Merry Prankster by Foster the Prankster
If you’re reading this, it means that at some point in my nearly 20 years of recording music, our paths happened to cross for any number of reasons. Whether this chance meeting took place in my early years, under the name “Random,” the days when my mixtapes circulated the blogosphere, as “Vibes,” or more recently, after my disillusionment with the music business led me to reject the traditional methods of marketing and branding and to change the sound and style of my music with the band, “Foster & The Pranksters.”
Until now, the significance and theme of the “Prankster” moniker has been unknown to a majority of those who have followed my journey. You may have been “on the bus” since the Trackfiends-produced mixtape, “The New Generation” in 2009, the long-delayed “Kings Highway” and its follow-up, “Free Lunch” in 2015; the string of diss records aimed at industry names such as Joe Budden and Chance the Rapper; or the experimental, blues rock-infused releases with Foster & The Pranksters: the cult-hit single “Think Me A Fool” in 2017, or our EP’s, “La Honda” and “The Acid Test” in 2018. No matter when my signal reached your broadcast antennas, we shared a moment on this path and I appreciate you.
“Merry Prankster” is the culmination and, ultimately, the end of our time together. Produced entirely by my longtime friend and collaborator, Prolific of HeatKings Music Group, this will be my final full-length release as a recording artist. I am so grateful to all of you for listening, sharing, following and engaging with my music at any level. In an era of shameless self-promotion via social media, there is an inherent loss of integrity and authenticity in just about every interaction we have with the artists whose work we enjoy. I hope this album will break that trend between you and I.
“Merry Prankster” represents a theme that I have been cultivating these past few years. It is directly inspired by the psychedelic counter-culture movement of the 1960’s and one of its principle founders: Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” Kesey, along with his band of Merry Pranksters; a rag-tag group of artists, writers, poets and travelers, set out on a cross-country road trip from Kesey’s home in La Honda, California, in a hand-painted school bus, to the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, New York and subsequently changed the consciousness of American culture to this day. Hosting parties, known as “the acid tests,” Kesey and the Pranksters turned-on many of the nation’s youth to the mind-expanding drugs that became a sacrament of the “hippie” movement and continue to be a major part of American youth culture.
However, prior to his days on the open road, Ken Kesey was a student at Stanford University. During his time at Stanford, Kesey volunteered to be a subject in a government study on psycho-active drugs and their effects on the human mind. The study was part of a series of intelligence programs, led by the C.I.A., now famously known as “M.K.-Ultra.” It was these early experiences with LSD that led Kesey and the Pranksters to inspire generations, with their use of tie-dye and the music of their acid test house band: The Warlocks, or, as you probably know them, The Grateful Dead.
This album is a tribute to these figures, who have inspired so many to think outside the box, to reject orthodoxy and more than anything, to enjoy our time here on this Earth, however long or short it may be. It is also a cautionary, investigative tale of how our culture has been covertly constructed by government intelligence operations, in pursuit of enhanced methods of social engineering.
In 2020, during the height of COVID lockdowns, I had a chance to travel across the great American landscape; from my home state of New Jersey, to the tip of the Pacific Northwest, down the west coast and back across the midwest. My crew and I spent 17 days on the road, traveling these United States; to hike its National Parks and Forests, to see how diverse and beautiful our states truly are and to experience something real that was not being delivered via the screen. I got to see what Kesey and the Pranksters saw.
Growing up in the environments that I (and many others) have, does not always nurture a patriotic outlook. When you feel unseen and unheard, it’s hard to feel pride in a nation where the divide between those who have and those who don’t, often determines so much about the opportunities and experiences available to us. However, after seeing what this place truly is, after meeting people from all backgrounds and walks of life across this country, it became clear that we have so much more in common than some entities and institutions would like us to know.
The album’s cover is a testimony to the moment which led me to re-discover “God.” I use the word “God” in this instance, to describe the intangible, mysterious mathematical anomalies and metaphysical implications of our known universe. The unseen force which governs our reality through the algorithm of our own personal choices, which would appear to be “free will”,” but may also manifest itself in signs of determinism. As my group traveled across the U.S., I snapped a photo of the majestic Grand Teton, out the window of our rented SUV, cruising down the highway just outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Weeks later, upon returning home to New Jersey, I visited my grandmother; with whom I had lived for many years in my early childhood. Throughout my life, there had been a painting hanging on the wall above my grandmother’s kitchen table. I had never thought to look twice at this painting. It appeared to be a generic landscape that you might find in a flea market or an old motel somewhere, in a place that time had forgotten.
However, on this day, after the blur that had been my adventure of a lifetime, I finally saw this painting. As my grandmother spoke and I stood across from her, I began to tilt my head to the side in wonder. “Is that painting of a real place?” I asked. She replied that she did not know. “I feel like I’ve been there before…” I continued. As I leaned toward the frame, I saw a small, gold plate that I had never bothered to notice before. It read “Grand Teton.” In that moment, I wondered, had I chosen the path that had just led me on this great journey or had something guided me to set out into the world, against the social and institutional pressures of “lockdown,” so that I might see clearly for a moment, as Kesey had seen; that reality is not something you can outsource to your television screen? That we are one with forces far older, wiser and more compassionate than our human understanding can know. That no matter where we go, we will always find our way home.
As an American people, we have been promised a birthright of freedom to explore this massive land, filled with so much natural beauty and that is something worth taking pride in. This album is an attempt to make sense of these conflicting feelings, in an increasingly hostile social and political era, by sharing my personal analysis of our current times, through the lens of history, adventure and the mythology of the Merry Pranksters.
I hope that these songs will resonate with you as they are, in my own opinion, the most vulnerable, meaningful and timeless pieces of music I’ve written in my many years of practicing this craft. Additionally, I feel it of interest to note that none of the songs featured on “Merry Prankster” include any profanity or explicit content. This was not necessarily an intentional decision but I believe it will allow so many more people to enjoy this album and to share it with friends and family who may have trouble enjoying much of the hip-hop music that currently dominates the cultural landscape. I hope this project finds you well, wherever you currently are on your own journey.
Thanks for listening and long live the Merry Pranksters.
-Foster the Prankster
released March 3, 2023
Executive Producer: Foster the Prankster
Producer: Prolific for HeatKings Music Group
Mixing/Mastering: Seth Brand
Additional Vocals: Denitia (Tracks 7, 8) and Sakari (Tracks 9, 10)
Co-Producer: Foster the Prankster
All music by A. Johnson
All lyrics by T. Foster
Published by A Band of Pranksters Publishing
All rights reserved 2023