Chasing the Dream, Part 2: The Mission

In my previous blog, “Chasing the Dream, 3 Years Later,” I reviewed my accomplishments over the last 3 1/2 years after I took a layoff from my IT job to work on music full-time.  In this blog– Part 2– I discuss what’s next– my musical mission– both musical and lyrical– and what type of music I want to play, and what type of bands I need to play that music.

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What’s next for Rob Roper music?  I gave this a lot of thought over the past year.  I decided to start at the top– the goal– and work down to the details.

What should be my goal?
Be happy.

What makes me happy?
Creating and playing music with and for people.

What kind of music?
Rock and folk.

Played how?
In a band.

Do you want to compose music, write songs, record or perform music live?
Yes.

Who is your audience?  Who does your music serve?
Misfits.

What is my Mission?

My mission is to create, record and perform music that I like, with and for other people, in order to serve my fellow misfits.

(You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to compose that one sentence.)

I first realized that serving misfits should be my musical mission back in 2010, while choosing songs for my album by that name.  Nothing has happened to cause me to reconsider that.  In fact, my views on that have been strengthened in these last years.  Scroll down to see my poem, “My People” elsewhere in this blog, written last May, see see how I define “misfits.”  If anything, I feel like I haven’t served my people well enough in the past.  I feel like I’ve been too conservative, both musically and lyrically.  But that’s been changing over the past 3 years.  Have you heard my songs, “I Didn’t Believe?”  Or “Metadata?”

What is Misfit Music?

Non-mainstream, original, interesting rock and folk, mixed with other types occasionally.  Musically, I strive to combine various musical genres I like into a unique style.  I want it to be difficult for people to describe my music.  Lyrically, I like lyrics about both personal and social/political struggles, done with good emotion and sometimes humor.

Solo Artist?  Or in a band?

Although I enjoy playing my songs solo at times, I prefer playing with other people.  This is true whether I play in a rock group or an acoustic group.  I just like the interplay of the different instruments and musicians, and how they add to the song.

When I took up songwriting seriously in 2004, I did it mostly on acoustic guitar.  So when I started playing my original songs in 2007, it was done in the singer-songwriter or folk environment.

But for the past 3 years or so, I’ve focused on writing rock songs.  In 2016 I released two rock albums, Word and Roses.  Continuing to write rock music, and forming a rock band to play that music, is a top priority for this next year or so.

But don’t worry, my folk friends.  I’m still writing acoustic songs, and I will continue to play my acoustic music live.

So I need a minimum of two bands– one rock and one acoustic.

I have the acoustic band– Scupanon– which is violinist Paul Ermisch and myself, and whatever other musicians pass through.

My rock band has a name– Total Flower Chaos– but no band members yet.  I’m looking for them.  It’s been a little difficult, because the music is not mainstream and neither are my lyrics.  But I’ll find them.  I’m focusing on recording home demos of my new songs so other musicians will be able to hear my musical and lyrical vision for this band.

Meanwhile I’ve been having fun playing with 3 excellent rock musicians, Paul Webb, Sean Mullen and Jay Meikrantz, with my friend Janet Lipson on backing vocals.  They like my older songs from the Misfit and The Other Side of Nowhere albums, as well as some of my newer songs, like “3-Legged Dog.”  We’ve played two gigs so far and plan to play more.

Speaking of new songs, I have more than enough for a new album.  In fact, I have more than enough for two albums– one electric and one acoustic.  What I don’t have is funding.  Recording in a professional studio takes thousands of dollars.  I have enough experience now, after recording 5 albums in studios, to be able to estimate the cost pretty accurately now.  I have given a lot of thought to this question, and that will be the subject of Part 3 of this blog.

–Rob Roper, September 29, 2017

 

 

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Chasing the Dream, 3 Years Later

In my song, “The Other Side of Nowhere,” the mentor criticizes the student for “doing what you should, not what you want.”

I did what I should for 40 years.  I’ve been doing what I want for the past 3 1/2 years.

The plan was hatched around the time I wrote “The Other Side of Nowhere” in 2009.  I cut expenses and began saving my money.  I had no illusions that I’d be able to make a living at music, although, I confess, I did have that hope– or dream.  But I knew it was a longshot.  I just wanted to see how much I could accomplish with music if I didn’t have to spend 8 or more hours a day working for a corporation.

I left my IT job in March, 2014 and have been studying, writing, composing, recording and performing music full-time since then.

What surprised me was the praise I got from so many people.  “You’re chasing the dream!” they said.  One friend said she was living her life vicariously through me.  When I ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 for my Total Flower Chaos recording project, support for “chasing the dream” was cited by many people as a reason for their contribution.

I didn’t expect that.  If anything, I expected the opposite.  “I have to work.  Why should you be happy?” was more the reaction I expected.  I’m still trying to understand this.  I think it says something about our society, when people admire a person just for doing what they want to do.

But all good things come to an end.  My savings is about gone, so I have to take a day job again.  It was a good run.  So what did I accomplish?  Was it worth it?

