the artsit formerly knownn as erik von rippy
rip smops
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The Life and Times of Rip Smops
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year 1750

I, Ripworth Smopsley, was born by the Greenbrier River in Marlinton, West Virginia. Unfortunately, I cannot remember anything I did before 1965. I may have fought in the Revolutionary War, made soap with Proctor and Gamble, prospected for silver in Nevada, conducted exobiology research for SETI, and hung out with Ponce De Leon's descendents at the Fountain Of Youth in Puerto Rico, but no evidence or memories remain to confirm any of this.


Learned to play piano. Started composing. My mother is composer Elizabeth Bell, whose style tends to be atonal and dissonant, which probably has an influence on my musical thinking. My father is astronomer and SETI director Frank Drake.

elizabeth bell

year 1966

Moved to Puerto Rico for two years.

year 1967

Discovered rock & roll. The Monkees, The Beatles, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane. Decided to become a rock star.

year 1968

Resided in Ithaca, New York, for the next ten years. Have had a lifelong fascination with geography and maps.

year 1971

Started drumming on desks at school with my hands. Got pretty good and fast at desk drumming. Was making up little minimal riffs/melodies on piano. Had been taking piano lessons off and on all this time.

year 1973

Heard "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" by the Mothers of Invention and felt enlightened. I decided there was a whole world out there of avant-garde arts for me to explore. Complicated rock music was a good thing. My friend Robert "El Roberto" Cropf taught me about avant-garde literature and music. I started writing plays. Had my first post puberty girlfriend.

year 1974

El Roberto and I collaborated on some creative projects. I started experimenting with tape recorders and electronics. Began collecting percussion instruments. Experienced jazz, 20th century classical, and electronic music, and other "modern" art and literature. Took a composition class. Wrote plays.

year 1975

Got some congas and became a conga player. My first jam sessions, as a percussionist with some jazz musicians. My name became Erik Von Rippy, the name I used for 25 years. Discovered Beat literature, became a devotee of "On the Road". Traveled to Puerto Rico and discovered salsa music. Recorded "Ballad of Babe", my first solo multitrack rock song prototype. Lost my virginity. Got a kalimba. Ran away from home. Dropped out of high school. Wrote lyrics to "Drop Out". Wanted to be a teen rebel. Created "Down in Drainville", my first full-length electronic tape piece. Was briefly "baby-sat" by Mollie Katzen (original Moosewood Cookbook author).

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year 1976

First suicide attempt. Moved out of my mother's house and into off-campus housing in Ithaca. Rediscovered rock & roll and its stimulating powers. Was initiated into the strange world of reggae. Sat down at somebody's drum set and bashed around on it a bit, and soon was pounding out a driving beat, although I had never been taught or played a drum set before. I was given the set. Jammed with people fairly frequently, particularly "El Tomas" Chupp, El Marko, and Stephen "Mr. Duck" Drake. Hitchhiked from Ithaca to San Francisco. Rode back on a hippie bus called "Blue Goose", a prototype of Green Tortoise, and wrote "The Saga of the Blue Goose", my last play for 10 years. Played first gig as a conga player with jam band Riplocks Rasp and the Wandering Slit. Was frequently in the audience for Zobo Funn Band and Peabody Band, two Ithaca bands with distinctive influential styles. Became a vegetarian.

year 1977

Continued jamming frequently with the above mentioned people. Had an exciting love affair in the spring which ended bitterly and I became severely depressed and suicidal. Played drums briefly with Raccoon Alley Jug Band, the first band I played in that did real songs. Acquired a second drum set and incorporated it with the first into a large double set. Probably about this time had started to write the songs that are in my long-term repertoire. Started traveling from Ithaca to New York City. Had heard about punk rock, and in October went to CBGB and saw Richard Hell & The Voidoids, who were good enough to inspire me to become a punk rock fan. In December I traveled to Oberlin, Ohio to visit my brother, and entered Harkness, which I loved at first sight. The beginning of my longest love affair with a building. Harkness is a vegetarian cooperative dormitory at Oberlin College, with a notoriously creative open-minded populace.

year 1978

I moved back and forth from Ithaca and New York City a few times. I was very taken with punk rock, new wave, and reggae. I was a frequent regular at CBGB OMFUG, which had low cover charges in those days, and saw many important bands of that era. My favorite was The B-52's, who I first saw as an unknown opening act for another unknown band on a Tuesday night with an audience of 5. In Ithaca during the summer I played congas in rehearsals, although not performances, with the Peabody Band, who were the most professional band I would play with for many years. Acquired a cheap organ, which became my sole keyboard for 10 years. In December I briefly played in my first punk band, The Droogs, as a drummer, playing at the Audition Night at CBGB.

