How a group of Boston musicians exacted their weird price from the world of online music sharing — without actually doing a thing
By Ryan Hamilton Walsh
Originally Published in The Phoenix on February 15, 2012
In 2008, I created a hoax. Armed with an idea, a hastily written manifesto, a press release, and some software to disguise my computer’s IP address, I was able to raise the question, “How do you know that what you’re illegally downloading is the actual music it claims to be?” This is a story about how my pop-music infatuation led me to fabricating a web of lies I called The Overdub Tampering Committee.
By my mid twenties I had both formed a band and illegally downloaded a lot of music. I would chase my musical interests from article to interview, always finding another artist or album I needed to hear. Working for a nonprofit organization did not allow me to spend a lot of money on music. Still, I was one of those fans who loved having the official release — staring at the physical package in my hands as I took the music in. Whenever one of my downloads led to something I really latched onto, I made sure to purchase it when I could. I felt good about these instances — I felt that meant I finally, truly “owned” the music.
My first experiences with peer-to-peer music sharing hubs were alarming. Not so much because of the sheer availability of titles and artists but rather the blatant disregard for a uniform method of correctly labeling these music files. Anyone who’s ever spent anytime scouring the Web for free copies of their favorite songs can tell you that the correct tagging of an MP3 is, at best, an afterthought. If you’re looking for “Whiter Shade of Pale,” you’re probably better off by searching as if it was recorded by the Band. Who sings that “Hey, hey, like being stoned” song? On a file-sharing service, it’s rare to see it correctly credited to the band Cracker, never mind finding it with the correct title (which is “Low,” not “Like Being Stoned,” and which is definitely not by Tom Petty). During research for this article, I found an entire Web site devoted to clearing up which songs were and were not actually recorded by the bubblegum-electro-band Aqua.
This rampant disregard for any kind of “library science”-spirit signaled, to me a severe devaluation of the worth of peer-shared music — even more so than the fact that people weren’t paying a dime for any of it. I wasn’t the only one who noticed this devaluation. Around this time, I noticed the major labels were beginning to employ new ways to prevent pre-release album leaks, which they argued were hurting the sales of their main commodity. One strategy was to hire companies such as Web Sheriff or Media Defender to monitor Web sites for illegal content, and send take-down messages threatening a lawsuit would follow if they did not comply. A more interesting method that emerged was for the media companies to seed file-sharing networks with poison pills — fake or sabotaged versions of their own wares. Sometimes the companies would simply leak blank files with no music. But people who thought they were snagging the latest Madonna album were confronted with audio files that simply had Madonna’s voice over a techno beat, asking the listener, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
I didn’t encounter the Madonna fake-out directly, but I did eventually run into this digital hurdle with an album I was dying to hear as soon as possible. You in Reverse by Built To Spill leaked online before its intended release date, but amazingly, you couldn’t find a copy without a sample all over every song — a man’s voice asking, “Who is Mike Jones?”
Listening to the “Who is Mike Jones?” version of You in Reverse for the first time was a truly confounding experience. At first I wondered, “What is this out-of-place sample doing all over the first song?” Soon, as the question kept reappearing in song after song throughout the album, the intent eventually dawned on me. I was impressed and fairly amused with this sample-laden mess that got leaked. I waited for the official release and happily purchased it.
This kind of thing was rare, however. Usually, the only impediment between my ears and any piece of music in the history of the world was a few keyboard strokes. Over time, I began to realize that I was devaluing music as well. In fact, I had more new music on my computer than I could reasonably listen to while still remaining a participating member of society. Something about this made me sad. Sometimes I would look at the album list on my 40-gigabyte iPod and become literally frozen, no idea what to play, completely overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of selection.
I was surprised. I had what I had always wanted: all the music in the world.
