InSoc Interview: 11/17/90 - Knightline.


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Issue 03/Part III of III

17th of November, 1990

Written, compiled,

and edited by Doc Holiday

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What is this? Information Society's new album is called "HACK"? Just what do these guys know about hacking? How did they come up with the album title? Why are they taking such an interest in the Computer Underground?

Knightline got the chance to ask Kurt Harland Valaquen of InSoc about the new album and his involvement with the CU.

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RINGing New York .. .

KV: Hello?

Me: Kurt?

KV: Yes, Doc ?

Me: Yea, you ready for the interview?

KV: Sure, shoot.

Me: Okay, this is DH with Phrack Classic--

TC: This is the Conflict

PH: And this is Pain Hertz

KV: I uh, hope you ask me what my hacker handle is..

Me: Ok, what's your handle?

KV: Because I believe that I have one of the coolest hacker's handles that I've ever heard.

TC: uhh

Me: What is it?


Me: "Trapped Vector" ?

KV: yep

Me: How did you come up with that?

KV: What? You don't recognize it ?

Me: haha

KV: What.. . and you guys call yourselves hackers?

Me: ah

KV: My god. . you guys must be so young that you've never had to deal with assembly language.

Me: Who would want to-- It was a sarcastic question..

Me: Now, Kurt..

KV: Trap Vector is a term from deep deep down in the functioning's of a CPU.

Me: Right.

Me: Uh, uh What kind of involvement, if any, have you had in the telecommunications field?

KV: In telecommunications what?

Me: In the telecommunications field.

KV: Uhh.. I majored in computer science at the University of Minnesota.. . Just long enough to get interested and not long enough to get a degree.

Me: ah. So you didn't graduate?

KV: No. After my 5th year I finally gave up and went to Vienna.

Me: Uhh. Let's get into the new album .. uh now, what was the inspiration for involving the "hacking" theme in your new album?

KV: Umm, well, it's not like we were inspired to do it -- and we sat around all day and said "Hey, let's like put this hacker's motif into it." -- it's more like we just left all that stuff out on our first album because we were trying to .. uh.. to not make any waves, since it was our first album. And now we're cocky and think we can do whatever we want. So we just did whatever we wanted. And whenever we do whatever we want, some of that stuff inevitably creeps in because .. we're into it.

Me: uhh.. have you been following all of the recent hacking busts that have plagued the country this year .. ?

KV: Hacking "buzz" that has plagued.. .

Me: BUSTS.. yea hacking busts..

KV: Oh, I haven't been following it, but I've been hearing a little bit about it from my friends..

Me: Yea, because your album comming out titled "HACK" really does tie in with this time period of hackers getting alot of press..

KV: Yea

Me: And I just thought that could have been one of the inspirations.. .

KV: Well, actually, believe it or not, we don't really know what it means to title an album "HACK". We have a list of about nine different interpretations that we thought we could leave open and anyone else could decide which is the real one and strangely the computer hacker concept is pretty far down on our list. The first one we always think of is uh.. the hack versus .. uh.. respected professional-- meaning-- like, you know, their just hack, he's just a hack writer.. .

Me: Right.

KV: Their just hack musicians-- because uh, I guess we wanted to be self-deprecating in a sarcastic and easily marketable way.

Me: Yea..

Me: What about your personal involvement in the Computer Underground? Is there one? With hackers?

KV: Well, umm.. if I were not being a "pop tart" (which is our personal lingo for rock star) I would probably be trying to make my money off of programming.

Me: Aaah!

KV: Ummm, however.. that's not the case.. I am trying to be a "pop tart" so my involvement is more limited that I would like it to be. I mean I do all my work on IBM.. When I'm composing..

Me: Hm, Kurt, what are your thoughts and attitudes toward hackers and hacking?

KV: Umm, here are my thoughts and attitudes towards it: I am somebody who -- always. . always -- like when I had that telephone job, I just was, I hardly did any work. I just spent the whole time trying to come up with tricky things to do you know. Like I'd screw up other people's phone calls and stuff and so like I'm way into it. And I understand why people want to do it. BUT, I always kinda, knew that I just .. . shouldn't. Just because it's stupid.. It was childish. And, I just wish that hackers could come up with something better to do than get things without paying for them.

PH: Like something more productive?

KV: Yea, like .. uh.. umm, crash some sort of umm, killing organization's computer system.

Me: Have you always had these thoughts or..just because of your popularity?

KV: Umm, I've had this attitude as I got older, because .. um, I'm just becomming really bored with people devoting all this intelligence and motivation into like avoiding paying their phone bill.

TC: Well, actually, that's getting away from the hacker as such. Because alot of hackers are really into systems more than their into .. you know, toll fraud.

KV: Well I sure hope so..

TC: Yea, I mean..

KV: My Idea of great hacking is gathering information that other people are wrongfully trying to withhold.

TC: Right.

KV: But, most hacking to me seems to be petty ways of getting things without paying for them.. and that is just silly.

Me: That is the "90's hackers" Kurt.

PH: Yea, it's moving that way alot..

Me: It's in that direction.

Me: Tell us about the telephone job you mentioned?

KV: Well, I worked at a market research place. You all know what that is-- you call up and say, "Hello, my name is Kurt and Im calling for marketing incentives incorporated, and we are conducting a survey in your area tonight... about toothpaste!"

PH: Hah

TC: ahha

Me: Bahaha

KV: "And I would like to know if I could ask you a few questions?" .. "What! I don't wanna buy no toothpaste!" .. "No we were just going to ask a few questions.." -- Ewwwwph..

