electronic behavior control system
June 1, 2006 3:32 AM   Subscribe

"Emergency Broadcast Network" has been mentioned before (EBN), but you have to see it for yourself: YouTube --> We Will Rock You, Sinatra, Get Up Get Down, Suddenly, Comply, Hello, Documercial, Psychoactive Drugs, and even Homicidal Schizophrenic.
EBN has something to do with MBM.
posted by hypersloth (27 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Kinda repetitive. Kinda repetitive. K-k-k-k-k-kinda repetitive.
posted by EarBucket at 4:12 AM on June 1, 2006

Additionally, the "Electronic Behavior Control System" and "Behavior Modification/We Will Rock You" videos are available at Yahoo Music (although their video player isn't working for me right now).

(The videos may be repetitive, but their album "Telecommunication Breakdown" is one of my all-time favorites.)
posted by neckro23 at 5:19 AM on June 1, 2006

While looking, I also discovered this promotional video which I hadn't seen before, which features videos for "Station Identification" and "Get Down v2.2".
posted by neckro23 at 5:24 AM on June 1, 2006

On balance, that was pretty good. I wish I could get this stuff on DVD, might even throw a public screening of it all ...
posted by intermod at 5:29 AM on June 1, 2006

posted by beno at 5:37 AM on June 1, 2006

50% youtube links, at 9 each
posted by hypersloth at 5:43 AM on June 1, 2006

We will rock you was played by U2 as an opening salvo during their "Outside Broadcast" tour supporting Zooropa.

I had a copy of the VHS (Yes, that long ago) of these videos that a cool secretary from my High School summer job gave me. Thaks for helping me replace that long lost gem.
posted by BeerGrin at 5:44 AM on June 1, 2006

from wikipedia: "Bono of the band U2 noticed them and hired them to help with the Zoo TV Tour"
posted by hypersloth at 5:52 AM on June 1, 2006

Hypersloth, I know I didn't read the wiki...but I was there man, and it was cool.

It was the same night @ Giants stadium that Lou Reed showed up to do "Satelite of Love" as a duet with Bono.

Ah memories.
posted by BeerGrin at 6:43 AM on June 1, 2006

Thank you for this post. I remember them lurking around RISD in a modified flat-black station wagon, windows tinted all the way to opaque and vaguely militaristic warning graphics at all the touch points of the car.
posted by xod at 6:44 AM on June 1, 2006

The first link I clicked was "Sinatra," and the first 4 minutes or so of herky-jerk mode is uncannily, mega-creepily ALMOST EXACTLY like my experience of going under general anesthesia for surgery, which I had to endure several times as a child. I don't mean analagous, I mean *EXACTLY*!

I am too terrified to click any further links.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:54 AM on June 1, 2006

/me like Big Screen Version
posted by StarForce5 at 6:57 AM on June 1, 2006

I still have the VHS of these. An all time favorite, even if they are a little repetitive.
posted by illovich at 6:59 AM on June 1, 2006

I love the OJ shots at the end of Homicidal Schizophrenic. Does anyone know the name of the homicidal schizophrenic reciting the "swinging an old bouquet of dead roses" poem? And what production that's from? I have found that guy profoundly disturbing for years.
posted by squirrel at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2006

By the way, if anyone can find a link to "Get Down" (made with clips of Harrison Ford, bikini gun models and Mariah Carry), I'd be grateful. That was my favorite EBN of all time.
posted by illovich at 7:13 AM on June 1, 2006

Also, I have an original copy of EBN's Telecommunication Breakdown, which featured a couple of videos in QT format, including Homicidal Schizophrenic. The quality of the QT is about four times better than the flash-compressed YouTube version. I, too, wish there were a way to get these videos on DVD.
posted by squirrel at 7:13 AM on June 1, 2006

Should be a U2 or Bono bash coming soon.
posted by davebush at 7:24 AM on June 1, 2006

Oh man, what a perfect time to delurk after a few years.

These guys were so far ahead of their time it’s silly. Their recognition of the visual medium as a playground ripe for manipulation hadn't been brought to a large stage yet and for all the low-tech hurdles they had to clear they were amazing. A combination of factors kept them from becoming as huge as they could have and it really is a shame. I'm so glad to see their work get preserved and try to get some new fans to dig it.

I saw a few of their appearances in and around New England and got a chance to interview them for a little black and white zine in ‘95 Boston Josh Pearson and Gardner Post showed me all the toys. Their HQ was fantastic – a huge old industrial office in Olneyville, RI with a huge lower level garage for the vehicles, the telepodium and other equipment. (Side note, they rented it from an ‘Italian Family’ who reserved the right to use one or two of the vehicle bays at any time for any reason and it was supposedly no surprise to have a car roll up in the middle of the night, idle then roll out. The boys asked no questions and it was probably better that way.)

Funny enough, when they started in 1991 they wanted to be a video production group but there were no commercial avenues open to them. Pearson said, “The music industry was the only route we saw available to do the video work on a larger scale.” They hooked up with U2 because they were the only people tackling video on a large scale. Again, they were ahead of their time as far as video as propaganda tool, Pearson always joked that an EBN show was about “Creating the most effective propaganda machine, yet it’s really un-propaganda. We set up a feedback loop at that attracts and repels, consequences being what they'll be.” Their later work for Lollapalooza was perfect for that, although they'd never get the big screen approach like U2 gave them. I always wanted to see them take over the screens at a political convention and overpower people with “Super Zen State” and watch the fun.

