I recall as a child being fascinated by a book that was in our home, Magic, Words, and Numbers by Stuart Holroyd on Aldus Books. My parents had joined a book club and this particular volume had made its way into my immediate environs. I was drawn to the images and ideas like a bee to a swollen bloom. Chance, magick, synchronicity, rituals, Aleister Crowley, stone circles, Alfred Watkins and his ley lines and Austin Osman Spare all appeared to me from the pages of this book. A veritable Pandora’s Box of ideas and thoughts that were absorbed into my mind. This is my wish, to obtain the strength of tiger.
After having left college I moved to London to study the performance arts. I spent three years learning numerous systems at a school in Gloucester Road. Our intake was by the principle’s own words was “an experimental” group. Kabuki theatre, the Gestalt of juggling and freeform improvisation all featured in our groups exposure and training. It was here in this heady atmosphere that I met Dave. We grokked each other and immediately hit it off with chat around The Beatles and more esoteric wayward subjects.
I had smoked marijuana to a very small degree before I moved to London. A white witch called Mandy had brought to me my first bag of home grown while I was still at college. While enjoying a nice hot bath I experienced the sensation of leaving my body and looking down onto myself, though this particular event had happened naturally to me two or three times when I was a child. The quality of marijuana however increased ten fold when I moved to London. Indeed, I remember with great happiness the day my friend Adam procured for me some Jamaican herb that filled me with a transcendental festival like engorgement of the senses.
On one visit to Dave’s flat after sharing some surreal super 8 films we discussed the idea of taking some LSD. I had spent time reading a considerable amount of literature on the subject. During my teens I had investigated The Beats and their work in many happy hours spent noodling in bookshops. I had been taken to see the film 2001: A Space Odyssey at a very early age by my parents, which had left a very deep impression on me. I felt that now in my 20s it would be a good time to enter into this new and what I could only call magickal realm of discovery and enquiry. You can only dream about visiting Paris for so long…
A beautiful little corner house in Orme Lane was one of the locations of the handful of my LSD experiences. Dave had managed to secure some ‘California Sunshine’ though I am not sure whether this was the self same creation of Nick Sand and Tim Scully, the founders of this legendary brand. There was a party and the place was filled with a babbling brook of chatting people. I was handed the small tab of LSD and downed it with some water. 45 minutes later I began to babble myself. I felt like the driver of a new vehicle, discovering gear-shifts and expression that had hitherto been hidden from me. Colours exploded. Sounds intensified. Rapturous feelings of joy swirled like spirals wildly within me.
It was then a fevered and urgent craving to create something, to make art, to record and to ritualize this overwhelming experience gripped not just myself but also my fellow travellers. I was in a small acoustic combo at the time with Dave and another friend Justin. We already had a working relationship. We all went into a quiet room upstairs and started to jam along with another friend of ours Ravil. With two guitars and a piano Dave, Justin and Ravil hit upon at the time what seemed like a sublime and arresting chord sequence that hung in the air with a heavenly importance. I automatically poured into the sound waves and saw through the sonic sculpture words speaking to me as three-dimensional glyphs in my mind. I began to write the words down that resembled what could have been called a ‘chorus’.
Didn’t you know? Didn’t you know? Didn’t you know? Didn’t you know? The end you’ll know only when you…remember the start.
On another LSD trip with my fellow band mates we all decided to go for a meal in a restaurant in Primrose Hill. This seems somewhat strange to me now but at the time it made perfect sense. We conversed openly with each other about what we were perceiving without being obtuse or overtly loud. My attention was then drawn to the lovely table we were all seated at. The whole place was lit in candlelight only. I watched the hypnotic candle flame dance and effervesce various charming intricate colours and shapes. My gaze then fell upon the table setting. I picked up and held the knife at my place setting in the flames light. I was staggered how incredible it looked. I saw that it had been used many many times before. There were countless dinks, scratches, indentations and dents on the shining metal. I found this microscopic revelation overwhelmingly important.
I then turned to my friends and said; “This cutlery is beautifully fatigued.”
I first met Lisa while I was living in a council block of flats in Swiss Cottage over looking Primrose Hill in North London. We shared the flat and enjoyed each other’s company enormously. I had an immediate crush on her, though it remained unrequited and unexplored. This however didn’t stop us being very good friends. Lisa said she knew someone called Jaz. She said Jaz knew someone in Surrey who knew where a field of magic mushrooms grew each year. I had been spending time in the Compendium Bookshop in Camden and had read Terrence McKenna’s Archaic Revival and True Hallucinations. It seemed quite natural on one Saturday to go with Lisa and Jaz and take a car ride down to Surrey and meet Jaz’s friend. At the time I belonged to a super 8 film club called The Reel Love Club. With borrowed camera in hand we all set off in the car on our journey to find the field of mushrooms.
