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Эти слова выделены: is there any escape from stupid 

is there any escape from STUPID?

is there any escape from STUPID?


Reprinted from Mondo 2000 magazine
Scanned and corrected by mathew
Corrected further and coded by Good Cue Sign

Negativland is without a doubt the most peculiar presence on College radio's alternative music play lists. They might be described as an industrial/media/humor band, but then again some of their stuff is so peculiar that even that description sounds too self-consciously arty. Whatever, they are definitely not a rock band.

The following chronology (printed here almost in its entirety) came with the latest Negativland record, Helter Stupid and is required reading if you're to understand the interview that follows.

R.U. Sirius

Negativland releases their fourth album, Escape From Noise and begin preparations for a national tour. The album includes the cut "Christianity Is Stupid," which features the "found" vocal of Reverend Estus Pirkle from a sermon recorded in 1968.
Story appears in the New York Times, national wire services, and radio and TV network news relating the arrest of sixteen-year-old David Brom in the ax murders of his father, mother, sister and brother two days earlier in Rochester, Minnesota. The NY Times article mentions that David and his father may have argued over a music tape David had listened to. The Broms are described as a devout Roman Catholic family.
Negativland cancels the tour when it becomes apparent that the tour will lose money. The group decides to send their American label, SST Records, a phony press release for distribution which attributes the cancellation of the tour to pressure from "Federal Official Dick Jordan" who has advised the band not to leave town pending an investigation into the Brom murders. The press release implies that David and his parents had been arguing about Negativland's song "Christianity Is Stupid" just prior to the murders. The NY Times article is distributed with the press release.
Negativland receives phone calls from Rockpool, Pulse, BAM magazine, and several other fanzines requesting more information about the link between Negativland and the Brom murders. The group maintains that the federal interference is indeed real, but declines to elaborate.
in Minnesota, Judge Gerrard Ring "gags" media coverage of the David Brom case, pending his decision as to whether David will be tried as a juvenile or an adult. After entering no plea in a pre-trial hearing David Brom undergoes a series of forensic psychiatric tests.
Citing federal restraints against participation in any live promotion dealing with the Brom case, Negativland consents to a telephone interview with BAM magazine. When pressed for information by interviewer Steve Stolder, a group member mentions a "bloody cassette tape" in passing.
Judge Ring rules that David Brom be tried as a juvenile. The prosecution appeals.
BAM prints a full-page article on Negativland and the Brom case, despite Stolder's inability to establish the existence of "Federal Authority Dick Jordan" and despite Stolder's phone conversation with James Walsh, the Rochester Post Bulletin reporter assigned to the Brom case. In several months of covering the story, Walsh has never heard of Negativland. The article simply restates the "facts" from the Negativland press release with no trace of skepticism.
James Walsh contacts SST Records, requesting more information on the Negativland-Brom connection. SST sends him a copy of the original press release and puts Walsh in telephone contact with the group. Negativland declines to do more than restate the "rumor" that "Christianity Is Stupid" may have caused the argument among the Broms that precipitated the murders. Negitivland now begins to draw back from direct stimulation of the media by claiming that a phony lawyer, Hal Stakke, has advised them not to discuss the case with anyone.
Negativland hires a press clipping service to gather copies of all articles pertaining to the Brom case. Articles on Negativland mentioning the Brom link eventually appeared in Rockpool, Boston Rock, Buttrag, Pulse, San Francisco Chronicle, Pollstar, Cut, Spy, Lyric, Penthouse's Hot Talk, Trouser Press Record Guide and The Village Voice.
Tom Krotenmacher, who presents himself as a reporter covering the Brom story for Rolling Stone, sees the Twin Cities Reader article and calls Negativland seeking an interview. Negativland declines to comment.
After seeing the BAM article, a news producer for CBS Television's San Francisco affiliate, KPIX Channel 5, calls Negativland to request a televised interview. Negativland does not decline this opportunity to reach millions with this message. TV reporter Hal Eisner arrives in the KPIX mobile Electronic News Gathering unit. During the interview Negativland maintains the rumored link to the Brom case, but continue to state that they are unable to discuss details of the case. Much of the interview time is spent discussing the American news media, their appetite for the sensational, their tendency to create their own "news", and related topics. All of this discussion is cut from the aired tape. Like all the other reports to date, Channel 5 takes the purported connection for granted, but this time in a sensationalized feature piece emphasizing links between murder and music and including footage of the Brom family being carried from their home in body bags.
After seeing the Channel 5 News lead story, the San Francisco Chronicle religion writer calls Negativland requesting an interview. The group again claims they're unable to discuss the case, but do describe various real and imagined effects that the onslaught of publicity has had on the group. The Chronicle prints an article restating the proposed connection, but gets many of the "facts" wrong as a result of their dependence on other media stories as their only source material. It's now abundantly clear that the major source for news is other news.
David Brom is transferred to the Oakes Treatment Center for severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents in Austin, Texas. The Village Voice publishes an article on the Negativland-Brom link. Music critic R. J. Smith recounts the original press release's version of the rumored connection with some skepticism. In researching this piece, Smith and Voice media critic Jeffrey I Stokes go so far as to track down a Negativland member at his job for confirmation of the story. The group, by now apprehensive that their monstrous joke may have become completely uncontrollable, refuses to answer questions on the phone, citing previous reporters' editing and distortions of their comments. Negativland does, however, agree to send a prepared written statement. Smith also reports contacting San Francisco FBI spokesman Chuck Latting, who says of Negativland, "To the best of my knowledge, we've not had contact with them."
The San Francisco Chronicle's pop music critic, Joel Selvin, devotes two-thirds of his weekly column to the Negativland-Brom story. The group also declines to be interviewed in this article, and Selvin was sent a copy of the same statement the Voice received, which he accurately reproduced: "As to our uncertain association with the Brom case, we think it's foolish and will comment on it no further. For a while, we made comments to the press and found that we were so misquoted and events so misstated to fit the writer's need to grab attention and the editor's need to abbreviate that we will now make no more statements whatsoever. Sensationalism reigns."
Negativland decides to make a somewhat musical depiction of this entire media odyssey. It is begun as a 12-inch single, but quickly expands to a full LP side.
Minnesota Supreme Court rules that Brom be tried as an adult. Arraignment is set for January, 1989. David Brom awaits trial.

