Reign of Toads #3
P R I N T  A R C H I V E
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A Conversation with Negativland
on Media Appropriation, Information Liberation,
and Death by Litigation
11/13/92; Troy, NY

In October of 1991, Negativland received unqualified confirmation of artistic merit:

They were sued by Island Records and Warner-Chappell Music.

This is an interview about that.

I'm sitting in a musty academic auditorium at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, fifth row center, pervasive taste of red onion in my mouth, watching the three touring members of Negativland endure an excruciating soundcheck. Mark Hosler keeps walking by me, shooting bemused glances in my direction, like maybe my presence there might be questionable. I talked to him on the phone a few weeks ago to set up the interview, but right now I'm incognito. I'm spying on them, basically. I drink Saratoga seltzer in a vain attempt to wash away the onion.

The uptight intensity on the stage has been building for a while now, residual energy clinging to everything from the previous soundchecks of Amy Denio (solo) and Roy Nathanson and Anthony Coleman (duo), the other two acts on this month-long, gonzo Knitting Factory tour of the east coast. The bus was two hours late getting in from Montreal, the hallways outside the auditorium are filling up with annoyed concertgoers, no one has had a chance to eat the home-cooked burritos in the "green room", and--best of all--nobody seems to know how to use the sound board.

A fuzzy howl erupts from the stage left monitor and Mark Hosler says, "Hey, what was that? That sounded good." He is barefoot, probably some California spiritual grounding thing, trousers rolled up to knees. Chris Grigg and Don Joyce, Chico and Harpo to Mark's Groucho, are absorbed in setting levels and arranging equipment. I go backstage to loiter and pilfer green room Molsons until I can reveal my identity and purpose, an event which occurs as Mark builds himself the soft taco of the gods.

--Kyle Silfer

KYLE: So now that you've been struck down by lightning from the corporate heights and all that...

MARK: We're rising. We're coming back from the dead.

KYLE: You're coming back from the dead. You have two toasters on this tour.

MARK: Oh yeah, yeah. It's big. We got a bigger budget this time, so we doubled up on the toasters.

KYLE: So you're going to town. Two of everything? Or just two toasters?

MARK: We actually had two strobe lights, but the first night of the tour, it got stolen... along with somebody's--some tech guy at the club's--roller blades.

KYLE: So that changes everything now. It's probably a totally different show than when you started out.

MARK: Actually it is. It actually has evolved. We just cut... We just cut, uh... what did we cut...?

KYLE: The "green bottle" song.

MARK: Yeah, "Nesbitt's Lime Soda" is gone. We just killed it.

KYLE: So the philosophical question I have is, like, now that you're, you're like cut loose from SST, so to speak, and doing your own thing, and you seem to be, like... the anti-copyright thing...

MARK: No, we cut ourselves loose.

KYLE: You cut yourselves loose.

MARK: Yes.

KYLE: You are the actor in this.

MARK: We acted. We took our... We grabbed ourselves by the balls and took control.

KYLE: You took your ball and bat... So, like, the no-copyright thing that is kind of like implied in all the stuff you've been doing seems to be up-front now, and kind of like this sort of a crusade thing, like, and you talk about legislation, you talk about, like, like...

MARK: "Like." Are you going to put all the "likes" in that you're saying in the interview?

KYLE: Yeah. I keep verisimilitude here. All the "uuhs" and stuff.

MARK: I like that. Like, you know, like...

KYLE: So like, so like... like I was saying about the no-copyright thing...

MARK: "Thing." That's a real good word for it.

KYLE: The no-copyright thing. So...

MARK: The problem with interviews is that they never can convey tone of voice or expression. See...

KYLE: I work hard...

MARK: ...a lot of what I'm saying I don't think will come out the way it sounds here right now.

KYLE: I work hard to recreate as well as I can.

MARK: Okay. You can put in little sketches of what my face looks like at the time.

KYLE: "He glanced at his watch nervously." That kind of thing.

MARK: "Jesus, it's ten to eight!"

KYLE: Time to freak out. So in future recordings, stuff that you're sampling, stuff that you're stealing... Are you going to be paranoid? Are you going to play it safe? Are you going to...

MARK: Yeah, we're paranoid. No, we're not going to play it safe. Fuck 'em.

KYLE: That's a quote box for sure.

MARK: I mean, uh... Sure, we're paranoid. And, maybe it takes a little extra effort, but we're still just following our impulse. Each person in the group has different opinions on this. I am the least... I suppose I am the one who has most, sort of the "bad" attitude. Which is that I want to...

KYLE: Fuck 'em.

MARK: We'll keep doing what we do until it becomes criminal and we're thrown in jail. And it'll be very interesting if that happens.

KYLE: As opposed to merely being sued.

MARK: Yeah, well it's sort of civil. It falls under civil law. And of course, but it is, if you've followed any of these cases, like... oh what was the case... shit, what was the guy's name... Biz Markie, Gilbert O'Sullivan. The judge there wanted to make it criminal.

KYLE: Really.

MARK: Yeah. We could actually, with what we're doing tonight... We are violating the court order against us in many ways this evening. We are not only performing a series of variations on the record itself that got us in trouble, we're also using a good amount of U2 performing live from Rattle and Hum. Sorry to give away the show, but...

KYLE: Damn.

MARK: know, that's the way it goes. Uh... You can't do that without getting permission and paying the fees for that. We actually just... I just went and bought a VHS copy and we transferred it... we edited it up and transferred a video edit to 16mm film. Because it worked really great, actually, it sort of looks surprisingly good considering what we did. And... and we're selling the single. We've got nice, high-quality, real-time cassette duplicates of the single with us on the road, too.

KYLE: On sale. At the booth.

MARK: On sale. At the booth.

KYLE: Wow. And you figure, due to the fact that it's a tour and it's a one-night thing in each city, that basically you're...

MARK: What I think is, is I think--I could be wrong--I think that Island Records is so embarrassed by what has happened, and has enough egg on their face that they'll just leave us alone. But, you know, we underestimated the situation before and look what happened.

KYLE: Stormtroopers could come busting in.

MARK: Yeah. The bulldozer bulldozed our brains out and look where we are. But we're doing it. In fact, in Toronto there's an office for Island Records and we just played Toronto and I was thinking, "Shit, won't one of them come down to see what we're doing?" By now they know that we are continuing to remain a very irritating and annoying little bug on their behinds. One thing is that groups like U2, they hire clipping services that clip out everything that has their name in it. So we're getting a whole new batch of press about what's going on. We're also encouraging people to--and I'll give this to you later--we're encouraging people to please contact Casey Kasem if you're interested in helping us out because Island Records has conceded, we think... seemingly... I mean, they may actually be lying, but Island Records seems to have conceded that they will give us our record back. They won't give any money back, they won't fix anything like that, but they'll actually just give us the record back, but they're saying that Casey Kasem is going to sue them.

Now of course, that's a convenient excuse, and of course initially the reason Casey Kasem didn't even enter into the situation was that he knew Island Records was doing all the work for him. Now this wouldn't be such a problem, I really wouldn't be necessarily so angry towards Mr. Kasem if he was just doing this and that's what he felt like. But the interesting thing is--and this is in the magazine--Casey Kasem was actually interviewed about our CD release and he said that he found it very embarrassing, he didn't like it, but it's a free speech issue. It's censorship and this is a free country and people can say what they want. He himself framed it as a free speech issue. He's protested against nuclear power, he's even been arrested for civil disobedience, he's an animal rights guy, he marched against the invasion of Iraq, which is all great, and good for him. But he says this in public and so when we heard through this internal memo we got at Island Records that he was going to sue them if they gave the record back to us, we wrote a letter to Mr. Kasem saying "Well, gee, what's going on?" and his lawyers responded and said, you know, "We're going to sue you. We are gonna whup yer fuckin' ass."

And so, I'm saying, look... and this is what's one of the kind of really great aspects of this whole... very entertaining aspects of this whole story is that you've got U2, Island Records, SST, Greg Ginn [owner of SST], Casey Kasem --all these people with these pretensions to being progressive and liberal and it looks like their principles only go as far as when its hits their wallet, and it changes.

