Fake Salem Song Teaches Internet A Lesson It’ll Probably Forget Pretty Soon
by Maura Johnston
April 8, 2011
Yesterday the Internet lit up for a bit with news of a new track from the draggy, divisive outfit Salem. “Nite Daze,” according to the email blasting it around the Internet, was “all about the drag environment of being incredibly tired, in a dream-state, wasted or on something, and forcing something creative from the mutual confused experience,” and it sure sounded like at least one of those words. (Its “demo” form also didn’t sound all that different from finished tracks by the outfit.) But just as soon as it popped up, links to it went dead, because as it turned out the snare-heavy track wasn’t a Salem demo but… the result of an NYU project. On “culture jamming”!
As it turned out, “Nite Daze” was indeed a phony Salem track, although the fact that it came from a person claiming to be a rep of Biz 3–the PR company that handles Salem, as well as quite a few other bands you might read about on the Internet from time to time–apparently was enough to fool some people into rip-and-read mode. When it comes to the Internet shouting “FIRST!” is pretty important, as annoying as it might be to some. (The attention economy doesn’t really discriminate between the good and bad type of attention.) But one eagle-eyed writer noticed a few discrepancies in the email–most notably, the domain name, which was a slight variation on the one used by official communiqués from the company. (Not a nerdy thing to notice! They send a lot of emails.) A WHOIS search and an email later, and Dmitri Zabatay was in possession of the apology sent out to the faked-out:
Sorry for punking all of you. This was a culture jamming assignment for my NYU class, Digital Art with Brad Troemel. We were asked to intervene into society using the internet. I was mimicking the work of Eva and Franco Mattes, who turned a lolcat into a fake sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan (http://rhizome.org/discuss/view/47989/), where it was positively received. But here I was questioning “what is music” rather than “what is art” – would something made in 20 minutes be received positively if given a name to back it? It also was meant to be a demonstration of internet hype and the speed of the blogosphere, especially with buzz bands.
Stepping back to the idea… during the mastering of my LP with my band (that is not witch house at all), we opened the title track and Pro Tools misread the sampling rate, so it played at half the tempo and pitched down. I thought that if I added snares, and generated lyrics off of the Witch House Name Generator (chillwitchnamemagic.com), add some flanger/reverb plugins, I could get away with fooling a couple of small blogs. The song took 20 minutes to doctor. Afterwards I bought the domain “biz3pr.info” to sound like “biz3.net” and made a fake email, did some HTML work to look like a real release.
I apologize for ruffling feathers, I didn’t expect this to get as big as it did.. It was an interesting social experiment.
The original track is attached if you’d like to hear it, to round everything up. “Endless Days” by Dream Affair. Our debut LP is out digitally in May and on vinyl in July… brings new meaning to the term ‘publicity stunt’ huh.
The song’s been pulled from most places that fell for it, although it is still streaming on (the now hilariously named) official.fm. (They apparently didn’t get the message from Salem’s Jack Donoghue: “There is a song going around called “Nite Daze” that someone is trying to pass off as ours… WE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT SONG or the quote that’s going along with it : (“”) Laugh as you might at the prospect of people getting fooled into thinking that anything with the appropriate amount of “wastedness” could plausibly be by the art-school trio, this project–not to mention the sites that are still posting “Nite Daze” as a Salem track despite the disclaimers and apologies–offers a salient point on the current state of information in the online world. Fake Twitter accounts, fake MySpace pages, fake Salem demos, satirical sites’ pieces passed around as if they’re true-life accounts–they’re all part of the same ecosystem where half-truths and urban legends become gospel, despite the valiant efforts of Snopes and its ilk.
Maybe using Salem’s gauzy music was the perfect aesthetic choice for Abby–not just because of the band’s inexplicable buzziness, and not just because taking 20 minutes to turn a piece of music into a fake Salem song might very well be the musical equivalent of turning a sculpture into a lolcat. But the low-quality haze that was presented to bloggers as something real abstractly resembles the often-obfuscated nature of “truth” on the Internet.