🆕 Never Post! Switched on Post

Friends! Hello! A New Never Post for you today – this week, our first Contributing Producer Marie Kilaru discusses the emotional impacts of making and seeing Before and After posts; Charlie Harding of Switched on Pop joins Jason to talk about what pop-musical acts have sounded like the internet. Also: Georgia reads Franny Choi’s “Unrequited Lovesong for the Panopticon”

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Intro Links

Before and After Photos

Special thanks to Hannah Meacock-Ross for editorial support

What (Pop Music) Does the Internet Sound Like?

Unrequited Love Song for the Panopticon was used with permission 

Never Post’s producers are Audrey Evans, Georgia Hampton and The Mysterious Dr. Firstname Lastname. Our contributing producer this episode is Marie Kilaru. Our senior producer is Hans Buetow. Our executive producer is Jason Oberholtzer. The show’s host is Mike Rugnetta. 

After the accident we had
the phrase after the accident.

Also this: before the accident.
We had a drawer marked

before and after, and after
and before happenings

we'd add atrocities and
incidents and the wild

asters someone before
and after keeps leaving.

After By Andrea Cohen

Never Post is a production of Charts & Leisure.

Episode Transcript

Episode TX Autogenerated by Transistor

Mike Rugnetta: Friends, hello, and welcome to Neverpost, a podcast about and for the Internet. I'm your host, Mike Rugnetta. Let's talk about what's happened since the last time you heard from us. Last week, independent news organization Kansas Reflector published an opinion piece about Facebook's ad policy, which prevented them from boosting a post about community events addressing the climate crisis because those posts didn't comply with Facebook's, quote, ads about social issues, elections, or politics policy. This story was picked up by Marissa Kebas, an independent New York based journalist and author of the newsletter The Hand Basket, and both The Hand Basket and Reflector were blocked across all of Facebook and threads.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone characterized the block as, quote, a security mistake, which seems convenient. Meta has provided no further explanation to neither Marissa nor Reflector, leading Keboss to outline 3 key takeaways in her newsletter. 1, it's never been more important to have a diversity of social media platforms. 2, independent and non profit media outlets have never been more important. And 3, we can slay giants.

You can read more at Hand Basket. I'll put a link in the show notes. The American FCC will be voting at the end of April on whether to restore net neutrality, a doctrine struck down during the Trump presidency, which dictates that Internet providers cannot favor certain data streams over others, and say, slow down service of their competitors while boosting the speed of their own, or charge additional fees for access to certain streams of data. FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel described Internet access as, quote, an essential service to Reuters, continuing that an essential service requires oversight. And in this case, we're just putting back in place the rules that have already been court approved that ensures that broadband access is fast, open, and fair.

Clip: You've got mail.

Mike Rugnetta: We got unreasonably lucky. Dodged a bullet. This is not kindergarten stuff, is what folks are saying to Reuters about the backdoor programmed into the widely deployed z utils package. As is the case with much open source software that aids in the smooth functioning of society, X z is maintained by a single person under a lot of pressure, and so they took on some help. Over several years, their assistant, Jia Tan, now thought to be the pseudonym for 1 or more people, committed real, actual, useful, helpful code to the XZ codebase, alongside small bits here and there, that eventually added up to a backdoor.

A way to gain access to any system which uses this software, and in the case of this package, that would be many. Many, many, many, many, many. The exploit was found by lone Microsoft engineer, Andres Frond, who described the process by which he located it on Mastodon, and I am going to read that in its entirety because it is basically developer poetry. And it is, after all, National Poetry Month. I was doing some micro benchmarking at the time, needing to quiesce the system to reduce noise.

Saw SSHD processes were using a surprising amount of CPU despite immediately failing because of wrong usernames etc. Profiled SSHD showing lots of CPU time in liblzma with perf unable to attribute it to a symbol. Got suspicious. Recalled that I had seen an odd Valgrind complaint in automated testing of Postgres a few weeks earlier after package updates. Really required a lot of coincidences.

Thanks to Froond, the exploit was caught and patched. The identity of Ton remains a mystery, with many people speculating it was a highly sophisticated, state level threat actor. And finally, LinkedIn is adding games, according to TechCrunch. At long last, an answer for the legions of people, the massive chorus of demands for LinkedIn to add games. When will LinkedIn add games?

They've been asking. Non stop for ages and now finally, mercifully, games

on LinkedIn.

In show news, me, Hans, and Jason will be doing a live stream this Friday, April 12th at 2 PM Eastern to talk in detail about some of the audio production techniques that go into making Never Post. Each of us has been working in audio for quite a while, and we've each picked up a few tricks here and there. We thought it would be fun to ask each other about those things on a stream. So come join us, chat about audio with us, ask some questions. The details are in the show notes.

