Jan 1st - My Story And Apology Letter About Fateless Flows
Updated: Jan 16
Dean De Benedictis (Surface 10)
Here is a letter to any-or-all interested. It is a story about my recent past, and about mental health, and is also my attempt to be accountable. I wrote this letter as an apology to everyone who remembers my old plan to launch Fateless Flows Records a decade ago. Remember that one? This post is essentially an account of the mistakes I made and the adversity I endured during my attempt to launch that label. I have not successfully reached all those who were involved, so I hope they also get a chance to read this sooner or later. I also wrote the letter so you can get-to-know me and my story a little bit better, so you can see many of the reasons for my decisions, see where I have been all this time, and see why I have not kept my discography updated. I thought this letter was the most appropriate way to kick off the year, and is the least that I owe you all for my past neglect.
I am not surrendering my power or cowering or crawling or anything like that. I feel that this is just something I need to do. If only a few of you care anymore, or even remember, then consider this letter something I need to do for myself, for my own resolution and evolution. I need to move on by getting this off my chest, among other things. And hey, enjoy it. There is a good possibility I will write about plenty of other topics later that are not the slightest bit conciliatory (insert winky face here).
So, yes, I really and truly do apologize for my old botched plans to resurrect and relaunch my record label Fateless Flows Records roughly ten years ago. It almost happened, but as it turned out, was not in the cards. I held on as long as I could at that time, but then I had to let it go. I still feel regretful about the whole thing, so I need to get it off my chest.
I know for a fact that some folks were waiting for that label launch, and to those people I am very sorry about what happened—or what didn’t happen. To them, I hope this mishap didn’t inconvenience you too much and I hope you get a chance to read this letter. I ask that you read the whole thing, as this is more than just an apology. Again, it is my life over the last decade, with hints of the previous decade, and people don't usually share their personal lives to this degree. For those who are not the slightest bit interested in hearing my slightly-pseudo-sob-story, I understand, and I don’t expect you to read any further. I thank you for your attention.
To refresh everyone's memory, let's take it back a ways. In 2007, I began planning and announcing that I would relaunch my label Fateless Music with a new name. That name would now be Fateless Flows Records, and this new brand would carry artists other than just myself for a change. The new name Fateless Flows would also serve as a hat-tip to my old ex-collective, The Fateless Flows Collective, a collective of electronic musicians that I previously ran from 2003-2005 in Los Angeles. I left the collective in 2005 because my life had grown complicated during a tough millennial decade laden with tax debt, social anxiety and deep depression due to a bad breakup in 2000. Later I would find out that this original bout with anxiety and depression would be a lot more long-term than I ever imaged, as I seem to be prone to both. But further regarding the beginning, I was having a tough time after the millennium turned, lasting years, but what else was I supposed to do? Just stop living? Stop creating? I wasn't going to role over and die because my life was hard. I was an artist, one who still had plenty of ambition and determination. These were all obstacles I had to try and deal with, or hurdle, along side striving for goals and dreams, and even in my darkest hours I knew this instinctively.
When 2007 rolled around, ironically, the Fateless Flows Records relaunch was supposed to serve as a type of redemption for dropping the collective those few years prior, and the relaunch involved some of those same artists as such. Unfortunately, the following years and even the following decade didn't really get better, so I never redeemed anything I had planned on.
After my first 2007 label-launch announcement (of all things), some technical difficulties began springing up, as well as an unexpected house move, so I had to postpone everything for a couple more years. I picked back up and started working towards the launch again in 2010, but then a car theft during a trip robbed me of some important hard drives. This devastating loss slowed me down again, and was emotionally draining, but it did not take me out of the game. As you may remember, I kept announcing the relaunch and changing the date, almost every year.
As the Fateless-Flows-Records-relaunch endeavor grew more involving, I grew more and more determined to match. I was so committed that every obstacle seemed to only broaden my ambition. I began getting many of my fellow artists and fellow electronic musicians involved with it. Each visual artist was submitting pieces for the gallery section of our website, and each musician contributed exclusive tracks to a compilation album I was putting together to commemorate the label launch.
