In 2003, a website called 4chan was launched as as a message board for fans of anime (Japanese animation). It was originally for adolescent boys and young men posting funny images to do with anime. They joked to each other that they all spent too much time indoors in their Mums’ basements. Over several years 4chan evolved into an anarchic meme factory and it became a haven for cyberbullies. One of the important features of 4chan was that users don’t have to give a user name and could post anonymously. Anyone that posted was simply called Anon. In 2008, an online video was posted by members of 4chan, threatening to destroy The Church Of Scientology. Previously, members of 4chan had trolled members of this organisation and hacked into their website, taking it down. Although it was not unusual to see hate posts from 4Chan, this video was different, insofar as it encouraged people to go out of their bedrooms (or Mums’ basements), and actually protest in the streets. When hundreds of people turned up, it felt like a role play game that had spilled out into real life. At the end of the protest, one of the protesters shouted out “And now back to our Mums’ basements“, at which point, everybody laughed.
During Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Russians leaked her online account and Wikileaks released a huge number of emails. John Podesta had been chief of staff to Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001 and was subsequently Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. When members of 4chan combed through the emails, they interpreted John Podesta’s use of the word “pizza” as a code used by pedophiles for child abuse. They released a story that spread from 4chan to Reddit to YouTube to Facebook which suggested that John Podesta was part of a sadistic pedophile ring operating from a pizza restaurant in Washington. Nine days after Hillary Clinton’s defeat to Donald Trump, a man called Jack Posobiec live-streamed a YouTube video from the restaurant claiming that he could see a back room with children going in and out. He called the conspiracy, “Pizzagate”. Millions of people saw this video. Two weeks later, a man drove from South Carolina to Washington and fired an assault rifle inside the restaurant, trying to break the lock of the door to the (non-existent) back room where he believed the children were being held. Luckily, no one was injured. 4chan had, once again, revealed its power to move from Mums’ basements to the real world. But this time, there was violence involved.
In 1998, Juanita Broaddrick was forced by The Starr report to give details of how Bill Clinton had raped her in a hotel room in 1978, a charge he denied. No action was ever taken and her story was forgotten until one day, in 2016, she saw Hillary Clinton give a talk to a women’s college. The prospective presidential candidate said that anyone who had been sexually abused needed to come forward. Juanita Broaddrick believed that Hillary Clinton had known what her husband had done and had kept quiet. Temporarily angered, she tweeted about what she claimed Bill Clinton had done to her and the tweet went viral. This fed into a belief that Bill and Hilary Clinton were demonic, taking over the country for evil purposes.
On October 28th 2017, someone posted a message on 4chan saying that a secret operation was under way to arrest Hillary Clinton. More posts followed which suggested that a covert group of patriots had installed an outsider in the White House. Together they were fighting a cabal of powerful and demonic insiders. Soon Donald Trump would make his move and the cabal will be arrested and justice will prevail. This was the start of about 5000 posts by someone calling themselves Q. Each post came to be known as a Q-drop. Over the next three years this would grow into a giant conspiracy theory of everything, known as Q-Anon.
Q stands for Q clearance. This is a real thing denoting a high level of top secret security clearance in the U.S. government. The person posting these messages was suggesting that they were an official with access to highly classified secrets. Live Action Role Plays (LARP) started as a game in which people would dress up in costume and have mock battles. It then moved online in which people acted out a virtual persona. On 4chan, there was a tradition of anonymous users (Anons) pretending (LARPing) to be government insiders, posting supposedly secret information. Most people understood it was just a game. There was FBI-Anon, CIA-Anon and then Q-Anon. At this point, these LARPs were not widely circulated; it was a game for users of 4chan.
Tracy Diaz (known online as Tracy Beans) was a moderator for 4chan and was a member of “The Truth Community”. She arranged for every Q-drop to be automatically reposted on Reddit, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. At this point Q-Anon took off. By the Summer of 2018, people started turning up at Trump rallies with Q signs. Q-Anon became a black hole, swallowing up all sorts of conspiracy theories, including new ones about COVID, vaccines, and anti-Semitic theories about Jews taking over the world and eating babies.
In “the old days”, it was difficult for most people to have political impact. Anyone that wanted to affect change could write a letter to their MP, join a political party or stand as an MP. Hardly anybody did. The increased network of communication offered by the internet has made it possible for a group of nerdy boys in their Mum’s basements to develop an organisation which on January 6th 2021, threatened to destroy Western democracy when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington, attempting to overturn the result of the 2020 election.
In “the old days”, it was difficult for most people to have any cultural impact. Anyone that wanted to write a book had to find a publisher. Now it’s possible to self-publish. Anyone that wanted to release a record had to find a manager who would hawk a demo around every record company in London until finally accepting a contract from a producer on a comedy label. Now it’s possible to record a complete album in your bedroom. And, in Kelley Stoltz’s case, have that album re-released 20 years later.
Are these developments a good thing? As I like to tell Paddy, “you can’t stay in the way of progress”, to which he replies that you can and he will. Is progress inevitable? Will the fate of the human race be determined by boys in their Mums’ basements starting a movement which resulted in a climate denier being elected to the highest office on the planet? Does Tim Berners-Lee know what he’s done?
The simple answer is that the corrupt and evil lies perpetuated by Q-Anon are a bad thing and albums as entertaining and inventive as “Antique Glow” are a good thing. Can we have one without the other? Can we have our cake and eat it? Don’t get me started on Johnson…..
When he moved to San Francisco from New York, Kelley Stoltz paid $50 at a Salvation Army charity shop for a keyboard which was well stocked with special effects. He taught himself how to drum and learned how to de-tune his guitar to turn it into a bass guitar. He got hold of an 8-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, wedged a microphone in a half open drawer and recorded the whole of “Antique Glow”. He had 300 vinyl copies pressed and hand painted the covers to each one of them individually. This labour of love led to the album being heavily supported by Chuck Prophet of Green On Red and Ben Blackwell of The Dirtbombs. Kelley Stoltz has now released 18 albums and 4 EPs in the last 20 years.
The variety of music on this album is astonishing. Comparisons with the great eclectics like Paul McCartney, Brinsley Schwarz, Aaron Lee Tasjan and Karl Wallinger are very appropriate. “Perpetual Night” starts like The Beatles, morphs into The Dream Syndicate and ends up with a nod to The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”.
In the mid 1990’s, Kelley Stoltz worked for Jeff Buckley’s management company and “Jewel Of The Evening” bears some similarities to Tim Buckley’s son as well as predicting the sound of Ryley Walker’s “Primrose Green” by 14 years.
“Underwater’s Where The Action Is” develops the melody of The Velvet Underground’s “Lady Godiva’s Operation.”
“Listen Darkly” could be an outtake from “Songs Of Love And Hate” in which Ry Cooder assembled a Tex-Mex band to accompany him.
I realise it’s completely inappropriate to, in any way, associate Kelley Stoltz with Q-Anon. That’s not my intention. Listening to the excellent podcast “The Coming Storm“, I was struck by how “the modern world” gives everyone the power to affect things more profoundly than “the old days” when we little people were powerless. There are good and bad aspects to these developments. Kelley Stoltz’s apartment was the crucible for a majestic career, which started with this amazing album.