My Haunted Rock YouTube channel and WordPress blog have long been the elephant graveyards of my dreams. It’s where they all go to die. In theory it sounds like a good idea. Travel off into the unknown with an instrument. Don’t force anything. Document the unexpected things you happen across. Let the words come as they do. Make field recordings that are low-fi, but authentic. Mix them up with images from the journey. Put them up on social media to deafening silence. Drive the nail in the coffin by making an announcement on Facebook. Repeat.
It was better in the days before the internet, when it was only records and magazines. At least then I felt like I had a chance. I’d read an interview with an artist and think I was kind of like them. All I needed to do was get in touch with the right people. By the time I got any attention for my work, and by that, I mean a very small amount of attention, it was right at the end of the print age, where sales were still driven by physical copies as opposed to downloads and streaming.
I’d made a record with a few friends and had gotten a list of critics and radio stations from the mail-order distributor that had agreed to take on my project. I sent a few hundred CDs to people on the list, and had been over the moon when I started getting some positive reviews. What I was to discover, however, was that many of the critics who claimed to like the record and independent radio stations that were playing it, didn’t have a much bigger audience than I did, and that was none at all. It felt good to get some affirmation, but nothing changed. After a few weeks the small wave of attention passed and it was like it had never happened.
Since I couldn’t afford to make records that no one was buying, I decided to focus on poetry, since I could do it by myself. I traveled around the world, only writing what came to me and then recording it live, on streets, buses, airplanes, trains, in hotel bathrooms, tombs, churches, anywhere I could find an ambient atmosphere. The indifference to the videos I made out of these efforts almost bordered on hostility. I concede, my work was rarely riveting, but didn’t anyone else out there feel the same way?
The answer perhaps is that everyone was too busy creating and sharing their own content, even if that was just selfies and memes, to care. What is gained by likes, outside of an ego-stroke. It becomes an exchange. You like their post so they’ll like yours back. You post a selfie and everybody likes it. You put up a four minutes song and no one bothers to respond.
What was the point then? What was I now trying to accomplish by creating two galleries of images and words? I guess I was trying to prove to myself that I’d done what I set out to do. As a young man, I was always telling everyone my plan was to ramble, that I’d need at least twenty-five or thirty years under my belt before I might have something to say. It had always been about having real experiences, adventures as you will, that might have made for difficult times, but later made for great stories. No one had cared about my mission statement back then. Did it matter what they thought about it now?
I often think about the last days of Che Guevara. Everyone loves the picture of the young Che in his black beret. When he was finally captured in Bolivia, however, only managing to attract a few followers for his latest revolution, he was bedraggled and delusional. They shot him like a dog and paraded his body around for the press. How many people would read his Man and Socialism in Cuba manifesto if it appeared on Facebook? Probably not very many. How many would like the picture of him in the black beret? There would be too many heart emojis to count.