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Sipping Absinthe, Playing Music

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Like everybody else, I cringe when I read interviews with Marilyn Manson and other musicians who boast of recording albums while "on" absinthe.

 

As a musician myself, though (I've played guitar for about 20 years), I must confess that I've played music by myself and with others after having a few glasses of absinthe and that the results have been interesting.

 

I usually avoid drinking alcohol when making music; while it loosens me up, it also dulls my senses and slows down my reflexes. Moreover, it dulls my creativity and distorts my sense of my own performance. The only thing worse than watching a drunk musician try to play an instrument is being the drunk musician trying to play an instrument. I cringe when I (partially) remember my buddies and I "taking the stage" while shitfaced at parties during my college years. Of course, most of the audience was drunk too, so maybe our performance sounded OK. Or at least it's likely that they don't remember it any better than I do.

 

On the other hand, I find that while absinthe loosens me up, it doesn't have the adverse effects I've experienced playing music while under the influence of other types of alcohol. (Again, I'm only talking about a few glasses here, not half a bottle.) I retain my senses, my reflexes, and my self-awareness; I would even say that they are heightened, along with my creativity. I would describe it as a zen-like state of musicianship, but that sounds pretty corny. And this isn't just the "absinthe talking"--I've recorded some of the music I've written and played while "on" absinthe and it holds up the next day. I'm happy with it.

 

I have little interest in feeding the hype surrounding absinthe's much-vaunted "secondary effect," but I have to admit that it does have an interesting effect on my music. Other members of this board have posted about the effect of absinthe on their art (painting, etc.). Anyone care to discuss its impact on their music?

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In advance, I'd like to apologise for my talk of self-induced, chemically altered states. Hopefully it's relevant to the topic, though. And please forgive my keyboard rambling: I've had a handful of glasses of absinthe. But hey, this board is all about posting drunk, yes? :devil:

 

I've played guitar for just under 20 years, as well as harmonica and meddling with keyboards and programming drums and even vocals. I've attempted to make music in many states of mind, including ones as simple as sleep deprivation and hangovers and others as potentially messy as LSD.

 

Every single time, I've felt the same as you. Slower reflexes or dumbed down creativity, and it's never held up well the next day. The best music I make is when I'm in possession of my full faculties. Well rested, energetic, and free of external drains on creative juices (like too much time spent at work!).

 

When I was a wee lad, or maybe about ten years ago, one of the strongest acid trips I took peaked at the end of a Marilyn Manson concert (and yes, I really like the stuff he did from the earlier part of his career--especially Antichrist Superstar). Some kind of snowflake substitute fell from the top of the stage while he played one of his better soft ballads. Yes, it was real, and it made for a very theatrical and surreal experience, especially with all the passive goths who couldn't be bothered trying to storm the security barrier of bouncers guarding the area near the stage.

 

Yeah, I was a goth, but I didn't let it stop me from taking part in life!

 

The point of this anecdote is that on returning to a friend's place after the gig, I listened to some Elmore James and it seemed like the most normal thing in the world. The music came out of the speakers untouched by my chemically altered mind. Something about the blues seems to penetrate any altered state and exhibit a sense of normality, at least for me. Maybe because it's the form of music that I've spent the most time playing and listening to, and probably the music I most relate to at some kind of cellular level.

 

But when I think of one of my favourite musicians, Hound Dog Taylor, I couldn't imagine him playing sober. I think it would dull the freewheeling experience of ragged electric blues that only he can give. Come to think of it, there are a handful more blues musos I prefer drunk.

 

AIO, I think I'm like you, too, in that I generally prefer having only one or two glasses of absinthe, which I find is just enough to relax and fully appreciate the 'secondaries' or lucid level of mild drunkenness without feeling that way for more than a couple of hours. Thing is, I haven't actually tried making music in this state, but I have a strange feeling that it might work well.

 

So, after all that rambling, all I can say is that ... I'll give it a try, and report back here. :)

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I have found hangovers to be far far messier than LSD. Although I seem to remember Metallica playing some big MTV event some time ago and reading that they were tossin' their cookies backstage immediately prior to taking the stage. LSD only made me sit down, shut up, and listen to Claude Debussy. At least till I moved to Tucson...........

 

plus a lot of those blues guys were power drunks, what it takes to get them to the happy place would render me a fetal ball on the floor(And lets not even talk about the bebop thing). Some of you other guys I cannot speak for of course....

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I've played guitar for 26 years now. I'm also a songwriter and a fairly bad singer.

With my band I generally didn't drink during practice. However, the few times we did all have a drink or two I did notice things were more relaxed and lead to journeys into more substantial improv. However, my band has been non-working the last 3-4 months due to a fired bass player and drummer who's missed 2 months of practice.

That leaves me with my singer and us planning on doing some duo open mics until we find replacements.

