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Interview Thu Jul 21 2011

Interview With Upright Ape

uprightape.pngLife can take turns in ways that we cannot always predict or prevent. We depend on our minds and experiences to guide us through the very worst that life has to offer us. However, when our mind fails or deceives us or when violent forces in our lives set out to damage us it is hard to know where to turn. There are organizations that are there to help, but at the end of the day we need an outlet for all of the emotions that these situations can create. For local musician Upright Ape his life has always been complicated. He is bipolar with schizoaffective disorder, but when he met his fiancé a new element was added to his life. The family he was becoming a part of had been severely damaged and had been living on the street because their home was not safe. Upright Ape attempted to cope with this in the only way he knew how, through music. Over the last year he has recorded and self-released six albums all revolving around this situation. He is giving them away on his website, but also collecting donations that he is giving all the proceeds of to local charities that work with family that have been affected by domestic violence and child abuse.

Upright Ape is a very private person, but reached out to me a few months ago to tell his story and begin the process of spreading the word about this project.


Jason Behrends (JB): Why all of the proceeds and not just a percentage, and how did you select that charity? Are you a Vet yourself?
Upright Ape (UA): My father volunteered two tours in Vietnam, and when we were going into Iraq, I was deep into my shift in reality. I knew it was all a hoax. Americans became so blind and so consumed in the propaganda that I felt, in honor of my father that I should do something. That's when I wrote "Bookoo Dinky Dau", which is a term American soldiers used in Vietnam, a cross of French and Vietnamese, which means "whole lotta crazy." I dedicated that decade's worth of work to the cause, 95% to Iraq and Afghanistan war vets, and 5% to the inspiration of it all, my father, who was undiagnosed with severe PTSD for 30 years and is just now healing. Much like this next decade, "after the cure" will be dedicated to domestic violence and child abuse charities based out of Chicago, the other 5% going to the family that inspired the next album due out in may, Photos And Snapshots. When I met my now fiancé, her and her children were living on the streets and had been for almost a year. i took them in and they changed my perception of reality. The homelessness was an answer to the question people always ask, "Why doesn't she leave him?" It's complicated beyond belief, but homelessness is just one of the repercussions of such violence. If you call the cops, sure he goes to jail, for a week, can't come home for 72 hours, so he's on the streets, and when he returns, she gets the worst beating of her life. The whole system is broken. No anger management courses, no drug rehabilitation. And they say I'm insane.

JB: So in your press release for the project you talk about basically being in hiding with your new family. That seems to be not an exaggeration for effect. How did that sense of fear and danger inform your new songs?
UA: Well the entire project, which is four discs and 30 some songs is about fear and danger. I had known and loved them for quite some time before i realized we were in real danger. But the effects of domestic violence and child abuse surfaced constantly. The 8 year old was almost killed by her father, whom Jessica went to as a last resort because she was going from shelter to shelter. That's Daddy Felix, and he is walking around a free man right now. Dada number two, daddy David, wants me dead because he thinks all white people are pedophiles. The fear and danger I mostly pulled from came from the children. The 5 year old thought aggression was how you got your way, since that's all he saw, plus he had a real problem with adult males in general. He would attack me over the littlest things, like not picking him up when he wanted to be held. He behaved exactly as his father did. He would punch and kick me for hours in the midst of a flashback, all the while calling me "stinky daddy", which he only refers to his father as. The three year old spoke to her mother for the first time ever in my bathroom after living with me for about a month. Jessica had flashback after flashback, thinking I was David. It was a long and is a long road to recovery.


JB: Do you feel writing and recording songs about the disorder helps you cope with it in a more positive way?
UA: Yes, through the looking glass. "Schizzo Affective" is only available to fan club members. But really I wrote it for myself and Jessica, who suffers from bipolar disorder with psychotic features which is very similar. She picked out several drum beats on toy keyboards which I then affected and then layered. We have the same mind, are on almost exactly the same medications. She co-produced the albums with me.


JB: I love the layers and textures on these tracks how do the tracks on Photos and Snapshots compare?
UA: Very Similar. I'm embarrassed, I think it was frosts theory, that creation is a tea kettle boiling over. The real art comes screaming out. Both "Schizo Affective" and Photos And Snapshots are all done and improvised in less than two takes, vocals and lyrics included. I wanted to get to the meat of everything. I didn't want anything to be too polished. I just wanted to tell the truth, but they are all very different sonically, because every ones story is different.

JB: Aside for the charitable donation, what do you hope the comes from these projects? Are you looking to raise more awareness for children and mothers in these types of situations?
UA: Most definitely! That is why Jessica and the children wanted me to tell their story. They decided how to split the proceeds, and they gave me permission to speak for them, though I'm mostly quoting or paraphrasing their words throughout. Our ambition as of now is to help the people of Chicago, but should lightning strike; we will pick new charities in new cities across the country. Perhaps someone will hear the story and it will give them the courage to overcome as Jessica did.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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