FOLLOW US ON: follow us in feedly
GET THE NEWSLETTER
CONTACT US
Meet Negativland’s Christian rock alter egos, Positivland!


A press photo from Negativland’s It’s All in Your Head
 
Pastor Dick had good news to share on April 1, 1999. “This is a song I just wrote backstage with Steven Curtis Chapman!” Dick announced, as “Home Run”—which is in fact by the Christian rock juggernaut Geoff Moore & the Distance—blared from the speakers and rows of white crosses glowed on the screen behind the stage.

As Geoff Moore gave way to a church organ, Dick laid out the reasons to be glad: Satan’s plan to corrupt America through pop music, like San Francisco’s scheme to drag the God-fearing people of nearby Concord down into depravity, was coming to light. Almost imperceptibly, the organ music shifted into “Lay Lady Lay,” and Pastor Dick began to inveigh against the sinful works of Bob Dylan. Citing his recent audience with Pope John Paul II as evidence that the singer was “no longer walking with the Lord,” Pastor Dick concluded his homily by wishing that “another heart attack or stroke or age-related illness” would cause Dylan to repent.

Much of the rest of this half-hour cut of the show consists of Dispepsi-era Negativland material; happily, Negativland is the rare group whose music can stand up to choppy editing. Towards the end, the Weatherman completes the transition from faith to empiricism, demonstrating the sounds you can make with a bicycle horn submerged in a bowl of water, a bottle of Vaseline® Intensive Care™ hand lotion, and an ordinary cable TV remote control.

More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
|
09.01.2017
08:10 am
|
Redact yourself: Identity-protecting censor bar sunglasses black out your eyes
07.18.2017
12:53 pm
Topics:
Tags:


 
Long, long before Lady Gaga did it, way back during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton “eras,” we had to make do with identity-redacting shades made from cardboard, like the ones the members of Negativland posed in, or the pair of “Joo Janta Super-Chromatic Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses” that came with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy computer game. While these offered peerless UV protection, and you looked cool in them, even while attending a Vogon poetry reading, they were also completely opaque, which made it hard to skate in them.

But in our modern age of miracles, you can order censor bar glasses with see-through lenses made of light and durable polycarbonate! Which is to say, ones you can apparently kind of see through! They are even available in a mirrored variety which could conceivably, under the right conditions, replace the upper portion of your face with the kind of blinding atomic glare that comes out of the briefcase in Kiss Me Deadly.
 

Negativland modeling the old “zero/zero vision” censor bar glasses.
 

Lady Gaga Halloween costume
 

In black
 
More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
|
07.18.2017
12:53 pm
|
‘They Saved Zappa’s Moustache’: Negativland do Frank Zappa
12.23.2016
08:53 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
It seems like only yesterday I was at a double feature of 200 Motels and Baby Snakes in Santa Monica and Gail Zappa was taking questions from the audience between movies. A scruffy guy sitting in front of me wanted to know: like, what did it mean that Frank’s birthday was December 21? With commendable equanimity and poise, she replied that her late husband had been a Sag, for sure.

Has it really been seven years since those innocent, care- and money-free days? No picnic, but I’ll say this for the Great Recession: at least it was more “Cheap Thrills” than “Concentration Moon.” Gail Zappa was then breathing air, as was Negativland’s Don Joyce, whose KPFA radio show “Over the Edge” became my first podcast subscription right around that time. But look at Don now, resting in that plastic baggie on my shelf. A picture of health he is not.
 

 
In March of ‘95, a little over a year after Frank Zappa’s death, Joyce and Phineas Narco devoted an episode of “Over the Edge” to the composer’s life and work. After playing a tape of Zappa’s 1963 appearance on The Steve Allen Show—the whole thing, with a minimum of manipulation—the pair then go full Negativland on a treasury of primary and secondary sources. For five hours, everything Zappa goes into the blender, from Lumpy Gravy and the Synclavier to interviews and glib, stupid obituaries delivered by 1993 media personalities.

