Rain on me

Zion I's Amplive gets tossed into In Rainbows lockdown. Plus: Thao Nguyen, David Daniell, Rickie Lee Jones, and more


SONIC REDUCER How can two goods get mashed so bad? How can an act of generosity get so twisted? What sort of storm hath Radiohead wrought? And in an age of easy digital reproduction and reappropriation, a mashup era, what kind of rights do listeners have regarding music disseminated, seemingly so freely, online — namely, the United Kingdom band's In Rainbows album? Why can't hip-hop and indie rock values segue together as gracefully, as artfully, as Oakland DJ-producer Amplive's trip-hop–tinged remix of "Nude," a suturing together of his group Zion I's "Don't Lose Ya Head" and Radiohead's ethereal hum, with classic Yay touches of Too $hort?

This fall Radiohead released their In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-will download, allowing listeners to grab the sounds for free if they chose and inspiring Amplive to remix their music as a measure of his admiration. The gesture conjures Dangermouse's hybrid hijack of Jay-Z's The Black Album (Roc-A-Fella, 2003) and the Beatles' The Beatles (Apple, 1968), otherwise known as "The White Album," for his Grey Album (2004), though Amplive went as far as to get contributions from Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Jurassic 5's Chali2na.

"I just did it to do it, and I love the In Rainbows album — it was just tight!" Amplive told me on the phone this week from the East Bay. "And especially in this age, with remix culture, a lot of people do them. I just did the same. I just wanted to do a hip-hop version of their stuff, and I guess I underestimated what would happened. It just took off."

Word spread, and listeners urged Amplive to remix the entire In Rainbows, a project he dubbed Rainydayz Remixes. As news arrived of the producer's plans to give away the remix album free of charge online on Jan. 10 to those who had already downloaded In Rainbows or supported a Radiohead-favored charity, Friends of the Earth, the forces that be — i.e., Radiohead publisher Warner/Chappell — moved to put a stop to the fun and games, tribute or no tribute. Amplive had received 3,000 orders when, a few weeks ago, he was sent a cease and desist letter stating that he needed to get approval "before making arrangements of other writers' work, especially if you have plans to commercially exploit the arrangements/remixes or make them publically available."

Preferring not to get into a legal battle royal and instead appealing to Radiohead online via a video posted on his MySpace page, Amplive decided to put the project on hold. Meanwhile Gigwise.com spoke to Radiohead's manager Bryce Edge on Jan. 7; he claimed the issue was the use of an image of Thom Yorke to promote Rainydayz Remixes, which implied the Radiohead frontman was involved in the project, and that management had a problem with fans being asked to forward their In Rainbows purchase e-mail in order to receive a free remix LP, which he described as "a bit naughty!" "To be honest, I'm not sure the band have even heard [the remixes]," Edge continued, adding they will meet Jan. 8 to discuss the matter.

Perhaps Edge and company need to take a cue from "Don't Lose Ya Head"<0x2009>'s verses. Amplive told me he hadn't used Radiohead images to promote Rainydayz and instead pointed to music blogs like Hood Internet, which regularly splices together photos of mashed artists. One wonders if Radiohead's suits have scoped out the other mashups on that specific site (Eve and Thom together at last!) and whether they're aware of how hypocritical the group appears in putting the kibosh on free remixes — from which Amplive stands to gain nothing apart from praise for his production skills — for what appeared to be a free recording.

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