Last week, in advance of Penguin Prison filming a video for the song “Don’t Fuck With My Money” during an Occupy Wall Street march, I wrote a brief piece in which I that said it was a crass attempt to commercialize a worthwhile event, and called Chris Glover (the man behind the penguin) a tool.
Well, technically, I didn’t call him a tool, I defaced one of his head shots to make a penguin call him a tool. Either way, it turns out that we might both be wrong.
Yesterday, I received an email from him (not his publicist) about my post, explaining that he’d written the song long before the #OWS demonstration started (which I knew – I didn’t think the dude was THAT crass) and that he thought some of the lyrics reflected some sentiments that people were having right now.
Moreover, he said he wanted the video to be a tribute to, and not exploitation of, the #OWS demonstrations. Which I’m betting has a good bit of truth to it, though I doubt he’d bum out if his career got a boost (which isn’t a bad thing, by the way; the music industry is shit – I was in the recording and producing side in NYC for quite a while and it was depressing – and I’m all for musicians breaking out to reach an audience that likes what they have to offer).
And frankly, keeping the #OWS protests visible is a very good thing in and of itself, so pretending that they wouldn’t benefit at all would be completely disingenuous of me (by the way, if you’re interested in #OWS there are worse places to visit than the main Adbusters site – some say they prompted the whole thing – or their #OWS-specific page).
Anyway, the part of his letter that really resonated with me, the part that got me thinking maybe the dude isn’t what the penguin claimed, was this:
“The press release that was sent out recently claiming the song was “fast becoming an anthem of the movement” was totally over the top and does not reflect what I think at all. I apologize for the confusion and look forward to working with the occupy wall street movement to help their cause in any way I can.”
So perhaps he was a victim of an overzealous PR rep, which should remind everyone to read the press releases that their “people” write before they go out. It also sounds like an offer to the Occupy Wall Streeters to come down and supply some music, or pizza, or at least some good weed – all of which I myself would be happy to accept in their stead if they’ve got enough of each.
There was one other nice part of his email as well, and it went like this:
“Also nice drawing
Have a nice day,
I’m not saying that all you have to do is flatter me (or say I’ve amused you) to get me to bend over and pick up the soap for you, but that coda does indicate a somewhat self-effacing sense of humor, which is a quality I deeply appreciate (no, it’s not lost on the cynical part of me that this could all be a well-crafted stroke job – but I’ve had a few of those, and this feels more spontaneous, like one in a movie theater or something, you know, from someone you met buying Twizzlers or Gummy Worms).
And I’ll also say this – I gave a listen to more of his stuff on Soundcloud and the dude is definitely skilled – it takes me back to a certain place and time I tend to miss, which isn’t a bad thing. I also appreciate the fact that he’s talented, and think his mashup with the Michael Jackson song is quite good (yes, when you’re working source material that was produced by Quincy Jones and sung by a late-70s MJ that features a who’s-who of studio players – including the mighty Larry Carlton- you’re starting out with brilliance, but it’s still a really, really well-done track). But judge for yourself by listening to the following embed:
So I’m going to go out on a limb, fight my inner cynic, and tell the penguin in my original post that he may have been wrong, and that Chris Glover probably isn’t the tool our Antarctic friend thinks he is. He may, in fact, be the kinda guy I’d enjoy having a beer with (which is the kind of guy I’m not finding in abundance where I live – and one reason I wish I could head back home to NYC for good), if only to chat about the horrors of the music industry, the joy of recording music, and the fun of synthpop.
Maybe when he hits Miami next week for (I’m assuming) an 80s-style DJ set, I’ll swing down for a Bartles & Jaymes.