More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
|
12.23.2016
08:53 am
|
Negativland documentary now in the works
05.12.2016
09:06 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
It’s been a rough couple years for Negativland fans. In swift succession, the Reaper took members Ian Allen, Don Joyce and Richard Lyons, decimating our heroes but leaving many ensembles of lesser quality intact. When will it be Air Supply fans’ turn to grieve? Why can’t Coldplay or Weezer come up three members short the next time they wish to prance upon the stage and make their guitars go tweedly-deedly-dee? When can others’ shame be our pride?

The good news, as the late Pastor Dick might have reminded us, is that filmmakers William Davenport and Leah Gold are collaborating on the definitive, full-length Negativland documentary, Media about Media about Media: The Negativland Story. (No slight against Craig Baldwin’s wonderful Sonic Outlaws, in which Negativland is only one of several groups profiled.) Better still, Davenport and Gold reckon they have about half of the movie already shot.
 

 
Aiming for the modest goal of $8000, with a projected release date of September, the filmmakers are offering perks that will make a person of healthy appetites drool. A $250 contribution gets you an endless loop “cart” (i.e. old-fashioned radio programmer’s tape cartridge) that belonged to Don Joyce, $1000 purchases all of Negativland’s releases “including many special surprises from the band and the filmmakers,” and $1500 buys the very model plane that appeared on the cover of the outlawed U2 EP. But I’m not saying you should go knock over a gas station and give the money to these nice people, who are so kind and decent, unlike the gas station attendant, who sits there judging you all the time, so mean and miserly.

Among other treats in the trailer below, Mark Hosler and his mother discuss how and whether the documentary should be marketed, Don Joyce (a/k/a C. Elliott Friday, Crosley Bendix, Izzy Isn’t, et al.) goes “Over the Edge,” and David Wills (a/k/a the Weatherman) hints at the “sexual” meaning of “seat bee sate.”

Visit the Indiegogo page for the Negativland documentary here.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
|
05.12.2016
09:06 am
|
Take a trip to ‘Beatles Hell’ with members of Negativland and the Church of the Subgenius
11.13.2015
11:35 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
Three notable culture jammers joined Negativland’s Don Joyce in 2010 for a Beatles-themed episode of his radio show, Over the Edge. It’s a wonderful thing. For three straight hours, Phineas Narco of the Church of the Subgenius, Mark “TradeMark G.” Gunderson of the Evolution Control Committee, and John “Wobbly” Leidecker, who this year succeeded Joyce as Over the Edge‘s host following Joyce’s untimely death, fold, spindle and mutilate the Fabs’ music. The most gorgeous passages in the Beatles’ catalog become honking, dissonant distress signals, while the stuff that was already a bit spooky takes on a nightmarish cast. Haters of the Moptops will find plenty to confirm their prejudices; fans will discover that the same key that unlocks the gates of Heaven also opens the very mouth of Hell.
 

 
Aside from Vangelis’ “12 O’Clock,” the haunting melody that always opens Over the Edge, every note of this monster is Beatles-related, as Joyce confirms in his notes on the episode:

Our trio of guests play together without me for the first 45 minutes, then I join in the mix for the rest of the show. This is all an intense mashmix of The Beatles and everything they did in and out of music from beginning to end. Our sounds are made exclusively from Beatles material of all kinds and a few covers, including the amazing Rutles. A live and lively group mix that does not let up.

During the first few minutes of the broadcast, Joyce and Wobbly refer to an earlier “Beatles Hell” set the same group performed on Over the Edge in 1992; I haven’t been able to find it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. A look at Discogs turns up an undated cassette that suggests there were several earlier Beatles Hell jams under the auspices of Big City Orchestra.

