This is a weird one, so buckle up. It would appear that a promotional video for Nickelodeon’s Animation Studio ripped off a song by Black Moth Super Rainbow member and electronic producer Tobacco. And Tobacco has acknowledged that it does seem like a rip but he doesn’t care. Got it so far? If you take a moment to follow me down the rabbit hole, however, you’ll witness one of the grandest clusterfucks of re-appropriation I’ve come across in a long while. Ready? First, listen to Tobacco’s “Creepy Phone Calls” (off his second album, Maniac Meat):
Great song right? Now watch Nickelodeon’s video …
It’s bizarrely similar — so similar, in fact, that Noisey reached out to Nickleodeon for answers … but the people at Nickleodeon were mostly confused and didn’t know who Tobacco was. Noisey spoke to Tobacco (real name: Thomas Fec), too, and while he acknowledged that this was probably a commissioned musician who ripped him off, he doesn’t mind, even if he should. He ended the interview citing his own love of mashing up old movies, which is a really admirable way to handle it when someone rips off your song.
I put out those Fucked Up Friends DVDs with little clips from old videos from the ’80s and ’90s, and I do understand appropriating a piece of work — taking something and making it into something new. At least I’m trying to see it that way.
But there’s more. “Creepy Phone Calls” was appropriated another time: on HEALTH’s remix album, Disco 2, where Tobacco used the song as the basis of his remix of “Die Slow”:
The video for “Creepy Phone Calls,” meanwhile, is one of Tobacco’s appropriative mash-ups — it steals clips from a super low-budget 1986 horror movie titled The Abomination. That film was made by one Brett McCormick (working under the moniker Max Raven), which he directly followed with Ozone! Attack Of The Redneck Mutants, a film about how a hole in the ozone layer turns several rednecks into flesh-eating mutants. One of those mutants ended up being appropriated on the cover of Islands’ most recent album, Ski Mask. Nick Thorburn of Islands (and the Unicorns) once had a small project called Human Highway, which — along with HEALTH and Tobacco’s band Black Moth Super Rainbow — released music on Suicide Squeeze. And finally, the film Ozone! Attack Of The Redneck Mutants was ripped off a few years later by Troma as a movie titled Redneck Zombies. And in a 2009 interview with Skyscraper Magazine, Thomas Fec recalled seeing Redneck Zombies as a kid, and being especially freaked out by a character named “The Tobacco Man.” So freaked out, in fact, that he was eventually inspired to appropriate the name as his musical moniker.
What does any of this mean? I want to believe!
UPDATE: On 8/21, the commercial music producer initially commissioned to write the music for Nickelodeon’s video provided us with a statement about the project to post here. He has since asked us to remove it.