 

Absinthe didn't really enter into the picture until after the band imploded. I do drink one or two glasses while working on material with my singer and it does seem to open me up more to the 'zone.' I do find my writing to be more expressive when I'm working on original songs. My lyrical/poetry does seem to be positively effected by Absinthe. Or maybe I'm just maturing with age???? :devil:

 

I just really wish i had an actual band to play with right now. I miss the jams and venturing into spontanious musical spaces. I can only imagine an Absinthe fueled jam adventure. :cheers:

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And if you couldn't already tell, I've had a few glasses of the Green Fairy to go with my fall cold today. Sorry for the post mishap. I'll step away from the keyboard now! :cheers:

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Great posts! Thanks for the responses.

 

dannyhawaii: You bring up a good point--I was thinking about alcohol specifically when I wrote my earlier post, but I agree that other recreational drugs also tend, at least in my experience, to have a dampening effect on my music. It's just of a different order. If alcohol makes my playing sloppy, the substances that I dabbled with in my own youth (let's just say without going into too much detail that we have a similar history :devil: ) often "defamiliarized" the act of playing the guitar so much that when I picked up the instrument under the influence it was like I was playing it for the first time... and not in a good way. You know, like getting all caught up in playing the same note or chord over and over (whooaaaa, cool). Occasionally, interesting things would happen, especially when my playing was inspired by less potent stuff, but overall I didn't feel that this state of mind was particularly conducive to making good music. As for the musicians--new and old--who play smashed every night, I don't know how they do it. That level of drunk/high must be their "norm"--maybe it's the only way they can play anymore... Anyway, try out the absinthe approach and get back to us!

 

Sol2Sol: So was that you on YouTube? I couldn't figure it out. Nice little blues jam, though--and a sweet guitar. I have a Les Paul as well: not vintage, just a 1987 Custom. It's my old standby, though. Sorry to hear about your group; I haven't been very successful at keeping one together either. Maybe we should start up a WS house band! For those Absinthe fueled jam adventures.

 

I should say that I don't want to sound like I'm making any sort of grand claims for the experience of making music under the influence of absinthe. I don't believe that absinthe makes me a "better" musician, just that it opens up my playing a little bit and primes my creativity in a way that all these other substances don't. I'd definitely be interested in hearing from anyone else with a perspective on this!

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Aio, yes that's me on the YouTube clip. I did that a few months ago. Wasn't intending on doing a video that day but after a few glasses of Absinthe things started to flow. It was originally just a solo blues lead, but the next day I took that, fitted it with some typical blues chords and wrote, Puppy Dog Blues around it, which is one of my favorite newer songs of mine.

 

I'm all about a WS houseband! :cheers:

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The Pink Floyd tune was very nice. I keep Dark Side of the Moon on my desk at work for times when I need to set back and re-group.

 

Thank you. :cheers:

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Hey the Time solo sounded great! What amp/pedals are you going thru on that one?

Thanks!

Its just a POD and a 20W transistor peavy amp. But the strat has a great sound (clapton custom 50s vintage strat), primarely when played with nothing more than a tube amp. But the bendings are hard with no trem bar.

Here is another one, struggling with intonation:

comfortably numb pink floyd

I read it from the screen while playing, thx to guitar pro :)

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Anyone care to discuss its impact on their music?

The only time I drink while recording or playing is when working on Peridot Elixir. Since it's absinthe drinking music, I get in the headspace of what I'd want to listen to while drinking by drinking while writing and recording. Even then I don't get drunk--I absolutely cannot focus these days if I'm more than slightly buzzing. I don't really need it to get me loosened up. Warming up does that.

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The only time I drink while recording or playing is when working on Peridot Elixir. Since it's absinthe drinking music, I get in the headspace of what I'd want to listen to while drinking by drinking while writing and recording.

 

Sounds like an interesting project! I'd like to hear something from it, if you'd ever care to post a track. A friend of mine and I tried something similar not too long ago--a collection of absinthe-inspired music that he called "The Shining Green Veil." Work and other distractions intruded, unfortunately, and our collaboration became more haphazard over time. It yielded some valuable fragments of music, though; I'm still toying with some of them in other (non-absinthe-related) contexts.

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OMG: Oh crap, you're right. I'd better get on it now if I hope to have it ready in time.

 

AiO: it's http://www.myspace.com/peridotelixir . The first album is kinda lo-fi. I've been working on a second for about a year now but I have better recording tools now and I'm thinking of starting over.

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I hear ya, the first tune I produced on my computer was using some different (and older) software than the other stuff, and I basically ended up hand-pasted the whole thing together. Laborious and crossed eye inducing. Afterward I redid the whole tune(after working on a couple albums worth of stuff to clear my head of the original experience) on better software and I gotta say I liked the old pasted up version better, there were some cool accents on the beats and some cool segues, all from my less-than-perfect pasteup job. I guess it sounded more like it was put together by a living person.

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Thanks for the link, Peridot--good stuff! I liked the first track, "The Absinthe Drinker," the best I think. Sounded fairly polished to me, too. My music tends to be in a more "trance rock" vein (I'm a big fan of the Velvet Underground and other similar bands of the '60s and '70s), but I dug what I heard of yours. Best of luck with your continued work on the project! And I can't wait to hear the X-mas tune! :cheers:

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