Continues after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
|
11.13.2015
11:35 am
|
Negativland fans rejoyce! 700+ episodes of Don Joyce’s radio show ‘Over the Edge’ available online
09.24.2015
11:25 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
If there were a Mount Rushmore for sound collagists, Don Joyce would be on it. Being one of the members of Negativland (and, incidentally, coining the term “culture jamming”) would likely merit such a distinction on its own, but Joyce’s decades-long commitment to his sound collage radio program “Over the Edge,” a staple of Berkeley’s KPFA since June 1981, would make it a cinch.

When Joyce passed away of heart failure this past July at the age of 71, the band’s official announcement noted that “in late 2015, all 34 years of Joyce’s ‘Over the Edge’ (5000-plus hours’ worth) will be available until the end of time on the Internet Archive, the result of a multi-year archiving project.”
 

 
That day has finally arrived, and the riches contained at the Internet Archive threaten to overwhelm the capacities of even the most fervent sound collage fans. According to the Internet Archive, there are 941 episodes of “Over the Edge” available for download—Factmag.com uses the phrase “over 700 episodes”—in any case it’s a hell of a lot of programming for you to enjoy at your leisure. In fact, based on a random sampling of the collection, most of the shows have a duration of either 3 hours or 5 hours, so conservatively we’re talking about thousands of hours of mind-bending audio collage here.

“Over The Edge” aired every Thursday on KPFA 94.1 FM, featuring experimental sound collage, freeform performances, live listener contributions, and “untold unplanned weirdness” to a dedicated cult of Bay Area devotees. One of the regular features of “Over the Edge” was Joyce’s character Crosley Bendix, “director of stylistic premonitions” for the “Universal Media Netweb,” of which Negativland was, or is, putatively a part. “Over the Edge” was, as Allmusic.com’s Ned Raggett put it, “very often the testing ground for Negativland’s formal releases”—for instance, the show debuted “Nesbitt’s Lime Soda Song,” one of the more memorable tracks from Negativland’s 1987 masterpiece Escape From Noise.

By the way, for those who would like to sample some highlights without facing a bewildering choice of hundreds of potentially interchangeable episodes, over the years Negativland released several compilatons of Joyce’s KPFA material, many of which are available on Amazon.

Here’s an installment from January 1997, chosen simply because the episode’s name, “Dangerous Acts,” has a certain je ne sais quoi.
 

 
via Night Flight
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Just say BO-NO: Mark Hosler of Negativland on Apple’s ‘U2rusion’
‘Christianity is Stupid’: Negativland takes on religion in ‘It’s All In Your Head’

Posted by Martin Schneider
|
09.24.2015
11:25 am
|
Turn on Negativland’s ‘No Other Possibility’ and fry your brain
11.25.2014
11:40 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
No Other Possibility was Negativland’s first video, released in 1989, the same year as “Helter Stupid,” pitched right between their “Christianity Is Stupid” hoax of a couple years earlier and “U2” a couple years later.

I hadn’t seen this in quite a while—I had honestly forgotten how tremendously enjoyable Negativland is. Their stuff is way more entertaining than any anti-establishment culture-jammin’ nutcases have any right to be. (I guess if you invent the term “culture jamming,” you have a license to transcend the genre.) This video is very good, and I had also not realized the high level of musicianship on display here—certainly “Nesbitt’s Lime Soda” and “Fire Song” and “Very Stupid” (I’m not sure that last one has an official title, the Internet seems to call it “Theme From ‘a Big 10-8 Place,’” which is dumb) are all top-notch.

Negativland are pitched almost exactly between DEVO and Tim & Eric—with less instinct for schtick than either (this is a brave and good thing). And yet there is a kind of schtick to it, too. In the opening crawl, supposedly penned by “Crosley Bendix, Director, Stylistic Premonitions” (later played by Don Joyce), you can hear that excessively modest and self-annihilating tone, familiar from David Letterman in his NBC days and also certain misanthropic comix guys like Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes. I think the idea is that you have to be as hard on yourself as you are on your target; you have to torch the self because you can begin to reconstruct (and also criticize/satirize others).
 

