Negitivland Articles and Press Releases
1. Initial Articles: S.F. Chronicle, Village Voice, Art Forum, and Spin. =================================================================
San Francisco Chronicle Monday, September 23, 1991 ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- U2's Label Stops Sales of Parody ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- Los Angeles Daily News Los Angeles
Island Records apparently found what it was looking for when it got a temporary restraining order demanding that a local independent record company stop selling a takeoff on U2's hit, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."
Lawndale-based SST Records agreed to stop marketing and promoting the 15-minute CD and 12-inch single by the five-peice electronic band Negativland, said SST spokesman Ron Coleman.
The group's version of the song includes a smarmy voice making fun of Bono's lyrics, while electronic noise further deconstructs the song.
Bill Adler, Island's vice president of media relations, said the label objected to SST's packaging of the single above all.
On the cover, U2 is printed in large letters, while Negativland is reproduced in small type.
"Our goal is to protect the consumer," Adler said.
"The artwork is deceptive. It's made to look as if it were a new U2 records. We didn't want fans of the group buying this and be tricked, especially given the fact there hasn't been a new U2 release in so long."
Music publisher Warner/Chappell joined the copyright-infringement action, alleging Negativland illegally sampled portions of U2's original recording without permission. A hearing in the matter is set for October 15 in U.S. District Court.
The new U2 album, "Achtung Baby," recorded in Berlin, is due in the stores November 19. The first single, "The Fly," will be out October 22.
SPIN ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- 10 BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- 4. Negativland, "U2" (SST). It took a court order to suppress what is quite possibly the most truly subversive rock record ever made. But having attracted the litigious wrath of U2's recording and publishing companies, Negativland's snarky and brilliant multileveled takeoff on the Christian liberals' "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- with foulmouthed Casey Kasem samples, a bone-headed Bono interview, and a ditsy disco version -- proved yet again that the price of artistic freedom can be hefty legal fees. (Richard Gehr)
ARTFORUM ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- Real Life Rock Greil Marcus' TOP TEN ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- 8. Negativland: "U2" (SST). The California collage unit makes fun of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and so comprehensively you might begin to feel sorry for Bono. Among numerous interjections and found aural objects, the hook is a sample of D.J. Casey Kasem chirping "That's the letter U -- and the numeral two!" so many times he turns into Mr. Rogers. Squelched just weeks after release by U2's label -- if the band has a sense of humor they'll put it out themselves.
VOICE September 24, 1991 ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- ROCKBEAT Reproduction or What? ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------- Years before sampling became pop music's trendiest cliche', Negativland's tape-collage compositions used sonic bits from here and there to critique the culture industry. Except for a 1988 hoax surrounding the David Brom ax murders, it was all fairly furtive underground stuff. But the Bay Area-based group's new single, "U2" (a takeoff on the Dublin supergroup's 1987's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"), has roused the litigious wrath of Island Records and Warner/Chappell Music publishers.
On September 5, two weeks after its release, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order demanding that SST Records and Seeland MediaMedia (Negativland's fictitious publishing company) recall and hand over to the plaintiffs all 6000 or so copies of "U2," citing deceptive packaging, copyright infringement, and image defamation, potentially creating "massive confusion among the record-buying public." Punitive and "trebled" damages, legal costs, and big apologies in the trades are also requested. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for October 15.
The letter U and the number 2 do indeed loom large on the CD cover, which also features a picture of the eponymous spy plane. The sound material itself, though, is perfectly in keeping with Negativland's decade-long project. Following the muttered phrase "reproduction or what?" the recording splices and overlays a sarcastic recitation of the song's lyrics, a male chorus humming the hook, a jaunty electronic rendition of the tune, salty Casey Kasem outtakes from the song's appearance on American Top 40 ("This is bullshit. Nobody cares. These guys are from England and who gives a shit?"), a sample from an MTV awards show that sampled Negativland's _Escape From Noise_, and countless other sound bites commenting reflexively on the parasitic nature of mass culture -- all of which makes "U2" the party record of the year.
SST -- whose motto remains CORPORATE ROCK STILL SUCKS -- is keeping mum except to say it will comply with the court order. Meanwhile, Island's Senior Director of Business Affairs, Eric Levine, wouldn't admit the possibility that the offending package might contain ameliorating artistic, comedic, or parodic intent. "I don't know what the means," he told us. "People even got calls: 'Is this the new U2 record?'" (Although Island apparently had no qualms about appropriating the title of the Dub Syndicate's _Tunes From the Missing Channell_ for the label's new rap compilation.)