cbgb omfug new york new york 1990

CBGB & OMFUG, New York, New York, 1990
(photo by Rippy)

year 1979

Continued to frequent nightclubs. Was physically attacked by James Chance of The Contortions at Max's Kansas City. Living in New York City. Visited Oberlin a few times. Discovered the Harkness Nightclub, which became an institution for me for many years. The Harkness Nightclub was a big show that happened once a semester at Oberlin College, where anybody could perform anything, which inspired many memorable evenings of enthusiastic chaos and entertainment. I was usually heavily involved in the production of the shows. Got a Vox Beatle amp and a bass guitar, which I pulled the frets off of in emulation of the Zobo Funn Band's fretless bassist. Was playing often with guitarist El Marko, who had moved to New York City when I did. Wrote songs that were vaguely punkish in character, but melodic, on my organ. Played with esoteric neo-surf band The Egotones and more basic rock/punk band The Ex-Minds, on drums. Had love affair with Norma Jean, a crazy blonde model/escort glamour weirdo. Became a bike messenger. Lived in groovy Little Italy apartment owned by Mafia types, across from the original Ray's Pizza. First of many failed attempts to form my own band.

el marko

Back To The Top

year 1980

Got depressed. Worked as a bike messenger. Played drums in a punk rock band called The Beatels. Moved to Oberlin. Began love affair with Laura Humburg. Played timbales in the Oberlin Can Consorium, a steel drum band, for their first ever shows. Formed The Bunnies with some Harkness friends. The Bunnies were a fun conceptual new wave band that for their brief existence was extraordinarily popular in Oberlin, in a screaming teenybopper way, as well as with certain Deadheads and art punks.

harkness oberlin ohio 1986
HARKNESS, Oberlin, Ohio, 1986
(photo by Margaret Burns)
year 1981

Did some multitrack song recording, which until 1985 was done using 2-track reel-to-reel tape recorders. Played at Finney Chapel, Oberlin's largest auditorium, with The Bunnies and as pick-up drummer for Tiny Tim. Moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts with Laura Humburg. El Marko visited and he and I and Laura formed The Ex-Beatels. We played at a party with The Del Fuegos, who had formed in Oberlin and had also just moved to Boston. Their drummer didn't show up and I sat in with them on drums. Went to see a lot of cool Boston new wave bands.

the bunnies
(drawing by Laura Humburg)
year 1982

Got depressed in Cambridge, so Laura and I moved to New York City, so I could hook back up with El Marko, who at that time was my best musical colleague. We re-formed the Ex-Beatels, and soon Laura and El Marko began a love affair. Laura broke up with me, and I got as depressed and suicidal as I ever will have been. I was hospitalized and medicated and bitter as hell. We never played together again. In autumn I visited Oberlin and formed a pickup band call the Pickup Trucks that was the first band to play all Rippy songs, playing at a Harkness Nightclub. At the time I was living in a big apartment in a heroin-dealing zone of the Lower East Side (no, I don't do drugs).

laura humburg
year 1983

Took bass lessons with Jimmy Greenwood, after having dabbled with the bass for a few years. Fooled around with reggae a bit. I hooked up briefly with Stephen "Mr. Duck" Drake and Josh Korda, playing strange bubblegum candy pop on a little drum machine thing. Met Ira Dostioffski, a songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist with whom I did some practicing and recording but no performing. Joined a band with Michael Shenker playing composed progressive rock, called Operatorio. Got interested in hardcore punk, the fast variety that was becoming mildly popular at the time. I was terribly depressed in New York City, so I left Operatorio and Ira and moved back to Ithaca. Played in a reggae band called Inna Fyah as a percussionist. Lived for a time with some anarchist punks and contributed to their zine. Was very poor and ate at a soup kitchen and went on welfare temporarily. Recorded "Songs To Get Depressed About" which was my first full length song collection "album".

year 1984

Formed Ithaca reggae band Skattered Lights. Wrote many songs. Acquired an electric guitar, distortion box, and a glass slide and started playing slide guitar with open tuning. Not blues, though. Moved to Oberlin. Formed Bag-O-Wire with some students. I was bass player, singer, and songwriter, playing uptempo hardcore tunes I had written, at the Harkness Nightclub. This band was short-lived. Began recording "Songs To Live And Die For," some of the songs I had been writing that year. At the very end of the year, Mr. Duck came to visit me, and helped me buy a 4-track cassette recorder, and showed me how to use it. We recorded some 10-second songs.

stephen mrduck drake cincinnati ohio1989
STEPHEN "MR. DUCK" DRAKE, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1989
(photo by Rippy)

Back To The Top

year 1985

Played drums in the pit band for a musical, "Messianic Blues." Became enamored of Hüsker Dü. Learned how to drive. Completed recording "Songs To Live And Die For," my second full-length song collection. This was basically the first presentation of my more or less current style of solo multitrack rock orchestration, as well as my propensity for fast tempos. Also, heretofore unmentioned, over the years I have on numerous occasions performed at Harkness Nightclubs, playing a few of my own songs on the piano. Moved to San Francisco. Played briefly on drums with hardcore punk band Crash n' Burn. Worked in a hotel as night watchman and also did telemarketing. Began 2 1/2 year relationship with Margaret Burns. Conceived the concept and titles for "The Sound No One Wants to Hear."

