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IfIHadAHiFi Rocks Against Scott Walker

Feb. 28, 2011
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"We're rolling. Whenever you're ready," says sound engineer Nicholas Elert, sitting at the control panels at Howl Street Recordings, a recording studio in Bay View. The timing counter on the studio's computer screen begins to quickly tick away, and a wide lineup of green bars measuring sound starts to jump up and down as it picks up the sounds of IfIHadAHiFi across the glass window dividing the space.

The band is running through the chorus of their latest song, "Imperial Walker," a protest piece aimed at Gov. Scott Walker.

"We had been working on the music part for a while; we're notoriously slow songwriters," says DJ Hostettler, the band's drummer, explaining how he came to write the lyrics. "During the first week of the protests, I couldn't attend because of work. I was feeling helplesseuro;”I really wanted to do something." Inspiration hit and he decided to write song lyrics about Walker to the developing music.

The song title refers to disenfranchised Star Wars fans protesting at the Capitol. The Imperial Walkers were the Empire's giant, lumbering machines sent by Darth Vader to trample the Rebel Alliance. Protest signs depicting Walker's head grafted onto the machine's body pleaded for people to "Stop the Imperial Walker."

After posting about the song idea on Facebook, Hostettler was offered free studio time at Howl Street Recordings, as well as the sound engineering skills of Elert and Dan Siercks. The session took place inside the tree-bark-lined studio over the weekend, as they recorded the driving beat and outer-space-sounding guitar effects.

IfIHadAHiFi formed in 2000. A couple of highlights for the band over the years include opening for The Jesus Lizard and performing "We Got the Beat" with Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's. Like the band's name itself, all of the members have adopted palindromes as stage names. Hostettler performs as Dr. Awkward, joined by Mr. Alarm on bass, Rev. Ever on guitar and keyboard and Yale Delay on guitar.

In addition to Star Wars references, the lyrics to "Imperial Walker" also borrow from protest signs and mention the growing numbers of demonstrators at the Capitol, the escape of the Senate Democrats and pizzas bought by international donors for the crowd. One of the lyrics is a quote from former Sen. Russ Feingold: "This is what happens when you poke a badger in the eye."

Feingold's new group, Progressives United, will also be the recipient of money made through sales of the song. The song is available at the site bandcamp.com for $1.

"I know he'll do the right thing with the money, even if it's a small amount," Hostettler says.

The download also includes a ZIP file that contains a PDF of Walker's controversial bill, information on Progressives United, website resources and other info.

Walker recently compared himself to Ronald Reagan, a politician who suffered a sonic assault from punk bands in the 1980s that toured in a series of "Rock Against Reagan" concerts. A new generation picked up the mantle in 2004 with "Rock Against Bush" compilation CDs and concerts. And now IfIHadAHiFi has written the first entry in what might be a new genre: "Rock Against Walker."

You can find the "Imperial Walker" download at ifihadahifi.bandcamp.com.



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