KYLE: So you can make fun of whoever you want to make fun of as long as it's not them--also seems to be a part of it.

MARK: I think so.

KYLE: You know, "Satire is great, just not me."

MARK: Yeah, I don't know... Anyway, so I'll give you that. I should go get that, and you should stick that in there . Put Casey's fax and address because he's changed it since the magazine came out, he's actually changed his phone number and address--his fax, I mean. His fax and phone number have changed. It may just be coincidence, but it is kind of curious.

So yeah, I mean, I actually think, if the guy is sensitive to public opinion, and he gets, you know, over the next few months, three-four months, if enough people buy our magazine, enough people read various articles... We got interviewed in Montreal and Toronto and we came out in these magazines that have like circulations of 100,000, so you know if 25 people in every place who reads them does it, it'll pile up enough, fast enough that it will cause him to act. Now it may cause him to act in a way that it's actually going to cause us more trouble. Who knows? I don't know, so you know, it's... I mean, we've been drawn into being... we're now being really, literally, little media activists, but at the same time it also is one big, gigantic conceptual art piece, it's also one big huge weird sort of prank being just followed out endlessly. And actually, the more this is dragged on and the more bullshit that has piled up over it, the more someone like The Edge--who does this interview with us and sort of pays lip service to the idea that we're right, that appropriation is a correct thing for creative people to do in response to our media environment, but then turns around and does nothing to help us--is starting to make us actually a little more angry. Because we've been trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. We tried with SST, we tried with Island, we tried with everybody. We've given people tons of rope, to explain what's going on, let them know what's happening... please change your mind, please reassess the situation... but no one does it. And so now it's becoming increasingly very satisfying and delightful to remain endlessly annoying to all of these people who have so totally fucked us over, basically.

KYLE: So let me ask you this, then. The problem that arose as a result of, like, a corporate reflex about you taking away something that possibly--or their excuse was that you were siphoning away some of their profits as a result of them owning this information...

MARK: Well, here's the thing, though. Lawsuits are not... When you file suit against someone, you put in everything you can think of, okay. So it's hard to hard to know what, in the lawsuit--a lot of which is reproduced in our magazine and which is actually very funny, I think--there's a lot of things in there that I don't really know if they're really that serious, they just threw it in there, right? So...

KYLE: You're not really costing them any money.

MARK: We're not really defaming their character, we're not actually really doing anything to hurt them at all, but it may be, you see, that if you let it go by, it would establish some kind of precedent that would allow other people to do this to U2 in the future and that they wouldn't be able to stop it. And it's like, for instance, Walt Disney... the Disney corporation is famous for... One thing that they've done, for instance, a good story is they sued a nursery school that had Walt Disney characters painted on the walls inside the nursery school. Now this got them bad press, but the reason they had to do it was...

GUY WALKING BY: Bathroom? I'm sorry.

MARK: [To Guy] Oh, I guess it's down there. [To Kyle] Put that in the interview, too. That'll be good. [To Guy] You're going to be in an interview now.

GUY: I saw you guys. You guys rule. I'd be privileged to be a part of your scattered thought interview.

MARK: Um...

KYLE: They sued a nursery school, yeah. They do stuff

like that all the time.

MARK: But the reason you have to do it though, is that if you let anything slide by it establishes precedent that then allows other people... you have to... it's an all-or- nothing thing, if you're going to protect your trademark or whatever, you've got to nail every single one of them or you can't do any of them, and so I think that's part of the motivation. But when you go on to dig even deeper as to why this is all going on, I think, ultimately, it's that America has far too many lawyers, they all need to be put in... you know, we need to get FEMA to come along and put them all in some special kind of camps to sort of protect us from them.

KYLE: Job retraining. They can, like, build roads or something.

MARK: Right. Get those lawyers out there tarring our freeways. Well, the thing is that, so you've got all these lawyers and they sit around and they have to come up with ways to make themselves money, right? And so--I really think this is true, I really think that a lot of these problems are actually totally driven by, when you sort of peel away the layers of who's actually pushing for these things, I think it's just lawyers who are making a lot of money off it.

KYLE: Trying to keep their profession active.

