Two Million Too Many
Hi, Tony here with my first posting in ages. The truth is, I’ve almost run out of recordings that are good enough to bother posting up, but we’ll be hearing more from Guy soon as he dredges through his archives.
This song is basically a rant about the war on drugs, a peculiarly American form of tyranny disguised as benevolence, which they have managed to foist onto the rest of the world. The title refers to the number of prisoners in jail in the USA. The current figures according to the US Department of Justice are 208,118 federal, 1,405,622 state and 760,400 local prisoners, making a grand total of 2,374,140. To this you can add 4,203,967 adults on probation and 819,308 on parole. This means that more than one in a hundred adults in the USA are prisoners, almost a quarter of the world’s prison population. With the probation and parole figures, about one in thirty adults are under some form of correctional control. From 1980 to 2003 the number of prisoners quadrupled. Since then it has begun to plateau out. Along with tougher sentencing, the war on drugs has been a major contributing factor. The number of drug offenders in jail now is fourteen times more than in 1980. The war on drugs has also been used by the US government as a major tool for some of the more coercive and brutal aspects of its foreign policy. The word imperialism springs to mind.
Hazy Space was a duo I was one half of in Adelaide for two years from mid 2001 to mid 2003. The other half of the duo was was synthesiser player John Sullivan. Prior to that we were both members of Patrick O’Grady’s group Beige, but when Patrick fell ill and wasn’t able to continue we decided to continue on as a duo and became Hazy Space. For a while we had Mr Billy Nudgel on vocals as well, from memory for about six months. John had a practice room set up in his home at Grange, and we used to get together once a week to rehearse, maybe twice if we had a gig. At least half of those would have been at “The Guv”, The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel in Hindmarsh, a venue that was, and still is, the heart and soul of the live music scene in Adelaide. I also remember playing at two or three pubs in the city, and I’ve still got a handbill that shows that one of those was the Directors Hotel in Gouger St. That was for Scala, a venue dedicated specifically to original music (there’s never enough of those). We also played a couple of times at Rob Scott’s bookshop Bookends, in Unley.
John used to write his own songs, and his musical background and tastes (techno, with more than a hint of disco) were very different to mine, which made for some strong contrasts in our sets. On my songs I would be playing rhythm guitar, but on John’s songs I was able to feature as a soloist on alto sax or lead guitar. We did do some covers as well, but very much in our own way.
John’s setup evolved over time and got quite interesting in the end. He’d made his own synth stand, starting with the traditional ironing board with an extra shelf built on top, with his old Yamaha synth on the bottom, and the more recently acquired Casio MZ 2000 on top (by most accounts perhaps the best ever Casio keyboard, it even had a floppy disk drive for MIDI files ,which was unusual then). He also had a small MIDI box he used for strings and the like, a Korg Trinity rack unit which had a really great sound, and an old Roland drum machine (like there weren’t enough drums already in the two keyboards and the Trinity). He also had a small Yamaha mono box which was actually designed to be used with a wind controller, which John had also bought. This was a synth that you blew like a sax, a very interesting instrument, and as the sax player I was the one who got to play it. But John developed a taste for using the box (tone generator, for those who must use the correct jargon) as a solo voice from one of the keyboards, and after that I didn’t get a look-in on the wind controller too often. As though all this wasn’t enough, he also had a long low box he’d built that he used to perch his stool on top of. This was his stomp box, and a mike was fitted underneath for maximum effect. The number of leads running around a setup like this was rather daunting, on top of which you can add the internal switching with these different units all talking to each other. I did learn a thing or two about synths and MIDI though.
The song was recorded in the practice room in a single take on John’s old reel to reel two track. We then took the tape to community radio station 5UV (now Radio Adelaide), where we overdubbed John, myself and Billy Nudgel on the chorus, and converted it into CD format. I paid to have about 30 CDs made up with the label printed on (so easy these days, not so then) and circulated them in October 2001 to the usual community radio stations, etc. Oh, and on this occasion I did the cover art myself. Thanks especially to John Sullivan for the memories.