year 1986

Visited Oberlin at the beginning of the year and wrote my first play in nearly 10 years, "The Saga of Katie The Beautiful," which also became my first play to ever be performed, which took place in Harkness. Back in Frisco, I joined eclectic funk/jazz/international/rock/religio/bizarro/art band Bardo, as a bass player. This turned out to be a very prestigious gig. As a bassist I was replacing Matt Malley, who later became part of the Counting Crows. Bardo played many shows in the San Francisco area, sharing bills with many acts, including J.C. Hopkins, Victoria Williams, The Survivors, Camper Van Beethoven, and others. A smaller version of Bardo sometimes appeared as an acoustic act called The Bebob Brothers, in which I played small percussion things. I was exhorted by band leader Aldo Perez to "upgrade" my equipment, so I got a really good fretless bass, and a really good bass rig, which I still use to this day. The drummer, Dave Mihaly, was also playing in a radical alternative world beat band, Stick Against Stone, who I was a fan of. When he heard their bass player might be leaving, he recruited me to fill in. I performed with Stick Against Stone at a large auditorium in Frisco called The Farm, opening for the short-lived Kantner Balin Casady Band, which was led by some former members of Jefferson Airplane. This was probably the largest audience I have ever played for. After that show Stick Against Stone's original bass player changed his mind and I was promptly dropped. In the autumn Bardo did a short "tour," playing in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Moved into Haight Ashbury house, called Bardo Mansion, later Rippy Mansion, which would remain my home for the next 8 1/2 years.

bardo san francisco california 1986
BARDO, San Francisco, California, 1986
bardo san francisco california1986
BARDO, San Francisco, California, 1986

Recorded album with Bardo at Tom Mallon Studio in Frisco. Afterwards fired from Bardo due to musical and ego conflicts with Aldo. Played with some guys in a short-lived band playing Rippy songs. Began recording "The Sound No One Wants To Hear", my concept album about depression, anger and frustration. Began by recording drum tracks for all the songs during a 2 day session. The idea for the album was to have many fast one minute songs, basically punk but with much musical exploration, particularly in rhythmic and sonic areas. I would work on this album for 7 years. Traveled to Oberlin in spring, and wrote first of several short plays conceived for performance at Harkness Nightclubs. Also hooked up with friend Booie to form Erik And Mike, a folk/hardcore/cover/comedy act for Harkness Nightclubs. In the summer I did my first solo cross-country road trip, which became a regular major activity for me, often spending several months out of the year searching for America. This was done in "drive away" cars until 1994. I was very inspired by my 1987 journey in which I was gone for 2 months. While visiting New York, I received some tapes from Mr. Duck, including one called "Frequent Ruins" that consisted of some partly finished instrumental songs. He suggested that I add my own parts to it. While driving back through Nebraska, I decided that Nebraska was very lovely and inspiring to me, and that "Frequent Ruins" should be a concept album about Nebraska. Returned home and began the writing and recording for "Frequent Ruins". In December, joined macrotonal/alternative/grunge band Hozomeen, on bass.

rippy mansion san francisco 1991
RIPPY MANSION, San Francisco, 1991
(photo by Rippy)
chase county nebraska 1991
Chase County, Nebraska, 1991
(photo by Rippy)
year 1988

Played full-time in Hozomeen until August. Of all the bands I've played in, I felt Hozomeen was the most satisfying, in terms of being on the same level musically, in temperament and work attitude. We played several poorly attended shows in Frisco, including opening for then unknown White Zombie. Unfortunately, we were plagued by some bad luck and the public's disregard for our greatness and Hozomeen broke up by the end of summer. That summer I hooked up with punk/bluegrass/pop band Harm Farm, who had just moved to Berkeley from Oberlin. I played a couple of shows with them on both bass and drums, but was uncommitted and dropped. The band members at the time were Morgan Fichter, Brad Pedinoff, and Tom Hallenbeck. Continued working on "The Sound No One Wants To Hear" and "Frequent Ruins."

erik von rippy ithaca new york 1987
ERIK VON RIPPY, Ithaca, New York, 1987
(photo by Marsha Bird)
hozomeen, san francisco 1988
HOZOMEEN, San Francisco, 1988
year 1989

Bought a synthesizer. Visited Ira Dostioffski in the spring, and he suggested that we record two albums together, one album of his songs and one album of my songs, at the recording studio in his Jersey City home. They would be engineered by his housemate Dave, and Ira and I would play all the instruments. I agreed, and after a couple of cross-country road trips, I landed in Jersey City, New Jersey, and begun work on "Drop Out Of Your Mind," which was a collection of many of my more light-hearted earlier songs. I also worked on the basic tracks for Ira's songs. I traveled to Jersey City 4 times over the next year to work on these projects. When I was back in Frisco I continued working on "The Sound No One Wants To Hear" and "Frequent Ruins."

ira dostioffski jersey city new jersey 1990
IRA DOSTIOFFSKI, Jersey City, New Jersey, 1990
(photo by Paul Drake)
year 1990