Commenting from Dublin (where U2 is putting finishing touches on their tastefully titled holiday release, _Achtung Baby_), manager Paul McGuinness said of the as-yet-unheard single, "If it's good enough, maybe they'll stick it on a B-side or something." (U2's response to the Pet Shop Boys' discofication of "Where The Streets Have No Name" was: "What have I/What have I/What have I done to deserve this?") Case Kasem, apparently unaware of his participation on "U2," was unavailable for comment.
"We definitely feel we were naive not to realize we'd be smashed," admits Negativland's Mark Hosler. "But we're surprised at the severity of their response." The group hopes to get a copy of the disc to the band itself. "For all of U2's rhetoric, one would think they might be a little disturbed to see some artists being completely censored, even if they didn't care for what they were saying. The literal message in this action is: Don't fuck with U2. But the real message is: Don't fuck with the corporate control of culture. Don't fuck with the media."
3. Negativland's First Press Release, November 10, 1991 =================================================================
U2 NEGATIVLAND The Case From Our Side
Negativland is a small, dedicated group of musicians who, since 1980, have released 5 albums, 4 cassette-only releases, 1 video, and now a single. This single, which is entitled "U2", was created as parody, satire, social commentary, and cultural criticism. As a work of art, it is consistent with, and a continuation of, the artistic viewpoint we have been espousing toward the world of media for the last ten years.
Island Records and music publisher Warner-Chappell Music, presumably acting on behalf of their group U2, have instigated legal action against our single and have succeeded not only in removing it from circulation, but ensuring that it cannot ever be released again. It is clear that their preference is that the record never even be _heard_ again. The terms of the settlement that was forced on us include:
o Everyone who received a copy of the record -- record distributors and stores (6951 copies), and radio stations, writers, etc. (692 copies) -- is being notified to return it, and that if they don't do so, or if they engage in "distributing, selling, advertising, promoting, or otherwise exploiting" the record, they may be subject to penalties "which may include imprisonment and fines". Once returned, the records will be forwarded to Island for destruction.
o All of SST's on-hand stock of the record, in vinyl, cassette, and CD (5357 copies total), is to be delivered to Island, where it will be destroyed.
o All mechanical parts used to prepare and manufacture the record are to be delivered to Island, presumably also for destruction. This includes "all tapes, stampers, molds, lacquers and other parts used in the manufacturing", and "all artwork, labels, packaging, promotional, marketing, and advertising or similar material".
o Our copyrights in the recordings themselves have been assigned to Island and Warner-Chappell. This means we no longer own two of our better works.
o Payment of $25,000 and half the wholesale proceeds from the copies of the record that were sold and not returned. We estimate the total cost to us, including legal fees and the cost of destroyed records, cassettes, and CDs, at $70,000 -- more money than we've made in our twelve years of existence.
Our single deals, in part, with our perception of the group U2 as an international cultural phenomenon, and therefore particularly worthy of artistic comment and criticism. Island's legal action thoroughly ignores the possibility that any such artistic right or inclination might exist. Apparently Island's sole concern in this act of censorship is their determination to control the marketplace, as if the only reason to make records is to make money.
This issue is not a contest among equals. U2 records are among the most popular in history: _The Joshua Tree_ sold over 14,000,000 copies. Negativland releases usually sell about 10,000 to 15,000 copies each. Our label, SST Records, is a relatively small, independent label interested in alternative music. Neither of us could afford the tremendous costs involved in fighting for our rights in court. Island could. What we _can_ do is try to bring as much publicity and attention to Island's actions as possible. This statement, we hope, is a more humane attempt at reasonable discourse about artistic integrity and the artless, humorless legalism that controls corporate music today.
We've included a small sampling (excuse the expression) from the large stack of legal documents that arrived from Island's attorneys dripping with the unyielding intimidation of money and power. that preliminary stack of documents, 180 pages in all, cost Island approximately $10,000 to produce (they ultimately spent over $55,000 to stop us). Preferring retreat to total annihilation, Negativland and SST had no choice but to agree to comply completely with these demands.