The Last Word

Somewhere beneath the media representation of the Brom murders is an inexplicable human tragedy. Our act of creating a false association with such a tragedy will remain open to ethical interpretation.

We all swim in an ocean of mass media that fills our minds with people and events with which we have no actual contact at all. We commonly absorb these media presences as part of our own "reality," even though any media experience consists only of one-way, edited representations of reality Negativland uses this electronic environment of factual fictions as both source and subject for much of our work, keeping in mind that to experience a picture of a thing is not to experience the thing.

Our lie was intended for and directed to the media, and it proved very effective in exposing the unreliable process of cannibalization that passes for "news." Negativland chose to exploit the media's appetite for particularly sensational stories by becoming a subject they couldn't resist - - the latest version of a ridiculous media cliché which proposes that rock song lyrics instigate murder. Common sense suggests that murderers purchase records that appeal to them, just as they purchase the weapons they use.

"Helter Stupid" is about the media menu of illusions we all eat from, as well as an attempt to materialize our perception of Negativland as a bogus subject of the voracious media meat grinder.

Like all good hoaxes, this one got out of hand. Negativland loosed a type of media virus that - given the autophagous appetite and sensationalist, tabloid mentality of the newsmedia - spread like anthrax.

It can be said of Negativland that they invented their own genre and that no other sound outfit has taken found footage and chance encounters as far. Yet neither of these factoids determined the nature and extent of this festival of rumor reported as fact. It was sufficient for the group to have created a suitably controversial work, "Christianity Is Stupid" and for the Imp of the Perverse to inspire them to put out, the initial bit of disinformation. After the print and broadcast newsmedia were infected, it remained only for the group to stay mum on the matter. Yet early in 1990, long after the story was exposed as false, sparks still flew. The group fretted about reprisals from a local TV station for the unauthorized use of sound snippets and from David Brom's lawyer, who sought compensation for their use of his client's image in the cover graphic for their new release, Helter Stupid.

I came to the following interview as no stranger to the altered state known as Negativland. I'd guested on Over the Edge, a weekly radio program with group members, since the early 80's when I first saw them in performance. In an era of unusual acts, theirs stood out: Weatherman David Wills lectures on cleanliness while scrubbing the monitors with 409, the action spills offstage to a table where a toaster rigged never to pop cindered a slice of wonder bread. First the appealing aroma of toasting bread, then the somewhat alarming burning smell as black smoke poured out. That attraction/repulsion factor seemed to run throughout the group's output of live shows, records and radio programming. It made it all the more apropos when they were allowed to mix live during the KPFA-FM broadcast of Reagan's second inaugural address. Soon the fast and dense information of their albums began to get more and more attention as did their phantom live shows wherein they stayed in their studio while the mix was pumped out to far away venues through a hyper-clear phone line. Negativland issued international passports.

A willingness to criticize as well as praise the brain children of Negativland made the discussion all the more lively. At one point I asked R. U. Sirius, "Can this be an argument?" I wanted to provoke Don and Mark to go beyond the replies they'd already made to the charge that they were guilty of a grotesque exploitation of a hideous event. Their most sustained concept piece, "Helter Stupid", a painstaking examination and explicit commentary on the ensuing media vortex that resulted from a hardly credible press release, demanded more than a facile discussion. They had ridden out the first wave of allegations and accusations and had just released this rather obsessive remix of the public events and behind-the-scenes skullduggery. They were now in a position to step out from behind their wall of sound and exhibit some of their more guarded feelings.

Andre Breton said "Beauty will be convulsive or not at all." My own saying is "An artist will be obsessive or not at all." Both of these statements apply to "Helter Stupid", Negativland's most compelling work.

It was a wintry night in Northern California as we pulled into MONDO 2000's technogothic citadel in the hills...

Mark Hosler: I am glad we put the statement in, Don, because people quote the stuff that we wrote right back at me. It's pretty important that we put in the sentence that says that our act of associating ourselves with such a tragedy will remain open to ethical interpretation.

Don Joyce: I'll tell them that the real reason it's called Negativiand is because of a psychedelic drug experience I had with my entire family when I was age 7! Oh turn it off!