Worked in Jersey City on "Drop Out Of Your Mind." Played a few shows in New York City with Ira, the two of us as a duo called The Pies, playing our songs on the guitar and bass, and also with songwriter Ross Owens as The Unknown Relatives, in which I played drums. Finished "Drop Out Of Your Mind" at the end of August. Never finished the album of Ira's songs, because Ira never actually began recording his parts. While in Frisco, continued working on "The Sound No One Wants To Hear" and "Frequent Ruins." In October, joined rock/pop/sampler band Low, who is not whichever "Low" is famous now, but was the first Low band, with songwriter/singer/samplerist John Vanderslice.

rippy and jehu goder form hozomeentompkins county new york 1990
RIPPY AND JEHU GODER (from Hozomeen) with Driveaway car, Tompkins County, New York, 1990
(photo by Bob Reminick)
the pies jersey city 1990
THE PIES, Jersey City, 1990
(photo by Paul Drake)

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year 1991

Played bass in Low, playing regular shows in Frisco until our breakup in July. My close friend Katy Allen, who had been in all my plays performed in Harkness during that period, worked as my manager in California for a little while, trying to promote "Drop Out Of Your Mind" to no avail. Had a short long-distance romance with New York singer/songwriter Suzie Unger. In September, visited Oberlin where I began writing my full-length play, "We're Gonna Win!" Continued working on "The Sound No One Wants to Hear" and "Frequent Ruins."

john vanderslice san francisco 1991
JOHN VANDERSLICE (from Low), San Francisco, 1991
(photo by Rippy)
katy allen kevin bundy harkness 1992
(photo by Rippy)
year 1992

Was in Oberlin during the winter, writing "We're Gonna Win." Produced a performance in Harkness. Directed by Katy Allen, rehearsed for a month, performed at the end of February. My first full-length play production. Also acted in it, as in all my plays. Took singing lessons back in Frisco. Bought 8-track recording equipment, and began using that for recording. Played triangle and conga with After The End Of The World Coretet, a jazz group consisting of former Bardo members, who I sporadically sat in with. Visited Oberlin in September, where I was a passenger in a car crash in which I broke 6 ribs and a clavicle, and punctured a lung. Recuperated nicely and returned to Frisco. Continued work on "The Sound No One Wants to Hear" and "Frequent Ruins".

scenewe're gonna win harkness 1992
Scene from "WE'RE GONNA WIN!", Harkness, 1992
(photo by Joseph Getter) Pauli Friedrich, Chris Anderson, Emily Sweet, Katy Allen
year 1993

My financial fortunes changed upon receiving insurance money from car crash. In December, finally finished creating "Frequent Ruins" and "The Sound No One Wants to Hear". I printed them out on cassettes, with professionally designed J cards.

rippy at sutro baths san francisco 1993
RIPPY AT SUTRO BATHS, San Francisco, 1993
(photo by Bob Friou)
year 1994

Made "Freedom Tastes Of Reality," a short cassette of some cover and original songs I had been working on, to be given to friends along with "Frequent Ruins" and "The Sound No One Wants To Hear." Tried to promote the latter 2 tapes, sending them out to record companies, radio stations, and magazines. No one was interested, except Cargo Records, who strung me along for a while until I got pissed off. Meanwhile, 1994 was a strange year for me, in which I felt myself freed from the obligation I had created of completing those 2 albums, and I spent most of the year traveling around America, often returning to my Frisco home and then leaving again within 2 weeks. At one point in May I completely disappeared for a month. Bought a new set of congas. In December bought a minivan, my first car, which freed me up to take even longer road trips. Began my current ongoing process of sporadically frequent recording of songs, unbound by obligations imposed by preconceived album concepts.

rippy baking granola harkness 1992
(photo by Joseph Getter)

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year 1995

Moved to Oberlin. Adopted new small town lifestyle, after having been a city dweller for many years. Bought Hammond organ and electronic drum set. Worked at a pizzeria for a few years. Got a haircut. Saw a psychiatrist and was diagnosed as having disthymia, a debilitating depressive disorder, which explained much of the suffering that has permeated my life. Became "status quo" granola maker at Harkness. Played drums with slacker student band Gross Munderstang. Sang in the chorus of college production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado." Walked dogs at animal shelter. Wrote and performed first of several short Harkness Nightclub plays that later became "The Excavation Of The Midnight Shaft."

weasel house oberlin 1996
WEASEL HOUSE, Oberlin, 1996
year 1996

In summer, went on large-scale journey across America. In September formed The Band With Pants, with drummer/songwriter Trevett Hooper and some other students. The band focused on playing fast versions of some of my short songs, as well as some of Trevett's songs. I was the front man. We played some shows in Harkness and Oberlin College. Bought a PA system and electric 12-string guitar. Rented a rehearsal studio in Lorain, Ohio.

lander county nevada 1996
Lander County, Nevada, 1996
(photo by Rippy)
year 1997

Risa Gumpp joined The Band With Pants. The band seemed to be on a successful path, being quite respected by our peers. My grandmother died, leaving me some valuable antiques and a sizable inheritance. In the summer we recorded a polished short demo tape in our studio. Soon after, Risa left the band. The band broke up, being unable to secure adequate replacement musicians.