 
The video is purest 1980s slacker fodder in that the biggest sin is to be unaware, to be incapable of irony. If only the suburbans/corporates/normals could be more ironic! You see much the same idea in, say, Reality Bites, but it’s not really a good tack—the slackers (hey, I’m one too) couldn’t figure out any other point of attack. Negativland’s methods haven’t dated much at all IMO, but that part, the pro-irony ethos, does feel a bit dated here.

In addition to being an essay about the vapidity of American culture, No Other Possibility also serves as a kind of diary for the Negativland guys themselves. About halfway through we get a video report about a fire that destroyed their apartment/studio in El Cerrito, California on Friday, February 13, 1987. The very end of the video is taken up with a terribly earnest report about Negativland’s involvement in the David Brom murders of 1988, based on connections that were entirely made up by Negativland.

At some point “Crosley Bendix” (Don Joyce) has a little speech about numerology, at the end of which he cries, “Thanks a million! You’ve been a wonderful audience. Bye, Cleveland!” Which is only noteworthy because I was in fact watching it in Cleveland.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
|
11.25.2014
11:40 am
|
Just say BO-NO: Mark Hosler of Negativland on Apple’s ‘U2rusion’
09.12.2014
04:44 pm
Topics:
Tags:


 
A guest editorial from Mark Hosler of Negativland on Apple’s ‘U2rusion’

1) Of course it’s very entertaining and amusing to me to see the backlash that U2 is getting for doing this.

2) I actually like some of U2s music, and always have. Yet have no interest in paying to hear what they are up to now ( I think I’ve paid them enough! About $45,000, to be exact. That is how much their lawsuit against Negativland cost us), so getting it for free sounded fine to me.

3) The way they are “forcing” it on the users of Apple products is actually a very curious thing! Certainly *someone* was going to do this sooner or later, at least as an experiment, so I am not surprised. That a band this large is giving away its music to pretty much everyone who will want it and many who won’t (regardless of what Apple paid them to do so, which is a separate issue) is also curious as a “business” model. For Apple, perhaps it’s the largest “loss leader” in history. And curious that something that is digitally free is made to look like the test pressing of a real world vinyl LP. How many folks out there even know what a test pressing is or looks like?

4)  Given the endless ways we all often willingly grant these corporations and our government access into to our lives by how we use and sign up for these fucking devices and apps, I am unclear as to why so may folks are so shocked and angry about this. We all get SPAM and we delete it, so… .. is this any different? Maybe it is. Or maybe not.  I am still pondering that one.

5) I use iTunes as a music player and a way to store a bit of the music I listen to, but I have never signed up for their service and never purchased anything from their store. So…guess what?  When I opened iTunes and looked for the dreaded U2 intrusion ( a U2rusion) into my iTunes app, there was nothing there. So this felt to me more like I had unwittingly opted out of being on iTunes mailing list, whereas all of you have signed up for it have opted in.  (BTW, my understanding is that what gets dropped in to your player is a playlist of U2’s new album, but not files. You still have to click something in to download the files.  A nuance, possibly, but one that is being missed in all the hoo ha).

6) Regardless of what anyone thinks, I’ll be curious if the overall outcome is seen as good or bad, plus or minus, by Apple and U2. WIll Apple do this again as a way to push product, or will it seem like such a bad press headache resulting from such arrogant tone deafness that they never do it again?
 

 
Below, Mark Hosler discusses Negativland’s adventure with U2 and their lawyers:

 
Mark Hosler and Negativland were famously sued by U2 and their record company. The upcoming Negativland album, the two CD set It’s All in Your Head, comes packaged in a Holy Bible, with a limited edition Koran also available. (Reviewed here)

Here’s “Right Might” from the new album:

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
|
09.12.2014
04:44 pm
|
‘Christianity is Stupid’: Negativland takes on religion in ‘It’s All In Your Head’
08.20.2014
05:20 pm
Topics:
Tags:


 
The other day I was pondering how I would explain the whole “Why are we here?” / “Is there a God?” concept to my (hypothetical at this point) child and discussing this with my wife who is about as religious as I am (i.e: not at all). When I was a kid, raised in a very Christian home in West Virginia, it was a pretty straight line between reading Thor comics, then Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes before I was already having my doubts about “church.” If the Norse gods, like the Greek gods, were all just myths, wasn’t the whole Judeo-Christian thang on a similarly shaky epistemological foundation? What’s the difference? I couldn’t see one. From a very young age, religion had no credibility with me, but I was lucky. Christianity ultimately had very little effect on me.