When I was about 12 years old I imagined a machine that contained all of the music ever recorded. In my day dream about this machine I would call out a title and it would instantly begin playing the song (also, in my fantasy, the machine was larger than a jukebox and took a lot of AA batteries). Now, a decade later, I essentially had this dream device. Not only that but it fit in my pocket and I could bring it with me everywhere. Sometimes I would look at the album list on my 40gb iPod and become literally frozen, no idea what to play, completely overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of selection.
One lucky Christmas I received a dual cassette/radio/cd player from my parents. “This is it,” I thought, “I can now begin my very own collection of music.” The first CD I purchased was Faith No More’s Angel Dust. I listened to it endlessly and scoured the liner notes for insights into the songs and the recording process. Yes, I loved it right off the bat, but I also only owned that one single CD. It would be weeks before I could afford to buy another album at Circuit City. The music was super appealing to me, sure, but repetition and careful, undivided attention also played a major factor in cementing Angel Dust’s permanent place in my consciousness. When I made purchases of lesser albums (things I disliked and never grew to enjoy) I still gave them overly fair chances on my stereo. I had to! After all, I had just spent all my money obtaining the damn thing and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to find something about the album I could latch onto.
Here’s a question: which of the following two scenarios do you think yields more personal, deep connections to musical recordings? Buying two albums a month that you gave generous spins to whether it was gold or garbage? Or having every musical recording you’ve ever heard of contained in a hunk of electronics in your palm?
Things weren’t ideal or even fair in this earlier scenario (i.e. people making often totally blind music purchases in the aisles of Strawberries, Tower Records, and the like). The playing field needed to be leveled. The era of surrounding a hit single with disposable musical afterthoughts while still counting on the album to become an enormous seller began to disintegrate the moment consumers were allowed to sample before purchasing. But what lay one step beyond this technological advancement, that of being able to own any and all music before purchasing it, would lead to a sort of cultural gluttony. I would make the argument that removing all traffic lights from the music-collecting-highway inevitably creates careless listener practices like, for instance, judging a band or an album by one song or even a portion of a single song (I’ve done this and I bet you have too). One time, scrolling through my music collection, I found dozens of albums I had downloaded over a year before and had never even listened to once. I imagined my own band’s music downloaded into someone’s massive collection, totally unheard, just the act of downloading fulfilling their passing curiosity. What a depressing mess! I missed my romantic relationship to music. I wanted to smash my iPod and go back to Circuit City’s music section. I wanted to pay careful attention to one thing at a time. I considered the downloading lawsuits to be 100% counter-productive while the fake-file-method was too obvious and even overtly funny to be permanently dissuasive. To be truly effective, I thought, to actually change people’s minds about how we consume music, the situation called for something subtle, insidious, and almost invisible. I came up with an idea for a hoax.
At first, the idea was not framed as a hoax. Initially, I really wanted to do this. The idea was this: myself and a large group of musicians and recording engineers in Boston would wait until new albums freshly leaked on the internet, download them as soon as possible, add subtle overdubs to the recordings, and try to get the album back on the internet early enough to be in a position where it would be downloaded by a lot of people over time. What kind of overdubs? I imagined things like an atmospheric hum being added to entire tracks, placing a small piano lick in just the 2nd verse of another song, or adding extra backing vocals to a chorus here and there. The idea was to blend in and not be noticed as “out of place” or “added in later” by the listener (at first). Considering the drop in price and rise in quality that home recording technology had undergone by the year 2008 this would not, by any stretch of the imagination, be all that difficult. I wanted people to grow to love albums and songs that had small, tiny additions that we had placed there and not realize it for years. In my logic, this would be the weird price they would pay for obtaining a free copy of the music.