Companies like Island depend on this kind of economic inevitability to bully their way over all lesser forms of opposition. Thus, Island easily wipes us off the face of their earth purely on the basis of how much more money they can afford to waste than we can. We think there are issues to stand up for here, but Island can spend their way out of ever having to face them in a court of law. So some important ideas about what constitutes art, and whether those ideas can supersede product constraints, will not reach a forum of precedent. In this culture, the market rules and money _is_ power. They own the law, and no one who is still interested in the supremacy of a vital and freewheeling art can afford to challenge this aspect of our decline. It is a telling tribute to this culture corporation's crass obsessions that Island's whole approach to our work automatically assumed its goal was to siphon off their rightful profits. These people lost their ability to appreciate the very nature of what they're selling a long time ago.
As you will notice from the accompanying legal documents, Island is able to bring certain existing laws to bear against our work under the assumption that any infringement of those laws is done for the purposes of diverting their monetary return. Our question is: how and why should these laws apply when the infringement is not done for economic gain? For the law to claim that this alleged motive is the sole criterion for legal deliberation is to admit that music, itself, is not to be taken seriously.
Culture is more than commerce. It may actually have something to say about commerce. It may even use examples of commerce to comment upon it. We suggest that the law should begin to acknowledge the artistic domain of various creative techniques which may actually conflict with what others claim to be their economic domain.
Any serious observer of modern music can cite a multitude of examples, from Buchanan and Goodman's humorous collages of song fragments in the 50's to today's canonization of James Brown samples, wherein artists have incorporated the actual property of others into their own unique creations. This is a 20th century mode of artistic operation that is now nothing short of dramatic in its proliferation, in spite of all the marketplace laws designed to prohibit it.
We believe that art is what artists do. We hope for laws that recognize this, just as the dictionary recognizes new words (even slang) that come into common usage.
At this late date in the mass distribution of capturing technology (audio tape recorders, samplers, xerox machines, camcorders, VCRs, computers, etc.) there should be no need to prove the cultural legitimacy of what we do with sound.
And this is even more obvious when you look further back. We pursue audio works in the tradition of found-image collage which originated in the visual arts -- from Schwitters and Braque to Rauschenberg and Warhol. In music, we refer you to the whole histories of folk music and the blues, both of which have always had creative theft as their modus operandi. Jazz and rock are full of this too. The music business can try to reach the end of this century pretending that there is something wrong with this, or they can begin to acknowledge the truth and make way for reality.
Perceptually and philosophically, it is an uncomfortable wrenching of common sense to deny that once something hits the airwaves, it is literally in the public domain. The fact that the owners of culture and its material distribution are able to claim this isn't true belies their total immersion in a reality-on-paper. Artists have always approached the entire world around them as both inspiration to act and as raw material to mold and remold. Other art is just more raw material to us and to many, many others we could point to.
When it comes to cultural influences, ownership is the point of fools. Copycats will shrink in the light of comparison. Bootlegging exact duplicates of another's product should be prosecuted, but we see no significant harm in anything else artists care to do with anything available to them in our "free" marketplace. We claim the right to create with mirrors. This is our working philosophy.
Negativland occupies itself with recontextualizing captured fragments to create something entirely new -- a psychological impact based on a new juxtaposition of diverse elements, ripped from their usual context, chewed up, and spit out as a new form of hearing the world around us. One of Negativland's artistic obsessions involves the media, itself, as source and subject for much of our work.
We respond (as artists always have) to our environment. An environment increasingly filled with artificial ideas, images, and sounds. Television, billboards, newspapers, advertisements, and music/muzak being blasted at us everywhere we go (and that background hum of everyday life certainly includes top forty bands like U2). We follow our working philosophy as best we can amid the proprietary restrictions of a self-serving marketing system that has imposed itself on culture.
In reality, that system of ownership is today's emperor's clothes, now casually subverted by every kid with a tape recorder. However, it is crucial to note that, as we plunder the ocean of media we all swim in, we believe in artistic responsibility. We do not duplicate existing work or bootleg others' products.
We believe every artist is due whatever rewards he or she can reap from his or her own products. The question that must rise to the surface of legal consciousness now is: at what point in the process of found sound incorporation does the new creation possess its own unique identity with supersedes the sum of its parts, thus gaining artistic license?
One of Island's objections to our record is the unauthorized use of a sample from the U2 song that formed the basis for both of our pieces: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." We believe that what we did is legally protected ifar use of the segment, as it was used for purposes of fair comment, parody, and cultural criticism, which the copyright law specifically allows.