R. U. Sirius: Are we recording?

MONDO 2000: "Helter Stupid" Is a very different entity from the Dick Vaughn Moribund Music Saga that's on side two. The name of the album is Helter Stupid but "Helter Stupid" is really definitely one side of it and not the other.

Joyce: There is so much to be gleaned from "The Perfect Cut" (Side 2 of Helter Stupid). All that radio production stuff and everything is so sleazy and so cynical.

Hosler: Well, Don, do you think that we're gonna be wallowing in cynicism and irony for the rest of our careers or are we gonna actually start coming out and having some opinions on things and not always being completely glib. Actually I don't think "HeIter Stupid" is totally ironic.

M2000: "Helter Stupid"'s kind of like a documentary.

Joyce: Yeah. It's a pseudo-totally-bashed-up documentary.

Hosler: I think we're generally very careful to leave things open. To let the listener draw his own conclusions. Like "Time Zones" on Escape From Noise. It's just two guys talking about how many time zones there are in the Soviet Union. That's all it is. But as you listen to it, it becomes much more than that. They're talking about us vs. them, about power, about fear and the size of their country vs. the size of ours.

M2000: That's why I referred to "Helter Stupid" as a documentary, and like all documentaries it's not really objective. You're led to draw the conclusion that news is cannibalistic. That news is not so much interested in reportage and the truth as in not being scooped, and they're grabbing their news from somebody else and recombining it... sensationalism, all those things are really rather explicit in that piece. You can't not think those things after...

Hosler: Right! With "HeIter Stupid" we're actually coming forward and... I don't know how you put it exactly...

Joyce: Coming forward, we're moving backward, that's how I'd put it!

Hosler: Well in many ways there's far less ambiguity.

M2000: OK, but "Helter Stupid" is not just the audio "Helter Stupid". It's also the chronology and it's the essay on the events. Therefore, it's quite a package. And it's quite a convincing package. And I take no issue with the conclusions other than to say it's not subtle, it's no longer inflective, you guys are not being elusive or obfuscating or just sort of implying what your critique, or your irony, might be. You're pretty much spelling it out.

Joyce: Here's the reason for that. We went through this whole experience and then we decided to make a record, and when we went to make the record, it came out as this total jumbled up mess of found stuff. In this case it had a kind of pseudo-documentary feel to it. But still, if you listen to the record, you from will learn practically nothing about the actual event that the record was stimulated by. It doesn't tell the story. It uses a few people who were involved in the actual event, in terms of found audio stuff. But it doesn't tell the story. You wouldn't even know what the whole issue is if you had nothing but the record to listen to.

M2000: Without the documentation that comes with it.

Joyce: The newscast gives you the most information of anything on the record. So in looking at that we said, "You know, this really doesn't explain enough." And it needs to be explained, because we're going to get accused of exploiting a tragic murder.

Hosler: I'm realizing that there's no way that we can get out of the fact that we have. We didn't mean to, but we have and we might as well cop to it.

Joyce: That's the reason that we put all of that very specific documentation inside. To both explain the event and explain our position in pursuing it. Which is to somehow get inside how the media work, particularly the news media, and bring that out as a subject, and as a source for our work. I don't think people would get that without the documentation.

Hosler: In all Negativland records, the packaging has always been an important part of the presentation.

M2000: Mark was saying that it was a good thing that you made this statement about exploiting a tragic event in that it's at least clear that you view it as a tragic event. My immediate reaction was "Oh! The Royal Disclaimer!" Which is just like all the way through the process you guys maintained the disclaimer, "We never said this was true. We said we didn't know about it." I thought we suddenly had a breakthrough when you said we have exploited... but you were saying we have been accused of exploiting it. You're still sort of evading that point. Didn't Negativland exploit...

Hosler: Yes. Of course we did. I realize that we did.

Joyce: Of course we did! But I hope that is not the point that people take away from the record. Because if we thought that was the main message, I don't think we would have recorded it. Everyone in the group was very uncomfortable about that aspect of it all the way through. Now that aspect exists. We are selling records that are based on a murder - using this subject to sell our next record. But there're other important points to be made that can only be made by exploiting this particular subject that the news media could not resist dealing with. They didn't resist so they took it down their path of cannibalization to an ultimate end. And that's what we saw happening and that's what we wanted to pursue. Not the fact of this actual murder.

M2000: No. In fact the audio track of "Helter Stupid" doesn't exploit the murder. It exploits the media coverage of the alleged link between your song, "Christianity Is Stupid", and the murder.

Joyce: And then it goes deeper into being about the media and violence. It's kind of a series of abstract ruminations and meditations.

M2000: There is only one point at which you exploit the murder and that's the press release. And, in fact, SST Records could have let it die. And any number of the media people could have let it die... ignored it. It's obvious from the packaging that it was rather farfetched and it was ridiculously gullible for anyone to accept it, without substantial fact checking.

Joyce: You'd think so, but the fact is that very few facts are checked.

M2000: Time magazine has narrowed down its fact checkers to a staff of three. It used to be a staff of 100.

Joyce: If they read it, they believe it. That's how it works now.

M2000: When the news media read other news media, they believe it. I'm probably a few steps more irresponsible than you in that I don't really give a shit if you exploit a person's murder of his parent.

Joyce: You would if they were sitting here!

M2000: Perhaps. But in an objective sense I don't, because media exploit them every day.

