15 Minutes of Sordid Fame, Stretched to Infinity: Introducing My Net Stalker, Uri Tenpo (creative non-fiction)

by Marc Lowe

“Hatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated.” 

― George Bernard Shaw

“The enemy is fragile!”

— David Bowie

“Uri Tenpo is not a man. Uri Tenpo is a movement.”

So claims my internet stalker of nearly six months (very possibly longer), who is both a closet fan and a jealous troll who has been cluttering up my YouTube feed with a series of odd videos parodying, mocking, and/or in some way referencing my music and/or musical activities in the medium-sized city of Fukuoka, Japan, where I currently reside.

But before I introduce him properly, let me take us back in time…

I. From writer to songwriter-musician

I came to Fukuoka, located on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan, after having earned an MFA in creative writing at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island in the U.S. I was hired to teach American Literature and English as a Foreign Language courses at the university considered the “top” here in Kyushu, and one of the top universities in the entire country. After two years in that program, when my contract expired, I was lucky enough to pick up another position teaching English at the same university. And from late 2013, with an introduction to a hard rock guitarist from an acquaintance of a co-worker, I started my musical activities rather intensely in this city.

In addition to writing and literature, I've been interested in music since as far back as the second grade of Elementary school, when I played the clarinet (first chair, for six years), the saxophone (for one year), and, eventually, by Middle school, the drums (which I still play from time to time) in a rock band. I had taken some voice lessons in college, and sang in choir and in musicals during my first two years, before transferring to the University of Pittsburgh, where I began my study of Japanese and Japanese literature. When I moved to Pittsburgh, and later to Japan for a year as a study abroad student, I had to sell the drums, as they were not only anything-but-portable, but also much too clunky to fit into a dorm and too loud to bang on.

For this, and various other reasons, I had all but given up on making music from that time until 2013, with a few exceptions, such as a guest slot on a friend's CD playing the drums and doing some spoken word in Japanese (Thread's LP “Abnormal Love,” still available on iTunes and streaming services, though my friend, James, unfortunately, died young). Sure, I sang karaoke whenever I could, sang in the shower, and so on, but my focus became Japanese study, literary study, and eventually creative fiction writing. In 2013, I met someone at the university here who was making music, and this person introduced me to other local musicians, which led, eventually, to me becoming the lead singer in a hard rock band. Although I was rather more interested in alternative and electronic music, this opportunity simply to perform original songs with musicians who were semi-pro (the guitarist had been a pro musician in California during the 1980s) made me dizzy with glee. It had been my dream to sing in a band, not just drum (though I've always loved drumming), to wear fancy clothes, makeup on occasion, and, in that particular band, my signature: a Venetian half-mask, which allowed me both to cover the top half of my face while leaving my mouth free to sing and snarl at the audience.

After just over a year of playing regularly with this band, and producing a full-length, all-original album, which included, for the first time, some of my compositions I had written and sung a cappella on the rough demos, the guitarist later adding his own chords and riffs and arranging the songs for the band to play as an ensemble, I became more and more interested in writing my own songs, and got tired of waiting for the guitarist to arrange them for me, which, by the second year, he had essentially given up on doing despite constant reminders and pleas. One day, I went with the bassist of said band to a guitar shop and bought my first acoustic, a decent beginner's guitar (Yamaha) that spelled, for me, artist freedom and potential. This moment was, in a sense, the proper beginning to the journey that has led me to become a solo artist, and also the target for the sort of web bullying I will describe a bit further on.

II. Broken reptile

I progressed quickly on the guitar. After about a month or so, I met another guitarist who borrowed his name from one of the Chipmunks (he turned out not to be a friend or compatible partner in making music), and we formed a duo: Glass Gecko. The reptile turned out indeed to have been made of glass… After adding two other members, a drummer and a female bassist, the band shattered into fragments after less than a year of playing together, tensions running high between myself and the guitarist and bassist. The guitarist and the bassist reformed as a three-piece, sans vocals (to this day they continue to perform under a feline moniker). For a short time I performed as an unlikely duo with the drummer, me on guitar and vocals, with no “bottom end” bass to fill out our sound, leaving the songs — my songs — sounding rather empty, but after a three-week stint with another bassist with whom the drummer did not get along (the bassist kicked a chair across my apartment and yelled at him one day simply for being late), the project splintered, and the drummer quit, joining my former guitarist and bassist and leaving me behind, with my face in the dirt, no band members left with which to play. Thus began my period of experimenting with Garage Band, which I had been using to record myself and myself with the drummer playing a cahon (we completed an unmastered LP, which was never properly released, at my apartment; it was part of my process of learning recording and mixing techniques, but to me, today, it is rather unlistenable).

