We live in a drug culture.
I’m talking specifically about the electronic music scene, but I could just as easily be talking about Western culture, in general. Everyone is on something. I, personally, try to stay away from drugs of all kinds. I’ve always had a lot of anxiety surrounding the idea of putting strange chemicals into my body, even when it comes to something as simple as aspirin. No holistic medicines either. They present the same issue. It’s also the reason I don’t use recreational drugs. You just don’t know what’s in them. Call it a phobia. I’m aware that it’s a bit unreasonable, but that’s me, and there’s plenty more unreason happening on the opposite end of the spectrum. All of these idealist hipsters that complain about the chemicals used in non-organic foods but then buy acid from a stranger, are completely ridiculous. However, with all this said, I do take medication for my allergies. I don’t like it, but it’s better then coughing and wheezing all night because I pet the wrong type of cat, or walked through a freshly cut lawn. Case in point, everyone is on something.
Let’s focus, now, on the electronic music scene, as a whole. Electronic music and recreational drug use have always gone hand in hand. From the early days of FACTORY RECORDS and THE HACIENDA, where ECSTASY first made its mark, to DANNY RAMPLING’S SHOOM parties, where raving, as we know it, really got its start, drugs have always been present where computer generated music is the feature. In fact, drugs are one of the main reasons why the rave party exists. They first started as afterhours events, because club goers were still rushing on amphetamines when the clubs closed, and there was lots of demand for a place where they could continue dancing the night away. HENRY ROLLINS may have been insulting dance culture in his infamous “RAVE MUSIC” monologue, but he also makes an interesting point that, much like the chicken and the egg, electronic music and drugs have always come as a pair.
I was a bit shocked to see DEADMAU5 denouncing recreational drug use as ““the sh*t that’s held EDM back for years“. Shocked because I’d expect him to know better. CLIVE MARTIN, writer for VICE, had a similar reaction in his article, EXPLAINING RAVE CULTURE TO AMERICANS.
“Let’s be clear: You don’t need to be on drugs to enjoy dance music. … But “EDM”, as the ‘Mau5 insists on calling it, is so linked with recreational drug use that denying it is denying the whole culture.” – Clive Martin
Exactly. I’ve been heavily entrenched in this scene for 20 years now, and while I don’t enjoy drugs myself, almost everyone that I know does. And I’m not talking about a bunch of messed up derelict teenagers, or starving artists. These are grownups with successful careers in law, business, and many different facets of multimedia. Some of them have been doing drugs every weekend for decades, and I’m happy to report that their health is top notch and their minds are perfectly sound.
Not only am I fine with people doing drugs, but I often recommend that they do. I went through a very short lived anti-drugs phase quite a few years ago. It really just boiled down to a self-absorbed attitude of “why can’t everyone be more like me?” I know now that I was wrong to be thinking that way. During this time, I insisted that my friends be sober when around me, and as a result, I ended up hanging out with people that I had never really seen sober before. I was shocked by how intensely boring and awkward everything was. It didn’t take long for me to go from demonizing drugs to praising them.
Most of us have a guard up all the time. We have a lot of anxiety, in social situations, about saying or doing the wrong things and being judged or rejected. Most people can’t turn this anxiety off. That’s where drugs come in. They help people to get past their inhibitions, so they can just let go and enjoy themselves. When I get together with other people to celebrate life, I want nothing more then for every person in the room to be having the best time possible. I want them to feel freedom. If you are one of the few that can do it without the help of a foreign substance, that’s wonderful for you. For everyone else, please take some drugs. They also have the added bonus that they make mundane situations more enjoyable, and that’s a big plus in my eyes. That’s where my one poison really comes into play.
I’m being a bit hypocritical when I say I don’t do drugs, but then so is society. Truth is, my recreational drug of choice is one of the most powerful, addictive, and destructive. I love to drink. Not just like it. I LOVE it. My whole family does. If alcohol were made illegal, we’d all be branded as drug addicts, but that’s not going to happen, because alcohol consumption is a multi-billion dollar industry so heavily entrenched in Western culture that to separate them would be impossible. It’s been tried before and it failed miserably. I personally feel safe ingesting alcohol because I know it’s all heavily monitored and controlled, and it’s just been around me for my entire life, so I know it’s not going to harm me. I guess it’s all psychological. I don’t need booze to have a good time, but when I find myself in an unfavourable social situation, that’s when alcohol suddenly becomes an essential. A couple drinks later, things don’t seem so bad. It’s definitely my drug of choice, but if yours is Weed, or Molly, I’m certainly not gonna look down on you for it.
Anyone who consumes alcohol and says that they are anti-drugs is participating in a big fat hypocrisy. We drink alcohol to get high. It’s the only reason. People who say they drink it for the taste are LYING. If that were true, everyone would drink non-alcoholic beer. It’s completely acceptable to go out for drinks with your co-workers, but if you suggest to them that you all go smoke a joint together, you’d run the risk of being fired. Idiotic, isn’t it? Why can’t we move past the ridiculous “this is your brain on drugs” propaganda that we’ve been force fed by governments over the decades? The only reason drugs are illegal is because governments don’t get a cut of the profits. The only reason drugs are dangerous is because, without government supervision, it’s left in the hands of organized crime to meet the public demand for these substances. The fact of the matter is that governments would LOVE to legalize recreational narcotics, but they can’t because their propaganda campaigns worked too well, and now the voters won’t go for it.