A relevant precedent was set earlier this year in 2 Live Crew's "Pretty Woman" case. The fact is that today there is no operationally workable way to reuse existing sound recordings in collage-based work and see that the original artists are paid for the use of their work. Those artists who only use a few samples and have the time, money, and inclination can have their record companies negotiate payments for "sampling clearances" to the labels that originally released the records containing the desired snippets. But this is cumbersome, arbitrary, and expensive enough to discourage advanced sound collage work where there might be anywhere from one to a dozen found sound elements present at any instant, dozens of hundreds over the duration of a record.
So much for content. It is clear that the more significant objection to our single was Island's concern about our cover graphics, which they claimed would cause "massive confusion," resulting in millions of U2 fans buying the wrong record. Does our packaging look like a new release by the group U2? Yes, of course it does... at first. But upon closer inspection it reveals itself to be something else. Closer inspection is one of the things we like to promote, while Island appears resigned to the entrenchment of stupidity and the inability of their audience to notice subtle cues such as our name on the cover or our label's logo on the back.
Further, the context in which any potential confusion would take place is in a retail record store. The first clue to record store employees would be that our single arrives from SST, not Island, and in small quantities, not the hundreds Island would send. Ours would be located in the "Indies" bins common to most outlets, not the general "Rock" bins where U2 records are found. Ours would be filed under "N," not "U". These logistics aside, let's assume someone does buy our record thinking it's theirs. Does Island really believe that the U2 fan will be satisfied with such a mistake and, returning ours or not, not proceed to buy U2's new record? Accusing us of trying to make money off their name is one thing, but claiming that the money we would make would be money they would not make is not very realistic. Island's inference that U2 fans might actually assume that we are them upon hearing our record is simply ridiculous on the face of it, and another indiction of their lack of respect for their own audience.
As to Island's point about scheduling our single to coincide with U2's new release, we must plead to interesting coincidence. Island should come to grips with the fact that not everybody in the world avidly soaks up every promo blurb that Island feeds to the mainstream rock press. We don't generally read that press and neither knew nor cared that U2 was about to release another chart-busting epic. Our single was scheduled for fall release because our market stems primarily from college radio airplay, and that's when school resumes and the listening population is largest. Fall is also a prime time to release throughout the record industry, which is probably why U2's new record was also scheduled for fall. It seems clear that both Island and SST were attempting to take advantage of the same situation, not each other.
So why would we want to simulate a U2 cover if not to swipe some of the big money that this big band attracts? Our real reasons are actually so reflective that they would never cross the corporate legal mind. The image on our cover was U2's namesake, the U-2; a high-altitude espionage plane which, prophetically enough, was shot down over the now-defunct Soviet Union in 1960 causing a huge, meaningless international flap. The only point of light in those dark days was that it gave a self-righteous and complacent America its first clear photo opportunity to catch its own president telling a blatant lie which the CIA assured him was plausible deniability.
Our U2 was a spy full of secrets intruding into the self-righteous and complacent image-world of polite pop. We did it as an example of something not being what it seems to be. We did it because we're all subject to too much media image mongering. We did it because tricksters and jesters are the last best hope against the corporate music bureaucracies of good grooming that have all but killed the most interesting thing in popular music -- grassroots inspiration.
We did it for laughs -- listen to it and try not to. We did it so you could read this. The fact that Island Records can't understand all this, or if they can understand it they can't appreciate it, or if they can appreciate it they can't allow themselves to acknowledge it, is precisely why they should not have the right to control the life of other people's art.
One basic failing of the U.S. legal system is that it treats the plaintiff and the defendant as though they are equally powerful entities, regardless of the actual resources each may have. Further, it disregards the fact that the cost of preparing a legal defense for a trial is prohibitively high -- unthinkable for any entity other than a wealthy individual or a good-sized corporation. Thus, when a corporation goes after a small business or low-income individuals, the conflict automatically rolls outside of the court system because of the defendants inability to pay the costs of mounting a proper defense. The matter is resolved by the more powerful organization threatening to press the suit back into the courts unless the smaller party agrees to their terms unconditionally. The powerful crush the weak. Note that all of this is purely a _power_ relationship, essentially without regard to the legality of the issue, let alone the morality.
What would be the solution to prevent the cruel squashing of interesting jokes such as ours? How abut a thorough revamping of the antique copyright, publishing, and cultural property laws to bring them into comfortable accord with modern technology and a healthy respect for the artist's impulse to incorporate public influences? Marketer's constraints should be restrained in cases of valid artistic commentary. This is a huge and complex Congressional undertaking and would inevitably result in sticky legal decisions akin to deciding whether or not a particular work of art is pornographic. So be it.
