Master of His Domain

With 404 Not Found, Todd Bradley creates computer music that's simply eclectrifying.

One of the more unique collaborations is "Mongoloid Think Tank," a continuation of a project started by Stamen 3, a member of San Francisco's comedy band the Anarchy Steering Committee, which originally posted the vocal track on and invited others to play with it. Stamen's vocals are mixed with those of another artist, and -- who else? -- The Voicemail Guy. The song explores the dehumanizing effect of a corporate life spent in a cubicle: "I think this job is making me stupid/My career is on a trajectory not suitable for aircraft." And "My Penis on Planet X" features CU student and spoken-word artist Scott Siders letting listeners in on an internal power struggle with his own genitalia. Fittingly, the release concludes with "This Definitely Ends the Broadcast Day," which features sound bites of Heaven's Gate leader Marshall Applewhite giving a speech just days before he served his sneaker-clad followers some mighty potent Jell-O shots back in 1997.

Don't expect this album to pop up in the "Local" bins at area record stores. This is an Internet-only affair, a disc that finds Bradley navigating the brave new world of Web distribution in lieu of traditional methods such as selling albums on consignment or mining the barren and constrictive musical landscape for the rare record or distribution deal. 404 Not Found's music is distributed solely through the Net, via the band's Web site (, or the two online music distribution companies Bradley employs, CD Baby and EarBuzz. That more and more independent bands and artists have discovered and exploited the potential of Web music outlets is nothing new, yet most use the technology as a supplement to more traditional methods. Not Bradley. As a musician, his existence depends entirely on the Internet; he is invisible as an artist outside the realm of electronic exchange. But Bradley's not worried. Technologies like Mp3 have made it not only possible, but viable, economical, for any hack with a computer and half a tune in his head to record, upload and distribute music to those who might -- and often do -- discover it through chance or carefully conducted Web searches. And Bradley is smarter than the average hack. Much smarter.

"Being in the computer business and before that being a computer hobbyist, I have a knack that a lot of people don't have. It's all stuff I pretty much taught myself through reading, lots of reading. Yet it's easy enough to use these days that anyone can do it," he says. "With this technology, there's the ability to record your music, do what I did and distribute it throughout the world. You no longer have to get sucked up into the music machine. There's a lot of people who believe it's going to change the entire music industry. It's very exciting."

Songs in the keyboards of life: 404 Not Found's Todd Bradley.
David Rehor
Songs in the keyboards of life: 404 Not Found's Todd Bradley.

Bradley spent the better part of the past two decades toiling in various bands -- from playing guitar in The Affect, a Night Ranger/Police cover band in high school, to doing keyboards and bass duty in the Trendy Llamas, a "dorm band" based at CU-Boulder, where he eventually received a master's degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1992. For him, the obvious appeal of self-produced electronic music lies in the development of technologies that allow today's more self-determined musicians to create and produce music on par with the most high-tech recordings of a few years ago. "I first became interested in recording my own music probably in the mid-Eighties, when it became possible for the average human being to record something of at least near-perfect quality with equipment that was affordable. It was like three or four months' salary. This is stuff that only, say, Michael Jackson could have afforded ten years ago.

"I've been writing music and playing in bands for probably the better part of twenty years now," Bradley adds, "and for the first sixteen of that, I bet that my music reached no more than 1,000 people, through shows and recordings. In the two years I've been publishing on the Internet, I've reached thousands of people around the world."

Some might say that the beauty -- and the danger -- of the Web is that it allows users to invent themselves in whatever image they desire, to create themselves as characters. Yet in Bradley's case, it's allowed him to fully realize the character that he already is: a computer geek with a serious penchant for Extreme Frisbee ("It keeps me in something resembling fitness") and computer gaming (current favorites include Give Me the Brain, Lord of the Fries and Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond). He's read Pyramid gaming magazine with as much fervor as Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and he trusts his Internet audience enough to post not only his home address, but detailed directions to his house on his Web site. So for Bradley, the Internet has allowed him to connect with an audience of people whose hobbies -- and tastes in music -- just might be odd or specific enough to get what 404 Not Found is all about.

"Most people in the world," says Bradley, "if they listened to 404 Not Found, they'll have the same reaction my father had: 'This is music?' With this technology, a bunch of weird computer people have somehow found this music, and it clicks with them. I've got people from all over the world getting into this scene. I don't know what it would look like if you looked at the exact geographic center of who is buying our CDs, but it certainly wouldn't be Boulder. It wouldn't be Denver. We're here, but in many ways, it's hard to say we're a local band. We've got very little connection to the scene here."

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