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Mind-Altering Substances & The Creative Process

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  • Mind-Altering Substances & The Creative Process

    I've never taken drugs (honestly), so I've no idea if smoking dope would've made me write better songs

    How about you guys? Do those 'herbal jazz cigarettes' and/or other mind-altering substances open the doors of perception in your consciousness?

    It worked for The Beatles, apparently....
    works | smoke | forum

  • #2
    I have been drug and alcohol clean for more than half of my life now, ut LSD, dope, pseudo-ephedrine and booze were a big part of my life during my late teens.

    Once, while on LSD, my friend and I made the most AWESOME MUSIC EVER using just a bass guitar and lots of feedback. The creative juices were flowing profusely, and we pushed the envelope so far you wouldn't believe. Fortunately, there was a cassette recorder in my room, so we captured this burst of creativity for the benefit of all mankind.

    When we played the tape to another friend the next day, I was mortified to discover that somebody had broken into my place and ruined my tape. The scum-bags had used my bass to recorded some rubbish performance over our precious masterpiece. I guess they were jealous of our achievement, but I really wish they hadn't done that.
    Darren "Mac" McDougall

    Watch the video on my MIDI Line-Lump that transforms 2-finger keyboard playing into seriously good work.
    *** WARNING *** Do not operate the Note Toucher BTH1 inside a naked flame or next to a sulfuric acid throwing machine.


    • #3
      As Mmmmqac so eloquently described....It makes you think you're doing something amazing. Pot is a pleasant experience, but it destroys motivation...At least it did for me. Put it down a long,long time ago to raise a child. Still like spirits though, and beers if I'm with friends. No more left handed cigarettes though. And while I did use Lsd a little, everything just got too weird for me and life has always been weird enough.


      • #4
        You hear so much about this. The two extremes - on one hand that drugs, etc. are just a hindrance or worse, on the other, that drugs and alcohol provide inspiration, mind-expansion, etc. We've all run into evangelists of drugs along these lines - they can get quite zealous for their cause. I've had my own experiences which have been mixed to say the least.

        The last thing I'd ever want to do would be to promote drug use or even appear to do so. But to be reasonable, it seems that you have to admit that, some people, for some limited amount of time, using some particular substance or other, claim that the substance usage was inspirational or otherwise effective in their making some art of some sort, and it's hard to dispute their claim.

        Of course, these claims are not the results of any double-blind scientific test. It's all anecdotal, all self-reported. And you have to ask yourself, "ok, let's grant for the sake of argument that so and so found artistic inspiration in such and such substance use. So what would their inspiration have been if they hadn't used some substance?" Would it have been better? Worse? There's no way to know. Personally, I think if people have talent and gifting, they could have done something else just as good sans being under any influence.

        Inspiration comes in all sorts of packages. My advice is to find inspiration in things that don't give with one hand and take away with the other. The human mind is the artistic engine, not any drug or substance, there's no question. Feed your mind, yeah, but don't feed your head.

        nat whilk ii


        • #5
          I like the Jefferson Airplane Nat....Still listen to "Volunteers"....Good stuff...


          • #6
            Y'know Mark....Sometimes it's better to hear a bad example....I just posted a song on Souncloud...No matter how many or few listens it gets I'm taking it down in a week. It's at the top of my song listings.
            A friend of mine was playing around on a Casio keyboard and the tape was running at my place. We were both stoned. He headed home to the wife and I stayed up, smoked more weed, and wrote some lyrics around his little keyboard thingy. The next day after work I listened to it back and laughed. Took a shower, had some dinner...Smoked some more weed. Because that's what I did then. Worked, smoked pot, screwed around with music. Then I threw down the bass line, hooked up a Roland DR-55 (Cheap drum machine) and recorded that. He came by after work, we smoked a joint, listened to it, he dug the bassline. He headed home, I recorded the main lyric. Mixed it down, then picked up a guitar and added the guitar work on it. Added backup singing and my buddy came by after work...we smoked weed and mixed it down. We thought it was really cool...
            Everything that went with making this recording was saturated with weed....
            The Lyrics are completely about weed...Not a woman..It's about weed....Weed was my mistress...and I was it's bitch. It's a sloppy song...
            So, I don't think I need to draw a picture here...


