On January 19, on the outskirts of Des Moines, Iowa, a promising political career likely came to a, um, "screeching" halt. Howard Dean -- champion Bush-baiter, hero of the disaffected, conqueror of the young American voter -- appeared to go as crazy as a shithouse rat. By now, everybody knows the story: He rattled off the names of a bunch of states with a mania that would do the mangiest speed-freak on Cops proud, and capped it all off with a sort of banshee wail/Celtic warrior heart-cry not heard this side of Brave Heart. Yeeeaaaarrrrgggghh!
And that Yeeeaaaarrrrgggghh! still echoes across the Internet, where Howard Dean remixes have replaced mash-ups as the new on-line DIY music craze. There's even a clearinghouse for them at www.deangoesnuts.com. There, you can hear Dean keen, yowl and yell over the Rawhide theme and tracks by James Brown, Aphex Twin, Lil' Jon and the Eastside Boyz, Led Zeppelin, Guns N' Roses and Limp Bizkit, among many, many others, including stellar successes such as the Cypress Hill remix "Deansane in the Brain" and the Dr. Dean/Lil' John summit "Dean Throws It Up For America." (Come to think of it, that Yeeeaaaarrrrgggghh! was pretty crunk for a white guy. Maybe Dean should campaign as "the crunk candidate." And can screwed and chopped versions of these tunes be far behind?)
Caner Ozdemir, a 21-year-old student at Ball State University in Indiana, is deangoesnuts.com's Webmaster. In the site's first week of existence, it logged over 60,000 hits. "Originally it wasn't supposed to be a big deal," Ozdemir says. "It was supposed to just be for me and my friends to easily download the mixes because they were hard to download because of the traffic. I made it on Tuesday night [January 20], and when I woke up, I had 10,000 hits without even telling anybody about it. And then I got all these e-mails with remixes And the rest is history, I guess."
Contrary to some published reports, Ozdemir is a Dean supporter -- in fact, his site has raised more than $800 for Dean's probably doomed campaign. "I did a lot of interviews, and a lot of people were twisting my words. Using me to get their stupid message across I thought I'd counteract that with the site, since I got a pretty good audience."
Politics is a dirty business, kid. Ask Howard Dean himself. Former local punk concert promoter M. Martin is now a Dean volunteer, and he was in the room when Dean gave the "I have a scream" speech. Martin says that in person, you couldn't even hear the infamous primal bellow -- that Dean only appeared fanatical thanks to the miracle of an edited soundboard recording. "Everyone there was yelling just as loud," he says. "Regardless of whether he gets the nomination or not, whatever happens with his life, if you ever get a chance to hear Howard Dean speak, you should go, 'cause I swear to God he works a fucking crowd. I mean rock-star quality. That's one reason he's been able to get all these twentysomethings who had just utterly given up."
One such was Ozdemir, who also believes there was some funny business with the tape. "When I saw it on TV I fell out of my chair laughing -- I was crying, it was hilarious," he says. "But if you watch the speech [from the perspective of the crowd], his scream was completely drowned out by the crowd. But with the TV and the mikes and all that, they can filter out that noise. They upped the volume on it, to have fun with him, I guess. It's funny, and with music it's even funnier, but it is a little suspicious. No matter what happens to the guy, they beat him up. If he's down they beat him up, if he's up they beat him up."
Some would say Ozdemir was piling on, even though his site exhorts people to vote for the man and donate money to his campaign. (He could, of course, be one of those sneaky Republicans for Dean, the ones who believe that Dubya would make short work of the angry MD.) Whether or not he's sincere, Ozdemir says he gave $800 he raised on the site to the campaign. "Which is pretty tight," he adds.
And out of all the tunes on deangoesnuts.com, Ozdemir says the tightest is "Rapping It Up with Dean," which is not technically a remix but an original rap tune composed by UT-Austin theater students/part-time rappers Jonathan Stokes and Zach Freeman. "It's better than a lot of other people's stuff, because most of the others are stealing other people's music," Ozdemir says. "They made that entirely on their own. I thought that was pretty cool."
On it, the so-wack-they're-hip Freeman and Stokes salute Dean in rhyme, allowing Dean to roar about all the states he plans to capture, and then the tune builds to a crescendo with all three of them hollering Yeeeaaaarrrrgggghh! together. Believe me, it's funnier when you hear it.
But as with Ozdemir's site, it sounds more as if Stokes and Freeman are laughing at Dean rather than with him. Nothing could be further from the truth, they both say. "I was hearing all these remixes of the Dean speech, and they all sounded kind of negative," Freeman says. "That speech excited me -- it made me like him more, so I wanted to make a positive remix." Even so, Freeman isn't deaf. "It is a pretty crazy scream when you have it on a recording," he says. "I still laugh at it, and I've been listening to it for a week now."
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Reached on his cell phone while talking to his college adviser, native Houstonian Stokes is floored to learn that he's the unofficial No. 1 on the Howard Dean Remix charts. "Oh, wow!" he says. "That's incredible, because we just made that song yesterday afternoon, just for fun."
Like Freeman, Stokes is a Dean man. "I definitely want to see him get back up there," he says, but one wonders if he wants him to get back on the hustings just to provide more humorous hip-hop fodder. Is he concerned that the song's pro-Dean message is somewhat hard to distinguish? "No, I'm not concerned about people taking it the wrong way 'cause I wasn't concerned when I made it."
Concern is one thing Ozdemir claims to have too much of right now. He had no idea how far his site would go. Dean even mentioned it from the stump in New Hampshire, a historic moment captured by C-SPAN's omniscient eye. "Some girl asked him, 'How are you gonna get over the scream speech?' and he then he goes, 'Well, lemme tell you something about that. Actually there's a techno remix on deangoesnuts.com, and y'all should seriously go there,'" he says. "I thought it was really funny that he would say Dean goes nuts. And it got a huge reaction from the crowd."
Still, history or no, Ozdemir sounds like he's getting pretty tired of the whole business. "I didn't really want any of this," he says. "Any. I didn't even want to maintain a Web site. 'Cause I have so much other stuff to do. I'm in school, I'm 21. And I like to party -- I don't really like to sit on the computer all day and mess with that damn thing."