The type of scenario I imagined in which people finally figured out their version was different went something like this: let’s say two friends are in their car driving around listening to music. Their names are John and Paul. John says, “Hey I haven’t heard _____’s ______ in years. Do you have it on your iPod?” Paul says, “Yes, I do. This album is so great it’s never left my iPod ever since I downloaded it.” As they listen to a shared favorite album together suddenly John’s ears prick up. He asks, “What was that? Why did that song have harmonica?” Paul says, “What are you talking about? There’s always been harmonica on the bridge of this song!” Later that night, upon returning to John’s apartment they compare versions of songs and realize that, yes, one has harmonica and one does not. I knew I would never be present for this moment, and it would take years to (maybe) happen, but I could picture it so vividly. I thought the experience would stand out as unique and memorable to people. It also made me laugh.
I had a small group of musician friends who became my trusted inner circle of consultants. We started to talk about what would be required to make this happen. As we bashed out the details on what this project would actually entail the reality of work-load dawned on us. This would quickly become like a full time job for all of us. We wanted to make this idea a reality but most of us already had a full time job plus our own bands with built-in schedules and engagements on the calendar. I shrugged and thought, “Well that was enjoyable to think about.”
That week I remembered something strange that happened to me at work a year prior which would make the overdub experiment feasible again.
I was the box office manager for the American Repertory Theater when monologist Mike Daisey brought his new piece called “Invincible Summer” for a three week run. Daisey’s “Summer” was brilliantly funny and intelligent but also riddled with F-bombs and references to anal sex with Paris Hilton. One night I became a little wary when a large group of teenagers and parent/teacher chaperones filed into the theater for the show with their pre-purchased tickets. After the curtain rose, as I was closing down the box office, the head chaperone came bursting out of the theater to talk to me. He had gone ghostly pale and screamed at me: “You people told me this was a clean performance! There’s nothing but curse words in there! I’m gonna get fired! I need to get my students out…NOW!” I had never before faced the problem of getting a large number of audience members out of theater during a performance. I knew it was going to disrupt the monologue. “We’re mostly Christian, sir! We’re here on a trip from California for a choir competition. You said this was safe!” He stared at me and I stared at him. He looked desperate and scared. I nearly shit a brick.
I talked to the theater house manager and we devised a plan: we’ll bring the house lights up a bit, allow the teacher to walk in, tell his students to leave, and then the show will continue. I asked the chaperone if he thought he could do this in a polite, orderly fashion. He said yes.
We opened the door and the chaperone entered the theater. Moments later kids began streaming out. Apparently he didn’t have to say anything. They saw him, got up, and left. Outside in the lobby other teachers crowded around the man who pulled the plug. He was sobbing with a brutal intensity. Some of the kids were smiling as they left (as if they wanted to stay or they have just gotten away with tasting forbidden fruit) and some were talking about some event that just occurred inside the theater but I couldn’t tell what the specifics were yet. Minutes later, I learned that one of the chaperones had walked up to Daisey’s desk and poured his entire bottle of water all over the show notes laid out on the table.
(Daisey was video taping each of his performances with a camera placed in the audience, by the way. If you’ve never seen it now would be a great time to go ahead and watch the YouTube video that captured the performance where this incident went down.)
When I talked with Daisey the following day I tried to explain what things were like on my end. I told him how the man was genuinely, terribly worried for his job and that I believe he tried to pull the ordeal off as gracefully as possible. Besides the water-pouring-chaperone, I didn’t really think the students or the teachers were guilty of anything besides the initial misunderstanding of content. They simply made a choice to leave because the material wasn’t appropriate for their group. His response to my interpretation of the story kept mentioning phrases like, “they ran out like cowards.” This seemed misguided, to me, as none of those kids were in a position to stay and discuss the matter. To imply they did was to ignore the specifics of the situation. In our conversation he refuted the idea that the original teacher had to make a tough call clearly dictated by job’s responsibilities. Daisey called him “weak hearted.” I was disappointed. Even the very best, most liberal teachers I had as a teenager had to respect limits imposed by the school and parents.
