This blog relates to the video of my song, “Metadata (We’re Watching You).”
In 2013, Edward Snowden, at the time an employee of the US National Security Agency, handed over classified documents to journalists exposing the fact that the US government was conducting mass surveillance on virtually everyone in the US, and much of the rest of the world’s population.
Big-tech corporations such as Google and Facebook also conduct mass surveillance on their users. Indeed, they are a major source of data collected by US government spy agencies.
All of this is direct contradiction to the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, which protects the liberty and privacy of US citizens from searches.
There are ways you can limit how much data corporations and governments collect on you, which I will go into further below, but it is virtually impossible to protect yourself fully from them. Most of us are amateurs when it comes to internet technology. Corporations and governments hire experts to spy on us, and pay them well.
So the only real solution is to demand an end to this violation of our rights. Call and email the politicians who are supposed to represent you. Sign petitions. March in the streets. Attend rallies. Demand that the politicians pass laws to protect our freedom and privacy.
DEMAND an end to government mass surveillance of US citizens!
DEMAND an end to corporation collection and sale of user data!
DEMAND that whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden, be pardoned!
How You Can Protect Yourself Online
Until the people force the US government to end mass surveillance, there are a few simple things you can do to limit the data they collect, and make it a little harder for them. If you search for “internet privacy” you will find a lot of sites with recommendations. I will list four of them below. Some of those recommendations require a moderate level of computer technical ability. But first, I will give you two simple tips– one for your cellphone and one for your computer– that require no technical expertise.
On Your Cellphone:
One of the worst violations of your rights by tech corporations and governments is tracking your geographical location all the time. So the first thing you should do is turn off location tracing. Go into your settings and find “Location Services” on the iphone, or “Location” on the Android, and disable it. Enable it only when you have to use it, such as apps like Lyft or Uber. Then disable it when you’re done. This makes it harder for corporations and government spy agencies to track your whereabouts.
On your Desktop and Laptop Computer:
Use the Private Browsing mode on the web browser that you do use, so your browsing history is not tracked.
Here are three websites with additional recommendations:
(This is the 17th chapter in this semi-autobiographical series. All the previous chapters in this series can be found on the column to the right. Go here to start at the beginning.)
In Part 7 of this series, I discussed the beginning of my acoustic band, Scupanon, in 2013. In this chapter will finish the story of Scupanon from where I left off and take it to its end in 2020.
As I mentioned in Part 7, percussionist Sam Caston joined violinist Paul Ermisch and I in 2013, and suggested the name Scupanon. We played several gigs in 2013 and 2014, and then Sam moved to Fort Collins, and could no longer be a full-time member of the group.
Paul and I continued to play as a duo, and we had a couple of upright bass players join us briefly, as well as another percussionist. But none of them stuck. Then towards the end of 2017, I met Janet Lipson, who said she was singing backing vocals for the Wendy Clark Band. I asked if she’d also like to sing with me, and she agreed. For the next two years, Scupanon was a trio consisting of Paul, Janet and I. (Janet would also join my rock band, Electric Poetry. See the previous chapter.)
At the beginning of 2020, Paul Ermisch informed me that, after 10 years of playing with me, he was ready to retire from Scupanon. We quickly found a replacement in Diamond Jim Hewitt, who played fiddle, mandolin and mandola. Jim would play with Janet and I for the next year. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By 2016 I discovered that the breweries were a good place to book acoustic gigs. They paid a little bit– more than the conventional venues– and, also unlike the latter, had a built-in crowd which allowed me to reach new people with my music and make new fans. The breweries would be the main venues for Scupanon shows from this point on. Some of my favorites were: Upslope in Boulder, Grossen Bart in Longmont, and the Broken Plow in Greeley.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, between Scupanon and Electric Poetry, I was playing a gig a month– or more. Live performance was now the main focus of my music career. I didn’t have much time for songwriting. Keep in mind that I was doing all the administrative and promotional work for both bands. And I had a day job.
With all the Scupanon and Electric Poetry gigs, the fan base for my music and my bands was growing. One fan at a time, little by little. No big breaks– no famous person discovered me and told the world about me. I wasn’t young and pretty, so no music biz person took me under their wing and said they would make me a star. I had no rich husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend to open their wallet and bankroll recordings, tours and promotion for me. I was achieving success solely by my own hard work and commitment. Maybe it’s better that way.
In addition to the breweries, I also booked gigs at traditional venues. The most important folk venue in Denver was Swallow Hill. I played solo gigs there solo in 2008, 2010 and 2013, and with Paul Ermisch in 2014 and 2016. In the fall of 2019, Scupanon– Janet, Jim and I– played Swallow Hill Cafe, almost filling the room. This would be the crowning Scupanon show.
At the beginning of 2020, Janet told me she wanted to quit as a full-time band member, and just join on occasional gigs. So Diamond Jim and I played a couple gigs without Janet, and then… all future gigs were cancelled. Covid-19 had begun. Then at the end of 2020, Diamond Jim and his wife decided to move to Wisconsin. It was time to put Scupanon to rest. It had been a long and good ride. I would play acoustic music again, with new musicians. But my focus now was on rock music– an album of rock songs, and forming a new rock band.
(This is the 11th chapter in this series about my music career, and the 16th chapter in my autobiographical series. All the previous chapters in this series can be found on the column to the right. Go here to start at the beginning.)
