In our three-part Christmas series, after 10 years of pranks, unbridled creativity and ill behaviour, we explore the mysterious disappearance of the ORGAN FREEMAN Facebook page.
Those who have visited the Facebook page of serial prankster synth pop band ORGAN FREEMAN will notice an uncharacteristic feature to their profile: silence. Sometime in late November, Zuckerberg’s men deemed it fit to, without warning, terminate the page of the Wirral-based gang, thus deleting 10 years of elaborate jokes, cutting parodies but also treasured memories.
Walking past FACT arts centre on a rainy November afternoon, I bumped into one of the group’s leaders, Simon Gabriel. Simon was clearly befuddled by the turn of events and was looking for answers from FB HQ. A decade of riling feathers, showing scant regard for copyright law and upsetting a spectrum of local Liverpool industry types meant that the possible motives for the impromptu cease and desist were numerous, but the circumstances of the deletion were still perplexing.
The band had hoped to end 2018 on a high. A pitch-perfect Hope And Glory festival parody, a typically cutting, but warm-hearted, VT spoofing high profile characters from Liverpool’s music community and a triumphant gig sporting new pig farmer outfits at Jacaranda Records Phase One had all been highlights of the band’s year. But for a creative project for which the social media output was so important, the Facebook deletion was a curveball. So what happened? Could the head of a grassroots festival really be so vengeful? Was it such a crime to pick on Paul Hollywood? Were some Los Angeles doppelgangers out to get our cheeky heroes? In this Christmas three-part series we find out: Who Killed Organ Freeman?
Organ Freeman’s Simon Gabriel:
“I only noticed when I logged in to post a photograph of Dustin Hoffman struggling to hold shopping bags, which was to help promote a gig we had the following week. I realised the page had completely disappeared, absolutely no trace of it. It’s hard to tell exactly when the Facebook page had been removed, we received no notification or alert that it had. It was as if I’d woken up and 10 years of being in this band was all a coma fantasy. I had this horrible thought of me messaging the other band members about it and they reply ‘what band?’, but luckily when I did, they were just as confused.”
After an unusually quiet start to 2018, there was a spate of activity from the usually vociferous Organ Freeman social media channels. The band parted company with co-front man Luke Bather and were ready to dust off their trusty synths and get back out there. Operating as a three-piece would enable them to mobilise more readily and there was no apparent animosity from founder member Bather. A call-out to promoters, festivals and local press was issued. The band wanted to get their idiosyncratic live show back in the venues of Merseyside.
There have been few dull years in their decade-long career to date, yet 2017 was especially eventful for the band. In the early part of the year the call came from China. No doubt the result of a steadily increasing profile on the back of gigs across the UK, being bestowed the honour of being the house band for popular Simpsons-themed DIY art exhibition No Homers Club and their social media feeds expertly dedicated to causing mayhem.
“It seems we somehow accidentally stumbled upon an interesting formula as a band. It never felt unusual for us to fool around and at the same time perform live music. Persistence of doing so naturally is the only reason why we’re still doing it. If it was a strategy then we’d have given up the first time nobody laughed.
“With a formula like this you kind of get desensitised to a few things. For example, every time I saw Paul Hollywood on TV, I realised I didn’t like him for some reason. He’s from the Wirral too! So I should like him. But I didn’t. Anyway, I thought ‘I have to find a way for this to stop. It’s not fair for me to dislike someone like this for no reason’, so I decided I’d tweet at him saying ‘Have you ever imagined yourself on stage at Glastonbury playing a baguette like a guitar?’. He didn’t respond, so I tweeted variations of that same sentence every day for two weeks. Still no response. I thought it would help if I created a photograph of Paul on stage at Glastonbury playing a baguette like a guitar, and I was right! He responded almost instantly – over the moon, he was. And ever since then I’ve been able to bare seeing him on TV because all I have to do is think ‘I made your dreams come true’.
“This is how 2017 started, garnering a tweeted response from Bake Off’s Paul Hollywood. We also played China for the second time. Those shows were wild, and strange, and there’s no difference between doing that and persistently winding people up online. Or at least, I don’t think there is.”
Back in Wirral and fast-forward to 2018, and the year had finally got going for the band. The summer’s curtain was raised with two gigs in a day at Smithdown Road Festival and Sounds From The Other City in Salford. A decade of considered output had won Organ Freemen a dedicated fanbase and the local industry was now (almost) fully onside. And while the music was now flowing, so were the online japes, Organ Freeman’s other speciality.
“I made a bunch of fake raving reviews for Sting and Shaggy’s collaborative album 44/876 from the likes of Rolling Stone, Washington Post, NME. I had The Guardian calling it ‘Possibly the greatest album so far. By anyone, ever’. Things like this are great because they look real and are easy to do, and also pretty harmless, in my opinion.
“When your agenda is doing stuff that just makes you and your bandmates laugh, it means you can make things like fake posters of the movie Call Me By Your Name but instead, have Ringo on it, with the text Call Me By My Stage Name. If the aim was to get as many followers online as possible, then we wouldn’t have made something so niche and stupid.”
2018 was finally shaping up to be another successful year by Organ Freeman’s skewed, very personal standards. Sting and Shaggy’s monstrosity of an album had been dealt with. The lean three-man gang had played a spate of successful shows and they had another couple of choice pranks up their sleeves.
In part two of this series, we learn about Simon’s frustrating enquiries with Facebook HQ. A heated exchange between the band and the organisers of Threshold Festival will be detailed and how festival founder Chris Carney found himself among the cast of character in Organ Freeman’s most elaborate lampoon of the year. There is also the great Hope And Glory wind-up of the year. ‘Stay tuned’.
“Upon finding out we’d been deleted, my first port of call was to Google similar problems. But I was unable to find anything as puzzlingly alike. The few I did find had some sort of notification to forewarn they had been removed and even had the option to appeal. We didn’t.
“Following some advice from those who have had similar experiences I found online, I submitted some bug reports but these felt utterly hopeless. One page did link me to a Facebook internal appeal page, but on the option where it asks you to pick your page ‘Organ Freeman’ didn’t appear – as obviously we’d been entirely removed.”
The next instalment of Who Killed Organ Freeman will be released on 24/12.