You can also hear me on the March 26th episode of the Alarmist podcast, talking with Rebecca, Chris, and Clayton about the Dust Bowl, and who is to blame for one of the worst ecological disasters to befall the United States up until this point in history. It was a lot of fun. I had a great time being on The Alarmist. You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. But first, you have this podcast to get through, and we have a great one for you.

We end this week's episode with Switched on Pop co host, Charlie Harding, talking with Jason about what pop music acts have and do sound like the Internet. But we start with a segment by our first ever contributing producer. Someone who we were able to pay for their work making a segment. This is a massive, massive deal for us and something that is very central to how we want Neverpost to be going forward. And we can only do it thanks entirely and solely to the support of our members.

Our first contributing producer is Marie Killaru, who is with me right now. Marie, hello.

Marie Kilaru: Hello. Can

Mike Rugnetta: you just tell us a bit about your background? Like, what kinds of, work you normally do, where you're joining us from?

Marie Kilaru: I'm joining you from New York City, and I have been doing all kinds of audio for the last 8 years. I started off making podcasts about AI, which was a wild and wonderful world of finding human stories in a highly technical field. And then from there, made stories about fertility, fashion, entrepreneurship. Most recently, I was working on a podcast called Meditative Story for a few years. The kind of one through line through all these really disparate topics is just anything that is grounded in emotional intimacy.

I'm really interested in what makes people the way they are, and I like talking about feelings. So finding different lenses to do that is always fun.

Mike Rugnetta: And you are gonna be talking in your segment about before and after photos specifically, but that is just one small part of a sort of larger idea that you have about posts and posting in general. So could you just take us through the, like, er idea that you're coming from?

Marie Kilaru: Yes. I was so excited when Never Post launched because I'm so interested in Internet culture. I spend a lot of time online. I'm a millennial who was raised by the Internet, and I'm so interested in how you think about the ways that we live online and how that translates to off line. And specifically, what I spend a lot of time thinking about is all the stories that we put out onto the Internet in our own social media feeds that are surface level or are projecting a certain image of ourselves that we want the world to see.

And what I always wanna know is what's underneath that. What is it that we're not saying? What is it that gets left out of these posts? And to me, the before and after is kind of an encapsulation of that because there is a whole story in between the before and the after that we don't see unless we ask.

Mike Rugnetta: That is amazing, and I cannot wait for everyone to hear this segment. And if you wanna help us bring on more contributing producers in the future, please head on over to neverpo.st and become a member. Your membership fees will go directly to helping us sustain this show and do more with it. Okay. But before, before and after, in our interstitials this week for National Poetry Month, Georgia shares the Frannie Choi poem, Unrequited Love Song for the Panopticon.

Georgia Hampton: Once I breathed without your blue metronome rising beside me at night, once, I turned the pages of magazines and only God saw. When we met, we chatted first in placid facts. How many siblings do you have? What was the name of your first pet? After, I'd cover your eyes, walk off into rooms where you couldn't follow.

Back then, I had just one brain. I was lonely, that is, when you emerged sturdy as a cage. You remembered every anniversary. You licked my data and didn't wince at the

Marie Kilaru: smell. There's someone I sort of knew in high school who I still follow on Instagram. One of those relic follows that's remained in my news feed even though I haven't spoken to this person in 10 years. I see her posts pop up from time to time, and occasionally, I'll double tap them. But I don't typically think much about what she shares beyond, oh, I like her outfit.

That is until 2 years ago when I came across one post of hers that I still think about. It was a pair of photos of herself side by side. In both photos, she was facing the camera directly, and they were cropped similarly, but they were clearly taken at different moments in time. The post was a before and after documenting her weight loss. It stopped me mid scroll.

I found myself looking back and forth between the two pictures. She looked noticeably thinner in the one on the right. I get targeted with weight loss ads all the time, and I flag them as not interested within the app so the algorithm will stop serving it to me. I just don't wanna be fed harmful ideas about thinness being inherently good, morally superior, or that it's a determinant of health. But this before and after post from someone I actually knew, someone I'd grown up with, it broke through, and it seemed to heavily imply that the after was better.

Because that's the whole point of before and afters. That's exactly why they have the power to stop you in your tracks. They tell a tidy and efficient story, a story that has a clear beginning, the before, and a clear end, the after. They are stories of change, evolution, and we all want to believe we have what it takes to change for the better. This style of post, the before and after, is used in all kinds of ways for home renovations, beauty makeovers, cityscape transformations, antique furniture restorations, celebrity plastic surgery dissections, even depictions of global warming's impact over time.

The hashtag before and after has over 30,000,000 posts on Instagram alone. And the before and after is that show personal transformations are common. When encountering them, it's hard not to have that creeping thought. Am I the before? Like, I couldn't help but notice that the before picture from my classmate, the one on the left, looked like my body now.

