Unnatural selection

Evolution Control Committee keeps the weirdness flowing

Nathan Hall

The problem with live computer-generated music has always been that no matter how great the wacky costumes or accompanying film strip is, you’re essentially still paying good money to watch some bookish slobs hit the space bar button a lot.

Exhibit A: the feedback loving, effects-pedal abusing, opening act Circuit Benders. Talented, yes. Visually stimulating, no. Enter Mark Gunderson, aka Trademark G, aka Evolution Control Committee. Clad in a white jumpsuit and black Converse sneakers, sporting an unruly mop of wispy blonde hair and black horn rims, he single-handedly saved Friday night for downtown Minneapolis.

There were no drums, no guitar, no bass and no keyboards. Just one goofy wallflower wearing 10 thimbles (a “thimbotron,” apparently) that somehow mysteriously trigger what is part performance art, part audio collage, part political protest and mainly just plain funny to watch. Gunderson, formerly of Cleveland pop-punk band the Weird Lovemakers, claims in interviews he heard a Negativland record one day and instantly found his higher calling. Largely credited with jumpstarting the mashup, bootleg genre in 1994 by layering Public Enemy vocals onto an Herb Alpert horn line, Gunderson diversified his cassette tape offerings at shows with a subliminal “demotivational” video called “The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized.”

However, it wasn’t until the release of the “Rocked by Rape” single that Evolution Control Committee would find the mass notoriety and media hoopla he deserved. Combining an innocuous AC/DC riff with cut-up Dan Rather sound bytes, the song’s charting soon led to a cease and desist order from CBS News that was fought on “fair use” of copyrighted material grounds with the help of his heroes, Negativland.

Which leads us to Gunderson’s greatest hits collection, an Evolution Control Committee sales pitch called “Plagiarythm Nation, Vol. 2.0.” Successfully blending together “The Onion” radio dramas, Vincent Price commercial voiceovers and Sammy Davis Jr. squealing, the end result, despite experiencing constant technical difficulties, was a gloriously hilarious hodgepodge of cutting-room-floor geekdom.

Regardless of your feelings regarding the contentious intellectual property debates, you at least have to hand it to the guy for distinguishing his gigs from yawn-inducing Microsoft training sessions.

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]