It was the late afternoon when we arrived at Jaz’s friends house. We were instructed to follow and in a convoy of three cars we drove through the rambling lanes deep into the countryside. After what seemed like 40 or so minutes we arrived at a field that lay nestled in a small valley. We assembled and went into the field with plastic bags at the ready.
Jaz then said to me; “Eat the first one or two you find only. It will help you to see the other mushrooms in the field. Trust me on this. One or two only, no more than that.”
Puzzled and bemused by this instruction I walked into the now dusk patterned field of sheep and started to gaze down onto the ground looking intently. 20 minutes later I spotted my first Liberty Cap or Psilocybe Semilanceata. I called to Jaz to make sure that this was indeed the right kind of mushroom. He concurred and then I ate it. After what seemed only a few minutes of searching the whole field suddenly unfolded a network carpet of mushrooms spread out before me. I was surprised and delighted by the peek-a-boo quality that these living entities possessed. Places where I’d discarded as completely barren had suddenly became in an instance rich and fruitful. I was utterly perplexed. In the falling light the mushrooms had a pale luminosity not unlike a very low level fleshy glo-stick. I gazed across the field at the fungal city of light and communed with its hum and bliss state.
Returning to Jaz’s friends home it was decided that a huge batch of mushroom tea decanted into large Evian bottles was the best way to share equally, transport and distribute the crop. Being my first encounter I agreed with this plan. Lisa and Jaz mentioned that there was a party in South London to which I was invited.
The three of us departed, each with our own large bottles of mushroom tea. I managed to restrain myself and decided not to drink the tea while we were in transit. Lisa however had another idea on her mind.
After an hours drive I heard Lisa from the back seat of the car say; “The map has gone all 3D. All of the lines are coming out at me. I don’t think I can read the map anymore.”
Fortunately we all arrived at the party in one piece. I decided to drink my tea in the back garden, since I felt a little shy at swigging from a transparent brown plastic bottle in the middle of a group of people. I drank half, hid the bottle and went inside the packed house. The rooms were filled with techno rave music à la Spiral Tribe and it throbbed gorgeously throughout the house. It was then I came up on the mushrooms and a sequence of visions transpired before me.
A vast warm fuzzy feeling of contentment rose up and wrapped itself around me, while my stomach fizzed a merry dance of slick bubbling glee. I walked into the front room. There before me were dancing vibrating people in various animated facial snap shots of monkey face gurning and berserking. I then felt the need to find a viewpoint from which to take in this immense vision and stood just outside of the room in what could be called a dining area. I looked back and an interconnected lattice of fine spider like geometric laser light fibers then appeared. Everywhere I looked every single person and point in the room was connected by this fine laser light fiber nest. Everything was connected by light.
I then went outside to consider this and finish off my last drops of mushroom tea. I looked up at the stars, a yawning comfortable rush pouring through my body. On re-entering the house I grabbed a beer in the kitchen, lit a cigarette and perched myself leaning on the mantelpiece in the dining area.
A young man came up to me and said; “You seem really mellow! What are you on?”
“That’s so coooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool.”
His voice had sounded elongated and rather comedic to me. It was then I moved over to a now vacant seat on the sofa and attempted to chat to Lisa. She was busy in a conversation on my left, so I decided to turn to my right to a young woman. Her beautiful face un-happened and re-happened whilst suspended in a painting by Rembrandt.
No words were spoken. We just looked at each other without touching, just holding and bathing in each other’s gaze in a silent and total understanding of complete love and respect.
A year or so after the party I took the super 8 footage of my mushroom field expedition and showed it at a super 8 film club called Exploding Cinema. I performed a live soundtrack that included my voice, a kazoo, maracas and an Open University cassette tape that played in the background. The tape was about the Basal Ganglia which are multiple subcortical nuclei situated at the base of the forebrain. At the climax of the five minutes of film I faded out the tape and screamed as loudly as I could;
“Make room for the mushrooms!!!”
Months later I experienced another mushroom event with one of Lisa’s flat mates who had got hold of some Liberty Caps. He had decided that making a Bovril Tea with these mushrooms was somehow a good idea. A mutual friend called Phil was also there but he had decided not to take part. After drinking the thick and rich beefy brew I noticed an interesting development with a Persian rug that was hanging on the wall of the flat. The pattern had begun to move and squirm violently while eventually opening up into a vast never-ending tract of stunning hyperspace. Phil then at one point decided to freak out even though he wasn’t taking part. Maybe he was acting out because his fear had got the best of him. I watched him get more and more angry. From a place of deep serenity I saw Phil literally turn very very dark while thousands of long glass ice shards splintered off his entire body and face. Retiring to a spare room on my own I snuggled under a duvet and closed my crazy eyes. There I was treated to a magnificent animated show of Matisse and Kandinsky forms carousing in a fantastical garden fairground of sublime light and colour.