            • #7
              Drugs have played no part in the creative process or any process for me. I never drank or used recreational drugs. And I mean never as in never. Sometimes when I tell people I don't drink they assume I quit because it was a problem, but I've never even had so much as a beer in my life. I made that decision at a young age because my father was an alcoholic and that was hell. I swore I would not put my children through anything like that and I kept my vow. Consequently I never experimented with other drugs either. No smoke, no drink, no drugs. It has been great for me, and I find as I'm getting older my mind is even more together, sharp, and able to create when I'm not really trying. Substances could alter the mind and bring some interesting results I'm sure, but I think the long-term affect is negative... a burning up and burning out of one's faculties.

              My drug of choice is exercise. I get off naturally on a runners high or after a long workout. That and nature... being out in it, inspired by the wonders of earth that are all around us. However, I think we are either creative or we are not. I don't think the Beatles or anyone else really needed drugs to create as they did, yet perhaps we would not have some things from them if they did not experiment. On the other hand perhaps we would have something better from them if they had remained straight.

              I should add that my true drug of choice is the music itself. Nothing makes me high like writing, composing, playing. It is a high. I get in the zone with making music.
              Last edited by Beck; 10-08-2014, 12:45 AM.

              “Music is well said to be the speech of angels... nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine."

              ~Thomas Carlyle


              • #8
                When I was young and getting into music I stayed up late playing the family piano one night and was really getting somewhere. I felt connected to the instrument and the ideas were flowing freely. I was suddenly interrupted by a family member who's sleep I had disturbed.

                Realizing what I had done I stopped playing and went to bed. The next day, when the house was empty I went back to the piano but could not find the groove. It was a bit frustrating because I knew the music was in there but just couldn't find it again.

                I did my first professional gig when I was seventeen and reached that pinnacle again. Most gigs after that were more like a job where I showed up on time, played the songs properly and even enjoyed it but magic creative energy and excitement seemed elusive and only happened once in a while.

                Then I discovered marijuana and found that I could get "there" whenever I wanted to simply by smoking a joint. Of course for a young working musician it was like a magic potion. It wasn't like I just thought I played better when I was high but more along the lines of getting rid of the distractions and becoming more focused on only the music.

                It helped a lot for practicing. Before pot I would practice an hour or so each day but once I started smoking I was able to get really deep into the guitar because I could stay focused on it for seven or eight hours a day.

                When I was traveling around with the same group of people for a couple of years we would sometimes get upset with each other over non musical stuff. At one point, after a long day in the van I wanted to rip the drummer's head off. Setup and soundcheck were difficult and it looked like we were in for a tough night. The band went outside for a puff and afterwards we looked at each other and said "what was that all about? let's go inside and play some music."

                The downside was I became somewhat dependent on the reefer in order to feel good about playing and would be distracted by thoughts unrelated to the songs if I didn't have any. Playing straight was like playing a game of checkers where the pieces were the notes and I would follow all the rules, stay on the black squares and move the pieces in one direction. Playing high was like playing chess and being right down on the board surrounded by large three dimensional pieces that could move in a multitude of directions.

                I usually played the first set straight so I could get all the technical stuff happening and my guitar in tune before I would go out and get high. Getting high for the second set would usually result in me turning the volume on my amp down and feeling more comfortable with the stage sound.

                About ten years ago I got into Yoga and Meditation. One of the most musically connected moments I ever had was when I was asked by the Yoga instructor to play piano for the class on the last day of a ten day retreat. I had replaced reefer with Meditation a year or so earlier and playing for the Yoga class during the retreat in the same room where we had all be woking so hard was an even more profound experience than I was getting with the pot.

