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Drugs, alcohol and songwriting / performing


animal69

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What are your opinions on drugs, alcohol, and songwriting and ultimately performing: functioning as an artist? Which ones will help the creative process and which are ultimately too dangerous to be worth the risk. All are ultimately destructive in taken to the extreme.

 

Let me preface this by saying, thay as we speak I am also leading a double life trying to organize programs that promote interchange of ideas in music without the use of drugs and that my ultimate goal is to be able to be totally drug free if I can get my organization together. Nevertheless, right now I have no one to play with yet and my creativity seems to hit a wall and I've always wondered how drugs might effect my work. I guess my goal would be similar to an athlete who overeats and takes steroids to gain weight to get into a certain wreight class and once he acomplishes his goal, he carries on by using what god gave him. I've tried everything, I've had problems with drugs in the past, but I never really tried to use them as a creative tool for music and songwriting. And I've never written any songs I consider up to the standard's I've set for myself. So I guess once I've bern able to "weigh in" I plan on stopping the drugs althogether. Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood was wrritten and produced as their first drug rree album. I know its sick to say this and a lot of people will disagree but I think drugs act as training wheels for leaning for brainstorm creative ideas.

 

Now, I will continue on with my writing

 

I would argue that marijuana and alcohol can be used liberally when writing songs and performing. But here I will give my opinion more about individual drugs starting from the most common and "soft" to the hardest. and my overall rating for whether its a good idea at all to use them for inspiration.

 

Alcohol obviouisly is the drug of choice for the average American. It can help you loosen up and start playing without inhibitions. Too much can detract from a performance when an artist is too intoxicated to perform, although the stage antics from such situations can actually add to an artists prestige, honestly. In any case, someone who drinks every day all day will probably end up with crappy work in the end. Alcohol of course is what most of the audience will be listening to, and songs about drinking can be great crowed pleasers. Thus, drinking alcohol provides material for at least a few songs. Even the queasy feeling of drinking too much can provide a state of mind that later may evoke music that reflects one recollecion of that state. Being too drunk sounds like a really crappy warped record and dissonant intvervals and can this be replicated for a song about feelng discuss. Alcohol will of course cause you to run through the entire gamut of emotions quite often which is useful in providing material for songs since a lot of songs are about emotion. Of course too much alcohol can eventually ruin an artist and the quality of his work. The later Doors stuff, (i.e. "Touch me babe") sucks terribly. A lot of artists have passed out on stage from drinking. I'm sure vehicle accindents that have killed some promising stars are related to alcohol. I'm not an expert on alcohol. It killed John Bonham, it probably contributed, along with cocaine to SRV's death. It killed Janice Jopliain It contributed to death of Edgar Allen Poe (the poet). It killed Jackson Pollock, the painter, and made his work suffer. ITs a much more dangerous drug than people give it credit for. Still, it is ubiquitous and having a beer on stage helps the audience identify with you when they are drinking and then you sing a song about alcohol, without inhibitions because you have a little buzz. In excess I give it 3/10 simply for the belligerance that can sometimes be entertaining but let's face it, it kills and makes you suck if your hammered. I give it 9/10 when used in moderation.

 

Marijuana: Marijuana had an influence on jazz and I'm not sure but I imagine it's use probably spread to the blues in the early part of the 20th century, perhaps if jazz and blues artists were touring together. Also there were probably musicians who played both stlyes of music. I do know for certain that marijuana influenced jazz from its inception. Of Course marijuana'S presence in the bohemia of coffee housess inspired beat poetry and folk music, again including Bob Dylan. It's said Bob Dylan introduced it to the Beatles before they made Rubber Soul. We know the Beach Boys experimented with it also. And once the explosion of psychedlic music came on in 1966 nearly every band was advocating it and continued to do so into the 70s'. Of course it makes reggae and funk sound better and makes the bassist funkier. I give Marijuana a 8/10 for usefulness. The only downside is it distracts one from playing music to eating, watcthing TV. Also it makes you technically a litte dumber with those brain cells you need to remember scales and intervals you need, maybe makes it harder to program your synth. Then again it also helps you let go of music theory and conventions sometimes when its approipriate to do so. If you haven't tried marijuana you migh want to.