In the months of 1993 into 1994 the civil service temporary work I had been doing completely dried up. I was forced out of the Barons Court flat I had been living in, finally ending up living in a squat in North London. Before this sequence had happened I had fortunately met a tall young drummer called Eddie through our mutual friend Lisa. Eddie was cool and we grokked each other immediately with Star Trek and Hawkwind banter. Seeing my book of poems he invited me to join a rehearsal of the band he was drumming for. They were called The Martians and they had established a rehearsal room inside a large and rambling North London gothic squat. The band was the brainchild of Louis (aka Detreb, guitarist/songwriter. We each had our own Martian codename) and Nick, a mysterious and cosmic antipodean hippy and anarchist, creator of the Martian t-shirt and author of The Martian Dictionary, an orange coloured sci-fi ecologically centred activist newspaper.
Nick told me he allegedly used to write a regular column in an underground newspaper during the 60s called ‘About Most Things’, signing himself ‘The Walrus’ and a meeting he’d had with Paul McCartney at a party in St. John’s Wood where Nick introduced himself to him as ‘The Walrus’. Yes indeed, if only I could verify this remarkably tall but tantalising tale I would be a very happy Martian! Nick used to be on/off friends with Rainbow George who used to hang out with Peter Cook in Hampstead. George recorded all of the conversations they had together. George had founded a commune in a squatted church in North London called The Rainbow Church.
After my first rehearsal at what was called “the student house” by local residents, a two year odyssey of squatting, gigging, rehearsals, happenings, pop-up Martian squat shops, squat parties, demonstrations, studio and home recordings, Exploding Cinema appearances, t-shirt selling at Megatripolis (an underground London night club devoted to Rave, New Age and Cyber Culture ideas and activities), poetry reading at various places including CoolTan Arts in Brixton and general sci-fi cult madness all enveloped my life in a vast tsunami of beans on toast, pints of tea and magic mushrooms. All band members had their own special Martian name. I’d chosen the name Sheer Zed from a short story I’d written. It has remained my name ever since and will be so until the day I die.
The band comprised of Louis (aka Detreb, guitars), Naomi (aka Glam, vocals/dancer), Alex (aka X-Ela, The Martian Ali, vocals), Mike (Mr. Blooblap, guitars) Eddie (E-D, Drums), Rick (aka Ricochet, saxophone), and myself (Sheer Zed, vocals, percussion and a Casio sampler borrowed from Andy Ward of The Perennial Divide) Over the two years we were together we played many gigs; The Rock Garden, The Zap Club in Brighton, The Swan in Fulham, The George Robey, The Bull & Gate and The Powerhouse to name but a few. My encounters with magic mushrooms and acid accelerated at an incredible rate. It seemed that my initial contact with them had started a chain reaction, which was to lead me through numerous numinous experiences.
I used to do artwork for Mr. Blooblap’s solo projects in exchange for some money, food or the occasional joint. One day Mr. Blooblap asked me down to his flat in Belsize Park. He mentioned that a mate of his Mick who lived just upstairs for him had some LSD he’d wanted to share with us. Gathering in Mick’s top floor flat we dosed ourselves with the tiny tabs and waited to come up. Mick was a music journalist and had an incredible vinyl collection. He introduced me to a group called Silver Apples. He put the vinyl on and off we went. I was very taken by the incredible beauty of its simple and yet complex drum cycles and exquisite electronic oscillator structures.
Mick then put on a surreal Led Zeppelin electronic remix album. The volume went up and I slightly panicked. The LSD geared up, turning Mick’s huge vinyl library into a aircraft hanger sized depository of all music knowledge past, present and future. It was at this point Mr. Blooblap and myself decided to go to a party he knew about around the corner. Mick preferred to stay and we parted company in mild boyish giggles.
The strychnine death shivers shuddered through our bodies as we arrived at the basement flat the party was supposed to be at. Mr. Blooblap and myself became very worried. Staring through the front windows we saw that nobody was inside. Mr. Blooblap suggested that maybe the party had been cancelled or moved to another venue. I shrugged. All of the lights were on but not a soul inside. Mr. Blooblap then girded his courage and checked to see if the door was open. It was. Stepping inside we both moved quietly into the front room. We both then saw someone we knew and went over to them. It was a friend’s sister.
She said blankly to us; “Everyone’s in the bathroom.”
We both looked at her strangely and said together; “What? You mean every single person at this party is inside the bathroom?”