the band with pants lorain ohio 1997
THE BAND WITH PANTS, Lorain, Ohio 1997
(photo by Trevett Hooper)
year 1998

Traded in electronic drums and bought a real drum set. Bought house in Oberlin. In summer, went on massive geographically focused road journey across America. In autumn, soundproofed and set up my basement as a music studio. Began volunteering at a soup kitchen. During all these years, have continued to write and record songs.

year 1999

Completed writing the entire "Excavation of the Midnight Shaft" series. Large scale production of the play that spring, directed by Liz Latimer, with a cast and crew of around 50 people. Performed at Jones Field House in Oberlin College. This was probably the largest artistic production I have ever created and undertaken. Played with Trevett briefly in a half-assed resuscitation of The Band With Pants. In the summer, traveled to California where I began a love affair with a glorious massage therapist named Alice Moore. Underwent large-scale campaign to sell "Excavation" to other theatre companies, which failed. Bought a CD recorder. Was in Nevada with Alice for millennium New Year.

scene from the excavation of the midnight shaft oberlin 1999
(photo by Maria Breuninger)
scene from the excavation of the midnight shaft oberlin1999
(photo by Maria Breuninger)

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year 2000

Alice moved to Oberlin to joyfully cohabitate with me. Continued to write and record music, but no more plays. Changed name to Rip Smops. In autumn, put out 4 song promotional CD, "My Heterosexual Girlfriend." Began volunteering for the Earth Science Corps of the U.S. Geological Survey, doing field work updating topographic maps. Alice tried to work on promoting my music.

Alice Moore and Rippy, Reno, Nevada, 2000
(photo by Rippy)
year 2001

Began creating website. Was member of the Lorain County (Ohio) Transportation Bicycle/Pedestrian Subcommittee. Bought an old clavinet. In February I was kicked out of Harkness, because of some malicious slander spoken by a certain disturbed individual (who I did not actually know) with a political agenda. This caused an ugly uproar in Harkness, and I am sadly no longer a member of that beloved community. In the spring I was introduced to Brazilian rock band Black Maria, who were playing shows in Ohio, and played with them in my basement a few times. The keyboard player travelling with them, Luciano Cordoni, stayed on in Oberlin after the band returned to Brazil, and he and I wrote and recorded some songs together. In the summer Alice and me went on a grand road trip to Nebraska and North Dakota. While we were away in June, our obnoxious aggressive cat disappeared. In August, I went to West Virginia and hiked 60 miles in 6 days. In October, our missing cat returned and is now quite sweet and loving. In November, put our a 4-song CD called "Enlightened Oberlin", with the songs I recorded with Luciano. We're called The Oberlin Gruffets.

year 2000

Got mad about the irrational patriotic hysteria sweeping the country and composed a diatribal essay entitled "September 11 Is Over". website is presented to the world in its complete form, having finally found a reliable webmaster. I still don't use computers, and I've never actually looked at anybody else's website. Was called a "Luddite" by several people who are obligated to spend money updating their equipment every year. In April, a composition of mine entitled "A Hug From Truth", with words by friend David Ray, was performed at Oberlin College by a french organist and a couple of conservatory voice majors. Named my basement/studio "El Sotano Del Alamo". Completed my field work project for the U.S. Geological Survey, updating the Kipton, Ohio topographic map, a task I performed on bicycle. On July 1st, I got engaged to Alice Moore. Began planning upcoming wedding extravaganza. We decided to have it in the Nevada desert the next year, and flew out there in September to scout out locations. Continued to record and write songs.

year 2000

In January I traveled to Curitiba, Brazil, for 3 weeks. Spoke Portuguese and ate strange sugary food. Lived with the mother of Black Maria's lead guitarist, who spoke no english. The Oberlin Gruffets performed at Era Sò O Que Faltava, a Curitiba nightclub, opening for Black Maria. I also visited llha Do Mel and Iguaçu Falls, which was probably the most amazing sight ever seen by Rippy. Back in the U.S.A., spent most of the spring preparing for the Big Wedding. Wrote a song called "Eliminate Freedom" which satirizes the government's elimination of freedom. I left home for the summer, in order to get married. Stayed in Gold Point, a Nevada ghost town, where our wedding reception took place. On July 1st, I married Alice Moore at Lunar Crater in Nye County, Nevada. It was a beautiful, stressful, fun, and unforgettable event. We spent our honeymoon in many locations in Utah and Nevada. I drank thousands of gallons of water out there. (That's why it's so dry now.)

