Founded: 1978

Headquarters: Contra Costa County, CA / Olympia, WA

Website Link(s): Official Site




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Negativland are often more known for their controversies than their records, at least to the public at large. Their first foray into this was when they claimed that they had to cancel their upcoming tour because they were placed under house arrest due to possible connections between the group and the then-recent murders involving David Brom, who killed his parents with an axe. Negativland claimed that it was over their song "Christianity Is Stupid" from the Escape From Noise record. The real reason -- they found out they'd lose money. However, it turned out that the media picked up on this, and didn't do any fact-checking at all (for example, the FBI agent they mentioned didn't exist -- so, basically one call would have shown that it was a hoax), deciding instead to just run with the story. At first, Negativland were amused and let them run with it, but after a while, they got really bothered by it and decided to just clam up. After a while, it came out that it was a hoax, and Negativland did a record called Helter Stupid, where the A-side (the titular track) was about this, combining samples from the news coverage, "Christianity Is Stupid" (which itself was built out of samples of the Rev. Estus Pirkle) and other sources. Later, Mark Hosler was at a party where someone related to David Brom's family approached him and gave him a good talking to about exploiting the tragedy; Hosler apologized, and it was revealed that David Brom's brother actually was a distributor for SST records -- so, the part of the hoax that Negativland found most amusing, mainly that since their record hadn't sold very much and was rather obscure, David Brom himself had probably never even heard of, let alone enjoyed enough to get into an argument with his father over, turned out to be possibly not true -- it's conceivable that Brom actually had heard the album, or at least had seen copies of it. (Whether or not he liked it is up in the air, if he even did hear it.)

Their followup hit controversy was over their U2 single, which featured samples from U2 as well as samples from CB Radios and, most importantly, Casey Kasem. This one was a big one -- the single was sued out of existence by Island (as Mark Hosler later found out, instigated by U2 themselves, despite their constant claims to the contrary) and Casey Kasem. When Negativland wrote a magazine about it, their then-label SST (at that time already having legal problems with many of their artists over unpaid royalties including Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth) sued them, also for copyright infringement -- over the re-publication of their press releases(!). That one settled out of court and Negativland expanded their magazine into a book. Part of the settlement included giving 4 pages to Greg Ginn, founder of SST to tell his side of the story -- instead, he took his 4 pages to just insult Negativland over and over.

Luckily, Negativland hasn't been sued since -- they were initially nervous over their album Dispepsi, but PepsiCo realized the bad publicity that would have resulted had they done so, and publicly stated they had no intent to sue -- a PR rep said "It's no Odelay, but it's a good listen".

Understandably, Negativland have thrown themselves full-on into copyright issues and have done a lot of work with the Creative Commons as well as other organizations like eToy and RTMark. Their last two releases have been a combination book/CD (the hauntingly beautiful book with the straight noise CD Deathsentences Of The Polished And Structurally Weak, and the 64 page essay on copyright with the CD constructed entirely of samples No Business). They've also resurrected their label Seeland circa 1993, and have been releasing their own albums as well as records by likeminded individuals including the Evolution Control Committee, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Bob Ostertag among others.





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