I was genuinely surprised when I read Daisey’s online commentary regarding the incident. He wrote, “Scared parents and scared teachers running from a theater because words might hurt them, and so consumed by fear that they have to lash out at the work, literally break it apart, drown it.” If those kids were scared it definitely didn’t have to do anything with Daisey’s words but most likely more to do with parental and school repercussions of the incident. As I said, most of the kids seemed to be enjoying it and were only leaving because the teacher in charge of the group instructed them to do so. Daisey posted the YouTube video with a description that read, “the show was disrupted by eighty seven members of a Christian group who walked out of the show en masse to protest the content.” (to this day this unchanged text remains on the video description on Daisey’s YouTube account)
That mid-sized-non-truth was all it took to frame the story in a manner that would garner Daisey the most press. Look, I’ll be honest, I can’t tell you I’m certain I wouldn’t do the exact same thing. This is not a story about how much unadulterated truth does an artist owe his audience but rather what happens when someone’s slanted version of events becomes the primary source in the proceeding media coverage. You see, this was the first time in my life some of my first hand experiences were part of a story covered by the press. I was flabbergasted by how flimsy the curiosity of the journalists was when it came to attaining the actual facts. It became apparent to me that once a headline determined certain details about a particular story that those ideas could become locked in as a ‘the truth.’ Wired Magazine’s headline read: “Christians Stage Flash Mob Prank at Mike Daisey Show. Gothamist went with: “Christian Group Attacks Brooklyn Monologist” while The Boston Globe wrote, “87 members of the audience walked out in a kind of protest.” What kind of protest? What were they protesting? Do you have quotes from any of the group? Almost as infuriating were the instances where the sensational version would be trotted out only to negated by facts later in the very same news piece. From the BBC reporting on the incident:
“Eighty-seven members of the audience staged a walk-out. One member of the group, who identified themselves to staff as ‘a Christian group’, poured water over Mike Daisey’s set and artwork as he passed the stage, in what the actor later described as ‘an anti-baptism’. It subsequently emerged that the group was from a high school with teachers in charge who appear to have been concerned about ‘inappropriate language’ in the monologue.“
Just how this BBC reporter was able to reconcile the idea that it was a staged walk-out with the opposite idea that a teacher was concerned about content and pulled the group boggles the mind. Daisey did an admirable thing by having post-incident conversations with members of the group but the fact remained that the portrayal of events as written on the description of that YouTube clip (which is surely the primary source for anyone interested in the story) never changed. None of the sources I cited above ever published a correction or a retraction of their incorrect assertions. The entire ordeal boiled down to one major take-away lesson for me. It seemed to me that sometimes, at best, the media functions like an extended game of Telephone where a story gets farther from the truth each time it’s reported on. And at its worst, laziness, external pressure, or an attraction to a certain version of a particular story wins out over the truth. Overall I got the feeling that there is a tendency for what is most loudly said to be the truth, for all intents and purposes, often becomes the widely accepted truth.
I wanted to test this hypothesis by combining it with the overdub project. I told the small group of musician consultants that the experiment was back on with one major change: we weren’t going to actually do any of the planned overdubbing and re-leaking but we were going to tell everyone that we had. There were discussions about carrying out at least one instance of the process but I felt it would be more powerful if we were able to convince everyone that we had done this just by declaring it so.
My level of adeptness with computers was moderate but I knew that if I didn’t want to get immediately exposed as the one posting online manifestos that I would need to somehow disguise my IP address. I paid for some software that promised to use a proxy IP address anytime I ran the program making it appear as if these posts and emails were coming from various locations across the globe. Not understanding the specifics of how exactly this worked I just kind of believed the program was properly functioning in much the same manner that I was beginning to believe that people trusted the media to deliver the un-tampered truth. This bit of hypocrisy within myself about the experiment both made me laugh and feel uneasy about it. The idea that internet anonymity could be purchased for a small fee struck me as faulty and ridiculous. It seemed like a symbolic effort for anonymity more than anything else. Nevertheless, I checked it off my hoax-preparation list.
