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Hi, Robot!

While working on his new record, Guero, Beck told Mojo magazine last fall: “I have no clear idea what people want from me, but I was walking down the street and some hip-hop kid yelled, ‘Hey Beck — get back on track!’ Maybe he wanted another ‘Where It’s At’ — who knows?” Setting aside the breathtaking pathos of that scenario for a moment, let us focus on the positive side, for fans, of Beck’s apparent uncertainty: His new single — currently burning up the iTunes and getting airplay on Indie 103 — is an undeniable throwback, in a good way, with the kind of casual charm that’s virtually impossible to fake. It’s just a little bit of Casio bubblegum with old-skool video-game bleeps, an Outkasty chorus (“hell yes!”), vinyl EP packaging, and an incredibly cute animated video floating around the Web. Even the title is kinda sloppy: “Ghettochip Malfunction (Hell Yes) [Remix by 8-Bit].” What nobody seems to know is that Beck fans had more than a little existential something-something to do with this particular song. “Ghettochip Malfunction” was not produced by the Dust Bros. — who oversaw Guero — or by Air, Mario Caldato Jr., Dizzee Rascal, or any of the other fancy-pants types associated with Beck’s new stuff. The song — appearing on the Hell Yes EP — was produced by 8-Bit, an unsigned band from Highland Park who dress like robots and perform their own twist on gangsta rap, with song titles like “Drunk,” “Crunked” and “Eatin’ Cat.” (At one recent show, the band staged a “shooting” by a rival robot-gang.) “Ghettochip Malfunction” is called a remix, but that’s not quite accurate, says 8-Bit’s head robot, Andy Bollas (a.k.a. Anti-Log), over the phone. But maybe he should begin from the beginning, because it’s kind of a funny story. “Beck is really cool, but his label is a bunch of assholes,” Bollas says. (Such a gangster, yo.) “I write a lot of shitty e-mails for our e-mail list — basically get drunk and write whatever. I get a lot of weird shit back. So [back in June] I got an e-mail from some guy named Mark, and he said, ‘Would you be interested in doing a song for Beck?’ I sent him a two-word e-mail, ‘Fuck you.’ He wrote again and I wrote him back, ‘What part of fuck you don’t you get?’ ” Granted, as a robot and a gangsta, Anti-Log has a certain mystique to protect; what he didn’t realize was that this guy, Mark Williams, was an A&R honcho at Interscope Records. It all worked out. Beck’s an 8-Bit fan and really did want them to work on a song or two. So, with nothing but vocal tracks to go on, 8-Bit built the song from scratch on a quick turnaround. (They also did a version of the album’s title track.) “We went down to the Boat to drop it off [the Dust Bros.’ studio in Silver Lake], and we were like, holy shit, there’s Beck! He was super-nice. We gave him the song, didn’t think anything of it, then left for tour. “We didn’t hear anything for months and months. Then suddenly [around early February] there’s this video on the Internet, and it’s our song. Then we get a call from a friend — ‘Holy shit, I just heard your song on Indie-103!’ ” That was all good; what sucked for 8-Bit was that no one seemed to realize they’d even done the song — and not merely remixed it, but actually produced it. Even Indie’s Mark Sovel — probably L.A.’s biggest local-band champion — had no clue when he downloaded it for airplay from iTunes. (“I never recalled seeing an 8-Bit reference,” he said.) The whole shebang illustrates the general vibe of confusion and mystery surrounding Guero’s release on March 29 — the kind of gossip-fueling micro-dramas that, let’s be honest, make life way more fun for fans. (See also: supposedly accidental leaking of the album; Beck’s semi-secret recent club shows; numerous “remixes” by tons of famous and obscure musicians; etc.) The only genuinely sad thing is that 8-Bit never signed a contract for their work (Interscope paid them $2,000, Bollas says), and will receive no royalties, despite the fact that the Hell Yes EP was iTunes’ biggest download the week it came out. (And despite their attempt to “copyright” the song, ghetto-style, by mailing it to themselves before turning it in.) Says Williams at Interscope: “Beck had a concept to have a lot of different people, mostly unknown or underground people, do remixes of the songs. It was done in the spirit of ‘interpret this song.’ We paid [8-Bit] a fee and they seemed happy with it — we were doing 20 or 30 of these remixes [with different producers], so we were trying to keep the fees low.” Meanwhile, 8-Bit are on the way to South by Southwest. No, they don’t have any showcases set up — but if you see four robots beatboxing on the corner, give ’em a shout. 8-Bit headline an all-ages show at the 24th Street Theater on Sunday, March 13. Doors open at 6 p.m.


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