After releasing “Roses” under the Total Flower Chaos name in June, 2016, I immediately began trying to recruit musicians for the band. I ran an ad on Craigslist, and referenced the EP and I think some of the home demos of songs that would later be on The Way. Several musicians replied, but none worked out. It was very disappointing. I wanted to form a rock band and play these songs! 2016 ended and I had no band– not even one band member.
Then in February, 2017, a guitarist and instrumental rock composer named Paul Webb replied to my ad. He sent me a Soundcloud link to a few of his songs. Our musical styles and goals were a little different, but I was impressed by Paul’s compositions and the quality of his playing. Paul said he was currently jamming Sunday nights at his house with a drummer and bass player, and invited me over to jam with them. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to jam with some good musicians and see if this could work out.
So I went over that Sunday. In additon to Paul, there was drummer Jay Meikrantz, and bassist Sean Mullen. I introduced a couple of the TFC instrumentals, and a couple of my newer songs, but they didn’t show much enthusiasm. Then Paul said, “We like your songs on Misfit.” Somehow he found out about by 2011 release Misfit. That was a bummer for me, because I wanted to play my new stuff. But these guys were such good musicians, I was enjoying playing with them.
We jammed for the next couple of Sundays, playing my old songs from “Misfit.” I also introduced some of my newer rock songs with lyrics. But Paul didn’t like my Total Flower Chaos instrumental rock songs, or my social commentary songs such as “Metadata,” “I Didn’t Believe” and “The Neighborhood.” These were precisely the songs I was most interested in playing. So I had to make a decision. I could have a rock band– right now, with great musicians, but not play what I considered my best material. Or I keep searching for musicians who would play all my songs.
I chose the former option. I had been having a hard time finding good musicians on Craigslist, and here was not just one, but three– a full band ready to go. I wanted to play! Sure, I was playing acoustic gigs with my band Scupanon, but I was itching to strap on an electric guitar and play loud. So I decided to compromise.
Speaking of Scupanon, Janet Lipson had recently starting singing backing vocals with me in that group. So I invited her into the new rock band. It was mostly the same songs, so she already knew them.
The band needed a name. Why not call the band Total Flower Chaos? Because it wasn’t my vision of Total Flower Chaos. We weren’t playing any of the instrumentals on the first TFC record. And we weren’t playing the social commentary rock songs, which I identified with TFC. I wanted to save the Total Flower Chaos name for that band– which I still wanted to form eventually. This band was different, and should have its own identity.
Janet suggested the name Electric Poetry. Done.
Our first gig was a house party in the summer of 2017. Our next two gigs were at open mics at the 20 Mile Tap House in Parker, Colorado. These were one-hour sets, so they felt more like gigs than open mics. Then we played a gig was at my neighborhood bar, Gennaro’s, in January, 2018.
That was followed by a string of 4 gigs in the next 5 months at Herman’s Hideaway in Denver, as well as a couple of gigs at The Toad Tavern in Littleton, Moe’s BBQ in Englewood, and a couple of gigs at breweries.
It was at the Herman’s Hideaway shows that the band began developing it’s own identity and style. Since we were playing my semi-pop rock songs rather than my heavy or political songs, I decided to wear a blue blazer over a tshirt. Janet shared center stage with me, and, when not singing, was energetic and dancing. Jay, Sean and Paul impressed the audiences with their musicianship. Sean joined on backing vocals and also helped Janet and I with in-between song banter. Paul’s friend from California, Kelly Walker, sometimes joined the band on keyboards when he was in town, giving us a bigger sound.
Electric Poetry started running out of steam in the summer fall of 2018. I noticed the guys were losing enthusiasm for the band. At some point in late 2018 or early 2019, Paul, Sean and Jay started working with another singer, songwriter and rhythm guitar player, and formed a new band, which would eventually be named Lies or Lullabies. They continued with the new band and Electric Poetry during 2019, but it became clear to me that they liked playing with the other singer more. It was more in the musical and lyrical style that they liked. Electric Poetry played what would be our last gig at the Englewood Tavern in May 2019. In September, 2019, Electric Poetry officially ended.
What I Learned
Electric Poetry was an important stage in my musical career. It got me on stage at rock clubs playing electric guitar in a rock band– it established my identity as a rock musician. My identity prior to that had been as a folk musician, which was not real me– or at least the whole me.
I learned the value of having good musicians in my band. The bar had been raised for future bands. I would insist on musicians who are as good or better at their instruments as I am with mine. Musicians who learn the songs on their own time and come to practice prepared. Musicians that require minimal direction from me, because they know how to play the songs right.
I learned the hard way that all the administrative and promotional work of a band is too much for one person, especially if you have a day job. In the future, I would require all band members to pitch in on the work of the band. To put it another way, I learned that I don’t want a backing band, I want a band. I want the musicians in the band to consider the band their band, and want to do everything they can to promote it and make the band bigger.
I also learned that I should not censor myself. I want a band that allows me to fully express express myself; a band that will play all my songs.
Electric Poetry raised the bar of expectations for my next band. I knew it would be difficult to find musicians that fit that criteria, but I don’t want to go backwards. I want to move forward. I knew it would take awhile– and it has– but I decided there would be no more compromises. My songs deserve it.