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Karmic Hits 

by ANDREW MATSON & r & & r & Somewhere in a Spokane basement, there is a man named Steve, and he's trying to change the world.

Spearheading a vague campaign of domestic and international wrong-righting, Steve aims to use the Internet to procure donated money and allocate it per donors' wishes to charities. In the middle of the Steve/donor exchange stands a musical something -- downloadable song, autographed rock memorabilia, guitar lesson from a star, the fate of our planet.

Pet project of Steve Walker -- relocated to Spokane after 11 years at Charisma/Virgin Records -- and possibly a non-profit, Change the World Music is an idea, a concept, but certainly a Website ( View the webpage (or its corresponding for an abridged version of the world's underprivileged: guy with face-paint, doe-eyed girl, weathered woman. In somber black & amp; white, the stock photos say, "We are the world."

"Imagine," Walker asks, in his press release, "turning b-sides, acoustic versions, demos and live performances into a place for a homeless kid, clean water in a third-world country, education where there has been none . . . what if we could immunize the world?"

Things get grandiose fast in the world of Steve, but spinning marginally good ideas into can't-fail world-changers is mostly what the record industry is all about. And Steve, owner of his own label (Radio Contraband, and husband to an ex-Geffen exec, fits the type.

Naturally allergic to cloying spin-speak, I confess to Steve my reservations. Responding in an email, his shrug-off is audible. "What's in it for me? Good karma."

The jump from liberating unheard songs to nourishing unfed kids is not so intuitive, but the link will be clear once is up and running: you click what you want to buy, type the name/Website/address of your favorite charity in a marked field, and pay like iTunes. The thinking isn't so strange, and has at least one built-in argument against piracy. You can download with iTunes and support multi-millionaires. You can download with Mininova and get a virus. Or you can use Steve's site and help provide vaccine to disease-ridden children.

After years spent working for a machine that creates communities of music lovers in order to engender more directed consumerism, CtWM will be a community of service. "I've lived a consumer-based life," says Steve. "It's time to give back."

Sounds na & iuml;ve, maybe, but he's okay with that. Every bit a man of ideas, Steve rides a straightforward motto: "Changing the world, one download at a time."

He goes on to conjure a tale. An artist ("a kid in his basement") crafts short-range beauty ("making songs for the girl down the street"), at once devoted and hopeless ("that will never know how he feels"). Steve wants to make sure that these songs won't go unheard. Simultaneously, he want's to put them to use.

The Website isn't complete yet. At time of printing, CtWM remains merely an explanation of itself, but Steve's vision is rapidly coming to fruition. Partnering with 99.9 The River, CtWM is putting out "The River Local," an exclusive compilation CD of Spokane-area artists who have agreed to pass sales profits to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. Steve will present it and a concert from "The River Local" artists at CtWM's Inlander-sponsored cotillion, Thursday.

The River Local CD Release featuring York, Pat O'Neill, Matt Russell, Dan Conrad, Marshall McLean, Requiem, Sean Saugen, Blisstrz at the Big Easy on Thursday, July 26 at 6:30. $5. Call 244-3279.
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