October 17th, 2007 5:33 pm | by Paige Richmond Music | Posted In: Columns, News

Chris Walla is a Threat to National Security

chriswalla Anyone who watched The O.C. and heard nerdy indie-rock character Seth Cohen babble on and on about how much he loves Death Cab For Cutie will probably side with the U.S. government on this one. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security seized Death Cab guitarist and Portland resident Chris Walla's hard drive while it was being couriered across the Canadian Border.

And why exactly was the hard drive—which contains all the master song files for Walla's long-anticipated debut album—actually confiscated? Well, Walla doesn't really know, as he told mtv.com yesterday:

It's a true story. Barsuk [Records, which is putting out the record] had hired a courier — who does international stuff all the time and who they had used before — to bring [the album] back from Canada, where I was working on it. And he got to the border and he had all his paperwork and it was all cool, only they turned him away, and they confiscated the drive and gave it to the computer-forensics division of our Homeland Security-type people.

Ironically (or maybe fittingly), Walla claims his new album contains all political songs about issues like the war in Iraq and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. He had this to say about its content:

I'm calling it Field Manual because myself and the guy who designed the packaging were looking through all these Army field guides from World War II. And there was one that he found that was really terrifying, actually...It was basically a manual issued by the Army in the late '30s, early '40s, about how to build what we now call an [improvised explosive device] in Iraq or Afghanistan. Like how to hide a bomb in a bed or in a tube of toothpaste. Just terrible stuff, and I started having this feeling of, like, 'Well, we need a new field manual.'

As music blog idolator.com points out, Homeland Security probably had some idea about the hard drive and album's content: “I'm going to guess--upon reading the descriptions Walla offers, and the likelihood that said paperwork had the phrase 'field manual' somewhere within--that the hard drive was red-flagged for content-related reasons.”

So the mystery behind the seizure of Walla's hard drive might be solved, but two important questions still remain:

1. What was Walla (or his music) doing in Canada, anyway? He claims he was recording there, but my guess is he's building a secret training ground for emo kids, where they sit around and talk about feelings while dying each other's hair black.

2. When did Walla get all political on us? Apparently, he's been “doing [his] political-rock homework for a few years now,” in preparation for writing this new album. This new attitude is spilling over on Death Cab's new album, which Walla claims is “super heavy” and “really bloody.” Maybe he's finally moving through all the stages of grief, with sadness and melancholy turning to anger.

Mysteries aside, there's no terrible tragedy here, since Walla still has all his master tapes, so the album might actually make its January 2008 release date. That is, unless Homeland Security uses Walla's hard drive to release the album on the U.S. government's super top-secret record label. I hear they're trying to get their hands Colin Meloy's solo stuff, too.

Complete story about Walla's hard drive
Barsuk Records
Department of Homeland Security
Five Stages of Grief
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