#16 Straight Edge | Alan Cross

December 1, 2020

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  • Alan has not used psychedelics before, but seems open to them, particularly as the regulatory system advances towards access and legalization (2:00)
  • Alan talks about the origins of psychedelic’s influence on music and how psychedelic music began as a genre in 1956 (4:00)
  • The impact of technology on music: studios, outboards, amps, keyboards, etc. and how this altered the status quo (6:00)
  • How LSD impacted a few major mainstream bands, but also lead to a group of ‘psychedelic pretenders’ (8:30)
  • Alan provides a few examples of music shaped by psychedelics, including The Beatles, who inspired people to ‘immerse themselves in music’ with headphones (9:40)
  • The impact of distortion on psychedelic music – and how it became a foundation of psychedelic rock (14:30)
  • How the idea of ‘the bad trip’ permeated and coloured people’s perspective on psychedelics use (17:20)
  • Alan reveals a close friend of his tried psychedelic therapy – and it did not go well. And also shares how his sister participated in an ayahuasca ceremony, and came out with mixed feelings (19:30)
  • Alan has never used psychedelics, though recently started using legal cannabis edibles for anxiety and sleep issues (22:00)
  • How the Regan-era war on drugs and anti-drug messaging has suddenly changed, and could impact musicians (27:00)
  • Straight edge’ music was an internal rebellion within the scene against psychedelic music. (28:00)
  • Alan provides some examples of modern bands making new music inspired by psychedelics. Plus, what constitutes ‘neo-psychedelic sounds’ (29:00)
  • Alan reveals for the past three years he has been going to Thailand for week-long vegan, meditation, and deep breathing retreats as an overall detox treatment (31:00)
  • Ronan and Alan ponder why doctors are able to provide palliative care medications, but not medications that could help people be more open and comfortable – in life, and for end-of-life (35:00)


Alan: [00:00:00] You can see that the artist is trying to convey the sonic equivalent of an LSD experience and a lot of acts in the 1960s tried to tell you how a trip sounded or if you weren’t on a trip, this is how it would appear. [00:00:19][19.1]

Ronan: [00:00:24] This is Field Triping a podcast dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I’m your host, Ronan Levy. Alan Cross is a radio broadcaster, music historian, and a Canadian icon. Based in Toronto he is best known nationally and internationally as the host of the syndicated radio and podcast series, ‘The Ongoing History of New Music’, which started in 1993 and may be one of the longest running music documentary series in the world. Alan also hosts ‘The Secret History of Rock’ and ‘Explore Music’. Plus he has a daily blog called ‘A Journal of Musical Things’, which is an excellent filter to keep in touch with what’s happening every day in the world of music. Alan is a self-professed geek and a media personality who has experience working with Canadian broadcasters, creating exhibitions, writing band biographies and appearing as a guest lecturer. Truly, Alan is a rare talent. He’s an encyclopedia of musical knowledge, a historian, and he’s a cultural influencer. And I’m thrilled to welcome him onto the Field Tripping podcast today. But I should note that this podcast is a little different than most, as Alan has never used psychedelics himself. Yet as such a keen observer of one of the most influential cultural realms impacted by psychedelics, I knew he’d make an excellent guest. Thanks for joining us, Alan. [00:01:49][84.2]

Alan: [00:01:54] I think this is the first time anybody has ever called me a cultural influencer. [00:01:57][3.1]

Ronan: [00:01:59] You’ve been an influence on my life for many years. Now before we get into it too much, just out of curiosity, being so close to rock and roll. Why have you never indulged in psychedelics? [00:02:08][8.7]

Alan: [00:02:09] Opportunities never come up. I don’t hang with musicians in the social settings that a lot of people do, and I’ve always been sort of a straight edge kind of person. So, you know, for example, I do enjoy my scotch, but I have never been drunk. However, I do understand and do appreciate how psychedelics and other drugs can expand one’s creative palate. So I’ve always been watching it and always been reading about I’ve always been fascinated by it. And who knows, as things progress and as things become more legalized, maybe it’s in my future. [00:02:43][33.8]

