Syntax Music closes

Some of you might remember a discouraging post I wrote a little over a year ago when Watts Music closed shop. It appears that another of the largest record distributors, Syntax Music, has decided to call it quits.

With Syntax and Watts gone, there are few left to bring your favorite labels from Europe. Time to start digging deeper into your crates, invest in a vinyl emulation system, or start taking regular trips across the Atlantic.

Transforming Citroën: first flight

My friend Dan Paluska is working on an art project in the suburbs of Paris with Chico MacMurtrie called totemobile. I’m sure they have some fancy art words to describe it, but this is how I see things. First, there was the dancing Citroën:

People laughed. People cried. People feared that Transformers are coming to earth, and that most of them are coming here to destroy us. Then, a fan film emerged that taught us two things: 1) The Citroën dancing transformer also comes in an antique edition and 2) making commercials about dancing cars can’t be that hard, and the original one is most certainly not real:

People were stunned. The original dancing car wasn’t real! You heard it! Not! Real! In an effort to quell the masses, Citroën autos has commissioned Chico to build a real, transforming, breakdancing robot:

Ok, maybe I made most of that up, and maybe the art doesn’t breakdance, but Dan took a picture of him in the totemobile and turned it into a bitchin’ animated gif, complete with muppet arm:

dan in the flying car

Lady not so Sovereign in SF

This is a story about one man’s brush with celebrity, and a donut.

So this guy (Zach Slow) goes to Coachella and sees a cute girl who goes by the name of SOV. Mesmerized and inspired, he sets up a website to get her attention by raising $10k for a date with said girl. After some serious media coverage, girl agrees to go on said date, but only if he reaches $10k. The amazing part: he succeeds.

Boats, champagne, and some other things happen. MC Jelly Donut is present. The final Mastercard bill:

Yacht and private chef: $5,000
Stretched SUV limo for 5 hours: $1000
First class flights to LA: $1000
Hotel rooms plus a suite at super fancy hotel: $1500
Overly priced primo booze for 7 people: $700
Tips for staff on yacht and limo: $180
Limo to airport: $150
Gifts: $200
Paypal charges: roughly $270

The date goes so well that the girl has a hard time at her show the next day in LA. She claims she was sick.

Round two. The girl comes back to San Francisco for a second tour only a few months later, this time with a bigger posse. She plays the bigger venue for a bigger crowd. In an interview, she talks about her date with the boy. For whatever reason, she decides to lay in on the poor kid from SF. His grandma has cash. It was a horrible night. Somehow it’s all his fault because the donut came along. Then she plays her worst show yet, and people demand a refund. She says she was sick. She does it again the next day in LA, and someone actually catches it on tape. Still sick, apparently.

The boy responds to the press, but no one is listening this time.

Round three. I get an email last night about another show. Apparently she is back for a third visit, this time because her previous show as so bad. After the last interview, the boy is ready for action. He’s ready to take her on… er, the donut will for him:

tomorrow night (monday the 8th), my good friend Lady Sovereign is playing at the Mezzanine. i say “good friend” with a sense of irony because she has been kind of a jerk-face to me.

if you don’t already know the story… it’s long and boring, so lemme just skip to the good part.

monday night, our buddy Jelly Donut is trying to pull off one of the most amazing stunts ever conceived. he is going to try to battle Lady Sovereign at her show. yes, you heard me correctly. HE IS GOING TO TRY TO BATTLE LADY SOVEREIGN DURING HER SHOW.”

WE WANT JELLYDuring the show, supporters of the kid handed out images of a Jelly Donut with the instructions, “hold this up and chant for Jelly Donut after the fourth song.” The girl leads off with her most popular jam, followed by a couple of forgettable tracks. The crowd is anxious (well, at least I was) when the fourth song arrives. Some people hold up their donuts. Nothing happens.

After the fourth song, the girl notices the guy in the audience and starts taunting him, “you fucking kid. You stoner. I love SF but I hate this kid. You fucking grandma’s boy. You stoner.. you’re just a Beavis! Hahaha (lauging at self) Hahaha.” Meanwhile, people have started chanting “JEL-LY… JEL-LY… JEL-LY…” and the bouncers are running around the audience and hopping up on stage. The girl spits her drink at the donut, and the audience retaliates with some more liquid, tagging her square in the face. Bouncers continue to bounce, the girl drops another song, the crowd is quelled, and the donut is ejected.

Donut needs a drinkMeanwhile, MC Jelly Donut, Zach, et al. are hanging in the parking lot. They reenact the scene where the girl spits her drink all over him. All he wanted to do was battle her, no violence intended; just a merry prankster dressed up as a donut. The donut’s final words: “Anyone know a good dry cleaner? I got SOV all over my donut. Hold on a sec, I need a ride home. Lemme take this thing off.”

Will there be a round 4? Maybe when the girl grows up someday. Wait, she’ll probably be sick that day.

