By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Shadow says the initial meager pressing was the safest way to go. While it seems hard to fathom in hindsight, he says, "The reason we made 1,000 at first was because we weren't sure who would be into it. Funk lovers are generally conservative -- they don't want to hear a bunch of scratching. And maybe it was too soul-oriented for a lot of turntablists."
What was intentional was the pair's decision to sell the CD almost exclusively at live performances. Shadow pushed this idea early on: "I always try to put myself in the mind of the music fan, because that's what I still consider myself to be, first and foremost. I just wanted something special for people who came to the shows. If I saw Alanis Morissette and I was a huge fan, if I went to the merchant booth, I wouldn't want to see the same shirt I could buy online. As a fan, I'd want to represent."
The Brainfreeze album has taken on the life of a rare 45 -- desired, treasured, eagerly traded for, etc. The parallel has not escaped Cut and Shadow. "It's a CD about 45s being treated like a 45," says Cut. "I used to laugh at people who collected CDs, but not this one. If I was a fan and if it was only available on CD, I'd be like, 'I want that, I need that.'"
THE EBAY CONSPIRACY
Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow's desire to sell strictly in person was further motivated by the relentless hoarding of Brainfreeze whenever it ended up in record stores. When Cut provided Aron's Records with several copies, one zealous fan bought multiple copies and put them up for sale on eBay, the Internet trading site.
Indeed, eBay, the new, unofficial authority of the pop signification, has become a furtive gray market for Brainfreeze sales. Besides the dozen or so copies cached from Aron's, many more have popped up on the site, with fervid buyers willing to pay $30 and up for a CD that costs $20 at Cut and Shadow's shows. In one insane bidding war, a BrainfreezeCD sold for over $100 in late November. A copy of the original "Dance the Slurp" 45 recently sold for $31.
Countless fans have made Cut and Shadow aware of the eBay phenomenon, and at one point a rumor circulated that itã was the two DJs selling their own product online. Muses Shadow, "I had to write a sarcastic note on my unofficial fan site saying, 'That's right, you guys caught us. We've got nothing better to do, no bigger fish to fry, than to sit around and sell CDs on eBay.' That was sort of amusing."
Cut, however, used the rumor to play an elaborate practical joke. Tracking down the collector who'd bought out all the copies of Brainfreeze at Aron's and sold them on eBay, he e-mailed the offender anonymously, saying, "I think you're Cut Chemist or DJ Shadow, and I think it's disgusting that you'd put your own stuff on eBay. That's self-exploitation. I used to be a fan, and now I hate you." The culprit's reply is now immortalized on the fliers for the "Last Show" event: "I'm not DJ Shadow or Cut Chemist . . . Please don't dislike either DJ. The only thing they are guilty of is not pressing more than 1,000 copies of this CD." His eBay ID, getupkid, is now etched in infamy.
THE GREAT CRATE CAPER
Yet the craziness didn't end with the eBay affair. Cut and Shadow decided to take Brainfreeze on the road for half a dozen select dates of the DJ Shadow Goodwill Tour across the West Coast, plus a New York stop. (The L.A. show marks the end of this limited tour.) After a gig in Portland, Cut had all of his 45s stolen, though neither he nor Shadow realized the theft until they reached the next leg of the tour in New York. Cut immediately took off to find Shadow, running over a dozen blocks through midtown Manhattan. "Ten blocks up, I'm running through Manhattan, somebody stops me and asks, 'Are you Cut Chemist?'" Cut apologized to his fan and suggested that it was perhaps not the best time to chat.
Eventually, the two DJs donned their sleuth caps and traced the theft back to the Portland venue. Numerous phone calls brought a wave of confusing, contradictory statements, a fat dose of straight deception and many failed promises. Cut and his manager spared no effort in putting pressure on the parties involved. "We were really playing tough guy, and this kid wasn't going to get away with it, whoever he was," he says. "They had two choices, either to give the records back or have their name dragged through the mud forever." When booking agents, sympathetic to Cut's plight, started to take shows away from the promoter, the guilty parties cracked and returned Cut's missing 45s, not a one missing or damaged.
Despite the initial trauma of the theft, Cut remains karmically wistful about the experience -- he even plans to make a mix tape out of the whole ordeal. "I'm going to call it The Great Crate Caper," he says, laughing. "In trying to find out details of the theft, I recorded people on tape. I've got all this footage of me breathing down necks, me and my manager playing good cop/bad cop routines. Class A stuff."