There and Back Again
Zeratul Luke - or Earl Z. Madness to some - is a furry who likes music! So much so he wrote an entire article about how to define furry music for the masses!
As Bucktown Tiger once said: "A story in verse about a musical artist in search of himself. Alone in his inner feelings for years on end, the artist seeks the companionship of those most like him and yearns to be accepted and loved just for who he is. He also strives to share his long-hidden creative talents with a receptive audience of those who will understand his music most. Introducing the story of how a young man finds all these things - and so much more."
She asks. I tell her. "Furry music? And just what kind of community does that entail?" I smile brightly to hide my unease, uncertainty, trying to think of a simple, basic line I can speak away such a complex lifestyle. I reply slowly hesitating with every so word, "It's basically an intimate and spiritual relationship and connection to animals and basic general stuff... like that" "And what's furry music?" I drew a crippling blank that even a stupid, little laugh couldn't solve...
What is furry music? (What are furries but men and women teens of both sexes feeling a true connection to some animal in some form?) What is it like to stand in the limelight generated by unified fans who are not only appreciative of your lyrics and words but come springing forth and dwell inside the core influence wherein the artists' inspiration and flow are born from as well. Not being a musician I cannot say. I can't hope to know from they're perspective what it is that drives them and stops them, pleases and saddens them but I can try for a different goal. Being part of the community they, the furry community, are part of I can understand what they sing and rap about and more than the average, more enough hopefully that I can discover why they do what they do. I not sure about your priorities but I think its time for an adventure.
But if I am to ever understand why they do what they do then I must first do some research, some background as to how they do what they do. After all if they do what they did and did not do it all that well they what they did would become a don't... I think. I know at least a journey is imminent; a time to travel back in so that one can move forward if we are to believe anything of Progressive thinking.
Waiting for the Polar Express to make its yearly rounds so I can hop a ride to Where-Must-Not-Be-Named (I signed some non-disclosure shit, sorry) in abit of comfort (I had an I.O.U. on the Conductor when he had felt a little under the weather two Christmas Eve's ago) a fellow wanderer (Hobo Jenkins) regaled me with tales of the Furry Musical Foundation, a defunct website, it had served its usefulness in the First Web War so to speak, back in '97 of January by Chama when beforehand all was naught but MySpaces and LiveJournals. It unified artists greatly and according to Jenkins here it also invented bananas, I'm doubtful but it would explain why they make such great drumsticks. I'd have asked more, perhaps a bit of proof but then the train pulled up, Jenkins was gone in a gale of snow that blinded me and I was left to bemuse his actual existence over cold "hot" chocolate.
As I'm left on the side of a muddy dirt road I am reminded of my lack of friends on this journey. The Polar Express had taken me just 1/3 down its tracks when it got a Priority One call from the big man himself for a last minute pickup down near Drury Lane (Fuckin' Gingerbread Man, what a freeloader) and had made an emergency stop outside the Furry Green Forest for me. Looking down a road that stretched infinitum I hear thunder roar behind me and I see dark, ominous clouds racing up behind me. As it starts to rain I feel my spirits droop and I shiver inwardly at the grandeur of my hasty claims when suddenly the rain stops pattering across my tattered garbs and I see a stately fox standing to my left holding an umbrella over both of us as he stares forward, eyes locked ahead. It seems my journey, while alone itself, is not alone in movement. Chama C. Fox is my guide, my Vigil to Dante down the first ring of Hell whose real name is Thomas Hagenfeldt and the founder of FMF, all in one. "FMF was created as a place for musical people in the furry fandom to showcase their musical work and get inspiration. There wasn't really any place before that allowed you to do that. FMF filled that purpose for many years. Now there are several alternative venues for people to publish their music online, and FMF is no longer being updated with new music. I might rewrite it some day to be self-sufficient, or leave the project in other hands, but in its current form, it's simply too much extra work for me to maintain. I've moved on to other projects such as the Fauna Project." He informs me, shining a flashlight in all directions to keep back foul unmentionables that shriek in the dark as we walk. Let me expound on what my fellow fur is saying by explaining what he means since I was such a melodramatic gauche to begin with and could not hold my tongue in retelling you what he said.
