Can drugs make you a better artist?
We'e been programed our entire lives to believe that only harm can come from drugs. The thought is, if it causes you to have a chemical reaction in your brain it must be bad for you, but maybe that's not always the case...
On this podcast we're talking with animator/director Caspian Kai about the potential benefits of psychedelics in Motion Design. Instead of drugs, Caspian likes to use the term tool, because psychedelics can be used as a tool to create some amazing art. The podcast talks about the physical effect of these different tools on your art. It's a wild ride and you're definitely going to learn something new.
Joey Korenman: I’m going to play you a clip of something that might make you a little bit uncomfortable. It comes from the late, great comedian Bill Hicks, and it contains a very funny F-bomb.
Bill Hicks: If you don’t believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor then. Go home tonight, take all your albums, your tapes, and your CDs and burn them. Because you know what? The musicians who made that great music that has enhanced your lives throughout the years, real fucking high on drugs.
Joey Korenman: For most of us, we’ve been told our entire lives that drugs are bad. Even the word drugs has come to have this really negative association with it. As artists, I think it’s important to have an honest discussion about the negatives and the positives that can come from taking substances that change your perception. Bill Hicks was right in a lot of music and visual are created in response to experiences that come from taking drugs.
Today on the podcast, I brought on my friend, Caspian Kai, to talk about his experiences using psychedelics, among other things, to enhance his work and change his perception. Caspian lives in Vancouver and is an amazing 3-D artist whose work definitely has a little bit of that other worldly psychedelic vibe to it. I wanted to ask him about the things he’s tried, the substances he’s taken, the risks inherent in taking things that are illegal and maybe even a little dangerous, and about the misconceptions that seem to run rampant around the use of these chemicals that alter your consciousness.
This episode gets a little heady. We go into some topics that might make you a little uncomfortable if you have very strong feelings about the use of “drugs.” Hopefully, this conversation will give you a bit of a different perspective on the whole thing. Who knows, maybe your curiosity will be piqued. Before we hear from Caspian, let’s first hear from one of our incredible School of Motion alumni.
Ryan Plummer: My name is Ryan [Plummer 00:02:21], and I live in Dallas, Texas. I’ve actually completed the Animation Boot Camp course. I recommend that course to everybody. Everybody I know in post-production, I say, listen, give six, eight weeks of your time and just dedicate it to this. You’re going to come out the other side and you’re going to be better. I’ve gained so much from taking the Animation Boot Camp course. It’s definitely boosted my career, and it’s really taken it off to a whole new level. I build these daily projects now and I post them on my Instagram. Now actually, I’m getting into a new job with a major car company here in the US because they saw my stuff. Thank you School of Motion. You guys have just phenomenally changed what it is that I do and how I do it. My name is Ryan Plummer, and I’m a School of Motion graduate.
Joey Korenman: Caspian, dude, thank you so much for coming on the podcast to talk about this stuff. I cannot wait to pick your brain.
Caspian Kai: No worries, Joey. Thanks for having me.
Joey Korenman: For everyone listening, can you just give us a brief background on you; where do you live, what do you do, what’s your job?
Caspian Kai: I live Vancouver, BC, Canada, originally from Melbourne, Australia. I’ve lived over here for about three years now. I’m a motion designer, about 10 years’ experience, I guess, now, mainly focus on 3-D using Cinema 4D.
Joey Korenman: Awesome. We’re going to link your site in the show notes, and everyone should go check it out. You’ve got some really, really cool work and really interesting abstract visually, too, which I’m very excited to get into how you arrive at that stuff.
The topic we’re discussing today is, I guess, the use of substances to enhance or alter our perceptions as artists. It’s really controversial. To start, I’m wondering if you can just sum up what your stance is on the use of ... I guess I’ll use the term drugs, but you can correct me if you disagree with that term.
Caspian Kai: Totally. It’s a very interesting and deep topic, start to talk about it. I think anything that changes our space levels of perception or our consciousness can be a very valuable tool. That’s one word I’ve been using it a lot lately. I find a lot of other people, even Joe Rogan and people who do podcasts like that, will use that word, tool, or the other one is medicine because they can be very powerful medicines for healing, especially things like psychological trauma or anxiety and depression.
There’s just so many different types of drugs, to use that term again, from pharmaceutical drugs, but then obviously you’ve got things like alcohol, tobacco, cannabis. Then you’ve got more research lab drugs, and then you’ve got psychedelics and plant based drugs or medicines, which I’m personally a fan of. I think they’re very powerful, creative tools for inspiration, as well as spiritual awareness and mystical experiences and also healing psychological trauma, like I mentioned before. There’s a lot of research that’s happening into things like psychological trauma and PTSD and depression.
Joey Korenman: I’m interested in your use of the word medicine. I’m sure when most people hear the word medicine, they of something very different than what you’re talking about. They think of the little pill bottle that their doctor prescribes them that has medicine in it, but that’s not what you’re talking about. When you say medicine, what are you referring to?
Caspian Kai: Like I said, that’s the accepted social norm of the term medicine, I guess, what people think of, they think of pharmaceutical drugs that have been made in a factory. They’re using certain chemicals, which can often be very dangerous and have lots of side effects in themselves. You really have to know what you’re doing and make sure the dose is right and have your prescription. Even then, often they can just be a rabbit hole of different pharmaceuticals that people use and just keep getting different side effects.
When I use the term, medicine, as I said, I’m talking more about healing issues with yourself, whether that be psychological issues like anxiety and depression and other trauma you may have had in your life, especially the plant based psychedelics, so things like mushrooms, ayahuasca, DMT, and many more. The cactus, as well, is another one. I think they’re very powerful for healing.
Joey Korenman: It’s interesting, and I’ve heard that argument before, that essentially it’s semantics. The active compounds in mushrooms, psilocybin, it’s got a different chemical makeup, different effects, but essentially, it’s the same. There’s a chemical compound that’s active in Viagra, but Viagra is marketed and comes in this nice synthetic looking blue pill. Mushrooms grow out of piles of crap usually.
