The Ballpoint Pens Archive

Today would have been the 40th birthday of my brother from another mother Ross Harman. I met Ross when I was in college when a friend of mine told me I should check out this two man synthy dance band called the Gaskets. Even though I was only 23 I had been working in music since for nearly a decade starting when I was 14 with a punk zine, then running a punk record label a year later, booking shows and of course photographing bands. At the time it probably didn’t make a lot of sense for me to manage a kinda goofy dance band, but they just absolutely blew me away and I kept bugging them until they let me help out and over the seven years between meeting the Gaskets and Ross’ death I became as close to those guys as you could possibly imagine. They were my family and Ross’ death was absolutely life shattering. 

Teddy Blanks was the other member of the Gaskets and is still a great friend of mine. He’s a graphic designer now, who has done all of my books and zines, and oh, also the font for the god damn Barbie movie and a million other incredible things. But as busy as he is he’s spent years working on a project dedicated to the solo music of his musical partner who went by Ballpoint Pens. When Ross died Teddy was given Ross’ old laptop. It was actually Teddy’s old computer that Ross had been using so they could work on music together when Teddy moved to NYC. When Teddy booted up the computer he found tons of Ross’ music on it, from finished songs to rough bits and pieces, all recorded on a laptop mic in a bedroom with ballpoint pens for the drums (hence the name Ballpoint Pens). 

At Ross’ memorial service we played some of this stuff and everyone was blown away. Ross had put a few songs out on his MySpace page, but no one had really heard how much great stuff he had recorded. Most of the people at the service were in bands themselves and I had this idea that maybe we could get some of them to professionally record his music as a tribute album. Luckily people actually followed up and not only did we get enough music for a double length record but we were able to raise enough money to release the tribute album, as well as two more Ballpoint Pens records. It was such and amazing project and I know it meant a lot to the many, many people who loved Ross.

Over the last decade Teddy has been messing around here and there with the music. He used some of the tracks to release posthumous songs with Ross and started trying to clean up some of the old tracks. He had the GarageBand files for a lot of these songs and began to remix them. Over the last few years Teddy has been taking this project more seriously and has spent his own money having these songs professionally mixed and mastered. He’s stated organizing and remixing files, building new songs and using new AI tools to help isolate tracks so he, and other musicians, could re-record some of the instrumentations.  It’s been such a cool experience to get emails from Teddy with brand new Ballpoint Pens songs I had no idea existed and cleaned up versions of songs I have loved for years.

Today, for Ross’ 40th birthday Teddy has released the Ballpoint Pens archive and the first six tracks of the new Ballpoint Pens collection, Mazes. Each week a new song will be added which will give us weekly chances to share Ross’ music with the world. When the archive is finished it will have multiple albums, notes on every song, as well as the remixes, originals and covers for them all. The project is such an incredible way to honour our friend and I can’t wait to see it grow as Teddy continues to work on it.  I just really hope we can get some eyes on it who will be learning about Ross for the first time. It would mean so much to me if you checked out this music and shared it if you enjoyed it. 

Please check out the Ballpoints Pens archive and the first six songs of the new Ballpoint Pens collection,  Mazes.

Ballpoint Pens - Mazes

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