Looking back at that moment, I'm fairly certain that this is when I must have begun experiencing a midlife crisis, because no other excuse can really explain it. Before that moment, I had been postponing many project ideas, all my life. They were ideas that I thought were all potentially revolutionary. Well, right around 2010-11 was when I started trying to do them all. I mean... all of them. I laugh as I write because I'm remembering so much of it. I did not wait for any project to finish before starting another one, I just started everything. I remember having the urgent feeling that I was running out of time for these projects, because many of them involved having complete physical faculties, and even young looks as comical as that may sound. Hey, unfortunately these details matter when it comes to the arts and some sports. Something about American culture overly romanticizes youth, and this is probably most prevalent in the arts. I don't make these rules, even though some days I wish I did. Regardless, these urgent feelings I had were definitely the makings of a midlife crisis, so I'm only guessing that this is what it was.
One of these time-sensitive projects I was in a rush to accomplish back then, was climbing Cascade volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest to make electronic music at the top, and film it. I had minimal climbing experience, but I was determined to be the first to do it. How hard could it be? It's just a mountain! A bunch of them! Well, of course it turned out to be the most difficult ongoing task of my life, and took years before I would make any real progress on it.
So, in 2011, after the genesis of a million Dean De Benedictis projects, I thought I was ready to launch Fateless Flows Records. I thought I was finally ready to complete at least that task. This was the victory I needed to gain momentum on everything else I was now doing. It was perfect timing! But then, unfortunately my life began rolling downhill very suddenly. Within a matter of months, these things happened: one of my two main work computers crashed with major data loss, a family member and two close friends all passed away somewhat suddenly, financial circumstances forced me to move in with my father, I failed and almost died during my first big Cascade mountain-climbing attempt, and a fraudulent web designer took me for my last $3000.
Needless to say, these details were a major interruption. However, I still somehow managed to recover from a lot of it by the following year (2012) and was ready to pick up where I left off again with the Fateless Flows relaunch. Unfortunately, instead, bad news reared it's disgusting head again almost immediately. Beginning in early 2012, these things then began happening in this order, consecutively, over a two year period: my family and I were forced to move again into a much smaller home this time; two more close friends died whose families I helped; my other computer crashed with full data loss; I got my first and likely my last DUI, obviously causing me to be more dependent on friends-and-family than ever before; and then the band I was trying to produce left me (intended as the main act signed to Fateless Flows).
I probably don't need to go into detail about how these events all happening within a 3-4-year period completely threw off any plans of any kind that I was trying to make progress on, by miles, like... many many miles. And all of this happened while I was still risking my life every year trying to reach the top of Cascade volcanoes, 2010 until now. That Cascade project usually demanded anywhere from 4-9 months of my time each year, during which I needed to live in my car and in the mountains just to be able to concentrate well enough on climbing. When everything was crumbling around that project, including that project, it was really hard not to give up on all of it.
The instability seemed endless. By the time I reached late 2014, I was exhausted and massively depressed. I had bit off more than I could chew, but I became so entwined with everything that it seemed impossible to prioritize and eliminate anything. It was all or bust, and looking back, sure, perhaps it should have been bust then. That definitely would have bypassed being as negatively effect as I was. Luckily my body was healthy because I eat right and get lots of activity in those mountains, but my anxiety, depression and stress levels were still through the roof, and I probably don't need to explain what kind of toll that took on me.
After a while I couldn't even look people in the eye anymore, including my own family. I was now insecure about everything I did, significantly slowing down production for all of my projects, even more, including multiple film projects and 4 albums I owed my external record labels. This is why I only finished one film, an EPK, and two albums that whole decade (2010-20), being: my short documentary on Robert Rich, my solo album Salvaging The Present, my album with The Stratos Ensemble and an EPK for them. That was it. I did finish lots of small things, songs/pieces and videos, but I could not manage any more full-length albums or big-ish films. Even the works I completed were done at a sluggish pace amidst all of the aforementioned turmoil.
