By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
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.
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.