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I'm working on an album of political songs that satirize the presence of empire in our daily diet here in the US.
I'm working on an album of political songs that satirize the presence of empire in our daily diet here in the US.
I'm working on an album of political songs that satirize the presence of empire in our daily diet here in the US.
68 backers pledged $4,156 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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John Davis new album produced by Scott Solter

$4,156

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This new album differs from my last, Spare Parts, in several ways. The songs were written with keyboards and drums/percussion rather than acoustic guitars, and their lyrics focus on politics rather than on relationships. (To the extent that those two can be disentangled.) The sound is based on various kinds of electric/electronic music and is closer to the work I did with the Folk Implosion. Musical influences include Prefuse 73, Let England Shake by PJ Harvey, and In What Language? by Mike Ladd and Vijay Iver.  For more on the political subject matter, read the text that follows the photographs below.

I started working on these songs back in 2010. You can hear instrumental versions of several of the demos I made for this album running in the background of the above video, which was produced by filmmaker Michael Galinsky of Rumur, who also created two videos for Spare Parts along with his wife and partner Suki Hawley. 

I've been working with producer/engineer/mixer Scott Solter and several other musicians on the final versions of these songs this summer, and 90% of the tracks are now complete.  We've been adding live drums, percussion, bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals, saz, oud, marimba, and trumpet at a few studios here in North Carolina.  Much of the work involves replacing parts I originally wrote with samples and virtual instruments with live playing to bring more sonic depth and organic variation to the songs.  This is where the money I hope to raise will be invested.  

Here's a rough mix of one of the songs that we've been working on recently, called El Pulpo:

The project will probably cost about $8,000. I'm setting the bar here at $4,000 because it would be easier for me to work on creating and delivering the rewards for this campaign in August than September, because of my teaching schedule.  (I discuss how teaching and music weave together at this stage of my life in the above video.)  If I'm fortunate enough to hit the initial project goal while this Kickstarter is still kicking, I will begin delivering the rewards immediately.    

"What is life?  It is a process of eating and being eaten." - Maha Ghosananda
"What is life? It is a process of eating and being eaten." - Maha Ghosananda

The lyrical focus of the record has to do with a satirical look at the politics of the food industry. There are songs about HFCS, soy, supermarkets, cows, and bananas.  Various historical characters appear, including Minor Keith, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, Earl Rusty Butz, and Mean Joe Greene. Creative collage, both musical and lyrical, is used to draw overlooked connections and avoid sloganeering. The lyrics stitch together historical references I picked up from various texts and observations from daily life.  Inanimate objects like coffee and abstract corporate entities like Chiquita appear as characters who sing to the listener, or who are addressed by the song itself in the second person. 

Giuseppe Arcimbo
Giuseppe Arcimbo

This project was influenced  in several ways by experiences I've had as an educator. Working with students and their families in different school systems teaches you a lot about the politics of food because of the way education funding is based on property taxes in the United States.  Seeing students have access to organic produce at an affluent private school while students at a Title 1 public school do not, while not surprising, was a daily routine that influenced this project over the last four years.  

There is an international frame of reference to the songs that was influenced by the opportunity I've had to work with students, parents and colleagues who came to the US from other countries. I wouldn't want to say that this project speaks on their behalf, because they all have different points of view, and they can speak for themselves. But I did become increasingly interested about the impact of United States foreign policy as a result of getting to know folks from a long list of countries, including Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Guinea, Spain, Vietnam, China, India, the UK, Iraq, Lebanon, Ghana, Russia, Japan, Sudan, Haiti, Jamaica, Thailand and Turkey.

I've enjoyed developing and teaching curriculum that deals with food justice issues, and been inspired by work colleagues of mine have done along these lines as well. I've seen great things happen when organizations like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers or Gaining Ground give presentations and workshops for young people.  I'm especially interested in organizations like the CIW that focus on political action rather than charity.  I heard a talk given by Abner Sauveur, director of Matènwa Community Learning Center in Haiti, in which he spoke about how Bill Clinton's "food aid" policy had put rice farmers in Haiti out of business. "We don't need aid," he said. "We know how to feed ourselves. We need the United States to stop undermining our economy."  I was reminded of an organization called Food For Free that drove a delivery truck around town when I was growing up in Cambridge, MA adorned with Hélder Pessoa Câmara's words, ""When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."  