My journeys as of yet have taken me to the FMF as a humble resting point of some report which beforehand my journey would have brought me full circle to its beginning and end without change unlike the obscure poem of Lord Byron or it plainer terms nothing but to wile away the thunder and rain keeping me here. While Chama keeps me company I see him flicking his eyes back down the length we have just travelled and I know he cannot walk further than this. He lends me the history of this relic where rest would be more than necessary substitute. Between these aged halls lies a plethora of mental manuscripts and poems written with guitar, mic and Pro Tools in mind. Though now empty, the walls could talk your ear off of crowded billiard room-esque forums and midi files and xm downloads were as far as the eye could see.
There was no place that existed in any great importance or in importance or great or any sampling/mixed performed between those two words to create a website of any note or success that music could be both shared and archived as it is and was at FMF. Thus to steal from Robots, that whimsical movie by Disney, "See a need, fill a need" the Furry Musical Foundation was created and hosted on a multitude of servers from Tigress.com localized in Germany before switching to a private server situated in Sweden for the bulk of its years. At this travel lodge of large import is erected three small statues shaped as CD's in modest bronze and copper plating, testaments to the three crowning achievements the Foundation has to offer any newcomers to the furry community; Its beginner-level character Furry Fantasies was mostly techno, electro computer-generated music criticized somewhat for the consistent use of computer beats and tunes that was the majority of the songs, too much thoomps for the folks it seems. The second statue of copper stands for Silky Furs which could conceivably be called Furry fantasies 1.5 since it blends computer music generation with vocals and more traditional musical accompaniment more a half-and-half tribute. The final monument is symbolic of the third and final CD before FMF became defunct is Furry Fantasies II, almost all traditional music it involves only a small factor of computer-generated music.
As I said, while the site is still up, it is a shell of its former self acting now as an archive for the music already uploaded. The members have moved on to different things, more performance "things" and the FMF's database and archives are sharing server space with Chama's and many of Foundation members next project; The Fauna Project. "Many of the Fauna Project members are also FMF members, but the Fauna Project is focusing on project work such as the concert during the last Eurofurence and the upcoming CD." One could call Fauna "FMF 2.0" but one would be wrong and would thus be shunned from civilized society for speaking such blasphemy within the earshot of fellow furs... or at least politely asked to leave the room to sit in outside in the torrential torrents whilst the rest debated further. Whereas the Foundation focused more on creating a library of music in which people could listen and debate, comment and share music at a non-shunned one's leisure, the Fauna Project is all about performance, the star of stage and Macromedia screen. A CD is in prolonged works and a smashingly successful concert held at this year's Eurofurence are the top-listing events if only events on the decidedly sparse webspace where its homepage rests. Alright, to be blunt, were one to look at just the website for the Fauna Project and delve deeper via e-mail to receive no reply it would not seem to be more than a passing fancy on the path of furred music, furcore to shorten the phrase, a ghost town of a bygone era or perhaps of good intentions gone so frequently wrong. But they were at EuroFurence, a furry convention held near Suhl, Germany and in reality that is where their strength (motives perhaps) lies; performance.
But this isn't furry music. Be it in a fair mode, it is an aspect of the music, the medium's distribution method, the frontpage ad from Empire Magazine and a open trunk of a '69 Chevrolet for the internet hustlers of my time without which the circle forms, begins and transverses a lengthy tumultuous trek of chaotic pitfalls and challenges and thus ends where one began with no progress in between that such merits such a journey in the first place. But the FMF, Fauna Project, Furry Music Café where one can lean back and listen in tangible chairs. These are the After Effects, the Photoshop Elements to the already created music that has passed beyond the stage of creativity I seek. I need to head deeper or smaller be the case, from macro to micro, I must step obtrusively head first into this enigmatic world of the rare internet species: the furry music artist. On the road to, well "life" (life translating to my furry musical goalposts) Bucktown or Josh P. T. Altaica if you would see him at home via a tree view, that local authorities will not allow me to talk further about, would be a Hare Krishna along the road but minus the annoying. Minus an odd chant but plus the good beat and groovin' rap lyrics, "Because it is the genre of music that most appeals to me, that I grew up listening to and admiring, and that I know best. And because I can't sing all that well." ones that don't repeat in symbiotic boredom saddling on the edge of pure demonic repetition which might be one of the big things people have against Hare Krishinaism perhaps. Infact for lack of company Hare Krishinaism usually brings about if we are to believe any of the stereotypes concerning that... "religion" then Bucktown Tiger would quite possibly become our travelling bard, the scarecrow to my Dorothy or Glitch to my DG if you forget (for the moment) the deep-lying gender issues that creates for my particular position. "I've been doing music for about ten years and have had song ideas for quite a while, freestyling to existing songs and such, but I hadn't really tried to put entire original songs together until two or three years ago. It was then that I started paying attention to great indie bands who did all their production in-house and realized that, with enough work and practice, I could create music on my own as well" spoketh the great behemoth across the waste-strewn battlefields of words and war alike.