Finally Letting Go Of At Least One Thing
Luckily, I had a little bit of relief by the end of 2014, when my good friend, idol, and colleague, Ian Boddy, gave me the best advice I could have received at that moment. He told me that unless I have a very stable and organized life, being an artist and simultaneously running a company is a bad idea and is hardly possible. Ian had been an artist all his life while running his own record label at the same time. I knew he spoke from experience. He helped me to realize that I had no business trying to run a record company if I was also a musician who struggled to the degree that I did. I would have to choose between being an artist or essentially being a businessman manager/owner. I could not have both.
So, with much deliberation, I decided to finally drop launching Fateless Flows Records. I am relieved that I listened to Ian and took his advice about it, because continuing on that path was almost literally killing me. I had to do it. I had to finally level with myself about my truest calling, clearest talent, and purest offering to the world, which, let's face it, is my art. Art, film and music will likely remain my calling far more than running any organization will ever be. I had a lot still left to create, full of what I considered groundbreaking ideas, so I decided to remain loyal to that initial opportunity rather than remain committed to what had essentially become a distraction and detour, Fateless Flows Records. I wish that had not been the case, but it just was. I wish I could have handled doing everything, but we are only human and we have limits, which I suppose I had to learn the hard way. Again, I'm very sorry if this inconvenienced anyone, and I'm sorry for not mentioning it sooner.
After Dropping The Launch
After dropping the launch, my life began improving a little. As mentioned, by this time I had finished two of those four big projects, and now I had also replaced the Stratos Ensemble. In the years that followed, 2015-19, I managed to release an EP for the band, perform and film two concerts with them, and I finally make it to the top of St. Helens and Mt. Hood. So, I finished a portion of my goals for the decade, but not even close to all of them. This is because in addition to those few-extra met goals during that 2015-19 period, the crisis-like obstacles never stopped happening either, of course. These extra obstacles included more musicians suddenly leaving my band, my father contracting dementia in 2017, major family drama with armed alcoholics and clinically insane cat ladies and LA fires coming within miles of us more than once, causing us to pack in response and all kinds of chaos constantly ensuing.
When I think about it, things only started getting easier for me a year ago, when the pandemic hit. That's how difficult things were before it. That pandemic was a very sad price for the world to pay, but at least people like me were finally able to rest, regroup and get perspective on our lives. I suppose I did most of my suffering before the pandemic. Don't get me wrong though, I've had some big hurdles during the pandemic also. We finally had to move my father into an assisted living facility in Sept 2020, and the work and drama that developed as a result finally ended my relationship with my father's family, unfortunately. So yes the pandemic has been kind of hard, too, but overall it's still a different pace and mood and dynamic now. It finally forced the world to take lots of downtime, thus forcing me to do the same. I am a lot easier on myself now, and more pressure-free. Perhaps quarantine and the world's lock-down periods have helped to provide a buffer for the mysterious and/or subconscious pressures that would usually govern us and even ail us. I don't know. I only know that I'm finally letting out a sigh of relief that feels very new.
Looking back from this advantaged and rested place has enabled me to realize that not only was the last decade hard for me but the last 20-or-more years were. Before that (the 90s) was a great time with very little struggle. I might finally be seeing signs of a return to that type of stability now, even if not completely, but I don't know. I don't want to make claims like that and risk jinxing anything either. It is what it is. Who ever achieves complete stability anyway? All we ever do is pine away for the past while completely forgetting whatever struggles we had.
But regardless, either way, it feels really good to finally poke my head out from the other side of something enough to see as clearly as I'm seeing at this moment.