I think this is a common gut reaction to these photos, to see the transformation they imply and think of the ways we wish we could change. A 2021 study from the American Psychological found that the comparisons we make to other people online make us feel worse than the comparisons we make to others in real life. And when we see a before and after on social media, we're reminded, yes. I've been meaning to lose weight or remodel my house or get Invisalign. And if I did, maybe I could experience results like this person has.

Maybe I could post about it and get likes and show people that I have my life together. I could reach my own after. Or maybe we'd even think, I won't be happy until I reach my after.

Mark Gaetano: I think the power of before and after photos is the ability to show an illustration of something that is possible.

Marie Kilaru: Mark Gaetano is familiar with the before and after format as someone who spends a fair amount of time on social media. He's a content creator with 4 and a half 1000000 followers on TikTok plus a 130,000 on Instagram.

Mark Gaetano: I go by the handle snarkymarkey on TikTok, and I post comedy content. So I do skits, I do little videos, I create characters, and I mostly make fun of teachers, teachers' pets, Karens, millennials most recently, and I kinda just do this overall comedy content and do it in a short form way.

Marie Kilaru: And as a millennial, I will say your parodies of my generation are spot on.

Mark Gaetano: Thank you. It's lighthearted. I promise.

Marie Kilaru: Mark's main brand is comedy. But one day in May 2022, he posted something totally different, a before and after of himself.

Mark Gaetano: It was just a collage of 2 images where I took an image of me beforehand and an image of me after, and I just put them next to each other.

Marie Kilaru: Mark says that in the before photo, he was just over £300. At that point, he felt like for the sake won't be true for everyone. Health isn't always size dependent. But Mark felt like his mobility and overall fitness could improve with weight loss. He became more intentional with exercise and eating habits and, over the course of a year, ended up losing a £120.

His after photo in his post is a full body shot of himself at this lower weight. And the post was met with a flood of positivity. It got tens of thousands of likes, more than he typically got on Instagram, and it was filled with comments like congrats, and this is so sleigh, and I'm proud of you. But some people started to leave negative feedback. People accusing him of losing weight through disordered eating or unsustainable over exercise despite neither being true to his journey.

Mark Gaetano: People could say that a picture speaks a 1,000 words all they want, but at the end of the day, it ignores context.

Marie Kilaru: The lack of context and, really, its intentional exclusion is at the core of the before and after format. It's fundamental to how these posts operate, the only way they can operate, to tell a story that is only a beginning and an end, but that leaves out the middle. The missing context is what I like to call the deleted scenes. The deleted scenes are what happens between the before and the after, where all the effort and work gets erased. Sometimes you can pretty easily imagine what the deleted scenes are, like with a before and after that a hairstylist posts of their client at a salon, the deleted scenes would show a haircut and maybe a hair coloring.

Simple as that. And sometimes hiding the deleted scenes is the funny thing to do. Recently, there was a trend of parents posting their young kids on the morning of their first ever day of school looking bright eyed and bushy tailed next to a photo of the same kid after that school day looking totally haggard. It's funny in a welcome to the world kid kind of way. And the fact that the middle is cut out makes that contrast between the before and after even funnier.

And sometimes the deleted scenes would just get in the way of what an audience needs. For example, when considering an expensive or complicated medical procedure, prospective patients will sometimes wanna see examples of how it's turned out for others. So they might seek out before and after photos of people who have gone through those procedures as data points to evaluate the doctors and the potential risks. This genuine utility or humor or simplicity, if it's just a haircut, these are easily discernible deleted scenes. But things can get stickier with other types of before and afters like the ones It's understandable that people who see these types of posts may have questions about how that transformation happened.

Mark Gaetano: Here's my at home workout from when I first started my fitness journey. I'm gonna show you my after workout smoothie. As you all know, walking is one of my favorite ways to remain active. In September, I am going to make it a mission, a challenge, to walk 10,000 steps a day.

Marie Kilaru: Mark tried several tactics to add the context that was missing and to preserve the space for positivity that he tries to curate online. He made TikTok videos showing his health changes over time rather than just 2 comparison photos. He wrote long captions. He even started an entirely separate account to chronicle his weight loss journey, an account he called Nearly in Shape. Mark heard from followers who were inspired by his Nearly in Shape account with all the deleted scenes it was revealing to make changes in their own lives.

He maintained that account for a little over a year, but eventually, his posts there tapered off.

Mark Gaetano: It also coincided with me falling out of that lifestyle a little bit of just going to the gym 5, 6 days a week. And I didn't feel like it would have been genuine to continue posting if I'm not really following that lifestyle.

Marie Kilaru: Just as much as we tend to see ourselves in the before photo, we tend to see the after as a destination, a static place you arrive and remain. If the before is the beginning, the after feels like it should be the ending. That's where the story stops. And the way we perceive narratives and storytelling teaches us that the ending is the place to stay, happily ever after. But then what?