Weary wanders and travellers alike lying dismantled internally all along the dry desert path leading to our destination, dismal and distant in a rapidly setting sun scene stirred in their sleep. And with his words time stills, the sun reverse upon its own axis and rotates backwards sending shadows flying in a speedy loop around spires of rock disturbing awake all the defeated souls. They picked themselves up standing and slowly make they're way towards the road. Bucktown's words shone like a piercing glare of a halogen floodlight striking through oily black clouds of burning rubber. He guides them, these disillusioned armies of attempters before me languishing in their own failure and faeces. Along the cracked road are they lost. In storms before rest houses, in distance before guides. But more importantly is who guides them; Bucktown has his ten year badge pinned safely to his forearm out of the way as he walks his own path he thought it respectable to behove this ignorant fool a interview, guiding my way and yielding me knowledge of the Gods. "There is a saying that one should write about what one knows, and my tiger persona is something I've come to know rather well. There are well-known artists - even well-known hip-hop artists - that use anthropomorphic personas in their music and art, and I feel that music with an anthropomorphic, furry theme would be a logical next step. The existence of a community that is interested those themes is another motivator behind my music, and being a part of that community furthers that motivation." And it definitely a thing he'd better know with his first album out to buy, ordered online and debut in physical person at MFM for some wining and/or dining and produced under his own production banner of Paw Recognize Paw. Orange and Black: The Furst Album is concisely stated by our fellow lantern-swinging light for our eyes with, "I learned that most of the time it takes to make an album is spent away from the microphone and away from the keyboard. One of the main goals of The Furst Album was to do it all in-house, and though it took much longer to learn everything and get all the equipment and stuff needed to produce an album of good quality, in the end, it has been worth the journey. Each time I listen to it and like what I hear, and each time someone who has listened to it tells me they like what they hear, it lets me know that, yes, hard work and dedication do pay off." Which isn't really that concise but still better than if I tried to explain to those following our footsteps.
Bucktown is a many things including a lyricist, a hip-hop artist which I suppose is somewhat obvious and comedy just for the laughs of it (... well I thought that was funny... ingrates) and has many things he holds dear (such as garnering fifty watchers on Fur Affinity) along with the release of his first CD, self-produced and successful but... but unfortunately for us (or me rather as your reading this somewhere warm and cosy bemusing contentedly at my mental anguish of unanswered questions) I must leave him to continue. As Dorothy left her friends, her Scarecrow, her Tin Man and others to continue on in adventure in that weird old guy's balloon who was also the Wizard in Oz... whatever his name was... so I must leave Bucktown behind, to walk his own path, ours no longer coincide and I have only one more chance to discover where the answer to my question lies; what is furry music? As the balloon roars, flames chucked highward pulling me with it, I shout down to Bucktown for some final words, "I plan on continuing to write and perform music for my fans and friends. I would like to someday enter the mainstream, and as I mature as an artist, I feel that I will be able to achieve this merging of my music with hip-hop as a whole!", something for the lives who followed his, who he guides, "Definitely, thanks to all my fans and supporters, as you keep me determined to make music for you to enjoy. It's been real...".
