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Last Thursday, after a bout of touring, Polyphonic Spree percussionist Brian Teasley flew from Dallas to his home in Birmingham, Alabama, stopped at a Taco Bell for dinner and arrived at his house to find the FBI waiting for him.
"Are you Brian Teasley?" the man asked.
Why yes, he was.
"We got him."
Suddenly, FBI cars blocked the driveway. Men with bulletproof vests emerged from the back yard.
What Teasley didn't know was that, hours prior, DFW Airport security thought they found a pipe bomb in his luggage and promptly shut down several gates in the Terminal C area. A bomb-squad robot was employed to blast the suitcase open with a water cannon. The scare made national news.
And the culprit? A little old custom microphone.
"A microphone?" the FBI asked, skeptical.
The story--with its comic twists and hints of hysteria--has made a minor media celebrity of Teasley, formerly of bands the Vue and Man or Astroman?, and just a few months into his tenure with the Spree. He's already been on CNN and NPR since the story broke last week and has done countless regional and local interviews.
"I think it's such a culture of fear right now that to have some comedic relief is nice," Teasley says on the phone from Spree rehearsal. "This is not a story of blood and guts. It's about somebody doing their job, and a few innocent mistakes were made along the way. Honestly, it's like vaudeville to me. I knew nothing about this, and meanwhile, there's bomb-sniffing robots and guys with bulletproof vests in my back yard, and I'm getting something to eat at Taco Bell."
Teasley had borrowed the microphone that morning from bassist Mark Pirro, who designed it especially for the Spree and later shared it with artists such as Grandaddy, Beck and Jack White. The custom Copperphone model (see www.placidaudio.com) "has an AM radio phone effect that Tim [DeLaughter] really likes on the vocals," Pirro says. "I'm getting a little flak from people about why does it look like a pipe bomb. But I wanted an art deco look, and the copper fittings were perfect."
Although the band has traveled with the microphone a few dozen times, they're usually passing through security as a group--a known quantity of impossible-to-miss vagabonds with suitcase after suitcase of equipment and white robes. In this case, however, Teasley was traveling alone. "Your typical Anarchist Cookbook bomb has a similar design," Pirro explains. "I can see, in a paranoid way, how someone could jump to the conclusion. If I was digging in a bag and thought I saw a bomb, I probably wouldn't want to dig much further."
"Next time," Pirro adds, "I'll get to the airport early and tell them about it."
As for Teasley, he has a great story to tell, and as his dad recently pointed out, he won't have to worry about the neighbors giving him a hard time anymore. He just feels bad for those robots. "What a tough life for those guys," he says, adding that he suspects the robots are less like Rosie on The Jetsons and more like Number 5 from Short Circuit. "They were basically built to die. It's kind of like a modern-day Blade Runner."
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