That’s interesting. I just wanted to clear that up for everybody. I agree with you. A lot of the questions I’m going to ask you are devil’s advocate questions, but I want to make sure everyone understands, the word medicine in this conversation, it refers to active compounds, I guess is a good way to put it.
When I was growing up, Caspian, all of the anti-drug advertising and messaging really worked on me. I was terrified to try ... I didn’t even drink alcohol until I basically got out of high school, which was very rare growing up in Fort Worth, Texas. I’m curious if you felt that growing up or if you’ve always had a more open mind about these things.
Caspian Kai: That’s a good question. I think you’re spot on. We’re all very conditioned by our upbringing, where we live, our parents, and definitely the media. The power of media is not to be underestimated. A lot of that does come from the government and the structures that we live in and the society we live in. It’s been that way for decades. A lot of it coming from the US government and then filtering to other Western governments around the world.
Myself, I think I’ve always been pretty open-minded, at least when I got to that certain age, like around 18, 19, I got very curious and interested to start trying some different substances. There’s definitely still a fear or uncertainty with anything, especially new things and trying things for the first time. Any kind of chemical that’s going to alter your brain chemicals, there is that uncertainty. I think that’s a healthy thing. If we didn’t have uncertainty and fear, I think it would be a lot more dangerous and crazy, and everyone would be trying everything. Some things are not for some people. I think you’ve got to understand that too. You’ve got to approach things cautiously and try them, and then find out if they’re for you or not.
Joey Korenman: What was the thing in your life that made you curious enough to try these things? Was it peer pressure, your friends offered you something and you didn’t want to be rude or was there ... For me personally, I got really into the band, Tool. For many, many years I was obsessed with them; their lyrics and their artwork heavily influenced by psychedelic experiences. That’s what pushed me over the edge to start exploring this stuff. I’m curious if you had something like that.
Caspian Kai: I wouldn’t say it was artwork or anything in particular that influenced it. There’s different substances. I guess probably the first one I tried was more in a social or party sense, would have been MDMA. I think the same could be said for a lot of people. I was DJ-ing from a young age in Melbourne in that underground party scene. It was pretty common for people to have MDMA to open themselves up and have a good time as a party drug.
My first psychedelic experience that was very powerful and influential was when I was about 19. I went to my first outdoor music festival or rave or doof, as often called in Australia. There’s a big one called Rainbow Serpent. It’s been going for about 20 years now. There’s about 20,000 people that go each year.
I went there when I was super young and naïve with a couple of friends. First night there, I was super under-prepared. We had a bit of liquid LSD, which this Israeli guy had in a little vial around his neck, a little bottle, which is actually a pretty rare way to get it these days. It’s usually in a tab form. I think most people would know that. It’s diluted and spread across sheets of paper. This was in a liquid form. That night was just unbelievable. It’s so vividly etched in my memory. I think the same can be said for a lot of people’s first LSD trip. It’s very life-changing. I danced all night, which dance is just an amazing thing as well in itself that a lot of people forget about and underestimate.
Hallucinations started at sunrise and seeing things in a different way, seeing the ground undulate and move and seeing the grass sway in a different way really like breathing. You almost see the earth breathing and it really connects you with nature.
Also then, there was the hilarity and humor of it. It changes your brain in a way that you become a lot more quick-witted and humorous. Everyone else around you, if they’ve taken it as well, can be on the same level. You get this really interesting human connection and oneness, I guess, is really important as well.
Joey Korenman: I can second that. I never tried LSD, but I’ve tried MDMA and I have tried mushrooms before, and especially on mushrooms, I remember being with my friends, laughing hysterically just at the wall, the floor. At the time, I was younger when I did it, I was in my early 20s. Both of those things at the time I was doing for entertainment, essentially, because I thought it would be fun, it would be novel, something new and interesting. It wasn’t necessarily searching for deeper spiritual meaning or any sort of new artistic perspective. I’m curious if that’s how you approached those first few times or were you already aware that this could be a really useful tool to, I don’t know, look at the world a different way, which eventually, as an artist, can be a very useful thing.
Caspian Kai: That’s a great question. Definitely in the early years when I was younger, it was more of a social connector and a party thing, I guess, like people often say party drug, like MDMA. The same was similar for LSD and mushrooms for me. I only had them very occasionally. I actually only had LSD at Rainbow Serpent, pretty much once a year for the first few years. I just loved it being in nature. I hadn’t really thought about doing it in a different setting like at home or on my own or doing it for different things like art, even though I was doing a lot of art and design in my early 20s as well.
Even in that first trip, I actually had a friend that brought a graffiti art book to the festival. In the morning, he was flipping through it. We were looking at and just seeing the art in a different way, too, seeing the way it moved and all the little characters came popping out of the graffiti and almost winking at you and laughing at you and stuff. It was really interesting. That sticks with me a lot. Every time you do a psychedelic like mushrooms or LSD, you definitely see art in a different way and see it move in a different way.
Joey Korenman: I think it would be useful at this point to clarify, I guess, some of the substances we’re talking about. Earlier, I used the term drugs. When I say drugs, I think of hard drugs, cocaine and heroin, but also marijuana falls in there. I’m curious; a) how do you think about drugs and how do you categorize them, and also, what drugs are you most interested in? You’ve mentioned LSD and mushrooms, but do you see any use in taking things that are, I guess, harder and even dangerous like cocaine or ... Even MDMA is dangerous. You can overdose on it, things like that. Do you have a limit of how far you’re willing to go?
Caspian Kai: Absolutely. I think it comes with experience and preference. Definitely I’m not a big fan of cocaine although it is naturally derived from the cocoa leaves. It is highly processed and toxic and, I think, dangerous. I also think it’s quite addictive compared to a lot of other substances. The same goes for, I guess, when you say harder drugs, things like heroin and other opiates, which are downers and again, have a high risk of addiction, although there are people that probably do them in a more responsible and moderate way.
The other dangerous ones that I’m trying not to do as much of these days is alcohol as well. It think that’s an extremely dangerous harmful drug. There’s been a lot of studies done all over the world, but there’s a famous British psychiatrist, David Nutt who was famous for doing some studies. I think he said alcohol ranks as the fifth most harmful drug after heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone. Tobacco is ranked ninth.
