The Rock Legend - XOX

It was way back in 1993. I had just completed construction of a small recording studio in, of all things, an old boiler room. I called up a guitar player acquaintance of mine by the name of Curt Atwood about a possible recording project. Curt was interested, so I called up another musician acquaintance, a drummer named Steve Mills, who had helped out one day during the construction of the studio, and shortly thereafter, we began rehearsing in Steve’s basement. We eventually decided on the name XOX with a democratic vote, with myself being the dissenting vote (thought the name lacked pizzazz). And we came to a collaboration agreement: I would donate all studio time. Curt would purchase a run of CD’s, after which, he would be allowed to recoup his investment first, before royalties were divided three ways. The source from which Curt would recoup from, however, was never specifically discussed, although it was implied to be royalties from any record deal that might materialize. 

The first CD “What Happened To You” was mainly intended to be a demo to present to record companies. The rest were to be handed out for free, as promotional CDs. Curt hired a guy to take the CD around to some record companies in hopes of getting a record deal. From what I gather, the record companies deemed the CD “Not hip enough.”

Not to be defeated, we went back and produced two more CD’s. “Atomic” – circa 1996, and “Forever” – circa 2000. We decided not to hand out anymore CDs, and apply our collaboration agreement to include any direct sales (although most, I believe, eventually did get handed out). The band got more comfortable in the studio with each CD, and I also got better at recording and mixing, so by the third CD, mind you, the finished product had a more commercial sound quality. By the third CD, I no doubt had hundreds of hours of my time involved in XOX recordings.   

By 2000, some of the material was getting radio play. There were a few stations that especially liked our material, yet as soon as we got out of the studio, both Curt and Steve seemed to lose interest. Although Steve did put together a web page for the CD, Curt dropped the band like a hot potato, citing he was too busy with his rope business to do anything else, and refused to do anything that a band normally does to promote itself—like play out, for example. I put the pressure on Curt, but Steve was reluctant to back me up. And so, XOX – RIP.

Skip ahead to 2009. By this time, Curt had purchased some recording equipment and produced a couple CDs himself under the name Hinge. I played bass on about half the tracks on the first CD. Curt did the guitars and vocals. His son Dale did the percussion work. I suggested we form a legitimate record label and submit the three XOX CDs, plus his two Hinge CDs, directly to iTunes, possibly skipping an aggregator. The recordings were doing nothing but gathering dust, anyhow. Curt seemed uninterested.

Skip to the fall of 2011. Steve begins sending me reports regarding some prank videos that Curt’s son, Roman Atwood, was making using XOX material for background music. This occured while I was continuing to prod Curt and Steve into pooling our resources to further promote the band, including—once again—forming a label and submitting the recordings to iTunes.

August 2013: The reports from Steve continued; however, they only pertained to a couple of Roman’s videos. One in particular had gone viral, you might say, with something like 13 million hits. By this time I had learned a lot more about iTunes and how royalties are paid, so I called Curt on the third and declared that I was going to post the recordings on iTunes myself, and this time I was serious. The subject of Roman’s videos came up, and Curt announced that Roman was receiving some sort of royalty every time one of his videos was viewed. When I pointed out that part of that revenue was “XOX money,” Curt went into a tirade, accusing me of being greedy, and so forth, self rightously proclaiming to be the only one to have ever promoted XOX, but then changed his tone when I explained that I simply meant that part of that revenue should apply to Curt’s printing costs in accordance with our collaboration agreement. Then, for reasons only known to Curt, he absolved himself from the part of our collaboration agreement that allowed him to recover his print costs first. And for the first time in 13 years, he expressed interest in taking XOX seriously. I had always made it clear that if he and Steve were willing to begin taking the band the least bit seriously that I was on board, so I immediately contacted Steve and reported Curt’s good-faith gesture. However, Steve, after sending me reports for years about Roman’s videos, usually accompanied by grumping about how he will never see a penny from XOX etc., etc., now states that he does not even want his name associated with XOX (as if there is some magical Big-Brother genie who can sweep his involvement down the memory hole). Again, don’t ask me . . .

After all this, I began doing some more thorough searches for XOX material on the Internet. Using XOX in the search critieria, I discovered that Roman had posted at least six static-image videos featuring six different XOX recordings, and that he had also posted the same six recordings on iTunes.

Aside from the fact that Curt chose not do things right by setting up a lable and an adminstrator to keep track of monies spent and monies received, the problem with all this is, Curt himself has never reported the amount spent on the CDs or the amount of revenues collected. He never consulted me about using the recordings for prank videos (not that I would have been particularly upset about it had Curt chosen to do things right). He did not inform me of the iTunes postings. His and Roman's personal efforts to describe who the band is behind the recordings amounts to almost nil, in my opinion. And even after absolving himself from our collaboration agreement, Curt refused to report what revenues were being collected and also refused to report the proper owners of the recordings to the various vendors involved, something which should have been done to begin with, regardless of who collected the royalties. I refer to Curt, as opposed to Roman, because Curt has fully admitted to encouraging Roman to use the XOX material. rev 11/05/20

Curt is very protective of his copyrights, which is his prerogative to do so (regardless of how many times he accuses others of being greedy, I suppose), but as the producer of the recordings, I could no longer sit back and allow my ownership of the recordings (my sound recording copyrights) to be systematically undermined and ignored, so when it became clear—after nine months had passed—that Curt was not going to act, I decided to set the record straight.