Hosler: That's part of our point. And what we're trying to address, too, is that these murders really happened. This is horrible. If you try to actually imagine what he did. He took an ax. He chopped up four other people. And it's like when you think about it...

Joyce: In the middle of the night. While they were sleeping.

Hosler: It's beyond anything you and I can really comprehend.

M2000: I'm for total liberty over moral restraint, but this isn't an interview about me.

Joyce: In a way, every artist is above moral restraint in that they'll use everything as grist for the mill. We do. But the point is that you want in some way to distance yourself from the actual reality. You have to in order to do that. And that's what we tried to do with the total packaging of this. I don't want to meet the relatives of those people. I don't want to talk to friends of the family. It'd be very embarrassing. But I think the artist has to distance himself from that in order to produce anything that's of any critical import or value. 'Cause it always involves somebody else's feelings.

M2000: I've given you this license and, in fact, I'm finding a level of defensiveness in you guys that I would just as soon dispense with because you don't have to defend it, at least to this interviewer.

Hosler: The reason I was making the point about the actual grisly reality of it is because this is something that really happened in the world. What we were dealing with was a story, a fiction, the news... factual fictions as Don has called it... about this ax murder. We weren't dealing with what really happened. What has happened since is that in fact, the news did get back to the boy. That I find really disturbing. The news got back to the lawyer and the family and the newspapers. And we've been called by TV stations in Rochester, Minnesota, and we've been called by papers in Minneapolis. Now the record's come out. And to me, it's getting to be too weird now. I don't want to think about that reality. We've tangled ourselves up in this thing now, and for the people in that town who knew the family and the boy, it's not just a story. It really happened. They know this kid, or they know his friends and his family. It's becoming increasingly disturbing and complex, when the intent of the record was to kind of settle it. The idea was that the record would be our statement and then we could say, "OK, leave us alone. Listen to the record and that'll explain what was going on."

Sirius: It's a case of the medium being the message. It's the fact that you put out a record based on this whole incident - and not what's actually on the record - that becomes news. So you're just further involving yourselves.

Hosler: I talked to one news guy. He kept asking me questions and I kept saying "Look, I don't really want to talk to you. You have an agenda. You're reporting on this for your town. You're gonna take anything I say and make it fit whatever your agenda is." And I said, "Really, all your questions can be answered by listening to the record. Listen to the record, read the liner notes. Listen to the record again, read the liner notes again, and hopefully you will understand what we're trying to say."

M2000: They want you to give them that little sound byte of culpability so they can frame you as these heartless guys that exploited a murder. But what I'm saying is that the news, as infotainment, is totally devoid of true human sympathies and feelings. They use the sham of sympathy to increase the salability of a product that they're selling. They have no moral high ground to stand on from which to judge you guys. And in fact they are the worst exploiters of every tragic crime and...

Joyce: They have a lot higher ground than we do. They have a TV tower and we don't!

M2000: That's higher profile. That's not higher moral ground. Noam Chomsky called his book The Manufacture of Consent. So what the news media do is manufacture moral indignation. That's the point that I wanted to move to with this. What you guys did by this hoax is that you've completely drawn out everything back to Helter Skelter, and the linking of the Beatles songs to those mass murders, right up to the current Tipper Gore Mothers-Against-Dirty-Satanic-Rock-Songs situation. So what you've done, using the resonance of all this stuff, is show how they're champing at the bit to present it as fact. And to make all these linkages that amount to shit.

Joyce: You got it. It's a monstrous joke!

M2000: This is the greatest rock and roll hoax since "Paul is dead."

Sirius: More meaningful.

M2000: I'd always suspected that the Beatles started the "Paul is dead" thing.

Joyce: Oh you did? Well I thought they were responsible for those murders.

Hosler: Didn't the Beatles kill those people in Rochester?

M2000: Has anyone looked further into the murder? Was there any argument about music between this kid and his parents? They report it as if that's a fact.

Hosler: I'll tell you a bizarre coincidence, or synchronicity as we say in California. As it turned out, someone who is in a band that's on the same label that we're on, knew that family when he was younger. And, it turns out, that the boy had posters of other SST bands on his wall. This kid was into, you know, punk... hard core. So recently we found out that SST actually has David Brom on their mailing list. He used to order records from the mail order.

M2000: So he had heard of you guys.

Hosler: No, I don't think he ever did.

M2000: He at least saw your name.

Hosler: I don't know. At this point he knows who we are. We've heard that his lawyer got ahold of the record and now they're threatening to take us to court. So David Brom knows about us. Now I'm feeling even more weird. What have we done? Imagine this one human being who did that, who has to live with that the rest of his life, and who has a record album that has his picture on the cover. It's really disturbing.

M2000: I wouldn't be totally [surprised?] to learn that David Brom gets fans of his own...

Joyce: And he's writing a book...

M2000: What discontented precocious teenager hasn't thought of dispatching the family?

Hosler: I never did!

M2000: You never did? You loved your mom and pop?

Hosler: Well enough not to think of killing them. I enjoyed watching other people kill their parents but I never considered doing it.

Sirius: I'm interested in the fact that it was entered into semi-accidentally. You didn't know it was going to come to this level of intensity. And you kind of followed the course of the disease, and now everybody is pretty well poisoned.