In comparison to that, cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, while still a bit harmful, are ranked lower at 11, 14, and 18. I think that encompasses a lot of different factors that they researched, like harm to the self and harm to others and all kinds of stuff like that.
Personally speaking, I guess my preference is definitely for the plant based psychedelics. That includes cannabis, although I’m not a heavy cannabis user. It is nice occasionally. It can be psychedelic, depending how much you do and in what way you do it, but definitely not as hallucinatory and stuff as psilocybin and mushrooms.
Joey Korenman: You brought up a really good point I want to dig into a little bit, which is something that in the US right now, there’s a lot of states that are starting to legalize marijuana. High school Joey would have poo-pooed that; oh, but it’s dangerous. Now as an adult, I look at something like alcohol which is far more destructive and it just seems like such a hypocritical kind of thing to allow alcohol to be sold in mass quantities at bars and restaurants and liquor stores where you can very easily drink too much and make yourself really sick or die or make poor decisions, get in a car and kill somebody, whereas, if you smoke too much weed, you ain’t doing anything. You’re going to be glued to that couch and you’re going to be just laughing a lot. People who are high don’t get in bar fights.
It’s really interesting. I wonder now that you’re more experienced with other substances, psilocybin, MDMA, things that are still illegal, I’m assuming even in Canada. Do you have any thoughts on why those things are still illegal but alcohol is so prevalent, so legal?
Caspian Kai: That’s a really good question. A lot of people are trying to change that, a lot of doctors and psychologists and very, very knowledgeable people who’ve been dedicating their entire lives to try and change that or at least to try and legalize psychedelics for psychotherapy and things like that. Alcohol was obviously illegal in the 1920s and 1930s in America, and I think for even longer in Canada. I think I read somewhere it was from 1900 until 1950 almost, which is a long time.
I think the governments around the world realize that alcohol was a good one to be able to monetize and make a lot of money off, as well as I think there’s a perception that it’s not as dangerous to people waking up as other substances. I think it’s about control. I think alcohol, being a downer, it puts you in a lower state of consciousness in my opinion. It dumbs you down. You’re not likely to have amazing epiphanies and come up with amazing ideas about how you can change the world when you’re drunk. You’re more likely to just get violent and get in a fight or something.
I think there’s a lot of different factors there, but I think a lot of it is down to control. It wasn’t so much taken into account the dangers side of things, whereas, when I think LSD was banned in 1968, and it’d probably been over 10 years of it being legal and being like lots of communities and people using LSD for different purposes, obviously, the psychedelic ‘60s and that whole movement, I think, again, that could have been to do with the government being scared of a lack of control, of people really waking up and protesting the Vietnam War and really wanting change from the government. That’s my opinion anyway. I think there’s a lot of different opinions on why things were banned.
Joey Korenman: I’m glad to hear your opinion though. One of the things that I want everyone listening to take away from this, because I’m hoping that some of what you hear might make you uncomfortable and even talking about these things can be fairly taboo depending on your upbringing and things like that, but starting to think critically about these things I think is really important and just understanding that while it’s socially acceptable to pour a glass of scotch and drink that, and I love scotch, it tastes really good, it’s just strange to me that it’s far more destructive than smoking a joint in terms of the potential downsides and yet in Florida where I live, it’s still illegal to just go out and buy weed like that.
Let’s play devil’s advocate here, Caspian. We’ve hinted at some of the benefits that you’ve seen, and we’ll get into those a little bit later. First, let’s talk about the downsides because most of us, especially in the United States, have been told from the day we were probably two or three years old, drugs are bad. Don’t do drugs. This is your brain on drugs. It’s going to ruin your life and you’ll spiral out into homelessness.
Maybe there are some creative advantages to using these things and maybe there are some therapeutic uses, but don’t you think that those are outweighed by the downsides of these dangerous substances that could just take over and ruin your life and make you crazy?
Caspian Kai: Definitely not. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions. I think when you try and control and stop people from doing things, that can lead to a lot of danger as well, people being misinformed and getting things from drug dealers that are not reputable, and all kinds of other things added to the drugs and there’s lots of dangers on that side of things. I think when things are legalized and not so frowned upon and dangerous, you look at countries like Portugal and other countries in Europe that have legalized, and crime and drug overdoses and all kinds of things, the rates have gone down. There’s been a lot of proof that it’s a good thing deregulizing, decriminalizing.
I just think anything in excess can be seen as risking your life. Excess alcohol, excess cigarettes is going to kill you in the end; excessive speeding in a car, eating too much food, there’s all kinds of things. I think it’s all about your intention and being able to moderate. When people are worried about their kids or teenagers or younger people, I think that’s to do with education both from parents and from schools. People should be educated on drugs and psychedelics and substances from a young age, educated about the dangers and what they’re going to do to your mind and do to your body. Instead, we don’t hear about them at all. We don’t get taught about drugs at all, which is crazy.
I recently did a volunteer training program, an organization here in Vancouver called [Comic 00:23:48] who do harm reduction. They work both in music festivals, but also in the downtown east side in Vancouver which is a little bit of a rough area. They help a lot of people. They do a great job in training people to help as well. I think that’s amazing.
Joey Korenman: It’s interesting to see a state that’s getting a lot of press these days in the US is Colorado because they fully legalized. They’ve got a really big infrastructure around marijuana production and sales and stuff like that. There’s statistics coming out. Drunk driving deaths go down and things like that because now there’s an alternative.
As you’re talking, it reminds of something recently that happened to me which was I’d hurt my back working out. I went to the doctor. The first thing they did was, really, they didn’t do an x-ray or an MRI or anything. They just prescribed me Oxycontin. That is a really dangerous substance. It’s very addictive. It’s very powerful, but it’s socially acceptable to just give somebody a bottle full of this stuff when maybe smoking a joint would have made my back feel better. A lot cheaper too.
Let me ask you another question. Obviously, if you smoke a joint, if you eat mushrooms, take some MDMA, you’re going to alter your perception. As an artist, there’s something appealing about that. At least to me, the idea that my well has run dry and all I have to do is eat this thing and wait a few hours, and all of a sudden, I’m going to have some strange thoughts that I would never have in any other scenario. Are there other ways to do that? Couldn’t you just meditate or go to a museum, look at some weird art or something? Wouldn’t that do the same thing?