Some Accountability For The Original Fateless Flows Collective
As I mentioned above, during the previous decade, from roughly 2000-07, I was having a different crisis. I had lost my job, my grandmother, my record label, my home, and my most intense relationship in life, all within two years 1999-2001. This left me actually suicidal for almost 4 years, from 2001 to 2005, during the exact time when I founded and began running the Fateless Flows Collective. I started the collective because no other electronic-music scene in Los Angeles was embracing me for some reason, nor were they embracing at least a few of my worthy fellow-artist friends. This massively added to the depression I was already experiencing at that moment. After everything I had been through, and all of the great music I was still creating, elitism and social clicks in Los Angeles were still making life difficult for me and my friends. So I banded together with a couple of them (Doug Rimmerman of Constant Flux and Jay Skinner of Appogy) and then the collective quickly grew. At one point we were being played on KCRW almost every night and we were doing concert events with almost every worthy art organization in town, including LACMA and MOMA. We also released three compilation CDs during that time, which I produced, and I would often show up at events just to pass out promo copies.
However, I was suffering inside horribly that whole time, and the collective did not know how much. No one other than a couple of close friends and family members knew that I was suicidal. I was seeing a therapist 5 days a week at one point, and I almost did myself in a few times. I tried to hold it together while networking for the collective, but I could not. Before long I began developing a bad case of social anxiety, which was actually so bad that I still struggle with it to this day. The anxiety got in the way of many of my personal and professional relationships at the time, causing lots of subtle-yet-devastatingly-destructive social turmoil between me and most of the people I worked with and/or near.
With most people, a case of bad social anxiety usually makes them seem either nervous, or clumsy, or angry, or sad, or withdrawn, even when they don't feel that way inside. In my case, it was actually all of those things, sometimes all at once. Sometimes I just had zero control of my fears or my body. That's how bad my anxiety became. I would sometimes try to hide it when it happened, which would only make it's effects worse. It was like being trapped in someone else's body whenever in the company of people, and then thrown back into my own body the moment they left. It was like a nightmare. Needless to say, the collective was effected by this social anxiety, too, because I was supposed to be the one running it. I somehow managed to rub some members the wrong way, along with lots of others. This dislodged a lot of the faith they had in me as a leader.
Shortly after this, I got in trouble with tax debt. My plan was to only leave the collective for a short while, but by then the damage was done and many collective members simply lost their genuine enthusiasm and faith. The collective eventually fizzled out. I still thought I would be able to recover and return to reorganize them, this time additionally with a record label, but then the rest of the story happened, from 2007-14, as mentioned above.
I wanted to provide a scene and a company and an artistic movement that would embrace and accept us all, but it turned out I was not fit to do that. I was not fit to run any organization of that magnitude, or to run any type of project that is not almost purely my own art, and nothing more. I suppose I didn't realize just how much of an artist I really was, complete with brooding disposition and erratic behavior and flakiness and depression. All of the stereotypes. Somehow I nailed them all, after all of that effort and networking and all of those good intentions. It was all no match for human nature in the end. This is sad and regretful in one sense, but in another sense I am a bit more evolved, self aware, and clear. At least some good came out of the whole thing.
However, I still feel it is my duty to apologize to any supportive ex-Fateless-Flows-Collective-members and any ex-fans from that time who were wrongfully mislead. To them, I am sorry. I really didn't mean to inconvenience anyone or let any of you down. I was just far more inspired than I was emotionally equipped to handle such things.
Some of my fellow collective members at the time passed fairly harsh judgement on me for all of this, and in addition to being obviously unforgiving, actually contributed to making my life more difficult, whether or not they meant to. To a certain degree I can't blame them, but considering that I never did anything malicious to any of them, or anyone, this apology letter is more intended for the rest of you. People who jump to conclusions and make harsh judgements don't even usually care about apologies anyway, so I'm not really addressing them. If they want to continue thinking of me in an unfavorable light, then there isn't really much I can do about that. I suppose I don't really care that much anyway, considering how much better I think I will likely do in life without judgemental people around. But to the rest of you, which I can safely say is by far the majority, I do feel regretful, and again, this letter is one hundred percent for you.