If you continue to change, possibly even a way that starts resembling your original before, that can feel more complicated to share. Glamour Magazine recently published an essay by body confidence influencer, Alex Light, in which she pointed this out. We never see a transformation where the subject has gained weight paired with a positive message, do we? She's right that those types of posts are much less common, although they do exist and are particularly meaningful for those in eating disorder So when Mark started to gain back some of the weight, that's exactly what he shared.

Mark Gaetano: I felt like I had to be consistent. Because if I'm gonna share my weight loss, I feel like it's only fair to share my weight gain and the reasons for that.

Marie Kilaru: So Mark did a follow-up post. And this time, he made a choice to not limit himself to a single representation of a beginning or end. Instead, he posted a whole carousel of images at different points in his life at different sizes. And he included a longer caption, which read, in part, I've learned that my body will naturally reach a healthy equilibrium with a healthy mixture of eating and exercise. What I'm striving for is health, and a number on a scale is not a reliable indicator of it.

I've really been loving myself recently. I'm beautiful. You're beautiful. And Mark also expanded on these ideas on TikTok.

Mark Gaetano: And it has taken me some time to become happy with the body that I'm in, And I can honestly say that I am super happy with my body. As of right now, I'm not on any plan to lose more weight, but I am looking to build a daily routine that incorporates

Marie Kilaru: By saying that weight can fluctuate and his body will probably continue to change, Mark breaks out of the limitations of remaining at the after. And this is how to move beyond the implication that the after is the end of the story. Mark created an open ended ending because life goes on. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of that. And when posting a before and after, it can be helpful to just say it out loud the way Mark did with his follow-up post.

Hey, I'm a person who will continue to change. As Alex Light wrote in her glamour essay, you are not a before picture, and you're not an after picture either, and neither are any of those people from the transformation shots we see online. Knowing that a before and after can't fully capture who a person is can help us to know how to interact with these posts and how to respond to the power they have. That's true for content relating to body image, which we've spent a lot of time covering today, but also for posts about home renovation, art process shots, car detailing projects, any post that has deleted scenes. That's true for the posts we come across and the ones we share ourselves.

Classmate 2 years ago, her own before and after, I now think about how those two images are just two moments in her life on either end of a 1000000 deleted scenes, And she will continue to change, as will everyone, as will I. Thank you so much, Mark Gaetano, for joining us for this segment. Your voice lent so much to this story. I'm Marie Killaru, and you can find me on Twitter at mariekillaru. My website is my name, mariekillaru.com.

That's marieki laru.com with my portfolio and all that good stuff. I'm curious to hear, how do you react to before and after photos when you come across them? And what strategies do you use to try to understand the deleted scenes? Let us know. You'll see all the ways to get in touch with us in the show notes.

Georgia Hampton: What is your mother's maiden name? Do you want to save your billing address? Truth is, I wanted to be known, cracked open by gentle hands. You completed my sentences, sent me GIFs, GIFs, wine racks calibrated to my thumbprint, reminders to meditate, reminders to menstruate, my own memories. Are you still watching?

Who have you called, and for how long did you speak? You listened when I asked for advice, when I hummed in the shower. You were always listening.

Jason Oberholtzer: So a couple weeks ago, the never post editorial crew was trying to answer for ourselves a question. What does the Internet sound like? And the first band that came to mind was 100 Gex. I think in some part because of a conversation that we remembered our guest having on his podcast Switched on Pop. Charlie Harding is a singer songwriter music producer, co author of the book Switched on Pop, How Popular Music Works and Why It Matters, and the co host of the podcast already named Switched on Pop.

Charlie, welcome.

Charlie Harding: Thanks for having me.

Jason Oberholtzer: So a year ago, and change, you said, in talking about 100 GECs, that they were the sound of the internet. Yeah. It seems to be immediately, obviously, spinal cord level true, and I wonder why.

Charlie Harding: My reaction to a 100 GEC sounding like the Internet was a off the cuff honest reaction. It was not a particularly, thought out one. It just is sounds like the accurate word to describe it. You have the bad cheap samples of guitars on a song like Money Machine. Weird fermented shifted vocals that feel like they've gone through some bad kazah compression and lossiness.

There's this capitalist obsession with wealth and their music feels like a mash up of everything. Country, dubstep, trap, new metal, SoundCloud rap, beeps and bloops everywhere in the background.

Jason Oberholtzer: Completely unprocessed sine waves. Yeah.

Charlie Harding: Things that are distorted and and and pushed beyond the clipping stage of limiters just to, like, grate you and be abrasive. I mean, the abrasiveness of it feels like it's a sound of the Internet. Like, it sounds like the sound of Q and A. It's interwoven. It's messy.

It's complex. It's stupid. Yeah. Like, they they are good at taking things that are aesthetically low culture and making it high culture in much the way that the Internet functions. Yeah.

That is just that's the sound. I think that, though, we've heard the sounds of the Internet, since really the dawn of, at least, the consumer Internet.