 

LSD (& mushrooms): LSD & mushrooms are definately not for the faint of heart, and carries stiff sentences for possession. But rehy is not addictive and not something most people want to do every day. They can give you entirely new insights on life and assist the creation of vivid imagery in the minds eye, connect you with nature, etc. It can also cause very scary experiences which are nevertheless valuable in exploring your own view of life, yourself, the world and your connection to it. On occassion acid can cause irreversible nervous system damage and likely contributed to the nervous breakdowns of Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson. The Beatles didn't experience nervous breakdowns but definitely had bad experiences on LSD. If the Beatles had decided to continue forward at the same pace after completion of Sgt. Pepper and the Yellow Submarine a nervous breakdown may have been inevitable. So I would conclude that LSD & mushrooms can be useful tools for opening the creative consciousness when used in a group setting with people who happy and well adjusted and most importantly, trust each other. I give these hallucinogens a 9/10 for usefulness on the premise that it they are used at most once per month on average and that an excessive dosage isn't given , it is done with a group of friends who arr trusted and in a good mood (i,e, not the Manson Family, although some of Manson's Songs really have quite good guitar technique if you check out his myspace music page). I would only recommend trying it under those settings.

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Speed: I know that speed played a role in the writing and performance of Elvis, Johnny Cash, The Beatles in their early days, The Grateful dead in their early days, The Byrds (when they wrote eight miles high), Speed: speed was available over the counter in inhalers and its use in music followed marijuana. It seemed to be popular with some of the more aggressive drummers like Keith Moon. Dexies Midnight Runners (who wrote come on Eileen -- Dexies is slang for Dextroamphetemine). Also Green Day was initially into speed initially.

ASSUMING IT IS NOT CRYSTAL METH I give it 10/10 while you're on it and not taking too much because it really does make you smarter and play better, write better words, etc. But I give the time off from it 2/10 because you will be unable to do jack {censored} while you're recovoering from it. And recovering from a few weeks use can take just as long, a few weeks, before your concentration returns. It will also kill you if you use to much. For crystal meth I give -1/10. It's worthless, you're {censored}ed with that {censored}. Losing your teeth doesn't make people wanna check you out when they see you in a magazine. Never, ever go near that stuff.

 

Cocaine: This drug probably was the impetus for the song by Eric Clapton. Little is written about cocaine inspiring someone to creative work, aside from Sigmund Freud's use of the drug. He ultimately rejected it as being of any value in gaining insight into one's personality. We know cocaine is a vice associated with luxury and is oiften a staple of backstage parties before performances. I know that Bob Dylan had a pretty bad period of addiction to cocaine and his music was certainly strange and innovative. Whether the ends justified the means is questionable for anyone whos every done cocaine for a period of time. I doubt the nightmarish cravings and paranoia are really worth any impact it has on your writing, It certainly does make one want to produce music, or do something with the extra energy when one is high on it. In my opinion watching a band play that is coked out is not my preference. Their muscles are so tensed up that they don't play as well. For sure it was a drug that disco fand dance fans enjoyed. In my opinion it makes it harder to get a boner. I give it a 3/10 and do not advocate anyone trying it for mind expanding purposes.

 

 

Crack: Well this is rarely used in the musical world for performance enhancement, nonetheless there are exceptions. "Choking Victim," the band that later became "Leftover Crack," -- I assume this band has used cracxk ebecause they sing about it. Or maybe the jokes on me and they dont actially do it very much . Chokimg Victim's music is very good, very fast, and very political. Leftover crack isn't bad either. Nevertheless I give crack a 0/10 because most audiences wont identifiy with this message, and those who do may be impressionable young kifd( usually the stapke of the underground punk scene) and I fear it may lead them to try crack. Crack desroys your life and permanently alters your brain chemistty and a crackhead is usually someone you dont want to be around for very long. Yet, another exception is Tricky, the electronic musician. He apparently used crack and had crack fits on stage. His music is quite good. But I in no way would ever advocate trying crack to improve your music,

 

