As a person, I like making stupid decisions. I spend my life making music nobody wants to listen to, I write words nobody wants to read, I make videos nobody wants to view. I had a career in an industry I ended up loathing. I watched said career crash and burn despite my efforts to keep going. I bought a business in a desperate attempt to take control of my life, only to watch that be taken out of my hands by circumstances that seem ridiculous when you write them down and come to hate that situation as I realised that any decisions I make were dictated by others.

If we peel back further, one of the dumbest decisions I made in a different time, in a different age, I created a forum about a progressive rock band that nobody has heard of, nobody really cares about, but gets trotted out as “inspirational” and “ground breaking” when the actual fact is that the only album of theirs anyone cares about is the first one and the majority of that album was written by people who left soon after, leaving said property in the ownership of the captain who currently and has always steered the ship. He became the keeper of the kingdom, he won the golden ticket, he came into ownership of the goose that continually laid the golden eggs. Imagine being given a property that not only makes you a continued income, but becomes a brand name you can trade on forever and ever and ever. Yet, you’re the person who put the least into the name, the startling image that adorns the cover and the songs that you’re most famous for. But it is the gravy train that pays your way. It really is like winning the lottery.

When the another artist dies, one who has given you one of your biggest exposures to the public via his music, how do you act? Do you act with humility and acknowledge that sometimes your best work is the work you do for free? Or do you take them to court claiming that you are “a featured artist” in a cynical attempt to grab more money from the situation? Some say that this person prickles whenever the song came on the radio and felt that they had always been badly treated in the situation. Most would see this as a golden moment where money has no court. So that’s the kind of person I am dealing with. This is a person who has a company and associates that have used a heavy-handed approach to shut down fan websites and then use the material they’ve written and collated for their own purposes. This is the same person who stole the artwork from the record company wall, so that he could then go on to sell it to stupid fans for stupid prices with his signature on it, even though he has no right to sign a work of art he didn’t create. These are not honest and ethical people. They think they have a right to everything.

Anyway, I ended up creating this forum because there was a gap in the market and I was getting into the web in the early two thousands. I wanted to perhaps work in web design and maybe make a go of that as a possible career path. So this forum was created and I took charge of it and it was a learning process. It was good fun for a while, but I was quite naive about the poisonous nature of fandom and the pitfalls that brings with it. That was an eye-opener and you soon learned not to trust anyone who offers you their hand, because on the internet there’s always an agenda, always… Indeed, people wanted to wrestle away control of the site from my hands and one of them happened to have a connection to the captain of the ship, as it were. In business terms, this would have been deemed a hostile takeover. But they love-bomb you and get into your head and tell you that they’re your friends and if you ever want to take a break from this, we’ll look after it for you. Then the balloon goes up and you end up figuring out that there’s another game afoot. I’m not a game player, never been a game player, but those who play games project. There’s always a great deal of projection going on in human psychology. Bad people tell you that you’re bad, that you’re Machiavelli made flesh, that it’s all your fault.

This forum became popular because I had zero interest in courting that band or its members. I’m not impressed by musicians. I know what they do. True musicians don’t act like prats; they have humility, they have humanity, they are humble. Those who are overprotective of what they do do that because they can do no more. They are one trick ponies. They have no more music in them. They are the opposite of creative. They end up just trotting out nostalgia on tap for their geriatric audiences.

My experience on the sharp end of this band was to get a “cease and desist” message from the current director of the company, owned by the captain of this ship. I was not to use images of the band’s album artwork for the avatar images of our members. Each forum member could choose an album to represent themselves as their image. These were 50×50 pixel representations – tiny little things, not high-resolution, laser-scanned originals that could be printed at high quality and flogged down the market, Del Boy Trotter-style – complete with fake autographs. Frankly, I was gobsmacked. I’d seen other forums for other notable bands of the genre operate with album art avatars with no issue. So I had to apologise profusely for infringing on the band’s copyright and write a letter “ASKING FOR PERMISSION” to use the 50×50 pixel artwork to the director of the company. This immediately coloured my experience of the forces that were controlling this band. They were not friendly, they certainly were not fan-friendly and they certainly didn’t like me. That was off the bat…that happened almost immediately after I started the forum.

Then I remember back to a time in the late nineties when a bloke purporting to be the captain of this ship reached out to me via email and we exchanged a few emails before I asked him politely to stop email me because it was getting weird. I mean, at the time, I thought I was talking to an imposter and when I got bored with the pseudo-intellectual waffle we indulging in, I asked them to check out my music, knowing that the real guy would bail out. So maybe it really was him? Maybe this is the source of it all? Maybe I spurned his advances and he didn’t like it? Who knows and who cares? I certainly don’t. This is all background for this delicious story of misery and woe.