The other side to their experience was Pearson as a front man – he was commanding, soothing, frightening, authoritative and mischievous all at the same time. He had the perfect announcer voice to calmly introduce a wall of sound and bellow into a megaphone and scare the crap out of you.

Great link to Deocampo because he and his company (AVX) really pushed the work Gardner, Post and DJ Rob O'Donnell had put together. It was Deocampo’s work that helped create the Video Sampler. It doesn't sound like much now but in 1995 it was a massive undertaking – a wall of machines, monitors and more RAM than you could imagine. With a minimal amount of fiddling they could mix down Bob Barker, a chorus of singing Twizzlers mouths and a grandma lamenting her lack of nighttime relief (whatever the hell THAT was) with amazing results.

The other amazing aspect was the sheer amount of time these guys put into the work to make it all happen. The sheer low-level grunt work to collect, dissect, catalog and mix the samples was insane. They had TVs on with a blank tape in the VCR at all times to collect and would watch hours upon hours of material to sift through for the good stuff. Of course it had a downside – Pearson admitted he'd become obsessive over 90210 reruns (“not the new stuff”) and they were all overloaded on the O.J. Simpson coverage. An eerie quote from my notes – “… if there were 500 channels, an O.J. channel would be great but with only 50 channels it’s just too much.”

Aside from the video work the music wasn't all that bad either. It didn't hurt to have folks like Brian Eno, Melle Mel and Jack Dangers kick in either. I still have a place of honor for my copy of Telecommunications Breakdown (still with a working 3.5 inch floppy!)

Pearson has a site with loads of his work here.

I don't know if their stuff would clear legal hurdles for samples now but I echo the comments that the material be cleaned up and released on DVD. Hell, with the skills these guys have now they could probably knock out one or two new pieces in an afternoon!

Squirrel – I saw more footage of the interview with that homicidal maniac when I visited and it was ALL disturbing. A few times I'd ask where footage came from and Pearson would grin and tell me they had to keep some sources secret.
posted by boonerang at 7:24 AM on June 1, 2006 [3 favorites]

what is this youtubes you speak of?
posted by yonation at 7:25 AM on June 1, 2006

Blast to the past. These guys were really great, and Pearson's an interesting guy. I used to see them screen their work at AS220 in Providence (EBN came out of Rhode Island School of Design). Check out the "378" video for an old hit.
posted by aletheia at 7:35 AM on June 1, 2006

Thanks for all that info, boonerang. I put EBN up there with (disciple) TV Sheriff in terms of video sampling virtuosity. In both cases, the video is the message, and the music is somewhat of an afterthought. The audio track for Homicidal Schizophrenic is actually one of the better-composed of EBN's work. I can listen to that in my car and rock/creep-out; most of the other stuff requires video to pull it off.

Tangentially, I'm sad to see that flash seems to be winning the video codec ubiquity war. 3ivxD4, Sorrenson and many others make vastly superior codecs. Flash seems to be the first to hammer out the content security issues at the same time as they started working in most browsers. Hopefully the quality will improve. As a standard, flash video leaves a lot to be desired.
posted by squirrel at 7:41 AM on June 1, 2006

alethieia and xod, do I know you?

Man, this brings back some great memories. boonerang has written up a whole lot of great additional background info, so I don't need to pitch in too much to what's already been said. I was at RISD during the time Josh and Pearson were there, and Josh and his wife Tracy ended up introducing me to a woman who became one of my closest pals up until I left Providence and the Olneyville area in 2001.

While the EBN troop were students, they lived in an apartment just around the block from mine that must have drove the neighbors insane- it was a living (and organically transforming) installation of rooms consisting of, among other things, walls carpeted in astro-turf and found industrial objects. Outside on a second floor porch was an old-school backlit sign with letters that could be re-arranged to form different flashing messages. Some memorable broadcasts were "CREAMY DANGER" and "STOP, DAD!" . In addition to the aforementioned CIA-esque vehicle, EBN also drove a white van tricked out with Faux satellite dishes and other high tech looking accouterments.

Anyway, thanks for the links- years ago I'd wanted to rent the early videos as part of a presentation I was giving while I was in graduate school, and ended up having to borrow Josh's personal copies since they were so hard to come by. In retrospect I'm awed by the conceptual focus and lifestyle integration of the Pearson/Post productions and EBN performances.

One felt like art was a mission as much as a craft in that environment, in that moment in time.

Sigh. Just listen to me. Nothing sadder than an aging hippie culture jammer.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:19 AM on June 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

stagewhisper, incredibly, I think we've met.
posted by xod at 8:57 AM on June 1, 2006

Great post! I am a big fan of negativland's audio appropriations, and was not aware of these guys. The stories here in the comments are fascinating.

Planet Kyoto, I am having surgery tomorrow and what is shown in the Sinatra video is the only thing I am looking forward to about it.
posted by sciatica at 9:09 AM on June 1, 2006

(That should have read "during the time Josh and Gardner were there.)

Yup, turns out xod and I were in a painting class together. Small little metafilter world.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:53 PM on June 1, 2006

Boonerang, (or anyone) if you have written an article or scholarly work on EBN, please kick down with the URL. I'd love to read more first-hand stuff about these guys. I think they'd make a great subject for a documentary.
posted by squirrel at 3:48 PM on June 1, 2006

Wow, thanks for this post, hypersloth. I was totally unaware of this group's work.

I must say, "Sinatra" is the best visual depiction I've yet seen of the experience of falling into a k-hole, as planetkyoto might attest to.
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:17 PM on June 1, 2006

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