Mind-blowing article… quite literally… from David J talking frankly, and in depth, about acid.
DAMON ORION: Tell me about your first psychedelic experience.
DAVID J: I didn’t really get into psychedelics until ’85. It was the time of the first Love and Rockets album [Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven]. In fact, the collage that’s on the inside of the gatefold sleeve—that was finished on LSD, on the day of my first trip. I remember doing that tripping balls! [Laughs] And being quite delighted with it.
This was after a very long day in the English countryside. It was a place called Castle Ashby. Perfect place. Great setting, and I had the right mindset. I’d chosen the place, chosen the day: July 4th, 1985. I’d collected music — I was going to play Steve Reich, which I thought would be appropriate. I’d taken the tab, and I had all these cassettes all over the floor of my car. In that state, I couldn’t find the tape! It started this mild panic, but then I started laughing at myself for panicking. And I thought, “OK, I’m just going to dig in here and pull something out at random.” I did, and it was The Velvet Underground’s third album. That just turned out to be the perfect accompaniment, and it guided me on that portion of the trip whilst it was playing. I remember looking up at this blue sky, and “Pale Blue Eyes” came on. And the whole sky was made up of thousands and thousands of eyes that were sort of like embossed watermark designs—very subtle, sort of blue-on-blue. Then I realized it was my eye, and when I blinked, all the eyes in the sky blinked with me. And then I saw rays coming down from the eyes—these cosmic rays. They were going into my heart, and it was just very joyous. And as I received, so I gave back, and that built the intensity. So it was like this feedback was building up, like a generator. And what was at the heart of that feeling was love. Then all the eyes went away, and I just felt very connected to spiritual essence. Thank you, Lou Reed! [Laughs] It’s a song about adultery, but it became a trigger, a catalyst, that led me into that experience.
At the end of the day, we [Love and Rockets] all went back to [guitarist/vocalist] Daniel [Ash]’s house—a little terraced house on a side street in Northampton—and we were finishing off that collage. I remember sitting on the floor, looking at Daniel’s antique furniture and thinking how sexy the legs of the furniture were, and remarking on this! [Laughs] The curvature of the furniture, and Daniel just smiling.
DAMON: I love that Love and Rockets was christened with an LSD trip! What other psychedelic experiences have you had that influenced your art?
DAVID: My second experience was very heavy. That was indoors, and I decided to do some drawing and listen to The Beatles’ Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s. Just something I had to do. So I got as far as Revolver, and I was looking at this sheet of blank paper, and I just started to see this jungle in the paper. It was sort of like the cover of Revolver, but again, it was sort of like this effect of being embossed, almost like watermarks. It was incredibly detailed—there was all this fauna and jungle vines and leaves, and there were little characters in there, sort of like going through the hair on the front cover. And there were animals and all sorts of stuff, but as soon as I focused on anything, it would disappear, and something would come through to take its place.
The music sounded incredible. That was when I was listening to “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Then I remember looking at the back of my hand and seeing through to my bones, seeing the cellular structure, seeing blood coursing through my veins, and then seeing my hand rot in front of my eyes. It was horrific. But I remembered that old adage: the Buddhist thing of “If you see something terrible, do not turn away. If you see something beautiful, do not cling to it.” I embraced that and went into the hand, into the death, and came through the other side. I saw it as a very beautiful process.
There’s a line in one of our songs, “The worm we dug from higher ground”—that’s what that came from, that experience. So it was the death trip. If I had turned away from it, it could have turned very negative, but thankfully I didn’t. And there was a huge lesson in that.