The iTunes stuff and the static-image videos are gone, and I have no plans myself, at present, to submit any of the recordings. I apologize to anyone who might hear one of our recordings in one of Roman’s videos and would have liked to purchase a copy, but unless a miracle happens and everyone suddenly becomes willing to work together, the recordings will likely never be made available again by any Internet vendors.

XOX – the complete list

What Happened to You – 1995 All songs by Atwood except track 6 (Atwood/Conklin).
1 Feelin Fine – 3:50
2 4th July – 5:32
3 Do Ya Party – 2:57
4 I’m Takin You Home – 3:34
5 Lonely Love Affair – 4:45
6 Make You Mine – 4:35
7 Lookin For Love – 3:15
8 Out Of Control – 3:09
9 What Happened To You – 5:36
10 No Way Out – 4:35
11 Go Getter – 5:21

Atomic – 1996 All songs by Atwood except track 2 (Atwood/Allison).
1 Should’a Known Better – 4:16
2 My World – 5:16
3 Atomic Bomb – 4:02
4 Change Your Life – 4:41
5 Johnny Brown – 3:59
6 Rise & Shine – 4:02
7 Speed of Light – 4:02
8 Get Down – 2:53
9 Extemporaneous – 2:05
10 Party Down – 2:44
11 Third Time – 3:16
12 Pay Your Dues – 3:28
13 I’m Not Mad – 7:34

Forever – 2001 All songs by Atwood except track 10 (Conklin).
1 Too Much For Sale – 3:29
2 Euphoria – 4:18
3 Mary – 4:14, remix – 4:17
4 Forever – 4:19
5 Make It Right – 3:51
6 Make It On My Own – 2:49, remix – 2:58
7 Hero – 2:37
8 Never Let You Go – 3:52
9 Lookin’ For A Friend – 3:33
10 Driving Home – 5:20

Unreleased material:
Satellite #5 – 2:24 (Conklin/Mills)

Steve Mills, Curt Atwood.

7/15/16 Appendix: At the end of the paragraph beginning August 2013, I mentioned that Steve did not want his name associated with XOX. According to Steve, this is because, after a few of Roman’s videos featuring XOX music went viral, he worked hard to get the word out as to who the band was behind Roman’s videos, only to be reprimanded by Curt and me for publishing a couple of the band’s old practice tapes. Since then, and despite a lack of cooperation, I have seen to it that Steve irrefutably owns 1/3 of the sound recording copyrights to all of its published works.

9/13/17: Since writing this page back in 2014, I discovered—through various means—no less than twelve more of Roman’s prank videos featuring an XOX recording. And it looks as though it was probably Roman who reposted four of the six static-image recordings to Youtube under an alias. Total views of all seventeen videos as of March 2017 stood at 107 million.

So far, I have tried to keep this website purely information based, avoid using this website as any sort of personally vindictive platform, and avoid using any language regarding Curt and Roman such as, greedy and ethically bankrupt low-lifes—oops, so much for those higher ideals. But, all possible legal issues aside, I state my case:

1 Youtube has a standard percentage (35%) of add revenues that are paid to the owners of any recordings featured in the videos they publish. To the best of my knowledge, that is the percentage of revenues that would have been siphoned off had Roman and his dad used someone else’s recordings.

2 Even if Curt and Roman had seen fit to disperse 2/3 of that 35% of revenue to Steve and me, they, of course, would still have saved money due to the fact that Curt was 1/3 owner of the recordings.

3 Had Curt hired a commercial recording studio to make the recordings (i.e., produced the recordings himself), it would no-doubt have cost Curt thousands of dollars more than his print costs for the CDs. rev 12/22/20

4 By letting Roman use the recordings, Curt created an avenue to recover his print costs (with my and Steve's blessing, as technically, CDs have nothing to do with Internet downloads or streams), and, at over 107 million views, I think it is probably safe to assume that the 35% of revenues surpassed Curt’s print costs long ago; however, Curt chose to ignore all proper protocol, and has now probably aided and abetted the theft of royalties. rev 7/20/19, 11/05/20

5 As Google will not provide any revenue information for my own content, one can only estimate how much add revenue the videos might have generated, but based on the hypothetical rate of .00175 per view, the 35% of revenues works out to about $65,537.50 as of March 2017.

6 I can’t speak for Steve, but Curt has thrown this friendship down the toilet by ignoring the situation, and there will not be any getting this band back together.

End note: As Roman and Curt have continued to ignore the situation, I recently removed all of Roman’s videos using XOX material and will continue to do so for any XOX material that I discover.

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All images on this page copyright Dave Conklin

7-09-14, last rev = 07-05-23
2014-17 Dave Conklin