Upon returning home, we adopted an Ohio Dark-tailed Wagger dog named Qloey. Had a second wedding reception in Oberlin in September. Created two EP CDs: "Eliminate Freedom", some noisy rocking songs with topical lyrics, and "Beautiful Frustration", which has me just playing keyboard or guitar and singing without extra overdubs. "The Sound No One Wants To Hear" was mastered by Oberlin engineer Tom Bethel. Resumed piano lessons after 30 years. Did volunteer work for local presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

Iguaçu Falls
Brazil and Argentina

(photo by Rippy)

Alice and Rippy,
Lunar Crater, Nevada

(photo by John Seyfried)
year 2004

Early in the year, I released 5 CD’s: “Eliminate Freedom”, “Beautiful Frustration”, and the CD releases of “Drop Out Of Your Mind”, “Frequent Ruins”, & “The Sound No One Wants To Hear”, previously available on cassette. In my zeal for archiving the elements of our fabulously entertaining wedding, I compiled a 5-CD anthology of the various wedding musics, and spent a few weeks working with a video editor on our wedding movie. At this time I also worked in the shipping department at the campaign headquarters of a losing presidential primary candidate.

After years of secretly preparing and practicing, I finally mustered the courage to become a solo musical performer, singing my songs accompanied by only a keyboard or guitar. I have been dreadfully afraid of playing live without a band, yet assembling a group of musicians capable of successfully playing my music has so far been a frustrating impossibility. I played in a few shows in Cleveland, Oberlin, and New York City. My fear of solo performing has been mostly replaced by trepidation of dealing with the music business, after several very discouraging experiences. My audiences, however, have been wonderfully supportive.

For twelve years I worked on rerecording the songs from my early album “Songs To Get Depressed About”. This project has been completed. It is my first new full-length release since 1994.

Sidewalk Cafe,
New York City
(photo by Alice Moore)

Peabody's Downunder
Cleveland, Ohio
(photo by John Seyfried)

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year 2004

It was a very long, hot, dry summer. Grasshoppers, bees, peaches, tomatoes, steeply rising gas prices, and natural disasters. Continuing our sick national tradition of deifying the recently deceased, the most popular musician of 2005 was Johnny Cash. Rip Smops faced increased discouragement in most attempts to promote his music.

I released the CD remake of Songs To Get Depressed About. Played briefly with a laid-back band called Soul Proprietors, opening for Richard Thompson at Oberlin’s folk festival. Submitted my music to CD Baby, joined the Pie Of The Month Club, and wasted a bunch of money on an A&R networking company named Taxi, who wouldn’t help me one bit because they said I didn’t sound enough like Franz Ferdinand or The Killers.

During the long, hot, dry summer, I embarked on a lengthy cross-country road trip, on which I explored ghost towns in Nevada and performed at a French restaurant in Los Angeles. When the summer finally ended in October, I holed up alone in my basement for the dismal winter, writing and recording more of the sounds you don’t want to hear.

Taylor mine shaft,
White Pine County, Nevada

(photo by Rip Smops)
year 2004

Received a banjo as a Xmas gift, and immediately adopted it as an integral force in my multi-instrumental repertoire. Having never played one before, I was now writing, performing, and recording songs with it. Attempted to book a solo tour of the northeast U.S. and was snubbed at every turn by uninterested club bookers. I was the only solo act at the Cleveland Music Festival, where I faced an audience of drunken Cleveland "music fans"' backs. I finally got the message and gave up on being a solo performer.

I played drums and occasional banjo in local original rock group A Mad Mans Theory. Also put in many thankless volunteer hours for victorious senatorial candidate Sherrod Brown, working in his campaign office with a bunch of snooty cell-phone gabbing interns. And saw the Beach Boys at the Lorain County Fair.

In September I was initiated into fast-spreading secret men's organization The Mankind Project or New Warriors. I'm not allowed to tell you about it.

A Mad Mans Theory
(Photos by John Seyfried)
year 2004

What a terrible year. I was plagued by domestic problems. My wife had several major health catastrophes, and our house was taken apart and reassembled. I almost finished up a new album, then delayed its completion with a series of perfectionist reworkings. Meanwhile, I became preoccupied with downhill skiing, and played bass in large folky jam band the Soul Proprioters.

by Dave Parsh

“Seeing strange nature”
by John Seyfried

year 2008

Completed and released Life Is Sad, another ten-years-in-the-making, sonically diverse, sad song collection.

In August, I became an absentee landlord. I rented out my house and moved to El Paso, Texas to be with my lady wife while she studies to become a midwife. El Paso is a midwifery hotspot.

Lost half of my savings in the stock market. Then I went and hired Madonna's old publicist, to publicize Life Is Sad. Did it work?

El Paso, Texas


Well, Life Is Sad didn’t exactly tear up the charts. It got played on some radio stations and got a few frothingly negative reviews. I learned that it’s “the worst music you will ever hear in your life” and that I have a “horrendous voice”.

Which got me thinking. And questioning. And quitting.

I spent most of 2009 living in El Paso, as well as darting around the edges of the country like a quadracoastal cue ball. El Paso fascinated me. I focused on exploring the charms of this hot, deserty, thriving, mountainous, Hispanic, large, flat, friendly, heavily patrolled border city. Spent many an hour bouldering on the magical rocks of Hueco Tanks. Embarrassed myself attempting a failed job search, while Alice worked regular 24-hour shifts at her birthing clinic. Didn’t work on music much.