M2000: When you go back to the original mutant, there's a shadowy figure in Negativland that doesn't turn up at their interviews and this incident totally fits my impressions of him.

Joyce: (laughing) He appears on the back cover.

M2000: Yeah. To me this whole thing somehow organically connects to him, and grows out of him, although the others have watered the plant and tended the garden.

Joyce: He's the member where the name Negativland really applies. He's like the archetypal negative sort of imp. It was he who started the whole thing in a sort of offhanded way.

Hosler: It was just that we had to cancel a tour because the tour was going to lose money and we can't afford to lose money because we don't make a lot. So we decided to cancel it in a more interesting way. And we'd already been getting some indications - from some other press releases - that the news media were not very careful in how it presented information. So we just did it as a sort of experiment. Richard came up with this press release.

He wrote it up and presented it to us, and we said, "That's kind of an interesting idea, Richard. Gee, well, let's see what happens." It wasn't like "this is a good publicity stunt," it was more like "let's let this little virus out and see what happens." Most of the group thought it would go nowhere because - as you were pointing out earlier - it seemed to be very easy to check out and find that it wasn't true.

Sirius: Before sending it out, did you stop at any moment and imagine that it might turn out as peculiarly as it...

Hosler: Never! Never in a million years! And we certainly never thought that it would turn into our next record album.

It's such a strange thing to see! This person is reprinting this story and then this person's reprinting his story and it's growing and yet no one's checking to see if it's true. And it's just another story. But see how it developed. You're rolling from a lie to a very legitimate looking thing.

M2000: There also had to be a decision on the part of you guys that you weren't going to try to stop it, refute it, and tell the first interviewer that called you that...

Hosler: But you have to realize that this was happening in front of us and we were just playing along as it happened, wondering "What do we do now?" We kept having meetings and eventually we decided that we weren't going to say anything more. That's it. We're done talking to the media. We will not stimulate the media in any way by making any comments because we want to leave this experiment as pure as we can. However, when the Channel 5 TV news called up... well, "I'm not passing this up. This is too bizarre." And they wanted to interview us in our own home. So we sort of very reluctantly agreed to let them do it.

I also saw the TV appearance as an opportunity to try to talk about some of the issues involved in how the media work. At the same time, we weren't ready to admit this was a hoax. But it seemed like a great opportunity to deal with electronic news. So we did during that interview. For two hours cameras rolled and we talked all about how the news is edited reality and how it's all sound bytes and it's sensationalized, and it's entertainment and, of course, they didn't use any of that at all.

They were promising us they weren't going to sensationalize this and they were going to try to address the issues that it raised. I could tell the guy was just bullshitting me because he wanted to get his story.

M2000: The headline of the press release was "Negativland tour axed at last minute." Similarly, Alfred Hitchcock said, "People think that I'm a monster," because he was a black humorist. The majority of people think they like black humor if they get it in little diluted doses...

Hosler: I'll tell you something funny that happened that we didn't mention in the chronology. A month after we put out the first press release, we put out another press release saying there was an uproar going on because people were writing to Ann Landers saying Negativland's song "Nesbitt's Lime Soda" was giving bees a bad rap for stinging people in the tongue. The release also said that the Beekeepers Association of America was complaining about our song. We sent this out as a press release thinking, "This will stop it. They'll get the idea that this is a joke."

Joyce: This is a series of joke press releases.

Hosler: And the bee release, of course, went nowhere because that wasn't of interest. At a certain point, SST decided they no longer wanted to put out any more information associating themselves with this thing. They were concerned for themselves legally. We told the label to refer all phone calls to the band. We weren't asking them to cover for us. We didn't want them to compromise their integrity in any way.

Sirius: A lot of black humor is like acts of spontaneous inappropriate behavior that most people control... where you get this really weird twisted idea and it seems so great that you just have to do it. It's pure Id.

Joyce: I always like to do those things.

Hosler: That's part of how we work in the studio. We don't sit down and really write a composition. We have some ideas to start with and we're messing around and accidents happen. You stumble across something, some sound events and you say, "This is much better than our original idea." And the way we worked on this press release is really similar to how we work on our live shows or our records or anything else. We just sort of follow this thing where it seems to want to go.

Sirius: Stephen was referring to "Helter Stupid" as sort of being a documentary. My response to listening to the record was that it was much more intense, in an emotional sense, than anything else I've heard from Negativland. I don't know if that's something that I brought with me knowing the story behind the record. It's almost like a very intense jazz piece. It's got a lot of drive.

Joyce: That's partly because it's so long and unbroken and continuous. I think we've done little things that are just as intense. I wanted to keep the same thing up all the way through. I wanted the overkill, which is like my impression of the media. I think the structure is about information overload, although personally I don't ever find myself overloaded with information and I can listen to three things at the same time and actually comprehend what is going on.

M2000: But what makes this piece so arresting is not merely that it's overload, because it's always overload with Negativland. That's the palette you're going to be working with, an overloaded palette. What you're going to paint is going to be different every time. And it begins with this incredibly gripping sound, so right away you're tense, you feel like you're under attack...

Joyce: Did you play it backwards? (general laughter)

M2000: That first gripping sound?

Hosler: For our readers at home: take the beginning of side 1 of Helter Stupid and play it backwards.


M2000: While I think of it, let me ask you this. Part of this whole Tipper Gore Rock-and-Satanism epoch is the backward masking controversy. This is very much an element of your piece.