But despite me being a prickly customer and “saying it how it is”, I still managed to fall into the influence of members of that band. I don’t know how it happened or why it happened, but it happened and it went against my nature. I feel stupid now for getting involved. I wished I had said a firm no, but I was looking to strike out as a web designer/web creator/web host and so when an ex-member of said band approaches with an offer for you to create and act as web host for a glorified cover band of that band, it would be foolish for you to say no, no? Indeed, I should have said, no…NO! 

But I mocked up a website for them and I had a couple of phone calls with said musician and his handler. This is when I realised I was dealing with not good people. Remarks were made, remarks were made about fellow musicians and it was obvious that this person had some professional issues (possibly jealousy) regarding his involvement with that band and his current band. This troubled me deeply. Never meet your heroes or have a couple of international phone calls with them – yadda-yadda-yadda. Nothing came of that website and that band dissolved. I went in with an open mind and came out with a suspicious eye of the dynamics of the psychology of the working musician. I didn’t like it much.

Then the psychology of the working musician and their professional jealousies spilled out onto the internet forum that I’d run. You know, the one that introduced me to them, the one that brought us together. One night, actually it was the early hours of the morning UK time, I was informed said musician was running amok on the forum. Someone had posted a poll about their favourite musician from that band and a certain member got the most votes and this raised the ire of this other musician. Attacks were aimed at the forum members, the member of the band that won the poll and I’m sure some libellous material was posted. As web host, I literally shat a brick. I was the owner of this site and any legal issues were my direct responsibility. I sat there for an hour deleting posts, just subtly putting out the fire as I didn’t want to directly block that person as that would have caused a shit show. I just carefully excised his comments, the same way a surgeon excises a tumour. The problem went away. Nobody noticed. I wiped my brow and went to bed.

But I awoke in a bad mood, I saw this outburst as a personal sleight. I’d had professional dealings with this person, but they had zero respect for me or my forum. They thought it proper to behave in this awful manner and in total disrespect for everyone. They never apologised to me privately about it, they never once mentioned the incident to me. It was if it never happened. No thank yous for protecting them from what could have been a very embarrassing incident. If it had happened now, it would have been screen shot and posted on social media. But thankfully, this was a good few years before the cancer of social media infected humanity.

However, from that moment, I eyed them with suspicion and I drew my line in the sand. After that, I was pretty negative about this person, scathing in my reviews of their music, dismissive of what they were doing. They didn’t deserve my respect or consideration. If they had no respect for me and for what I was doing, why I should I return the favour? This probably wasn’t a good mindset to take on. Coupled with the fact that I was dealing with a pretty popular forum and the dynamics of dealing with “fans” and the baggage that comes with that, I realised that it wasn’t a good place to be – or a good place to be involved with. I tried selling the site. Nobody wanted it. It became an albatross around my neck.

It seems weird talking about it now because thankfully, sites like Facebook have largely made fan websites irrelevant because any little Hitler can create their own Facebook Group and foster a mini-fandom, so there’s this really fractured fandom out there now. But yeah, it was a dum thing to do and if anyone asks me of regrets, it’s probably making that forum because it taught me a lot about human behaviour, my own psychology and the machinations of online life. When it comes with dealing with online people, you don’t really know who you are dealing with and what effects YOU have on THEM. 

So I worked myself into a psychological position where I was real and anything on the WWW wasn’t. Again, I don’t think this is a good approach to take as you become flippant and easily dismissive of those who are out there. Some of them are playing a game with you, but many are not and you end up tarring everyone with the same brush. This is not a good way to be. 

Now we come onto the meat and potatoes and my fall from grace. But before that, a little story from before that time. Some of my forum members went to a gig put on by this particular musician (if I recall correctly, I may be remembering the details wrong, but it did happen). They were sitting at a table when the sister of the captain of the band who this musician was covering that night in a jazz style approached. Doing her sistery act and ingratiating herself as cynical, conniving Brits do to gullible Yanks, she asked them where they were from and they mention they were meeting up as they were members of a fan forum and she immediately froze, blanked them and moved onto the next table. My beastly reputation was already preceding me before I even shat in the cornflakes, proverbially speaking.

The reason I am writing this is to present my version of events. This is to give you the story from my perspective and so you understand how and why I got to this moment. I am not excusing myself. This is not an excuse. I cannot excuse the inexcusable. One day, the story broke that this musician was ill. They were very ill, terminally ill. But me in my rush to get the story on the site, made a joke of it, laced the story with acerbic wit. As I remember it, I didn’t think it was a terminal condition. Indeed, I wished them a speedy recovery. But I made some choice comments, guided with my feelings of how I’d been treated by this person and posted it with abandon. I then took the dog for a walk, satisfied with myself. When I returned, the shit had already hit the fan and then I realised what I done. It didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel good at all. Not because I’d been caught, but because I’d acted unprofessionally and not checked the story correctly, I was in a rush to be first and gone against my actual journalistic training. I’d been blinded by my stupidity.