Mr. Blooblap and myself walked down the corridor towards the bathroom. We could hear a cacophony raging behind a closed door. Daring each other to open the door from which the sound emanated Mr. Blooblap finally turned the doorknob and pushed. Inside the bathroom were at least 15 to 20 people who were all crammed tightly into every conceivable spot. A thick and dense steam hung in the air. Everything went silent as all eyes fell onto the both of us. Standing amongst this intense sardine scene was a young male Asian model standing in front of the mirror, repeatedly splashing his face with water, while he slowly but surely morphed into Gloria Swanson from the last scene in the film Sunset Boulevard.
One day an Italian traveler called Federico arrived in a beat up old van at the squat with his girlfriend. He had been down to Cornwall to visit a friend would had cultivated a large crop of mushrooms. Federico had with him what can only be described as a very large demijohn sized jar of black unctuous molasses. He told me that he had mixed the mushrooms with honey. This by far in my mind was an excellent and most superb of ideas. He sold to our fellow squatters small jam sampler sized pots filled to the brim with magic mushrooms for roughly £5. This made transportation and access very easy indeed. Federico called it “Funny honey”.
Thrilled with my purchase I made a label that read “Captain Mushroom’s Funny Honey”. I filled my little pot three four times before the kindly Federico left the squat to make his long way back to Italy. I experimented with mushrooms in a number of different ways. In tea, in honey, on their own and also dried in a shamanic tobacco smoke mixture which was quiet effective. I have clear memories after smoking the mixture of seeing hundreds of tiny pinpoints of sparkle shines exploding in the faces of my fellow band members as we gathered around a fire in the garden.
One particularly outstanding LSD experience remains firmly nestled in my mind. A friend called Al and myself had taken some LSD and we went out into the streets of North London. We found ourselves walking up Hampstead High Street at one point. It literally concaved into itself and formed a long Christmas like tunnel of chuckling lights and shapes. We then both came across a small gallery, which seemed to shine particularly brightly in the street. There in the window was a display of amazing paintings that showed elves, dwarves and faeries by an artist called Brian Froud.
Recalling the party I had been to with Lisa and Jaz I turned to Al and said; “Look, it’s Brian Frooooooooooooud!” At this elongation by myself Al exploded into uncontrollable wild hysterical laughter.
Al and myself finally reached our night quest location of Parliament Hill. In the distance I saw a long undulating worm that had square sheets of light hanging off it as it rollercoastered its way across the landscape while hundreds of small hammers smashed again and again onto the exploding metal planks below. Blinking again I then saw this fantastical beast revert back into an over land tube train making it’s way towards Camden. We bayed at the moon. I then took in the grand vista that stretched out before us. I saw the very curvature of the Earth itself. Totality glowed in the pale blue dark of London that had been caught in a reverie of Disney dancing textures and Vincent Van Gogh starry magick cartoons. On our way back to the squat Al said;
“Take your glasses off, you don’t need them.” I then duly removed my glasses. But after ten minutes I said, “Al, I’m really sorry, but I do need my glasses.”
During the 1990s I wrote a considerable amount of poetry that recorded my experiences and feelings throughout my vision questing. At one point I spent two years working on one cycle of poetry called The Voyage of Baron Skylark, which was initiated after drinking a large smart drink in a Camden smart bar. This work remains unpublished though there are a handful of self produced copies floating around out there somewhere. Over the last ten years I have focused solely on producing music.
I have released a spoken word album called Special Wings which features one of my favorite poems from this period called The Eternal Kiss.
We build a fire.
It takes only to blink
Past the smiling eyes
And we are there within
Each others breathing sighs.
The decaying clock slices
Fine moments of dreaming
That gleam diamond
White slithers of steam
Melt touching traveling bird song
Into the creeping dawn.
It’s a pleasure to be here
Even though the momentum
Building, rising, is quietly
Taking us to another state.
This swooning tongue fever,
This pearling zen kiss weight.
Let us take higher,
We’ve built our fire.
No sham language spake
While we hold this desire.
Bending vortex growth
Slides sunrise bold.
Externalize the soul
Into the land of gold.
And coming from the
We exalt in the cool
The eternal kiss.
Here is the sequence
This charming yelp tenders.
Carved from flesh
We blossom further
Come now to us those lips of ours,
Sealing, locking warm wet
Lusciousness which devours.
Oh, divine pagan!
We fire the old ways
Sparring sparks in the heart
Encircling arms energize
Yet again our smiling eyes
Kiss eternal blissings
Bliss eternal kissings
Kiss eternal blissings
Bliss eternal kissings
Kiss eternal blissings
Bliss eternal kissings
Kiss eternal blissings
Bliss eternal kissings.