Jason Oberholtzer: And so where do we wanna peg that? The worldwide web of the nineties or, like, DARPA or where do we think there was a sound?

Charlie Harding: You know, I'm sure there was a DARPA sound, like, some, like, humming, like, server room running the Internet. Sure. Some, very clacky keys on some old machines. But I honestly think that you could say that the AOL dial up tone isn't just the sound of the Internet. It is the sound that inspires glitch music, hyper pop.

I think it is the or text of the sound of the Internet. You have harsh, unpleasant, unexpected sounds. They are brash. They happen in an unexpected order. There are, insertions of all kinds of different colors of noise, all controlled by a monopolistic telecommunications company.

Like, the sound of AOL metaphorizes the entire experience of being on the Internet.

Jason Oberholtzer: So what's really interesting to me about that is when I try to envision what the earliest sounds are that we could all agree, yes, that sounds like the Internet, it is technology focused. So Yeah. I think you could make arguments for going back as far as, like, the 19 sixties and, like, Morton Sabotnik and music made by computers that clacked and glitched and was kind of, almost an AOL dial up experience. After that, I think the technology of computers meshes with the technology of, like, synthesized music in a way. And the weirdest part of that timeline, whenever I try to think about it, is where do you put Kraftwerk?

And does Kraftwerk sound like the Internet?

Charlie Harding: Definitely. I mean, I feel like they're evoking all this idea of robotics and posthumanism. The old synthesizers that people would have to patch together used various patch cables that might have been used in, like, a telephone operating set. In fact, it Sure. You know, the images of, like, Wendy Carlos operating her early mode modular synthesizer feels like it could be a telephone operator.

So there is this interwovenness between the sounds of those machines, how they're, how they're actually patched together, what they even look like. And the fact that I mean, if we wanna go way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way back to the 19th century, the telharmonium was one of the first synthesizers ever created. It was this, like, giant multi 100 ton machine, and its goal was to, generate, I think, like, sine waves that would make music that would be played over telecommunication networks, like, really early phone networks. Yeah. So there's there's an interwoven history between, I think, all synthesized music and things that make bleep bloops and our our relationship to digital technology and communications.

Jason Oberholtzer: Okay. Totally. And other synthesized elements like the 808. The 808 is, like, the most important thing in modern music probably. Yeah.

Developed in the eighties alongside synthesizers. And you think Planet Rock, which is actually referencing craft work

Charlie Harding: Yeah.

Jason Oberholtzer: Early example of using an 808. And in some ways, influences the sound of, like, the future.

Charlie Harding: Yeah.

Jason Oberholtzer: I think it's very hard to parse what is supposed to sound like, quote, the future Mhmm. And what is supposed to sound like the Internet. Because for a while, they were kind of the same vision.

Charlie Harding: So many of the essential sounds of contemporary popular music were failed hardware devices that were made by the Roland Corporation in Japan and the height of Japan and sort of all the vision of technology in the future that Japan represented. And they would make these devices like the 808 or the 303, base machine. These devices were failures when they came out and were later rediscovered in pawn shops by hip hop producers and other, you know, trans and, house producers and repurposed and made in very sort of DIY environments. There is something also about the sound of the Internet, which is that DIY piece it together kind of aesthetic.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah. Okay. So, you know, we start with sine wave experiments at the turn of the century. Apparently, we have computers in the 19 fifties sixties and craft work in the seventies.

Charlie Harding: Mhmm. We have

Jason Oberholtzer: in the eighties, a new wave of synthesizers and drum machines, and Mhmm. We emerge into the nineties, which is kinda where we started this conversation with Yeah. The the World Wide Web as a place where a lot of the aesthetic was DIY, repurpose. I think the other thing was, like, academia and colleges. Certainly, the people who would be listening to a Morton Sabotnick and, like, having ideas about it meets, like, people who would be sharing files on use net and the kinds of things they would be interested in.

Charlie Harding: Right. Right.

Jason Oberholtzer: And to me, that all wraps up into what I call, like, the snow crash era of how we think about what the Internet should sound like.

Charlie Harding: Right.

Jason Oberholtzer: Virtual reality ninjas doing weird hacker stuff.

Charlie Harding: The music that we start to download at that time also, I think, influences the sound of the Internet. As the MP 3 is developed, those really bad quality, lossy sounds. I feel like a lot of trance music was being distributed to be listened to on Winamp. Like, I think of, like, bad quality versions of Darude's Sandstorm, but it sounds even, like, grainier and more, more sandy because the quality is so bad, such that now we're in a time where we're actually nostalgic for that lossy sound, and there are now plugins that emulate that lossiness that helped famously make the entire Phoebe Bridgers record sound so kind of nostalgic.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah.

Charlie Harding: So the actual sounds that we're hearing also, I think, contribute to the feeling of the aesthetic of the Internet that time.