Caspian Kai: They can be. I think inspiration can come from just about anywhere. Meditation’s a big one. I’ve been practicing meditation a lot over the last two years. Not so much recently, but it was a long period where I was practicing meditation every morning. It was a particular practice called heart rhythm meditation where I went to do some classes here in Vancouver. It’s actually based on a Sufi practice, the Sufi Muslim practice, which I don’t know if you’ve heard of the poet, Rumi. He was a Sufi. It has amazing benefits. I did definitely get inspiration for art from it, especially from the longer meditations, so when I would meditate for probably half an hour or 45 minutes to an hour, when you really focus and you’re really aware of your breathing and you learn certain specific visualization practices that are part of the meditation, this style anyway. The longer you do it, I think the more beneficial that can be.
I would say psychedelics, even in small doses, can be either a shortcut to those same kind of imagination or imaginary visions or dreamlike visions and accessing the subconscious or they can work hand in hand with meditation and enhanced meditation. Definitely a lot of people that will combine the two.
The other one that I’ve been trying in the last year or so is flotation tanks. I don’t know if you’ve heard of those. They’re specially sensory deprivation solar tanks that you go into, so dark and you’re floating in a shallow amount of water, but it’s filled with salt. It’s really effortless. It’s just an amazing feeling. You feel like you’re just floating in space or something. You do it for a minimum of 60 minutes, but you can do it for 90 minutes or two hours in some places.
Personally I haven’t tried that in combination with psychedelics yet. I know there’s people that do, even people that run these flotation centers advocate or talk about their experiences combining things like mushrooms. Actually, the guy that invented the flotation tanks, John C. Lilly, I think experimented a lot with ketamine in flotation tanks. Although that is more of a lab drug, I guess you could say, it is a psychedelic as well. Lots of different ways.
Joey Korenman: I love hearing about this stuff. I’ve never tried the flotation tank thing. I’m dying to try it. It’s funny, the more that I got into my career, and where having a unique point of view about things and a unique take on things becomes an asset, I don’t know, it’s nice to have these things, and you used the word tools earlier in this interview. I think that’s actually started to make a lot of sense that these things can be tools. You said that using the chemical is a short cut, so it’s almost like buying a plug-in, it just saves you time. Are you at all concerned with the toll that these drugs could take on your body or do you think they’re pretty safe?
Caspian Kai: I think they’re pretty safe. Obviously, because they’re illegal, there is research going on but a lot of it is behind closed doors and not government sanctioned or doesn’t have the resources behind it. It would be great to be able to have more legal studies into effects of certain substances. I think it’s pretty well-regarded that the dangers of things like mushrooms or LSD and even DMT and things like that, they’re not going to kill you. You’re not going to overdose.
As I said before, a lot of it has to do with moderation. If you did 10 hits of acid, that’s going to be very different to doing one hit, and even just the frequency too. If you did LSD every day, you’d probably have trouble sleeping and forget what normal consciousness was like, and struggle to function. If you microdosed, which is a really interesting movement that’s happening, maybe taking a really tiny portion of a tab, I think people do about one-tenth, and then you also take one or two day breaks in between each dose as well. If you did that, I don’t think there’d be any physical or mental toll. There’s lots of interesting studies being done into the effectiveness.
Joey Korenman: That’s interesting.
Caspian Kai: ... of micro-dosing.
Joey Korenman: Everything in moderation, I guess. I want to come back to micro-dosing in a little bit because I’m really curious about that. That’s a term that I’ve only heard of recently. When I was talking to you a little while ago, you mentioned it and that’s why you’re on the podcast today. I’m very curious about that. I have one more question about the negatives. This one is actually, I think, a true negative. A lot of the other ones, it’s questionable, is this actually harmful to take LSD or to take mushrooms or to smoke weed. You could probably find people who would argue both sides, but right now, a lot of these substances are still illegal.
I’m not exactly sure what the laws are in Canada, but in the United States, if you’re caught with LSD, you can go to jail. I’m curious if you worry about that, if you feel like you have to be really careful when you’re buying these things and taking them?
Caspian Kai: Yeah. It’s unfortunate. It’s something you have to worry or stress about a little bit. I guess, as I was talking about before, it’s only been a short amount of time really, you think about 1968 LSD being illegal, that these things have actually been illegal. Even cannabis, I think, is a schedule one in the States, which puts it on the same level as cocaine and heroin, which is ridiculous. Obviously, there are states that are legalizing, but yet federally, it’s still a schedule one highly illegal drug which you can get in a lot of trouble, I think even if you’re transporting it between states or transporting it across the Canadian-US border or something like that, you’d probably get locked up and get banned from traveling and all kinds of things. It’s crazy really. It’s gradually changing, but it’s definitely taking a lot of time. Even just talking about cannabis, the fact that you’ve banned a plant to that extent, it blows my mind. People can grow it in their backyards, yet it’s that highly illegal.
Joey Korenman: It’s interesting too, I don’t have really a ton of experience with this, but I have this impression that one of the real downsides of having all of these chemicals be illegal and as illegal as they are, is that it drives all of their sales into the hands of criminals and cartels and people like that. The types of people that would sell you cocaine or heroin, I’m assuming are probably a little different than the types of people that would sell you psilocybin or ayahuasca or something like that. I’m curious if in order to get these chemicals to microdose with LSD or things like that, are you exposing yourself to really, really seedy criminal elements the way you would have to if you wanted to buy a harder drug.
Caspian Kai: Not at all. Not at all. Personally speaking, anyway, the people that I know that have these kind of things are really lovely people. I think because my psychedelics are opening up to spiritual awakenings and you’re really just opening up your mind, I think most people that are into them, are just of a very different mindset to that really. Yes, the people that are dealing them in high quantities are still doing it for money, but their intentions and who they’re trying to sell to and all that kind of thing is a lot less shady than someone that’s trying to traffic cocaine or heroin or something like that.
Joey Korenman: There’s not a lot of drive-by shootings because of Peyote or something like that.
Caspian Kai: No.
