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Thursday, September 24, 2009
A Situation That Could Affect Any Traveling Musicians
5:26 PM
Earlier this week I received an email from a close friend, Alesa. She recounted to me a horrible experience she had attempting to meet up with her boyfriend Marcus Ratcliff, a Brit musician who's visited the US quite a few times in the past few years. Unfortunately their meetup didn't happen, thanks to overzealous Customs agents. She sent along Marcus' account of what happened, and I'd like to reprint it here:

On the 19th of September, 2009, I caught a Northwest Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Minneapolis-St Pauls Airport to visit my girlfriend of four years, Alesa Byers, who lives in Los Angeles.

The purpose of my trip was a holiday but I was planning to stay in the US for the maximum length of 90 days that the Visa Waiver Program allows. It was this proposed holiday duration that caught the attention of the first US Customs Officer that I saw in Minneapolis. He called over a second officer to direct me to the customs lounge, the place in which I would spend the next four and a half hours trying to explain it.

At this time I had no engagements in the UK so it seemed like a great opportunity to spend some real time with Alesa. I am a musician by profession and so I decided that my time in LA would be well spent if I wrote some songs during my stay. These two items comprised the explanation that I gave to all the customs officers that I encountered in Minneapolis Airport.

After an initial waiting period of forty-five minutes the Customs Officer that would ultimately decide to refuse me entry to the US began his interview with me. Again, it was the duration of my holiday that seemed to cause problems, in spite of the explanation outlined above. I was asked to collect together the three bags that I had brought to the US so that they could be searched. I was travelling with an acoustic guitar and was repeatedly asked whether I was intending to play any gigs or release any material while I was in LA. I answered that I had no intention to do anything but write songs during my stay, but these same questions were raised again and again over the course of my interview. Clearly the officer suspected me of intending both to work and to stay in LA beyond the period of 90 days. I had intended to do neither.

It was at this point that the customs officer asked me for the addresses and passwords of all of my email accounts. I gave them to him in the hopes that they might support my previous explanations, but it soon became clear that the purpose of this search was to corroborate his own theories about my visit. After ten minutes he thought that he had that evidence – in the form of an email from my friend advising me on the best way to present myself to US Embassy representatives. My friend knew that I wanted to stay in the US for as long as legally possible and so was trying to help me get a six-month tourist visa. Unfortunately, even though my reply to this email outlined both my belief that “honesty is the best policy” and the true intentions of my visit – borne out in my explanations at the time - it was interpreted by my customs officer as proof that I was going to try to stay in the US beyond the legal limit. However, nowhere in the email conversation was it mentioned that I would try to do so. It was purely on the subject of obtaining a tourist visa.

The supposed evidence that access to my recent emails seemed to give my customs officer soon aroused the interest of other officials in Minneapolis customs lounge who soon took it upon themselves to accuse me of “fraud and misrepresenting my intentions”. I was asked to give a statement under oath in the hope that I might change my explanations under the threat of perjuring myself, the punishment of which – I was repeatedly reminded – is either a $10,000 fine and/or a five year prison sentence. Despite this oft-mentioned threat, however, my version of my intentions remained unchanged.

At 22.05 I was put on the next flight to London, fully aware of the very real pain that this quite arbitrary denial would cause me in my future engagements with the US. I am now back in the UK and faced with the prospect of applying for a visa every time that I want to visit Alesa – a process that I have been advised will take around eight weeks. That this inconvenience should come as the result of a decision based on such weak evidence is a real blow.

I believe that the insistence on my guilt and the threat of perjury that the officers maintained was beyond the scope of their authority. I also believe that the evidence upon which my entry to the US was denied was severely overstated. Conversely, of course, the strong evidence in my favour was entirely overlooked. The fact that I didn’t change my explanations under oath, the fact that emails of mine corroborated these explanations, the bank statement I had brought that showed that I had more than sufficient funds for my visit and the exemplary history of visits to the US that preceded this one – none of this evidence was ever mentioned by the customs agents at Minneapolis Airport.
Marcus is a great guy, and in the short time I have spent with him I had not the slightest thought that he was anything but upstanding. From what he (through Alesa) has related to me, he is guilty only of naivete in trusting the Customs officials with his emails.

This situation is one that could easily affect any musician or artist (or anyone, really) visiting this country for any length of time. US citizens, if you can spare the time, please take a moment to voice your concerns about this situation to your Representative and Senators. If you're not sure who they are or how to contact them, click here and enter your address to receive that info.

Please share this with everyone, as this kind of behavior is something that is antithetical to the values we hold in America.