Ronan: [00:02:43] I’m definitely not a common user of psychedelics, but I have had my experiences. And actually this past weekend I took psilocybin and just went for a walk in the woods. And that was a pretty first hand experience about how psychedelics can really enhance the creative process. I became quite aware throughout the day of awareness, actually. We stopped and I started to watch leaves falling off the trees this autumn and there was a whole bunch flying at the same time. And I stopped and I noticed that most of the time I wouldn’t pay attention to leaves following at all, or maybe I’d pay attention to one. And it opened my mind to seeing all of them fall at the same time. And then it created the awareness of how little of reality I actually experience. And it just took me down a whole interesting wormhole of ideas and innovation. And certainly, that’s not music, but I was gifted with tone deafness and an inability to maintain rhythm or a beat. But I’ve always aspired to music. But it also kind of opened my mind to just how influential psychedelics could be to the musical process, especially when you understand how psychedelics work in the brain, which is they cause different parts of the brain to talk to each other more, which is why people often experience some degree of synesthesia when on psychedelics and experience music in different ways and experience colors in different ways because your brain is actually experiencing in different ways. But with that said, I’d be curious to know what’s your perspective and what you kind of discovered in exploring the influence of psychedelics on music over the last little while? [00:04:14][90.4]

Alan: [00:04:14] Well, they’ve always been part of music since about, I guess, the 1950s. Now, we’re not talking about any cannabis, we’re not talking about heroin, we’re not talking about cocaine, use of those drugs goes all the way back many, many decades, if not hundreds of years. So psychedelics came into being, as we all know, in the 1940s. And then Humphry Osmond from Saskatchewan got into it deeply and actually coined the term psychedelic in the 1950s. And when the counterculture began in the 1960s, these drugs were not Schedule One drugs yet, they were still very, very available in a variety of potencies, in a variety of forms and members of the counterculture, which was all about dropping out, tuning in and trying to expand the experience of life naturally flocked to these drugs, especially in places like San Francisco where LSD was a big deal, peyote was a big deal, mushrooms were a big deal. And there were a number of artists, while many dozens who say that the use of these drugs made them more creative, made them better musicians, made them better artists, and in fact, we even had a genre of music called psychedelic music that began around 1965 or so and continues today as a matter of fact. [00:05:42][88.0]

Ronan: [00:05:43] It’s not entirely surprising to me that psychedelics and rock and roll and the counterculture, I mean, all went hand in hand, you know, psychedelics open your mind to experiencing things in a different way and definitely encourage people to question the status quo. And are there any bands in particular, any musicians that, you know, were particularly relevant or influential or influenced by psychedelics that continue to have impact and relevance today? [00:06:09][25.5]

Alan: [00:06:09] Let’s start from the beginning and try to define exactly what psychedelic music is and how psychedelic drugs may have created this. First of all, we go back to about, I’m going to say, 1962, 1963. This is when technology was really having an impact on music, better recording studios, better outboard effects, better effects for things like guitars, better amplifiers, weird keyboards. All these things were starting to happen. And this was a massive shift in the sonic qualities of what constituted popular music. Eventually we get into synthesizers. And we have guitars with lots of echo and reverb and all these things, and this somehow felt unreal, bigger, different, more expansive than the traditional sense that we have been listening to for many, many, many, many decades. So all of a sudden feedback, which was an unwanted thing at one point. Is now something that you sought and tried to control, wah wah pedals, fuzz boxes, elements of Indian music and other Eastern music began to creep into the palette because, well, that was exotic and weird and different and something that no one had ever heard before. You would lose yourself in some kind of guitar solo or jam because again, that was mind-expanding you were simply going where the music took you. Lyrics, which could be very obtuse and weird, there was an Alice in Wonderland quality to some of the music these artists began to create. There was a dress that went along with that. So everybody began to pile into this idea of how do we fight back against the status quo? How do we alter the status quo with these new sounds, these new attitudes, these new avenues, these new ways of perceiving or making and perceiving music. So LSD was the biggest one. And the Beatles, of course, were very, very much into LSD because, well, they believed that that was mind-expanding and it allowed them to be much more creative than they otherwise would have been. Arguably, they became the biggest of all the psychedelic bands of the 1960s, although everybody got into it. I mean, Pink Floyd, there was a band called Love, there was a band called the 13th Floor Elevators. Psychedelics were everywhere, or at least psychedelic pretenders were everywhere. And it became a very big thing. And of course, when everything became illegal, well, then it became a little bit more what’s the word I’m looking for forbidden. And people got deeper and deeper into it on the side. [00:08:53][163.5]