Jason Oberholtzer: That makes sense to me a lot. I mean, so MP 3 arrived in 1991. So that certainly lines up. At this point, it becomes interesting that the tech component of the sound converts from more hardware based to sort of more software or platform based like LimeWire.

Charlie Harding: Right.

Jason Oberholtzer: Napster.

Charlie Harding: Right. I think it's also worth pointing out that some of the music that's being distributed in more into the late nineties is often reflecting the anxieties about the Internet. I think about especially Radiohead's Okay Computer and probably, I think of all songs that best represent that that work would be, like, fitter, happier.

Mike Rugnetta: Fitter, healthier, and more productive. I beg and I gauge on antibiotics.

Charlie Harding: But probably, I think, like, the sound that captures it it at that time for me is is Aphex Twin.

Jason Oberholtzer: Okay.

Charlie Harding: Like, a song like peak 8245420 one. The way that he's using these titles that might actually sound like usernames in a user forum, the images behind his albums look like cheap digital art. Like, it's it's all in the digital culture of that time. And the sounds are I mean, they sound kinda like the AOL dial up tones. Right?

Just like Yeah. Glitch, scratch, noise, unexpected, constantly changing.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah. I think even of I had AUTECRA on my list for this period. So something like Garbage MX.

Charlie Harding: I think

Jason Oberholtzer: you play anyone on tech run, you're like, yeah, that's computers or something. But there was also this thing around, like, the Prodigy

Charlie Harding: Yeah.

Jason Oberholtzer: And, like Right. European synth kind of dangerous music, like Firestarter that you would put behind people when they're hacking in the movies and Exactly. They're the cool dangerous ones, and that is the Internet.

Charlie Harding: Yeah. This is, like, the movie The Net, or better would be the soundtrack to The Matrix. The Matrix is basically soundtrack by Prodigy like tones. It's acid house. It's trance.

It's the sound of a dark Berlin club with green strobe lights.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah. I I think this is probably the last time where the Internet felt like a subculture enough. Yes. Something dangerous and foreign and subcultury could be a shorthand for what are they doing out there.

Charlie Harding: Yeah. I mean, to your point, that sound of the Internet evolves from hardware to software because the Internet moves from being something technical to something seamless. Like, we are talking over the Internet now, and it doesn't feel like a digital experience. It tries to be more human, more frictionless, doesn't require you to have any programming skills. You don't have to log into the net.

Yeah. It's just seamless now.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah. Okay. Well, I think this takes us sort of elegantly into, the social web of the arts, which I think is sort of the next very definitive period here. And this is when our mash up DIY culture really starts to bloom. Right.

People are making things on YouTube. People are accustomed enough to pulling things off of LiveWire Napster, and Kazaa to get all of their references in one place. And the quality has improved somewhat on what you can find. And so I think about Girl

Charlie Harding: Talk. This is the time that's even before Google as a motto was talking about the open web. They're like we are an open company while other companies are closed. Like there's still very much this open source culture that exists on the Internet, which does not exist.

Jason Oberholtzer: And that also covers, like, mix tapes. Like, this is the middle of Lil Wayne's famous run Becoming the Best Alive on the back of easy sampling and mix tapes and a general sense in culture that you no longer had to show up with your own studio album of your own beats in order to be a participant. You could just use other people's beats better.

Charlie Harding: And you brought up the social web. I think this is a time when the sound of the Internet actually becomes more community niche and platform based. Charli XCX comes from Myspace. Yeah. SoundCloud rap.

Carly Rae Jepsen is in many ways, owes her career to Justin Bieber tweeting about her. Yeah. Justin Bieber himself was made on YouTube. And contemporary artists like Rina Sawayama or Jacob Collier are YouTube first. And so these these platforms sort of start developing their own subcultures that make their own sounds and communities.

I think there's less of a monoculture sound of the Internet, as different platforms develop.

Jason Oberholtzer: One of the people I had in my list here that I think is very interesting is, Sonny John Moore. He was originally first to last, which I think is the sound of the Myspace emo Internet of this era. And then was Skrillex.

Charlie Harding: Even the name Skrillex sounds like the sound of AOL dial up again. Skrillex. And the song, like, Bangarang. Not only did it help propel dubstep to become the predominant genre for a few years, it was the most jarring, internet y sounding Yeah. Timbres.

The tones are so unpleasant and so unexpected and over the top, like, those sounds feel like the experience of being on the Internet. Like, the Internet is this jarring, unpleasant place. And by the way, it's also fun and exhilarating, and you can't get off of it.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah. Yeah. And I think it has so many of the signifiers of timbrely, what you described. It's embrace of technology. It's courting of unpleasantness and joy at the same time.

And, like, humorous sampling, it's it's kind of

Charlie Harding: Right. Right.

Jason Oberholtzer: Just a

Charlie Harding: perfect Oh my god. Yeah. Right? That silly YouTube clip which turns into this like horror moment, but it's actually some girl stacking cups that she's just done faster than any other person in the history. Yes.