One of my favorite novels that deals with these issues is The Chronicle of The Seven Sorrows by Patrick Chamoiseau. It chronicles the downfall of a neighborhood of vibrant outdoor vegetable markets in Fort-de-France, the capital of Maritinique, at the hands of supermarket chains that came into the area after the former French colony became an overseas department of France in 1946. It's a good example of the broken promises of nominal decolonization

When I lived in Paris as an exchange student in 1991, it was the first time I had ever shopped at an open air market on a regular basis. It was also the first time I had frequented neighborhoods where immigrants from former French (and currrent neo) colonies like Algeria and Senegal were in the majority.  It was awesome. I almost never went to a supermarket during the 6 months I spent there, save for a few visits to Ed L'Epicier to buy generic Nutella and cheap wine.  But I almost never went to street markets anymore once I got back to the US. It was a lot harder to find farmer's markets and CSA's in the US in those days than it is now.

Not a Vegetable Man
Not a Vegetable Man

Risks and challenges

I'm also not sure exactly when the record will be released, so take the delivery dates of rewards that include it as guesstimates. I will deliver the other components of those rewards - lyric sheets, demos, etc. - as soon as possible, well in advance of the estimated date on which you will receive the record, which should be 2 weeks prior to its street date.

As mentioned above, it will harder for me to deliver the labor-intensive rewards immediately in the fall because of my teaching schedule. I will post regular updates about the delivery dates of rewards if they are postponed, but you won't have to wait long. You'll read project updates here, such as notification that the recording has been completed, that mixing is finished, release information, etc.

Thank you for your support in helping a network of musicians share ideas about social issues and engage in meaningful creative work together. The group dynamics of the project have been a real blessing, and my thanks go out to Peter Hughes, Andrew Levi Hiller, Louis Landry and Scott Solter for their contributions to date.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    As an expression of my sincere thanks, you will receive a pdf file of the lyrics to my last record, Spare Parts.

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    You will receive a download code for the unreleased demos I recorded for Spare Parts in 2010. This is a live to one track acoustic guitar performance recorded into the condenser mic of my iMac in the space of an hour and a half. I had written the lyrics several years prior to that evening, but all of the melodies and guitar parts were improvised as you hear them on the tape. There are a few pauses accordingly, but the performances have a vibe to them that I could never recreate, and is quite different from the final album. The song "The Wrong Tree" does not appear on this tape, as it was written later. You will also receive the Spare Parts lyric sheet.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Your name will be added to a list of donors on my website, and you will receive a download link to the album 2 weeks prior to it's release date. Plus 3 pdf files: the lyrics to Spare Parts, the lyrics for this new project, and a Source List of the texts and records I've read and listened to that influenced this project.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    You will receive all of the rewards listed at the $10 level - (new album download 2 weeks prior to release, name on website donors list, lyrics sheets and source list) - PLUS the Spare Parts demo tape download.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    Physical copy of your choice of the CD or LP, (*if the record comes out on both formats, which has yet to be determined,) plus the above rewards (name on donor list, Spare Parts demo, lyrics & Source List pdfs.)

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    I will record a personalized greeting for your answering machine using both music and voice. You may also pledge 75$ to get this reward with all the rewards listed at the $50 level, (see below.)

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    Limited Edition 7" of 2 songs not included on the album, one instrumental and one with vocals. Mixed by me at home, not by Scott Solter, (helas.) Hand cut, square chunk o' vinyl. Plus all the rewards at the $20 level.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    I will buy you an inexpensive used copy of one of the books I based the lyrics of this project on, (see the video atop the "Story" page about the album, and the Source List reward at the $1 level,) write a signed personalized letter to you on the title page, and mail it to you directly. I'll thank you for your pledge and say something about which of the songs the book inspired and/or informed, with references to specific page numbers or chapters. I'll also circle titles I like in the bibliography, if it has one. You can also choose to have me write you a letter inside a book I love that is not related to the album's lyrical theme, and specify whether you'd prefer fiction or non-fiction, genre, topic, etc. The book chosen will be in good condition or better.