NOTE: i accidentally posted this to my "audio" page (duh), so i am moving it here, where i intended for it to go.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009
Where Is Your "DJ Line"?
11:44 PM
Twice this week I have had dj gigs where I've played with Serato on internal mode, meaning no physical decks, just the laptop & mixer. I do just fine like this; in fact, Thursday I played for about four hours this way without a hitch.

line 47 is about to start!It reminded me of a discussion I had with my friend Scott Weber, a.k.a. Line 47, last year at an art opening dj gig. As you can sort of tell from the picture at the right, he was not using turntables or cd decks; rather he was using Ableton Live. Scott dismissed his performance by saying he was "not dj-ing". In the etymological sense of a "disc jockey", no, there were no discs to be jockeyed.

Now, of course Scott was exaggerating the point to be self-deprecating, but he hit on something I've thought about quite a few times since purchasing Serato: Does spinning mp3s preclude one from being a "real" dj? What is a "real" dj?

Frankly, I'm not too stressed about whether any given person considers me a "real" dj, but I remember a friend in a prominent dj crew agonizing over whether to get Serato himself, for that very reason.

It comes down to this: everyone has a "dj line". On one end, which for lack of a better term I call "dj conservative" (that term being a construct similar to "social conservative" or "fiscal conservative"), we have someone who is not only anti-mp3, but also anti-cd.* On the other end of the spectrum is the "dj liberal", the person who has no (or at least few) rules about what, technologically speaking, constitutes "real" dj-ing.

Personally, I'm near the extreme liberal end of this scale, though perhaps not all the way -- I have seen dj's using Winamp and I-Tunes, and at times this has rather annoyed me. But for the most part, I say, use whatever. Technology will always make its way into any area, so we might as well use it.

In the end, it's about what you're doing as a dj. If you're rocking the party, with a room full of people dancing, then it doesn't matter what you're using to do it, even if it's (*gulp*) Winamp. Line 47 always kills it with Ableton, as does DJ Shiva (though I've seen her do a great set with decks as well), not to mention Love Between Equals. Purists can be purists if they like, and hey, if they're rocking the party, more power to them.

Feel free to share your opinions as well! Hit up the comments, especially if you can think of better terms than "dj conservative" and "dj liberal".

*In fact, I think I remember seeing a dj mix once with liner notes in which the artist claimed to have mixed only legit releases of records, by exclusion decrying the use of Ultimate Breaks & Beats-style compilations. This guy, whoever he was, would be a "dj conservative".

UPDATE: There was some lively discussion in the Facebook version of this blog entry. I'm unsure how public it is, so feel free to leave a comment here if you have anything to add.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009
short techno set uploaded, plus show tonight
6:17 PM
This is just a quick note to say I've uploaded a short set of techno to my audio page.

Also, for those of you in the area, I'll be doing a set of dubstep tonight at Baba Budan's, along with avant hip-hop group ISWHAT?! and rock & roller Ric Hickey. Tread MC will be guesting during my set as well!

Edited to add: I almost forgot, I also added my pictures from the 2SJ portion of my NYC trip.

Both the audio and photo pages of my site have their own feeds; feel free to subscribe to them separately from this main page to keep up-to-date.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009
it's time to woodshed
5:11 PM
After a few years of reading DJ /rupture's blog, quite a while reading that of ethnomusicologist Wayne and Wax, and the recent discovery of a couple more, I am seriously wondering whether I should revisit music writing.

Actually, that's not exactly true. For some time I have been "planning" (yeah, right) a return to the short stint of music reviewing I did a few years ago for the now-defunct I See Sound. Lately, though, the Rogue's Foam blog post "Loving Wonky", which took an academic look at the form (and to some extent, function) of the relatively recent genre Wonky, a genre that I have stumbled into with my typical half-assed obsessiveness. This kind of academic look at music, which I also experienced last year with Paul Hegarty's excellent Noise/Music: A History, is something that I love to read but, frankly, I am not quite equipped to fully absorb.

The thing is, though, to get that kind of syntactic technical facility, I think I'd have to devote a lot more time to reading reading reading, which, with my current sleep schedule, would likely force out a lot of the tv & movie watching that I am doing. I'm ok with that, though I do wonder whether I should just go back to school, so that the 40 hours a week that I sell to The Man could be *a part* of my obsession with music, and not *at odds* with it.

Though academic-style writing is not something I'd be able to pull off convincingly at the moment, by no means does that mean I can't write. I'm out of practice, for sure, but I can get back whatever skill set I had -- I'm just going to have to woodshed, as we guitar players sometimes say. WRITE, and write a lot.

So, here we go. Let's see how long this lasts. ;)

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