Great online expectations
Sacramento electronic musician Daniel Trudeau received a digital call to creativity and answered with a new full-length Pregnant album
Two years ago, Daniel Trudeau received a weird, cryptic email. Someone—or something—named John Raw needed help committing suicide from the digital world.
Trudeau, the brain behind the decade-long electronic music project Pregnant, was immediately inspired. And that email became the basis for Pregnant’s newest album, John Raw, which drops Friday, November 14 on the Crash Symbols label.
But the album is so much more than an album. It’s an experimental art project that bridges different mediums and—just maybe—different realities. There’s already a trippy music video for the track “One Duo,” which takes place inside a digitally-rendered house. And there’s a 20-minute film documenting the existence—or nonexistence—of John Raw around the world. Trudeau recruited more than 20 artists—from France, Russia, Japan, China, New York, Atlanta—to create scenes of the shadowy figure.
Let’s go back to that first email. It starts like this: “I am John Raw. I am an intern at presence. My existence is a test that will display the symbiotic experiences of lives that can co-mingle within two social experiences/lives.”
John Raw then went on to define a few terms. “One Duo” means a person who lives physically and digitally. “Buried in the Garden” is someone completely submerged in the Internet. “Kid Need” is the physical world. John Raw is “Buried in the Garden” and wants to experience “Kid Need” and therefore requires the help of “One Duos.”
Trudeau is a “One Duo” and sought the assistance of other “One Duos,” those 20 other artists, to fabricate John Raw in the physical world so that John Raw can die in the digital world.
Who is John Raw? That’s a layered question. Let’s start with something slightly simpler: Who sent that first email? A person? A spambot?
Trudeau originally thought it to be spam. But the email seemed too deep and detailed. He searched for John Raw online and found no trace. He called out to his friends on Facebook to see if anyone had heard of the figure.
“That’s what’s so mystical and serendipitous—I don’t think anyone else got this email,” Trudeau says.
At the time, Trudeau had finished some instrumental tracks but lacked lyrical inspiration. His last three albums, Life Hard: I Try, Poetry Mills and Inconvenience, had all been deeply personal during a challenging breakup.
“I often think a close friend sent the email—it was just so perfect for me,” he says. “Or like, is this an email from my future self? It was just so meta.”
John Raw’s current reality is complicated. He has an email address—email@example.com —if anyone wants to help with his digital suicide. He also has Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. Trudeau created those accounts as part of the greater project—he wanted the mystery on multiple platforms.
Here are some knowns: John Raw will carry 13 tracks; Molly Raney, a.k.a. Poppet, who began collaborating with Pregnant last year, will sing on one song; the instrumentation will still show Trudeau’s John Cage-inspired noise-electronica, but with bandmate Daniel Ramirez’s hip-hop-based, electronic grooves; and, finally, John Raw will be available for free for one month on Crash Symbol’s Bandcamp page.
Ultimately for Trudeau, this whole project is about the Internet. Friends often dismiss it as a cesspool of self-indulgent, time-wasting pointlessness. But Trudeau would not have been able to fabricate John Raw in the physical world without the digital world—there would have been no email, there would have been no network of international artists to contact.
“The Internet is so random but at the same time, it doesn’t need to be a big random mess,” he says. “There’s meaning to be derived from it.”