Say It Ain’t So, Kid! Kasey Anderson’s Scheme. . .

So, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed Wednesday morning and saw a familiar face in an unexpected place:

FacebookNewsonKaseyAnderson

Northwest musician charged in bogus charity recording. . . Oh. . .Say it ain’t so. . . Kasey Anderson?!

I’ve been meaning to write some more about Kasey’s music, but not like this.

Seriously? Kasey Anderson accused of “wire fraud for allegedly bilking investors out of thousands of dollars promoting a bogus charity album he allegedly said would feature songs by Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Lady Gaga” ?

Using Bruce Springsteen, one of his idols, and Pearl Jam, who he’s got a one person connection via Mike McCready through several of the musicians he performs with; including at least two members of his former band, The Honkies, who have played at McCready’s Flight to Mars (UFO tribute band) charity gigs?

Wow. How cynical. . .but it gets worse the more you read on the case (especially the charging documents). He’s evidently had a double life the whole time I’ve been a fan (about 2 1/2 years) and even before. A double life from his musician friends (err, former friends, probably), including his band.  Kasey Anderson’s scheme apparently outclasses the one in Mel Brook’s fictitional The Producers.

Kasey Anderson
Kasey Anderson at West Seattle’s Summer Fest 2012

Kasey Anderson, who I first heard play an acoustic set at Fremont Abbey, opening for Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs back in May 2010? Who played this incredibly moving song about Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, the young soldier, now veteran, in the “Marlboro Man” photo from the Iraq War?

Some intense writing:

So I felt like nothing when I got back home
and my father saw me in my granddad’s clothes
He said “You inherit my blood boy,
but your sins are all your own.”

Of course, the images of Kasey now intrude even on this video, with the wondering of who is he really, and how could he be both a talented singer/songwriter/musician who seems to care about other people and a talented con man?

One of my first thoughts, after the one of someone so young and talented sending his musical career up in flames, was how did Kasey get to this point? I initially thought it must have happened after he made his announcement he was quitting music, or at least his solo career and the Honkies, because he needed to make some money shortly before he mostly disappeared on the internet a few months ago. Turns out from the timeline, he disappeared as everything was closing in on him.

Also turned out that I was a little behind in the news, and the first article I unearthed was one in the Seattle Weekly from Dec. 12 when it all started unraveling with his band mates and “on October 17 with a $185,000 judgment levied against him.” This was for a civil suit.  Kasey is currently facing federal charges.

Kasey offers an explanation for his behavior:

Anderson says he underwent a medical evaluation in early November, and was ultimately diagnosed as Type I bipolar—an acute form of the disorder that, according to the Mayo Clinic‘s definition, is characterized by severe mania, risky behavior, delusions, and “spending sprees or unwise financial choices.”

I don’t know much about bipolar and I don’t dismiss this, at least as a partial explanation, out of hand. Actually, looking at the description, I believe I’ve known several people with the condition, one of whom I’ve often thought about when listening to Kasey’s song Don’t Look Back below (and jokingly wondered to myself if they’d dated or what would happen if they dated – I’m thinking I probably don’t want to know. . .):

Having family members who’ve suffered from mental illness, I know how terrible it is to watch someone close to you change and lose touch reality like that. It’s just that I’m more familiar with dealing with people with schizophrenia, where the Patton Oswalt twitter joke of John Lennon being part of Kasey’s benefit concert’s alleged line up probably would have been the case (and no one would have donated, because they would have realized he was crazy).

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The scheme is so elaborate and long running though, and just builds and builds.  Is the mental illness diagnosis the cause or the defense, as the diagnosis came after the fraud charges started closing in on him?  Kasey says in the article: “To the outside it looks like this guy is just malicious and just bleeds people dry . . .”

Here’s where lines in his songs start taking on a different, or rather, a more literal, meaning, following the lawsuit.

from Kasey Anderson’s Dream:

“Most people ain’t sorry for nothing they’ve done. . .”

“Ashes, ashes we all fall down”. . .Kasey?

Whether or not there’s an issue with his being bipolar, after reading the charging documents on the second page of Seattle Weekly’s more recent article on Kasey Anderson, one thing is for certain – that he is a con man. It’s pretty breathtaking the extent he was willing to use friends, musicians, and the then imprisoned West Memphis Three to take more and more money. Estimated total loss to investors is $365,580.06.

An article by The Oregonian‘s Ryan White, who has interviewed Kasey Anderson over the years gives a far better summary than I could, and also I think the fairest representation of Kasey, who is incredibly talented (I never dreamed as a con man as well as a musician). There’s a link to a copy of the federal charging documents there as well.

