December 22nd, 2005


Fakeways: Manhattan Folk

At the beginning of Nicolas Roeg's film The Man Who Fell To Earth space alien (and Englishman) Thomas Jerome Newton goes to a pawnbroker's shop to sell a gold ring -- his engagement ring, he tells the old lady who gives him $10 for it. As he leaves the shop we see that he has a string in his pocket with about a hundred rings hanging from it. This (and patents) is how he'll finance himself on Earth, a planet that values gold as much as his own planet values water. Desperately poor when I first arrived in New York City in early 2000, I had a similar scheme; I sold silver disks to Other Music.

The disks were homeburned copies of an audio documentary I'd made about the Manhattan and Williamsburg music, theater and art scene as I found it in early spring of 2000. And today I want to offer it to you for the first time for download as an mp3. The documentary is called Fakeways: Manhattan Folk. It fed me in my early months in New York (I was working on my "Folktronic" album at the time), gave me a chance to capture whatever memes were flying about, and finally aired on WFMU. It's been unavailable for a few years, but I thought now might be a good time to pull it out of the time capsule. Enough time has passed to give the scene I'm surveying a historical quality (Casey Spooner claimed in a recent Pitchfork interview that "apparently there's an electroclash renaissance happening in the UK").

Fakeways is also an interesting document in its own right, a snapshot of New York creatives (Casey Spooner, Cindy Green, Ford Wright, Stephin Merritt, Brian Degraw) finding the Nietzschean superbeing within themselves. Some of them would later translate ambivalent celebrations of mainstream entertainment values into actual mainstream success. Merritt was already well on the way, by the time I spoke to him here, to selling 150,000 copies of 69 Love Songs. The same Fischerspooner album that you could buy as an indie release in 2000 at Other Music was re-released in 2002 by UK dance label Ministry, who flew the band about on Concorde and reputedly paid them a £2 million advance. They're now on Capitol, and their follow-up album Odyssey got respectful reviews, but made nobody's Top 10 lists and nobody's Top 40. But in "Fakeways" everything is still up for grabs, and talk is of legendary Starbucks appearances and early days in Chicago underground theater venues.

Christmas is always a good time for nostalgia, so enjoy this trip back to 2000!

Fakeways: Manhattan Folk (32.7MB mono mp3 file, 71 mins), full tracklisting here.

The documentary is free, but if you feel like it you can
and help me pay overdue royalties to some of the artists I signed to my American Patchwork label in further attempts to be Alan Lomax.