Heroin or other opiates. It's obvious that opiates have influenced the work of Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground, that its influenced Smashing Pumpkins, that its influenced Blind Melon, that its influenced Ray Charles, that its influenced Nirvana, that its influenced Keith Richard of the Rolling Stones (he;' probably done enough for Ray, Kurt and Lou put together). It influenced Dee Dee Ramone, writer for the Ramoves. It influenced Bradly Nowell of Sublime. It was the topic of the song "Brown Sugar" it was the topic of the song "Heroin" by Lou Reed which is an okay song. It's influenced an entire generation of alternative rock that emerged in the 1990's. Many artists have used it to great effect in creating sonic landscapes that could hardly be imagined without the strange mind numbing sensation that opiates produce, opening the door into a netherworld of a constant, euphoric but calm feeling. free of guilt and full of natural beauty. Nevertheless, It Kills! Heroin is an opiate that has a very smal window of a dose between what is enough to get you high but not enough to kill you. Thus, experienced users who think they know everything about the drug, I'm sure, end up dying. You can also die during detox from being given too much methadone. Its a great topic to write about if you want to sing a song about someone who died from it because they are everywhere. Thank heroin for taking talented young musicians in their 20s and sucking beauty out of them for 5-10 years and then destroying them. But, like I said, its great if you wanna write about your ded friends or if they wanna write about you.. its highly addictive, very expensive and is just not a practical drug for any musicians reading this forum to decide that they need to go ahead and use it to write better music. It's way too expensive, you have to be on it nonstop or else the joyride ends. Once you;ve been on it for a moth the results become unpredictable; taking it can put you in a worse mood than you were in. Withdrawal from it is aweful: diarhea, vomiting, nausea, headaces, insomnia, paranoia. sweating non stop,thinkg about what to sell or what to use as equity for a loan to get money to buy more. Watch Trainspotting and decide for yourself. I heard that Keith Richards had a personal doctor moinitor every aspect of his heroin usage. That's why hes not dead. Honestly, if I could afford a doctor like that, I would do the exact same {censored}ing thing. All in all, if you want to experiment with the effect of opiates, take a few vicodins or percocets and try writing. That's not to say you can't get hooked on those either. You will if you do it enoiugh .. mo doubt. I was in rehab for Vicodins. So were Ozzy Osbournes kids. But if you don't take Vicodins or Percs every day I'd give them 7 out of 10 for usefullness . Ypu'll really create some interesting drone -rock like interpol or my bloody valaentine just by default. if toy take it for more than a week (even just pills) you may bre screwed you will end up wnating to do it every day and if that happens just have someone drive you to a rehab. rehab is esier than trying to quit cold turkey because they have some muscle relaxers and nausea and sleep pills and blood pressure pills. if you try getting off it yourself you will experience heart palpitations, sweating day and night, confusion, headaches, possible visual hallucinations. leg cramps, anxiety.

 

but supposing you dont {censored} yourselfd in the procrss I'd say it can produce strange poetry you wouldnt get otherwise but I really have to advise against taking it and part of this thread is really to encourage discussion about what songwriting is really about and where it comes from and how to do it anytime anywhere,

 

Anyways, drugs are a fact of life in the music business. Go to any show, watch any documentaty, hand out ewith any band, watch any biography. my question is do you think there are drugs and alcohol have a place in fostering and improving art?

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Absolutely not. Anyone who needs mind altering substances in an attempt to "improve creativity" or performance simply hasnt attempted to tap into what is already there and waiting to be discovered. How about yoga or meditation, self-hypnosis, exercising, hiking in the wilderness, observing waves at the beach (anything really)? Just look at all the stars that are still around today. All of them that used had problems and even if part of thier success was related to the substance use, it wasnt worth it at all if you ask them. And havent you been sober and been around some people that think they are in some creative collective genious and when observed by you, what they have is terrible? And how do you explain how tons of sucessful songwriters never used at all? No, I do believe this substance usage is a crutch and a cop out, and like you, I am in recovery.

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Drugs are the luxury of those with an outlet established. A luxury that ends up biting you in the ass. Let's say you scored a record deal or a publishing deal. You're now confronted with deadlines and expectations from those who have bank rolled you. You are now a scared {censored}less kid out of your league it seems.

 

You light up, drink up, snort and tab away. The songs flow. You move along fine because you have an infrastructure of need. They need you to produce so do it or else it's back to KFC. But you're hungover. Or maybe you're just cloudy because you've "got a handle on it".

 

How long do you think that will last? About as long as you produce. Looks like you need a better quality blow. And whiskey is classier than beer so...

 

Or a bunch of stoners convinced they're going to get a record deal. With no real world motivation (that's been eroded by the weed), they're mystified why nobody's come-a-knockin'. But that pot leaf stencil looks awesome on your Crate cab.

 

Or the performer who learns courage through drinking. This one hits home. At the end of a 15 year career, I was toast. I have no doubt that if I'd sucked it up and learned to play sober I would have been better at everything required of me at that time.

 

Drugs are seldom used in moderation though it never fails that the one taking them believes he is taking them in moderation. I know this personally.

 

It's down hill slippery slope.

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You know what you're talking about, animal69, no doubt. I don't think drugs are absolutely essential to writing interesting music, but, as you've pointed out, they do help to some extent. I don't think any worthwhile songs about drugs have been written by anyone with no experience with them, FWIW, and drug and booze songs are often popular. Happiness is a warm gun, isn't it? Tried to make me go to rehab, but I say no, no, no... ;)

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somebody clearly has too much time on their hands . .

 

drugs and alcohol can not make an uncreative person creative. all the musicians and artists you name start out with talent. THAT is the thing that idiots forget when they go about emulating them.....hell, I was stupid enough to use "the beatles did it" as an excuse to try LSD for the first time.

 

this kind of discussion predates rock, and jazz, as does the whole 'novelists = alcoholics' stereotype . . think of colridge and 'kubla khan'. it's ultimately pointless. john lennon would've written great songs whether he was taking LSD or drinking coffee.

 

and by the way, "rating" their potential usefulness in a public forum, whether or not you've been in rehab or 12 steps, is one of the dumber things I've read.

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These types of discussions always remind me of the moment in Carlos Castaneda's Journey to Ixtlan when Don Juan tells him that the drugs aren't really necessary to experience higher reality. Carlos then asks "Then why did you make me take them?" to which Don Juan replies "Because you were too stupid to open your mind to it otherwise." :)

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I'm not going to say they are worthless. I had fun. I will say that they destroyed my life for a good amount of time and...

 

1. An extremely talented guitarist/singer lives under the liquor store around the corner from me and deals. He's not so talented any more

 

2. I got a phone call from a friend 5 years ago informing me "He finally did it." Of course I knew she meant her husband (and close friend of mine) finally killed himself. Meth.

 

3. A friend died onstage from a heart attack. Coke. Glamorous eh?

 

4. On and on and on. I don't have the time to tell you all the first hand experiences I have with death or walking dead cases.

 

If you want to glamorize it... it's because you haven't been there. Take my sincere advice and don't.

 

I was lucky... barely.

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Oh yeah... I should mention. No, they have never enhanced my creativity. Sure, I still remember certain psychedelic moments with a smile. But enhanced my creativity? Enhanced my ability to drool maybe.

 

What is it that Lou Reed said, something like, "I wasn't taking drugs for art. I was just taking drugs. I was a drug addict."

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and by the way, "rating" their potential usefulness in a public forum, whether or not you've been in rehab or 12 steps, is one of the dumber things I've read.

although i don't want to encourage any potential fights here, i actually chuckled out loud when i read that quote. . :lol: it IS a bit silly. :wave:

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I've never tried drugs or been drunk. That's never stopped me from having a ton of songs stockpiled. Personally, I don't buy into the whole drug alcohol, creativity myth. I think eating right, excercising, other interests, and having a good family are far more inspiring and creative than getting baked, puking, and not being able to tie your own f#%king shoes, while trying to write some "really heavy sh*t" while on some really heavy sh*t. Wake up.

 

Demons aside, great writers like Bob Dylan and Pete Townshend, etc. got where they are and wrote so many great songs because THEY WORKED HARD! There are so many factors to consider, but the pros put in the work. Probably 90% of the songs those guys wrote, we'll never hear. They've taken experimental (musical) trips down many a blind alley for the sole purpose of getting to the other side, and creating something unique from their experiments.

 

Townshend didn't just write the Who's Next album over night. He experimented with synthesizers (which nobody had found a practical musical use for yet) and just made sound explorations for over a year, alone in his garage. Maybe they'd turn into something. Maybe not. He could have lit up a joint, turned on the idiot box, and stuffed his face with burritos. Fortunately, he chose to work hard. No drugs required. He's taken many other experiments over the years that didn't pan out (like a 24 speaker system). He still put in the work.

 

From my observations, the best do great work in spite of their vices, not because of them.

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different drugs are useful to some people.

once you figure out what drugs are useful for you, and when, you'll be able to use them effectively.

keep in mind, i'm only 23.

 

i never put a hard boundary on which drugs you CANT do...however, i'll quit hanging out with you if you're constantly doing drugs.

there is always a place for sobriety at least every other day or so.

 

or there should be.

 

anyhow, lately, i don't write on drugs. but i smoke pot at least like twice a week, and it stays in your fat cells or blood or whatever for a while, so i guess it "influences" my songwriting.

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It (herion) was the topic of the song "Brown Sugar"

 

 

If you're talking about the Rolling Stones song "Brown Sugar", it wasn't about heroin, it was about black women. Read the lyrics here:

 

http://music.yahoo.com/The-Rolling-Stones/Brown-Sugar/lyrics/785530#lyricstop

 

You really should do a little fact checking before making such statements (and the Stevie Ray Vaughan one too).

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If you're talking about the Rolling Stones song "Brown Sugar", it wasn't about heroin, it was about black women. Read the lyrics here:




You really should do a little fact checking before making such statements (and the Stevie Ray Vaughan one too).

 

 

The OP seems to be seriously weighing the "advantages" of drug use to boost his creativity. Something tells me he's not very interested in facts.

 

Sad................very sad.

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Everything PBS and the History Channel makes glamorizes drug use during the rise of rock and roll in the 50s 60s 70s 80s and 90s. Am I wrong?

 

 

Whenever one makes a generalization with the qualifier all or the subject everything, he's pretty much walking on very thin ice with an elephant strapped to his back... and electric socks on his feet... :D

 

 

I'm pretty sure that few of those WWII documentaries that used to be (and no doubt still are) staples on the History Channel glamorize drug use in subsequent decades.

 

Mind you, I could be wrong, I haven't seen much of those in a long time, I prefer to get my information from reading, because, for me, reading is the fastest, most efficient way for me to get information into my head. (And I'm a slow reader.)

 

Now, mind you, seeing film clips is great to give you a feel for the realities behind that information -- but I grew up on WWII documentaries, not to mention stock documentary footage woven into theatrical movies, etc.

 

 

Anyhow... all I'm saying is there's not much that's absolute or 100% in the real world.

 

;)

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Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash years after he dried out. What are you talking about?

 

 

Wonder if he could be thinking of Rickie Nelson's rather sad demise in a small plane crash while he was touring oldies festivals. It was reported (as well as disputed, I'm not sure where we stand, now) that someone in the small aircraft had been using freebase cocaine prior to the crash. I don't think anyone alleged that the pilot was intoxicated, though. Again, I'm not really up to speed on that 30 year old crash.

 

 

 

Back on the main topic -- my basic advice:

 

Stay away from dangerous drugs and stay in school.*

 

 

*If you've already got 3 masters and 2 doctorates, I'm prepared to let you out into the real world, as long as you're not a danger to yourself...

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Can't say I have much experience in the drugs arena, but I have written some songs while drunk, and they were pretty good. Of course, I've also written some songs while sober, and they were pretty good, too (by my own measurement, of course). So go figure.

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Unfortunately, I "get" to work with lots of people who have experienced or currently have problems with Drugs and Alcohol (I am not a drug and alcohol counselor, but many of my patients have had these problems.) I have never seen one who is successful at what they do... selling real estate, running an office, being a cook etc. Sure, some of them function....sometimes for years, but they are not the top of the heap in their profession (even in a city the size of Portland) and their personal lives usually stink. So, I agree with the poster who mentioned that if someone got creative it wasn't FROM using drugs or alcohol, it was IN SPITE of using drugs or alcohol.....they were already very creative people.

 

For myself, I have tried to play piano after a couple of drinks.... I think I can play okay (not great) with maybe one drink on board.... after that it goes downhill. I (personally) have never written anything I liked the next day after more than one drink....but that's me. Others have different experiences....but again, they had talent to begin with.... substance use was just a barrier (IMHO.) Don't mean to be preachy here, just don't think it is going to do much for you.

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Obviously everyone responds differently to various drugs. Some musicians are able to perform at a relatively high level while intoxicated; others, not so much.

 

What's clear is this: alcohol or drugs cannot boost or increase creativity.

 

In terms of the songwriting process, the only thing alcohol and drugs can do is give you a different perspective. Let's face it, you see the world a little differently after you've been drinking than right after you wake up. It changes your perspective.

 

From that point of view, if the struggling songwriter is looking for new inspiration or ideas, the new perspectives brought on by alcohol or drugs could conceivably provide new material. However, this perspective boost is no more powerful than the experience of, say, going to a new place, or meeting a new person.

 

Drugs can't lead to creativity. If you simply need new material or new things to write about, they may help, but you'd better make sure the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

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What a dangerous and controversial topic. I can only speak from experience.

 

I was a pothead for a year of high school. It was probably coincidence that it was that year I began to write songs. I'd been practicing for years and I think it was just the time that my musical abilities and my language skills grew enough to cross. I stopped smoking when I got bored of it and realized that if I saved my money instead of smoking it I could afford a lot of cool stuff. During that year of blazing every day, my short term memory didn't suffer and I didn't grow unmotivated. In fact, I took the hardest curriculum available and finished the year with a 4.0. But that's going off topic. Weed didn't help me be creative. I never wrote high. It did open me up to a lot of music. I didn't listen to rap before I started smoking, and that's a huge genre that I'm glad I've been able to enjoy. There are some amazing writers in it. It also revived psychedelic rock for me. I started listening to bands like King Crimson and Christopher that I hadn't touched in years.

 

As for other drugs, I haven't really done enough to speak. There was one night that I rolled and went to a party with a strobe light and a nice sound system. It was pretty much awesome and any music and dancing fan should try it at least once. Yeah yeah yeah holes in your brain but we're all gonna die sometime.

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