Art needs to begin to acquire an equal footing with marketers in court. We can even imagine such changes extending all the way to recording contracts which, strange as it may seem, might actually be written so as to allow the artist, rather than the marketer, to own and control his or her own work. You might as well start thinking about these problems now because they're not going to go away.
[ Picture of Chinese gathered to look at shot-down U-2 spy planes. ]
Red China's exhibit of shot-down U-2s
For years the U.S. has been letting Nationalist China have U-2 spy planes for reconnaissance over Red China. Now the Peking regime offered evidence of its growing ability to shoot them down from their high-altitude flights with, it added, their Nationalist Chinese pilots. The reassembled remains of four U-2s went on display in Peking before lines of gawking people amidst a Communist propaganda barrage.
16. Negativland's Second Press Release =================================================================
F O R I M M E D I A T E R E L E A S E ------------------------------------------------------------------ --------
--------- DATELINE: HOWLAND ISLAND, JANUARY 21, 1992 UNIVERSAL ------------------------------------------ --------- UMN founder and president C. Elliot Friday announced today that modern noise group ----- Negativland have parted ways with their label MEDIA SST Records, severed all connections with the ----- mainland music industry, and from now on will hurl their alternative concepts at the millennium ------ independently, under the see-thru umbrella of NETWEB the UMN and its Found Sound Foundation. ------
At a gala press conference held on Howland Island amid the whir and blur of high speed construction equipment now working on Mr. Friday's conceptual amusement park, Fridayland, the members of Negativland appeared relieved to be back where they belong. "Corporate rock may suck, but they aren't the only ones," said one member. When asked what caused their departure from SST, the group answered in acapella harmony, "Instead of an ethical and equitable 50-50 split, SST demanded we pay the entire amount of damages incurred in the "U2" lawsuit out of our future royalties." "...and then put out a press release implying we wouldn't be paying _anything_," added Hal Stakke, the group's attorney and backup singer. (See attached SST press release. For a detailed account of group grievances, see Negativland's severance letter to SST, also attached.)
Negativland went on to disclaim any association with all subsequent publicity by SST pertaining to the U2 case, such as the boneheaded "Kill Bono" T-shirt or the silly request for a U2 benefit concert.
At this point, the rotundly benevolent image of C. Elliot Friday appeared on the 40 foot HDTV screen above the podium and announced that those interested in some "U2" aftermath details may refer to the attached settlement agreement submitted to Negativland by SST, and to the fax to Negativland from Chris Blackwell, president of Island Records UK. Mr. Friday then dismissed all reservations about this potential breach of privacy with a resounding, "So what?" Obviously, Mr. Friday, president of the world's largest multi-media conglomerate, and with the entire value of his unparalleled cubist art collection behind him, is taking personal responsibility for these releases and will not bow to any mere executive's attempts at personal image control.
As Mr. Friday's visage twisted into one of those acrobatic pictorial contortions like they do on "Entertainment Tonight," and finally disappeared, another member of Negativland leaped to the top of a nearby road grader. There, silhouetted against a blood red sun sinking slowly behind the Pacific horizon, he exclaimed, "Our only regret is that those punks now own our back catalog!" (Although SST lacks subtlety, they do not lack Negativland music. In fact, they now own most of it, including a final EP, _Guns_, to be released in February '92.)
The issue of music industry contracts and their tradition of music ownership acquisition "in perpetuity," which the creators of the music sign over to their labels for meager monetary advances, will be a primary target for future Negativland print media jams. The group is already at work with the Found Sound Foundation's think tank unit preparing an open call to writers and musicians to submit for circulation and eventual publication statements, articles, and manifestos concerning the following subjects:
- The authenticity of copyright infringement and sampling as a legitimate creative technique.
- Recording industry contracts: What they say vs. what they ought to say.
- Recording industry horror stories concerning exploitation, corruption, unethical practices, greed, promotional payola, and the wholesale lack of integrity which rules this entire business which likes to think of its products as "art".
- Innovative proposals for how to pursue an alternative career in music independently of all the above crap.
* * * * * *
All further curiosity and inquiries should be addressed directly to Negativland, 1920 Monument Blvd., MF-1, Concord, Ca. 94520; fax 510-420-0469.
