Negativland turns Disney animatronic outtakes into “Right Might”

Negativland

Any kid who’s ever gone to Disneyland has probably been dragged by their parents to the park’s least entertaining attraction, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, at which a creepily dead-eyed Abe Lincoln animatronic intones bits and pieces of the celebrated president’s most famous speeches. If you were ever one of those kids, you’ll probably get a kick out of Negativland‘s latest bit of pop-culture appropriation, “Right Might,” which uses chopped-up outtakes from Disney’s Lincoln voice recordings to deliver a goofily incoherent and frequently interrupted imperialist screed.

The backstory of “Right Might” is maybe even more entertaining than the track itself (which you can stream below). A few years ago, a Disney insider offered to send Negativland a bootleg copy of the Disney audio archives, which included outtakes from most of Disneyland and Disney World’s various theme park ride soundtracks. The corporate prankster eventually sent the Negativland guys nearly 100 CD-R’s filled with sound effects and voiceovers from decommissioned Disney rides, as well as various outtakes, bloopers and alternate takes from rides still in use. Among the treasures never before heard outside the Mouse House: hours of raw, unedited studio recordings of actor Royal Dano declaiming what would become the speeches for Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.

“Right Might” will appear on Negativland’s first album in six years, It’s All in Your Head, out Oct. 28th on the band’s own Seeland Records.

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Negativland’s new album “It’s All Your Head” questions the existence of God and comes packaged in an actual Bible. That won’t piss anyone off.

Negativland

When last we heard from our favorite sound collage culture jammers Negativland, they were honoring the spirit of the late Casey Kasem by re-releasing their banned single “U2” that featured Kasem’s familiar, woolly voice unleashing a profanity-laced tirade. While that was certainly a worthy endeavor, we’re happy to report that their next project promises to be a bit more substantial. On Oct. 28th, they’ll be releasing It’s All in Your Head, their first album of new material in six years. And this time, they’re tackling their heaviest topic yet: why people believe in God.

But wait, because this is Negativland, the fun doesn’t stop there. The CD release of It’s All in Your Head will be packaged inside actual copies of the Holy Bible. The trailer video even promises a limited run of copies packaged inside the Qur’an. So basically, It’s All in Your Head is guaranteed to piss off both the Christian conservative crowd and the Islamic fundamentalist set. It’s equal opportunity blasphemy!

To be fair, nothing in the trailer or press release suggests that Negativland are actually doing anything especially blasphemous. They’re simply using religious texts as found-art objects, and questioning the existence of, and our belief in, a single, all-powerful deity—which is not the same thing as denying the existence of said deity, a finer point that’s often lost on the zealots. Which is why we’re predicting this will probably be Negativland’s most-discussed release since their 1995 book/CD project Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2, which they put out in response to the Casey Kasem/U2 dustup.

Anyway, It’s All in Your Head promises, according to a press release, to combine “found music, found sound, found dialogue, guest personalities and original electronic noises into a compelling and thoughtful musical essay that looks at monotheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, neuroscience, suicide bombers, 9/11, colas, war, shaved chimps, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs.” Portions of the record were made in front of a blindfolded studio audience. Other portions were probably just taped off Christian right-wing radio. Which parts are which? We bet you can figure it out. You’re a smart bunch.

Here’s the video trailer. Enjoy! Oh and if you happen to be in Portland on Aug. 29th or Seattle on Aug. 31st, you can catch Negativland’s new show, “Content!”, at the Crystal Ballroom and Bumbershoot, respectively.

Negativland just issued the best Casey Kasem tribute: a remixable version of their banned classic, “U2”

Negativland

Anyone of my generation was probably pretty sad to hear about the passing of legendary radio personality (and voice of Shaggy) Casey Kasem this past weekend. Kasem, who hosted the weekly show “American Top 40” for approximately a million years, will be remembered for many things, including something I’m sure he and his family would rather forget: a profanity-laced outtake directed at U2, who were apparently new on the charts at the time, because Kasem dismisses the famously Irish band with the now-immortal line, “These guys are from England and who gives a shit?”

The rant achieved immortality when it was picked up by the pioneering culture-jamming band Negativland and used on a 1991 EP called (0bviously) U2. Because it sampled U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” without permission, U2 became the subject of a protracted lawsuit (obviously) and was eventually taken out of circulation, but it’s lived on in bootleg form (and, in more recent years, on YouTube) ever since. It’s a kind of cautionary tale, really, about the perils of launching into a profanity-laced tirade anywhere in the vicinity of recording equipment—one that politicians, actors and TV personalities continue to ignore to this day.

Now, to commemorate Kasem’s passing, Negativland have announced that they’re reissuing “U2,” complete with Kasem’s “Who gives a shit?” rant, as a free download. But not just any free download—they’re releasing the multi-track masters, so fans and fellow musicians can remix, re-edit and reinterpret “U2” however they see fit. You can grab the full download (all 278 MB of it) here. Anyone who produces a new version of the track is encouraged to post it on Negativland’s official website or Facebook page.

Negativland first announced this project on Monday, so the interwebs have already swung into action. We haven’t had a chance to listen to all the remixes yet, but so far this one is our favorite:

Rest in peace, Casey.