Fast-forward some months into the future. I am now using LOGIC PRO X for my recordings, and I've bought a small MIDI keyboard which allows me to input piano and synth, vastly broadening the range of what I can do musically as a solo artist, both in terms of songwriting, arranging, drumming at home (i.e. I can now input drums with the keys), and so on. I've created a page on YouTube as well, where I've uploaded some sounds, albeit with static images (at this point I am creating my own cover art for songs and albums). One day, I receive a long comment on all of my videos. For a single moment I am pleased, and then, when I look at what is written (it is all in Japanese, but I can read and understand most of it), I am appalled: It's clearly a message from my ex-guitarist, with whom things had not ended well, using a moniker. In this long message, which he has left as a comment on every single one of my videos on YouTube, he claims that I am a terrible guitarist, a terrible musician/songwriter, and, in the final blow at the end of his mini-essay-cum-rant, he calls me a psychopath.

III. Short stint on a local record label

Let us move forward in time again. Eventually, I meet a friend of a friend who does mastering, and ask him for help improving the sound of my recordings in LOGIC. At this point I have composed quite a lot of new material, with help from my trusty MIDI keyboard, and my sound is becoming more and more “electronic,” more akin to Bjork and Radiohead than to Led Zeppelin. I am with this person for a short time before he asks me if I want to join his label, and almost without thinking I agree, though no paperwork is signed. Though things with him are rough — he essentially remixes all of my work to sound a particular way, dictates that I perform a certain way, and pulls rank (he is older than me, my “senpai” in Japan, which means that he can do this according to custom) — we produce a four-track EP that sounds better quality-wise than what I have been able to do on my own in LOGIC up until that point, and do a “debut live” release party together, where we give away 30 copies of said CD (which I have paid for the printing, etc.). 

That very night the ex-bassist of my former glassy reptilian band contacts me via Facebook Messenger in a jealous rage, saying that she is going to report me to my workplace and the cops and tell them that I am stalking her. Why? Because apparently her friend has said that I have said some negative things about her (I never said anything about her to said person, but whatever). I become a bit derailed, the producer I have been working with gets angry with me. The next day I quit, and he tells me that the “free” remixes he has done are going to incur a penalty fee. After nearly a year, and consultations with various people in high places, I realize that there is no recourse but to pay him, and so I do, and thus ends this chapter of my musical and life training. The positive part is that I now understand how to master my own work, and the sound quality of my recordings becomes near-professional level, without the need of “pro mastering.”

IV. Introducing Uri Tenpo: fan, stalker, hacker, web troll

January 23, 2019. I do a search of my name (I am now performing as Marc Lowe, with a bassist, Joe Shotaro, who is my current collaborator and good friend) in YouTube to check up on my page, which by this point includes not only audio, but also video, both live footage as well as a number of promo videos that I have done in collaboration with Joe, and with two other friends who also do very good, professional-quality photography and video work. 

Lo and behold, what is this…thing I see here?

At the top of the search feed for “Marc Lowe,” there is a video of someone (my ex-guitarist?!) doing a mock guitar solo, very poor, “in the style of Marc Lowe” that is also described as “the best guitar solo ever by the worst musician in Fukuoka.” What?? I quickly assume that it is — has to be — a video made by my ex-guitarist. But my ex-guitarist wouldn't be writing in English, would he? And my ex-guitarist is slim, whereas the body of this person seems to be a lot larger. Who, then, could it be? A “gaijin,” foreigner, someone American or British or Australian, perhaps? It certainly isn't my ex-producer, whom I've settled my accounts with, and who would never do something like this anyway (not to mention that he, too, is Japanese). Who the hell would do this, then? And why?

A second video eventually appears, this time mocking my drumming (in March of 2018 I performed under the moniker “This Dark Shroud,” a video captured by my friend Mr. Mizukami, in which I play keyboard, guitar, and also drums at one point, all during a solo performance, using backing tracks I've prepared in LOGIC). And then a third… This time I am really thinking “WTF?!” The guy, again, much larger than me or my ex-guitarist, uses the title of one of my original songs, “Black Nail,” for which we have a promo video, extending it to “Black Nine Inch Nail.” In the video, which is brief, he appears with a photo of my face over his own, lifted from my Facebook account (and taken, by the way, by a semi-professional photographer for a photo exhibit in which I appeared), and banging on a toy keyboard while semi-singing, in an indecipherable, high-pitched tone, the words “Black Nail” and “Electronica.”

I now have a clue as to whom this fellow is, but I can't prove it. An acquaintance to whom I say this denies that it's “him,” a guy who had once done a mock jacket cover of me on Facebook (I laughed it off at the time), and who I eventually had to block, as he left a series of annoying and basically garbled, drunken messages on my timeline every time I posted anything music-related (e.g. photos from a live gig I had done, jacket art, etc.). As I am told that it is “not him” by this acquaintance (who knows the guy well), I give up on it, but my hunch persists for months, over which period not only does this fellow — who goes by the moniker “Uri Tenpo” — post a number of other videos using my name, and eventually my music (samples of which are stolen from my Facebook feed) and video footage (stolen from my YouTube page), but he starts a blog dedicated solely to “Bad Music,” the target of which, with the exception of a few famous artists he dislikes (including The Beatles and Paul McCartney!), is “The Worst Musician in Fukuoka,” Marc Lowe.