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    I will create a custom made photograph just for you, filter it through Instagram, and post it to my Instagram account with a personalized thank you message for supporting this project. I will also email you a jpg file of the image, which I will create with my Smartphone. Warning: it's not an iPhone. Also includes all of the rewards listed at the $20 level.

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    I will create a handwritten lyric sheet for a song of your choice, either solo or Folk Implosion, and write you a letter on the back of it describing how the song was written and recorded. The lyric sheet will include drawings and decoration. Plus all of the rewards at the $20 level.

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    You will be listed in the liner notes to the project as a pledge drive supporter. You will receive the CD or LP, download code 2 weeks prior to release, lyrics pdf files, Source List, and Spare Parts demo tape download. Your name will also be included on the website donor list.

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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    You will receive a t-shirt that represents one of the corporations I satirize on this record that has been customized by me using fabric marker or paint. These unique garments will not be flattering to their subjects, but they will flatter you. I will sign my name and thank you for being a campaign supporter on the back. It may or may not be a used T-Shirt - I currently have stuff bookmarked on ebay for Coca-Cola, Little Caesar's, CCA, Starbucks, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Chiquita, and Piggly Wiggly. You will be listed on the liner notes to the project as a pledge supporter.

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    You will a receive a t-shirt that represents one of the political action groups that work on the issues addressed on this record. I will write a thank you message in fabric paint to you on the back thanking you for being a pledge drive supporter. These shirts cost $15, $20, or $25 and are sold to help raise money for these organizations. I will pay $20 for the t-shirts that cost $15 to maintain the intended balance between donating to the relevant causes and this project. When choosing this reward, please specify shirt size and which of the following tees you would like: The Organic Consumers Association's "Millions Against Monsanto" t-shirt, KillerCoke.org's "Killer Coke: La Chispa de la Muerte" t shirt, Labor Notes' "Troublemakers Union" T-Shirt, Health Care Now!'s "Medicare For All" shirt, or a T-Shirt bearing the log of the RealNews.com, who do a great job of reporting on these and other subjects.

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    Pledge $65 or more About $65

    You will receive the demo version of an instrumental guitar record called Gnawing on the Bone that I am planning on releasing after this project. You will also receive all of the rewards listed at the $50 level. I'm pricing this more highly than the demos for Spare Parts because this project has not come out yet. You may not post any of these tracks on the internet or play them on the radio prior to the actual album's release. You will be listed on the liner notes to the album as a pledge drive supporter.

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  15. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    I will create a loop for you and only you that you can use royalty free for your own compositions and recordings. I will send both dry and effects-processed versions. You can choose between a guitar loop, a bass loop, a keyboard loop, or a percussion loop. You may also choose a loop played on a Turkish baglama saz or a Syrian oud. I reserve the right to use this loop myself on a future project if it happens to fit into something I do later, but my expectation is that you will be the only person to hear this soundbite, along with whoever you choose to share it with. If you would like multiple loops, you may get up to 5 of these rewards per person.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    I will record a message for your answering machine. You may suggest the text of the message, but I may adjust it to fit the vibe of the music I record to go along with it. You will also receive all of the rewards listed at the $50 level. You will be listed on the liner notes as a pledge drive supporter.

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  17. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    I will write, record and mix a special (and probably liberty-taking) version of Happy Birthday sung to and for the person of your choice. I will also send them a happy birthday postcard signed by me. You can choose deliver date according to when their birthday is - or have it delivered right away and keep it for later. I will vary the arrangements and melodic liberties for each supporter. You will also receive all of the rewards listed at the $50 level, and be listed in the liner notes as a pledge drive supporter.