Ronan: [00:08:54] What did you mean by psychedelic pretenders? [00:08:55][1.4]

Alan: [00:08:56] People who would maybe get into or try to make psychedelic music without actually partaking of the lifestyle that led into it? It was a thing. It became a trendy thing, as we often have in music. There were a bunch of artists that were identified as being psychedelic. Well, of course, obviously they were they they had to be taking drugs because listen to the music that they’re making. You might think about somebody like John Coltrane, for example. [00:09:24][28.6]

*music clip*: [00:09:26] Whoa oh oh oh. [00:09:31][4.6]

Alan: [00:09:41] It was just assumed that if your music was freaking and far out well, that you were into LSD and the like. [00:09:46][4.8]

Ronan: [00:09:47] Obviously, a lot of music emerged out of this period involving drugs, sometimes not involving the drugs, but as part of the broader culture. What do you think are the sort of pinnacle examples of psychedelic music or music that was clearly inspired by psychedelics? [00:10:03][16.2]

Alan: [00:10:04] Well, if you want a starting point, go with the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album. That was a concept record that was meant to be listened to from front to back in a specific order in one sitting. So you would sit down with headphones or in the dark or something and maybe partake of some kind of drug. And that would take you allegedly on some kind of trip that it only ended when the last piano chord faded out at the end of side two. So the idea was to immerse yourself in music as deeply as possible. Two ways of doing that. First of all, you could put yourself between two speakers and turn things up really, really loud, or you could lie in the dark with headphones on. Now, headphones weren’t really introduced to the public until the late 1950s, and it wasn’t until we get to about the Sgt. Pepper era, which is 1967, that more manufacturers started putting headphones out on the market. And you cannot, cannot underestimate the importance of consumer-grade headphones to the psychedelic music experience. People would sit and listen to Pink Floyd records in the dark with a joint or, you know, with a tab of acid or whatever and just become one with the music. And it was as the whole stoner culture that began with these albums. So if you want to start, go with the Beatles. Sgt. Pepper. Then you can go with practically any Pink Floyd album right up until The Wall, but some of the early records, which were these freaky free-form things like Piper at the Gates of Dawn and some of these other nonsense sounding records that were supposed to be extensions of Pink Floyd’s live performances, which were often done at a place on Oxford Street in the U.K. called the UFO Club, and they would have these wild mind-expanding light shows that were so far ahead of their time. And if you were tripping at the time, well, it just got really interesting, certainly much more interesting than just standing in a crowd watching a band play on stage. [00:12:23][139.1]

Ronan: [00:12:24] Absolutely. I mean, I was reading about the Beatles. Apparently the Beatles introduction to LSD is well documented and has been written about pretty extensively and how it translated directly into their music with Revolver and some of their songs. Do you think with such an I think an attuned musical ear, do you think you could distinguish the music that’s been written with a view to psychedelics or inspired by psychedelics from others? [00:12:49][25.2]

Alan: [00:12:50] Absolutely. Again, you got to listen for the reverb, got to listen for the echo, you’ve got to listen for the twang, you got to listen for maybe periods of time where the song seems to be falling apart, unstructured, all these things like I’ll give you an example, The Byrds, 8 Miles High. Well, first of all, it’s supposed to be about allegedly a trip on a jet airliner. But if you really get into it and close your eyes and start experiencing it, there’s a lot of free jazz in there, the 12 string Rickenbacker guitars and exotic sound at the time. There’s a little bit of Indian raga in there. And you can see that the artist is trying to convey the sonic equivalent of an LSD experience and a lot of acts in the 1960s tried to tell you how a trip sounded or if you weren’t on a trip, this is how it would appear. A lot of music got much more complex in the 1960s and early 1970s because it could studio technology got very, very sophisticated very, very quickly over a very few number of years. Now, let’s take the fuzz pedal, for example, which is an extraordinarily important part of any sort of guitar rock, including psychedelic rock. This fuzz panel didn’t really exist in music until 1965 when Keith Richards hooked one up and did satisfaction. After that, everything began to change. Think about how much distortion, which when you think about what distortion is, it’s a bastardization of what reality is and how many people took the challenge of distortion and turning it into something that was pleasurable. And I can’t help but think that somebody somewhere said, you know, this sounds pretty cool. Let’s see where we can take it. [00:15:17][147.5]