Reflecting On My Reasons
Because the entire last decade was a struggle, I could not muster up the bravery or wherewithal to tell everyone that I was dropping the Fateless Flows Records relaunch, and that everyone involved would no longer be a part of it. I suppose I was too scared to say anything because I couldn’t find the right words to announce that level of disappointment while I was still experiencing hardship. I think I also felt guilt over experiencing that level of hardship at all in the first place, because I'm from a middle class family and I live a privileged life. I do not live in a war-torn country or for the most part in poverty, so I didn't think I had the right to feel most of any of this, let alone share it. Eventually I saw that I have likely suffered and struggled internally more than most people do, because I always considered my advantages a kind-of unspoken command to achieve enough that would warrant the privilege in the first place. Wow, what an immense pressure to carry around, for two decades, a seemingly never-ending guilt trip. I now know that I am deserving of a lot of things, including those, but until 2020 I suppose I did not see it. It was just all pain and shame. So I stayed silent, and sat on everything, and waited, and tried to heal even as I was being wounded.
Again, I am somewhat regretful about this. I know silence made me look like a flake, and sure, I suppose to an extent, I am a flake, but as you can see, there was a lot more to the story. I am giving you my last decade now (sparing you most of my life before it) because I want you to finally understand me, that I was struggling with many internal problems and external obstacles, and that I would have done right by you otherwise.
Regarding My Music
I may not have been able to release more than a couple of official albums over the last decade, but this was absolutely not due to lack of music productivity. Amidst all of my toil and experimentation, I actually yielded plenty of product, even if not officially.
Most folks don't realize that the majority of work invested in releasing an official album has to do with packaging. It takes huge chunks of time, effort and often money to master, title, illustrate, distribute and even to manufacture and promote an album release. That's a huge part of what kept me from compiling more music into albums and then releasing them over the last decade. But heck, the music itself has actually been finished now for some time, and available to the public online. I may not have released albums over the last decade, but I still cranked out lots of album-worthy music. I was creating and experimenting so much that I now have easily enough produced music to fill about 20 albums or more. No joke. I do plan on releasing them in time, but again, remember, packaging and releasing albums are the hard part, and will always backlog and hold things up for a perfectionist artist like me.
In the meantime, however, most of that music, created over the last ten years, can be found on both of my Soundcloud pages. If you really want to hear how much worthy music I created behind the scenes in my off-hours, go and check it all out at the following two links. I use handles Surface 10 and Dean De Benedictis for my electronic music, and my band The Stratos Ensemble for my jazz/progressive fusion/psychedelic rock. I also have collaboration projects on there such as Lyrus. Indeed I fully produced (mixed, edited, mastered, filmed) even the collaborations I was a part of, minus maybe Desensitized which has content currently produced by my colleague Deborah Martin and SPM illustrator Daniel Pipitone. In truth, all of the other projects I've involved myself with over the last 10 years, and a little beyond, were completely produced by me, be it film or music. I wish I could have moved at a quicker pace, but under the circumstances, I have a lot more self-forgiveness now, and I'm very proud of the work I've cranked out, even if not compiled-and-sold yet. Here is most of that:
You can also find compilations I've been on over the last 10 years if you Google any of the above listed monikers.
Some Positive Notes
Again, a lot seems to be lifting. I am a lot less emotionally invested whenever disappointments or setbacks occur, which was unheard of for me before, as funny as that sounds. I am also a bit more stable in my home environment, thanks to my partner Lisa, who so far has proven to be my greatest gift in life. My work pace is also increasing a little, and I feel confident enough to own my past mistakes in a somewhat-more healthy way. I am even a little excited to start the struggle back up again, and get production going for the year and beyond. I do not mind fighting the good fight, even regarding my somewhat-dangerous mountain summit attempts that remain. I will continue to struggle and juggle, but I have a lot more experience behind me and things have gotten easier. I have also made a clear decision to avoid biting off more than I can chew whenever humanly possible. Hopefully this will work. Either way, my ambitions are still as high as ever, even if they have morphed a little.
I suppose I had a lot of growing up to do. Perhaps I have a lot more growing up ahead, but I still turned a pretty big corner in 2020, enough to find the strength and confidence to write this letter and, fate willing, probably a lot more. (Wow, I really don't like cheesy Scooby-Doo endings but I guess this is one. Oh well.)