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  18. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    I will record a new version of any of the songs from my solo non-folk implosion back catalogue with different arrangements and melodic variations, mix it and send it to you. I will not release this version anywhere else. If you would like me to personalize or dedicate this in some way, I will. You will also receive all of the rewards listed at the $50 level, and be listed in the liner notes as a pledge drive supporter.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    I will record a cover version of a song of your choice at my home studio, and mix it and send it to you both digitally and as a hand-cut, square limited edition of 1 vinyl 7" single. This track will not be released anywhere else. You will also receive all of the rewards listed at the $50 level, and be listed in the liner notes as a pledge drive supporter.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    I will compose, perform, and record an instrumental acoustic guitar track on commission for you. You will receive both a high quality digital download and a square, hand cut limited edition of 1 vinyl 7" single. Each person who purchases this reward will get a different song, one that will not be released anywhere else. If you like John Fahey and/or Derek Bailey, you know the kinda vibe I'm talking about. If you like one of those guys better than the other, give me the word and I will veer in their direction. You will receive all of the rewards listed at the $50 level, and your name will appear in the liner notes as a pledge drive supporter.

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  21. Select this reward

    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    I will write, record, and mix a song for you in my home studio on a topic of your choice. You will receive both a high quality digital download and a hand cut limited edition of 1 square 7" vinyl single. You may also choose whether you would like an acoustic-guitar and vocals type song, (like the ones on Spare Parts) or one that is more keyboard / electronic / percussive in nature, (like the ones on this project.) You will also receive all of the rewards listed at the $50 level, and be listed in the liner notes as a pledge drive supporter.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    I will auction off the Electar guitar I used to record with the Folk Implosion in the following manner: you may email me at jdsoundbite@gmail.com to receive pictures of the guitar in its current state. If you are in the Boston area, you may make arrangements to play it in person to check it out. After you've looked it over one way or the other, you email me an offer of what you're willing to pay for it. I will update the price of this pledge according to the highest offer on a daily basis during the campaign. So when you check back and see the price of this reward change, that means a new offer has been received. The person who has made the highest offer by the end of the campaign will receive the guitar. It comes in a very sturdy SKB flight case.

    I used this guitar to record with the Folk Implosion and under my own name from 1994-2000. I also used this guitar at the large majority of my live performances in the US, Canada, and Europe, both solo and with FI.
    It is a 1938 model that is one of the first electric guitars ever made, and was an ancestor to later Rickenbacker models. This model can sell for as much as $2,500 to connoisseurs, but this particular guitar is not worth that much because it does not have the original pick-up. It has the Rickenbacker-style pick-up that came with it when I purchased it in 1994 at Cambridge Music in Porter Square, Cambridge MA. I actually prefer the sound this pick-up has to the original, based on what I have heard of other models in online videos. The low end and mid range on the guitar are incredible, it has a boxy tone unlike anything else I've ever played. It kind of sounds like a piano in that it produces clear clean notes that have a unique and solid attack.

    Songs like Checking In by the Folk Implosion show off it's bell-like qualities well, and Pole Position by Folk Implosion is the best example I can think of for the kind of crunch and kick it can deliver. I used this guitar to record electric parts for All Ways All Times Disco and a few others on my solo album Leave Home, and for all of Folk Implosion's Dare to Be Surprised and most of One Part Lullaby. We also used it for the guitar part on Indie Rock Instrumental, which was released on a Red Hot compilation.
    This Electar is visible in the Folk Implosion's Insinuation video and on the inner panel of the CD single. You can also catch a glimpse of it tucked under my arm on the inside sleeve of One Part Lullaby. Chris Knox mocked this guitar during a solo show I played with the Mountain Goats at Lounge Axe in Chicago in 1993 by saying, "Just because I don't play a 1938 acoustic-electric guitar doesn't mean I'm not honest" during his set. I think he was a little bit jealous. As for myself, I would feel a bit jealous of whoever gets it. I would ideally like to keep it but I have found over the past 14 years that it is too associated with a period of time that is now long gone to enjoy playing it anymore. It would be kind of like moving back into an apartment you lived in 15 years ago - kind of nostalgic but weird. At this point I'd prefer the cash and the knowledge that someone is using it who would enjoy it and maybe the history behind it. It has been carefully stored by my dad in his house since I left Folk Implosion in 2001, played only by a few collectors that came to see it when I listed it on Craigslist but didn't want to buy it when they found out it didn't have the original pick up. Their loss, your gain.

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Funding period

- (28 days)