Ronan: [00:15:17] I discovered music in the early to mid-90s when distortion and grunge was going hand in hand. And my first guitar and my first amp was a Marshall and a Gibson. [00:15:30][12.8]

Alan: [00:15:31] You have to remember, too, the distortion was unwanted before the psychedelic era. The whole idea was to have clean, pure sound. And if you had distortion, that meant that something was wrong with your gear. But beginning in the 60s, this idea that distortion could be tamed and turned into art became a big deal, and that became one of the foundations of psychedelic rock. [00:15:55][24.6]

Ronan: [00:15:56] That’s very cool and I’d never consider that. It’s kind of it’s interesting because, like, there’s a parallel in medicine, which is like this psychoactivity, the psychedelic experience is actually the unwanted aspect or has been the unwanted aspect of many medicines developed for mental health and neurodegenerative disorders. And now things are starting to flip exactly where the psychedelic experience is being sought after because they realize that there’s impact and potential associated with it. It’s interesting because there’s a kind of like two dynamics that are involved, at least in this part of the conversation, which is the influence that taking psychedelics had in the musical creation process and then the influence that psychedelics had in the listening experience. And I think it’s important to parse those out and recognize those are very distinct and both are very essential elements about what psychedelics and the impact they had in music is and what psychedelic music is. [00:16:48][51.7]

Alan: [00:16:48] Let’s talk about the influence there. So you have these bands like The Grateful Dead, like the Beatles, like Pink Floyd, like Love, like the 13th Floor Elevators, and so on, who are talking about, singing about, playing about psychedelic experiences that, of course, seeped into the popular culture. And even if you’re not musically inclined, you were going to be rather interested about this forbidden fruit that these bands are talking about, you know, the Beatles, Rolling Stones. Then you start reading about these bands and you run across all the music critics who were talking about psychedelia. What does it mean? How do you achieve this nirvana or this altered state of listening? So once the bands start getting very big into it, so is society at large. [00:17:33][45.2]

Ronan: [00:17:34] The impact on psychedelics, you can’t separate the art from the artist necessarily. And it seems that as inspirational as psychedelic experiences may have been to the creation of music, it also seemed to have a significant impact on the artists themselves. And we see for instance, with Pink Floyd and the impact that LSD use had on Syd Barrett, did you come across that kind of impact as well as you were exploring this area? [00:18:02][27.7]

Alan: [00:18:02] Well, this was a big part of the message the establishment was giving young people in the 1960s and why we ended up with LSD and other drugs on the Schedule One list is that this whole idea of the bad trip, this whole idea that if you took one dose and things went wrong, well, you could end up schizophrenic or you could end up as an acid burnout, like, let’s say Syd Barrett. I mean, there are plenty of things that can go wrong when you would just something that alters your perception of the world. And there are many people who should not partake in these things because they perhaps just aren’t equipped to deal with the experience or people take too much of it and as a result end up in a bad place. Syd Barrett would be one of them. And pretty much mainlining acid for most of his adult life. And, you know, if it’s done without supervision, if it’s done with doses that you can’t be sure of, with efficacies you can’t be sure of, you could end up doing some damage. And he would be one of them that perhaps did. [00:19:13][71.0]

Ronan: [00:19:14] Yeah, absolutely. I was reading about his life and experience in preparation for this podcast. And it does sound like psychedelics amplified some of the mental health challenges that he was experiencing and weren’t necessarily a cause of it. [00:19:28][14.6]

Alan: [00:19:29] Which is why when when people are having psychedelic therapies these days, it has to be a guided trip because you don’t know how the individual is going to react to the therapy. I know of somebody who has some mental issues, a lot of things have been tried, and she was enrolled into an experimental program using psychedelics, micro dosing, LSD. And it did not work out well, even though it was guided for whatever reason, her chemistry just did not accept it. [00:20:00][30.7]

Ronan: [00:20:00] I’m sorry to hear that. And so as a company, we were always trying to advance awareness and understanding, but also in a very thoughtful and conscious way. And even though by and large, psychedelics at least psilocybin and LSD are relatively safe, they are not entirely harmless. And that’s why it’s important. Even therapeutic experiences can be challenging and difficult. And this is clearly one of those cases. [00:20:24][24.2]