MARK: Yeah. Rack up those hours. And it's really bad and that affects all of us at all kinds of levels, that kind of stuff. It's a bad thing.

KYLE: It's pretty hilarious. Now there's... the issue of copyright... There's this guy Richard Stallman and his response to the problem of software copyright and that information having highly inflated prices--

MARK: Shareware!

KYLE: Not shareware.

MARK: No, not shareware.

KYLE: What Richard Stallman is doing is actually giving away all of his software and actually has started something called the Free Software Foundation and he believes that all software should be free and he thinks that anyone should be allowed to copy any or all of it, modify the source code, give that away for free, and then he wants you to be able to take that, change it and give it away for free. Basically promoting--

MARK: But what do you do... But you have to make a living and you have to feed yourself. How do you pay your bills if you're spending hundreds of hours programming the software?

KYLE: Well, Stallman's belief is that you don't need... Programmers are extremely highly paid and part of that is a result of the fact that their code is sold for such high prices and protected so carefully. He believes that you should sell your services as a programmer because it's a skilled field, but not the programs you create. Not the final product. The information that you are creating should be free and should be freely modifiable by anybody.

MARK: Okay, but the person who's paying you to make the program, they want to make their money back, so how... the person who's paying you, how do they make the money back for the investment they've put into paying you to make the software?

KYLE: Well, they're paying you to make the software to accomplish a specific task, and the fact that the task can be accomplished should be sufficient for the payment that they're giving you, because they're not paying as much as they used to, so you don't get full rights to the software because the software is now free to anyone.

MARK: But you still haven't answered the question. It doesn't answer the question, though, which is that...

KYLE: What's the question?

MARK: Actually, what the question is...

KYLE: Yes.

MARK: The guy... someone owns a company, pays someone to create some software... let's say for a video game or whatever...

KYLE: Right.

MARK: The reason they have money to pay them is because they're making some money from some other software--I mean, you know, it's a cash flow thing here--and you're paying the person the money but you can afford to pay them the money because you're going to make money by selling what it is that they've made for you.

KYLE: Right.

MARK: I mean I can't... Now here's the the thing, I can't... I mean this is really interesting because when you start to get... this is what gets really tricky, is you can take a lot of what we're saying, right? But when you start...

KYLE: Start to apply it.

MARK: Yeah, it gets tricky. It's true, and it's good that you're... For instance,if I never made any money at all... if I had never made any money at all doing anything in Negativland, I'd still be using my Panasonic cassette player that I was using fifteen years ago...

KYLE: Right.

MARK: And, so, um, you know, I want people... sure, I want people... I'm making this thing, and I make it and I'm hoping that people will buy it because I want to get the money back so I can keep doing more stuff and buy more equipment and all that...

KYLE: But I can make tapes of what you've created and give it to my friends...

MARK: That's fine.

KYLE: ...who probably aren't going to buy it anyhow...

MARK: That's what I assume. That's what I assume. I assume that, for the most part, if someone tapes what we do, then they do it because they really want to have it and they probably can't afford it, and I would also like to think that if they can buy it, they will because they know they're supporting the artist. Now that isn't necessarily always true, but I think you... I think the thing is that people get treated as if they're stupid and they're thieves instead of treating them as if they're intelligent and honorable...

KYLE: They're just seeking information.

MARK: Now, you know, and so...In fact, of course, the truth is that people are stupid and people are thieves...

KYLE: Some of them.

MARK: ...but you have to treat them as if they're intelligent and honorable or else you'll never get... I don't think you'll ever get anywhere? So...

KYLE: agree.

MARK: Did... you see what I'm saying?

KYLE: Definitely.

MARK: So, yeah... I mean, people can do what they want with our music, but I would hope that people would buy the records because you know you're helping out. It's like, if I get to be on the guest list at a show, well, I'd rather pay to get in because I know that people who do shows make shit, they make nothing, and so every cent counts. And so people who go to shows and are always getting on guest lists and don't want to pay, I don't have a lot of... I don't respect them very much.

KYLE: Oh wow, I'd better go pay now.

MARK: Yeah. Yeah! Fuck you, man! You're not helping us at all! Goddammit!