How to discourage an irrational belief in the bearded sky god without being too heavy-handed about it and causing the hypothetical kid to go in the other direction to rebel will be an interesting road to navigate. Then again maybe not. As everyone knows millennials have left their parents’ religion in droves. Nearly two-thirds of under 30s subscribe to no organized religion. At the current rate of attrition, by mid-century Christians may no longer even constitute the majority in America.

For all kinds of reasons, the movement away from religion has picked up some serious speed in the past few decades, with this in mind, I laughed out loud reading the press release for Negativland’s new album, It’s All In Your Head which describes the double CD set (packaged in an actual Holy Bible repurposed into a “found” art object, modified by hand) as being “millennia-in-development.”

It’s true if you think about it. They wouldn’t have been able to get away with something this cheeky in previous decades. In 2014, it’ll be a sought after collectible, of course. They wouldn’t have had the source material to work with, either. It’s All In Your Head provokes and entertains listeners with Negativland’s signature mix of found music, sounds, radio dialogue and original electronic noises, bleeps and boops fashioned into a 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.”

It’s monotheism, but it’s in stereo, putting me in mind of the Firesign Theatre crossed with Richard Dawkins crossed with Madlib. If that sentence is even halfway intelligible to you, the “trailer” for It’s All in Your Head, below, is required viewing, freak.

It’s All In Your Head comes out on October 28th, but if you preorder it, you’ll get it two weeks before that (I have one already and highly recommend it).
 

 
Bonus: “The Mashin’ of The Christ” music video:

Posted by Richard Metzger
|
08.20.2014
05:20 pm
|
Negativland invites you to remix their notorious ‘U2’ single
06.17.2014
02:12 pm
Topics:
Tags:

Negativland
 
One of the most notorious, brilliant, and amusing copyright news stories surrounds Negativland’s appropriation of Casey Kasem and U2, when they provocatively released a single with “U2” emblazoned in huge letters on the cover with the silhouette of a Lockheed U-2 spy plane (cover image is below). The song featured a hilarious recording of Casey Kasem getting frustrated over the pointlessness of enthusiastically introducing U2 to an American audience, eventually to a tinny backbeat of U2’s 1987 track “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”—indeed, the track is listed simply as a cover of that song.

Island Records didn’t find the jape very funny. With Achtung Baby due to hit stores—readers will find this hard to remember, but U2’s status as a worldwide force was far more questionable before that album came out—Island sued Negativland with great alacrity and proved remarkably effective at gathering up as many of the extant copies as it could. Negativland soon countered with a book, Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2, that included a CD as well as documentation from all the legal wrangling. The whole thing was a masterful bit of culture-jamming, and for fans of out-there assholery before the widespread existence of the Internet, Negativland’s “U2” became a much-sought-after cultural artifact that proved devilishly difficult to find.
 
Negativland
 
Now, with the Internet and everything, it’s not hard to find at all, and since nether Island Records nor U2 probably cares much whether iTunes sales of Achtung Baby are affected anymore, Negativland has chosen this, the week of Casey Kasem’s death, to release the masters for today’s generation of culture jammers to fuck with. On Negativland’s website, “Hal Stakke, legal counsel of Seeland Records” has issued a press release after the demise of Kasem under the following title: “In Memoriam, Kemal Amin “Casey” Kasem (27 April 1932 – 15 June 2014): Negativland releases ‘U2’ tracks for remixing and reuse.” Here’s the content of the release:
 

One of the most beloved voices in music radio, Kemal Amin “Casey” Kasem, died on Father’s Day 2014 after a long illness, and also a very public family squabble over his continuing care. Negativland pays tribute to this broadcasting legend by reaching into its vaults and presenting what is perhaps Kasem’s best-known work, on Negativland’s long-unavailable U2 maxi- single, offering up for public consumption (and now, for creative reuse) what has been hidden from view for 23 years.