I'm glad I finally found the strength to tell you all of this and apologize for the botch FFlows label launch. I do, however, still plan on using some of the work cranked out during all of that FFlows prep ten years ago, including hopefully the many pieces of music that my friends and fellow electronic musicians donated. Some of those pieces were exclusive, for my label compilation only, so at some point I plan on making one big DJ mix-set with them. When I do, I will post the mix for free somewhere, like Youtube. I will keep you all posted on that, on all my sites and profiles, when the time comes.
I did a lot of work on the Fateless Flows relaunch myself before abandoning it. From that tireless work came things like a new style of illustrating and a killer new logo, which you may have spotted at the top of this post. I still have lots of great aesthetics and products that came out of said failures, so I plan on continuing to find uses for them, one way or another.
At one point, I also started a Youtube channel to feature any/all musicians or artists who were honorably involved with Fateless Flows. That Youtube channel is still there as well, and I will continue using it to post any project or collaboration I work on, including a few projects from old FFlows-related colleagues and ex collective members. I may even end up using the FFlows logo and Youtube channel to launch a film/video company, which I suppose I have already done in a way anyway. Or maybe I will yet restart a label someday, using the Fateless Flows name again. It was essentially the overly ambitious pressures, deadlines and massive amounts of money that made the relaunch impossible. Perhaps I will just unobtrusively creep into branding and company-forming from now on, should I ever decide to. Who knows? These possibilities and potentials are all there, and will remain for an indefinite future, distant or not. Either way, you will continue to see the Fateless Flows brand floating around. It remains the company tag for most of my self-released work, be it film or music or other, proudly. Aside from any failures of the past, I'm still very proud of the work I/we have done with-and-for the Fateless Flows brand, whether this was through the collective or through online channels or anything else.
For your own reference, here are the current pages and sites exhibiting work over the last decade that bears the Fateless Flows brand:
A Thorough Thank You
Lastly, I'd like to show some appreciation to my supporters, in my own way, before I end the letter. I'm sad to say that many people lost faith in me as an artist, and even as a human being, for reasons I may never fully understand, during my last two decades of challenges. Some of these were workmates, some fans, and some friends. Hey, again, I don't really take responsibility for these folks, as their ultimate opinion of me was their own decision, not mine. And yes, looking back, I never committed anything egregious or even offensive towards most of them. Of course I would prefer that people never get the wrong impression of me, but when they do, especially towards a man with mental health issues and loving intentions, I connot take all of the responsibility for that. None of us are perfect, definitely not myself more than anyone else, but each of us are still %100 responsible for putting ourselves in nurturing environments and surrounding ourselves with supportive and understanding people. From the moment we first become legal adults, no one else is in charge of that. I am clearer about this principle now more than ever, and I plan on following it more than ever as a result.
So, in light of what I mentioned above, I cannot express how grateful I am for those of you who maintained unwavering faith in me as an artist-and-intellect through the last two decades. Really, it has helped me through all of this, and helped to define me. In a way, all of that effort, toil, sacrifice and risk I experienced was just for you. The faithless ones only managed to codify how precious the faithful are to me, and how honored I am by you.
I am an artist, so I may have to continue keeping my distance from most people in order to invest the proper amount of time to bring you the creations that I bring you, but I still do it for you, and even when I don't always have time to respond, any approval you show is gold to me. Fans are my family, no matter how distant I have to be from my family at any point in life. I truly appreciate your appreciation of me, and of my endeavors. I never quite. I never gave up, after all of that strange adversity, and I still have no plans to ever give up. Your support of everything I manage to create and attempt helps keep me strong. I thank you once again from the bottom of my heart. Please keep showing that faith. It is doing someone a lot of good in this world. I will use it as best as I can to climb up from here, as high as possible.
Thank you for your attention, everyone. I hope to see you before long, on-or-off stage, or even online, and I hope you have a super great year.