Alan: [00:20:25] I’m very curious about this. My sister tells me, surprise, that she went to an ayahuasca ceremony. Like what? Really? Yeah. So how wasn’t she goes and it wasn’t good. I threw up an awful lot and a bunch of stuff came back that I didn’t realize was in there. And I don’t know, maybe it got me thinking about a bunch of things and I’m not sure whether I should stop or go back in and finish the job. [00:20:47][22.6]

Ronan: [00:20:54] It’s been said that those who recognize that the imagination is realities, master, we call sages and those who act upon it, we call artists or lunatics. It’s also been said that the purpose of the artist is to provide what life does not. And in many ways, the same is true about psychedelics at their most fundamental, what psychedelics do is open us to see things that we have never seen before, either new ideas or simply new perspectives on existing ideas and constructs. They’ve helped turn distortion into songs, single chords, into symphonies and headphones, into immersive experiences. In my life, psychedelics have helped me turn traumas into power and awareness into inspiration. And that’s exactly their point. For if you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill, take it and push it as far as it will go. Push it beyond where it has ever been before, push it to the wildest edge of edges. Then you force it into the realm of magic. If nothing else, that’s what psychedelics do for whatever you apply them to. [00:22:03][69.4]

Ronan: [00:22:05] Do you think some of your resistance I mean, I use the word resistance, it may not be the right word, but your resistance to psychedelics and drugs more broadly is because of what you’ve witnessed and experienced throughout your career dealing with so many people who are so deep into it. [00:22:18][13.3]

Alan: [00:22:18] I would suggest yes, because a lot of what I saw was pretty scary. And I again, I’m one of these pretty sober people. And I was afraid I was actually very, very concerned that I would lose control. And I was one of these control freak people. Still, I am to a very, very great extent. But I’ve gotten older. I’ve mellowed out a little bit and it’s like, you know, whatever. OK, fine. I have since edibles have come on the market, used cannabis products to help me sleep and help me relax with pain relief and anxiety dissipation. And they work great. So I’m thinking, OK, if this is my gateway into this sort of therapy, maybe there’s something else I could do. For example, I get my best ideas when it comes to writing or speaking engagements or anything that I’m doing from a creative point of view just before I fall asleep, if I’m ridden with anxiety and God knows there’s enough to go around these days with what’s happening on the planet, I can’t sleep, I can’t think and my creative process completely shuts down. However, a couple of times a week I will administer something and two or three hours later I’m relaxed. The anxiety has dissipated. I can feel my brain connecting in different ways and coming up with some really cool ideas. Now I have to write them down immediately because my short term memory seems to go completely out the window. I’ll think, Oh, this is great. I got to remember this. Wait what was it that I was supposed to remember? So I have a pad of paper next to the bed and I’ll scribble something down just so I remember it. [00:24:02][104.1]

Ronan: [00:24:03] It so closely parallels my experience. And, you know, as you said, that because I’ve always felt that like my most innovative ideas happen in that window between kind of putting your head on the pillow and falling asleep when you’re still conscious enough, almost lucid dreaming, but you haven’t quite descended in many ways, at least in my personal experience that is fairly similar to a psychedelic experience like that is not atypical from what you experienced on a relatively small but not insignificant dose of psilocybin. It’s just kind of that feeling of fluidity and flexibility in your mind that you experience when on psilocybin. And it’s very much, at least in my experience, akin to that moment. Going back to the conversation around music more broadly, you know, one of the things that happens with psychedelics is that they not only have an impact on the art, they have an impact on the artist. And we touched on Syd Barrett briefly and then also seemed to have an impact on, for instance, the Beatles and John Lennon and George Harrison seem to have more of a nexus together than with Paul McCartney because of their experiences with LSD. Did you come across anything along those lines where not just the art was affected, but relationships? [00:25:20][77.0]

Alan: [00:25:21] Yeah, John was the guy that went into drugs, the deepest I mean, he became a heroin addict eventually. And there is a story that I think it was during the recording of the White Album that he disappeared and producer George Martin went looking for him and he found him on the roof of Abbey Road Studios. And John was absolutely positive that he was just going to fly home. So fortunately, George was there to take him back down to the studio, too. But otherwise we might have had a real casualty there because, again, John was mixing his drugs indiscriminately, they were not being administered with any kind of regulated doses. He was just thinking, well, a little bit of this makes me really, really creative. It makes me John Lennon. It makes the Beatles the Beatles. So then more must be better. And that doesn’t always work out that way. George Martin does talk about the time that he talked John Lennon off the roof of Abbey Road because he was about to fly home. [00:26:26][65.0]

