Postivly Negativ

Sampling ad infinitum with America's sonic outlaws.

Oddly enough, one of Negativland's creations actually ended up in an advertisement for Coca-Cola, albeit unwillingly. British trip-hop producer Fatboy Slim paid SST a thousand dollars to sample a track from Escape From Noise (the track, incidentally, is called "Michael Jackson," after the once-staunch Pepsi endorser who scorched his noggin during a moment of pyrotechnic overkill in 1984); Fatboy used this sample on his 1998 album Better Living Through Chemistry, then licensed the music to be used in a Coke ad. It gets better. The original "Michael Jackson" appropriated, without permission, a 1966 flexi-disc that the group stole out of a church basement -- so Coca-Cola unknowingly engaged in copyright infringement. It was a bubbly piece of ironic justice that Negativland was quick to exploit -- the band immediately issued a press release pointing out Coke's intellectual-property infringement.

"The funniest thing was that after that happened we got a call from Fatboy Slim's record label [Astralwerks]. They were very mad at us for publicizing it," Hosler says. "In fact, they were kind of threatening. If Coca-Cola found out that they had just licensed a track from a guy that had a sample in it that actually wasn't properly authorized...maybe Coca-Cola would freak out. They said we hurt Fatboy's feelings." No such freak-outs ensued and, in the end, SST made another thousand dollars that Negativland will never see. And Fatboy could've had the sample for free, had he contacted the c-jammers first.

"We don't care. You can sample from Negativland all you want," Hosler maintains.

You gotta accentuate the negativ: San Francisco's sound collective Negativland takes the Pepsi challenge.
You gotta accentuate the negativ: San Francisco's sound collective Negativland takes the Pepsi challenge.
1988's Helter Stupid chronicled a media hoax.
1988's Helter Stupid chronicled a media hoax.


8 p.m. Saturday, May 20



Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue

Such art-before-profit generosity must seem like malarkey to most record-company execs. Considering that many of Negativland's core members are now pushing forty, it's refreshing to know there's a band whose subversive ideals haven't been compromised with age. "If we really wanted to be doing something, I guess we should be going out and blowing up banks," Hosler chuckles. Instead of being bitter, though, the group is out performing puppet shows -- something U2's Zoo Tour never considered -- and recycling sounds for a better tomorrow. Negativland is like the Ralph Nader of the underground fringe: Deep down, you sense the bandmembers won't really change this increasingly corporatized American nightmare long enough for any of us to complete a goddamn thought, but you admire their foolish temerity to stare down the charging rhino, peashooters drawn, laughtrack cued and ready to blare.

Let freedom ring.

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