Update: Thank you Flickr for documenting everything.

Update: plans for Lady SOV domination on Flickr.

Update: Perezhilton and Idolator on the Lady Sovereign/Jelly Donut showdown.

Update: Yahoo! News is covering the Jelly Donut/Lady Sovereign battle.

Update: A YouTube video of the incident has appeared.

Five things you didn’t know about me

I don’t usually participate in the “what is your favorite citrus fruit?!?” games, but when Chad calls, I listen. I got tagged Chad, Cody, Ian and some number of intermediaries back to the ur post.

1. I wanted to be an engineer from a very young age. When I was 5 years old, we had this yellow velour couch (it was 1982, remember) and solid oak coffee table. While my mom was talking to a friend or something, I placed one of the cushions between the coffee table and the couch. Then I said, “look mommy, soft bridge!” followed by one step and then the sound of my teeth making contact with the hard oak. Blood, tears, and a dental specialist for years didn’t get me down though: at age 8, I wore an MIT sweatshirt despite not knowing anything beyond the meaning of the letters. Not that I thought at ALL about the place between 8 and 22, but my 8 year-old self must have pulled some strings to get me in for grad school.

2. I was a frat boy in college. I was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi chapter at the University of Chicago. This is a statement that I always have to back up with excuses, like, “I was young, I needed the money,” or “I saw their hip hop a capella group as a way to explore my sensitive side.” Although it didn’t end on the best note, I admit that I had a great time there, and it put me among the likes of Ben Stein, P.J. O’Rourke and John Perry Barlow.

3. I never have been a very good actor. In the third grade my whole class put on a play. I don’t even remember the title, but I do remember my part: bus driver. I had one line in the entire hour-long production, and it went something like, “all aboard!” Anyway, my teacher at the time didn’t think that I was putting enough energy into it, and he coached me on how to be more expressive. In the end he yanked me from the part and I was the only student not to perform. This is the part of the story where I’d love to say, “but then I went on to star in a broadway production of the same play 10 years later.” But I didn’t. I became an engineer and I can’t even remember the name of the play.

4. During my Ph.D. I spent a summer working for the CDC studying STDs. When I tell this to most people they respond by saying “haha, so did you get a lot of hands on experience?” as they step away from me pretending I’m infected. The truth is that it was a really amazing internship, with them helping me understand the mathematics of diffusion on networks, and me helping them understand technology. Besides my published work, I did some fun projects looking at search traffic to their sites, correlating logs with seasonal outbreaks of various diseases (e.g. herpes and syphillis). I also showed them a little SEO to get their herpes information onto the first page of search results. And I learned a host of knowledge about sexually transmitted infections, which many of my friends find useful on occasion (please send your questions over email).

5. For a little under a year I co-ran a show on MIT’s radio station called electronic experiments. It had the brazen goal of being completely live, and mostly improvised electronic music every week. It was a hell of a lot of work, but ended up introducing Dan and I to just about everyone producing music in the Boston area. As for our music (Tek Fu), which was always improvised, I think someone once compared it to free jazz: “hours of monotonous garbage punctuated with (brief) moments of brilliance.” That led to the creation of our local music crew unlockedgroove, and eventually to the creation of our label under the same name. All of our vinyl is creative commons licensed, and Dan’s most recent record with Ben Recht is pretty dang hott.

My turn:

  1. Maciej Ceglowski
  2. Andy Baio
  3. Ernie Hsiung
  4. Justin Foster
  5. Michael Buffington

Likelihood of getting transmission? Low. But if I did it, they should have to as well…

Watts music closes

It is a sad day for DJs and electronic music producers. The website of Watts Music, America’s largest distributor of dance vinyl, has announced it is officially closed for business. Most people have never heard of Watts, even if they are a DJ, but they have been directly responsible for moving tons and tons of vinyl every year from Europe to America and vice-versa.

Just to give you perspective, I run a small label with some of my friends, and when we release a record, we look to distributors to buy up some of our stock and move it to stores overseas and domestically. In a couple of cases Watts has been there for us, and probably for thousands of other little labels. Without them, we have even fewer options: Forced Exposure and Syntax most likely. Under the pressure of the closure of Watts, competition for these smaller distributors will get even more intense, and labels like ours will have no option but to turn to fully digital distribution. This means that our days of making records is over, unless we’re prepared to pay for the production, marketing and shipping costs of every copy.

In the next few months the breadth and depth of vinyl at your local record store will start to dwindle. Labels that were being distributed by Watts will have to seek other means, and in some cases they may be forced to stop shipping internationally. Within a few months I would guess that their effect will be fully visible, where DJs find it hard to get their favorite labels without ordering on the internet. It’s hard to say how this will impact the electronic music scene, but it is bound to have a large and immediate effect.

For such a big distributor to close is a powerful omen: vinyl is dead. Well, in the US anyway. Rest in peace.