By Popular Demand: The Cure For What Ails You

tnegovan-gregmartin-01A little over a decade ago, disinformation published its first book, the now out of print anthology You Are Being Lied To (superseded by You Are STILL Being Lied To). We didn’t really know much about publishing books at the time, so when the book industry’s biggest annual trade show in Chicago came around, we needed help to stand out from the crowd. Enter Thomas Negovan, who was, and is our standard bearer in Chicago. Proprietor of the amazing art gallery Century Guild, Tom “found the others” for us.

A Renaissance man, Tom is also an accomplished musician who has done something truly unusual and, to my mind so compelling, that if you are anywhere near Los Angeles this week, you should go to the most unique of record release parties. I asked Tom to explain for disinformation:

It’s Sunday night, I’m up in Topanga in my friend Ysanne’s cabin, and as I experience no internet, no cell phone, and a space that is one part The Hobbit and one part Deadwood I’m hard pressed to imagine a better place to be sleeping before my record release on Wednesday. The record, BY POPULAR DEMAND, whose release I’ll be celebrating with friends at La Luz de Jesus gallery in LA, was recorded on a machine built when these conditions were the norm: a turn-of-the-century convergence of leather, oak, gears, and brilliance—a wax cylinder recorder built by Thomas Edison.

The single for the record was the first song both recorded and released on wax cylinder since 1914, and just as the title is a joking nod to the obsolete technology, the record itself is an exercise in purity in analog recording. We recorded onto wax cylinder, transferred the cylinders onto tape, then ran from tape directly to a vinyl lathe. The music that reaches your ears when you put the record on was not only recorded without electricity, it was never digitized or converted to an algorithm. No noise reduction, no editing. The pure sound of the first successful recording process in the history of our planet, and as an exercise in pure analog audio it will only be released as a physical, vinyl record.

In the process of making my first record, I felt like I needed to clean out the programming of a lifetime of constant noise. For me to be able to effectively communicate my opinions and feelings, I needed to start from a foundation that would align me with performance and poetry over equipment and equalizations. I believe what I sacrificed in audio subtlety, I gained by carving the clearest path to my ideas. These recordings and what I believe they represent are just as much a part of my life now as the songs themselves.

Our planet is spinning faster than imagination. How long did it take for The Merry Pranksters to go from being Public Enemies to having their chariot enshrined in the Smithsonian as a National Treasure? Decades. But in the 21st century, it seems the time from getting pepper sprayed to having your tent placed in an art gallery is about two months. Gail Potocki is reading to me right now that Shepard Fairey just made $25,000 selling prints at Occupy LA. Even our rebellions are effectively co-opted by capitalism now.

We are all mad. If by definition madness is being consistently somewhere in your head other than present, as we drive and walk and talk with our faces down into our cell phones, how could we call ourselves sane? We are “here”, but not… here. Am I calling for a return to Stone Age values? Not at all. But we discard technology as fast as we can create it. We wait in lines for hours to buy some updated gadget that we can’t live without, yet didn’t know existed before a press release two weeks earlier.

Let’s try the same story with a different pill, and see just how deep the rabbit hole goes: Wednesday the 25th in Los Angeles, at La Luz de Jesus gallery, a record is being released (just like the newest new toy, and not at all) that for a wholly human reason you absolutely can’t live without. It won’t be commercially released on CD, and that’s an important part of the story. But above all else, you don’t have to purchase anything to get the message. Come celebrate with us on Wednesday. If you can’t make it, we are lucky enough to have a web that connects our ideas- watch my TEDx talk, or the footage of us making the record (below). Take it in. Live with it for a moment. See if you agree.

We’ll be waiting.

Thomas Negovan
Topanga Canyon, CA
22 Jan 12

  • DeepCough

    Apologies, (Artist Formerly Known As) Prince, but your guitar isn’t as strangely cool as Negovan’s. And that wax cylinder will come in handy when society utterly collapses and the music industry neds to find a away to sell music.

    • Ronniedobbs

      Yeah, but Prince could probably teach that guy how to play it…

  • Daruma

     Prepare yourselves

  • Lakota

    Interesting, it looks like a GuitHARP.