WHAT DOES PSYCHEDELIC music mean to me? Everything. I was exposed to deeply psychedelic music at such a young age that it predated any classic drug-related psychedelic music experiences. My father was, and is, an excellent jazz musician, and when I was growing up he was into jazz-fusion, progressive, and psychedelic rock music, and the records he exposed me to shaped my current sense of music more than anything else.
As a kid, whenever I got sick my father would pull out the tape player and two deeply trippy tapes, creating a trance-inducing sonic backdrop that kept me in a semi-lucid dream-state for hours on end. The first tape had Jon Hassell and Brian Eno's Possible Musics album on one side and Wendy (Walter) Carlos' Sonic Seasonings on the other. The liquid, washed-out hand-drum loops, Eno's weird synth snarls, and Hassell's eerie, harmonized trumpet mouthpiece sounded completely otherworldly. Carlos' strange ambient impressions of the seasons didn't quite conjure up the images of desert summer heat or autumn leaves that she/he (Note: Carlos was born a man but underwent gender reassignment therapy) was trying to convey, but did create a strange sonic environment in which I could zone out forever.
The other tape was two hours of Ravi Shankar playing classical Indian ragas. The phased-out drone of the tamburas going on and on, while Shankar ripped melting raindrops was completely enchanting to my young ears.
Around the same time, I would listen to King Crimson's first record, In the Court of the Crimson King, over and over while looking at the amazing album artwork; it was my favorite bedtime book. The mystically tinged lyrics, weird guitars, and mellotrons slightly out of tune with each other would immediately take me to another world.
In fifth grade, my dad bought me Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced? on tape. I was again transported to other worlds. I remember listening to the deep, long closing track, "Third Stone from the Sun," and rewinding the tape to listen to it again.
My dad was also very invested in alternative methods of mind expansion and spiritual experience. He persuaded me to stay away from drugs, instead steering me toward the spiritual teachings of Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He told me early in my teens that psychedelic drugs were, in his eyes, a shortcut to spiritual enlightenment that I didn't need to take; that anything that could be experienced with LSD or other hallucinogens could be done with more focus and with a longer-lasting, deeper impact through meditation and other means. Before I had ever smoked pot I had tripped out for hours on my father's Moog synthesizer and Roland "space echo" tape delay machine, not to mention weird space jazz LPs and the entire Pink Floyd discography. So instead of rebelling against my dad's philosophy, my own experiences just proved him right.
So I guess I was kinda born into this psychedelic music world. I know how to work a guitar pedal way better than a bong. That's for damn sure. (I still don't really understand the function of the "carb.") When I finally did explore drugs in college and after, I found that they could enhance my enjoyment of psychedelic music, but weren't totally necessary in order to trip out. Meanwhile, my life as an artist has become a constant pursuit of the sorts of profound, transportive, waking-dream, "psychedelic" experiences I had as a child.
Adam Forkner plays Towne Lounge on Monday as part of the new monthly Marriage Records Showcase.
List of Albums that Seriously Trip My Shit
Terry Riley—Rainbow in Curved Air
Steve Hillage—Rainbow Dome Musick
The Jimi Hendrix Experience—Are You Experienced?
Windy and Carl—Drawing of Sound
Brian Eno—Discrete Music; Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics; Ambient 1: Music for Airports
Bardo Pond—Bufo Alvarius Amen 29:15
Steve Reich—Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians
Stars of the Lid—Per Aspera Ad Astra
Sunray/Sonic Boom—Music for the Dream Machine
Fripp and Eno—No Pussyfooting
King Crimson—In the Court of the Crimson King