Poetic Memory: Zoo Seven (Interview)

Irish-born San Diegan Del Currie, also known as Zoo Seven, has been writing music and working in the industry since the 90s, but he only recently released his debut solo album. Called Lifesaver, the album is a rich and layered work that easily showcases his talent and self-professed love for melody and harmony. You can download the entire thing for free over at his website.

We asked Del to tell us about his influences, and he happily obliged. It’s a little different from what you might expect, but it’s nonetheless interesting. Check out Del Currie’s Poetic Memory below.

One night flipping through channels, I stumbled upon the movie “Murder in the First” with Kevin Bacon. There wasn’t really anything else on the tele, so I started watching it and got sucked in. Five minutes earlier, I had no idea that this movie would be the start of a new obsession for me. The part of the story that got to me was when this guy, Henri Young, was locked up in Alcatraz for stealing five bucks from a post office to feed his little sister. He tried to escape from Alcatraz to see his sister again, which earned him 3 years in the hole. In 3 years, he was only let out of the cell for 30 minutes one Christmas Eve. He came out walking hunched over because he was too tall for his cell. When he was released back into the normal prison population, he’d obviously lost his mind, and during his first visit to the canteen — surrounded by the noise of forks on plates and the chatter of the inmates — he stabbed another inmate.

A new murder trial ensues, where a new young attorney tries to turn the murder on the system, saying they made Henri a murderer with his treatment and so on. Henri wins the case but is found dead in his cell, allegedly murdered by the Prison Warden who had experienced public disgrace for his treatment of prisoners on Alcatraz. Henri was instrumental in Alcatraz being shut down.

And so began my obsession with Alcatraz. Movies don’t tend to affect me too heavily, but something clicked with me. I grabbed my guitar and wrote a song called Alcatraz, which was kind of about the human spirit staying strong and not letting anything break your spirit. The lead in to the song was a sound sample of the voice of an Alcatraz prison inmate called Leon ‘Whitey’ Thompson.

I hunted down some information on Whitey and bought a signed copy of his autobiography Last Train To Alcatraz. It was signed “To Dean, Best wishes Leon.” Dean/Del — close enough for me! Whitey was a bank robber, and the book details his early life, his crimes, his imprisonment, his years in Alcatraz, and his release at the closing of Alcatraz. I’ve been to Alcatraz a couple of times and never had the chance to meet Whitey, but these days, he actually works there and talks to tourists. Walking through Alcatraz and connecting Whitey’s stories to actually being there was an amazing experience for me.

My Alcatraz obsession naturally led onto prisons in general. I’m a geek too. I spent my working life as a server and networking guy and a coder. When my wife bought me a copy of The Watchman – The Twisted Life and Crimes of Serial Hacker Kevin Poulsen, it fed my prison obsessions and appealed to my inner geek — the perfect combination. The book is a fascinating look into how someone is basically born with this weird gift to understand zeros and ones, and how technology is put together from a really young age. He didn’t set out to be a criminal, but he ended up being of great interest to the FBI and was finally charged and imprisoned on charges of espionage. He lead a boring life by day working for a defense contractor, but at night he was a full on cyberpunk. He was smarter than the FBI and all their technology and ended up being caught thanks to a TV show that stumbled on his trail.

One thought on “Poetic Memory: Zoo Seven (Interview)”

  1. What a fresh and intriguing story. I'll have to check out that movie. I've listened to the album and love it! Look forward for more to come from ZooSeven.

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