environment becomes increasingly a product of labor, we need to abolish laws that prevent people from working with the materials of their lives.
Theft? A sale to Vanilla Ice means the lost sale for Queen? If anything, the two different products generate sales for both. Nor is rev.99 taking money from Britney. The Enya which came on as I was reading "Notes to a Nervous Breakdown" is a different product. I've now heard the original in stores, cars and clubs and believe that my context at least benefits from a respectful irony.
All of this is a distraction. On this CD many people can be heard working to respond to and recreate the environment within which they live. Less litigious samples abound. Both Ernesto and Glenn soloed on radios and TVs -- using them not as expressions of Cageian chance, but determinations to be played with. We didn't create mechanical reproduction, we're just working with it.
(In keeping with the idea of giving credit where credit is due, the cover photo by Kathy Coogan of me in front of the statue is from the DeCordava museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.)
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