The saga of Al Walser left the music industry befuddled. How did an unknown producer -- whose biggest claims to fame appeared to have been touring with a semi-successful European dance-rock outfit and posing with Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton -- get a Grammy nomination in the Best Dance Recording category?
Walser's "I Can't Live Without You" finds itself among good company: Avicii's "Levels," Calvin Harris and Ne-Yo's "Let's Go," Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child" and Skrillex and Sirah's "Bangarang" were also nominated. The rest of the artists in the field are well-known within the dance music community, unlike Walser.
Though many theories have been floated (that it's a hoax, that he paid off the Recording Academy, that his wealthy family history explains everything), the Grammys tell The Huffington Post that everything about Walser's nomination is on the up-and-up.
"The bottom line is that he played by the rules," Bill Freimuth, the Recording Academy's Vice President of Awards said in an interview. "He didn't do anything untoward or against our rules in any way. It's not a fraud, it's not a hoax, as I've been hearing some people say. People voted for him, and he got a nomination as a result."
Freimuth confirmed that Walser is a voting member of the Recording Academy, having joined the Los Angeles Chapter in 2008. The Grammys did "double check" Walser's nomination, relying on accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, who had already looked into the matter themselves.
An edited transcript of HuffPost Entertainment and Freiumuth's conversation about Walser is below. Justin Bieber's "snub" and the state of the album were also discussed.
One of the theories that Walser has floated is that the Best Dance Recording category isn't among the most popular within the Grammy nominating body, and therefore a significant number of votes weren't required to be nominated.
I guess it's possible, but I wouldn't go with that. First of all, we don't have any of the numbers and we don't know them. They all go to straight to our accounting firm, Deloitte & Touche, and they are the ones who tabulate the ballots and have access to all sorts of statistics. We don't ask them for them and they don't tell us. Anything in that area is pure speculation.
But beyond that, I think the recent ascension of the dance music genre in the broader consciousness of the industry -- including fans, of course -- would lead me to believe that that's not the case, and that a number of people probably voted in that category.
At what point did you realize fans and other artists were upset?
I think by late Thursday, if not early Friday, I had received quite a few emails from folks who weren't terribly pleased.
And what did you make of that reaction?
Well, I guess I wasn't too surprised. I'm not personally a deep follower of dance music, but I certainly recognized all the other names in that category. I suppose I raised an eyebrow a bit myself, and when I was hearing all this from everyone else, it confirmed my thoughts that this was not a regular, highly recognized member of that segment of the community.
So you were not personally familiar with Walser's music before his nomination.
I was not.
Was there any investigation into the nomination?
We rely very heavily on Deloitte & Touche to do all kinds of investigations. They actually do quite a bit, once the ballots come in. They actually have these algorithms that they run that can ferret out block voting and other anomalies. They tell us that they end up disqualifying quite a few ballots every year on those bases. This one passed muster with them. We did double check with them on this one, and they said they had looked into it and found nothing wrong.
Do you find that Walser's strategy -- of networking and posting on Grammy365 -- is an appropriate way to seek a nomination? Do you think artists should be seeking a nomination?
I think it's becoming more normal. Especially because we have our own social networking site that's for our members only, which has allowed people a different kind of access than they had before, because we never sell, rent or own our members contact information. I think in general, it's something that has been very helpful to independent artists. If it's a way that someone who has made a great recording can make our members aware of their recording, then that's a really good thing. Some people are a little more impressive there than others, and I know that Al Walser was very, very active in promotion within Grammy365, which is that social networking site.
I think there's a fine line there, and what it really comes down to is what the voters think of it. Evidently, there were enough voters who not only didn't mind receiving communiques from Al, but also thought his music was worthy of their vote.
Justin Bieber's manager went on a bit of a rant on Twitter after Bieber received zero nominations for his album. What do you make of the discussion of Bieber's snub?
It's really the way the votes came down. I don't sense any particular animosity toward Justin Bieber coming from our membership. I just think that they found other projects that they liked better and wanted to vote for more.
Was there anything that surprised you, from the nominations?
I'm surprised every year. [Laughs] But I was very pleasantly surprised to see that a video game score was nominated in our Score/Soundtrack category this year. That was something that their community has been very desirous of for a long time and we did work with them on that. We changed the name of that field to be Visual Media rather than Film/Television and Other Visual Media to make it very clear to our voters that it really was for all visual media.
I was happy to see the balance in our Regional Roots Music category this year, which is probably our most amalgamated category that we have, because it contains Native American music, Hawaiin music, polka music and the music from South Louisiana. There was not a polka nomination this year, but we did get all the others in here, which is something positive.
There has been a great amount of talk of the "demise of the album," but if you look at this year's Album of the Year crop, there are a lot of very cohesive projects there. What do you think of the state of the album?
I don't know if I can comment on that in an official capacity, but, personally, I would agree that there is a resurgence of the album. I think it's also a pendulum that goes back and forth. I know when I was very small child in the '60s, it was a singles time, then the late '60s and early '70s happened and that was more of an album time. I think the oughts were largely a singles time, and it does appear that we're swinging a bit toward albums again. Personally, I like that. But that's just me.