SONIC REDUCER So you wanna live clean, go green, and leave a low-impact footprint on this embattled Earth yet you also want to bring the noise, bust a move, and get the rock out? It's worth wondering about on Earth Day, when everyone seems to be looking to what they can change while the powers-that-be hold their apocalyptic course. Some might argue that a decadent pop lifestyle clashes with the color green and even those who want to tour consciously must pay a price.
"It is a lot of work," said Oakland musician John Benson, whose veggie oilfueled bus and curbside shows are a model for ecopunks who want to burn less petroleum and more french fry grease. He has converted vehicles for about five bands so far and plans to attend the Version Festival in Chicago to demo veggie-run vehicles, but Benson and his converts are learning that culling free fuel from oil Dumpsters behind truck stops can be dirty and time-consuming work.
"Bands that are really glamour conscious get really bummed out," he explained. "There's a time loss and a filth factor, and when you're on a tour, you're conscious of making the next show." Also with used oil, "you get dead rats, sweet and sour sauce, and the occasional ball of hair," he added. "You have to be prepared to pull over and pull it out. Be prepared to get your favorite suit covered with rat droppings. It's a fashion hazard."
Still, creating a cleaner planet doesn't have to be a filthy business, despite the fact that even green-minded musos such as Smog Veil Records honcho Frank Mauceri admit, "Traditionally, the music industry has not been a green industry. It's not a business that's been sensitive to the environment."
Nonetheless, Mauceri, who fought Chicago's city hall to install an electricity-producing wind turbine and solar panel system atop his new headquarters, and others are trying to buck tradition. San Francisco singer-songwriter Kelley Stoltz's recent Below the Branches (Sub Pop, 2006) sported a Green-e label, tagging the full-length as the first to be recorded with all-renewable energy purchased through offsets from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour similarly created a climate-neutral solo album, On an Island (Sony, 2006), through an arrangement with the CarbonNeutral Co., planting trees in response to the carbon emissions produced during the disc's making.
But what can you, humble musicmaker and fan, do? I did a little chatting, Web searching, and non-ozone-depleting cogitating for just a few suggestions on how to green your music enjoyment.
THE TROUBLE WITH CDS Are digital downloads the real green deal for music consumers? Part of Smog Veil's green initiatives involves eliminating jewel cases and using all-paper Digipaks, eventually moving to solely digital downloads. But the digital divide continues to be an issue so the nonwired music lover might want to purchase music from bands such as Cloud Cult who have packaged their CDs in 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper with nontoxic soy ink. And those still attached to the shiny plastic discs can turn to Green Citizen (1-877-918-8900) for recycling. Meanwhile old-school DIY-ers such as Benson make a plea for analog: "People are finding bulk tapes in thrift stores and recording over them in the spirit of recycling."
DELIVERY SYSTEM BLUES You've proudly purchased that ecofriendly download, yet what to do when the trusty iPod breaks? Apple has a recycling program: any US Apple store will accept old iPods and offer a 10 percent discount on a new player. Nonetheless the highly toxic e-waste generated by all MP3 makes and models continues to worry environmentalists.