In the last 3 1/2 years, I did the following:

  • I wrote several new songs, started dozens more, and recorded several home demos of the new songs.  Although I wrote some in the acoustic singer-songwriter style, I focused on writing rock music.  This was important to me, because I love rock music, but I hadn’t really figured out how to write in that style.  I feel like I’m starting to get it now.
  • I released a 3-song spoken word over rock music EP, “Word.”  This was also a radical departure from my previous acoustic singer-songwriter-oriented recordings.
  • I released a 5-song instrumental rock CD called “Roses,” under the band name of Total Flower Chaos.  I really went out on a limb here.  At the time the project began, I had never written even one instrumental rock piece.  I had never even composed a melody on guitar.  I was conscious at the time that I might fall flat on my face with this, but I did it anyway.  I grew as a composer and musician as a result.
  • I went back to school for 2 years to study music theory, piano and composition.  I learned how to put circles and lines on paper and make them sing.  But I learned much more.  I learned what professional musicians go through;  the sacrifices and hard work it takes to become a professional musician.  I can speak their language now.  I learned how to practice.  I learned discipline.  You don’t feel like practicing tonight?  Tired?  Too bad, you have a test tomorrow.  Get your ass on the piano and practice.
  • I continued to perform live in my acoustic singer-songwriter group, Scupanon.  Despite my commitments to rock music and classical music theory, I still love to play folk music.

But all good things must end.  My savings is running out, so I am going to have to take a day job soon.  I hope that’s not too big a disappointment to those of you who have been living vicariously through me.  It doesn’t mean I failed.  Making a living at music was never an expectation, only a dream.

So one chapter of my life is coming to a close and a new one begins.  I will once again sell my labor power to a corporation for money to live on.  I will still create, record and perform music, although I will have much less time for it.  What’s the plan?  That’s the subject of my next blog.

–Rob Roper, September 12, 2017

 

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New Song “Metadata”

This was inspired by the documentary CITIZENFOUR about Edward Snowden.  Snowden worked for the National Security Agency and exposed their program of spying on all US citizens, supposedly to protect us from “terrorists.”  Snowden had to flee the country of his birth to avoid persecution for revealing government secrets and was given political asylum in Russia.  The NSA program exposed by Snowden includes the collection of “metadata” of all phone calls, text messages, internet searches, social media posts and other information about citizens.  By “metadata”, they mean the time and date of a phone call or text message, from whom and to whom the call or message was sent, etc., and not the content of the call or message.  The metadata can then be filtered, analyzed and searched to supposedly identify potential “terrorists”, but obviously could also easily be used to identify and persecute opponents of government policies.  Here are the lyrics to my latest draft.

Metadata (We’re Watching You)
by Rob Roper  3rd Draft  Aug 25, 2017

We’re watching you, watching everything you do
We’re watching you, it’s for your own good
We know what you like
We know what you don’t
We know where you go
We know how you vote
We’re watching you

Privacy is dead, freeedom long gone
if you’ve done nothing wrong, then just go along
Don’t you see?
Both parties agree
It’s what we need
to keep us all free
We’re watching you

There once was a man, who ran off with the plan
but you didn’t understand, so now he’s living in a… cold land.
and now he’s fading out
we got the news blacked out
one less boy scout
who stuck his neck out
…for you

Hitler, Hoover, Stalin, in their wildest dreams
could never have imagined, such a beautiful scheme
So hang onto your phone
Take it everywhere you go
’cause that’s how we know
what we need to know
We’re watching you
watching everything you do.

We’re watching you
It’s for your own good

Don’t worry
It’s just…
metadata

 

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Powerless

Powerless (poem)
by Rob Roper 1st Draft May 25, 2017

It’s a kangeroo court

Those in authority can lie
They can invent evidence
They can falsely accuse me of things
They can say I said this or that

What they say
is gospel truth
Whatever I say
is disregarded
Their lies are accepted
my truth is rejected

They can
convict me of crimes I didn’t commit
They can
take my money
They can even beat me
and they’ll get away it
they’ll win
They always win

Those in authority have always abused me
It’s happened over and over
all my life
And there’s nothing I can do about it
nothing I can do.

People say, “Yes there is!
You can unite with others
against the people in authority!”

But they never unite.
Nobody ever backs me up.
They leave me standing all alone
to fight the powerful
It’s a losing battle

For I am powerless
I am in the class of losers, the rejects

And you wonder
why I have no confidence
you wonder
why I have no hope
It’s the result of experience
lessons learned the hard way

This is what I’ve learned:
Superior force always wins
Justice always loses

I have no power
They always win
I always lose

always lose

always lose

always lose.

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My People

My People (poem)
by Rob Roper 1st Draft May 26, 2017

I have no use for the winners
The frat boys
now yuppies
with their careers
and families
Taking the baby out for a stroll
with their expensive pure-bred dog
(probably ordered him online)
and their boring mainstream clothes
mainstream haircuts
mainstream facial hair
according to the current fad
staring at their mainstream stupidphones
their boys and girls on bicycles with
training wheels
but wearing helmets anyway
living in their big yuppy triplexes with
3 living rooms
5 bedrooms
and 4 baths
where a small house from the 1950’s once stood
generic boring
shrubs and grass planted by
Mexicans
hired by
the developer landscape company
not a single flower to be seen anywhere
all neat and orderly
like their haircuts.
I have no use for these people.
They bore me.

Give me the losers
the misfits
the rejects
rejects
not because society rejected them
but because they rejected society.
Those who
worked odd jobs all their lives
and never had a career
because all careers seemed boring to them.
Those who never made it
due to lack of enthusiasm for “it”

Bring me the failures
those who have been searching all their lives
but never found it
The wannabe poets, artists and musicians
Well-read
with and a sick and twisted sense of humor
and a healthy dose of cyncism
who know that American politics is corrupt
and whose taste in music
is a rejection
of the mainstream
and an embrace of the subversive

These are my people.
People like me.

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