KYLE: So now I've lost my train of thought completely. Something about... something about this software thing.

MARK: Shareware's an interesting thing, too.

KYLE: It's interesting, especially since most people don't register their shareware, most people just use it, including me. I definitely have lots of unregistered shareware, but it's more along the lines of what you're talking about. But do you... You think you should make a living off what you're doing.

MARK: I know I would like to. It would be fun.

KYLE: I think that would be a good thing and I think... I'd like to make a living off what I'm doing, too, but not... But I don't think that, like, nailing down the rights to reproduction of it is the way to make a living at it. And you apparently think the same way.

MARK: I guess. But the interesting thing is that we're having... I think I do, but then I'm not entirely agreeing with this Richard Stallman guy, actually, which is interesting.

KYLE: I don't know if I got the whole issue across, so what is it that you don't agree about? That it's not feasible?

MARK: That no one has the money to pay you to write the software unless they can sell what you made. They don't have the funds because that's what their company... If that's what your company is...

KYLE: But if your company is producing software... See, you're hiring a firm that is producing software, and they're not gonna... The idea is that you're not selling software anymore, ever. What you are doing is accomplishing tasks, using the software as a tool. And what you are being paid for is accomplishing tasks, not selling information.

MARK: That's fine, but you still have to make the money to pay... How do you make the money...? You're accomplishing a task, but...

KYLE: Say you're an accounting firm and you need some accounting software written. So you pay someone to write software for you and install it on your system and you say "Thank you." And then you can do accounting better for people. And you make money doing accounting. You make more money because you paid them to do your accounting software so you can be more efficient. So it's not selling the software where the money is anymore because all software is free--in this idealistic vision. I mean, he's in fact written a text editor--the EMACS editor--that is in fact in wide use on systems all over the world. Like people are actually using free software as a main source... Like, his idea is basically to supplant...

MARK: You know, you should talk to Chris because Chris writes software. I'm computer illiterate. Like Chris actually does... Chris is the one person in the group that actually, maybe, does occasionally have a cushy corporate job as Greg Ginn accuses us of. The rest of us sure don't. I work as a nursery school teacher assistant.

KYLE: Do they have, like, Mickey Mouse on the walls?

MARK: Uh, no. No.

KYLE: You made sure...

MARK: We got rid of that a long time ago... Chris actually does do software, and so he's actually... I would like to hear what he has to say about what you're saying...

[A brief pause as I follow Mark Hosler around backstage. He scopes out the scene, making "boop-boop" noises until we find Chris Grigg and Don Joyce near the auditorium entrance.]

MARK: Well, anyway, so explain it again.

KYLE: Well I just brought it up in context of like the fact that it's "copyleft". Like, you know, not only allowing but encouraging appropriation of any part, the whole code, whatever. Modify it, take it, do whatever you want with it, spread it around...

CHRIS: Sure. That's great. And it's easy to do when you're dealing with computer source code. We, in fact... We've talked about doing things like records where the record is a sort of construction kit, where you'd have a piece and you'd have little short tracks after it that are all the pieces, so you can take it and do whatever you want with it and make your own piece out of the same stuff.

MARK: That's an okay idea, but at the same time it sort of feels a little egocentric because if you think that everything you do is so damned interesting that someone's going to want to take it and make something out of it themselves...

[Roy Nathanson and Anthony Coleman materialize, well-lit by a pre-show vodka swilling session. After a brief, jocular confrontation, I flee with Negativland to a classroom off the backstage corridor. Mark grabs a piece of chalk and etches the "N©!" symbol on the blackboard.]

MARK: Okay, now. We have this item: the concept.

CHRIS: The no-copyright sign... So what were you saying? We were talking about--

MARK: Okay, let's talk about this because this is interesting... This guy is actually interesting to talk to, unlike most people that I find.

KYLE: Aw, gee, thanks.

DON: [adopting a moron-like voice] "Duhh... Okay, I'll talk to him... heheheheh, whaddaya wanna know?"

KYLE: [ditto] "I really like your song `Christianity Is Stupid'?"

CHRIS: Now are we talking about it in terms of sound or in terms of computer software?

