“Al Burian Goes to Hell”
“You will rot in Hell, Al”
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But what about intellectual property theft? According to radical anarchists like the Crimethinc collective, stealing- or, excuse me, reappropriating- is a high form of praise indeed, a sign that the ideas have taken on a life of their own, freed from the confining cage of your ego, the western hegemony of that name on your birth certificate. At the very least, it is a litmus test of the intellectual’s relationship to property: should you complain about having your ideas stolen, you’ll reveal your true bourgeois, capitalistic tendencies.
A number of people have contacted me about “Al Burian Goes to Hell,” wondering what the deal is, whether and why I would authorize someone to re-publish these comics, drawn when I was 22. The answer is, I didn’t; the comic is a boot-leg, an unauthorized publication of work I handed in to a college art department in order to fulfill graduation requirements, sometime in, I don’t know, the twentieth century, long ago. Why reprint my homework in this day and age? I don’t know. You’d have to ask the bootleggers that question, whoever they may be.
What about insults? Where do those rank as far as forms of flattery? I have been a side-line contributor to the Berlin-based band Raüberhöhle for years, never shying away from appearing in concert as a machismo-fueled vulture, an inflatable ballerina, a fuzzy pink, uh, something, or a break-dancing elephant. On recordings, I’ve been happy to follow Krawalla’s directives, which have included requests such as “more patriarchy in the vocals.” For the song in question, released on Räuberhöhle’s 2009 “deep in the forest” CD, the assignment was to make a metal song. I contributed some screams and riffed in a heavily metal-ey way on a Gibson SG adorned with an oversized Jägermeister logo. The result was about as passable a metal song as a punk rocker and an elektroclasher are likely to produce. Mission accomplished.
But: what I didn’t know was that the song was to be entitled, “You will rot in hell, Al.” Krawalla’s English is not 100%, but still, I don’t think I can simply write this off as a translation problem. The meaning of the title seems pretty unambiguous. What gives? Did I do something wrong? In fact, upon listening, it is hard not to interpret this song, with its preachy sample, as a clear commandment, directed at me personally, to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into my life. Again, I have to wonder. Krawalla is an atheist of the more or less hard-headed variety. What is she trying to say?