In the summer of 2002, two things happened almost simultaneously: My father and I broke off all contact after I discovered a terrible secret, and I heard the voice of Reverend James Jones for the first time. But this story begins five years earlier, in 1997, when I became disabled.
I had been helping a victim of a car accident, who was miraculously unscathed, and became “collateral damage” myself when another car hit my car at 60mph whilst I was kneeling in front checking for damage. As a result, I take a great deal of painkilling medication. Lucid periods are painful, and, almost, vice versa. I suppose to a degree I became a mind trapped in a not very mobile body. The Internet works perfectly for me, since the medication causes me to have the attention span of an addled gnat. The maze – the complex twists and turns that a person “browsing” the Internet may make – could take him or her from initially reading about the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (song or ship, take your pick) and end up reading how the TV soap Coronation Street began in the sixties.
During such a journey I discovered Jim Jones, Jonestown, the murder of Rep. Leo Ryan and company, and finally the Massacre, Mass Suicide, Mass Murder – call it what you will – of close to a thousand innocent human beings. In those pre-broadband days, downloading large files could take quite a while, but I managed to listen to an excellent NPR programme that unravelled the whole story – and played recordings of his voice. I quickly became hooked.
Meanwhile, a volcano erupted in my own family, and relations between my father and myself were severed completely, a cold silence that lasted for just over two years.
I was extremely angry. Somehow the whole thing – the family, the Jonestown family, fathers, father cares, father cares, and you know I love you all very much – became interlinked, interwoven, and by the Goddess was I angry.
This is where I let you know that I am also a composer – amateur, computer-based, not terribly brilliant (Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Mike Oldfield really don’t need to ever look over their collective shoulders) – but I had up to that point produced three fairly interesting albums.
The fourth was “Father Cares…”
The anger, frustration, sadness, pain, lies, tears, and that complex emotion that is caused when a family effectively freezes one out, burned through me, burned through the software, and finally burned onto a CD. There is no coherent narrative, although the Jonestown-specific tracks were originally sequentially numbered. Those numbers have survived all the way to the CD, and the keen-eyed will notice that whilst they are sequential, a couple are missing.
Creating “Father Cares…” helped me to mentally sort out my feelings and come to some kind of acceptance of a situation that I never caused and had no part in (not consciously at least), and the terrible grief that overcomes a person when a family ostracises an innocent victim. I didn’t just lose my father, I effectively lost them all, as they all continued to live in the same house, and so trying to visit with my mother had to be arranged with stealth and secrecy. This was all poured into the sequencing and sampling.
Since the advent of the compact disc, and the disappearance of cassettes and vinyl, one loses the ability to do a specific Side One and Side Two. This can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending upon your intentions. For example, the next album I recorded, named simply “mad_vicar 5” (an amazing outburst of joy and fun after “Father Cares…”), I pretended that the CD had two sides and made it as near to the sound of vinyl as I could. It contrasts with “Father Cares…” part of which tries to capture an even more elusive medium: the Jonestown/Jim Jones tracks are made to sound as though they’re on a radio, with fading, interference, and finally the loss of signal altogether. The tracks relating to my family are, as they say, en clair!
I feel that “Father Cares…” may resonate with the lost souls, those who have had trust betrayed and experienced power misused, the messengers with a hundred arrows puckering the flesh, and I hope ultimately mourn the senseless waste of precious human life in a jungle, in Guyana, in 1978.