Weird Live Review: Negativland

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“What you’re about to hear,” said the middle one of the three guys onstage dressed in matching gray plaid shirts, “is 100 percent feedback. Okay, maybe 90 percent.”

This was not what I expected out of Negativland, the band/art collective responsible for inventing the term “culture jamming” and notorious for getting nearly sued out of existence by U2. I was hoping for a multimedia extravaganza featuring mockingly sampled TV commercials, pop tunes and maybe a chopped ‘n’ screwed RNC stump speech or two. At least a little self-mutilation, perhaps. But a solid hour of feedback? Not what I had in mind.

The feedback was coming courtesy of a curious little homemade instrument called the Booper, a simple oscillator/FX box invented by arguably Negativland’s weirdest member, David “The Weatherman” Wills. (You can watch The Weatherman’s highly idiosyncratic “How to Use the Booper” tutorial here.) With four or five of these Booper gadgets fired up at once, the three members of Negativland onstage this past Thursday at the Echoplex here in L.A. unleashed a slow-motion tidal wave of noise that was actually a lot less horrible than I thought it would be. In fact, by the end of the performance, I was rather enthralled.

I’ve been sitting here for a while now trying to explain to you how over 45 minutes of improvised feedback could be “enthralling” and so far, I’ve come up with bupkis. We even had a brief power outage that forced me to rewrite this entire post and still, I got nothin’. All I can tell you is that the Negativland guys were very clever about tweaking their Boopers (and yes, I know that sounds masturbatory—and it probably should) just enough to keep all those drones, shrieks, rumbles and roars from getting completely monotonous. It was noise, yes, but it was purposeful noise—or at least they were able to make it seem that way. I’m pretty sure they snuck in a few drum machine beats and loops, too, although I can’t say for sure because my vantage point was too far from the stage. In a nice gesture towards Negativland’s borderline-geriatric fan base, the usually standing-room-only Echoplex put in about 20 rows of folding chairs, but I was standing towards the back. Which is okay, actually, because my borderline-geriatric ears couldn’t have handled all that feedback at closer range.

Apparently this all-Booper show was a kickoff of sorts for a gallery show here in L.A. featuring the art of Negativland. Called “Our Favorite Things,” the show runs through Sept. 30th at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery. We’ll try to check it out before it closes and report back to you on that, as well.

Oh, and to all of you who tweeted and Facebooked responses to our “What requests should we yell out?” query—thanks, but it really wasn’t that kind of show. I think even during the encore, if I had yelled out “Christianity Is Stupid,” I would have at best elicited an extra squawk of Booper-induced feedback.

Negativland

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Not many bands can claim to have invented an entire genre of music, but Negativland actually goes one better than that: They invented an entire art form, a technique called culture jamming, that is now such an accepted part of consumerist, mass media culture that it’s hard to imagine anyone having to invent it. From Adbusters to Banksy to self-aware Sprite commercials to fake BP Twitter accounts, the basic concepts of culture jamming are part of our everyday vernacular at this point. But yep, Negativland coined the term back in 1984. Before that, it was hard to know what to call the band’s mix of intercepted CB-radio conversations, sampled radio announcers and commercial jingles, krautrock, processed guitars, and ambient noise. Except really, really weird.

Negativland was started all the way back in 1979 by Mark Hosler and Richard Lyons, who were then still going to high school in the East Bay. Early on, they recruited a reclusive cable TV repairman named David “The Weatherman” Wills to join the group; his homemade devices, like cellphone scanners and a sampler/oscillator called The Booper, really helped the group perfect their sound collage approach to making music.

The group’s 1987 album Escape From Noise got them a little attention, but what really put Negativland on the map was their 1991 U2 EP, which famously featured a spoof of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” accompanied by a profanity-laced, anti-U2 rant by Top 40 radio DJ Casey Kasem. The track earned Negativland its first lawsuit, from U2’s label, Island Records. After a four-year legal battle, chronicled in a book called Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2, the two parties settled—Island dropped their suit, and Negativland stopped distributing the U2 EP (although they later reissued it as a “bootleg” under the fairly awesome title—quoted from part of Kasem’s anti-U2 rant—These Guys Are From England and Who Gives a Shit).

Thirty years later, Negativland are still at it: They’ve got a new project called It’s All in Your Head FM v2.0 due out later this year, along with a handful of reissues, and band member Don Joyce continues to host a public radio “audio collage” show called Over the Edge on Berkeley’s KPFA. And hey, kids—you can book one of two totally different Negativland shows in your local planetarium, art gallery, or high school auditorium! Take your choice between either a “two-hour-long, action-packed look at monotheism” or “a wordless wall of electronic sound.” Either way, you’re bound to impress all your snooty art friends and vastly increase your chances of scoring with girls whose panties drop at words like “semiotics” and “Noam Chomsky.” [Update: That link is now dead, so apparently they’re not playing planetariums anymore. Sorry.]

We’ll leave you with a classic Negativland video from their 1989 opus No Other Possibility. The cigarettes are probably a metaphor for something, but we prefer not to dig too deep on this one and just appreciate it for its delightfully Pythonesque silliness.

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