Don Van Vliet tried to warn us about what could happen if sound got out of the house and started affecting the trees.
Almost the exact opposite happened while making the new Mojave Phone Booth album, Hollow the Numbers. What happened to our album involved ingesting large quantities of a berry that happens to be hallucinogenic when consumed before ripening. We have a good amount growing on a tree behind the house where we wrote a lot of the record. I accidentally ate a lot of them one day while recording and mixing the record. I picked a couple of full freezer bags’ worth and ate a few handfuls while I collected them. I didn’t know anything about their hallucinogenic properties. I thought that the red ones were ripe. Apparently I was supposed to wait until they were black.
I ended up eating a lot of them and began feeling really nauseous - and then very confused as to why I felt like I was on something. I looked up general information about the berry I ate and found the following account from a young kid who ate the same berries many years ago:
“Grandmother was on her way to a huge patch that grew near an old abandoned farmhouse. She said I could help her dig the newer plants' roots, which she would powder for her patients. We dug for hours, collecting the choicest roots, still making sure that the conservation of the plants were kept in mind. During the whole process, I was eating the berries, not noticing whether they were ripe or not, a common fault among young boys. This continued for hours as I got lost in Grandmother's stories and the methodic collecting of roots.
When I finally got up off my knees and began to walk home, I felt strangely sick and dizzy. The landscape felt as if it were made of liquid and I was a small boat. Everything was moving up and down. Animal and bird voices sounded strange and mystical. I felt disoriented and forgot where I was and where I was going. Out of the corner of my eye I began to see things move; shadows became animated, and colors strange. The sickness continued until I fell to the ground vomiting, yet laughing at the overall hilarity of the situation. The condition worsened and I began to tremble, feeling paranoid and extremely nervous. I mistook every rustle of the brush for a wild dog, and my imagination began to run wild.
Grandmother knew instantly what I had done and helped me slowly back to her house. I did not know that the unripe berries can cause violent upset stomach and nervousness. Nor did I realize that they also contained hallucinogens. Nevertheless, I was sick and not getting any better. Grandmother put me to bed and gave me a cup of mullein flower tea to settle my stomach and calm my nerves. I awoke the next morning with Grandfather, Rick, and Grandmother sitting around the bed, waiting and watching. My vision slowly cleared, but my head pounded very badly; my stomach still remained very queasy, and I felt weak. Another day slipped by as I drifted in and out of pain and sleep.
The following day I felt much better. The events of the past few days seemed like a distant nightmare, fuzzy memories at best as if they never happened in reality. I had to be filled in completely as to what had happened to me. The disorientation was still with me, and I felt as if I had lost two days of my life.”
After I realized what a was happening to me I went to work on the album for a long 20+ hour stretch and changed all kinds of things, wrote new songs, re-wrote the chorus for a few songs, chopped and resampled drums, one song was expanded to a three-part suite with two new vocal sections for Tobey, and there were a whole lot of analog modular synth overdubs and production events added to the songs. “Mineral Deposits” went from being a file on my Akai sampler to becoming a finished song that day. When I was done I didn’t listen to the music for about a week. When we finally came back to listen to the songs it was almost like listening back to the recording of a dream you had and remembered only parts of. That’s the best way I can to think to describe it right now.
The sounds on this record are very personal to me and some of them come from strange places that I am not totally aware of and sometimes it feels like I channeled them from somewhere else. I was really really high.
mitchell j doran