It sounds like from the charging documents, the initial investors, one of whom in The Oregonian article Kasey says he’s know since high school, funded a tour and residency in Europe in 2009, which was supposedly profitable. Shortly after he’s selling them on rolling over their profits and investing in the wildest part of the scheme, the charity album, Trapped Like a Ghost, and benefit concerts that was to help the legal defense team of The West Memphis Three (yet, somehow provide huge profits for his initial investors and all the other investors he talked into it as well). Musicians involved were said to include: Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Tom Morello, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Beck, Steve Earle, Death Cab for Cutie, Paul Westerberg and Jack White. At one point, Kasey claimed in an e-mail to an investor “the most interesting collaboration on the album” would be between Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga. A track they co-wrote for the album.

Kasey admits in both the Seattle Weekly and Oregonian to forging an email account of his friend Danny Bland, who had previously produced a benefit album for the West Memphis Three. He denies forging an e-mail account for Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau (but, I’m inclined to come to the same conclusion Special Agent Rounds in the federal charging documents – that this and other accounts were Kasey’s as well).

At one point the back and forth e-mails shared with investors said Springsteen was paying $890,000 for a delay in Bruce providing the songs, and at another point there was a promise from the alleged Jon Landau account to the alleged Danny Bland account promising $4.3 million (which included a $2.5 million penalty) and the tracks, but no sooner than October 1.

Wait, this whale of a tale gets wilder!

Kasey sends an e-mail asking “‘Danny’ to get on the phone with ‘Jon’ to find out why Bruce Springsteen could not provide music and funding before October 1, 2011.”

Bossy kid, huh? As I said, breathtaking. Not to worry though, Bruce allegedly pays the $4,300,000 and provides two tracks in collaboration with Arcade Fire. Well, Special Agent Rounds seems to think they’re bootlegs of Springsteen’s songs found on the internet. . .

Oh, and no hard feelings from Kasey. Fast forward a year to 2012. According to The Oregonian article:

Anderson hasn’t played live since performing three Springsteen songs on Nov. 27 at Mississippi Studios as part of an all-star-for-Portland celebration for the release of author Peter Ames Carlin’s biography, “Bruce.”

That was the night before Springsteen played the Rose Garden, and the same day an FBI agent interviewed Springsteen’s manager, Landau.

All right! I need a Boss break. . .besides, it’s hard not to think the kid is looking for Easy Money:

Should have been a bankster, Kasey. You’d get rewarded for this behavior and get to rip off far more people. . .

That’s the centerpiece of the charging document, but some of those alleged profits got rolled into his Heart of a Dog album, which does exist and is a good album (I have a copy), just didn’t sell nearly as many copies as he claims.  Then there’s an album for another group Kasey’s record label was to produce in 2011, and actually seems to have existed since 2006 (with no connection to Kasey or his record label). Also, Kasey’s 2011 spring tour, which existed, but I doubt made enough money to pay back the amount he asked from investors.

See, the sad thing is, unfortunately most musicians don’t make that much money. Which is why I both felt sympathy and also though he should get advice and a reality check from other musicians when he wrote that note saying he was giving up on his dream (his websites are down, but it was re-posted on Beat Surrender). He’s talking about not being able to live on just his music (as he apparently was for several years, well, yeah, apparently with a lot of help from charity, err, investors) and maybe having to work gigs with other bands or work another job. Umm, in other words, live like most real musicians. I’m not saying it’s fair (for that matter, neither is me as someone over 50 trying to live on a part time, minimum wage job with frequent layoffs; but I’m definitely not looking for investors).

Mental illness? I don’t know.  If that is part of what’s causing this, Kasey better be serious about treatment.

A couple other things don’t square. In the first Seattle Weekly article, following the civil settlement, Kasey sounds really contrite and like he wants to make amends:

Though the lawsuit makes it seem as if he’d been intent on fleecing his investors from the outset, Anderson claims his intentions were good, and things simply got out of hand. “To the outside it looks like this guy is just malicious and just bleeds people dry,” he says. “I didn’t set out to do this. I abhor the person that I was, and the person that I am. I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to be a person who is capable of those things, and when I think about it, don’t know how I could be. I’m not that person in my heart.”

Yet in the more recent Oregonian article about his federal case, Ryan White said about Kasey:

He said he signed off on the original $115,000 civil settlement, because what difference did it make? He didn’t have that much, and he didn’t have $185,000. He said he figured if he got it over with, he could put it behind him and move on. He’d always blown things up — relationships, usually — and always just picked up and moved on without consequence. To himself, anyway.

