Coil’s hallucinogenic drone album Time Machines is back in print (with Tattvic stickers!) 20 years after its initial release. (I guess, strictly speaking, Time Machines existed as a Coil side project—the credit on the live record is “Coil Presents Time Machines.”) The project, a collection of “4 tones to facilitate travel through time,” was inspired by Coil’s tryptamine friendship with arch-psychonaut Terence McKenna, as John Balance explained to Fortean Times in a 2001 interview:
FT: Psychedelics have become a more apparent theme in the more recent Coil material…
JB: And paradoxically we don’t do them any more! We were so busy doing them before that we didn’t get any records out! After Horse Rotorvator (1987) we were completely psychedelicised for about five years, and hooked up with Terence McKenna - “Coil rule!” he said in an email. It’s a great shame about his death, though I’m sure he wouldn’t see it in those terms, but as a transformation.
FT: He’s with the Machine Elves now.
JB: The self-transforming Machine Elves.
FT: Psychedelics must have transformed the way you approached sound. How do they relate to the Time Machines project?
JB: They did more than that. I was taking magic mushrooms from the age of 11 - a lot, until I was about 18, just at school. And they never did a bad thing, always taught me wonderful things. They taught me how to appreciate music and eventually told me to make music. As I’ve said before, I feel that I was brought up by mushrooms. They are teachers. Time Machines is explicitly to do with combining sounds with psychedelic tones. The Harmaline B molecule, like any other complex alkaloid, is represented as a ring, but when you take DMT, or Yage or Ayahuasca, there’s also a ringing tone, a psychic tone. And with DMT there’s a kind of crumpling sound. So Time Machines was inspired by Terence McKenna’s idea that Time Machines will only ever appear here once they have been made, and will come back to us.
McKenna, like William S. Burroughs, Taylor Mead, and John Giorno, was one of John and Sleazy’s interview subjects during the mid-Nineties; apparently, they were working on a never-realized project called Black Sun Magazine. During the 54-minute interview with Coil below, Terence plays his greatest hits—the alien consciousness encountered by psilocybin users, rave culture, Timewave Zero—but it is a pleasure to hear them as they sounded in the relaxed atmosphere of a Sunday rap with John and Sleazy.
Terence confesses (at 14:26) that he wouldn’t mind having his own Coil-type group:
The reason I like Coil is because it’s so weird. I mean without a doubt—I was talking to somebody yesterday about it who’d never heard of you, and I said “If I were making music, I would make music something like that,” that that’s my idea of what experimental music is supposed to sound like.
Guy could talk. Around the 41-minute mark, McKenna, contemplating the collapse of institutions, offers this hopeful message to the future:
There are many very dark scenarios of scarcity, fascism, disease, infrastructure collapse. But I think that the creativity that can be called upon once the old institutional structures begin to dissolve is going to create… as James Joyce said, “Man will be dirigible”!
I suppose a brave soul could use Time Machines to drop in on the transcendental object at the end of time and see if McKenna was right. Just pack your umbrella and galoshes for the end of the Mayan calendar in the incredible future year 2012. I hear tell it’s going to be a ripsnorter!