An anonymous e-mail is circulating about the situation; it begins: "blink-182's first full-length album, commonly referred to as the Buddha tape, was put out in 1994 by Filter records, a one-man record company owned by Patrick Secor. The tape's liner notes say, "Thanks to Pat, who paid for everything." Secor and the bandmembers were friends, and they never wrote out a contract. As Secor tells it, he paid for all of the costs of the tape -- recording, manufacturing, etc. -- and in exchange he would receive half of all the profits from it. According to the e-mail, once blink began to get better known, they bailed on Secor, taking the masters of Buddha to the label Kung Fu, which has now sold over 300,000 copies. Secor asserts that he should have the rights to the master tapes, since he financed the entire thing. He was friends with the band, and they had a gentlemen's agreement. It was punk rock.
"At the time I did it more because they were my friends," says Secor. "They were a little more raw, just fun punk rock." The sales of the cassette were fairly brisk for a group that no one had heard of. The next step was to get someone to listen to it at Cargo, one of the best indie labels at the time. "I helped them get signed to Cargo," says Secor, "because I knew some people who knew some people there." But why push them toward Cargo, instead of using them to grow the Filter label?
"Well, I didn't know I was going to get screwed out of the record. The theory was the whole Nirvana/Sub Pop thing: You release a record, get them signed to a bigger label, they start selling records, the whole Green Day thing. All of a sudden you are growing a label."
Secor now runs the label 11345 Records, based out of the East Bay, which supports Three Years Down and the Fitsners. He's fairly even-spoken in his manner, but when pressed about this event the emotion raises to his face, and his lip trembles. He is still hurt by it. "At this point it's not even the money," he says. "It's the fact that there is no mention of my work anywhere; no credit has been given to me."
Kung Fu Records is owned by Joe Escalante, of the Vandals (with one of the greatest album titles in history, Hitler Bad, Vandals Good). He has also served as a lawyer for blink-182, and his side of the story was a little different when Planet Clair informed him that the owner of Filter felt that Kung Fu "hijacked" the Buddha tape from him.
"Well," says Escalante, "the band told me 'someone's bootlegging it.' They said that since I'm an attorney, if I could get it away from the bootlegger and stop the bootlegging, in exchange for any legal fees, we'll let you release the record." Yet on the Kung Fu Web site it says this: "The Vandals started putting blink on a lot of Vandals shows to help blink break out beyond the San Diego punk scene. Blink-182 later rewarded the Vandal's label with Buddha, which, as you can imagine, is Kung Fu Records' biggest seller."
Planet Clair wondered how someone could "bootleg" something that was recorded in a studio, and paid for by said "bootlegger."
"Well," says Escalante, "if he's selling something he doesn't have a right to... I mean, you can call it a bootleg, you can call it copyright infringement, you can call it whatever you want to, but if he doesn't own the recordings..."
"So, somehow this bootlegger, Pat Secor, got his hands on the records and was releasing them without the band's permission?"
"Somehow he got his hands on the recordings. I don't know, because I wasn't there, but the band came to us and said, 'Someone's selling our record and not paying us royalties.'" (Escalante actually does know the whole story -- that Secor had originally put out the tape. Planet Clair has seen letters between him and Secor's lawyers.) He asserts that the band told Secor not to sell any more copies of the Buddha tape, but the band had suspicions that he had anyway. Anonymously, Escalante ordered a tape from Secor, and Secor sold it to him. The band asserts that they were not receiving royalties for these sales.
"I paid off all of the royalties for the remaining stash of tapes that I had of Buddha," says Secor. "It was about 25. The tapes sold for five bucks, and I gave them half of what their profit would be. I wanted to have a few to give to people and to have on hand."
"He said he wasn't selling them," says Escalante, "But then when we ordered one, he sent it to us. So that was one that he was selling, but denying that he was selling. Do you think he was paying a royalty to the band? Probably not. So he took the money and kept it. On the other hand, I paid the band a half-million dollars in royalties since releasing this record." Zoiks. Looking at Secor's accounting books, he made a whopping $335 on the tape. "As far as I'm concerned," says Secor, "it was absolutely my right to sell those tapes. I had not manufactured extra, I was just selling off stock, and the band had been paid royalties for that already."
The question remains: What was Secor's deal or "oral agreement" with blink-182? Drummer Scott Raynor told a lawyer for Secor that the original agreement was that Secor would invest $1,000, and when that money was recouped, the band would have complete ownership of the work product, something Secor denies. After all, if he was just getting back the cost of producing the tape, what would be in it for Secor? He insists he wanted to use the Buddha tape to build his label, both in name and financially.
"Why do you think that blink-182 all of a sudden seemed to turn on you?" asked Planet Clair.
"Well, towards the end, when I would try and call them to try and discuss stuff, whenever I would ask a question, especially to Tom DeLonge, he would literally say, 'Oh, let me call my manager and I'll call you back.' Cargo started calling and making threats. I didn't have any money to fight back with, we didn't have any written contract. Shortly after that, they got signed to MCA, then MCA starts calling. Try going up against that."
Planet Clair contacted MCA to get blink's side of the story, but the official line from the company was that the band was "not available for comment."Secor probably doesn't have a leg to stand on legally. In fact, the statute of limitations has run out even if he would want to pursue something. But the jury's still out on whether or not blink-182 and Kung Fu Records are a buncha greedy wankers.
--Katy St. Clair
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