Welcome back to the Terence McKenna Archival Blog. It’s been a very busy summer, and I apologize for not having posted more regularly over the past months. I am hoping to get back into a more regular pattern of posting. Even though the blog has been quiet, the effort to archive the world of Terence McKenna has continued in full force. For the first post back after the summer lull, I thought, as a treat, I’d include an item that I received recently that includes some “new” photos of Terence. People always love that!
You have probably heard the musical collaboration between Terence McKenna and the British band, The Shamen, called ‘Re-Evolution’. If not, you should hear it — it’s a classic! It begins with Terence’s rephrasing of William Blake: “If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed.” I’ll leave it to you to consider whether you think this is the case or whether you think, as Terence said in a later talk, that he tries to “think of a good story, because I think the best story will win,” and that, perhaps, the truth can be told so as to be understood and a good story might still be believed in its stead. Either way, if you haven’t heard it, or just haven’t listened in a while, it’s worth a (re-)listen. I also am particularly fond of the remix by Future Sound of London, called ‘Re-Iteration’.
The Shamen had previously topped the British music charts with their song ‘Ebeneezer Goode’, which gained both fame and infamy for its apparently subversive MDMA-promoting lyrics: “He’s Ebeneezer Goode….eezer Goode, eezer Goode” (i.e. “E’s are good”; Good-E). So, when they produced ‘Re-Evolution’ with Terence McKenna, people were paying attention, and it drew a lot of popular attention to Terence that he had never received in that way before. The Terence McKenna Archives currently holds two copies of the ‘Re-Evolution’ LP (though I can’t currently locate the posters that came along with them which display a full transcription of Terence’s monologue).
Another related favorite item (this time from the digital archives) is a short article that appeared in the London newspaper, The Daily Mirror, on March 10, 1993.
I always find it particularly amusing that the author of this article actually contacted “a spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry” to get an official comment on Terence’s suggestion that the working man’s coffee breaks be replaced with cannabis breaks. Cannabis is, of course, still illegal in the UK, 24 years later.
The main item from the archive, though, that I’d like to profile today on the blog is a recently acquired issue of a British music magazine called New Musical Express from February 27, 1993. This issue of NME features The Shamen on the cover and includes a two-page spread article featuring commentary on the band and its recent endeavors and controversies, focusing particularly on their collaboration with McKenna, and includes excerpts of discussions with Terence and co-founder of The Shamen, Colin Angus. Photos are by Steve Double (who I have contacted to inquire about other photos from the shoot). I’ll include some excerpts from the article below the images.
…the bloated, festering music industry has shown itself to be moribund by the debacle of this year’s Brits Awards…
…What kind of decidedly crazy people only give awards on sales merits when their vested interests are involved and refuse to even acknowledge true rags-to-riches tales like that of The Shamen? Why, the committee of money-driven, power-hungry major label movers and shakers of course…
…But Colin Angus and his verbal sparring partner Terence McKenna aren’t fazed today — Colin just feels snubbed by the industry…
…Terence McKenna’s creased face breaks into a huge grin — he’d love to have performed ‘Re-evolution’ with The Shamen at the awards ceremonies and disturbed the peace.
His eyes are twinkling, limpid pools of light. They seem suffused with a thousand years of knowledge. His demeanour betrays a near-lifetime of psychedelic drug ingestion. His voice is a deep, rich, cracked volcano and, in his presence, you feel other-worldly, as if you’re making contact with previously undiscovered alien beings who understand you but whom you can’t understand.
This is Terence McKenna, author, shaman, voyager into the unknown…and not your average acid casualty. A thorn in the side of polite society, a crusader for change, and the spoken-word star of the new single by The Shamen, he’s spooning his chicken curry in London’s East End and offering pearls of wisdom.
Terence: “My approach to this stuff is political and I see this stuff as a vehicle for propaganda. And this youth culture is very astute on how bankrupt the values of the middle-class are. What are they going to have handed on to them? The whole planet has been looted right in front of them. So, getting this kind of message out is empowering an underclass that is going to inherit the world.”
Who is this mild-mannered man who never raises his voice, this American with a 14-year-old son who gets him to listen to grunge and house music when they’re not going out to see Ice-T films together? And what is he doing with one of our highest-profile pop groups, The Shamen, who strive to question the unquestionable when they’re not perfecting bite-sized snippets of electronic gospel…
Terence McKenna…is much more open to music and experience. He doesn’t see Western people with painted faces dancing around a fire as shamen, but people who hold great sway over other people through the healing power of music. And he tries to make mincemeat of my arguments against psychedelic drugs. The reason why most people don’t take these drugs, I proffer, is because they fear for the effects; not necessarily the short-term effects, but the long-term effects, which are largely unknown.
“I think people don’t take them because the establishment has misinformed them, he counters… This is the recovery of the way religion was done for the first million years after it was invented. And it’s just been in the last 500 years of European civilisation that people have become so phobic of the unconscious, of their own minds, that they’ve tried to legislate everything but a waking sleep out of existence.”
Terence: “Society picks and chooses the drugs it exalts, usually to serve a social system that is not our friend, but the friend of the people who are profiting off the social system.”
We have an interesting discussion on the class system — during which Colin and Terence relish abolition of the monarchy — and a heated debate on Christianity.
Colin: “The apocalypse is going to start happening in the beginning of the next century, the next millennium. At least the start of it, anyway. And it’s basically going to be the collapse of the global capitalist economic system, competition for dwindling resources and basically the results of there being too many people on the planet.”
Don’t you have any optimism for the future?
“I do believe that those of use, the people that do survive, that it will be a new beginning for us, a positive transformation.”