Ronan: [00:26:27] Quite literally, talking him off the edge, absolutely. You know, as all things go with music and culture, a move in one direction is usually met with a move in the opposite direction in some respects. And so one trend usually leads to a counter trend in some respects. And we saw that in politics but did we see it also occur with other arts and music as a result of the real deep dive into the psychedelic experience in the late 60s and early 70s? [00:26:53][26.2]

Alan: [00:26:54] Well, remember that Richard Nixon ran on a Law and Order campaign and he was talking about the silent majority, the people who were against hippie culture and these kids that weren’t, you know, being responsible adults in society and their drugs. And that, of course, led to a lot of criminalization, led to a lot of convictions. And that’s an attitude in the United States and elsewhere that stayed for a very long time. I mean, we get to, you know, Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan with ‘Just Say No’ and all the anti-drug messages that were so big in the 1980s. What do you do now when it’s the states and provinces and countries and territories around the world are decriminalizing, if not legalizing all these different drugs? What do you do, though? You know, you spent decades trying to warn people away and then all of a sudden now it’s OK, we’re collecting tax money on it ourselves just fine. And now no, no, we’re using it as part of medical therapies. It’s OK. So I don’t know. I mean, we have all these backlashes against these damn kids and their drugs for decades and decades and decades. Now, what are we going to see? There was one thing within the music scene itself and that had to do with hardcore punk based out of Washington, D.C., where you had a number of groups that called themselves straightedge and straightedge meant that you didn’t drink, you didn’t do drugs, and you were kind of your fellow human being. You were as good as possible, as straight as possible, because that was the only way to live life. So there was that backlash within the music industry against or within the music scenes, against other scenes that were celebrating the use of drugs. But to my knowledge, other than if you wanted to get into Christian music and a few other genres, that was the only time that we really saw a rebellion within music against other musical styles that celebrated or at least tolerated the use of drugs. [00:28:57][122.8]

Ronan: [00:28:58] Do we see any influence from psychedelic music really parlaying into music today? I mean, obviously the playing with distortion and I think a lot of the music derived around the MDMA scene in the late 80s and early 90s but do you see anything else kind of of note happening in that respect these days? [00:29:18][19.9]

Alan: [00:29:18] Well, we have the current neo-psychedelic scene, which are bands that are obviously influenced by use of reverb and use of distortion and use of trippy keyboards and use of echo and, you know, obtuse lyrics. This exists today. We also have stoner rock. I guess the best and they would hate me if they heard this, but the best of the stoner rock albums might be Queens of the Stone Age, who came out of a band called KIIS, which was very much a stoner rock band from the California desert. So there’s there’s Parquet Courts, there’s Temples, there’s a bunch of other bands that are trying to carry on the psych sound that appeared in the 1960s, but with a more modern twist, which is, you know, better equipment, better recording, better fidelity, that kind of thing. It’s not going away. And the idea of an act not singing about their drug experiences is ludicrous. [00:30:22][63.2]

Ronan: [00:30:22] Who do you think epitomizes the neo psychedelic sound? That’s actually a term I hadn’t heard before, and I’m curious to explore it musically. [00:30:29][7.0]

Alan: [00:30:30] I would have to say if it’s neo-psychedelic rock, Primal Scream Scottish band, they had an album in 1991 called Screamo DeLucca, which was considered to be at that time the neo-psych rave-up album of the era. So yeah, if you want to try it, Primal Scream from he Screamadelica album forward, you can also look at Spiritualized, which came out of a band called Spaceman Three. And if you want something more modern, try a band called Animal Collective. [00:31:04][34.0]

Ronan: [00:31:05] I haven’t explored the sort of strain of psychedelia through music. So this is like a really interesting conversation and great to explore that. So two questions we posed to every guest, even though this has been a little bit atypical in terms of our podcast approach, I’ve really enjoyed it. And I appreciate you sharing your personal kind of exploration and understanding and even your current exploration with the therapeutic uses of cannabis. But two questions that we posed to everybody is that the pandemic has been many things to many people, but it’s also been described as the great pause. And one of the ways I’ve always looked at psychedelics is it’s less about the drug and more about what it does. And so there can be a lot of experiences that are psychedelic without necessarily using drugs, meditation, deep meditation, being one breath, work being another. And so in some ways, the pandemic has been psychedelic because it’s forced a lot of people to pause and take reflection. I’m just curious to know if you’ve had any awareness or realizations or experiences during the pandemic that have opened your eyes to your path, your growth, who you are. [00:32:14][69.1]