Joyce: Wait. Wait. Before you go on - you assumed that our palette was always overloaded and it was always going to be overloaded. That's not true and, in fact, our next record might be completely different and very relaxed.

Sirius: Negativland in the Hearts of Space.

Joyce: Yeah, that's it. We do that kind of stuff.

M2000: It'll be your John Wesley Harding...

Joyce: I hope it's as interesting.

M2000: On "Stupid" the theme of backward masking comes up. Do you guys have any info on this? Is there even the slightest evidence that there's any reality to it?

Hosler: It's completely silly, right?

Joyce: How could you understand something if it's backwards? The people who are into this say that it does penetrate your brain in the same sense that sleep tapes do.

M2000: Well, that's the contention, but I don't see any proof.

Joyce: No, there isn't any proof. There's no proof that it works.

Hosler: I think you could argue that if, at a barely audible level, you inserted someone saying, "Kill your parents, kill your parents"...

M2000: That's forward, though.

Hosler: I could see how that... I wouldn't exactly support someone doing that.

M2000: That's how subliminal suggestion is supposed to work but...

Hosler: Don did a whole radio show relating to "Helter Stupid" and backwards masking. As I was listening to it I was thinking, you know, this is so silly. How could they even discuss this and not be embarrassed for themselves. The idea that anyone could even think for a second that you could understand that ...

M2000: These are the people who believe that the beast will come and everyone will have to do business with the mark of 666. So, it's a very small leap for them to believe that backward masking is intelligible to the brain.

Hosler: ...hpargarap a ekil tsuj, sdrawkcab ti evah tsuj dna weivretni eht fo trap emos esu uoy fI ?od dluohs uoy tahw wonk uoy, etunim a tiaW

Joyce: I'm not sure whether the idea of what is supposed to be potent about backward masking is that you would be playing these records forwards and then you would pass this section that if you heard it backwards would be saying something different from what it is saying forwards - or whether the idea was that every record you buy, you're supposed to go home and play the whole thing backwards just to see if anything's there - and then when you hear it, it will...

M2000: You know, all of this goes back to that great enemy of Christianity, John Lennon. Because it was John Lennon who began to use the sound of backward guitars, backward vocals. "Rain" was the first pop song to use that. In fact, it goes another step backward to William Burroughs, Brion Gyson, and Ian Somerville's experiments in London where Paul McCartney had rented them a studio. They were doing these kinds of things and that's how the Beatles came to be interested. Of course, it was for sound experiments, not for subliminal suggestion or brainwashing or anything like that.

Hosler: Yeah. The first time I remember turning a tape backwards on a reel-to-reel it was really wonderful. "Wow, listen to this! It sounds great."

M2000: Once you have that as another groovy guitar sound, it's going to be imitated. And then, decades later you have someone contending that backward masking is a way to do mind- fucking things with your music. Then, of course, people like Ozzie or whoever are going to start actually using backward masking. And naturally, on occasion they'll say "Hail Satan." So when the Christians decide the point of backward masking is to indoctrinate people to Satanism, you're going to have people who are going to exploit that, aren't you?

Joyce: Hmm, Hail Satan... good idea, you know. Why didn't I think of that?

Hosler: There's always an argument about whether the media cause people to commit crimes. Do songs cause people to worship Satan or kill their parents? And I think it's absolutely clear that kids who are growing up on a diet of Dirty Harry movies and cartoons and Rambo and Friday the 13th and Miami Vice - they have a whole weird inner vocabulary related to how to react and respond in emotional situations and crisis situations. I've been threatened at gun point by kids whose body language tells me they've picked it up from TV shows.

M2000: The whole social ritual of heterosexual romance is learned from the movies.

Hosler: So the whole argument is ridiculous because It's really obvious that, in this century, the media are part of the sea we're swimming in. Obviously, they have everything to do with how you end up behaving.

Joyce: It's definitely dangerous that people are confusing reality with fiction. But you see that mostly in really young kids. I don't think it's really that effective with older people. To some extent, we're overly fearful about how much we can take in and deal with.

Sirius: It's more of a direct factor in political behavior than in personal. It's like some of us can synthesize all this information and have it make sense. But that breakdown between what's real and what's not winds up being bizarre things like universal support for the invasion of Panama. And on the level of international news, it's all getting closer and more intense and more immediate and at the same time all the more unreal. And I think that has to do both with the overload and the increasingly flimsy way in which the news media contextualize the stuff.

Joyce: That's a good point. The media cover everything from intensely personal fictions to this vast view of the world. And what's pretending to be the news is almost as fictitious. Most peoples' view of the big world out there comes purely through television. But they have a lot of other reference points for their personal lives. They can look around and say "Gee, I'm not like Oprah Winfrey, you know? I'm really not." But they look at Panama, and they really don't know whether that's true or not, because they have no personal reference points. So they more or less accept whatever they're told.

M2000: We can't even talk about political aspects. I'm trying to get to the psychological aspects, my point being Hinkley could no have been induced to shoot Reagan merely by seeing Taxi Driver had his better judgment not already been destroyed through psychosis.

Joyce: That's my point in the Helter Stupid editorial, you have to be a killer to be affected. You have to already be the killer before you start buying this killer music.

