More on Emergency Broadcast Network

Ten years ago I was in Philadelphia and excited to learn that Emergency Broadcast Network (or EBN for short), an art music/video project would be touring with dj Spooky providing live mixed visuals and even performing their own set. I had first seen their work in college in the mid 90s, probably on a friend’s VHS player showing a copy of Commercial Entertainment Product, their 1992 release of eleven videos on video tape. The frenetic and aggressive music on the video album didn’t really appeal to me; it was more the way they sampled video samples of explosions and machine guns firing with their audio into a coherent music (and video) collage that blew me away. Till then I hadn’t been fortunate enough to see them perform live and didn’t even realize that they were more or less an art project that had been shoehorned into the form of a touring band. (It might be a testament to how narrowly focused I was on the particular strains of ambient music that I was listening to and mixing with then as a DJ at SUNY Binghamton’s WHRS, that I missed their 1995 CD release Telecommunication Breakdown. If I had heard it I would have been amazed at the ambient stylings of the tracks “3:7:8” and “This is the End” and I would have been enchanted to learn that both Bill Laswell and Brian Eno were involved with the release.) Shown below, “3:7:8” :

Upon moving to Philadelphia in 2007 I bought a copy of Commercial Entertainment Product at the Digital Underground, a music store at 5th and South where I was making friends with local scenesters, and it was there that I probably learned the following year of the Spooky tour with EBN coming to the TLA. I had a mixed experience at the show. I think I got there late but was quickly impressed by EBN’s visuals. They had set up a double screen with a mirror image of the left on the right side, so there was some very cool if simple effects of action in the videos blending towards the center of the two screens. The visuals they provided for Spooky’s set were again very aggressive and I thought kind of childishly masculine, with lots of quick cut edits of men in race cars, spies, guns, and things getting blown up. EBN had made their name for videos that parodied the manipulation and dissemination of propaganda for the first Gulf War through mainstream media. For example, in their video “Syncopated Ordinance Demonstration #1” (see below) they contrast the war footage of tanks getting bombed, with GI Joe’s cartoon battles, and scantily clad women shooting uzis in gun manufacturer advertisements, and so present the different ways violence on TV is presented in one single grotesque.

EBN’s viduals for dj Spooky’s sets were much more superficial. Without depth, EBN’s art was merely being used to complement the aggressive and masculine tone of Spooky’s presentation of illbient in relation to hip hop.

But I wasn’t dissapointed during EBN’s solo set. I saw videos that were works of art in and of themselves, and not being used to complement some other message. One of them featured a manipulation of Frank Sinatra from a short TV clip that would phase in and out of itself in audio and video. Seeing it made the entire evening worthwhile. Following the show, I searched in vain for anyone who had recorded the show. I wrote to dj Spooky asking for more information. I asked friends who new folks that regularly bootlegged shows at the TLA. Nada. And to make matters worse, I soon learned that EBN disbanded.

Fast forward to 2006. EBN videos were all over the place on youtube, and I did some exploring and found that the EBN project has been revived somewhat. All the members had gone onto other things, mostly in media production work, and EBN frontman Joshua L. Pearson had become a family man. But he had also created an official web page for EBN and posted a few videos, mostly quicktime files from Commercial Entertainment Product, for download. I still couldn’t find the Sinatra video but I was excited that it probably wasn’t lost. Hopefully it would be posted on youtube or somewhere else. At the time, looking for it would have to wait since I was terribly busy in Louisiana doing urban planning following the hurricanes of 2005. I would follow up on this later.

And so when I had some spare time earlier this year I sent out emails to all the EBN project members on whether the group had any plans to make an official release of the old videos on DVD. Greg Deocampo (currently of Mediatronica) was the only one who responded, but wow, what a response. He pointed me to his pesonal project Eclectic Method (EMN) and his portfolio of EMN videos. On a separate page of the EMN project, Greg had all the videos that had been made for the CD album Telecommunication Breakdown in 1995 but hadn’t been released due to there not being enough space on the CD for all those videos. (Only “Electronic Behavior Control System,” “3:7:8,” and “Homicidal Schizophrenic (A Lad Insane)” were released on the data side of the CD.) Mediatronica was also hosting a mirror of the videos on their video distribution site Among the flash videos was a copy of the Sinatra video entitled “Frank”; I was overjoyed! (See “Frank” below.) A great interview of Deocampo is available in the episode archive of the public radio program, Some Assembly Required.

Having become a collector of EBN videos, I was dismayed to find that quite a few were no longer accessible on youtube or anywhere else. For years, a site called GNN (Guerilla News Network) had hosted a series of seven EBN videos it called “The Lost Tapes.” A few had surfaced on youtube, and one or two on file sharing networks, but the others had since 2004 when GNN stopped hosting them, become truly lost. Another video, “Banjo Lesson,” was made inaccessible when a youtube user named Nomeus had his account suspended. And so last week, I went looking for Nomeus, and finally caught up with him on his urban exploration site I’ve since been able to get copies of all the missing files and repost them on youtube. Here’s “Banjo Lesson”:

Nomeus also clued me onto quite a few other projects of Deocampo as well as the video work of Hexstatic and TV Sheriff who were influenced by EBN’s work. I’ll post more news on my findings as I pursue this research.

About Aharon N. Varady

Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes. He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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