Alan: [00:32:15] Yes, and I’ll do this by backing up about four years. I became absolutely fascinated with the idea of going to Thailand for a massive, hardcore, full body detox simply because I didn’t think it would work. I thought I’d read about it. I thought it was a bunch of crap. This was a bunch of New Age nonsense and it was not going to do anything for me. I go to Thailand, I come back and I’m Superman. I could not believe how good I felt. I was there for a week. Raw vegan diet, lots of water, daily colonics. There was daily massages, there was yoga, and there was lots and lots and lots of meditation and lots and lots of deep breathing exercises that were mandatory. You had to go for the meditation. You had to go for the deep breathing exercises. And I thought at first that this was just a bunch of garbage. But at the end of it, I was absolutely astounded at how much better I felt. So I went back again and I went back again after that. And I was supposed to go this past year for a fourth time with a friend who I’d finally convinced to come and try this with me. And of course, I haven’t been able to do that. However, having gone three times, I do have the tools to use the meditation, to use the deep breathing, to use some of the other things, I’m doing yoga now and it has turned me into a much healthier person. And now, after having talking to my my sister with her ayahuasca experience, I’m talking to this friend and I’m saying, listen, dear, we really should go try some of this stuff. And she who is a big vapor and has terrible anxiety, she says, no way. I’m much too afraid of what I might find there. You know what? Maybe with the pandemic, this would be a proper time for a full brain cleanse. What do you say? So we’ll see what happens when this passes by if I can get her to fly down to Columbia. [00:34:23][128.6]

Ronan: [00:34:24] Very cool. So one last question. You know, if there’s anybody artistic or otherwise that you think or you’d be curious to know what they look like or what they produce after having a psychedelic experience, is there any one often the two most common answers of who would you give a psychedelic to if you could? And I know that’s not an entirely fair question, but it comes up as Donald Trump or my parents seem to be the two most common answers. [00:34:51][27.2]

Alan: [00:34:52] Well, can I just interrupt you there? My mother, who has some very bad arthritis in her shoulders, as well as tinnitus, my sister has been helping her and mum has noticed that her pain is is much less so we’re kind of doing it. [00:35:11][19.4]

Ronan: [00:35:13] Glad to hear it, it’s interesting, I mean, my mom obviously like a supporter because of just like family, but it’s been remarkable how many people of our parents’ generation I don’t know how old your mom is. My mom’s 73 this year and you know, the adoption rates of my parents, so many friends, parents of cannabis and now psilicybin producing mushrooms, even though they’re still scheduled in Canada, has been remarkable for the older generation. So it’s been kind of cool to watch. You know, I think they’re enjoying the liberties that were probably taken away from them for much of the 70s, 80s and 90s now. [00:35:50][36.9]

Alan: [00:35:51] Or were forbidden from them. [00:35:51][0.8]

Ronan: [00:35:52] Exactly. Forbidden and are enjoying it, especially at a certain point when you don’t have young kids to worry about or molding the next generation, you can probably feel a lot more at ease and liberal to you to explore some of these things. [00:36:05][13.4]

Alan: [00:36:05] So, yeah, what’s the point? You know, I got a few more years on this earth. I’ve got some aches and pains. You know, I tend to worry, how could it hurt? How could it hurt more than another glass of cheap wine? [00:36:17][11.0]

Ronan: [00:36:17] Exactly. You know, it’s funny, we were talking the other day, and in Canada, as you probably know well, we now have medically assisted dying, right? You can actually have a doctor prescribe a drug that can kill you. Isn’t it odd that that same doctor couldn’t prescribe a drug that could give you a profoundly positive experience as well? It seems very odd, particularly in the palliative context, doesn’t it? [00:36:39][22.0]

Alan: [00:36:40] Well, yes. I was just about to say that I know a couple of people who were in stage four cancer who were ridden with anxiety about what would come next and what would happen to their family. And they just couldn’t function over the last months of their lives. Little bit of appropriate psychedelic therapy and they’re at peace. They’re enjoying themselves. Their pain is lessened. Why would you not allow something to be prescribed or administered to someone in the last months of their life to make them more comfortable. I don’t get it. [00:37:13][33.1]