M2000: Then you look for a soundtrack. You look for the accompaniment that appeals to you.


Hosler: I find that I'm able to follow certain things better if I'm a little bit over-engaged, if my brain is just a little bit over-engaged with a little bit too much input. I'm able to read the book better if I've got the record on and I'm eating.

Joyce: It's just the modern way to get educated.

M2000: Being able to enjoy your radio show Over the Edge [Don Joyce hosts a radio show on KPFA 94.1 FM, Berkeley, Thursday nights at midnight] is an acquired thing. Like the first time most people hear it, they find there's too much going on. It's too busy. It's too distracting, it's too incoherent. It's too much a cacophony. Then, after a while, they begin to get in the swim of it, like it, even want to participate and add themselves to it.

Joyce: A lot of people have their first positive response by realizing it's sort of like a dream.

M2000: The dream is, of course, the one altered state of consciousness that the culture can't dispense with.

Sirius: Yet!

M2000: So it's like with LSD. People's first impressions are often "It's too much. I can't handle it." You know - uh-oh! And then they get to a state where they're a little bit spellbound, still apprehensive, not completely grooving with it. And then, if they're lucky and they're not going to have a terribly fearful duration of the trip, they might even get to enjoy the sensory overload, because that's essentially what LSD does - inhibit the sensory inhibitors so that you get a sensory overload. Being able to enjoy Over the Edge or Negativland and acid is sort of the same thing because it's about being able to process all the input you're getting and have it be coherent. Which creates a kind of physical pleasure.

Hosler: It's interesting to me how different people of different ages and occupations react to what we do, because I've talked to some people who are in the computer hacker type of brain and they listen to Negativland and find it sort of pleasantly engaging - because it's got enough information in it. Rudy Rucker, in your last issue, was defining cyberpunk as something with a high density of information. So to kids who are growing up with video games and computers in their home and all that, it probably just seems like easy listening.

Joyce: Anybody who's grown up with a TV probably at least has the ability to understand what we're doing.

Hosler: But a pre-TV person like my grandmother, I don't think could ever, ever understand it or appreciate it.

M2000: It's odd that you're using television as your reference point for what you're doing in radio and sound.

Joyce: Television is an indicator of a certain age when everything became electronic.

Hosler: And you could change the channels.

Joyce: Change the channels!


M2000: As art theory evolved in the 80's, the hallmark of post-modernism has turned out to be appropriation. And it goes back a long way. Somehow it seemed more important to use recombined images that were supplied to you through the media - through whatever source you got them from - then manufacturing or drawing something wholly new. And on an audio level, this is what Negativland came along and was doing. And not just Negativland, but Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle - using a lot of found stuff, recontextualizing it.

Hosler: They all stopped doing it after a pretty short amount of time. It went from a foreground to a background element in a lot of that work.

M2000: And then there's the pop diffusion of it, Big Audio Dynamite and a lot of the rap groups...

Hosler: Well, it's become de rigeur. And it makes me wonder about what we're doing, because when we started it was an area that needed exploring. Now, ten years later, we've kind of done a lot of that spelunking and it's now reached the point that found sounds, sample bits of noises, tapes off the media, are an accepted part of the pop music vocabulary.

Sirius: It's always been legally controversial, and that aspect is reaching a crescendo now with your album and John Oswald's Plunderphonics and the De la Soul lawsuit...

Hosler: Right. But let me finish my point. It's no longer clear to me if we're really out on the edge any more with the work we're doing. It feels to me now like we're inside the fence, you know?

M2000: I wouldn't put you on the edge simply because of your high visibility and your influence. I mean, the edge people are always working in obscurity.

Sirius: You can't see the edge any more.

Hosler: It's really hard to see any totally new direction. It's all appropriation.

M2000: When you started back in '78-'79, did you right away begin supplying new contexts for found materials?

Hosler: Yes, even before I was recording - just fooling around - I used to mix recordings of game shows and TV bits and sounds I'd recorded on the street and glass breaking and tape loops and the radio was always on with some distorted AM channel...

Joyce: We've become more and more willing to accept the actual content of the found stuff and let it stand on its own power.

M2000: That's the progression I want to address...

Hosler: From the beginning, it was just what we wanted to hear. When Negativland started, I was buying a lot of independent music, and was starting to find out that there was this whole other world out there. I liked a lot of what I heard, but there was definitely something missing that I wanted to hear. So I started mixing in all of this stuff from my world, you know, my dog barking, the sprinklers on outside, and the TV set was always on. It was a totally naïve thing really. And the more I started working with that, the more I started thinking about the content. So I started carrying around notebooks and writing my observations down. I'd go through all the commercials we would steal from radio stations, and I'd write down all my favorite lines and edit them out and filled up libraries, and Don, of course, has done that on a massive scale for years. He has a huge library of edited down bits.

M2000: You weren't aware that psychedelic groups had done that first, including the Beatles?

Hosler: Right. No, I wasn't.

M2000: So from 1978-'79, these sounds were an element of your music, but you also provided a lot of the vocals and instrumental elements and stuff. But now, in 1990, we have a record with no vocals by you guys.

Joyce: Right, it's basically all made up of media.

M2000: Which is not the case with Escape From Noise.

Joyce: It's like we sort of disappeared in a way. The media, it's all just the media speaking for us now.