* * * * * * Attachments:
1. SST's Proposed Agreement for Negativland to Sign (refused) 2. Negativland's Counterproposal Letter to SST 3. Negativland's Severance Letter to SST 4. SST Press Release of December 20, 1991 5. Fax from Chris Blackwell 6. Negativland's Response to Chris Blackwell 7. Negativland Reviews U2's _Achtung Baby_
19. Negativland's Third Press Release =================================================================
F O R I M M E D I A T E R E L E A S E ------------------------------------------------------------------ --------
--------- DATELINE: HOWLAND ISLAND, FEBRUARY 17, 1992 UNIVERSAL RE: SST PRESS RELEASE, FEBRUARY 3, 1992 --------- CASE # 91-4735AAH (GHKX)
----- --------------------------------------------- MEDIA ----- * UPDATE * UPDATE * UPDATE * ------ NETWEB ------ * UPBRAID * UPBRAID * UPBRAID *
Mark Hosler of Negativland crosses the T in his signature, neatly folds his application to the Howland Island Liar's Club, slips it into a small chromium capsule, and drops the capsule into the vacuum mail tube protruding from the wall behind his inlaid desk, bumping his elbow on one of the desk's outcroppings in the process. The buzzing in his left ear cut short his burst of epithets relating to cubist furniture. The distinctive EQ of C. Elliot Friday's voice suddenly appears in his left headphone as the daily stock listings from Hong Kong drone on is his right.
"Mark, the lie detector test is set for next Thursday. Rolling Stone will foot the bill for flying Greg Ginn out to Howland on Wednesday. I've invited all the press that's fit to hint. Casey Kasem has agreed to ask the questions and the whole ceremony will be carried live on Geraldo. Now, don't be nervous! That will only make you look like you're lying. And don't worry about the machine. It's a Fridaytronics lie detector and your electrodes will actually be recording the heartbeat of a sea turtle in the next room. Nothing disturbs them -- that's what their shell is for. Oh, and wear that blue pinstripe suit with the power tie I gave you. Remember, you're a believable executive now and we want to contrast the downtrodden, mom & pop image that the SST entourage will present. The rest of Negativland will be there for, dare I say it, moral support, but I want you to keep a plug in the Weatherman. Casey doesn't want to be subjected to any sensitive language. I've sent a schedule of Thursday's events over to your office. Please check it over. Friday out."
Mark punches out the Friday line but lets the Hong Kong stocks roll on in his right ear as he leans back in his award winning chair and adjusts the peacock down cushion that comes with this day job. He relaxes now, gazing out through the curved glass that wraps around his 17th floor office in the Found Sound Foundation's Howland Tower. He watches the remnants of dense white fog from Friday's smoke screen machines drift away from the island and out across the Pacific. There must have been a passing ship or plane detected. He could see Friday's vintage U-2 parked outside its hanger on the runway below. They must be getting it ready for the trip to L.A. to pick up Mr. Ginn -- a nice touch, he thought.
Now his eyes withdrew, refocused, and wandered across the shiny gold records mounted on his cherry burl paneled wall which he and Negativland had made as a hobby. He wonders if they would ever have the time to take up carpentry again. Or to make records. He leans forward to the sculptured grid of his desk top and fingers the crystal cube paperweight encasing a perfectly preserved media cocoon which he had purchased at a punk rock club back in the "real world." "Ah, those were the days..." He tried to remember at exactly what point the importance of truth became mediated by the importance of money.
With a sigh of resignation, his lowering gaze comes to rest on the schedule of next Thursday's events. _________________________________________________________________
Thursday, February 20, 1992
10:00 AM Tour of Howland Island and Fridayland construction site.
12:00 NOON The great lie detector test-off & photo-op. (catered)
1:00 PM Negativland victory press conference & press kit handout.
Press kit includes:
* A detailed accounting of how much profit SST makes on each record it sells ($4 to $5), contrasted with how much less the artist makes on each record sold ($1). * A "2257 or Bust" button. * A discography of Negativland albums and cassette-only releases which SST will now sell until 2257 AD without paying the artists one penny. * A copy of an SST contract and a copy of an Island Records contract with the interchangeable clauses pertaining to label ownership of the artists' work "in perpetuity" printed in BOLD. * A signed affidavit from C. Elliot Friday attesting to the fact that if he had not stepped in with consulting positions at the UMN for the four principal members of Negativland, they would now be unemployed, without any funds to pursue their hobby of music, and be close to broke in their personal lives. * A "Greg Ginn doesn't know what he's talking about" bumper sticker. * A short pamphlet of amateur legal hobbyist principles such as, "Pay royalties that are due on time", "Back up your stated principles by sharing with your 'partners' the burden of consequence from a mutually agreed upon act", "See to it that the artist, not the manufacturer, retains ownership of his/her work", etc.