I made some ground rules for myself. 1) I would only post things and send emails from my home computer while running the voodoo IP-disguising program. 2) I would answer all questions as honestly as possible. 3) I would never yield to demands for examples of our work always insisting the examples were already a part of their music collection. I wrote our manifesto in an afternoon and decided on our organization’s name. We would call ourselves The Overdub Tampering Committee.
I performed a Google image search using terms something like “high school pranksters” and came upon a photo of five confident looking men sitting on top of or leaning against a billiards table. The snapshot was from a mid-western town’s high school yearbook from 1966. The young men looked prankish, oddly brave, and sort of obnoxious. One of them wore sunglasses indoors. Perfect. I downloaded this image, slapped our group name on it, and delivered this as our press photo. I posted the manifesto and photo on a blogger account we had started for the experiment. We had collected about a thousand music press email addresses by combining all of our contact lists (some of the group were music writers themselves) and we sent this manifesto to all of them one morning in early January.
The Manifesto began: “We are a group of musicians who have downloaded newly leaked albums by popular artists, quickly recorded many subtle overdubs over the work, and then re-leaked it to the internet. We have done this for about three years now. We used a varied amount of re-leaking methods including but not limited to Soulseek, OiNK, The Pirate Bay, Limewire and zipped files hosted on sites like YouSendIt or Mediafire with links spread out on hundreds of message boards. Our turnaround time was usually very short so often our version of the artist’s album was online for download within hours of its original leak. If you illegally download music on the internet the chances that our work is in your collection is very, very likely! In fact, you might have a whole lot of us!”
I wrote all of this from an overly confident and slightly aloof point-of-view in an attempt to invite the sense of believability and to bait people into having strong reactions. The manifesto continued, “Attempting to police and punish ‘illegal downloaders’ with lawsuits and fines is misguided and, in our opinion, a waste of time. This model treats the music fans as criminals. That’s an insane business model. But we expect nothing less than insanity from large, crumbling corporations. We do not know how the music industry will change in the next few years and we don’t know how a method will arise to ensure that musicians are properly paid for their recorded work. We have no solutions. All we set out to do here is jump-start a conversation. It would delight us if our relentless efforts over the last few years might force you to doubt what you consider to be a pristine source of untampered music. We’re here to tell you it’s far from pristine.”
We saw the story covered almost immediately in music publications like Fader and Idolator later that day.
“It is an impressive prank that could indeed help generate a bit of chit chat about the pros and cons of downloading music, as well as what the music biz needs to do to control and utilize this method of picking up new tunes. Perhaps simply knowing that you’re not listening to the true version of a record could be enough to get your cheap ass over to your local record shop or online retailer to pick up the CD. “ Fader — 1/7/2008
“Man, if this is true–and not the initial step of some annoying viral Web Sheriff promotion (or even an RIAA thing, although they do take time out from their manifesto to LOL at MediaDefender)–these guys are my new heroes. “ — Idolator — 1/7/2008
We were ecstatic! Already this was more than we had expected to come from the experiment. I had secretly harbored the prediction that the OTC manifesto would encounter universal, immediate dismissal. But there it was: two music publications that I regularly read had already treated the manifesto as actual news. That day’s email messages fell into one of the following categories (illustrated below with actual email excerpts):
1. Hate Mail — “Dear douche bags! It has recently come to my attention that you (your boys club) have been screwing around with newly released albums from artists, i only have a few line to say about that…your way of fucking things up is the only way that you get a sense of purpose with your meaningless lives. Help the world out and go kill yourselves.”
2. Interview Requests — “I’d love to talk to you guys about your project for a writeup on my site, _________. (Generally, a blog about technology, piracy, and web culture.) When are you available to talk? Would you mind being interviewed by instant messenger? (Protects your anonymity while still allowing for more flexibility in interviewing.)”
