05 November, 2018

P2P (Prisoner to Prisoner) Music Sharing

"What'd you bring me, Byron?" he asks, his squinty smile not quite reminding me of someone. "Am I gonna cry with joy?"

This is only my third time speaking with Luke, and already we're first-naming it — a rare thing in prison, where surnames without the honorific "Mr." are the norm. Luke's a friend of a friend of my cellmate's. He's also in Gavel Club. But what brought us together in conversation was overhearing him run down a few of the music acts he searched for, the day that JPay opened its MP3 library to Missouri prisoners last week: the Legendary Pink Dots (and Tear Garden), the Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, and other decidedly Byronic favorites. Weirdly enough, it ended up being him who cornered me at the next Gavel Club meeting.

That was then. Today we're in the Learning Center, where he works and where I watch occasional Great Courses lecture videos. I've bought a handful of CDs — Chelsea Wolfe, Xiu Xiu, the Cure — for him to rip to the institution's virtual jukebox. (Fun fact: per US copyright law, prisons and oil rigs aren't public spaces. Copying my discs to our TV guide's "Gothic, Industrial, Electronic, New Wave" playlist is totally legal.) He's impressed by my offering, and the expression on his face clarifies things for me: Christian Bale and Ed Norton's love child — that's who he looks like.

"Pornography? Man, what a great album."

"A wrist-slashing masterpiece," I say, quoting some forgotten music critic.
 
"Do you know who Gary Numan is?"

"I have Replicas and Telekon back in the cell."

He squints, skeptically. Definitely Ed Norton. "What's your favorite Ministry album?"

"With Sympathy. Their synth pop stuff is more my speed. 'Every Day Is Halloween'? Come on!"

Suddenly it's like we're in a scene from High Fidelity. Luke wants my top five electronic acts. After a couple seconds' delay, I tell him "Okay, of course Gary Numan, godfather of the genre. Then I'd have to say Depeche Mode, New Order, Kraftwerk —"

"I was thinking of, like, bands on Metropolis, Nettwerk, Projekt. But old school — that's nice."

"— and Björk."

"She's not really an electronic artist. Was it Medulla that she recorded with those a cappella singers?"

Before I open my mouth to defend my position, and before Luke brings out a stack of his own CDs for me to plunder in exchange, I know that he and I are going to get along great.

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