Again, this next bit is fuzzy as a lot seemed to happen all at once. I took the story down. I was accused of hiding it. I put it back up. I was accused of making this worse. I rewrote the story. I wrote apologies. The apologies were deemed from on high as “insincere” on one muso’s long-defunct blog who then wished cancer on my then-pregnant wife. I understood that this was someone emotionally defending his friend, but others could see it in another way. That’s the thing about the Internet is without total context messages can be interpreted any way you want them to be.

So I took the apology down, I wrote another one. I took that down. I ended up deleting a whole tribute thread accidentally when the argument spread onto that, people were divided – those who could see that I’d apologised and trying to make amends and those who were flat out calling for my blood. This was seen as an act of “deleting his tribute”. When people searched for his name on the blog, they couldn’t find him. This was deemed as me deleting him from the band’s history. What they didn’t know was that the forum’s database was broken and the search function didn’t actually work. If you’d have searched for ME, you wouldn’t have found me. But I tried to explain, I tried to apologise, but whatever I did was never enough. I sent a personal apology directly via email to those involved, but somehow that got “lost”. So I ended up having to send another apology. In the end, I snapped and started to bite back. I began to delete any mention of that musician from the site. I thought if they were going to accuse me of it, I might as well do it. It wasn’t my best moment.

When this musician passed, I kept my mouth shut. When his memorial was held in London, agents riled up the widow to the point where she was pushing to meet me in London, for reasons I don’t totally understand. I gently told her that this wouldn’t be a good idea. So this shadow has hung over me for many years and it still hangs over me today. I’ve apologised so many times for this it has lost all meaning. Their continual harassment has had the opposite effect in that I no longer care. 

Lies have been told about me. When the managerial enforcer for the captain of this band accidentally copied me into an email to the company that polices their copyright for them, he revealed that he believes that I deliberately tried to destroy this musician’s career (I’m sorry, what?) and there have been other lies about me being a bootlegger and profiting out of it. I made one set of CDs in 2000 which I sent for free to another fan of the band, one fan to another. If those CDs ever made it into circulation, it wasn’t by my hand.

The postscript is this. My karmic debt is paid as my son shares the birthdate of this musician, as we had the choice of delivery date and that’s the one we chose, so I honour him that way. Also, when the dust had settled (it would have been at the very end of the noughties), the widow got in touch and we exchanged some private messages. She said that the musician had forgiven me and the apology was taken as it was meant and we left it on good terms.

However, nobody else cares about that… Why let the truth get in the way of a good story, eh?

But some of you might have come to the story later on. You may have jumped on board via my YouTube channel. I began my original YouTube channel back in 2006 and it was used primarily to record my own music and performances. It wasn’t until 2011, when I found myself looking after the kids and I wanted to do something to take my mind off my situation. I’d been writing album reviews on this website and I noticed that traffic had dried up. Google had changed its algorithm and had bought YouTube, so I had the idea of making video reviews on YouTube and the channel became quite popular.

My first bump in the road occurred in 2016, when representatives for that band hit me with false copyright claims on my videos, even though no music of theirs was used in the videos. In UK law, copyright law doesn’t apply to reviews – they are exempt (even if I were to use snippets of the music, which I’ve never done). It wasn’t very pleasant and it was the equivalent of a mafia shakedown.

“That’s a nice YouTube channel you’ve got there, Mr Lock. It would be a shame if something bad happened to it, eh?”

So it could have fought them, but I didn’t. I relented and took the videos down and moved on. I couldn’t believe that they could use the YouTube copyright system in this way. In fact, they infringe the Terms of Service of YouTube by acting in this frankly fraudulent way, but creators are often on the sharp end of dubious practices in the virtual world.

The shit really hit the fan in October 2019 when they came for me again. I foolishly uploaded some videos, thinking that they might have softened, that they might have been preoccupied with real problems. But no, they hit me again – tactically reported thirty or so videos so that my channel and YouTube account would be taken from permanently and earning me a permanent ban from YouTube. This was distressing as my young son also had a YouTube channel linked to my account and he began to panic when I told him about what was happening. He is on the autistic spectrum and can be emotionally sensitive.

This happened late on a Friday afternoon, quite deliberately, so that I couldn’t respond and there was a real possibility that my entire YouTube existence could be wiped out on the Monday. They could have just emailed me and slapped me on the wrist. But no, they enjoy harassing me. Remember, they have absolutely no legal right to do what they do. Reviews are exempt from copyright law, but YouTube doesn’t care. If I had the money, I would see them in court, but I don’t. So I did the only responsible thing a father could do and that was to delete my channel completely. I was thrilling to tell my boy that everything was going to be OK.

“I will destroy myself rather than let you destroy me.”

So I started again. It was quite cathartic and I got back to where I was financially-speaking, pretty quickly thanks to the people who enjoy what I do. I owe you everything.

And here we are. That’s my side of the story. But there’s always the other side too…

The final word goes to the Missus who said:

“Why would you spend time promoting those who want to destroy you?”

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