Joey Korenman: Let’s talk about some of the benefits that you’ve seen. I think you said a few times spiritual awakening. To someone who has tried these things and is already a spiritual person that might mean something. There’s probably a lot of people who hear that and are like, I have no idea what you mean by spiritual awakening, Caspian. Can you clarify that aspect of it? What do you mean when you say it opens you up?
Caspian Kai: That’s a good question too. I think lots of people have different experiences. As I mentioned before, it’s that sense of oneness which I’ve had from meditation too. I think you can from really deep meditation you can have these spiritual feelings or awakenings too. I think people go through their day to day lives very closed off. Obviously, you have organized religion and things like that which people are very turned off by because of all the constraints. People are not fans of that organized religion much anymore.
In terms of spirituality itself, it’s certain realizations and certain visions you might have, so whether that’s in meditation or under the influence of psychedelics. It could be visitations by spirits. I know a lot of people, I’ve definitely had a few, especially from DMT, visitations by spirits, which seem extremely real, more real than reality in a way. It makes you almost question what reality is.
The people that say they’ve encountered god or a god-like being or simply just a void or a white light, and it gives them lots of different realizations. I know people that have done DMT or there’s another similar substance called 5-MeO-DMT that give people the experience of the realization that I am god. Why am I any different from a spiritual being, which is really interesting, especially as a creator and as an artist, you’re creating day to day. How is that any different from being the creator?
Joey Korenman: DMT, for anyone listening who’s not familiar, it’s also called, I believe, the spirit molecule. You may know more about this, Caspian, but it naturally occurs in your body already. It naturally occurs in plants and things like that. I think one of the issues with DMT, from the government’s perspective, is there’s no way to outlaw the plants that you can get it from because it’s like grass. If you know a chemist, you can synthesize it and give you DMT.
Essentially, I’ve never done it. I’m super curious about it, I’ve just never had the opportunity. I’ve heard basically what you said, that you have the experiences that cause you to question everything and rethink the very nature of reality. All of this is really super interesting to me as just a curious person. I’m curious about the nature of consciousness, things like that.
Let’s bring it back a little bit to the motion design industry, and not just motion design, but art in general. There’s been a lot of artists, very famous work and very famous bands and songs that have been written with the assistance of some of these, I’m going to use the word tools, because I like that word.
I mentioned that Tool was my gateway band into starting to think about experimenting and trying different things. The artist that does their album covers, his name is Alex Grey. I wouldn’t know from experience, but if you look at his work, I’ve been told that that’s what it looks like when you take DMT. It’s everything inside out and you can see everything from all angles all at the same time. I’m curious if you’ve seen, as an artist, benefits to your creations, your creative process or just the color combinations you come up with. Do you see a practical use for doing these things that help your profession?
Caspian Kai: Yeah, definitely. That’s another really interesting topic. Alex Grey is amazing. I’ve just recently read his book called The Mission of Art. It’s a paperback. It has some sketches and artwork in it as well. I’d highly, highly recommend that for anyone, even motion designers as well or anyone that’s into art and creativity. It really changed my perspective on why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s a brilliant book.
There’s so many other visionary artists. That’s one thing that Alex and his wife, Allison Grey, are really big on is pushing this visionary art movement, which is artwork that’s derived or influenced by visions, whether that be from tools such as psychedelics or whether that just be from meditation or dreams or day to day things that come into your imagination. There’s a lot of other visionary artists I could mention.
Another one that I personally really love is Android Jones. He’s been around for quite a while now. He does a lot of digital painting with Photoshop, but also uses 3D. He uses sculpting tools. He’s amazing. He’s been doing stuff with VR recently. He’s got a company called Microdose VR, which is doing really well. He has dome installation 360 degree projection mapping installations at festivals including conferences and stuff too.
It’s interesting because digital art is often disregarded and thought of as a lesser thing compared with traditional art, like paintings on canvas. I think he’s changing that perception a little bit. He’s just really highly regarded. The detail in his Photoshop work is amazing. I’d highly recommend checking out Android Jones if you haven’t.
Personally, over the last couple of years especially and especially since I first tried DMT, which is probably only a couple of years ago or less, I’d say the visions that I’ve had from psychedelics have definitely influenced my work and all the artwork that I really want to create. It’s focused me more on trying to re-interpret or re-represent the visions that I’ve had in my artwork.
Obviously I do commercial motion design work and sometimes stills and new media or projection mapping stuff. That’s always obviously for a commercial client in the advertising space. When it comes down to my day to day experimenting with Cinema 4D or other software, I just love to do abstract visionary artwork that’s often representational of my visions. It’s not always abstract. Sometimes it’ll have figures or people or animals or something in it. That’s something I’m moving more into, I guess, these days.
Joey Korenman: There’s a cool artist that I found while doing research for this episode named Bryan Lewis Saunders. We’ll link to this in the show notes, everyone listening. He I guess did 30 self-portraits while under the influence of 30 different drugs. It’s really fascinating. Brian Pollet is another artist who did something similar, we’ll link to both of those. I’m curious, Caspian, do you design under the influence, or is it more that you have these experiences and then they influence your designs afterwards?
Caspian Kai: I tell you it’s more afterwards for me personally. There are people, as you mentioned, I’ve seen those experiments. They’re awesome. I’d say there’s probably less people that actually do that well under the influence. I think it’s easier for physical artwork for that kind of thing, if you were to do a little bit of mushrooms and then go paint or finger paint or draw on a sketchpad. I’ve definitely done that. That’s really enjoyable. It really puts you in a flow state really easily. It just comes out of you without thinking. I just love sketching and stuff while under that sort of influence.
In terms of digital work, if it’s doing 3D and rendering and I’ve got to obtain and open up plugins and do all of that technical stuff, from my little experimentation, I’ve found that doesn’t really work that well for me. I almost don’t want to be on the computer. I guess maybe if it was Photoshop painting with a brush or ZBrush sculpting, that might be a bit different because it’s a bit more of that flow, artistic thing. You don’t have to hit as many shortcuts and stuff.