My dreadlocks were cut off by a Canadian midwife. Living next to Ciudad Juarez in 2009 raised my awareness & indignation towards the hypocritical murderous absurdity of our current “drug” Prohibition.

It was an exciting and different sort of life out there. In November we moved back to Oberlin.

2009 2009-landscape
U.S./Mexico Border. El Paso on left, Juarez on right.
Student midwives in El Paso (Alice in center in red shirt)  
Hueco Tanks State Historical Park, Texas
Hueco Tanks State Historical Park, Texas

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Alice was away for most of the year, doing stuff in Mexico and attending midwifery conferences, classes and such. Had to be a bachelor. I visited her in San Cristobal De Las Casas, Mexico in May, and rinsed my toothbrush in the bathroom sink. I got salmonella and E. Coli, which developed into diarrhea, sore throat, coughing fits, bad stomach acids and cracked ribs. I was sick for over four months.

Was an active member in the Oberlin He Man Lunch Lovers Club and the Map Appreciating People Society. Played bass in the Soul Proprioters, doing a lot of winery gigs, until quitting in rock snob exasperation due to their degeneration into a shameless oldies combo.

In October I completed my long planned traversal of the Great Plains on U.S. Route 83, fulfilling a geography nerd dream of mine. When I got back, I became a radio DJ on local college station WOBC, doing a weekly 2AM late night show with a different theme each week.

My pharmacist in Mexico.
San Cristobal De Las Casas
Soul Proprioters at Vermilion Valley Vineyard

Map Club

M.A.P.S. Club

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This was the year of crazy horrible weather. The Soul Proprioters released a CD called "Individuality", in which I played on some of the songs.

In the summer I embarked on a two month epic road trip through the western U.S.A., during which, among other inquisitive exploring, I searched for a new future home town, negotiated unpaved Nevada using truck tires, visited map companies, hobnobbed with enlightened hipsters in Frisco and Portland, and camped and hiked amidst the North Dakota oil boom. Afterwards, I retired my beloved 2000 Plymouth Voyager minivan, "Roadway Ralph".

Wrote a children's-style short story about a certain current event, called "The Del Lasso Story" (see A Story). During the Oberlin College fall semester, I had a weekly radio show which was in the afternoon, so people actually heard it.

I finished recording my own version of the secret other The Pies album (see 1989-1990), which I am not releasing to the public. And three Oberlin College film majors made a short documentary about me (see Videos). I felt honored.

Roadway Ralph (my minivan with truck tires) in Nevada
Documentarians Filming Me

Curated an acclaimed weekly prime-time radio show on WOBC during the spring, and a casual afternoon show in the summer. In September, my documentary was shown at the Greenpoint Film Festival in Brooklyn, New York.

Alice and I bought a house in El Paso next to Arroyo Park, and moved back there, which was a huge ordeal.


I didn't accomplish anything in 2013.

Arroyo Park, El Paso
Qlover, Peavine, Smops

Moved back to Oberlin in March. Sunk into a major depression following this move. Did some radio DJing. A very long, gloomy, depressing year. There's not even any pictures this time.


I blissfully experienced a beautiful, deep, frozen solid, satisfying, snowy winter. Everyone else whined about it. I took four separate ski trips to various small, inexpensive regional ski areas.

I streamlined my weekly radio show, exclusively focusing on new, recently recorded music of all styles. It became known as "Smops Drops The Latest Bops, Pops, And Occasional Flops From The Catz Who Got Chops".

Joined up with some Jazzmaster fanatics in the instrumental surf guitar combo Surfer Rex, on bass, playing covers of songs by obscure international surf bands. Played many gigs in the Cleveland area and outdoor festivals. I was playing so much that I bought a new Mexican Fender Precision bass, to augment my single-specimen bass guitar collection.

In June, I embarked on an eight-day exploratory investigative expedition throughout the state of Nebraska.

I recorded two songs of my own for an upcoming 45 single record to be released sometime in 2016. Also had brief musical engagements with Oberlin Songwriters, Soul Proprioters, a local composer named Paul, and arranging non-surf songs for surf combo.

Holiday Valley, Cattaraugus County, New York
Cherry County, Nebraska
Holiday Valley, Cattaraugus County, New York
Cherry County, Nebraska

Surfer Rex. Happy Dog, Cleveland, Ohio

Surfer Rex
Happy Dog, Cleveland, Ohio
(Photo by John Seyfried)

2016 was a year of death. Aside from all the deaths of rock musicians, terrorism, gun nut victims, and other people, I lost one dog, two cats, and my mother. A sad, messy year.

I released my first 45 single record, "My Only Agendum" in March. In trying to make it publicly available without being on a record label and without using the Internet, I learned about the current wave of generosity among local-artist-supporting record stores, the general apathy of record buyers, and the shortage of working record needles.

Continued playing with Surfer Rex, busily performing frequent shows in northeast Ohio, and radio DJing on WOBC. In the autumn I changed my radio show format to "The Flower Power Sounds of The Sixties" spinning old scratchy records I dug up in the radio station vault. Went out west on a heat-seeking summer road trip, partly shared with my old indispensable behind-the-scenes-coordinator/travel agent friend Scott Crabtree.

