The frontman for digital punk band Atari Teenage Riot revealed in a lengthy interview published by Wired on Tuesday that he tricked electronics giant Sony into supporting a legal defense fund set up for hackers with the very same “Anonymous” movement blamed for taking down Sony’s own PlayStation Network.
And it could have all been avoided if Sony’s marketing department just stopped and read the dude’s lyrics.
Alec Empire, the band’s lead singer, is very much a political junkie — a fascination evident in his song “Black Flags,” which he dedicated to Pvt. Bradley Manning and the hackers in “Anonymous.”
The video for “Black Flags” makes this ever more obvious, as it features dozens of people wearing Guy Fawkes masks and skirmishing with police in the streets while Empire shouts about corporate control, suppression of journalists and the ongoing “class war.”
“But I’m not an anarchist,” he sings. “I’m on some sickle/hammer shit. Collective Bruce Banner shit. Over a piano pitch, cock and let the hammer hit. We’re here collecting damages, and handing out knuckle sandwiches.”
That video was published in October 2011. Yet, somehow Sony approached Empire in February of this year with a cash offer for him to score an ad for the latest edition of the shockingly unpopular PlayStation Portable game console, bizarrely named “Vita.”
Reflecting on his history with Sony — having sued them for copyright infringement once before — Empire instantly knew what to do.
“It was this kind of situation… when you feel your whole work has been compromised. We are really and only about the political message,” he told Wired reporter Quinn Norton. “So when something like this happens it is damaging to our credibility and can’t really be repaired with paying some money.”
On his website, Empire explains that he “put ‘Black Flags’ into it… it was all hectic and they okayed [the ad].” And while he didn’t reveal how much they paid him, he added that all the money went to The Anonymous Solidarity Network, dedicated to supporting hacktivists’ legal defenses.
“Black Flags” has since been re-released with WikiLeaks-related footage stitched into it. Watch the prior version, along with Sony’s rather unfortunate commercial, below.
This video was published to YouTube on October 19, 2011.
This video was published to YouTube on February 20, 2012.