In 1991, Negativland’s “U2” single had one of the shortest releases in music history, squashed like a bug after less than ten days on store shelves, under legal fire from the Irish rock band U2′s music publisher (Warner/Chappell) and then-record label (Island). The history of this fracas was detailed in their 1995 book and CD release, Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2 (Seeland 013).

Now, instead of merely reissuing the U2 record itself, Negativland presents, for free digital download, the original un-mixed studio multi-track tape for re-mixing, re-purposing and re-inventing in whichever way the listener may choose. Negativland encourages the re-contextualization of this seminal work for whatever reason, whatsoever. In keeping with the working methods and philosophy of Negativland, and the Fair Use provision in U.S. Copyright Law (Section 107, http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html), the group offers up this raw material in the hopes that entirely new versions of the work are created and disseminated. Listeners/remixers are encouraged to post their creations in these locations: www.negativland.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Negativland/131759750185111.

 
If you want the masters, all you have to do is download them here. It’s all pretty exciting, although of course, it’s always possible that, to paraphrase Kasem himself, “Nobody gives a shit.”
 

 
via Slicing Up Eyeballs

Posted by Martin Schneider
|
06.17.2014
02:12 pm
|
Negativland: Adventures in Illegal Art


 
Negativland’s Mark Hoesler will be delivering the keynote address at the big Everything Is Festival this Friday night at Cinefamily in Los Angeles:

Is Negativland a “band”? Media hoaxers? Activists? Artists? Musicians? Filmmakers? Culture jammers? Comedians? An inspiration for the unwashed many? A nuisance for the corporate few? Decide for yourself in this video & storytelling presentation from founding Negativland member Mark Hosler that uses films and stories to illustrate the many creative projects, hoaxes, pranks and “culture jamming” that Negativland has been doing since 1980. Whether you’re a hardcore Negativland fan, or even unfamiliar with the band (but interested in a highly entertaining and informative jaunt into the evolving landscape of art vs. ownership), Hosler’s EIF! keynote presentation is essential, and we can’t recommend it enough. As well, stick around for a Q&A with Mark Hosler after the presentation!

If you can’t actually make it in person, fret not, Hoesler’s EIF address will be webcast on Stickam! More information on the Everything Is Festival here.

Below, an excerpt from a past Mark Hoesler lecture:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
|
06.29.2011
02:00 pm
|
Negativland: A Big 10-8 Place (1983)
08.12.2010
04:57 pm
Topics:
Tags:

image
 
In my opinion Negativland’s 1983 LP, A Big 10-8 Place is their masterpiece. Edited by hand with razor and tape, it’s a superb pre-digital sound collage homage to the weirdness of suburban living filtered through a love of C.B. radios and terminology. Have a listen to the entire first section below in excellent sound quality, though never mind the fan made visuals. This is truly a movie for your ears.

 

Posted by Brad Laner
|
08.12.2010
04:57 pm
|
Christianity is Stupid
06.06.2010
01:11 am
Topics:
Tags:

 
“The Mashin’ of the Christ,” an amazing short film set to Negativland’s “Christianity is Stupid.” Made by Negativland, i.d. and Heath Hanlin. From the Our Favorite Things DVD. (I just bought it today, it’s awesome.)

Want to know more about the preacher on the song? Previously on Dangerous Minds:

Christploitation Cinema: If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

Negativland’s Mark Hosler discusses the making of Christianity is Stupid (YouTube)

Posted by Richard Metzger
|
06.06.2010
01:11 am
|