Emo Mash-Ups: Creators Think They're Cool, Bands Are Not Amused

Legion of Doom offer free downloads on Web site; group has heard from each band whose music it has mashed up.

Let it be known that the Los Angeles-based mash-up collective Legion of Doom have nothing to do with former tag-team wrestling greats the Legion of Doom (née the Road Warriors, Hawk and Animal, they of the facepaint and spiky shoulderpads). For starters, this Legion of Doom don't have fierce-sounding nicknames. In fact, they don't have any names at all.

"We are called the Legion because we are many — well, there's at least two of us," laughed the person we'll call Legionnaire 1. "How about at least one member but less than 100? We're trying to de-emphasize the focus on who is really participating in this, because some guys could get in trouble if they were found out."

Let's cut through the mystery. This Legion of Doom are a Los Angeles-based mash-up collective that has taken a bunch of songs by acts in a genre that has rarely (if ever) been mashed — emo-punk — and mixed them up with songs by other emo-punkers. The end result is a collection of tracks with clever titles like "The Quiet Screaming" (a mash of Brand New's "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows" and Dashboard Confessional's "Screaming Infidelities"). They then post these bootleg mash-ups on their the-legion-of-doom.com Web Site, where fans can download them for free.

And that's where all the problems started.

"The ones we've released now are not authorized and not licensed. And we've already run into a wall with the people involved," Legionnaire 1 said. "Taking Back Sunday apparently didn't like us messing with their music in our way. And we anticipated that possibility. Not everyone is going to be thrilled to see us meddling with their work."

The Legion took the offending mash-up — a combo of TBS and Senses Fail called "I Know What You Buried Last Summer" — off the site, and they've heard from at least one band (or label) involved in each mash-up they've created, many of whom were less than pleased. Which is discouraging to Legion of Doom, because, as Legionnaire 1 put it, they view their mashes as an extension of "the punk-rock ethos."

"We're excited about music as a fluid, living medium. No longer is a piece of recorded music done when an artist puts out a record. People now can take a piece of recorded music and turn it into something else. It's a sort of cool, new folk-art movement," he said. "You have to be aware that once you release a record, it's fair game. You can take steps to defend the recording, but in the digital world, once it's out there, it's out there — you've got to be comfortable with that. And in our case, you can reap the rewards."

And there are definitely rewards to be reaped, because the Legion of Doom are putting the finishing touches on their debut album, a collection of fully licensed mashes that will benefit both masher and mashee. It's a long, legalese-filled process, but the Legion are working through it, because they don't want to "pull a Danger Mouse," a reference to the hip-hop producer who drew the ire of music publishing giant EMI when he released the no-samples-cleared The Grey Album, which paired Jay-Z's The Black Album with the Beatles' White Album (see "Producer Of The Grey Album, Jay-Z/ Beatles Mash-Up, Gets Served").

"Everything on our record will be authorized. It's a fairly sophisticated arrangement to have to reach. You're dealing with so many different people, but we're doing it because we want it to be a real product, sold in stores, rather than just slipping it out over the Internet," Legionnaire 1 said. "It would be great — we thought — if people could walk into stores and buy it, and people who wrote the songs can get paid too."

The group hopes the album, called Incorporated, will hit stores this month or next. Until then, there's plenty to keep the Legion busy: dodging the ever-present cease-and-desist orders from pesky publishers, a constant danger in the mash-up trade (see "Beatles Publisher Tells Metallica Mash-Up Band To Get Back"), doing remixes for emo-punk acts and plotting their first tour.

"We've talked about going out on the road, and a live band would be kind of crazy," Legionnaire 1 said. "I mean, we're not DJs, and we don't get up there with turntables. These mash-ups weren't done in that way. These are fairly complex studio productions, so it would be kind of difficult to take it live. But man, we're going to try."