MARK: This is computer software, okay? The question is...

KYLE: Well, just information in general.

MARK: First of all, I was taking this idea out and was actually finding myself sort of arguing from the other side of the fence than what we're on ...and then I thought, well, how does this apply to sound and blahblahblah...

KYLE: But in the broader sense of not just... I mean, computer software just being another chunk of information like music, images, whatever. Like the distribution of that for free. Having no rights over what you've created and no one having any rights over what you've created.

MARK: But for instance if we want people to hear the music we've made, at this point, the only way to do that is to press up copies of it and distribute it. Well, we can't afford to do that unless we're gonna actually sell them. Right?

KYLE: Well, yeah. You want to charge money for your product...

MARK: Right.

KYLE: His concept is that you can charge money for the distribution of your product, but not for the product itself. Not for the code itself. No royalty. No rights to be paid for.

CHRIS: I'm not sure how important a thing that is except when it comes to deciding whether or not he's going to press a claim against somebody who's taken his software and done something with it. You know, it's just... You're getting paid for what you've done, and if you want to... it's just different ways of thinking about it. If you're still going to get paid, then it could be argued that if you're doing what you really want to do, there's a great amount of benefit in that...

DON: At a certain point, all the distribution will dwindle because of all the copying capabilities, so that there's a limited income... When you're selling a product, the same thing occurs, but I don't think to the same degree.

MARK: What I'm imagining is that with the way things are changing with technology, is that what's the reason... it's... we're in this awkward transition phase right now where it's just, the whole way of thinking and the whole way of selling and making, manufacturing and selling stuff- --products--when it comes to,actually, information, it just doesn't work the same way anymore and that ultimately it's going to be some other whole completely different thing. For instance, I've always said I don't think you should be fighting the technology, in fact you should just be responding to it creatively. So, for instance, in the case of records, well, instead of trying to stop people from copying what you do, maybe you make a record where the packaging of the record is so essential to understanding the record that people, if they don't get the whole thing...

KYLE: That's the deal with software.

MARK: ...then they have to, you know, get the whole thing. That's sort of an interesting...

CHRIS: I work in computer games... In computer games you have, like, weird little special decoder rings, and you have sheets of keys you have to look up that are printed on this special paper that turns into black when you photocopy it...

MARK: That's kind of nasty, actually.

CHRIS: Well, it is all real nasty. It's all specifically designated copy discouragement and copy protection.

MARK: Well, maybe the whole idea's wrong, then.

CHRIS: Well, no, I think it's different for different things. I mean, it works. They're doing the same thing... Okay, here's the interesting question: why is what they're doing nasty and what you're suggesting not?

MARK: No, I'm saying that I'm wrong. That maybe what I'm saying is wrong, because if you're intentionally... Now I was talking from an artistic point of view, you make an artistic conceptual project...

CHRIS: That's the thing is, a lot of this copy protection, there is no artistic intent behind it. It's something that's very contrived specifically to stop people from being able to deal with stuff without having the original materials.

MARK: See, if you took away... If information isn't a commodity anymore, then what do you do? Where do all those people go for jobs?

DON: Ross Perot was right. They should just put a fifty cent tax on gas, give artists a yearly stipend, and forget the product.

MARK: That's it.

DON: Every year you get your stipend. You're guaranteed. You just keep making stuff. And you're sold. You give it away.

MARK: Ross Perot was really big on support of the arts, huh?

DON: You give it away.

MARK: I didn't know that.

CHRIS: Well, the problem there is you have these companies like Time-Warner with immense archives of information, from film to books to anything else you might... certainly records. And they want to make as much money as possible off that. It's their feeling that the coming age is going to be a post-industrial information age and they've positoned themselves and their lobbyists and all their friends in the government in order to be able to make as much money as possible off of what they perceive to be this new structure. So you have all this money and all this wealth that's pushing towards having distribution systems where, for accessing information, you pay to use it. And how do you counterract that? I don't know if there's a way to do that.

MARK: We're fucked. That's it!

KYLE: Well... grassroots media. You create your own access to information. You create your own information and you give it all away...

MARK: You do.

KYLE: ...which is essentially what Richard Stallman is doing.

