Music and “Substances”

All young musicians have their music heroes…

…and there is a strong incentive to dive into the influences behind those music heroes.

Those of us with music heroes that were popular in the rock scene of the 60s and 70s became well aware that these influences were not always other musicians. Not that substances were unheard of as influences upon artists of the past – far from it. But when it came down to exploring our favorite musicians’ influences, their favorite substances were on the list.

It bears mentioning that my mind was completely blown when I left my Brooklyn neighborhood as a young adult and discovered that there were actually people who had never indulged…who didn’t even know anyone who had ever indulged. Including alcohol. WHAT??!!

The culture I came from was so incredibly immersed in drugs (us kids) and alcohol (our parents) that it never occurred to me that a substance-related lifestyle was more the exception than the rule in society at large at the time.

Also, in the fullness of time, we see that opinions differ in some cases as to what substances are “drugs” and what substances are not. One’s opinion will vary depending on a range of factors; like whether a substance is legal or illegal, addictive or non-addictive, natural or manufactured.

This is why my little newsletter this week isn’t about “drugs”. Alcohol, tobacco, weed, nitrous oxide, coffee, whatever the stuff in “vapes” is…these are up for debate as to whether thay qualify as “drugs”, but there is no question that they are substances. They alter the mood, and this alteration – at least at first – is the reason for ingestion in the first place.

We all know humans have been ingesting mood-altering substances throughout our time on Earth, but let’s look at recent human history and at musicians specifically.

Would musicians have any different reasons for doing substances that non-musicians? Nope. Escape, boredom, stress management, inspiration, peer pressure and self-destruction are all present and accounted for. But artists in particular seem to experience creativity in cycles – with the low end of the cycle hovering at or around soul-crushing depression resulting from self-doubt, fear of rejection or failure. Substances play right into this cycle.

All substances have one thing in common: diminishing return on investment. The aspect of the substance that was once attractive loses its kick over time and with enough repetition. This usually results in increasing volume, or moving on to a new more potent substance.

Another thing common among most substances is the way they affect a person relative to the dosage. In the short term, usually a wee bit is enlivening, euphoric, or at least erases whatever targeted pain was present. More than a wee bit results in mental and physical impairment. In most cases, there is a point at which a dosage will be fatal.

So, in terms of music and musicians, here’s what I’ve learned about substances:

  • Alcohol may help in stoking creativity in the writing and composing stages, but the results will usually need editing. In a live performance scenario, things usually feel and sound better than they really are.
  • Marijuana may help in stoking creativity in the writing and composing stages, but the results will usually need editing. In a live performance scenario, things usually feel and sound better than they really are.
  • The White Powders are too often highly addictive and deadly. Sometimes live performance scenarios are truly superhuman, but the trade-off is a very short career.
  • Pills (opiates) are similar to The White Powders and it is only a matter of time until one transitions to them. Music will eventually take a back seat to opiates over time, and once the musical instruments are pawned, music is soon forgotten.
  • Pills (uppers, downers). Really? Why?
  • Speed can allow one to stay awake a really long time, get really productive and play really fast. Until you die or are incarcerated. Speed is the substance one is most likely to get addicted to and least likely to recover from.
  • Psychedelics may help in stoking creativity in the writing and composing stages, but the results will usually need editing. In a live performance scenario, things usually feel and sound better than they really are.
  • Tobacco stinks. Wanna get rid of me? Light up a cigarette. Or worse yet, a cigar. More difficult to quit than heroin I am told. Ever seen a life-long tobacco addict die in the hospital from respiratory illness? I have and I hope you never do. Does it enhance the creative process or live performances. Some say it calms the nerves and improves focus. I wouldn’t know.

I may be leaving some substances out, but there you go.

I have not done all of these myself, but most of them. Without going into detail, some I would even recommend, but only to those blessed with willpower and capable of moderation.

There are societal and cultural factors that bring about the need for sress-management, for an escape from the pressures and frustrations of everyday life. Substances are what most people turn to because few are taught any alternative means of dealing with life when it gets rough.

As far as music is concerned, however, one can find stress relief and escape there. And pursuing a music habit on a regular basis tends to bring about improvement. Substances….not so much.

So, NOW its time to enable my music habit! Go ahead and order our new CD LOVE ONE ANOTHER and and be my enabler!

http://themerryjaynz.com/index.php/product/15-love-one-another-cd/

Peace, Love and Gratitude,

-Tom