3. Offers To Assist / Casual Requests For Drugs — “#1 — How can I help? — I’m a musician with an assload of recording gear and free time. #2 — Will you be releasing a list of what albums have been “subtly added to” — I have myself noticed a few things in my collection that are not the studio album and would like to confirm… #3 — WTF were you dudes smoking when you thought this up — and can I have some?”
4. Suggestions For Ideas or Organizations We Should Endorse — “This is a fantastic opportunity to bring attention to the Creative Commons, which I think is a step in the right direction for the music industry. This probably has already crossed your mind but thought I’d pipe up with my two cents.”
The members of the Overdub Tampering Committee hoax all chatted via email that night. I went to bed wondering just how far this could go without serious real-world repercussions.
I woke up with an email in my inbox from New York Times music writer Jon Pareles. It merely read, “A scintilla of evidence would be nice.” In a way, I was relieved. If one email unsupported by any empirical evidence had trotted onto the pages of the New York Times without so much as a whimper of protest, my despair for the state of the media would’ve hit rock bottom. But at the same time, I wanted to take my hypothesis as far as I could take it. I wrote back:
Thanks for your email. We won’t be providing any more evidence than what is presented in the manifesto. We know what we’ve done, we’ve had fun doing it, and now it’s in the public’s hands. We don’t believe the burden of proof lays on our shoulders. Part of our goal with the project was that no one would ever know for sure how many albums we worked on, which ones, or if they resided in your digital music collection. In this way we highlight certain aspects of living in present day U.S.A. Often times proof is nothing more than general public consensus.
We are considering confirming or denying examples if people want to offer them up. But we’re not sure yet.
I answered emails from reporters all day (mostly from the U.S., one from Russia, and one from Belgium). Online, a healthy discussion was in full swing on message boards and the comment sections of articles covering the story. I spent as much time as I could keeping up with all of the opinions. There was rarely an opinion I didn’t find some validity in. The sentiments ranged from “Whether or not you’re speaking the truth or utter bullshit, it’s an amazing idea that will be shared by others” to “It’s pretty safe to chalk this up to either completely fake or attention whore wankery.” Some guessed we were the RIAA (“Boy this thing reads like the RIAA tried to get a viral campaign on the cheap”) while others assumed we were driving the RIAA insane (“Hopefully this bounces up and down/up and down on record industries last nerve”). The music site Paper Thin Walls reported and declared, “Our new heroes!” Even if nothing else took place regarding the OTC I was completely satiated by the early results of the experiment. The thrill was tapered quickly when a particularly intense comment appeared on our blog:
“This is going to be fun. Your identity’s will eventually be revealed. Then life becomes difficult for you. Mass media picks up the story soon as your exposed, and guess what people that don’t like what your doing are the anonymous ones at your concerts or public appearances. I’ll let you do the math… fuckheads.”
Oh, right, I remembered, some people are really, really great with computers and hacking and this is going to piss some of them off and they probably have the skills to see my past my voodoo IP program like it’s a piece of Saran Wrap. I felt a tiny fear tremor circulate through my body starting at my toes and ending in my brain which was busy cooking up exit strategies. I couldn’t help but endlessly cycle through the various hacker revenge scenarios. Maybe they’ll just expose me? Identity theft? Shut down or deface my band’s website? Or what if the insinuation of “you do the math” meant what I first thought it meant?
I didn’t pull the plug. The positive aspects of The OTC still outweighed my brain’s hypothetical negative outcomes. The following week two larger institutions covered our hoax. Tech media juggernaut CNet wrote: “Real or not, imagine if this type of remixing becomes a mainstream activity, with everybody posting their personal dubs to their blogs or social-networking home pages.” Thrilling. We loved that idea. One of us optimistically wrote in an internal group email, “I feel like, sooner or later, the world is going to end up doing all of our work for us on these recordings.” This hope was reinforced by a comment on our own blog reading, “It doesn’t matter if the overdub tampering committee is real or not. By the end of the year I expect it to be a thriving project, with as much truth to it as these guys already claim, simply because others out there will take this idea and run with it.” We received dozens of emails from musicians who told us they were going to do just that. We encouraged them enthusiastically.