V. Current Situation and Thoughts about the Childlike Adult Man “Uri Tenpo” (a.k.a. “M.”)

From this point on, I shall refer to “Uri Tenpo” simply as M., since I now know, without a doubt, whom my stalker, who has hacked and stolen from me, is. Due to Japanese law, I cannot spell out his full name. But I can describe for you what sort of an individual he is, and that I came to know that it was him who has been — and, at the time of this writing (May 2019), continues to — posting ridiculous, derogatory, and at times childishly disgusting (“Pissing on the Shinkansen”) short video clips using my name and the name “The Marc Lowe Point” or “TMLP” as a sort of fake, mocking “tribute” to me and my music. Go to YouTube, input my name, and you, too, shall see just how many of these mock videos exist, almost as many as are on my own page (please visit the “real” Marc Lowe as well, while you are there!).

M. is exactly the guy described above, who had, at one point, posted his “mock cover” of one of my album jackets on Facebook, and whom I had had to block. He has a strange sense of humor. A close friend has described his humor sense as “gehin,” which, in Japanese, means rather “low-level” or “low-class.” People to whom I have shown his videos and blog — both friends and strangers I have met at bars, which are, in Japan, anyway, the best place, I've found, to promote my music and to sell CDs — have said things such as “Disgusting,” “What a pain!” and “As a man living in society, this guy is finished.”

After coming to the conclusion that “Uri” was for certain the “M.” I had originally suspected — how I came about this is not so important, but I have amassed quite a bit of evidence from his online Facebook page, not to mention that he is a “big guy” whose body-type matches the person in the guitar and “Black Nail” mock videos — I went to a lawyer to see if there was anything I could do in order to have the videos removed from the YouTube feed. As mentioned previously, not only has he used my name, but he has, without permission, stolen photos, music, and video from me, and written a blog whose purpose is solely to degrade me. However, and despite the evidence I've amassed, convincing enough for the lawyer to believe me that it is in fact this singular person, the evidence in a court of law here in Japan is “not enough” to move forward. I've contacted the local police, but they tell me essentially the same thing, that “Net Crime” (and this, by definition, qualifies as such) is difficult to track and harder to prosecute. In this sense, then, my hands are very much tied. As for JASRAC, the Japanese version of ASCAP, they tell me that copyright lies with me from the very moment I create a work, and that their job is simply to track down those who play my music on television and in film without permission.

Videos continue to go up almost weekly. They are all rather short and childish, and some of them make little sense to me, or to others I know who have looked at them. The point, it would seem, for him, is to poke fun at me or, essentially, like when we were all kids in Elementary and Middle school, to “bully” me (despite the fact that he is a man in his early 50s with a family). The only one laughing, apparently, however, is him. Are the videos and “remixes” by “DJ JOV” funny or entertaining? How about the TMLP “Pee Yourself” mix, which uses samples from LOGIC and of my voice, run through an effector to make it sound silly? I guess so, if you're about 12 years old. On the other hand, he is putting a lot of energy into these things, apparently, for an audience of two: himself and me. Only that I myself have grown tired of his repetitious, child-like work. The uncannily high number of hits on some of his videos, however, the thumbs up, and the excessive number of thumbs down on my own page (not visible to the public, as I have changed this in my preferences), would also seem to indicate that he is using some sort of an application to manipulate — or hack — the data. At one point I had more thumbs down than views on my videos. Come on.

Warhol promised us all 15 minutes of fame. Thanks to M., I can feel famous on an almost weekly basis. How wonderful!

The thing that perplexes me most about this situation generally is how persistent my stalker/anti-fan is. This has been going on since January of this year (2019) and, even after I sent him a message via Messenger to ask him to explain why he was doing this and to stop doing it (I was, in return, blocked by him sans response, another indicator, it would seem, of his guilt), it goes on and on and on. I guess he really just can't get enough of me or my music. I haven't figured out whether he is a fan of electronic music and feels offended by my interpretation of it, or whether he hates electronic music and is upset that I'm making it on his home turf (though he lives slightly north of Fukuoka). One thing that is clear is that he strongly dislikes my interpretations of David Bowie's music — this according to his hate blog.

M., it should also be mentioned, created an account under the name “Tenpo Uri” on Facebook and one morning left about 40 thumbs up/angry face/laughing face icons on all of my posts, just to indicate (to me), apparently, that he was stalking me. I didn't block him this time; instead, I made my account “Friends Only.” I also recorded an LP called “Stalker,” thematically based around this situation, and put it up on YouTube (it is not for sale, though tracks from it can now be found on other LPs of mine), but he has not directly responded to it, very interestingly. All I know is that Uri Tenpo, despite his overblown claims, is not a “movement” but a “man,” a very sad, somewhat deranged, man with a little too much time on his hands (where does he find the time to make all of these clips?). Uri/M., if you are reading this, though it has been a surreal and marginally interesting journey, it's time to realize that the joke simply isn't very funny to anyone but yourself anymore. But then, if you were in your right mind, you wouldn't be doing something like this in the first place, would you?