Ronan: [00:37:13] Totally. I mean, listen, kudos to the Minister of Health who’s in place right now, Patty Hajdu, I think, is how you pronounce your last name, who has now granted, I think, 10 exemptions from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to let people in end of life distress with terminal illnesses access psilocybin therapy. It’s incredible that we’ve come to this point and it’s being adopted so quickly and so rational and makes so much sense from a humanitarian as well as like a political and philosophical perspective. But we still have to give credit where credit is due, that attitudes are changing and minds are opening. And at the end of the day, that’s what the psychedelic experience I think is all about. It’s very cool to see. [00:37:49][36.4]

Alan: [00:37:50] You have to overcome all these decades-long prejudices and misinformation and everything. And, you know, listen, if you prescribe psilocybin, what’s the difference if you were to actually research it and figure out exactly what the appropriate doses were for the appropriate people, what its efficacy was in a controlled setting, how is that any different than giving somebody some ativan? [00:38:12][22.3]

Ronan: [00:38:13] It’s not at all. It’s 100 percent on point. And the interesting thing to one of the seminal papers on psychedelics that I think has been a foundational element of this psychedelic renaissance was actually written by a gentleman, by the name of Professor David Nutt, who was essentially the drug czar in the U.K. He was responsible for the commission on the oversight of drugs, by and large, illicit drugs. And he decided to take a scientific approach to the policy and realized that LSD and psilocybin and MDMA and ketamine were among the lowest tarm drugs out there, much lower than heroin and alcohol, obviously, but even lower than benzodiazepine, which is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants out there. It was important that the science led the way, but it’s it’s fantastic to see that the science did lead the way. And now, slowly but surely, policy is changing around that. [00:39:05][51.8]

Alan: [00:39:06] Sure. And again, with the way the world is right now, why there are a lot of people that are suffering depression, anxiety. And if they can’t do it by taking a nap or going for a walk, they need help. The chemistry is messed up. So if you can find a safe way to reorganize the chemistry, why not do it? [00:39:23][17.3]

Ronan: [00:39:24] Exactly. Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time, Alan. Thank you so much for making yourself available. Thank you for taking us through psychedelics and their impact on music and then being honest about your own personal experience and your own perspectives, that it’s been very insightful, very enjoyable. And if you do happen to indulge further in this space, please let us know. I’d be curious to know about your experiences. [00:39:45][21.5]

Alan: [00:39:46] I used to be a real finger wagger and look down my noser but not anymore. I’m getting older and I’m cool, whatever. [00:39:53][7.2]

Ronan: [00:39:58] After my conversation with Alan, three key things stood out to me. First, perception is everything and psychedelics give us a new lease on interpreting what we naturally perceive. Psychedelics helped artists take what were traditionally viewed as unpleasant and challenge people to see them and hear them differently. They can be a portal to opening our minds and help us perceive things in a new context. Much of this podcast has been dedicated to our guest’s individual trip experiences, their intimate moments, personal development, and evolving perceptions. So it’s easy to forget the vast cultural influences psychedelics have had all over the world and through time. They’re part of an undercurrent that has never stopped flowing. And you can find the psychedelic flow all over the world. Just try to tune into it. Finally, the conversation with Alan reminded me that psychedelics are a two-way street or more accurately, a many directions street. Psychedelics not only influence what musicians turn into music, they also profoundly affect how we experience arts and music. These two things interacted in a number of beautiful and complex ways, creating new genres, new art, and new life. It continues to be a symbiotic relationship, and we’re fortunate to reap the charm’s allurement and artistry without ever quite defining it and tapping our toes along the way, truly it’s something in the realm of magic. [00:41:26][88.7]

Ronan: [00:41:36] Thank you for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I’m your host, Ronan Levy. Until next time, stay curious, breathe properly, and remember, every day is a field trip if you let it be one. Field Tripping is created by Ronan Levy and produced by Conrad Page. Our researcher is Sharon Bella. Special thanks to Quill. And of course, many thanks to Alan Cross for joining me today. Be sure to check out the ongoing history of new music anywhere you listen to podcasts. Finally subscribe to our podcast and sign up for our newsletter at fieldtripping.fm. [00:41:36][0.0]