"I'D DISCOVERED the answer to all my problems. Suddenly I felt smarter, funnier, sexier. I could walk into a club stone sober, feeling awkward and alien, do a bump in the bathroom - and spin out of the stall like Wonder Woman!"
~ Kevin Koffler [POZ magazine]
(This section was last updated in 2009 and is specific to gay culture in the US at the turn of the millennium. We regret that some elements of this article are out of date)
"IN THE CLUB WORLD, especially in the gay club world, you hear crystal meth is equal to free HIV."
~ David Morales [US DJ]
IMAGINE a dance club where the atmosphere is dark and intense. Gratingly discordant, oppressive "hate music" - like a medley of chainsaws - blasts your eardrums as the angry, detached crowd avoids eye contact, glancing at each other only to glare with empty, glazed eyes and clenched jaws. There is no fun, no laughter, no uplifting dance vibe. Just grinding, dense negativity...
That was a grim reality of North America's crystal meth-afflicted gay party scene at the start of the millennium as the drug spread like a virus from circuit parties into the dance clubs of the metropolitan cities and out into the wider communities. Sweeping eastward rom LA to New York City, meth ruthlessly and indiscriminately tore the heart out of gay neighbourhoods already devastated by AIDS and soon began decimating the gay scenes of Canada's major cities, inflicting unimaginable chaos and misery in its wake. With meth also spiraling west from Asian-Pacific countries like Australia and Thailand, its relentless, pincer-like movement is now casting a dark storm cloud over Europe...
With Viagra's arrival in 1998, weekend long party-goers began flocking to crystal and away from comparatively expensive "fun" drugs like ecstasy and ketamine, which had reigned supreme for much of the 1990s.
Providing an intense high that would last from party to party and for just a few dollars - a major consideration for young men living in expensive metropolitan areas - crystal enabled the user to start the night with a buzz and stay awake, alert and, for many, hungry for sex all weekend long. "Tina's" entrance into the party scene was secured when the US Government passed a Federal law forcing ketamine manufacturers to change the drug's base ingredient from water to oil, making it impossible to air dry and inhale; a move which, compounded by post 9/11 paranoia and unease, accelerated the rise of meth.
“Meth has a nine-to-twelve-hour half-life, which means that weekend warriors can start on Thursday and only dose five times to make it to Sunday evening.”
~ Steven Shoptaw [Psychologist]
Meth's insidious, creeping influence throughout North America's gay social scene quickly exacted a physiologically and psychologically devastating toll on countless users, resulting in a hostile darkening in tone in the venues they populated. Instead of tackling the problem head-on and making crystal use untenable on their premises by exercising a zero-tolerance approach and encouraging a positive crowd ambience, gay party promoters and the DJs they booked pandered to the new drug of choice by adapting to the ugly meth mindset.
"Before crystal, I never had a problem with any substances. I did [it] to stay awake and focused...at least, that's what I told myself at the time. I didn't realise it then, but the real reason I did crystal was because I hated my job. But for 5 years I couldn't admit it to myself, so I put myself in a waking coma in an attempt to enjoy it... I was so unattached to everything, and my music reflected that. It was detached, sporadic, boring and angry."
~ Junior Vasquez [US DJ, June 2005]
Music affects mood and emotion more than any other medium, and has the power to change the way we view the world.
Uplifting, feel-good genres - from classical to soulful house - are scientifically proven to act positively on the individual's subconscious, stimulating receptivity and perception which in turn help to co-ordinate breathing, cardiovascular and brainwave rhythm, each essential for good health and wellbeing. According to the US journal Heart, the effect of soothing genres of music is such that scientists now believe they can be used instead of medicine to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. "We are approaching the point where a doctor would legitimately be negligent not to actually recommend music as a therapeutic intervention," says Professor Paul Robertson, who regularly plays violin for patients in various London hospitals.
Conversely, the tempo of negative, "soulless" sounds like gangsta rap and heavy metal has the opposite effect, being vibrationally manipulated to lock the listener's mind into a depressively hypnotic, trance-like state, inducing negative psychological and emotional responses which worsen the more lacking in confidence or insecure a person is. Faster music and harsher rhythms also significantly speed up breathing and circulation irrespective of style, with fast classical and techno music having the same impact.
"The range of dance music is 60 to 200bpm (beats per minute), which is pretty much the range of the human heartbeat. After 200bpm your heart blows up!"
~ Matt Black [Coldcut]
There have been a number of studies into the effects of music on the listener over the years:
• In the 1970s, Dr. John Diamond published Behavioral Kinesiology, which featured his findings into how the energy of negative genres of music, with or without lyrics, can make the body's acupuncture system go weak;
• Numerous studies have shown how listening to aggressive forms of music slows the mental agility and performance of students of all ages by up to 50%, while listening to relaxing music can improve performance and aid concentration;
• In 2002, an experiment by Cambridge University tested the effects of "white noise" and aggressive music like The Prodigy on mice drugged with meth and concluded: "Listening to pulsative music strengthens the toxic effects of methamphetamine." A co-author of the study was clearly convinced: "I might go to raves, but I wouldn't take methamphetamine," he said.
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 showed how a heavy metal CD featuring the numbing, soul-deadening lyrics, "Burn, motherfucker, burn", gained currency among soldiers in Iraq, detaching them emotionally as they went in for the kill, while former detainess at a US camp near Kabul have described how they were tortured by being chained to walls, deprived of food and water and kept in total darkness while loud rap, heavy music and other demoniac noises blared continously from speakers.
As crystal's tentacles spread throughout North America's gay party scene, so, too, did one such insidiously twisted, sensory-dulling sound that emerged to complement its sinister side...