Our metaphysical end is most assuredly near in coming and as the winds blows my balloon, helplessly I look for my guide. For one being on a quest I failed to pack anything beyond pop-tarts and laptop (and the latter only because it's surgically bonded to my back... pack) so my success rides very much on me sighting his torch. His signal light is off the horizon, inside pillars of black and gray torching into a fading sky in the shape of square hinged holder, a CD holder, hpmh... guess he knows why I'm here, "Gathered as much" he replies to my question after I've landed... land in the term that the balloon ran out of gas and collapsed atop the fire sacrificing itself in glorious fireball so that I could continue onward. There was much rejoicing. A guide that has already been through his share of trials and tribulations, one who is already famous though he'd disagree with you about it, "Believe me, I'm unknown. I'm doing this full-time, but I ain't famous." He waits for me at the passing beneath the Gray Gates, pillars inscribed with the names of great, the names of yore. As we pass beyond my final chance his hand sweeps across a name, brushing the frost off its panel Michael E. Young can be seen written in gold-stylized letters. "You up for doing it vocally?" Birdman tweets shielding his eyes from blowing snow as we made towards a confidently placed cave, "Like a real journalist?" He finished, shaking off flakes from his feathers. I just laughed, cupping my hands in the cold and breathing vainly into them, "Nah my mic is still 'nixed'" I replied arching my two fingers. "Ew. Get a Mac." He retorted, "Yeah yeah, just... fill in the folks back home while I get a fire going". Matt or Birdman or Hit Wings (really it's all... subjective to the user) is an optimist when it comes to music and the world we live in. While I'm striking two soaked sticks together, he informs me on his latest of four or five CD's (Depending on whether your driving towards or away, not counting the fan-created CD, Virtual Hot Wings) Goodbye Planet Earth, "Well, it starts with the world blowing up and takes the listeners on an adventure from there."
Staring at a smoldering pile of wet wood I can't manage to entirely quash my eager at coming close to the best chance I may have to discover what furry music truly is. "So... what's with the bird?" "Hm?" he replies. "Uh, I mean where did you get the inspiration for your fursona?" I corrected more professionally. The whistling wind contrasted his clear words, "Honestly, I've been a fan of raptors since I was 12. I think I first took notice of them (and here comes the nerd moment) from the D&D Monster Manual, the Aaracokra. The anthropomorphized bird of prey really stirred something in me and since then I've found one species in particular that I really just connect with."
"I'm not one of those furs that changes species every year or so, and I never had a "wolf" or "fox" phase like everyone else." He ended with a smile. "Heh, it brings to mind a few online friends yeah" I remarked poking the fire, thinking dismally back to my own fursona being a gray wolf... least I've never changed I mused. The time passes as we switch bits and pieces back and forth while the snow outside dies down. Tidbits are exchanged and I discover more of my flappy friend after awhile, of his hit single people so famous "Drive Away" so famous fellow listeners created their own music video for it, classification is thrown into the mix and without hesitation the title Piano Rock is tossed just as quickly back. Elton John and is validity in the ability to ROCK or not is discussed and a timetable is thrown up for measure, "Maybe, before he became a whore for Disney". I cringe visibly, there goes half my readership... oh well I still have two. "The lyrics were bland, not like he used to be." Wings continued, "Of course, he doesn't write lyrics."
"Uh hey, you said you uploaded In the MUCK back in '01, how did you share music before FMF?" I spoke quickly, trying to change the subject before I lost any hope of a target audience.
"By hand, for the most part.... Back in '01 I didn't have high speed internet, so uploads went to three places only: matthewebel.com, FMF, and MP3.com, the latter of which has since imploded." He explained, unphased by the sudden subject change.
"I read somewhere you used Second Life to share as well... that true?" I continued.
"Well, check my concert schedule. Got a concert in-world on Sunday!"
"In fact, a lot of my new fans are coming from SL."
"So that answers my next question, it was very successful then?"
"Well, for the medium, yes. It's still a paucid little field, though. Only 30 people at a time can be at a show. I did UStream concerts recently with 580 viewers" he said beaming a smile.
"Awesome, gonna go for a repeat session?"
"I do video shows quite frequently, actually. The folks at UStream.tv have been kind to me."
"Do you regularly attend conventions? Any favorites?" I asked quizzically, switching the subject again despite my eyes drooping from the fire.
"Well I've always tried to go to the local con whenever possible. I hit on Conifur before I left there, been to 4 AC's, 4 MFM's. Now some cons are actually working live performances into their budgets and flying me out to do shows, like FWA this February. I'm hoping I can tour these cons as a professional, not just as a fan."
