Chris Walla to release solo record, even though US Customs confiscated his hard drive

Death Cab for Cutie guitar player/producer Chris Walla will release his debut solo full-length Field Manual on January 29, 2008, on Barsuk Records.

This would be news enough… but this release has an interesting and political history. As has been documented here and here and here, and in about a zillion other online places in the past day, Chris Walla's hard drive was confiscated by the office of Homeland Security and held for several weeks "to be analyzed." Was it because the songs were politically charged? Was the Fed a huge Death Cab fan and wanted to hoarde the material for his own ears? I, for one, don't know… but find the confiscation of a musician's hard drive alarming, to say the least.

The official word from Barsuk on the matter:

Known both as the guitarist / producer in Death Cab for Cutie and as an in-demand producer of other independent-minded artists (Tegan & Sara, The Decemberists), Walla brings a refined aesthetic and melodic ear to everything he involves himself in. Walla's past recordings of his own songs (occasionally made available online under the name Martin Youth Auxiliary) have mostly been quickly-recorded lo-fi sketches unintended for widespread release. Field Manual represents the first time his own songs have been given the studio attention and thought-out approach to recording for which he is in such demand by others.

In addition to the expected difficulties he encountered attempting to approach his own work with the necessary detachment of a producer [difficulties which led Walla to enlist the help of Canada-based British ex-pat (and Midnight Oil / The The producer) Warne Livesey], the project hit an unexpected snag when a data hard drive containing critical album files was confiscated by U.S.Customs. The drive was held "to be analyzed" for several weeks on its way back into the U.S. prior to final mixing of the album. (Apparently the U.S. government is unfamiliar with FTP sites, and believes that physically transporting hard drives across the border is the technique of choice for foreign individuals trying to move sensitive information into our country. Brilliant.)

Interestingly, a strong political thread runs through the record's lyrics; Walla takes more than a few shots at U.S. policy, both at home and abroad, and challenges at least one senator to find the exit door… For whatever reason, the drive has still not been returned, and so Walla is working with his original tapes and a back-up drive (during his breaks from the studio where he's currently producing a new Death Cab record tentatively slated for release in late spring or early summer of 2008) to re-apply the finishing touches on the album.

Great news about the forthcoming record… but yikes, this is scary stuff! Isn't there a petition somewhere we should all be signing?