My Journey as a psychedelic artist – San Francisco 2012 | INTRO
A few years ago I started to write a book. This book was not necessarily meant to be published at any time and its main purpose was to reflect on m,y personal but incredible journey as an artist. From a lost child with no perspective to a globally recognized artist in the Psychedelic Trance field that spans 5 continents and countless countries. The adventures that I experienced were life-changing and in my view, worth recording in written form.
A LIFE IN TRANCE
Excited I stand on the huge stage in the Brazilian hinterland of Sao Paulo. My heart starts beating even faster now, I’m excited but focused like a spartan soldier. My senses sharpen as I walk up the stairs to the stage. Bit by bit the gigantic crowd reveals itself. Fifteen thousand souls are dancing in a trance as I walk onto the stage. Arriving at the mixer, I focus on preparing my equipment.
The artist in front of me ends his set. People gossip. Then there is a short silence.
The colorful crowd of dancing people looks at me expectantly. I position myself right in the middle of the huge stage as I play the first song. I LOVE LSD. One of my biggest hits. Breathe one last time. I slowly pull the fader of the mixer up.
The 4/4 beat starts slowly. The high frequencies are filtered while the filter cutoff gradually opens up. The bassline now comes to the fore bit by bit. The synth uplifters set in and an unreal, mystical sound complements the composition. “Sound – Light – Future – Fantasy” the modulated, synthetically sounding female voice slowly sounds from the huge speakers. The words sound exactly on the second and fourth bars. There is a short pause after each word. The mantra says again. Sound – Light – Future – Fantasy. One more time. And again. It increases. Continue. Even more. Goose bumps are noticeable on my right arm and my back. The crowd is slowly moving. One last time: “Sound – Light – Future – Fantasy. Up, further, up. Uplifter. A final drum roll and the upward smoldering bass prepare the massive crowd for the approaching drop. I jump into the air right at the end of the intro so that I land back on my feet to the first beat of the bassline. The crowd suddenly begins to shake From the center of the dance floor the crowd begins to explode People cheer euphorically, shriek, and stretch their hands up while they start dancing ecstatically, the euphoria spreading in a split second across the entire dancefloor, which is now going full blast.
This is the description of the beginning of my set at the Maya Festival in Brazil that I played recently. But this story does not start here but seven years ago in California. Before all the parties and huge festivals. Before Australia, the Himalayas, Guatemala, India, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Mexico, and countless other exotic countries that I have visited over the years as a musician. Before the expensive hotels and the countless trips to strange, far away places.
At that time I was a young German trance producer, almost twenty years old, who was about to make his international breakthrough. Not long before, I broke off my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich to concentrate fully on music.
SAN FRANCISCO CALLING
It’s October 2012, I’m only twenty and a short time before that I founded the music label Fantazy Records with Jack Le Druide. We played a few gigs together during the season as Jack had come to Europe from Canada anyway for the season. At that time I had been flying around as a live act for some time and the name Parandroid was spreading at breakneck speed in the international underground psytrance scene. I was the talk of the town since I was picked by Peter Kubala or as he was better known Cosmo to be the next label artist to be signed. And when Peter likes something, he talks about it almost non-stop. The Slovak music producer, who at that time still enjoyed legendary status, had significantly influenced the style of high-tech trance together with Heiko Quast, better known under the name Highko. Not only was he a pioneering producer, he was also an absolute fanatic about collecting and distributing music. At that time he had managed the legendary label Noise Poison Records practically alone since Heiko was on a kind of self-discovery trip in Asia at the time. Only the best of the best were released on Noise Poison Records. Every single artist signed has had widespread international success.
At that time I didn’t know how lucky I was. While I was signed to some solid labels like Akashik and Maniac Psycho Pro from Israel, I never expected at this point that I would be signed to one of the major contemporary psytrance labels any time soon. Nevertheless, I was already a professional producer back then and made a living from my performances. Cosmo had contacted me months before when I was living in Barcelona with my great love Kathrin. After hearing a song from my first EP called Metaprogram Language, he became obsessed with me. When he contacted me for the first time, I suspected that there must be a mistake. I replied that I need a little time and will then send him a full demo. It was a euphoric moment when he wrote to me for the first time. Cosmo has already played my songs to thousands of people around the world, which has given my name a huge boost. How could it be that my youth luminary contacted me? However, it wasn’t an accident. Peter knew exactly what he was doing. He will sign me as a label artist while I’m still in San Francisco, about a month after my arrival in America, which has had a significant and lightning-fast impact on the course of my career. From today to tomorrow. Like in the movies.
But back to the actual story.
Arrival in San Francisco
“What may I offer you to drink, Sir?” asked a velvety voice with a French accent.
I am slowly opening my eyes while waking up from the flight induced a half-sleep. “One orange juice and one mineral water, please. How long is the flight time again?”
“Here you are. We have a flight time of thirteen hours and fifteen minutes today. We’ll land in San Francisco in about ten hours.” said the pretty blonde stewardess while smilingly handing me my two drinks in plastic cups.
I thanked her sleepily and drank my two drinks. Half the orange juice first. Then half the mineral water. Then mix the mineral water with the orange juice and drink. Like always. When you’re constantly on planes, you develop your routines. It`s almost like a ritual.
Planes have never been a place I really like. Don’t get me wrong, I love to fly, who doesn’t? Seeing new unknown places, soaring above the clouds, and being served doesn’t sound so bad at first. The whole thing changes quickly if you have to fly all the time for work. But the problem is not flying itself. The problem is the people. In such a small space with so many people, and at the mercy of the arbitrariness of the stewardesses. Then the narrow chairs in the economy. I’m 198 centimeters tall, which unfortunately doesn’t offer any advantage in this situation. Even as an artist with international success, you fly at least 90% in economy class. That means you’re effectively a third or fourth class passenger, depending on what the guy responsible for booking your planes booked for you. Above you there is first class, and depending on the airline, you are sometimes treated shitily. Above you there is the premium economy, then business, and in some cases first class. At that time I was so used to flying that it was already nothing special for me anymore. But this flight was different. Despite the numerous flights I had completed in previous years, this was the longest flight of my life up to that point. In the next six years, I will not only fly across the Atlantic several times but also travel the whole world with my music. From the beaches of northern Brazil to exotic places like Nepal I was booked. From Canada, America, Mexico and Central America, Brazil, Asia to Australia, and everything in between. But by then I was already on a roller coaster of ambition and success. Somehow I felt that international success was on the way. Ultimately, it all happened so quickly that it was hard to grasp at the moment when you were in the middle of it. Suddenly you are in a different place every week. You are chauffeured around and adored like a prince. Hotel room, groupies. Suddenly almost every woman wants you if she can get you. I’ve always been hugely popular with girls, but after my breakthrough as an artist, things got actually really wild about that. Suddenly money becomes a commodity. You play for 2 hours and get two thousand euros. For me this was a lot of money, you know? Then there are the drugs. At some points in my career I was almost abstinent on the road, straight edge minus weed you could call it. Not even Alcohol in some cases. But then there were also a number of years in which I fell into the simple trap that opens up all too often as an international DJ. Drugs are everywhere and sometimes in large quantities. Here take a bag full of coke for the after-party I remember a German organizer saying after an event. However, I have almost never taken any drugs at home as it doesn’t go well with the disciplined work style I acquired during my college days. Organizers are often big or small fish in the drug trade and well connected with the underworld. Money is often no longer an issue. For outsiders, it is often difficult to see how much is going on behind the scenes of some huge Psychedelic Trance events. Forward Out is all about consciousness and transcendence. But behind the scenes, the same rules of money and power sometimes rule. Furthermore, the psytrance scene has also grown into a million-dollar business over the years. This also attracted some organized crime. Suddenly the underground artists became overground famous and some of the promoters got filthy rich. Yes, with Psytrance. All of this can have a significant impact on an ego this young, but you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn more about that in this book.
The time in San Francisco was the time shortly before my final international breakthrough as a musician. So before the big hype.
Fuck it. I’m flying to America! A little back pain is worth it all. The whole trip was planned at short notice. Jack said we can find 100 percent trimming jobs in California. “He said you could make hundreds of dollars a day there. While I wasn’t worried about money at the time, flying out to California and trimming some weed sounded pretty tempting, to be honest. On top of that, I was already in demand enough as a live act back then. Within days of the announcement that I was coming to America, I had a full tour of a variety of cities in Mexico. I will spend a total of three months on the other side of the Atlantic. Two of them are in the San Francisco Bay Area and California. Another month on four gigs in the Mexican cities of Tijuana, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and last but not least the jungle paradise in the deep jungle of Palenque, Chiapas in southern Mexico. When I look back I see how tender, innocent and inexperienced I was then. But even then, that didn’t stop me from attracting conflicts like a magnet. There have always been almost exclusively two reactions to me. I am either idolatrously loved or fervently hated. There have seldom been moments in my life when the needle does not swing into one of these two extremes.
Despite my size, I try to make myself as comfortable as possible on the uncomfortable seat with too little legroom for a man who is almost two meters tall and fall asleep peacefully a few moments later to the hum of the turbines. Luckily, airplane noise has a soporific effect on me. After a while of constant globe trotting, my brain learned when it is a good time to shut off.
Arrival in America
When I arrived in San Francisco there was a bright blue sky with only a few, long clouds. The weather is mild and it was afternoon. Shortly after arrival I contacted Guillermo and let him know I had landed safely. Guillermo is a witty American of Mexican descent who, among other things, ran the psytrance label Akashik Records on which I had released shortly before. He was extremely excited that I was coming to California and got me a gig at a little party series in San Francisco called Synchronicity. After I had transported my body, which was still tense from the flight, with the beard (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to downtown San Francisco, I took in the impressions of the iconic North American metropolis for the first time. The gigantic concrete and glass skyscrapers were impressive. They reflected the blue sky giving the city a gray-blue aura. Almost clichéd, I was amazed at how American America really was. I strolled through the big, hilly streets of San Francisco. Guillermo lived in downtown San Francisco. I went to meet my him there. The sun slowly went down. The city’s blue aura gradually turned into an orange-gold one. I met my friend in Chinatown near the Financial District. Everything looked kind of like what I knew from the movies and video games. Bright lights, big cars, and anonymous stereotypical American-looking figures roamed the streets of downtown San Francisco. I was actually in America. Arrived at the Old St Mary’s Cathedral I already saw my host coming over to me. He was easily visible in the crowd thanks to his eccentric dress sense and hairstyle. The almost thirty-year-old, highly intelligent entrepreneur and psyhead Guliermo is five feet tall and has medium-length dreadlocks and a daliesque-styled full beard. If you want to call it that because I would have described his beard growth as anything but full. The back of his hair was partially matted while the front was unmatted and carefully styled in a side parting. His look was completed with Japanese leather tabi boots with the big toe severed from the rest, green cargo pants with a fancy cut and plenty of pockets, a freaky vest, tons of jewelry, piercings, and tattoos. In short: He looked like a modern-day hippie. Many people would never guess what a resourceful businessman he is. He is extremely well connected and has various projects alongside the Record label such as an eco-retreat village in Costa Rica called Lemurian Village. I was glad to know him as it turns out he had excellent contacts in San Francisco. Without him, I would never have gotten to know Celina and the fantastic house in which I was allowed to spend two months. He greeted me with a smile.
“Hey, my friend! how are you dude I’m so glad to finally meet you, Samuel! Welcome to San Francisco!” he warmly welcomed me with a subtle but noticable Mexican accent.
I returned the friendly greeting with a shy hug and thanked him profusely for the invitation and help with the performance in San Francisco he helped organizing.
“Do you have a place to sleep yet? You can crash with me today and tomorrow i`ll introduce you to a very good friend of mine. You will like her. You’re going to have a blast here in San Francisco, Sam. Be sure about that. Let’s go get something to eat and drink first. You must be hungry, aren’t you?
The long journey had made me hungry. We visited one of the numerous upper-class restaurants in the area and talked about releases, performances, and the evolution of the international psytrance community.
The American Psychedelic Trance scene is tiny compared to other countries like Mexico, Brazil, or Portugal, but well connected. The visitors of psytrance events often travel hundreds, in some cases even thousands of kilometers to the small, often family events. The gatherings are usually between 200-600 people. In San Francisco in particular there is already a small but noteworthy Psytrance community. All the trimmers from Europe helped spread the style of music in the Californian Bay Area even further. Almost everyone listened to some form of psychedelic trance and Hitech was the latest shit. The really big ones from the Psytrance world, like Infected Mushroom, Shpongle, and Avalon, also attracted larger crowds from time to time. However, fast trance was still extremely underground.
“I see you’ve been playing in Europe quite a bit lately. Your EP Metaprogram Language was a real hit too, man. fat production. Your project definitely has a lot of potential. And now you even have a Mexico tour! That’s awesome bro! How many gigs do you have?” Guillermo asked in a slightly excited voice.
“Three are already confirmed and then I’m still in talks with this weirdo Imix Jaguar from Chiapas. The hosts a party right next to Mayan ruins in the middle of the jungles of Mexico in Palenque. But you know Imix Jaguar yourself. He believes that in December 2012 the world will end and his ancestors will return, and the world will go to the dogs during his party. And all this combined with his social media hype. In fact, there are enough weirdos online to help him convince himself that this is really the case. He’s leaving if you ask me.”
“Not your serious dude, the guy’s sick, I know. That can only be good, right? Also, there is a huge Rainbow Gathering down there at the same time with more than ten thousand people, have you heard about it? The Imix party is right after the trimming season is over. All the trimmers will fly off the farms down to Mexico to party and chill. Then there’s the whole “Return of the Ancestors” stuff. It’s going to be super sick, don’t worry about it. End of the world or not, it’s going to be epic brother” he replied while elongating the second vowel of the word Brother like chewing gum.
“What cities are you playing in, brother?”
“Tijuana, Guadalajara and Mexico City. They’re all 100 percent confirmed.”
“Wow man. The full program, this is fantastic dude. People will freak out. In Tijuana the kids are into fast sound now, I heard. But now it’s Goa Gil’s sixtieth birthday. The whole Cali Psytrance family will be there. Have you talked to Gil yet?” he asked.
“Yes, he sent me an official invitation. I’m on the guest list. I’m curious, I’ve never seen Gil play before. I only know him from documentaries and YouTube videos.” I answered him.
“That’s a huge honor dude. Not everyone is invited by Baba Gil. And then his sixtieth. As I said, the whole Trance Family meets every year for Gil’s birthday. It’s like a hip holiday.” It’s a great place to socialize, Sam. Everyone in the house you’re going to live in will be there too. It’s going to be absolutely killer, don’t worry, dude. Ha Ha Ha Ha”
The next day, Guillermo had to get up early to do something. He left me a note describing the way to Celina’s house. After getting up, I took the BART straight to the Mission District. As I sit on the train, I study the design and the numerous prohibition signs that tell you what to do and what not to do on the BART. Most people on the train are focused on the small square screens of their smartphones. The web 2.0 hype was already in full swing at that time. The design of the train looks like it was stolen from a 1960s science fiction film, which is probably because the design actually comes from the 1960s or 1970s. A short time later I arrive at the catacomb-like train station in Mission District. Difficult to understand, garbled announcements blared from the station’s loudspeaker systems. It’s packed with people. I climbed the gray stairs towards the exit and was greeted by a blazing light that slowly turned to intense blue as I reached the surface. At the top, I saw a guy in a ridiculous-looking red catsuit holding up a five-foot plastic arrow that reads “MAD CAT LOAN CREDITS – Get $5-50K NOW!” He waves the sign in the air and does a kind of dance with it. It’s demeaning. In the States and Mexico, however, this is still a rather harmless variant of advertising. On the corner by the metro station are a Mcdonald’s and a few small shops, pawnshops, and restaurants. The streets are filled with people from all over the world. Mexican, Asian, Israeli, Black, White. The mission is actually considered a more Mexican neighborhood. At the time I was there, however, it was already a motley mix of people from various social strata of society. Mission District is a vibrant neighborhood in San Francisco. On the street leading from the BART station to Celina’s house, I see a number of shops, cafes, delis, and small restaurants. After about a ten-minute walk, I came to the cute little, white-painted American townhouse that I will mainly be living in for the next few months. After a short hesitation and a deep breath, I go up the small wooden stairs and ring the bell.
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