My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 40-year-old man who talks to himself in the check-out queue.
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/ Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal.”
MENK 14: HOTEL. MOTEL. HOLIDAY INN
The revelations that occur on drugs are not to be trusted. Often they are just the by-product of the random re-routing of natural chemical messengers sent on wild detours through the less well-trodden back alleys of the brain. They are caused by giddy neurons skipping through the usually dormant “I’ve had an awesome idea”; “unorthodox sexual desire”; “I am a brilliant artist”; “here be monsters” and “I am trapped in a pinball game” sectors of the brain. This is why people with tattoo equipment should never ink themselves after taking DMT.
Also, if one absolutely must take psychedelics, one should construct a hardy system of checks and balances when investigating links between disparate phenomena that other, less chronically high, people cannot detect. There is a good reason why all conspiracy theorists either smoke skunk continuously or are clinically insane. Most long-term drug users worth their salt find the scene in A Beautiful Mind where a pissy-eyed Russell Crowe looks at the sky and sees an umbrella – just because he’s dead good at maths – risible, given that they can no longer look upwards without seeing a 13-level pyramid with an eye at the summit, its flanks crawling with giant crayfish made from set squares and compasses. This is why all mad people live in London where you can no longer see the stars – only the Moon, with its virgin surface never troubled by astronaut footprint or Lunar Rover track.
Back in 2004, I interviewed Sid Wilson, the DJ from Slipknot, while his band were touring Europe with Slayer and Mastodon. Being a rock star automatically gets you a free downgrade from "slightly mad" to "very eccentric" should you want it, but Sid was suffering from the kind of powerful delusions that can’t really be compared to Patrick Wolf’s dress sense or Robert Smith’s haircut. Before our interview began he measured out five teaspoons of sugar, using a small piece of wood to level off the surface of each one before lowering the spoon slowly into his cup of coffee. Then he stirred each measurement of sugar five times clockwise and five times anti-clockwise counting out loud as he did it. Even though we were indoors and it was hot he was wearing a bandana wrapped around his head and two hats on top of that. He said it helped the flow of information pouring into his head from “back home”. He didn’t come across as mad in any traditional sense though, in fact, going by the many interviews I’ve carried out with nu-metal musicians in the past, I’d say he was unusually intelligent, polite, witty and sharp for his peer group. But then he also claimed that he was an alien sent from the constellation of Orion to help save mankind and to prepare the good people for intergalactic warfare, like he was an extra-terrestrial Second Coming. “I believe I am from Orion,” he said, “but I am proud to be here on Earth completing this mission.”
He talked to me for three hours about his belief system, which was a mixture of the Rapture, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and The Book Of Revelation. In fact he talked to me for so long that someone had to come and get him because the band were due on stage and were waiting for him in the wings. It came as very little surprise to hear that once, while a high school drug dealer, Sid had eaten a blotter sheet of 75 tabs of LSD during one evening. He phoned me the next day apologising for not showing me the tattoo which had revealed his purpose to him. It was of the World Trade Center on fire. A tattoo he says he got done in August 2001.
While never in Sid’s league, I have long since forcefully dissuaded myself from nearly all the mental idiocy that I sometimes used to fall prey to, and I like to believe that I now walk the line when it comes to mental health. (For example, I no longer believe that I’m still under anaesthesia on an operating table in Hull General Hospital in 1993.) But this is a line that becomes harder to walk when certain environmental factors come into play.
There is a place I like to get to when taking drugs, but the quantity and variety of propellant I now need to achieve sufficient escape velocity to get there – while being careful not to overshoot and end up a messiah warrior off the shoulder of Orion – means I pretty much never take them any more. I would sooner have a cup of tea, to be honest. A recent exception to this rule, however, came about more by accident than design. After climbing aboard a four-stage rocket in Digbeth a few weeks ago, I went to watch Scorn in a warehouse. Jimmy The Saint was there and offered me some crystals out of his bag. I should have known better because my jaw felt like it was made from mercury and I had become slightly afraid of my hands and how big and ominous they looked. I took some anyway, and said, “MDMA?” And he said, “No. My mate makes it in his caravan.”
There was some next-level connecting the dots going on that night, I can tell you. It felt really significant that Jimmy’s mate made the drugs in a caravan and that Mick Harris ended his set by playing the Trailer Park Boys theme music. I stayed awake for nearly three days and while I didn’t have any awesome ideas, I did start believing I was trapped in a pinball machine at one point.
I don’t like cheap hotels or caravans as I associate them with drink and drug psychosis, which is kind of natural for someone who has spent a lot of time doing drugs and drinking in cheap hotels and caravans. Also, in my experience, the more you look like the sort of guy who will die in a hotel room or a caravan, the more likely it is that you are that guy. To many people a cheap hotel room is nothing more than a bed for poor quality sleep and below-par masturbation, but to me it is a crucial liminal zone that smells slightly of three-day old Benson and Hedges smoke. It is a liminal zone located somewhere in between the foyer of the Great Yarmouth Travelodge and a throbbing grotto of fucking purgatory full of eyeless pirates, albino rats and the ghosts of Victorian children.
After Scorn, when I was back in my room on my own, it only took me two hours to start wondering if I’d always been there, as if I were in a poorly decorated version of the Overlook Hotel. Suspicion got upgraded to dead solid certainty within four hours.
“…every time I try and leave this hotel they claim they don’t have the right paperwork for me to check out. So they just make me move to the next number room up while they look for the forms. And then when I get to the end of the corridor, they just make me go to the next floor up, where the décor is another year out of date. How many years have I been here for? Every single hotel room I’ve been in has another interior door which cannot be opened. Where do all these doors go to? If you could open one of these doors you wouldn’t be able to cope with what you saw. And is that the sound of someone whimpering in the next room along? I don’t want to know what they’re crying about because I’ll be moved into that room before long. It’s been night for a long time… Maybe two or three days by my reckoning. How many weeks have I been watching Bear Grylls for? Why is he wearing my shoes? Maybe he has my feet as well…”
And then eventually you leave the hotel a few days later (on the first attempt) and you think: “Next time I’m going to make certain I pack my depression medicine. And if I don’t remember it, well I’m just going to have to go back home and get it because trying to replace it with a drip feed of experimental horror crystals made in a caravan and not sleeping for three days simply isn’t a good substitute."
Man, fuck hotels. Fucking shit houses. And don’t get me started on caravans.
Photo by Michael Gray