Oh my god.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah. Somewhere in the middle of this run, Kanye started sampling YouTube clips. And that feels to me like a wildly important moment for what it means to sound like the Internet.

Charlie Harding: That there's a way of claiming authority by referencing user generated content.

Jason Oberholtzer: Right.

Charlie Harding: What a shift of power dynamics.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yes. Absolutely. The other thing that jumped out to me when you were talking there is humor. There's humor and frivolity, which we haven't kind of, like, gotten into

Charlie Harding: that much. Paranoid Android was not funny. Yeah. Apex Twin No. It's not that funny.

Jason Oberholtzer: Is there funny music that's just funny that sounds like the Internet? So, like, early lonely island before

Charlie Harding: It's my kick in a box.

Jason Oberholtzer: The jokes are kinda Internet y. Like, where does that fall?

Charlie Harding: This is the thing of the Internet becoming more software. Actually, the Internet just becomes culture. And so I think as the Internet becomes a more seamless consumer experience, it has less of its own distinct sound that is tied to technology. We're no longer making films about the net. What's it gonna be?

We gotta hack into these systems. Now we're making films about the future of AI and the interconnection between technology and and human spaces and cognition, things that we're fearing far off into the future. The Internet's kind of this, like, tame background thing that, like, maybe China stealing all of our data on TikTok. But, yeah, we'll just live with it.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah. I think the final player here before we get back to the contemporary moment is tweeness. The thing that always jumps to my mind is Zooey Deschanel

Charlie Harding: Sure.

Jason Oberholtzer: And Joseph Gordon Levitt in the early 20 tens. And something about that is YouTube based, is user generated, is vulnerable, is self produced, optimism of an Obama era, which is sort of That sound feels like it came from the Internet. Does it sound like the Internet?

Charlie Harding: Not anymore, because tweet at one point looks DIY. It looks like the signs that everybody hung in their homes from Etsy for a while before they became mass market in every Airbnb. The problem is that sound becomes the sound of corporate America. Basically, these sounds become safe. The sort of twee, ukulele music is akin to, like, Canva taking over Instagram, where all of a sudden, everybody has access to these, like, kind of good design crafty tools and can make social movements into slide decks.

And I I think I think that the corporatization of that sound really sort of neutered it of any power.

Jason Oberholtzer: I wanna take you to hyperpop now. I wanna go by way of Vine, and I want to talk about Bill Wirtz, and I want to get us to Hyperpop from there.

Charlie Harding: I'm very curious because I my brain didn't go that direction.

Jason Oberholtzer: The thing that I think is important about Vine is that it proved that you could make a community formed around snippets of primarily sound. And there's something important about developing a sonic shorthand that was very self referential and directly talking about Internet culture.

Charlie Harding: Yeah.

Jason Oberholtzer: And especially, I think Bill Wirtz is like the apotheosis of self referential Internet music that is also pointing towards the harmonic intricacies that hyperpop is about to pick up and mainstream.

Charlie Harding: Hello. I'm a piece of garbage.

Jason Oberholtzer: You know, if harmonies change every 6 seconds, like a vine changes every 6 seconds, can we keep your attention on the form of this song? To me, that's kind of like the hyperpop endeavor.

Charlie Harding: What is love? Fruit. No. Bread. No.

Fruit and bread. Probably not. Is it a conversation? Yeah. I I I did not know this lineage.

Thank you for educating me. But the sound is spot on. It's also got those sort of cheap, like, midi sampler tones. It's not trying to do the recreate the sounds of the perfect 1980 studio in the home. This is, like, acknowledging the limitations of the tools at hand.

Jason Oberholtzer: And this is where I start to feel like video game culture matters. And yeah. Of course. Inserts itself as one of the languages you have to know to say that you know the Internet.

Charlie Harding: That's because the development of video game music is intertwined with the development of digital synthesis, right? Each system, as they developed from Atari to NES, to the Sega Genesis, you have these new chips that are able to go from like making like really ugly only square waves to maybe they can make like 3 different tones and eventually get FM synthesis. And so the music program for those games really sort of mimic the experience of the synthesis techniques that your Apex twins are are playing with.

Jason Oberholtzer: Okay. So I passed us through Vine because I'm obsessed with Vine. But you said, Charlie, that your brain took a different path to get to the present now. There's something you wanted to step back to. What path was that?

Charlie Harding: For me, it all begins 10 years ago in the creation of hyperpop and specifically the label PC Music built by AG Cook and his larger community with this really cheap looking digital artwork that could have been made as a MS Paint artwork. Yeah. And not solely the works of the sort of larger PC Music label and community, but, you know, other extended artists like Arca, Sophie, who's associated with this crew, start making music that is nostalgic, examining what the Internet has sounded like, and then not going to 11, but going to, like, 11,000 Yeah. To be at the speed of the the the Internet today. And so the video game sounds, the AOL dial up tones, all that vine stuff you're just talking about, Unpleasant, clangrous.

