April 27, 2004

Some of us can only live in songs of love and trouble

* We wholeheartedly agree with Eric Schlosser when he asks that we Make Peace with Pot. an excerpt:

"About 700,000 people were arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws in 2002 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) — more than were arrested for heroin or cocaine. Almost 90 percent of these marijuana arrests were for simple possession, a crime that in most cases is a misdemeanor. But even a misdemeanor conviction can easily lead to time in jail, the suspension of a driver's license, the loss of a job. And in many states possession of an ounce is a felony. Those convicted of a marijuana felony, even if they are disabled, can be prohibited from receiving federal welfare payments or food stamps. Convicted murderers and rapists, however, are still eligible for those benefits.

"The Bush administration has escalated the war on marijuana, raiding clinics that offer medical marijuana and staging a nationwide roundup of manufacturers of drug paraphernalia. In November 2002 the Office of National Drug Control Policy circulated an 'open letter to America's prosecutors' spelling out the administration's views. 'Marijuana is addictive,' the letter asserted. 'Marijuana and violence are linked . . . no drug matches the threat posed by marijuana.'

"This tough new stand has generated little protest in Congress. Even though the war on marijuana was begun by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, it has always received strong bipartisan support. Some of the toughest drug war legislation has been backed by liberals, and the number of annual marijuana arrests more than doubled during the Clinton years. In fact, some of the strongest opposition to the arrest and imprisonment of marijuana users has come from conservatives like William F. Buckley, the economist Milton Friedman and Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico.

"This year the White House's national antidrug media campaign will spend $170 million, working closely with the nonprofit Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The idea of a 'drug-free America' may seem appealing. But it's hard to believe that anyone seriously hopes to achieve that goal in a nation where millions of children are routinely given Ritalin, antidepressants are prescribed to cure shyness, and the pharmaceutical industry aggressively promotes pills to help middle-aged men have sex."

* Photos depicting what is happening in Iraq. [via skimble]

* Splendid Magazine has posted a long interview of the wrens Kevin Whelan. an excerpt:

Splendid: And then, the first time you ever sent out a demo, you got an invitation to open for The Fixx. The "Saved by Zero" Fixx?

Kevin Whelan: Yeah, The "Saved by Zero" Fixx, who I guess were having a comeback or something. My brother and I got the call at the house asking if we wanted to open for The Fixx. And of course, we were like "Wow, we're going to be famous. Things are going to open up for us." This is how out of it we were. So we said, yeah, sure, of course we'd do it. So we had to sell 1,000 tickets. The tickets were $15 a piece.

Splendid: Where were they playing?

Kevin Whelan: They were playing at this place called Obsessions in Randolph, New Jersey. This terrible, crazy club. [Dust Congress note: I grew up near and remember heading to Obsessions for various reasons while in Middle School and early High School]
...

Splendid: And then you released your first full-length, Silver, and that got you some pretty big-time attention. Then you started working on Secaucus and that's when, I guess, the hammer came down.

Kevin Whelan: Yeah, Secaucus started to do well. People liked the record. Writers liked the record. It could never have been a top-ten record. Never, ever, ever. We made it in our basement again. But the record company came in and tried to turn it into Third Eye Blind or something like that. There was just nothing there. We knew that we wanted to have a career that was mostly based on making good records -- not becoming Britney Spears or those kinds of bands. Not on being famous. So we said, look, if you want to sign us, let's do well with Secaucus and see how it goes. But they wanted to strong-arm us. They said, look, you've got to sign this big deal for all these records, or we're not even going to push this record. So it was a conflict of thinking. They wanted us to be something different from what we are. So we decided yet again to choose the other way. We are just so committed to each other and we have to believe in what we do. And you kind of can't kid yourself about what you do? You know what I mean? We're not Aerosmith. There's no way we ever will be.

Splendid: And that whole period, that's essentially what "This Boy is Exhausted" is about.

Kevin Whelan: Yeah, well, what happened was that all the major labels were coming out of the woodwork and they wanted to sign us. They were making us record for them, and saying, "We're going to sign you." And then they just never would do anything. And "This Boy Is Exhausted" that was really written at a time when Interscope was going to sign us. A guy kept coming back to the house. I think we wrote 30 songs for him. And there was just no single. And finally, with that song, Charles the guitar player wrote that song, essentially about that guy.
...
Splendid: Does it worry you that people are out there ripping your songs and trading them?

Kevin Whelan: I think it's wonderful. People love music. People don't mistreat music. It's the record companies that are mistreating people when they're selling records for $20. People love good music. It's people that do it right. Business does it wrong. People like you, you write about music because you love music, and it's so nice. You're not getting paid millions of dollars...

Splendid: (laughs) I'm not getting paid at all.

Kevin Whelan: Right. You're not getting paid anything. You've got it right.

Splendid: I think that for the record companies, what's important is the $20, and for everybody else, what's important is the music.

Kevin Whelan: Right, and I understand that it's a business as well. But it doesn't mean that for people like yourself that music that is hard to find is not as important, because it is.

Splendid: So, when I started listening to Meadowlands I immediately wanted to buy the rest of your stuff, and you can't because most of it's out of print.

Kevin Whelan: We're having a little trouble with that. We're trying to get it in print...
...
Splendid: I think your story has a lot of resonance for people who are struggling in the arts...it's like one of you got through. It's like a victory for everybody.

Kevin Whelan: Yeah, it's wonderful. The thing is that we never thought that we were going to get through. That's why the importance of what you do, the real stuff...that's why it took us so long...we had to make sure that even if no one heard it, that we could be happy with it.


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