Don Joyce, a longtime member of the Bay Area experimental group Negativland and the host of KPFA's radio show Over The Edge, died Wednesday of heart failure. He was 71.
In an obituary posted on the band's Facebook page, Joyce is credited with coining the phrase "culture jamming" to describe Negativland's manipulation of re-appropriated media into biting social/political/religious commentary. Joyce also introduced to band members the concept of cutting up recorded material -- both music and voice recordings -- to create new compositions, years before sampling was common.
Joyce's influence on the band was evident in its most high-profile recordings, including "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which mashed up samples from the hit song by U2 with kazoos, electronics, and an profane rant by Top 40 radio DJ Casey Kasem. The band was famously sued by representatives from U2's label Island Records, and the lawsuit is often cited in present-day discussions of fair use.
"'Recontextualization' became his weapon, with the 1/4” tape machine and razor blade his ammunition, and the radio 'cart player' -- an entirely forgotten piece of broadcast history using endless-loop tape cartridges, which he used until his death -- his delivery system," the obituary says.
Described by Negativland's Peter Conheim as being the group's "tape-razor madman," Joyce was first introduced to the band as guests on Over The Edge, a radio show Joyce founded in 1981. The collaboration turned the show from a more traditional music-and-talking form into an experimental sound collage that aired on Thursday nights for 34 years. (All of Joyce's Over the Edge shows -- over 5,000 hours worth -- will stay available on the Internet Archive.)
Joyce stopped playing live with Negativland in 2010, citing health issues, but he was still actively composing for the band. A staunch atheist, his critical reviews of religion were on full display on Negativland's most recent album, It's All In Your Head.
"I’m fascinated with human gullibility and the dangers it poses," Joyce said in an interview last year. "I’ve been creating religious collages of various kinds all the way back to the beginning of Over the Edge broadcasting. Thirty years, and it still hasn’t changed much."
Joyce was born in Keene, New Hampshire in 1944. He moved to Oakland in the 1960s, where he lived until his death, according to the band. No details about a funeral service have been made public at this time.
Joyce is the second member of Negativland to die this year; past member Ian Allen died in January.
Listen to Negativland's "No Business," which Conheim has noted as being Joyce's first digitally-composed piece: