*This post actually made a musician not want to work with me. Go figure. I’m an opinionated gal. But…to be honest, I have lots of good pals who use substances and do just fine with their music, this is just a typical stifled artist blog rant, so take it with a grain of salt, will ya kids? I am not officially straight-edge, nor am I a believer in 12-step programs, though I have many friends who are. I am simply a girl who decided years ago to not drink or use drugs because they had given me harsh consequences. If that threatens you, I don’t know what to say. To each their own. I’m not judging you for snorting coke, don’t judge me for not wanting to hang out at a bar, right?
You’re looking forward to the Thursday post, I’m sure.
I thought, since I am beat and I promised a post every Monday and Thursday (and I am a woman of my word), that I would speak briefly to the subject of music and drugs.
Playing music puts me in circles that sometimes I don’t want to be in–namely those that involve a lot of pot smoking and drinking and possibly dope and ketamine and ecstasy and cocaine and acid and god knows what else. These things don’t tempt me, per say, but being around constant lushness is surely annoying to those who don’t imbibe, only because you’ve got one person over there with glossy eyes and a slight (or slightly more intense) escape from reality, and another person over here with not-glossy eyes and complete presence in reality.
I am not against people drinking or doing what they’re gonna do. Let me be the first to say that there were times in my life that I really enjoyed those things. The problems came, though, and pretty soon the substances became more important to me than the things that really were important to me, like music.
There is nothing like playing music with people who you gel with.
Today, for example, a person I met about a month ago asked me if I wanted to jam with him and his friends. It was awesome. There was a drummer, four of us are guitar players, and we all had similar musical influences.
(For one, I asked one of the guys if he’d heard of this band my friend recently turned me onto called The Mob (UK), a band no one else I know has ever heard of (and I hang around with some very eclectic people) and he was like, “Of all the bands you could mention. Look at this, this is the only vinyl I have purchased recently,” and he pulled out a vinyl of the very same band.)
That was the beginning. Hours later, we had all played a series of really fun songs we made up on the spot, and three of us switched off playing drums.
In all of that time, I was nowhere but in the music.
I didn’t think about my current situation and recent drama, I didn’t think about loneliness and the point of human existence. I simply played music. It was transcendental. It’s what music is about for me. When the time in the practice space was up, none of us wanted to stop, and two of us continued to play guitar and two of us banged on the drum kit, me going completely ape shit nuts, all of us totally bouncing around and into what we were doing, no self-conscious brainiac bullshit. Pure high.
Now, this isn’t an argument complete with statistics and examples, but did I need any sort of substance during that time? No. Some of the other musicians had smoked pot, but it didn’t bother me. We all had a good time.
Why we need to get loaded to play music is beyond me. I don’t know why the worlds of music and drugs are so tightly intertwined, and frankly, it’s frustrating and hard to escape. On craigslist or when meeting new musicians you have to ask questions like, “Can you show up on time? Do you have instruments and equipment? A car? Do you have a substance problem?”
Granted, many musicians handle a copious amount of substances while still playing amazing music, but the annals of rock history are strewn with the memory of amazing musicians who died before they even hit 30, due to their habit gone out of control.
You could argue that musicians are sensitive folk and can’t “handle” the world, especially success and the machine of the grind that making music can become if you get some success, but hell, I’m a sensitive folk and I’ve managed to not drink or smoke pot or consume nefarious other illegal substances for ten years now. Ten years. Since I was 21 years old.
I spent almost my entire twenties NOT partying with substances. I didn’t miss anything. I got my BA degree, I worked a bunch of day jobs, and now I’ve entered my thirties totally focused on art, because I got all of that other stuff out of the way and figured out who I am in that regard. (Though subtle and not-so-subtle tweaks are often necessary).
I have plenty of friends who did spend their twenties (and even thirties) indulging and are now sober in their thirties and forties. They have some stupendous war stories of the things they did that I can listen to and be glad I did not have to do myself. The fact of the matter is, your body gets wiped after a while. It doesn’t recuperate like it used to. People start complaining about their livers and kidneys and stomach aches and switching one drug for another in an attempt to moderate. I decided to skip all that (to be honest, I was complaining about some of those things when I was only 15 years old, due to my love of substances).
There will always be drugs in the music world. And I can’t convince anyone of what to do with their own life. But I’ve found that as my own personal choice, all of the energy spent consuming, popping, seeking, purchasing is just wasted energy that could be better used actually playing music. And because of this, I am present when I play music and I enjoy playing music.
I’ve reframed my thinking over the years to be along the lines of drugs interfere with my music. They don’t help it. They actually distract me from it, by taking away portions of my basic motor skills.
Don’t give me that mumbo-jumbo about psychedelics opening up your mind to new things. For that, you have the Grateful Dead, and that’s fine, but it’s not my bag. Ok, and Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and all those trippy, jammy bands who I do appreciate, but sober. I appreciate them sober. Some people love psychedelics and that’s fine. Even the founder of AA was on a psychedelic combo called the “Belladonna Cure” when he had his epiphany about starting AA (Overcoming Your Drug and Alcohol Habits, Desena). Yea. For real. So…to each their own. These are only my personal opinions on my own experience.
I know my way of life isn’t for everyone, and those that can drink or pop pills or smoke pot without letting it become an obsession, go for it. Whatever. I don’t really care. But for me, the obsession I used to cheaply focus on substances is now channeled into music. I’ve replaced drugs with music. Art is perfect for crazy neurotic people like me–we can channel our insanity into something beautiful.
Music IS my drug. I don’t need drugs to do my drug.