SF Weekly posted the story with the teaser question, “Ever wonder why your leaked copy of 50 Cent’s Curtis has that ill Lawrence Welk accordion sample that your friend’s copy doesn’t?” Passing that article around to the OTC group prompted one of us to write, “Hey, we add our own original samples! Well, at least we say we do!”
I spent a great deal of my free time during this period reading and answering emails sent to the OTC account. The messages insinuating an attack or violence upon the members of The OTC kept streaming in with regularity. It was beginning to give me serious reservations about proceeding any further with the hoax. On our 2nd and final post to the OTC blog I wrote, “Which brings us to the least enjoyable aspect of all this: the death threats. Our inbox has been flooded with messages from people all across the globe and while we certainly don’t mind negative messages we’ve been disturbed by the ones threatening violence or murder. So, as you may know, no one likes to die. We’re thinking about shutting this all down and erasing all traces we’ve left behind. But we’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve met our goals and then some.”
I intended on leaving the possibility of future OTC statements open but in the end the decision to extinguish the experiment happened completely accidentally. I had created an insanely complex password to get into the email/blogger account. Like I said, I was wary of hackers. The password was so serpentine that I had to write it down. I consulted this little scrap of paper every time I wanted to wind up the ol’ IP-masker and do some OTC emailing. One night, at my desk, I spilled a cup of tea and the puddle spread quickly drowning the piece of paper with the password on it. The ink bled and it was no longer readable. I tried various guesses as to what it might be. No dice. I tried so many incorrect passwords that Google locked the account.
I appealed to Gmail tech support but they told me that my case contained “suspicious elements” and that the account would be “locked forever.” Who needs elite hackers and crack journalists when I’m a little butterfingery with a cup of hot tea now and then?
The very last official words from the OTC were contained in the final sentence of that second post. It read, “Music is alive, not dead and lying in a digital heap at the bottom of your hard drive, and this is just another way of realizing that. Make it, hear it, feel it, tamper with it.” I felt great that we had accidentally ended on a downright positive version of the initial hypothesis. I told the OTC group that for better or worse the experiment was over. I felt a tremendous sense of relief. I changed the passwords to all of my other accounts, deleted the IP program, and turned my attention elsewhere.
During the following years I would occasionally Google “The Overdub Tampering Committee” to see if anything else had ever come of the idea. There were often new references to it on message boards and music blogs. We took great pride in learning that it had made its way to become part of a class at Liverpool University. Looking at the class syllabus we noticed one lecture in particular was titled “The Overdub Tampering Committee and Plunderphonics: popular music and resistance in the postmodern age.”
Mr. Pareles never wrote us back and never covered the story in the New York Times.
Sometimes I wonder how many unread emails are in that locked Gmail account.
Author Terence McKenna had a theory that “the world is made of language.” He suggested that we can’t enter a new reality until we can describe it first. I wanted a new reality in a small, tiny pocket of the world, so I wrote about one and placed it online as if it were real. I’m certainly not saying what followed was earth shattering or proved McKenna’s psychedelic idea but I was genuinely surprised by the amount of attention it did receive and how my spoken reality seemed to take on real-world attributes so quickly.
Should you trust this account of these stories? I certainly wouldn’t if I had read the same fifty paragraphs that you just did. The only way for me to put this story out into the world without coming off as completely hypocritical is to encourage you to do absolutely whatever you want with it. Dispute it, re-edit it, rewrite it, repost it with your name attached as the author, quote it out of context, utilize if it for your own means, use my own words to confront my own stance and opinions, start overdubbing and uploading on your own, report us to the RIAA, scour your downloads for out of place solos, begin a smear campaign against me, or even click this tab closed and never think about it again.