One of the perks of being a musician—besides all the free drugs, frequent sex with randos, and interviews with charming journalists—is encountering your songs in the damnedest places and situations. Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise; sometimes it’s a mindfuck; sometimes it’s an outrage; and sometimes you might even get compensated pretty well for your troubles. I asked several musicians for anecdotes relating to such experiences, and their answers proved to be interesting enough to publish on a blog located in a major American city. Let the “what the fuck?”ing begin.
Norm Chambers: I have a weird story about hearing my stuff someplace unexpected. I didn't happen upon it myself, but was informed about it and investigated. In 2012 an episode of Funny or Die had a skit featuring Christopher Walken with about 20 seconds of the Jürgen Müller track "Seabed Meditation" included for some reason? Major wtf moment, though I felt kind of weird that I wasn't notified about it and the label guy [at Digitalis] hadn't said anything at the time, even after an e-mail inquiry that went unanswered...
[Chambers's track begins at 0:46.]
Paul Dickow (Strategy): I heard the track "Cathedral Spark" from my 2008 CD Music for Lamping in the background of an early episode of Snap Judgment. I was in a bike shop and had never heard the show before, so it was really mysterious hearing this dramatic story with the really intense ambient music backdrop. It took me a long time to figure out what it was. I shared a brief e-mail exchange with Glynn Washington afterward and was really happy they had thought my music was a good backdrop.
There's a similar story. In 1998, I went with some friends to San Francisco and as we were getting in the car to drive back to Portland, we were flipping the dial and randomly heard the music of my first band, Two Noises, first 7" single. I passed over it while flipping the dial, but someone else in the car noticed it. It was being played on KUSF. As a young musician with only one record under my belt, I was pretty floored (though my background in college radio had given me the foresight to send our 7" out to noteworthy stations around the country). But it was weird to hear it while channel-surfing.
Patrick Haenelt (Tubbs & Oats): I was visiting New Orleans with [my partner] Jessie last fall and we were walking around the French Quarter where we were staying. We happened into a really neat Voodoo magic shoppe. As we were looking through the shoppe with all the magic books, incense, oils, and charms, I was noticing the music playing. First came Coil's "Ostia" and then some other dark and ambient musics. In the midst of that, our (Tubbs & Oats) song “Drowning in Ether” came up on her playlist. Of course, I got excited and started a conversation with [the proprietor] about music, art, etc.
Turns out she is a well-known magick practitioner and esoteric luminary in those circles. She mentioned knowing David Tibet (Current 93) and was friends with Sleazy (Peter Christopherson) when he was alive... I mentioned I was (in my youth) involved with the Temple of Psychic Youth (TOPY, Psychic TV, etc.) and we both knew Headbanger from TOPY Denver. She said she really liked our band Tubbs & Oats and got an esoteric vibe from our music. She couldn't remember how she happened upon our music, but I was really flattered. It was really neat being so far from Washington and hearing our music in such a cool, random place.
Kelly Fleek (the Spider Ferns): The very best moment for the Spider Ferns with hearing our music in strange places was being detained by the Border Force in Dunkerque, France in September of 2016 on our first European tour. We were detained due to a mistake by our promoter that appeared to show we would be making a whopping $50 for a promotional show in Liverpool, but it was just some gas money offered to get us there. It caused a huge ruckus. 4.5 hours of sitting in our car behind 10-foot tall fences with heaps of barbed wire and armed guards surrounding us, missing our ferry to Dover—our track “In Violet Bloom” came blaring out of the border force offices and the Officer came out dancing and singing our tune—they'd looked us up on YouTube to make sure we were a “legitimate” touring act. He said they all “quite enjoyed you lot and we hope you do as well as Oasis.” We gave the officer a CD to share with his coworkers. He pocketed it and said it was “too good to share with those mates,” and after he got us on the next ferry we were finally off and touring.
The second best was after being licensed for play in several stores nationwide—Starbucks, SeaTac Airport, etc. My grandmother called me from Rockford, Illinois to inform me that she'd heard “In Violet Bloom” at P.F. Chang’s while picking up her order of Orange Chicken. Haha!
Randy Jones (Caro): [The Caro track] “My Little Pony” popped up in a video game where you drive cars, and it plays on one of the different radio stations you can pick from while you are driving the car. I got a check for a few $1,000, which was one of the bigger paydays for Orac Records. I was told by some agency working for another agency, and never did find the person responsible for the decision, so I like to think I’ve got a booty-house-loving fairy godmother out there.
Nathan Carson (Witch Mountain): It was 2011. We were touring down to a showcase I had curated for SXSW. We rolled into a gas station on the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Suddenly, I heard Witch Mountain playing on the stereo. At first I thought it was one of my bandmates being coy. Then I realized that it was a really old tune, from our first album circa 2001. And then I realized that it wasn’t a CD, it was the radio. Some kids on the local college station were promoting our show for that very night, and we just happened to hear it while we pumped our own gas (because even in 2011, and despite being Oregonians, we knew how to do that).
Jason Pitt: On a lark I asked an Alexa that belonged to a woman I was dating to play my old band's music. We had a few releases, nothing major. To my surprise, the fucking thing played it. Amazon mothership FTW.
Joe Schroers-Martin: I had a track licensed for an extreme kayaking video.
Last but most, Stranger editor at large Sean Nelson recalls having friends notify him that Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta" was being played at halftime during Super Bowl XLVIII, the year the Seahawks won. He also heard that same 1997 hit during a seventh-inning stretch at Chicago's Wrigley Field. "It's become a jock-rock anthem," the sports-hating singer-songwriter says. Bemused by this phenomenon, he admits, "It's the least-likely environment" for such a song... but, damn, are those royalties sweet.