Much of the last few months of 2016 were taken up with Alice and me shuttling back and forth to New York to look after my gravely ill mother.

Sufer Rex
Surfer Rex / Oberlin, Ohio (Photo by John Seyfried)
Sufer Rex
Churchill County, Nevada
Summer 2016

After my mother's death my brothers and I had to endure much wrangling with bankers and lawyers, waiting, scrambling for money, and general uncertainty over a supposed estate and trust inheritance. Meanwhile, I went and grabbed my mother's piano, furniture, and collection of discordant 20th century classical records to fill up my house with. Later in the year it all got sorted out.

Surfer Rex got really busy. We released a CD, "Strange Salvage", and played many gigs, including some nursing homes, nightclubs, libraries, opening for Los Straitjackets and Marshall Crenshaw, and a jaunt to Southern California to perform at a Surf Stomp. All performance activity abruptly ceased in October for unspecified reasons.

My summer road trip took me to El Paso and North Dakota. We were at Tea Kettle Butte, Wyoming for the famed 2017 Solar Eclipse. I drove all of U.S. routes 56 and 85.

Broadcasted more Flower Power music on the radio. Took a home-repair class in which I failed to learn to fix anything. The rest of the time I continued to write and record my own music for record releases of the far distant future.

Eclipse 2017
Eclipse 2017
Tea Kettle Butte, Goshen County, Wyoming, 11:45am and 11:48am, August 21, 2017

Began the year by arranging and recording four not-so-surfey instrumental songs of mine for Surfer Rex to learn and play. They only wanted to do one of them. Playing in bands that expect me to play their songs but don't want to play mine has been an ongoing source of frustration over my musical career. For this reason and also because I was sick of surf music, I quit Surfer Rex, after a three-year run. But not before performing a string of well-paying shows in the spring.

Deejayed another contemporary music radio show on WOBC in the spring before quitting that also. I didn't want to keep doing these things, I wanted to clear out my life somewhat. And then I went into another major depression.

Had some major home improvements done. I went on another big desert road trip with special tires, driving all of U.S. route 36 and extensively exploring Nevada's backcountry.

Lunch Club 2018
My Monday lunch club

Protested some poorly conceived and executed roundabouts on my street. Journeyed yet another giant summer road trip to Pacific Northwest for a Cake Conference and desert hiking.

In August, the sump pump flooded sewage into the basement, prompting major overhauling of our drainage system, and a recarpeting of my music studio. A big deal costing thousands upon thousands of bucks, and endless contractor delays.

Returned to WOBC for fall semester, hosting a weekly ethnomusicology radio show.

Photo caption here Photo caption here
The Elyria Chronicle Telegram
October 1, 2019
(Photo by Bruce Bishop)
Radio Show Flyer

Covid loomed large this year, but I did some travelling anyway from my Ohio home. I went to West Virginia twice, Montana for Big Sky skiing, and Utah, driving U.S. routes 24 and 136 in their entireties.

In fact, Covid provided a unique experience: watching newly released movies in empty theatres, seemingly open just for me. The experience did not make up for the 27 cancelled concerts I planned to attend.

At home I carried out more major home improvements, relating to drainage, electrical, air conditioning, lawn repair, and plumbing. I got skin cancer and had a little piece taken out of my nose. Yuck! It wasn't so bad, though.

I got a new Wolf 6-string electric guitar and Fender Jazz fretless bass. Filming began for an upcoming music video. I worked extensively on upcoming music releases, but as yet everything is upcoming, nothing finished.

Single Jack, Big Sky, Montana, February 2020 Melo-Sonic organ & Baldwin piano, 38 Robin Park Boulevard, August 2020
Single Jack
Big Sky, Montana
Melo-Sonic organ & Baldwin piano

Did not perform or get Covid. I did a lot of song mixing in my basement studio while hiding out from the Covid-spreading multitudes. I made an exception and braved the hordes to witness The Monkees' final tour. Made out my will.

Posing as gray-haired rock star Posing as gray-haired rock star
Posing as gray-haired rock star
Photos by John Seyfried

I comprehensively reconnected with my old hometown of Ithaca, New York, visiting three times in Winter and Summer. Meanwhile our house suffered through a major bathroom remodel, as well as enjoying new windows.

Returned to WOBC briefly for a weekly modern music radio broadcast, until our plug got pulled for a supposed station relocation.

Completed recording my remake of the "Songs To Live And Die For" album, and created lots of dubious little electronic noise pieces.

Some new gear was purchased, including an electric 12-string guitar, a powered mixer, skis and boots, and a tremolo effect.

I embarked on a series of failed personal mental health improvement initiatives.

WOBC Oberlin College
My brother Steve in Nashville
WOBC, Oberlin College
My brother Steve in Nashville

Taughannock Falls State Park, Tompkins County, New York

Taughannock Falls State Park, Tompkins County, New York

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