The Working Musician’s Perspective: Do Drugs Really Aid The Creative Process?

Since I am an artist, perhaps that’s why Performer Magazine asked if I would write a few words concerning the positive side of drugs.  After all, nobody is going to ask an athlete, a politician or a soccer mom that question.  It’s up to us artists to be the pioneers, I suppose, in this field.

“Drugs” is a charged word here in America.  We have political “SAY NO TO DRUGS” campaigns.  We have or had a War on Drugs (not the band).  Even performance-enhancing drugs are considered taboo in the States.

What’s your reaction to seeing the word “drugs”?  Did you perk up? Or did you cringe a little?  Perhaps you have past experience? No matter what, I’m sure you have a bigger reaction to the word “drugs” than let’s say…the word “puppy.”

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Oscar Wilde once said, “No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.”

I’m an artist.  I’m a singer/songwriter and a producer and an engineer.  And I completely agree with Mr. Wilde.  In my job, I try to bring new ideas to listeners’ ears, whether it be a lyric, a melody, a hook, or even a drum sound.  I’m constantly looking for new perspectives.  I’m constantly looking to give the listener a novel experience.  I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do every day if it weren’t for drugs.

When I was 16, I smoked some weed with my friends and climbed into the passenger’s seat of my best friend’s mom’s Honda Civic on a rainy 1980s Portland night.  He popped in a cassette of Led Zeppelin II.  I had heard the album before, but not like this.  My mind exploded.  It wasn’t just the weed.  It was the combination of the weed with Jimmy Page’s perfect realization of guitar mayhem on that album that melted my mind and it set me on the path that I’m still on today.  It was in that moment, for the first time that I heard what a recording studio did.  I had heard Sergeant Pepper’s.  I was familiar with all kinds of studio trickery like tape speed tricks (we grew up on the Chipmunks)…but it was that moment of being stoned in a two-door Civic hatchback, while listening to Zeppelin II, when it all clicked for me and I truly started to comprehend how all the different pieces were put together to make a great record.  If the weed had not have been there, I don’t think I would have had the epiphany.

If there is anything I know about drugs, it is this: a drug of any real potency will change your perception and your experience.  Drugs can help you see things from a new point of view as long as you are open to the experience.  And creativity responds positively to experience.  The more experience you have, the more depth you have to find solutions for the problems you come up against when pursuing any creative endeavor.

Sure, there is the obvious downside.  Behind the Music is a running joke amongst everyone, not just musicians. But I still don’t see anything negative about the potential of drugs.  My experience with drugs gave me my career.  On top of all that, obviously, drugs can also be fun.


Pat Kearns is the lead singer and guitarist for the band Blue Skies For Black Hearts. The Portland Mercury described the band’s 2011’s album Embracing the Modern Age as  “one of the most significant contributions to the (power pop) genre in recent memory…”

photography by Laura James

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