I really like just doing a decent dose of something. Maybe it’s while I’m away camping for the weekend with friends or something. The visions I get from that, maybe during or after I’ll sketch them down or write notes about them on a notepad. In the week or longer following I’ll try and recreate that digitally if I can or recreate that in a different way.
It’s interesting, because Alex Grey, who you mentioned, in his book, he talks about how some of the glimpses or snippets he gets from visions will form a greater idea, but that greater idea like a painting, might actually take years to finally get into a completed form. He’s definitely got that approach too of the visions and the detail in these visions is often so intricate and detailed and powerful that it would be pretty much impossible to recreate it in that space of six to twelve hours or however long the trip is. Definitely afterwards is a good way to go.
Joey Korenman: It’s interesting. You talk about having the technical overhead of firing up octane and UV unwrapping something while under the influence of the psychedelic. It’s interesting because my drug of choice is coffee. People forget that caffeine, I guess technically you could consider it a nootropic. It changes the way you feel. It enhances some cognitive abilities. That’s good for hyper-focusing, for my anyway. If I have to open Cinema 4D and build some elaborate rig, coffee, caffeine really, really helps me. I think you’re right, if I was stoned and trying to do that, I don’t know if it would go very well.
One of the things you’ve mentioned a few times is that you try to capture the visions that you see while on these trips. Alex Grey, very famously does that. I assumed his artwork takes a long time. It is crazy detailed, but it never occurred to me that it’s that detailed because the visions are that detailed. I think the strongest psychedelic I’ve ever tried was mushrooms in Amsterdam. I’ve never tried LSD or DMT.
Can you attempt, I’m sure this is impossible, can you attempt for people listening, I’m sure there’s a lot of people who’ve never tried any psychedelics and don’t plan to, but are probably very curious about what you see in your mind’s eye when you’re on these trips. Can you describe what those visions are like and how they work?
Caspian Kai: That’s an interesting one. I guess I’d have to almost get into giving some specific examples. I’ll just quickly start by one example from Alex Grey is I went and saw him speak, actually, him and his wife, Allison, earlier this year in Vancouver. They talked about this shared vision they had.
They would do LSD and lie down on a bed in a dark room together and go on a journey. They both had a shared vision one night going back decades I think now, but it was a super influential one for them where they envisaged what they called the universal mind lattice. It’s this crazy toroidal shape made of lines, like a mesh, white lines radiating out from a central point and spiraling around. You could follow that light around in infinity basically.
When they came out of it, or during, I’m not sure, but they sketched down on a notepad. They pretty much sketched down the same thing. They realized the power of that. They tried to make that infinite form into something more finite. That’s often how Alex Grey describes that visionary out process. He’s like, the visions are so infinite, but I have to put it into this constrained canvas or something that’s in a box, which is really difficult.
Myself, personally, one recent I think DMT or changa, is being the most powerful for me, although I have had really, really powerful visions from a mushroom trip as well once when I was camping and had visitations from mermaids and beings swimming in front of my vision. It would just change in an instant and I would get spirals of rainbow light across my vision, like a transition effect almost. Then it would be completely another world with other beings.
Those eyes closed visuals are really amazing. Again, that’s something you can’t recreate at the time because you’ve got your eyes closed. If you open them, you’re not going to have the vision, so to speak. The same with DMT. DMT lasts about probably five minutes. It’s not very long but it’s super intense. Your perception of time is changed. It can actually feel like hours sometimes or, I don’t know. It’s hard to describe what that time feels like. I’ve definitely had cheeky ... I don’t know whether you’d say alien or elf-like. Lots of people have different descriptions and different experiences, but definitely had beings visit me and dance with me and entice me; all kinds of things from various different trips.
Usually I’ll often get a message from that trip too. From a single DMT experience, the overwhelming message from my first one I remember was love. I just got this overwhelming feeling and sensation throughout my body of love and warmth and these feminine beings giving me love and telling me to love myself. Really, really amazing.
From other ones I’ve had, the message would be fun, have more fun. It was all just silly, silly message. Another one was dance. Remember to dance and how important dance is in your life and stuff like that. As well as the visions and the actual visuals and the crazy abstract fractals and eyes and crystal caverns and stuff that I have seen and other people will see and try and reinterpret, there’s also often a deeper message or meaning that I’ll get from a trip too, which is amazing.
Joey Korenman: Do you think there’s other benefits artistically, especially as a motion designer, even in the sense of doing client work, are there other advantages besides just being exposed to these visuals that are indescribable and unlike anything you could possibly see in your normal day to day but aside from trying to capture that in an illustration or a painting or something like that, are there other advantages do you see? This may be a silly question. I’m trying to just see how practical the advantages really are. Do ideas come to you more easily? Do you feel more creative? Is it easier to see design and put color combos together, or it is really not about that?
Caspian Kai: No, it’s definitely good for those things. You mentioned you wanted to touch on microdosing again. Would that be a good time to mention that or ...
Joey Korenman: Yeah, yeah. Let’s bring this up.
Caspian Kai: From a larger trip, like what I was just talking about, like an experience where the trip will last for hours or if it’s an intense trip like DMT, there’ll be an afterglow and I’ll just feel amazing for a day or two afterwards, and definitely feel more relaxed and I would focus better, be in a better mood, even if that’s at the office doing client work or whatever.
For microdosing, which is taking a really small dose of something in a frequent period, I’ll go into ... myself, I recently experimented with microdosing mushrooms for about a month or just over. What that was is about .1 of a gram, which is a really, really small dose, almost imperceptible, but you do still feel it. I would have it in the morning usually with a coffee, so that they enhance each other and you get the caffeine hit and focus, but then you also get a bit of the mushroom feeling as well. I did this once every three days for over a month. You have two days in between where you don’t dose. I would also journal every day at the end of the day on how it had affected my day. At the moment, I’m putting together a blog post and I’m going to also submit findings to this guy, James Fadiman. He’s got a website about microdosing. He’s taken hundreds and hundreds of different people’s experiences, and he’s going to put it together into a research paper.
The effects that I had from microdosing over that month, just to summarize, were just really intense periods of focus and mental alertness for the hours following the dose. When I have just coffee, I’d find yes, it could focus me, but maybe only for a half an hour, especially if you have a lot of coffee and you keep having coffee, it can make you really unfocused and scattered and, “Oh shit, I’ve got to check my emails, and I’ve got to do this.” You think of all the other little tasks you’ve got to do or what you forgot to do or your to-do list.
