Before Going to the Vandals' Benefit Tonight, Read Joe Escalante's Uncut, Expanded OC Weekly Interview

Categories: bands we like
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Fever Dragon/OC Weekly
This week, web editor Vickie Chang talked to the Vandals' Joe Escalante about the lawsuit involving the band's 10th full-length record, Hollywood Potato Chip. As Chang says in her story:

The original cover art featured the top of a building with the words "Hollywood Potato Chip" affixed to scaffolding. Across the top is what the real issue here is: "The Vandals" scrawled in the kelly green Daily Variety font and logo. The cover was meant to serve as a humorous commentary on Hollywood culture, with the album title serving as a rather spectacular euphemism for dried-up semen on a casting couch.
A few months after its release, Variety issued a cease and desist order and a lawsuit: Trademark infringement. The two parties ended up settling, but not after the Vandals were first forced to pay up, knowing they couldn't afford to battle the powerful law-firm Fulbright & Jaworski--even if bassist Joe Escalante was an entertainment lawyer himself. The Vandals complied and replaced the logo on future pressings and removed all traces of the original artwork on their website.
On March 24, however,Variety filed another case over the same issue- -except this time, pertaining specifically to images posted by third-party members on the internet, claiming the Vandals had ignored the agreement they had settled on.

Now the band is in fighting form, and the Vandals have currently recorded two songs off an upcoming EP of protest songs and are planning a music video and a documentary.

After the jump, the uncut version of Chang's interview with Escalante.
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OC Weekly (Vickie Chang): So what's developed since the last battle in 2004 between the Daily Variety and the Vandals?
Joe Escalante: They filed a case towards the end of March in Delaware after first demanding a bunch of money and weird things for us to agree to. They weren't able to prove if there were forbidden images that we were under control of. So [the Daily Variety's law-firm Fulbright & Jaworski] just said, 'Well, okay. Then give us the money anyway." 

And what did your original agreement stipulate?
The original agreement we signed six years ago says they couldn't sue for anything unless we refused to take down what was on the internet. Then 30 days after them notifying us, and if we didn't comply within that cure period, there could be a $50,000 fine plus any attorney fees. But the images weren't there so they changed their accusations so they could come up with something. At first they said, 'Well, they're on YouTube and Amazon and MySpace, so give us $75,000 and then sign all this stuff.' And we were like, we don't control YouTube, MySpace or Amazon or any of these things. And it says in our contract that third parties are not part of our deal since we cannot control them. And so they said, 'Well, okay, then what about the ones on your website? We're going to sue you for those being there. And I said what about the 30-day cure period... because they're not there now. And [their lawyers say] there is no 30-day cure period. Well, now they finally admitted there is a cure period, and said [the Vandals] had [images] on [our] site but [we] didn't give [them] $75,000.

Wait, so why doesn't this whole thing fall under parody [as part of the fair use exemption in U.S. copyright law]?
It does--but it also falls under, "Well, sure you think it's a parody but we don't, so if we go to court, it's going to cost you more, so why don't you pay us? It's an extortion game we fell for in 2004 and we didn't have enough money to fight them. Today, we still don't have the money to fight them but how can we not? Not only are they asking for $75,000, but we have to sign something that says it will be doubled next time and there will be no cure period. So they want us to sign something that would make us their slaves, where any time they feel like it, they can send us an invoice for, next time it'd be $150,000. So they've done something where we can't give them the money and sign it... we'd be the dumbest people on Earth. So we can't. So we have to fight them. 

And that's why you're hosting the benefit at the Glass House?
We can't afford to get attorneys in Delaware where the suit is filed so we have to fight them ourselves. And we think everybody should know about it because this is an abusive lawsuit. This is the kind of thing people should know about. 

There are a lot of movements to say we should have a system like they have in the UK where if you bring a suit like this against someone and you lose, you have to pay all the attorney fees. We don't have that system. So this allows these guys to just sue whoever they want and you're only as free as how much money you have... they have this lawfirm who has 950 attorneys, 60 of which are in Los Angeles--yet they're suing us in Delaware. How many attorneys do they have in Delaware? Zero. They had to hire outside attorneys to even file this in Delaware. But this is how they're trying to cost us money and bring us to our knees.

They want to force us to hire Delaware attorneys, they just want us to starve into submission. You know, we're not a band that makes a lot of money so I don't know why they thought this was worthwhile to deal with us. 

One of their big gripes is that they're trying to prevent us from talking about the case and making fun of them and mocking them on our website. But, you know, the vandals, that's what we do. We mock. And if we can't mock these guys, who can we mock? It's mockable.

The Vandals' Benefit for Legal Defense Fund Against The Daily Variety at the Glass House with Assorted Jelly Beans and Versus the World  today, 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. $20. All ages. Visit vandals.com for official documents and more info on how you can help. 

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