Hosler: There aren't even credits on Helter Stupid. We don't even say who made it anymore. Our own idiosyncratic personalities are much more in evidence on Escape From Noise - the songs, the lyrics, the little stories. And those are now gone.

M2000: That's what I was wondering. I was this record as an anomaly for that reason and I'm thinking that you guys have committed a bit of rock 'n' roll suicide - I suspect deliberately. You've done something other than a commercial shot. Because what is missing from this is hits - potential singles that can be pulled for college radio - like "Car Bomb" and others on the last one.

Joyce: But Escape From Noise wasn't conceived to have any hooky hits either. It did really well on college radio but even "Christianity is Stupid" doesn't have "hooks." There was never any intention about that, one way or the other.

M2000: I see it as Volume 2 of Escape From Noise.

Hosler: As a matter of fact, if you look at the packaging of Escape From Noise and Helter Stupid you will see that they look the same. It's got a color photo in the center with text around it, and a heading across... We decided to make the design visually contiguous.

M2000: I see "The Perfect Cut" as the search for a B side.

Hosler: Well the title is a bit of a black humor since all of side A is in reference to an ax murder.

I think we're going to get pigeonholed as a media manipulation band. We've always manipulated media sounds, but now we're actually manipulating in the sense of neo-yippie pranks.

Joyce: First, with Escape From Noise doing well - that broke us away from our earlier suburban noise band image, I think. Now with Helter Stupid we're really gonna get pegged.

M2000: You always had a sound, but your sound has really solidified into your sound. It's not a bad thing.

Hosler: But this record's sound is actually based on mid-70's disco records and it has really bizarre production values. It's not modern :sounding at all. It's not even our sound. It's all stolen.

M2000: The B side is obviously a 70's revival parody.

Joyce: That's one of the reasons we did it. . .

Hosler: Actually, that's a nice sort of subtext. "The Perfect Cut" is a comment on nostalgia as commodity. OK, now we're going to sell you the 70's, a really crappy, ugly, tacky decade. We can even sell that to you.


M2000: I'd like the voices of Negativland members to come back.

Hosler: Don't worry, they will. I've been working on writing song lyrics and singing for the last couple of years, but none of that work ended up fitting into what we're doing. I mean, there's always far more ideas than we have room to fit onto any given release. There's a body of work that hasn't really jelled yet. There's a body of unfinished work now that...

Joyce: There's about three bodies...

Hosler: That are so different from anything we've done. And it's gonna be fun to put those out and confuse our fans.


Hosler: I think we're gonna get in more trouble over Helter Stupid than I ever imagined. I mean, I sure never imagined we'd hear back from David Brom's lawyer.

M2000: Well, are you litigatable in that connection?

Hosler: I don't know.

Sirius: Can we get into the legal ramifications of appropriation?

Hosler: Well, I'm really ignorant about art history. So I just recently read a book by Calvin Tompkins called Off the Wall about John Cage, Rauschenberg and Merce Cunningham and all that. And it was fun finding these kindred spirits or kindred brain functions. It was fun to see that that stuff was going on many, many years ago.

Joyce: There were always legal questions, going back to Andy Warhol with his exact same sized copies of Brillo boxes and so forth, but it came to nothing.

Hosler: It's become rampant now 'cause of technology.

M2000: At first, Warhol was copying logos, painting replicas. But then when he started taking news photos and silk screening them into multiples and so forth, that's really a level of appropriation that's very analogous to what you guys do... using the actual thing. You don't do a parody of a news guy, you use the news guy.

Hosler: That was important to "HeIter Stupid". We decided we'd do this chronology and not make generalizations about the media. We decided we were gonna be really specific. We're gonna let the writer who was idiotic say his name. We're gonna use the name of the TV station. And that's getting us in trouble too. It's very clear that the record is a criticism of the media. And I'm very interested in engaging with anyone who we're criticizing directly in the work. I want direct conversation. I don't wanna talk to the lawyers. I wanna be face to face with that guy and say, "What do you really think about what we did? Because were trying to make a real point."

Joyce: I kind of like the idea of the news suing an artist. Is culture something that can be used without permission, or isn't it? I think it should be. You should be able to use anything that's in the literal public domain.

Hosler: But you could ask where one draws the line.

M2000: I've got the perfect hypothetical situation. What if a minute or more of one of your thing showed up in someone else's record?

Hosler: It's been done!

Joyce: And that was fine.


Hosler: The number of people who've heard about our connection with this story greatly outnumbers the number of people that will hear the record. The number of people that hear the record are going to outnumber the people who actually buy the record. The number of people who buy it will outnumber those who really listen to it and read the liner notes. The number of people who read the liner notes and really get what we're saying and think about it will be outnumbered by those who don't. So - in fact - what's going to happen is we're going to end up perpetuating this hoax and this myth about ourselves to a large number of people. I mean 20 years from now, I'm going to run into someone who's going to say, "Oh yeah, you killed that kid in Minnesota."


Sirius: I find the whole "HeIter Stupid" project really subversive.

Hosler: Yes. But I don't think about it much, 'cause it's just what I do.

Joyce: I don't think it's subversive. It's a little pimple.

M2000: It's a pimple of subversion, but a pimple of subversion is better than the clean clear complexion of fascism.

Hosler: And KPIX is gonna pop it!

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