There's been something of a controversy swirling on the streets of Brooklyn, New York — and throughout the blogosphere — this week. It involves an album's worth of rough demos recorded by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O; a very, very (very) irate music producer; some old luggage; and one extremely lucky/mystified music fan.
Confused? Well, so is pretty much everyone associated with what is quickly becoming known as "The KO at Home Situation," a sticky web of privacy violation, enraged e-mail missives, prophetic apologies and some seriously misplaced suitcases.
The whole thing started late Sunday night, when an album called KO at Home began making the rounds on various file-sharing sites. The album contained 16 rough — and we mean real rough — sketches of songs recorded by YYYs frontwoman Karen O and given as a gift to her friend, TV on the Radio mastermind/producer Dave Sitek. Also circulating was a scan of the note O taped (with tiny South Korean flag stickers) to the inside of the album, in which she quotes Oscar Wilde and signs off with the blessing, "We're in it for the long haul, kid, we feel cuz we're real. All the love + safe travels + good luck, Karen."
Taken at face value, the songs — scratchy acoustic numbers with purported titles like "Beside Me" and "Save the Seeds" — and the sparse packaging were nothing particularly special: simply an inside look at O's writing (and gift-giving) methods. But just how did the album make its way from Sitek's possession to the wild world of the Internet? Well, that's where things get a little more interesting.
"Mike," the guy believed to have leaked the album, wrote an e-mail to music blog Stereogum.com, saying he received KO at Home from a friend who found it in a suitcase Sitek left behind when he moved out of an apartment. Mike wanted to give the album as a gift, but, being a YYYs fan, he made MP3 copies of all the songs for himself too. He then leaked those MP3s online, because, as he put it, "The tracks were interesting, and I thought other fans might appreciate them."
Of course, that explanation didn't fly with the YYYs themselves, who contacted Mike via MySpace and asked him why he had leaked the material. Nor did it jibe with Sitek, who said he saw the entire thing as a tremendous violation of his privacy. As such, he fired off a response on his blog in which he wished karmic retribution upon Mike and basically blamed him for the downfall of mankind as we know it. A sample line reads: "You are a tired and confused animal who has no grasp on consequences (I coincidentally feel that way about ALL of our species since we have outlived our usefullness (1970).
"To whomever found/stole/'unearthed' the demos that Karen gave me and posted them on the internet: Thank you. I am due to learn a new kind of forgiveness. A kind that all of humanity will need to learn as we betray each other, hurt each other, steal from each other to fill the 'content void' that has become the worldwide networks, our worldwide lives," Sitek wrote. "I am not shocked that you are in possession of something you obtained through dubious means ... nor am I shocked that you posted it on the Internet and by its very naming acknowledged whom it belonged to ... and did not return it to that person. You would surely not return the 'found wallet' ... because you too are in line to learn this very same lesson ... and you surely WILL be betrayed. Someone you know will turn you in for this, or someone you don't know will dig through your trash, will obtain your mothers medical records, etc."
Of course, the whole thing left Mike — as he wrote to Stereogum — feeling "completely sh---y" and "like a di--," and he said he now regrets leaking the songs in the first place. And Sitek, who must've gone for a nice long run or dunked his head in a bucket of ice water, seemed to accept his apology, updating his blog with an all-capped apology of his own. He wrote: "I APOLOGIZE FOR THE TONE OF THE LETTER I WROTE A FEW HOURS AGO."
Continuing with all caps (but slightly modified here), Sitek expanded on his apology. "My friend Pete threw away some suitcases of mine," he wrote. "Someone who knew they were mine, went through them, found the disc, posted it online. ... I freaked out (not thinking it was my suitcases discarded by a friend ... but rather [assuming] (wrongfully) it was from one of many boxes discarded by the firemarshall after a house fire)," he continued. "Since then, the story was told to me, by the person I was not very articulately appealing to ... his name is mike, he apologized. ... He didn't see what that would trigger in me ... what affects it would have on me, my friends and my ever dwindling sanity. I re-read the post, felt like I wrote it out of anger and confusion. I apologized to mike for my tone."
Of course, two apologies aren't going to change the fact that an album's worth of unreleased personal material by O is now floating around the Internet for all to hear, but both Mike and Sitek seem content to just put the whole incident behind them. And while Interscope Records — home to both the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio — confirmed that KO at Home is O's work, the label had no additional comment on the songs or the leak.