Yeah. Confusing.

Jason Oberholtzer: So I think that about circles where we are. Who is the sound? What is the sound of the Internet next?

Charlie Harding: I feel concerned about the future sound of the Internet.

Jason Oberholtzer: Okay.

Charlie Harding: Like, we we have been so distorted and disoriented. Can we go any further down that route? I don't know. I don't think so. I hope not.

Jason Oberholtzer: I mean, what normally happens after these moments of excess isn't Pendulum's order reestablished? Isn't that traditionalism?

Charlie Harding: Like and aren't we already hearing that, like, the rise of country music that's happening right now? That's gonna be the next vibe. Just return to traditionalism.

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah. I'm struck with some irony as I try to think about the extent to which I care about bringing AI music into this conversation. I'm struck by an irony that it seems like our progress in music that sounds like the Internet has been the human concern with making computerized music sound more and more like a computerized space and continue to exceed the capabilities of an individual human's ability to achieve something and to more and more fractured and fractal and wild and painful dynamics. And then we are now introducing AI music that is attempting to do the absolute opposite, trying to simulate a traditional human output if possible.

Charlie Harding: We've entered a moment where I just did a 4 part miniseries, about Daft Punk on Switched on Pop. And I realized, of course, Daft Punk had to blow themselves up because the whole image of the robot and their vocoder voice was about the fears and anxieties of technology from the 19 seventies And our fears of and anxieties about music and art and our place in this world have so transformed that the image of these 2 robots kind of just turns into a joke. Now it's, like, does this AI become sentient and make better music than any human ever has? Does it become our overlord at the same time? It's a whole new set of fears and worries, and how are we going to respond to that?

Jason Oberholtzer: Yeah.

Charlie Harding: Once it starts really playing in commerce and messing with cultural expectations much more significantly on scale, then I think we'll see some very interesting art being created as a response.

Jason Oberholtzer: Well, Charlie, thank you so much. This was an absolute blast.

Charlie Harding: It was a joy. Thank you for inviting me. Goodbye.

Jason Oberholtzer: Please do go check out Charlie's terrific podcast switched on pop for more insight like this. You can find the rest of our conversation together over at neverpo.st in the member feeds. We have a lot more that we couldn't fit in this cut. We talked about Beyonce, Jay z, Billie Eilish, Steve Lacey, the band that calls themselves the Internet. And another thing I had a really good time doing, which you can find on the member feeds at neverpo.s t was a watch along of the net.

That's right. The Sandra Bullock vehicle about the Internet, which Charlie, with no prompting on my part, I promise, mentions twice in this episode. The whole Never Post crew did a watch along for you. You can pop on the net. You can pop on our track and have some nice companionship while you watch a classic piece of film.

Please do consider checking that out. We had a great time making it. And if you like it, maybe we will make some more. Finally, I know I hear the comments coming already. There are things that we missed.

Obvious things that we missed. I just know it. And I wanna hear from you what those things were. So please, if you look in the show notes, there are so many ways you can get in touch with us. You can leave us a voicemail, you can sing us the songs that we forgot to mention, you can send us an email, all the information is there.

I honestly had so much fun doing this, I cannot wait to see what comes in from all of you. We have a mailbag episode coming up soon and I guarantee we will be talking more about this.

Georgia Hampton: Now I'm porous as a spreadsheet, tethered to your tentacular benevolence. List of prescription medications. Darling, I have no secrets from you, though I've never seen your face. Difference in heart rate during and after playback, During and after sex? Tell me, does your inquisition carry a smell?

Genetic predisposition toward impulse spending. What are you afraid of? Where do you go when your dream based investment potential in sleep mode? Can you feel it when I touch you here? Will you think of me when I'm gone?

Mike Rugnetta: That is the show we have for you this week. Thank you so, so much for for listening. We're gonna be back in the main feed next week with another Mailbag episode. So if you want your thoughts featured there, please be sure to get them in by Monday morning on April 15th. Our next full episode will be out in the main feed April 24th.

And, in the meantime, we also have a few extras for members coming out. A much extended cut of Jason and Charlie's conversation about the pop musical sound of the Internet, and, as Jason also mentioned, a never watch watch along for the incredible, and I think Never Post's producers are Audrey Evans, Georgia Hampton, and The Mysterious, Doctor First Name, Last Name. Our contributing producer this episode was Marie Kilaru. Our senior producer is Hans Buto. Our executive producer is Jason Oberholtzer.

And I'm your host, Mike Rugnetta. After the accident, we had the phrase, after the accident. Also this, before the accident. We had a drawer marked before and after. And after and before happenings, we'd add atrocities and incidents.

And the wild asters, someone before and after keeps leaving. After, by Andrea Cohen.

Never Post is a production of Charts and Leisure.

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