Travis Keller isn’t making too many deep bros these days. Consider that the moment he walked into the 101 Coffee Shop in Hollywood the other day, several former friends and music people shot him hate stares from their booth. Recently, they threatened to beat him up.
“It’s a curse,” says the longhaired Keller after taking a seat at the counter and ordering a beer. He’s talking about his seemingly uncontrollable urge to “talk shit” about people on his music Web site, Buddyhead.com. “It’s why I don’t have any friends in this city. On the other hand, it’s why 300,000 people care about us.”
Ever since the pretty 26-year-old Idaho transplant and his best friend, Aaron North, guitarist for the Icarus Line, started the Buddyhead Web site seven years ago, they’ve received cease-and-desist letters from Courtney Love, Fred Durst and other rock luminaries. With reportedly 9.5 million hits a day and a readership ranging in ages from 13 to 50, Keller and North’s taunting Web site exists in conjunction with their indie label of the same name.
Like most label sites, Buddyhead sells merch and posts band interviews, pictures and tour schedules. Yet it’s the gossip section that seems to consistently draw the most attention. That’s where you’ll find, among other things, actress Tara Reid’s telephone number and the following suggestion from Keller and North: “Call her and tell her it’s time to get more plastic surgery.” There’s also this bit of news: “Creed broke up . . . finally. Even Jesus is stoked.”
“A lot of people in the music industry read our site,” says Keller, who designed and built the site himself. “People in bands and A&R guys who want to see what kind of shit we are talking about them.”
Though Keller and North have yet to see the inside of a courtroom, their Web site postings and “Torture Devise” crank calls have caused them to receive a lot of “scary letters,” including more than one from the litigious and Web-savvy Love.
“Courtney Love tried to sue us a couple of times,” explains Keller, who also sometimes deejays for money, is a part-time photographer and once worked for ACME skateboards. “We posted her cell phone a few years ago and told people to call her. Once, we called her a crack whore or something like that. She freaked out. And then she donated a thousand dollars to pay our rent and said all this great shit about us.”
Keller, who interestingly considers Love a friend now, pissed off the Britney Spears– and nookie-obsessed Durst when, after leaving a business meeting at Interscope a few years back, he visited Durst’s vacant office and stole two red baseball caps from the musician–music executive’s copious collection. He then auctioned them off on eBay for a total of $800, which he proceeded to donate to a rape charity as an irksome nod to the alleged rape of a 24-year-old crowd surfer during Limp Bizkit’s 1999 Woodstock performance.
Keller and North (who was touring the day 24/Seven met with Keller) wrote about all of this on their site, of course, and then capped it off by posting Durst’s office number, which reportedly caused a major headache for the white rapper’s secretary at the time.
Despite the site’s popularity, Keller confesses that his label, which presently has seven bands (Your Enemies Friends, Radio Vago, Text, Shat, Souls She Said, the Gayrilla Biscuits and Wires on Fire) is still in the red.
“We owe [distributor and backer] Lookout Records a lot.”
For the most part, Keller and North keep the phone and computer on with a resourceful combination of ad sales for their Web site, Keller’s occasional photography and design gigs, and money earned from selling used CDs and vinyl.
In fact, Keller built the site originally as an online portfolio for his photography. The label followed by sheer happenstance.
“Icarus Line had an extra song laying around. So we decided, just for the hell of it, to press a 7-inch. We pressed 714,” he explains.
“We gave 214 away at a Valentine’s Day show. They were all limited and cool and hand-numbered. That was our first release.”
They went on to release almost all of the Icarus Line’s music, prior to the band signing with V2 Records last year, as well as the last album from Ink and Dagger. They still do all of the vinyl for the Icarus Line and vinyl releases from bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan.
Their two-CD Buddyhead Suicide compilation features their scathing “Torture Devise” crank calls made to assorted music-industry insiders like Karen O of Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs; the Strokes’ publicist; and the Explosion’s manager Rama Mayo, who is a former roommate and friend of Keller’s.
Of the calls that prey on the pretentiousness and desperation of many music-business folks, Keller glances at the booth full of glaring industry guys and says, “We aren’t trying to be mean — we’re not picking on anyone. It’s like a bullshit detector. If you’re fake, we’re gonna call you on it.”