Negativland Rerelease 'Helter Stupid'
Brainy pop-culture satirists/culture jammers Negativland will re-release their fifth album, 1989's Helter Stupid, on February 8 via their own Seeland Records. The group will follow with a brand new work, a record/book project titled No Business; no release date has yet been set.
The upcoming album will explore the controversial issue of file-sharing and will
a 15,000-word essay and special CD packaging. No Business celebrates the
25th anniversary of Negativland the sound montage collective known for
tirelessly promoting the exchange of art free from the corporate control
of copyright proving their investigations remain as relevant today as
ever. Two MP3s from No Business "No Business" and "Downloading" can
be downloaded from the group's Web
The Helter Stupid reissue features redesigned packaging and a detailed telling of how the group invented and pulled off a hoax that was, at the time, intended to shed new light on the media's dark side (and get Negativland some media attention).
Shortly after the 1987 release of the group's previous album, Escape From
Noise the album that included the feather-ruffling track "Christianity
Is Stupid" news of a Midwestern teenage boy murdering his family made
headlines across the nation.
When Negativland sent copies of Helter Stupid to the media, they included a press release in which they claimed their music, notably "Christianity Is Stupid," was responsible for the Minnesota murder. The press release noted that that Negativland, then based in the Bay Area, were unable to tour "a promotional, attention-grabbing task they'd rather avoid" because federal officials had mandated they not leave town.
The media picked up on the story, running with it without checking the facts.
When the group eventually came clean, their prank was praised by some in the
music press as a powerful example of the decline of responsible reporting. And
it established Negativland as leading practitioners of what would come to be
as "culture jamming."
The Helter Stupid reissue which explores the media from Negativland's unique perspective will feature the original track lineup: "Helter Stupid Prologue," "Helter Stupid," "The Perfect Cut (Canned Music)," "The Perfect Body (Rooty Poops)," "The Perfect Cut (Good as Gold)," "The Perfect Cut (Piece of Meat)," "The Perfect Cut (White Rabbit and a Dog Named Gidget)," "The Perfect Cut (11 Minutes)" and "The Perfect Cut (48 Hours)."
Founded by multi-instrumentalists Mark Hosler and Richard Lyons in 1979, Negativland would see a revolving cast of members and guests, but solidified in 1983 with Hosler, Ian Allen, David Willis, Chris Grigg (all multi-instrumentalists) alongside Lyons and Don Joyce (who has hosted the weekly radio program, "Over the Edge," on Bay Area radio station KPFA for more than 20 years) as frequent contributors.
The group's most notorious release was U2, a single that included a recording of radio personality Casey Kasem swearing over U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." The CD single was released by Greg Ginn's SST label. Island Records, which the band U2 recorded for at the time, sued SST, SST sued Negativland, Negativland countersued. Negativland then attempted to get the band U2 to pressure Island to drop the suit; the whole thing dragged on for years. Though it was a grueling experience for Negativland, the end result was a new focus for them: copyright law and corporate ownership of copyrights.
In other Negativland news, Mark Hosler will speak on Negativland's work at MIT and Yale December 7 and 9, respectively. DJ Spooky will perform at the Yale lecture. Hosler will show some of Negativland's short films at Boston's Coolidge Corner Theater December 6.
In September and October, an exhibit of Negativland's art, video, audio and installation work will be on display at New York City's Gigantic Art Space.
Also, frequent Negativland collaborator Jonathan Land has published a collection of mocking correspondence with mass email senders titled The Spam Letters that can be ordered from the group's Web site. Jenny Tatone [Wednesday, November 24, 2004]