2:00 PM Adjourn to the Howland Island Disco Pit where every record by Simple Minds and Phil Collins will be played while members of the SST entourage and the press are invited to guess which ones were sampled by Negativland. There will be no winners, but everyone will receive another "Greg Ginn doesn't know what he's talking about" bumper sticker.
5:00 PM The SST entourage and members of the press take off for their return trip to the mainland, with a brief holding pattern overhead to view the daily submerging of the artificial island beneath the blue Pacific.
_________________________________________________________________M ark Hosler crosses the T in his scribbled initials at the bottom of the events schedule. The Hong Kong stock listing he'd been waiting for finally appears in his right ear. Plastic Plumbaphones are still down. He'd have to hang on a little longer. The dive alarm signals the end of another business day. He leans back on his Cushy Brand cushion, loosens his Power Brand tie, and lazily gazes out the curved, Panorama Brand window at the usual blood red sunset. He casually notices that he is no longer slightly apprehensive when the water level of the Pacific ocean slowly rises outside to swirl away his 17th floor view in bubbly confusion. Soon he would be asleep in the deep.
* * * * * All further curiosity and inquiries should be addressed directly to Negativland, 1920 Monument Blvd., MF-1, Concord, Ca. 94520; fax 510-654-1133 (to attn: Negativland).
26. Negativland's Fourth Press Release =================================================================
F O R I M M E D I A T E R E L E A S E ------------------------------------------------------------------ --------
--------- DATELINE: HOWLAND ISLAND, MARCH 4, 1992 UNIVERSAL RE: COHEN and LUCKENBACHER and SST ---------
----- --------------------------------------------- MEDIA -----
------ NEGATIVLAND vs. L.A. LAW NETWEB ------
Howland Island, slightly shuddering, breaks through the surface of the Pacific and rises majestically to its waterline as foamy waterfalls continue to pour off the towers, rocks, and buildings, all edged in gold from the rays of the rising sun. Mark Hosler's alarm goes off. His sleepy hand fumbles for the off button. Now his mind begins, and he wonders why he hasn't felt the distinct bump which occurs every morning when the island reaches the apex of its ascent -- Then the instant recognition of his new surroundings.
"He's no longer on the island and we are not at liberty to divulge the present whereabouts of Mr. Hosler." Mr. Friday's executive attendant's voice reminded Mark of his office. She hadn't recognized him -- his voice implant was way cool, even in the morning. He mumbles something about some imaginary deadline at _Spin_ and then puts another question to her. Then another. "We don't know why Mr. Hosler wasn't named in the threat to sue, especially after Mr. Ginn singled him out to test"..."No, we still don't know why Mr. Hosler's heart stopped during the test-off, but we can assure you he's in fine health now." Mark nods to himself, satisfied that the island has its story together. As he hangs up the radio-telephone he hears his two bodyguards begin a vigorous snowball fight outside.
The rest of the group, heads bowed, shuffle around on one of the simulated pink coral outcroppings at the edge of Howland Island as the Weatherman reverently nudges the aged sea turtle's corpse into the deep, dark sea. After briefly marveling at something so dumb getting to live 184 years, and a few frowns in the direction of Friday's sheepish wildlife wrangler, they make their way up onto the rollerpath and route themselves to Soundstage #17.
"Alright everyone, we'll start with the Weatherman on the stand," says the director, an old friend of Friday's from the Hollywood days. A Fridaytronics accountant, playing the prosecuting attorney, hikes up his Bermuda shorts and approaches the stand studying his script. "Now, Mr. Weatherman," he begins, "would you please tell the court how many hours a week you spend watching The Playboy Channel?" "Objection!" The island's pastry chef, who was playing defense, leaps to his feet. "My client doesn't watch it, he fixes it! These legal tarpit tactics of character assassination by my esteemed opponent from Los Angeles only show his complete disregard for my client's undisputed preeminence in the musical farts..." Defense pauses, silently reads the last line, and flicks a dried blob of chocolate mousse off the last word in it. "Arts!", he continues... Howland's master shrub sculptor, playing the judge, bangs his gavel, one of the few wooden objects on the treeless island, loudly. "Overruled," he reads, "This trial has no bearing on the arts; this is about business!" It wasn't in his script, so the Weatherman thinks to himself, He's sure got that wrong.