KV: Like... you would try to come up with ways to not make the phone calls because it was so painful to do.

TC: heh

KV: The best thing was when I umm. . this was a time when I didn't know much about telephones.. or how they really worked.. umm. . but I managed to run a little thing-- wires with alligator clips --uhh, from the phone that I was at to the central switcher. And uhh, whenever I like got up to goto the bathroom, or something, I'd go in there, and by connecting and shorting the two wires out I'd break up someone's phone call.

PH: ha

KV: You know, but after a while, I thought to myself, WHY? I wish I could have pulled something more creative like umm.. . installing a uhh.. a pitch transposer on the outgoing signals, so that the people on the other end of the phone would hear, "AND NOW, I WOULD LIKE TO ASK YOU: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT COLEGATE?"

Me: Bahaha

TC: ahha

PH: heh!

KV: That would have been funny-- aha.

KV: But, I never did that..

Me: Hmm, Do you know any other bands that are involved or interested in the computer underground?

KV: No, I don't know that there are any-- most uh musicians are either anti-tech or if they are into tech they arnt into it enough-- or they arn't into it for it's own sake. Like, like hackers.

Me: Did you guys have any problems with the title of your new album?

KV: What do you mean?

Me: Well, do you find that most of your fans think you guys are into the "hacking scene" because of the title?

KV: They can think of it anyway they want-- it has a bunch of different meanings.

KV: Like uh, one member of the band thinks of it refering to him being a cook and the fact that he likes to cut up meat.

Me: Hah

TC: heh

TC: What about like on the 12" with the "BlueBox 2600" mix and the "Phone Phreakers" mix?

KV: What about it?

TC: Yea.. uh

KV: And the Virtual Reality mix?

TC: Yea, has that uh.. have you heard anything about that?

KV: Umm, no people in general just don't notice. When you're a hacker, you kind of forget how little people know. But it's unbelieveable how much people don't know. And I'm sure one person in a thousand thinks that those are anything other than, "Oh another wacky mix name!"

Me: Baha

KV: Most mix names are just inside jokes-- so most people don't bother trying to understand them.

TC: Right.

KV: Umm, basically the only thing that has happened is that people have umm.. really responded to the concept of uhh.. us trying to tie into computer hacking-- way more than we were really trying to. We just wanted it to be a reference. And the people around us are kinda pushing us into it being a theme. We were not really prepared for that. Because, while we're into it, of the three of us, Im the only one who can hold down a conversation about tech. And even I have to move over and admit that I am not an actual hacker. I just dont know enough. Like.. Uh.. I know what an FAT is, but I wouldn't know how to rewrite it.

TC: Well, that's another thing. Do you make a distinction between hacker as someone who breaks into computers or a hacker who is an intense system programmer?

KV: Do I make that distinction?

TC: Yea.

KV: Umm.. No.. Im not involved enough in the hacker world to make that distinction.

Me: Do you have anything you want to say to the computer underground?

KV: Umm.. .yes let me think. . "Roller-skating is not a crime".

TC: Hah

PH: ah!

KV: You know that I live on skates don't you?

PH: Well on the album cover your wearing skates.. next to that car ... with your..

KV: My teledestruction gear!

KV: And, I have to add a grain of salt to the phrase "Hackers of the world unite" thats on our album cover..

PH: Right.

KV: We didn't actually intend it to be a huge banner.. it was suppose to be a tiny little comment on the side.. and our label misunderstood our intentions for that. We didn't think it was quite good enough to have it be a huge .. in such huge print.

Me: Hmm

KV: Not a grain of salt.. A tounge and a cheek.

TC: hehe

Me: Well, I guess thats about it.. Do you have anything you wanna sum up with?

KV: Umm..

Me: Uh, Kurt, do you have an Email address somewhere?

KV: AH, well, Im embarrassed to say it, but only on Prodigy.


Me: Bahah!

PH: Heh

Me: Okay.. Well, if that's it..

KV: Wait. I do know something I can sum up with..
Please.. In the case of our album try to overcome your instinct of hacker tendencies and buy an original disk rather than just waiting for a copy.. Ok?

Me: Hah

KV: We need the money.

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[The following is a press release for InSoc's new LP. --DH]


"Hackers have no regard for conventional wisdom. We have no regard for musical conventions..."

-- Paul Robb

"Hack has multiple meanings, some of them self-deprecating. You can't take any of this too seriously or you've missed the point. It's about a playful use of technology, about breaking codes. It's a post-modern aesthetic that comes through in our music..."

-- James Cassidy

"After having devised, erased and blotted out many other names, we finally decided to call our album _Hack_ -- a name that, in our opinion, is lofty, sonorous and significant. It explains that we had been only ordinary hacks before we had been raised to our present status as first of all hacks in the world..."

-- Kurt Valaquen

There you have complete a definition of the vision of _Hack_ as you're likely to get short of actually listening to Information Society's superb new album of the same name. And if, after reading the trio's treatises on the term, you suddenly have a clear understanding of what the meaning behind _Hack_ really is, then something's gone wrong. _Hack_ is more than the definition. It's a way of life. With its own soundtrack.

"We're musical hackers of the first order," continues InSoc's Paul Robb. "What we do is similiar to computer hackers breaking into sophisticated systems to wreak havoc."

"Our music is really different from other progressive styles," adds James Cassidy. "It's funnier and scarier...a mix of pure pop and sub- versive stuff underneath the surface." _______________________________________________________________________________