So it sounds like he never expected to pay back the $115,000, or be required to, or have a moral obligation to at least try to slowly make amends.

Maybe his behavior is that of a crazy person. Kasey left incredible wreckage within the music community as well, especially with his former bandmates.  According the the Dec. 12 Seattle Weekly story, after returning with his band touring with Counting Crows as an opening act:

Home in Seattle, friends traded tales of Anderson’s bizarre, reckless, and baffling behavior. And when they compared his various explanations and excuses, what they found was troubling. As Anderson himself puts it, “They unearthed one thing after another.”

After swearing off alcohol several years earlier, Anderson had fallen hard off the wagon and was drinking heavily. He confesses to being “dishonest” about money owed his bandmates, and says his ex-girlfriend discovered he had been unfaithful “to a very sick degree.” Most incredible, however, it came to light that he was embroiled in a $250,000 federal lawsuit.

As his former bandmate, Andrew McKeag puts it in the recent Oregonian article: “Never in my wildest nightmares could I imagine that a fellow musician would be capable of doing this kind of damage within the very community upon which he relied.”

I don’t know where Kasey Anderson goes from here, other than possibly, or maybe likely, to Federal Prison. He’s burned the trust of too many people and left everything in the most spectacular ashes just like many of the characters he sings about in his music. He’s now got notoriety, but most people talking about his case have no idea, and don’t care, that he’s a talented artist, just that he’s a talented con artist.

I came across an eerily prophetic article on Kasey by Sean Moeller in Daytrotter from Nov. 9, 2012:

He likely believes in the phrase, “He’s his own worst enemy,” in regards to nearly everyone he meets. We all should. Anderson gives great examples of its validity and he presents these resonant examples of what societal pressures turn people into and then the feasts that occur when everything starts to go haywire. He sings of the crowds gathering around the gallows, salivating at the hangings that are going to happen. . . . Anderson gives us those who are down on their knees begging for mercy and he gives us all the rest too, singing, “You’ve seen the glory now you’re gonna see the fall.”

Never liked the gallows myself, and still hoping for a little mercy for Kasey Anderson. . .(and treatment, if he needs it). . .

. . . and some justice for his victims. I doubt they’ll ever see the full amount, but restitution should be part of any sentence.  Doesn’t sound like facing the consequences of his actions has ever been a part of life for Kasey. . .

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4 thoughts on “Say It Ain’t So, Kid! Kasey Anderson’s Scheme. . .

  1. You’ve written a very good post that looks at the situation with a realistic, but not hyper-critical, eye. I stumbles upon your blog because I was looking for word on KA’s situation–has there been a trial yet? If so, what was the conviction. I can’t find anything. Feels like EVERYONE was talking about this and then, after the initial fire, no one said a peep. Have you heard/read anything? Thanks!

  2. Thanks, Kam. No, I haven’t heard anything about Kasey Anderson’s federal case recently, and don’t see anything new online. I suspect it hasn’t been settled yet, or we’d be hearing something in the news about it.

    I do wonder about him from time to time, as I still listen to his music and see his former bandmates playing around town (most recently at Mike McCready’s annual Flight to Mars charity gig) and Star Anna still occasionally includes one of his songs in a show.

    It still seems like such a waste of talent, and as Ryan White of The Oregonian noted, a waste of all the connections Kasey was making:

    “The hell of it is, there’s real talent in there. And there were real people on his side. He talked some of them out of a lot of money. Put to use right, who knows what could have happened? Now, who knows what’s going to happen?”

    To be continued, no doubt. I’ve just been a bit too busy dealing with a con artist a little closer to home lately to have kept track, as my former company went under three days after I wrote this post in Feb. and the owner hasn’t paid me and my co-workers 3-5 weeks back wages yet (and it remains to be seen whether L&I or Seattle’s wage theft laws can recover any of it). Personally, I think if Kasey wanted to be a successful crook, he should have went into business. . .

  3. Latest I can find is that Kasey pleaded guilty to wire fraud on Aug. 21, 2013 and was due to be sentenced on Nov. 22, 2013. I don’t see any updates since.

    Here’s a link to the Seattle Weekly story on Aug. 22, 2013: http://www.seattleweekly.com/home/948460-129/anderson-investors-album-music-fraud-person

    Sad both to the people who believed in him and Kasey himself that he resorted to fraud to pursue his dreams. A lot of good will burned, but he had and no doubt still has a lot of talent (just should have kept to the musical ones).

    Star Anna just recorded his “For Anyone” on her latest release “Go to Hell” and reminded me of what a good writer Kasey is. . .

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