The issue is always children. More specifically, it’s parents. I’ve seen several of my friends, who were once liberal, progressive thinkers, bring a child into their lives, and suddenly become over-protective, and completely unreasonable. It’s the “not my kids” syndrome that causes recreational narcotics to continue being seen as a mythical force of concentrated evil. Parents fear the idea of drugs being accessible to their children. The argument is complete nonsense because, again, everyone has booze, and medications in their homes, and it’s hardly an issue. But also, and more importantly, NOBODY IS GONNA SELL DRUGS TO A KID!
The first time I went to a rave, I was 14 years old. I was way too young to be there. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. Back then, raves were generally attended by an older crowd. Everyone else had quite a few years on me. At 14, I didn’t know anything about drugs, and I had no idea that the people at these raves were on them. I just thought that everyone was really happy. I never saw anyone doing drugs. Of course I didn’t. Who’s gonna openly do drugs when there’s a kid in the room? Nobody ever talked about drugs to me, or offered any to me. What kind of a person would do such a thing? Only a monster, and a music scene that has ALWAYS been about peace, love, and unity is not the type os scene that attracts monsters. Quite the contrary. It has always attracted some of the best people around.
The whole “not my kids” attitude actually becomes harmful when it causes parents to be over-protective during the later years of their child’s adolescence. It’s during this period that a young person SHOULD be experimenting with intoxicants. They are a prevalent part of Western culture, and a person needs to learn how to deal with them, either by knowing that they don’t care for particular types, or by building a tolerance for the ones that they do. Before College is the ideal time to be experimenting because young people generally don’t have any real responsibilities, so there are minimal consequences for their actions. The WORST time for a person to be experimenting with intoxicants would be age 21 (legal age for alcohol consumption is the USA), when they are likely in their final years of college, which is one of the few time periods in life that getting high is a pretty bad idea. Although, most young adults who are severely sheltered from intoxicants, by their parents, won’t make it that far anyways. 1/3 of college students fail in their first year, and it’s almost always because of the student’s inability to handle the responsibilities of total freedom. Drugs and alcohol usually play a big role in their failure, but it’s not the drugs and alcohol that are to blame. It’s the student having no idea how to handle them, and the blame for that most often lies solely on the parents. I get that there is a natural desire to shelter a teenager from potential harm, but parents really need to resist that tendency, because ultimately they’re not doing their kid a favour.
With all this in mind, let’s return to the subject of electronic music. For decades, we denied the connection between this music, and drugs. It used to be necessary. Governments have always tried to destroy electronic music, and drugs were the reason. We needed to claim them as separate entities in order to survive. We no longer need to do that. Electronic music has grown into a massive industry. It is, in fact, the norm. It is the majority. Nobody is going to stop it or shut it down. We no longer have any reason to hide, so lets take a stand. Lets stop pretending. Lets point out that, while one kid may have overdosed on pills at EDC, the other 70,000 people had a great time on them. Instead of minimizing access to drugs, lets get more drugs, and give them to the right people!
Okay, I’m being a bit facetious. There’s actually one very good reason why it’s of the utmost importance to stop denying the connection between electronic music and drugs, and it can be summed up in 2 words: HARM REDUCTION!
It’s true. Drugs carry the potential to be dangerous. So does driving. You don’t just hand somebody a car and let them drive off with it. First they go through a process to ensure they know how to operate the vehicle. Some people are still gonna get into an accident and be harmed. These things happen. But for most, being able to drive adds a considerable amount of freedom to life. Drugs are very similar. We shouldn’t be trying to keep them out of dance music events. It’s antithetical to the culture, and it doesn’t work. If people want drugs, they’re gonna find out how to get them, AND THEY DO! Furthermore, the only results of confiscating drugs are that a bunch of people waste their money, have a less euphoric experience then they would of had, and occasionally some kid goes to jail for no good reason. Instead, we should be ensuring that people are aware of how to make their experience more safe, and then say “Off ya go. Have a great time”. Community outreach organizations, like DANCE SAFE, and Toronto’s TRIP, are the key factor in making the embrace of narcotic consumption work safely and effectively. Event organizers should be putting more money into them, instead of increased security and emergency medical services. I feel like I’m blowing an old, warn out horn here. People have been making this argument for decades now, but obviously not loud enough. It’s high time we finally started yelling about it. You, me, and the other enlightened and intelligent (and probably childless) members of this culture. If you disagree with me, I bet I know a great way to get you on our side…
GO DO SOME DRUGS!
I’ll leave you with a quote from the late great BILL HICKS.
“I know this is not a very popular idea. You don’t hear it too often any more … but it’s the truth. I have taken drugs before and … I had a real good time. Sorry. Didn’t murder anybody, didn’t rape anybody, didn’t rob anybody, didn’t beat anybody, didn’t lose one f*cking job, laughed my ass off, and went about my day.” – Bill Hicks
AC SLATER – PLAY THE RECORD AGAIN
Remember that Henry Rollins clip towards the top of this article? NIGHT BASS boss, AC SLATER, immortalized it in a very cheeky tune that still destroys dancefloors all these 7 years after its initial release. If you find yourself rushing hard on an amphetamine of your choice, this is exactly what you want pumping out of the speaker stacks. Groovy, grimey, and generally hilarious. Give it a listen, grab the download, GO DO SOME DRUGS.
GET MORE AC SLATER
Thank you for reading.