Many months ago I was hired by a national music magazine to write a feature on Old Man Gloom, a supergroup of sorts featuring members of Converge, Cave In, Zozobra, Doomriders, Isis, Mammifer and more. I agreed and called the appropriate PR person to get a copy of their upcoming album, Ape of God, and set up an interview.
The interview part wasn't a problem, I was told. The music, on the other hand, would be. The band was leery about releasing the music. I know there are lots of people who don't care about what bands want. I guess I understand why someone would want to illegally download an album but I don't really get what makes a person upload one, for all the world to download. But I'm not stupid. I know it happens.
Still, I was no risk. This is a small community we work in. Musicians, PR people, writers ... we all have jobs to do so that modicum of respect, to not put a band's hard work out into the world before they want it out there, is the least people can do. It's a privilege to get new music months ahead of time and I try never to take that for granted.
I talked this all through with the PR person and a member of the band and finally got the music. They both understand that lead times on magazine articles are long, planning is important and writing a story about a new record without listening to the record at least a few times is irresponsible at best and pretty much impossible no matter how you cut it.
I got the music. I like the album. It's weird, but all of Old Man Gloom's stuff is a little odd. I put it on my iPod and listened to it for about a week nonstop.
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Then one day I got a message that the music editor of the magazine I was writing the story for had left the publication. After some back-and-forth, I dropped the issue. I was bummed I didn't get to review Ape of God, but it turns out I got lucky.
Fast forward a couple months to last Thursday afternoon. Browsing Facebook, I saw a post from Old Man Gloom as well as a member of the band that caught my eye. In big letters down the page it said: "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA."
And then another post with the news the band apparently thought was so funny. Those promos they released to the press? They were fake. What I have been listening to is not Ape of God.
"Guess what, assholes. The Ape of God is two entirely different albums. If you downloaded some leaked shit, you don't have either. You have some bogus version we gave to press, cuz we knew those jerks would leak it."
I decided to text my friend Nate Newton, who also happens to be Old Man Gloom's bass player. What follows is the actual conversation:
Me: "So is my copy of the OMG record legit? I thought it was good."
Then nothing for about two minutes. I wasn't sure what to make of his answer. Then I got another text.
Clearly the members of OMG think their little stunt was hilarious. I'll admit it did give me a chuckle, but I also never reviewed or wrote about the record.
Nate: "Are you mad at me? People are very angry about this".
OK, it is pretty funny. I can't deny that. I thought it was a fairly ingenious way of protecting the band's music from being pirated and to generally screw with people.
"People either love [the joke] or they're fucking angry," says Newton with a chuckle. "It was just an idea that came up and we thought, 'Yeah that's funny. Let's do that.' I had no idea people would be so angry."
The prank was not a simple one to engineer. The whole thing started months ago.
"Aaron (Turner) kind of visualized the whole thing and made it work," says Newton. "That post is misleading. It's a compilation of tracks from both records. Just doing that in itself took a great deal of work."
Turner too tracks from each of the records, altered the sequence and mastered the tracks differently than they appear in the actual cut of the albums. The result is a truncated and aesthetically different take on the songs.
"They don't have the ambience that proceeds or follows after the songs. So a song that was seven minutes is now three minutes. In my opinion the ambience on these songs is integral."
Most of the backlash came from music journalists, Newton says.
It was guys that work for blogs or websites that reviewed the record," he says. "I guess they felt they had been had or we besmirched their profession."
Clearly the band disagrees. And considering Old Man Gloom didn't even announce it's last record, NO, until it was out, the fact that the members aren't the most serious bunch shouldn't have come as a surprise. This incident hasn't changed that one bit.
"After all that work and trolling it's finally come to light," says Newton. "People want to call us assholes. Whatever. We win either way."
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