(This article about Spencer Kincy was originally published at the now-defunct housemusicdaily site. Since a few other things I’ve written reference this, I thought it sensible to reproduce it here. I wrote something else about Spencer Kincy a couple of years later on a similar theme called “Gemini Inc: The Second Act of Spencer Kincy.”)
I’ve put off writing this for awhile, much like I put off writing the original Spencer Kincy article 5 Magazine published in April 2009. It’s not a happy subject. But with renewed interest in this as well as wild speculation and rumor circulating in place of fact, it’s probably about time for an update as well as to ask one of the philosophical questions posed by Spencer’s disappearance from the scene seven or eight years ago. I also have some good news for fans of Spencer’s music about a new re-issue by one of his original labels.
The Filing Frenzy
But first, let’s start with brass tacks. Spencer Kincy is not dead. He’s not “lost.” He doesn’t need (or want) to be “found.” He’s living around Chicago but has done more or less everything in his power to remain far, far away from the music scene. That means you, me, and the well-meaning but utterly naive people who email me every few weeks asking if I’ve “found” Spencer and what they can do to book him for a gig.
I haven’t seen him and I don’t know exactly where in Chicago he is, but my proof is that Spencer Kincy, on a single day last August, filed 3 lawsuits against various United States government bodies and individuals in Federal Court seeking a grand total of $29,997,000 in personal injury and other damages. The parties being sued in these lawsuits are:
- US Department of Defense
- The FBI
- FBI Director Robert Mueller
- FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Grant
- FBI Agent Mitchell Marrone
- Office of General Counsel
- Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald
- Thomas Walsh
- Gillian Ferguson
- Cathleen Martwick
(It’s not 100% certain, but I believe the three names listed after Fitzgerald are all either lawyers or prosecutors here in Illinois.)
The first page of a judges order which limited Spencer Kincy’s ability to file additional lawsuits following this frenzy is at the bottom of this post. The full filings in these three cases are available to anyone that wishes to pay per-page fees via the US Federal Courts’ PACER system.
I do not. There is a slight chance that this is a case of mistaken identity, but the odds of there being two Spencer Kincys in the city of Chicago (with unusual spelling and all) are very low indeed. You can see pretty clearly what’s going on here, and answer any questions you may have about Spencer, without worrying too much about jumping to conclusions. It’s sad, but it is what it is…
The Fate of Spencer’s Recordings
If you’re new to this saga, I suggest going back and reading at least the beginning of my story on Spencer from April. CliffsNotes version: Someone, anonymously, sent me an enormous archive of Spencer Kincy’s mixes, tracks and material. That person has never identified himself, and has never contacted me again.
If everything I’ve written so far leads us to an accurate understanding of Spencer’s current station, then the question presents itself: what of the fate of Spencer’s music? Much of it is on out-of-print vinyl, yet I can testify that fans are desperate to get their hands on it. Not a week goes by without a fan of Spencer’s discovering the article and asking if I can share the archive I was sent.
I have no special knowledge of the contracts that Spencer signed with Relief, Balance, Peacefrog, Planet E or any of the other outfits that released his music. Some, all, or none of the rights may have reverted to Spencer (though that hasn’t prevented other seminal labels from putting out re-issues – Felix da House Cat posted just last week that labels are re-issuing FdHC’s material without his knowledge).
Oddly, this is the reverse of the usual dilemma in The War Between Artist and Industry. If one or more of Spencer’s labels no longer have the right to re-issue his music, and the sole rights now belong to Spencer, then it’s hard to believe these will ever be re-released.
More likely, though, the labels do still have the right to re-release his music, but haven’t yet. In some cases, these labels barely exist anymore, which also presents a problem. I remember interviewing Sunshine Jones two years ago about the fate of some classic Dubtribe recordings, particularly those on Organico. He told me that the band had the right to re-record them, but otherwise, the originals belonged to the label. And the label had gone out-of-business.
In the case of Spencer, it’s a real nightmare scenario for someone that enjoys his music: a label that’s gone defunct and an artist with apparently no interest at all in re-issuing his works to the masses. (This presumes that Spencer is still legally competant. The lawsuits he’s initiated indicate that he likely is.)
This, at least, appears to be one of the cases when file sharing is morally justifiable. As a fan, of course, you have no legal right to listen to what an artist and a label don’t want to put out. But don’t try telling that to Prince or George Lucas. The Black Album was probably the most circulated “unreleased” record prior to the rise of Internet-enabled file sharing. I first heard a copy on what sounded like a 10th generation cassette back in 1992. And right up there on the video side is the Star Wars Holiday Special, a cringeworthy television variety show broadcast once on television and starring Chewbacca, Bea Arthur and Art Carney from The Honeymooners. George Lucas has expressed his desire to smash every copy with a sledgehammer, but it circulated for years on dubbed videotapes and is now on virtually every video website out there.
You, as a fan, have (or had, since The Black Album was finally released in 1994) no legal right to own either of these. But the truth is that if there’s demand, it’ll get out anyway, and there’s no better channel of distribution than for the creator or rights-holder to try to suppress it.
Planet E to the Rescue
Of course, I have no intention of sending this archive that someone – possibly Spencer, but equally as likely not — sent to me, for professional as well as personal reasons. If you’ve ever had something you created appropriated, you too will probably have a taste of bitterness in your mouth about it. And moreover, I’m sent hundreds of tracks a month by artists and labels, and no one can trace a single pirated track back to me. This may be a gray area but I really don’t want to open that can of worms. (To reiterate: I’m not sharing anything without an artist or label’s permission.)
In addition to that, Cajmere stated at the end of 5 Mag’s interview in last month’s issue that he will be “releas[ing] more tracks” from the back catalog “in the future”. That’s as much as I know, except that I’d be really pissed if I went through the trouble of re-issuing some 15 year old tracks but this dork at the local music rag had been happily sending them out everywhere. Give them time, but if you want to see this stuff back on the market, let them know.
In a more concrete development, Planet E Communications in Detroit has gone ahead with plans to re-issue the classic Spencer Kincy 12″ EP A Moment of Insanity (original discogs release info here), and has uploaded “Crossing Mars” on soundcloud.
If you really want to see these things available – and I’m sorry if this sounds old fashioned – make this a smash on Planet E and the old labels will be tripping over themselves to get this stuff back on the market. Carl Craig deserves praise for digging into the back archives for this one, and hopefully those who really love this stuff will make it worth his while.
Our complete archive of Spencer Kincy tracks, interviews, reviews and DJ mixes.