The 17 songs on Tim Fite's Gone Ain't Gone LP were recorded in a modest Brooklyn apartment and meant to be heard by only a few friends and family members. The graphic artist-cum-musician got his inspiration for the record from a place most people don't like to admit they even go the dollar bin at the record store. As adept a rapper, musician and singer as Fite is, his most recent musical offerings were not given life the natural way: They were borrowed, rearranged and born again.
"It's a matter of necessity," Fite says of his preference for the buck bin. "There are people who spend their entire paycheck on records. That's all fine and good, but I'm buying these records because I need them.
"Some days I'll find gold. Or I'll find the littlest 'plinkity-plink.' Other times, I'll just steal the whole damn thing. I scan liner notes and sometimes buy things because they have a certain instrument on it."
But what gives Fite's songs a specific point of view is not only what he chooses to do with this cross-section of old-timey, jangly indie pop, hip-hop, folk and speed metal samples it's also what he chooses not to do with them. The same way an adept DJ uses an LP, a turntable and sleight of hand to make music all his or her own; Fite takes thrown-away songs, deconstructs them, mines the interesting parts and with a wicked sense of restraint makes them something to chew on.
Save for a little help from pals and fellow musicians Ben Kweller and alt-folk ukulele player, Danielle Stech Homsy, the arrangements on Gone are all his own. "I'm to blame for everything," he says.
The song "Forty-five Remedies," for example, starts off with a languid drum beat and Television-like guitar riff. Then Fite sings, "As for honesty/It's been a while/I tell ya honesty, it ain't my style/as a matter fact /I found a better way to justify my life."
While most such songs would happily and predictably meander off into verse/chorus/bridge/chorus mode, Fite resists the comfort of flow and breaks the song down into a percussion-heavy rap: "Stupid little greedy ass mu-fuckers/you take half and cash out them mufuckers/I baits em/I hooks em/I makes em never even notice that I took some: like gone ain't gone."
The pasty 25-year-old speaks with a slight hint of street. He's got an urban bent, but he's all over the place. Fite himself is a collage. Quietly shouting out homages to folks like artist Romare Bearden (a fellow collagist), slave-revolt leader Nat Turner and singer-activist Paul Robeson, while writing love songs ... every effort seems to come as naturally as the one before.
In 2001, Fite experienced his first taste of industry success with the hip-hop outfit, Little T and One Track Mile. The group achieved industry buzz and some MTV love for "Shaniqua," a goofy rap song that, in retrospect, bothers Fite quite a bit.
"I don't even know if I have the right to regret it, because I don't know if that was me. I just made a jokey, silly song. All the other songs on the album were thoughtful but that's the song that got the attention. There's nothing to make amends for. I made a mistake and so did the people who thought it was a song to give a shit about."
That's all in the past now. All he really wants to do is make art, anyway.
"When I started doing this as a job I still consider myself unemployed I realized the money could pay for art supplies. I remember thinking I could buy all the markers I wanted and I could buy that paper that's $3 a sheet. The hope to be is to be an old man with some paint brushes."
He can't take the idea of money too seriously he's clearly a fan of a barter economy. The record label got clearances for all of the music Fite used on his record, but he's completely uninterested in that side of things.
"I think it's a sham and a lie and an evil. That's not my arena. The problem with intellectual property laws is that they have nothing to do with music it's about money and a corrupt business that keeps people in a box."
Fite would rather create an art installation from previously released works than waste money like that. He'd be even more pleased if you saw his performance art-live show.
"It's not like a regular rock show. There's not a lot to look at, unless you are a really good-looking man which I most definitely am not it's not for complacent viewers."
No, this show is for people who have something in common with Fite.
"It's for people who want to pay attention."
Saturday, July 29, at the Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668. Tarantula A.D. to open.Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]