CHRIS: It's a separate culture, is what you're talking about. There's a consumer culture and then there's a more "culture" culture.

MARK: You're existing within a capitalist... This is turning into some dry, collegiate...

CHRIS: [laughs] Right.

MARK: But anyway you're...

KYLE: Well, it's practical.

MARK: But we live where we live, so it's like, unless you're going to set up your own little village with bartering and all that kind of stuff, it's like, you still live here and it's not going to change that much.

KYLE: Right, but you indicated that you have optimism in the "consumers" of your product that they will not be thieves and not be stupid...

MARK: Yeah, my way of thinking, which is kind of a... you know, isn't going to change that much in the world...

DON: If greed was eliminated, you don't have to sell many things at all to, as an individual, make a pretty good living. If you were satisfied with that, I wouldn't care how many copies, you know, were being...

CHRIS: Yeah, actually, as a practical matter, that's sort of the direction we've taken. Since we've left SST Records and we're on our own now, we're putting out records on our own. We are discovering that the economics of the record business are such that these middlemen, these labels, are just taking huge portions of the amount of revenue that is actually generated on a record.

MARK: Yeah, we don't have to sell that many records...

CHRIS: We can sell a third as many records and we can make the same...

DON: You'll always sell enough to do pretty well as a...

MARK: Well, you will if you just got ten billion dollars worth of free advertising because Island Records sued you.

CHRIS: Even if we hadn't, we've just been doing it for so long that we're well- positioned...

MARK: We're fortunate!

CHRIS: And we are fortunate.

MARK: I was saying, though... Would you agree with this or not, though? To be honest, right, you'd have to say, of course you'd like people to buy your records. You'd like lots of people to buy Negativland stuff because we want to make lots of money, right?

CHRIS: Well, there are several things. You want lots of people to hear what you're doing and you would like to be appreciated for what you're doing. It would be nice to be able to live comfortably from doing nothing but that...

DON: I think people...

CHRIS: ...but that's got to be secondary...

MARK: But can't you...

DON: ...will all just prefer the CD, and to say that, you know, you're selling a CD and it's going to all dwindle away because people are going to copy it onto cassettes... If they ever make recordable CDs, you bet, then there's going to be a problem...

KYLE: It's headed that way.

CHRIS: It's coming, yes.

DON: ...but right now enough people will always prefer...

MARK: I, personally... Like, for me personally, when I'm buying something, I don't actually like getting cassettes... I like having the artifact as it was intended to be...

KYLE: The art object...

MARK: I like the thing, I like the object...

KYLE: The packaging, the whole...

MARK: ...the thing. Yeah, the whole, whole thing. You get the whole sense of it.

DON: And the sound is so much better, too, that there'll always be enough people...

MARK: Yeah. I think cassettes sound shitty, but then, you know...

CHRIS: And if people can't afford to get the CD, then it's as well that they get a cassette dub, so at least they can hear what you're doing.

MARK: Right, but what I was then saying--I didn't finish what I was saying--is that I'm thinking that what you do is, you... Now, in fact, most people are stupider and greedier than we'd like them to be, but you treat people as if they're honorable and intelligent and you just hope for the best. You hope people will... you know, they'll buy your records when they can because they know you get the money and if they can't, then they just tape one of their friends' because they like what you do.

CHRIS: Also, just as part of being active in the world, one of the things you have to do is you have to act as though the world is a little more like the way you would like it be than it actually is. That's part of projecting your image of the world into the world.

MARK: Yeah, and also it's just like...

CHRIS: But recordable CDs are coming.

MARK: I know, but you can't control everything. And I guess a lot of these people, these companies, you know, Island or whatever, they want to control... Well, like I was saying, they want to control everything and I think there's a lot of lawyers who are just sitting around figuring out ways to make themselves more money.

Significant Data:

For more more Negativland information (including the latest news from the front) click on over to Negativworldwidewebland where you will find the text of the Mondo 2000 interview among other absolutely excellent intellectual property essays and resources. A bunch of info on the Free Software Foundation and Richard Stallman may be acquired by clicking here. Dig.

last update 8/24/99
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