                What I do now is a short Yoga practice before gigs and the Meditative state that results from it helps me stay focused on the music without distraction and I find my improvised solos are much more concise and still as powerful as they were. I also feel much more aware of my bandmates and less inclined to want to sneak in the back door at the gigs or keep to myself.

                "Isn't it a pity, isn't it a shame,
                how we break each other's hearts
                and cause each other pain"


                • #9
                  It's like asking, "Does mood lighting promote creativity?" Sure. Or... Maybe. Or... No, though I guess it doesn't hurt. Or... what are you? Nuts?

                  I drank all through my professional music career. It's what was done. Party after the gig with other stuff. Try to sleep, wake, repeat. Frankly most of that was a waste of energy in retrospect. The drinking. Was that beneficial? Ultimately no. At the time, a couple beers could really free you. Of course, a little maturity and focus can free your ass a lot more effectively. They're both pointed in the same direction. To relax and feel OK doing what you do as best you can by letting go. It is awesome to feel that without any help but from your well screwed on noggin.

                  I've never been much of a pot smoker. Makes me curl up and try to hide from the scaries.
                  Ain't no sacrilege to call Elvis king
                  Dad is great and all but he never could sing -


                  • #10
                    I haven't done any sort of drugs, while creating. And the music (or photography) is often described as ethereal, trippy, psychedelic, weird, and textural, so a lot of people assume that I smoke pot or whatever to create this stuff. But I actually never have. I don't have a rule about it, really, but I just don't. I have an endless well of ideas, and it's never occurred to me to create differently.

                    I'm inspired more by walking in the woods or something like that, if I want to get my creative juices flowing, but really, in my own house or in a rehearsal studio, I'm ready...let's create something cool and different!

                    I do drink socially. I don't drink very much, but I like having a beer or two to unwind or when I'm hanging out with friends. But I don't drink while creating, generally speaking, unless I'm doing recording engineering or something...then I might just have a beer or two, but that's for relaxing, not because I think it will make me more creative.

                    Because a lot of my photography is out in the desert at night, I will occasionally have a nice cold beer. But more often than not, I'm downing tons of water or Gatorade!!!!
                    Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven


                    • #11
                      There are some pros & cons to this.

                      Depending on your mindset, psychedelics can rewire your mind into something new. Depending on what demons you have buried over the years and your willingness to face them down, it could either destroy you (like Syd Barrett & Peter Green), or free you from them forever. It's not something you should undertake to get into lightly... and definitely not without a controlled environment and an experienced guide with you.

                      Left-handed tobacco is a lot more innocuous, but as mentioned in above posts, it can cause terrible performances to seem like genius as readily as it can temporarily erase your inhibitions to try new and previously unconsidered ideas.

                      Ultimately, whatever music you make comes from you, from your heart and soul; you never want to get to a point where the drugs are what make the you play the way you want. Far better (and far cheaper) to spend an extra half hour a day experimenting with your instrument with the idea you aren't going to play anything you've ever done before.


                      • #12
                        I highly recommend taking up Algebra if you want to get your mind exploring down different paths naturally. Working with equations can have a great and lasting impact on creativity. You could take a community college class on statistics or just get online and start messing with solving equations. Now that is like a drug! Your brain will never me the same. It really brought my creativity to new heights, lefts and rights. After about two weeks there were new musical ideas running through my head almost non-stop. I've also found whenever I dabble in a new language a similar thing will kappen. There are lots of natural ways to stimulate your mind and gain new skills while your at it.

                        “Music is well said to be the speech of angels... nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine."

                        ~Thomas Carlyle


                        • #13
                          New language, new kind of art, traveling in different countries, something that has many parallels such as cooking, learning a new instrument, and anything that sort of unlocks yourself and gets you to see things in a different light.
                          Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven