MDA – a crazy, crazy drug

So, it’s been over a week now and I am still not fully recovered from my injuries of the early hours of the morning of May the 1st. I guess the ancient cultures of the world saw Beltane/Mayday as a mystical time. It certainly feels like it when you’re tripping balls.

It was always gonna be a wild weekend as Kilnaboy were playing two festivals in a row. The first was Landed festival in the middle of Wales somewhere. It was a beautiful site, with lots of nice trippy coloured lights, beautiful views of mountains and lots of lovely people. It was also fucking freezing, as if the winter was making one final stand against the imminent dawn of summer.

Anyway, I managed to get through the set while wearing all the jumpers and coats I had, and then listened to some great goth party bands before going to sleep. One was a band called Monsterometer – well worth checking out, especially if you’re on acid or something. I wasn’t, bnut they were still hilarious and great.

The other was a band I didn’t catch the name of but they were just two people – a guy with a big beard who played awesome lead guitar solos, managed the electronic beats, and sang with crazy distortion over his voice, and a powerful female lead singer who also played bass. Their music was like an industrial metal dance party. My only advice for them is to say the name of the band more clearly, as when you distort the fuck out your voice its really hard to know what you’re saying. ENUNCIATE, DAMN IT. Good lyrics I remember though were : We won’t let our enemies lead us/ We won’t let them think they’ve won/ No privilege for the rich and famous/ Kill em all with a lazer gun’.

The next morning I met a friend I used to live with who was just coming up on MDA, and let me take some for later. I probably should have asked a lot more questions about what it was actually like, rather than just being satisfied with his description of it as ‘like MDMA, but without the other M’. I guess i just thought it would be exactly the same except weaker, like the other M was just something to do with quantity rather than quality.

I played an impromptu set of old Irish rebel songs at an Open Mic stage, and then we had to get in the van and drive to England to get to the next festival. Of course, it took the van about 4 hours to actually leave site, because the suspension air-pressure thing was broken and some old hippy guy (who seemed better qualified than the actual repair man who was sent out) eventually fixed it in exchange for some free CDs and perhaps some drugs. In the meantime I spoke to a women who’d spent a lot of time in Morocco about the migrant solidarity project we have down there, and hopefully did a good deed for the day by linking her into it.

In hindsight the fact it had taken so long to get the van started, and that it was only a two and half hour journey, should have led us all to be determined to make it in one go without any stops, just in case it couldn’t get started again if we stopped. Unfortunately though we passed a chip shop in a village somewhere in Shropshire. If people had told me they were hungry they could have just asked me for some of the bags of food i had with me, including some really nice olives, pesto flavoured hummus and other tasty food i can afford to take to festivals because I don’t spend all my money on booze any more. Just saying.

But chips it was, and with it a SIX HOUR wait on the side of a freezing cold hillside as the van of course failed to start properly yet again. For some reason we didn’t call the repair guy straight away, first of all trying all manner of bizarre solutions. We drove to a nearby petrol station, with the floor of the van scraping against the road, just to find their air pump wasn’t good enough to get the suspension working, so drove back to the hillside. Then of course, we realised that someone had left their hat back at the petrol station so we drove back again.

Back the hillside there were some interesting attempts to lift the van enough for someone to get underneath and look at what was wrong. People ripped of a big plank from a picnic table and balanced it precariously on some rocks to make a ramp for the van to drive up (I’m not making this up) but then no-one wanted to go underneath due to a quite well-founded fear of being crushed to death. A friendly Polish couple who happened to stop on the hillside actually had a proper jack to lift the van up, but it was too small. Finally, after hours of faffing, we called the repair guy, he came, he fixed the thing, and then we were on the road again.

By this point it was almost midnight, and we had been supposed to be on stage by nine. Luckily for us the people running the stage were really cool, and fans of the band, so they said that if we made it my half twelve we could still play for an hour. We had basically managed to get bumped up to the headlining slot! Seems like all the faffing was meant to be after all, though we honestly didn’t do it on purpose, as many later alleged.

Horsedrawn festival is probably the crusty-est festival I have ever seen – pretty much an entire field of vans, trailers and actual horsedrawn wooden caravans with just a few marquees in the middle and very little open ground to sit on. There was a road made of mud that was really just a space between various vehicles that we had to drive through to get to the stage, our hearts racing, thinking that every second counted and that we might still not get to play after all. The van’s wheels inevitably got stuck in the mud, so we had to all get our stuff out the back and run two hundred yards in pitch darkness through the mud to get to the stage, where in fact we spent at least twenty minutes just chilling out and watching the band before us.

It was a great gig, as it was a Saturday night at one in the morning with hundreds of punks and crusty hippies all well and truly riled up, drunk, high and crazy as hell. We could have just played a bunch of shit and they would have probably still loved it, but we actually did all right, I think. Horsedrawn is awesome.

I knew I stood no chance of finding a place to put up my tent in the dark without severely pissing myself off and I had this bomb of MDA burning a hole in my pocket, so I resolved to stay up all night. Luckily a friend who lives in a converted upholstery truck was parked nearby and she let me lock my bass and backpack in the front so I wouldn’t have to find the Kilnaboy van, which I had no chance of finding on my own through all the mud and the eerie fog that had suddenly descended.

There were a few people already partying in the truck when I arrived, and they were pretty damn wasted so I surreptitiously took the bomb of MDA quickly so that I wouldn’t have to listen to their nonsense while sober. I also took out my weed vaporizer and some girl immediately picked it up and threw it across the room. Not because she didn’t like me, you understand, or that she didn’t approve of weed or even know what the thing was that she was chucking across the room. It’s just the kind of thing you have to be prepared for when dealing with punks and alcohol. Luckily it wasn’t broken, so all was good.

Soon the rest of the band arrived and we started having an acoustic jam. Since I have been in the band we haven’t had many opportunities to do this, so I was looking forward to it as a kind of bonding experience, and also because a lot of the slower acoustic songs that they never play at punk gigs are frankly just way better songs which I had really liked on the album but never had the chance to see performed live.

Unfortunately though, this was about when I started TRIPPING BALLS. One minute I was normal, the next i suddenly had to vomit – and my friend whose van it was passed my a bag to throw up in, thinking it was a rubbish bag but which turned out to be full of food (sorry!) – and a minute after that I was full on out there – reading bizarre mystical meanings into everything anyone was doing or saying, visualizing all kinds of trippy shit and generally getting really confused.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, it was amazing in lots of ways, and made all the music sound really fucking awesome, as psychedelics always do. If you are a musician then you also start to feel that the music you are playing yourself is also really good, which is of course not always actually the case. Apparently I played the song “When Doves Cry” about 6 times, though I have no memory of this.

It’s just that if you end up tripping when you aren’t prepared for it, it can make you get kind of paranoid for no reason, especially if you are around people you don’t know that well, especially if they are really drunk and not making much sense or behaving all ‘peace and love’ anyway. You worry if you are doing something wrong by tripping, and keep having to remind yourself that its OK to take drugs and have fun at a music festival, that I wasn’t in some serious meeting or something and bringing the tone down. In some ways I was more sober than a lot of the people there. In others, definitely the opposite.

For example, I seemed to be the only one who had forgotten that fire is hot, and human skin is not heatproof. I do remember someone saying something like ‘Hey Raz, you know that burner is hot right?” and seeing that my hand was right on the metal. But I didn’t feel any pain or notice the massive blister building up on my hand until the next day when I started to sober up.

Similarly, I only noticed around the same time the next morning that my lips were swollen so much that I looked like a racist cartoon caricature. I had chewed my bottom lip and the sides of my tongue all night, with apparently some ferocity, but had no memory of doing so at all and only noticed when someone else pointed it out. Looking in the mirror was a big wake up call. The inside of my bottom lip was all white and yellow and weird, and so were the sides of my tongue. It was gross.

The van was going back to Cardiff that day, so I needed to find it, drop of my bass, pick up my tent and somehow put it up so that I could try to sleep, all whilst still tripping and in the rain. I somehow managed it, pissing of the owner of a van who I’d put the tent up right besides and then had to listen to them drunkenly ranting about how much of a prick I was while half asleep. It wasn’t a great experience, and my hand and lip were getting more painful by the minute as the drug wore off.

I ended up missing all the music that night, only leaving the tent to piss and try and find water. I still had plenty of weed to deal with the comedown headache I knew was coming. So MDA is similar to MDMA in that respect, as well as in the fact it makes you chew your lips (or ‘gurn’ as we say in the business) but apart from that its way more like acid. Acid with a comedown and fucked up lip? No thanks. I shall stick to the real thing. At least with MDMA you feel all loved up and often drift into a nice happy sleep. MDA keeps you awake all night and then you can’t even sleep off the come-down even by getting really stoned.

I must have managed it though, because by the time I got out of the tent it was 18 hours later and morning was breaking. Early in the morning at festivals is quite a nice time with everyone either asleep or sitting around fires still drinking and taking speed, singing along to pop songs and talking absolute bollocks. I even found one guy who actually seemed like he’d gone to bed at a normal time and gotten up early to feed his baby son with cucumber he cut with an axe. Now that was pretty impressive.

I sat around a fire with some friendly middle aged punks from Birmingham for a few hours, having been led to believe that someone parked near there was driving to Bristol that day. eventually I found him in someone else’s van in a pile of people taking ketamine and he admitted that it was unlikely he’d actually leave that day, but that I could get a lift with him tomorrow.

I went back to where my tent had been and found a car going to Bristol in just a few minutes, but I could only go if the fiddle player from Kilnaboy gave up her seat for me, which she did as she is a fucking legend, saying my need was greater than hers. I didn’t want to agree, but I couldn’t deny I felt like utter shit and just wanted to be at home in bed with my girlfriend looking after me. A two hour a drive and a shot walk through Bristol carrying all my shit in the rain and it all came to pass.

I hadn’t eaten properly since we’d stopped for chips almost 48 hours earlier, and it hurt to eat or drink anything for a week afterwards. I spent at least 4 days lying in bed taking painkillers until I realised they were just making me feel worse. Bloody legal drugs, don’t trust them.

Apparently MDA is a ‘research chemical’. I hope my story is helpful to this research. My lips are pretty much back to normal now, 9 days later, and so is my hand, though both will probably take at least another couple of days until there is no sign of damage at all. So here’s my advice:

  1. Don’t take massive bombs of any powdered drug you haven’t tried before. Maybe start with a tiny bit and see how you feel.
  2. Don’t take psychedelic or hallucinatory drugs unless you are in a space and with people you feel comfortable with and at a time when you are mentally prepared. Psychedelics are not really party drugs, they can bring your conscious mind into contact with stuff in your subconscious that you might not be ready to deal with, at least not without nice supportive people around you to talk it all through with – in which cases they can often lead to powerful life-affirming experiences. Trying to process those kinds of thoughts and realisations while everyone around you is totally wasted or are people you don’t really know can lead to you feeling quite alone and alienated from people, which is the opposite of how ideally you would want to feel when taking MDMA or LSD and similar drugs.
  3. If you are going to take amphetamines of any kind, be aware that they can make you chew the fuck out of your lips, so make sure you have chewing gum or something similar to chew instead.
  4. If you are going to get really wasted, try and do it somewhere where there isn’t a really hot fire in an enclosed space with lots of people jammed into it who are all wasted as well, or there is a big chance of accidentally getting burnt. If you live in a vehicle or other place were it is normal to have a wood burner and have built up an automatic subconscious awareness about these things you may be OK. If not, like me, watch out.
  5. Warn your friends! MDA is not the same as MDMA. That extra M is more important than you realise. I’m not saying don’t take it, it was a really interesting and different trip form any I’d taken before, and I have taken many different species of mushroom as well as Yage, LSD, 2CB, 2CI and smoked lots of different strains of very strong trippy weed. But be aware that it is a powerful psychedelic and not just a stimulant.

Stay safe and party on x









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