Lee Ranaldo, Reggie Watts & others on new album of Timothy Leary’s words (listen)
The late Timothy Leary, the psychologist and writer known for helping to popularize psychedelic drugs during the counterculture movement of the 1960s, for writing The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and for coining such phrases as "turn on, tune in, drop out" and "set and setting" (among tons of other stuff), would have turned 100 on October 22. In celebration of that, Projekt Records founder and Black Tape For a Blue Girl member Sam Rosenthal is releasing Tim, where are you now?, "an electronic space music/art rock collaboration" which uses "[Leary's] own words accompanied by international artists exploring those same realms via their music." Sam got the permission and encouragement of Timothy Leary’s son Zach and the Leary estate to make the album, and it features music by Sam, Steve Roach, Erik Wøllo, Mark Seelig, Forrest Fang, Byron Metcalf, Henrik Meierkord, Brian Parnham, theAdelaidean, Ryan Lum & Anji Bee (Love Spirals), Brian Viglione (The Dresden Dolls), Martin Bowes (Attrition), Jarguna, Nathan Youngblood, and Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia), plus narration by Lee Ranaldo, Reggie Watts, filmmaker Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy), and others.
Sam spoke to us about the project, and said, "The album is concerned with what Leary was doing in the 1960s, advocating for consciousness expansion, and the rights of people to operate their brain as they prefered, rather than by societal constrictions. This is directly concerned with his work with psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and LSD, as those were the tools that gave him the ability to get in the trenches with his subjects. Whether it was friends and artists tripping in his living room, or working with prisoners in the Concord, MA State Prison. My hope is that on his 100th birthday, people will re-examine his contribution to the way we think and operate our brains."
About the music he added, "I asked musicians to send me sources to work from. I wasn’t looking for finished tracks, this wasn’t a compilation album. I asked artists for little bits of music, mostly leftovers from their projects. My idea was to compost it, and make new music. I’d listen to their source, see what ideas it brought up, which portions I’d like to focus on, which sort of song it could create. I might use an 8 second bit and loop it, or a longer bit that serves as a background texture to build upon. So while these songs are collaborations, the structuring, editing, processing was primarily my work. As well as playing electronics over them. On some tracks, I’d get a structure and then go to a specific musician for something on top, such as Erik Wøllo’s guitar on 'Reality-tunnel,' or Ryan Lum’s guitar on 'Starseed.'"
"For the narrators, I was looking for marquee names to help spread Leary’s words out further," he continues. "The first I got on board was Alex Cox, and that was followed by Lee Ranaldo. Hearing them on the finished tracks was really exciting, as the pieces worked as I had imagined them. Hearing them in the flow of the whole album, yes! Perfection!"
You can stream the full album and see the full list of narrators below, and you can download it (name your price) at Bandcamp.
Amber Case, cyborg anthropologist and author
Alex Cox, director of Repo Man and Sid & Nancy
Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
Alex Grey, visionary artist and author
Allyson Grey, conceptual abstract painter
Lee Ranaldo, founding member and guitarist of Sonic Youth
Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist and author
Reggie Watts, bandleader on CBS’ The Late Late Show with James Corden
Also see Timothy Leary featured in The 50 best psychedelic rock albums of the Summer of Love.