I found with the microdosing, it would be more just I would focus on one task and I would never even open up my emails or think about anything else I had to do. Sometimes that task might not have even been work, but it might have been something that subconsciously had been really bothering me like I was going to sell something on Craigslist. I’ve been meaning to do this for months. One morning I’m microdosing, I’m like, “Fuck, I just need to go do this.” I went and took photos of it, posted it on Craigslist, got it done in about five minutes. It’s like it’s out of my brain now. It’s decluttering.
It’s reorganizing the brain and also accessing memories, whether that’s short-term memories or memories from ages ago that can be really beneficial. Uplifted my mood throughout the day, gave me a really positive outlook, reduced anxiety. I was just able to prioritize tasks much better as well, what’s really important.
The other one, which the first time I microdosed actually was not on a work day at all. I was out on a beach chilling out. I go all these really interesting creative outside of the box ideas about business and entrepreneurship and realizing what my true passions are and how I should pursue them and things like that, and even just conversations with people too were improved, I found. I was just a lot more comfortable in conversation.
Joey Korenman: Yes, you’ve wrote about a lot of really interesting things that happen. I guess I’ve been curious lately with this group of drugs called nootropics. I’m sure you’re familiar, but for anyone listening, nootropics basically is anything that enhances mental performance. Caffeine is the most common nootropic, but there’s these commercial ones now you can get. A really famous one is Joe Rogan is affiliated with this company on it. They make this stuff called Alpha Brain, which has a bunch of nootropics in it. I’ve tried that and that actually does work pretty well. I’ve tried things like Kava and Kratom, which are both plant based nootropic type of things.
I found that I am way more focused on those things too, but my take on it is that we all get into a groove. We have these thought patterns and you establish them and then they just repeat over and over. I think that’s why it’s so easy to fall into the trap of I haven’t checked my email in five minutes. I should check it again. I should see if I got any retweets on that tweet and just every three days. Having your brain wired differently because of something you’ve put in your body, it’s just going to naturally give you a totally different experience and allow you to reprioritize a little bit.
I’ve been trying very hard throughout this interview to not become a proponent of everyone going out and trying drugs. Again, I just want everyone thinking about this stuff because as artists, as motion designers, as freelancers, entrepreneurs, like you mentioned, there’s a lot on your mind. There’s a lot to juggle. Sometimes your mind is not ... you’ve got a lot of bad habits in there. These things can really help shake those up, in my experience. Would you agree with any of that?
Caspian Kai: Yeah, totally. I think it helps with being in the moment too. One thing that came to mind as you were speaking just then is stress, especially in our industry and how go, go, go it is. Whether you’re a business owner or an individual or a freelancer, there can be so much stress throughout the day. You’re just working day in, day out, often long hours. You forget to relax and be in the moment. That’s what especially mushrooms and other psychedelics in small doses are amazing for, I find, is just whether that’s being in nature or just around at home or whatever, really taking in your surroundings, and remembering how amazing it is to be alive is just really important.
Joey Korenman: Totally. Let’s say that someone’s made it through this interview so far and we’ve piqued their curiosity. They’d like to start learning a little bit more about this. Are there any resources that you found that your journey experimenting with these different tools, medicines, that you could recommend that if people want to start to learn a little bit more about these things and how they work?
Caspian Kai: Totally. There’s quite a few. I’ll just mention a few quickly. There’s David Nutt, who I mentioned before. He’s a British psychiatrist. I think he’s a pharmacologist as well, so he specializes in research of drugs that affect the brain. I think he was actually a government advisor for the UK government at one point as well. He had some controversial statements about MDMA being safer than alcohol and things like that, which weren’t too popular. I definitely recommend looking him up and reading some of his articles or checking out his podcasts.
There’s also Ann and Sasha Schulgin, they’re American chemists. They are a couple and biochemists. They’ve written a couple of really good books, one called PIHKAL, it’s P-I-H-K-A-L. There’s an organization. This is probably a good one for people to check out, an organization called MAPS, M-A-P-S, which stands for the Multi-disciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies. They started in the US, but there’s also a Canadian version of them. I’m trying to think who it was that started MAPS out. He’s pretty famous as well. I think it might have been ...
Joey Korenman: It’s not McKenna, is it?
Caspian Kai: David Nichols? No Terence McKenna is actually worth checking out too, but in terms of research, he’s more of I’d say a philosopher and an intellectual and a writer. He’s got a book called Food of the Gods, which I’ve just started reading, which is really, really good. He’s had a lot of controversial stuff too. I’d recommend listening to him because he’s an amazing speaker.
In terms of research and more research based approaches, there’s another guy actually, Robin Carhart-Harris, I just found a while ago who’s the head of psychedelic research and brain sciences in London, the Imperial College. He’s got a TED Talk video actually. I think it’s called Psychedelic’s Lifting the Veil. It’s just a short 15-minute talk talking about how he’s using it for psychology and anxiety and depression. Definitely recommend that one.
In terms of DMT, there’s one I wanted to mention quickly. You mentioned the spirit molecule and how it can be called that. There’s a Netflix documentary called The Spirit Molecule. It’s based about these studies done decades ago, I think in the ‘80s, by this guy called Dr. Rick Strassman. He’s a psychiatrist as well, I think. He did a lot of study with intravenously injecting DMT into volunteer patients. I think that was government sanctioned or legalized before they really cracked down and banned the substance across the board or they just allowed for this study. It’s very interesting hearing about people’s ... Even in that Netflix documentary, the patients talk about their visions and experiences and how life-changing it was. That’s a good one too.
Joey Korenman: That’s fascinating. I’m definitely going to have to check that out. I’ll recommend too for everybody if you want to learn, those are all amazing sources, but if like podcasts, maybe a little less science-ee take on it too, I would check out the Joe Rogan podcast. Joe Rogan talks about a lot of things, but he talks about psychedelics quite a bit and also Sam Harris, who also has a podcast and has spoken about this stuff. Even Tim Ferriss really talks about this stuff more and more.
