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Cage Against The Machine

Dave Hilliard has called in his pop star mates to record a Christmas version of John Cale's experimental and silent composition from 1952

Last week, musicians like Pete Doherty, Crystal Fighters and Dan Le Sac gathered at the legendary Dean Street Studios in Soho to re-record John Cages’s celebrated piece, 4'33" as one supergroup. Recreating it in all its four minutes and thirty three seconds of silent glory, that is. The single (and subsequent ‘pocket call’ remixes by Alex Metric, Fake Blood, Aeroplane, Herve, Mr Scruff and Hot Chip) will be released on Wall of Sound Records today.

Cage Against The Machine was started by London-based artist Dave Hilliard in summer 2010 as a grassroots Facebook campaign to get John Cage's famous "silent" composition 4'33" to number one this Christmas. With last year's Rage Against The Machine’s anthem ‘Killing In The Name’ as Christmas number one - Jon Morter, one of their chief architects is hoping that "if any Christmas No.1 campaign is going to work... it'll be the John Cage 4'33" one." Now the Facebook community has reached over fifty thousand people committed to buying this single, once again to make a stand against bland, vacuous pop music.

All the proceeds from sales will go to five charities. These music-related charities were chosen by the Cage Against The Machine Facebook community's organisers as something they feel John Cage would have wholeheartedly approved of including The British Tinnitus Association (BTA), Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, Youth Music, and Sound And Music.

Dazed Digital: What is 'Cage Against the Machine' about?
Dave Hilliard: It’s about whatever people want it to be about. The idea of a "silent" song is something of a blank canvas that people have tended to project their own meanings onto. So for some people it’s about beating the X Factor, for others it’s a chance for a break from the constant stream of force-fed idiot media noise, and others are interested in John Cage’s ideas infiltrating mainstream culture.

DD: Why this song?
Dave Hilliard: The choice of 4’33’’ was a bit of a joke at first. After the successful Rage campaign last year, suddenly everybody wanted to get a song to number 1 with a Facebook group. As a reaction against this kind of thing, I chose the most ridiculous thing I could think of getting into the charts, a "silent" song. The best thing about this idea is that it works on a number or different levels, whereas something like ‘Surfin’ Bird’ by the Trashmen is kind of a one liner that gets less funny every time you hear it.

DD: What was it like having everyone in the studio?
Dave Hilliard: It’s a pretty odd thing to gather a bunch of musicians together and then have them not play their instruments. I think Suggs said something along the lines of just wanting to be there to see what it was like when a load of people who are used to making noise all the time actually shut up for nearly 5 minutes. It’s kind of beautiful really.

DD: What part did you play in the track?
Dave Hilliard: Sadly, I couldn’t be there as I’m studying full time at the moment for my Masters in art therapy and had to be at Uni that day. At the time that the 4’33’’ recording was taking place, I was making a piece of art work which involved tying leaves to a train ticket with a piece of string. It occurred to me this was a very odd thing to do, but maybe it’s no stranger than recording "silence".

DD: Was it a difficult process?
Dave Hilliard: The whole trick of the campaign has been keeping a balance- we weren’t really into a celebrity performance angle at first, but in the end the chances of chart success and media attention would have been a lot smaller without it. But at the same time we don’t want to alienate our grass roots supporters, nor do we want to misrepresent John Cages ideas. But is just keeping quiet for 4 minutes and 33 seconds difficult? Try it, you might be surprised just how loud "silence" can really be.


Cage Against the Machine's 4'33 is out today, buy it HERE