Sunday, October 22, 2006

October 22, 2006: Raiding the 20th Century

October 22, 2006: Raiding the 20th Century

This week's Blog feature is not on a person, but a project. This week's podcast (episode 117) features a phone interview with Strictly Kev of DJ Food, and since I've already run the SAR Q&A with DJ Food, I had to think creatively about what to feature this week at the blog - and I've decided to do a little bit about his Raiding the 20th Century project.

Maybe I should start with a timeline...
January 18, 2004: Original Raiding the 20th Century released.
January 18, 2005: Release of the updated Raiding the 20th Century (Words and Music Expansion).

Okay, short timeline. I could add the dates when the mix was taken offline, when it was threatened with legal action (more about that later), but I'm not real sure of the exact dates. So, a little bit of background instead...

The original version was released via the world wide web in January of 2004, and was immensely popular as a download, and of course was played on XFM as well. It was Strictly Kev's attempt to document the history of appropriation in music, or "cut-up music." Everything from avant garde collage to bastard pop, basically. I think that goes a long way towards explaining why I'm so taken with it, if you're wondering why I'm so obsessed with this mix. Raiding the 20th Century concerns itself with exactly the same thing, more or less, that my radio show is concerned with. There are now over 150 produced hours of radio which are slowly being uploaded via the Some Assembly Required podcast, and in all of that time, were you to listen to it all, the focus is always the same: creatively recycled music and sound, with occasional interviews with the primary artists behind it all.

The original version of Raiding the 20th Century was about forty minutes, and I first heard it in summer of 2004. As much as I'd like to say that I knew about it from the minute it aired and went online, the fact is I might never have heard about it had Strictly Kev not sent me a copy in the mail. I'm not always as tuned in as I should be, basically. Keep that in mind, if you're ever wondering why I haven't contacted you yet about your latest opus! I think I mentioned in a previous post that the first time I listened to the CD, it was on repeat all afternoon, while I painted a friend's dining room. I was absolutely intent on absorbing every last detail. I suppose it may also have had something to do with all the paint fumes!

I got in touch with Strictly (What's the short hand? Strictly, or Kev?) and arranged to do an interview, and learned that he was planning to do an update. The remix turned out a bit longer, a lot more comprehensive and now also includes recordings he made of a reading by Paul Morley, from his book titled "Words and Music." Artists I've been able to recognize so far include (see the SAR links page for links to all these artist's websites): Negativland, Big City Orchestra, Wayne Butane, Osymyso, The Evolution Control Committee, Wobbly, People Like Us, James Tenney, The Art of Noise, Steinski, Think Tank, Buchanan and Goodman, DJ Shadow, Mr. Dibbs, Cut Chemist, The Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Cassetteboy, John Oswald, Christian Marclay, The Tape-beatles, The KLF and the Emergency Broadcast Network; not to mention all the mashup artists (and even a bit from the Some Assembly Required interview with Steinski, which originally aired in 2001). If you're at all familiar with SAR, then you may recognize that all of those artists get played regularly on the program, and quite a few of them have been interviewed here as part of features on their work as well.

So, it's a bit personal, my attachment to this mix. My big plan with Some Assembly Required, obviously, being to document as much as I can about this little movement - or genre, or whatever you want to call it - of artists who take sampling to its limits. It was very interesting to hear someone else's approach to the same idea! And it didn't take him 150 hours to do it, either... Plus, it really is a great listen.

Some Assembly Required had the World Radio Premier of "Raiding the 20th Century - Words & Music Expansion" on February 5th, 2005. We only feature bits of the final mix in this week's podcast (episode 117) however. There obviously wasn't enough time to play the whole thing, as we spent a lot of time talking about the project, and featuring some other tracks by DJ Food as well.

Unfortunately, the final mix had to eventually be taken offline. It turns out someone got territorial about some of the hundreds (if not thousands) of samples in the mix, and since it had been up on the web for nearly a year (and Kev figured it had been downloaded by everyone who wanted to hear it by now anyway), he chose not to fight about it. Can't say I really blame him, although this is another example of a work of audio art which could easily by argued for with the Fair Use claim. In addition to being an entertaining and enlightening mix of sounds, it's also an educational piece, which is one of the more obvious reasons why Fair Use was introduced as an aspect of copyright law. I'm still no expert, but of course there is a comment section here at the blog, so feel free to comment, if you are!

Here's what Strictly Kev had to say about the mix being pulled from the web: "Basically EMI contacted Ninja Tune and issued a cease and desist order on the mix that claimed that it infringed multiple artist copyrights, so I had to pull it." The blog at his Myspace page went on to say, "Fair enough, it did, what can I say? It did it with style though and enough people have heard it, blogged it and passed it around for it to have done it's job. Wherever I travel I get people telling me they've heard it, they can't always remember the title but the fact that they remember it at all is enough. The letter was pretty hardcore and they followed it up 3 days later stating they would take action if I didn't comply... The Ninja legal department were pretty worried as they have to deal with EMI on a regular basis for licensing and sample clearance and I didn't want them to get stick for it. Ultimately the mix was free so no one was making money out of it and thank god for the web as a distribution network, not nearly as many people would have heard it a decade ago."

I also learned that the October/November issue of Wax Poetics Magazine (Issue 19) includes a three-page feature on Strictly Kev's favorite "cut-and-paste platters." So, be on the lookout for that as well.

Click HERE to read my previous post about Strictly Kev and DJ Food. It was posted to coincide with the podcast featuring his original mix, this past summer (July 16, 2006), and goes into a bit more detail about the history of the DJ Food project. Of course, you could just download this week's podcast (episode 117) and hear it straight from the horse's mouth as well. In fact, I recommend you do that - of course!

And with that, I guess I'll wrap up this, my first proper blog-post in months. Proper, in the sense that it wasn't all streamlined and formatted, etc. Just me writing about something I'm interested in, somewhat casually. I have to say, it was fun. I should do this more often!

Stay tuned for episode 117, ready to download in just a few. The podcast is available, as you probably know, from the front page of the Some Assembly Required website, this blog, the SAR Myspace page AND from, where it's shared from their front page, starting every Monday afternoon. So, go find it somewhere and check it out. Drop me a line if you feel like saying hello.

Don't forget - I almost forgot to mention! - the big Negativland show is this Thursday, here in Minneapolis. Check out their website for more info on other dates/venues on this leg of the tour. But for now, for those of you within driving distance, the show to be aware of is this Thursday in Minneapolis, at The First Avenue Mainroom. Doors are at 7PM. Some Assembly Required is sponsoring the event, and I hope to see every single one of you down at the club this Thursday! Check out First Avenue's website, for up to date info. See you there!

Until then, thanks for listening,
Jon Nelson

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