C. Elliot Friday flips off his Soundstage #17 monitoring channel and slowly revolves to gaze out across the crawling construction site of Fridayland. He'd have to play this just right. These corporate entertainment attorneys SST had hired are very expensive adversaries... Well, at least Hosler was safely hidden for now. He takes a shallow breath, the only kind he can take on this planet, and refocuses on the potential. Negativland would need a few more weeks of trial rehearsals, but this should make a great piece...
* * * * * All further curiosity and inquiries should be addressed directly to Negativland, 1920 Monument Blvd., MF-1, Concord, Ca. 94520.
27. Negativland's 'Letter to the Editor' of BAM Magazine =================================================================
negativland "If you can't lick 'em, put 'em on with a big piece of tape."
April 14, 1992
BAM, fax 510-934-3958 attn: Letters column
We would like to make a few comments about Greg Ginn's letter, "SST vs. Negativland, Part...?" (BAM, April 1). His "letter" was an abridged and cleaned up version (obscenities deleted) of an SST press release he sent out to the press several weeks ago. We have already responded to that press release with our own, but since his thoughts have now appeared as a "letter" for public consumption, we also have a few thoughts on vanity and greed for the public to consider.
Refuting his letter point by point is entirely possible but probably futile in an exchange so spread out in time that we can hardly expect readers to remember or care who last said what. In short, we can assure you that anyone trying to locate "misinformation" in this grand opera of deceit will find as much of it in Greg's head as they will in ours. Most disturbingly, Greg continues to state "facts" about our personal lives and finances which could not be more exactly opposite to the truth. In that case, he is apparently invoking 6 year old bio material on us, adding some insulting assumptions, and stupidly assuming that nothing ever changes. In fact, everything has changed.
But now, as SST has officially stated its intent to sue Negativland for the entire amount of damages incurred in the settlement of the U2 case with Island Records, and Negativland is thrust into creative and economic limbo because SST is now paying us no royalties and claiming two additional new records from us as part of their suit, SST will go on doing business as usual. Ironically and hypocritically, they have used their economic power to smother us, just as Island used their economic power to smother SST. Financial protection is the whole name of the whole game in the music biz from top to bottom. It is the artist who is at the base of this economic food chain, but it is the lowly artist who is apparently supposed to eat it all in the end.
Negativland intends to fight back. We now have pro bono legal help in disputing SST's presumptuous contractual claims, and we intent to go on publicizing all of SST's moves in this matter in every way we can, just as we have done with Island.
Despite Greg Ginn's lack of appreciation for our never-out-of-play sense of humor, we do consider all this as grist for our creative mill. What other conceivable use is it good for? Greg has been struggling with the anachronisms of his "record executive" odyssey for many years now, and though he probably hasn't let himself notice, he now actually acts like one. We consider his actions to be completely hypocritical to his own stated principles and here is why: MONEY. Here is how: In Greg's own, often dyslexic view of SST, he has a mission which is admirable enough. He intends to be in opposition to corporate rock and, yes, it does still suck. (Though you would hardly suspect it from this magazine.) SST does not create or groom artists for market appeal. They do not mold their products for commercial airplay.
SST promotes the emergence of grassroots inspiration and artistic freedom for alternative music that arises out of cultural imperatives rather than market demands. Thinking these to be hard-held beliefs, one might assume, as we did, that when such music comes under legal attack from an embarrassed corporate mainstream, SST would naturally stand and share the consequences with the artists who actually manifest these SST principles. This was not the case. Greg would never even discuss our standing offer to split the damages 50/50. The fact that it was a mutual agreement to release this record didn't seem to matter. Instead, Greg has casually ditched the authority and primacy of his artistic principles in favor of self-serving economic protection (as any kick-ass executive would).
It was perfectly clear in Island's legal briefs that economic protection was their motivation in suing SST and Negativland. At least they were honest about why they suck. SST is using exactly the same strategy for exactly the same reason against us, and worse, their demand for our next two records, (for which we will receive no royalties if they have their way) would leave us without any income at all for the foreseeable future. SST seems intent on stopping our very ability to keep working. Our conclusion? Independent labels suck too.
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