"That's nice. Trying to get to MFM myself next year."
"It's a good con."
"How did FWA concert work out, it was '07 I'm assuming?"
"Um, no, this February." (This interview was conducted in December 2007 - Ed.)
"Ah, okay," I replied sheepishly, "Excited?"
"To say the least. I'm still at the stage in my career where I'm excited about being flown out to places. Plus it's a con I've never been to."
"Two for one deal."
"Where did the inspiration for composing Prayer for Danny come from?" I asked completely off-topic. It's hard for me to focus, I try propping myself against the cave wall as I yawn.
"Well, honestly, from an adult-themed series of comics called "Associated Student Bodies". I was rather impressed with the way they not only kept Christianity from being demonized, they showed Daniel, a Christian-raised protagonist, actually getting some good healthy advice from an Episcopalian priest. I wish I could see more literature like that. Hopefully without the porn."
Now I'm really feeling tired. I can't hear the wind anymore and my eyes are too heavy to peer outside, "Its obvious you've got some major success so far in your life, fame or other-wise so do you still have any major goals left you feel you haven't achieved yet?"
"Oh, plenty. I'd like to be able to buy a house, eventually. That level of success is still plenty hard to reach. Beyond that, I hope to tour the world, maybe even headline Red Rocks one of these days."
"Good to... have goals..." I replied tired.
"Indeed," he replied smiling. I couldn't stay awake much longer. I figured if I could leave the cave, the cold would shock me awake so I decided to try and wrap things up.
"Well this is everything I need and much more thank you it's really been awesome (especially for my first interview), but before I leave though is there anything you'd like to tell your fans?"
"Well, aside from begging them to sign up for the mailing list and maybe picking up Goodbye Planet Earth, that's it. Besides it's time for you to go" he stated rather dreamily. "What?"
"Time to... Drive Away..."
"W-what?" I managed to stammer before it all faded to black and a loud train whistle woke me up. Through half-opened eyelids I saw the Polar Express screeching to a halt near me, people getting out and surrounding me and not feeling very much in most my body and then its all black.
And now I sit here all strapped to my medical bed, sweating and listening to beeps and whirrs as I sit here and try to decide if anything was real or more importantly if what I sought was discovered in all this psychosis. What is furry music, being but an observer I cannot know. Disregarding secrecy, disregarding subtlety and all to the winds I straight up asked both my two guides, Bucktown and Hot Wings, what they thought furry music was. I got two responses, "Varied. That's the most specific answer I can give. There are piano players, techno artists, punk bands, metal bands, classical composers... and if you narrow it down to music inspired by animals, well then you've got centuries of cataloguing ahead of you." And they were both what I feared. Semi-vague answers that did not grant me that one-word reward or one sentence phrase to easily and concisely answer the girl's question... also both were correct which is more fearful. Here I even tried to create my own word, Fur Core, deriving from the popular term to define nerd-based rap or music Nerd Core I cannot, so willy-nilly, say in this paper that I endorse its use yet, it is too soon. So though I can say in a "technical" way what is furry music or rather my guides do and I have recorded the words from mind to paper, but not easily (Fourteen pages is not an concise answer) but through the course of this LSD-laced journey that question was answered somewhere, at some point in some way. But not the way I had wanted to, not short and easy. I can't hand this out and then wait watchin' the clock every time I want to talk about music in the furry community, I need something smaller, easier and so to me at least, I have failed. But I can tell you something about it I have learned. It is bigger.
Stronger and more all encompassing then I could ever think to believe in the statutes of music it has no grand single category unless we wish to look at humans on one side and furries on the other and that is more unclear that James Joyce's collected writings. I have not succeeded but I will and for now I leave you with my journey to take what you will and my promise to strike out and find those lands again, to find as many furry artists that I need to discover, what is furry music? In that I promise you. Now if I could just get someone to change this damn hospital diaper.
Do you feel the music as in relation to the furry lifestyle is evolving, here in full-force or still in development? There is a lot of musical talent out there, and I feel that the music is continually evolving, changing, and improving. I feel that music will become a more integral part of the furry lifestyle as these evolutions occur.