Caspian Kai: The other one I was going to mention that goes with that is Aubrey Marcus. He’s done stuff with Joe Rogan. They’ll often be on the same podcasts.
Joey Korenman: He’s the CEO of ONNIT. He’s the guy that creates [crosstalk 00:59:59].
Caspian Kai: He’s an entrepreneur. He’s got a podcast called AMP, which is the Aubrey Marcus Podcast. That’s got some real interesting ones about psychedelics too. He’s also done two films, one hour films, which are really awesome. They actually have a bit of motion graphics and stuff happening in them too. They were about journeys that Aubrey did down in South America. I think one’s called Huachuma, which is a type of cactus. It’s also called San Pedro. It’s about how he and a group of people went and did a San Pedro ceremony with the chauham.
He’s got a new film that just came out this year called Drink the Jungle, which is about the similar thing but about ayawaska and ayawaska retreat and experiences, which is really interesting as well.
Joey Korenman: Let’s say that now someone, they go, they check all this stuff out and they’re like I’m kind of curious. I think I want to try something. Are there any substances that you would recommend starting with, they’re a little more beginner? You don’t start with the intravenous DMT. What would you recommend?
Caspian Kai: That’s a good question. I think, like you said, Kava and Kratom. Although I haven’t tried them, I’ve heard they are more mile relaxants. They can also go well with coffee. It can create a different kind of effect of focus and stuff. I’d say cannabis as well, especially given that it’s legal in a lot of places now and becoming more and more accepted and easy to get. There’s obviously different strains of cannabis. There’s the CBD, which is more of a muscle body relaxant and doesn’t give you the high that other strains do that have more THC. Definitely recommend that.
If you can find mushrooms, I’d say they’re a good one to experiment with, but just do your research in terms of the dosage. I think with anything, just start smaller and just see how you like it. Don’t do a huge dose of mushrooms. It could be pretty intense for your first time.
Joey Korenman: That could be a mistake. I can speak about Kava and Kratom. I’ve tried both of those. They are far more mild than even marijuana. Kava is like, I don’t know ... It feels like you drank a beer except different and you don’t get hung over. It’s mild. Kratom’s a little bit stronger and there’s different strains of it, but again, very mild. If you try cannabis, I would just recommend don’t eat it. Don’t eat a brownie or something the first time you try it.
You mentioned it’s smart to start with small doses if you’re going to experiment with these things. It should be said, a lot of these things, if you’re eating pot brownies, or if you’re eating mushrooms, the effects can take hours to come on. If you’re a rookie and you think, I didn’t take enough and then you take some more, you can have a real bad day.
Then Caspian, if someone’s like, you know what, I’m in. I’m all in. I want the full experience. I want to blast off and I want to open my third eye, and I want to see ... I don’t remember what you said, tessellating the infinite loop and all this stuff. What’s the safest way to do that, and how would you explain to someone who is about to essentially go out and find things that may not be legal where they live, how do you do that in a safe way that’s not going to get you in big trouble?
Caspian Kai: With any medicine or drug, I think it’s really important, and something you’ll come across a lot if you’re doing research, people talk about set and setting. They’re really important. That’s basically talking about being in a good mindset. You don’t have to be in the best mood, but maybe don’t be really sad and crying or really angry or totally distraught or something like that.
The setting, what the day’s like, where you are, what the space you’re in. Make sure you’re in a nice comfortable safe space basically. Don’t be somewhere you’re unfamiliar with. I wouldn’t go out into the forest at night on your own and do a big dose or something. Start with a moderate dose if you can. Once you’re ready, whether it’s at home in a comfortable room with a friend or two or alone, if you’re comfortable being alone, maybe with some music and artwork around and activities to do if you get antsy or something.
Psychedelics are also great in nature. They enhance each other; I definitely recommend if you’re on a camping trip or something with a friend or two. Ideally, if you can find someone who’s experienced in that substance already, someone who can be a bit of a guide for you or sometimes people will even if they’re a bit more anxious, they might want to have a sitter, which is someone who doesn’t do the substance with them, but just stays sober and sits there to help if anything comes up. Usually it’s good to do it together because it really connects people.
Joey Korenman: That’s really good advice, man. My last question is do you think that you’re going to be experimenting and using psychedelics for the rest of your life? Do you think this is one phase of your life and then it’s over when you get older, or do you think that this can be a part of your life for the long-term?
Caspian Kai: I definitely think it’s a long-term thing. I think we’re experiencing, a lot of people are talking about now, there being a psychedelic renaissance. Obviously, there was that period in the 1960s where everyone was really into them. Then with the ban and becoming a lot harder to get and illegal and everything, it’s been a bit of a journey. I think with the amount of people pushing for either legalization or at least for legalization of studies and things like that, and so people like MAPS, I think it’s becoming a lot more socially acceptable and more people are waking up to how powerful they are. Obviously, Silicon Valley and stuff like that, too, microdosing is taking off there. Even people like Steve Jobs talked about how important LSD was for them.
Myself, I think in the last few years, it’s become more important for me and really changed the direction of my art and probably my career as well. I think that’s definitely going to continue. I don’t see why that wouldn’t continue into old age even. There’s a lot of people that are older in life that are still using psychedelics in some way as a tool.
Joey Korenman: Love it. I hope that if there is this renaissance happening, maybe the after effects, Alex Grey’s out there somewhere. One day there’s going to be this mind-blowing visualization of the third eye opening or whatever happens.
Listen, man, I really appreciate how honest you’ve been about all this and being an open book about your experiences and your thoughts. I just want to say thank you. We’re definitely going to have to have you back on to revisit this in a little bit.
Caspian Kai: Awesome. Thanks, Joey. It’s been awesome being on here.
Joey Korenman: I really have to thank Caspian for being so honest and open about his experiences. There’s a ton of social stigma around this topic. I think that’s sad because it makes it very difficult to get accurate information about the effects and risks of these substances.
I don’t know if this episode changed anybody’s mind, but I hope it at least made you think. Thank you so much for listening. Head over to schoolofmotion.com for the show notes on this episode, and we will definitely catch you on the next one.