Higher Profile: Kukuni’s Willy Christie, Musician and Breeder

Righted by psychedelics, medicating with weed, meditating to move forward.
Christie
Courtesy of Kukuni

Los Angeles-based musician and cannabis farmer/hybridizer Willy Christie has spent the past five years hybridizing his own proprietary cultivars. His mindfulness and innate insight can’t be helped, as he was raised by his mother—a legally deaf music teacher—and his father—a legally blind tennis instructor. Mindfulness was not taught, it was emulated.

Christie said he took a deep dive into psychedelics more than 10 years ago, going through what’s now referred to as “ego death,” in an effort to discover bliss and find unity with God. He used them as a tool to find meaning in this life and get beneath the human subconscious that can hinder our growth and development.

As a child, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD) and clinical depression, stating his depression was mostly based on poor decisions and life situations he put himself in.

Prescribed Adderall and antidepressants as a child, he realized he was self-medicating with cannabis in college. He dropping out early, leaving cannabis behind in the wake, then added psychedelics in an attempt to shake off the depression.

He was tripping regularly on either psilocybin mushrooms or acid once or twice a month. This, he said caused him to stop going out and socializing, with his fantasy life taking over.

“I’d go through a kind of cosmic consciousness, then I’d sober up and have to go to work the next day,” he laughed. “I realized these stages I was going through on the psychedelics were already there in my mind. I didn’t have to keep tripping or going through it to move forward. It was the difference between using the experience to open a door or actually walking and working through it.”

With the difference between trying and doing firmly understood, Christie felt he didn’t have to continue using psychedelics. He used the experiences he already had as a tool to get to the next life level, keeping cannabis use as part of his wellness and musical process.

“I hadn’t yet written music, played an instrument, or even considered myself a musician,” he said. “Psychedelics put the pieces together for me. Pointed me in the right direction … I feel psychedelics are as an important a tool to psychology as a telescope is to astronomy.”

“My method in making music became medicating with cannabis, jamming, and recording.”

– Willy Christie

Breathing the Third Eye Open

Meditation has long been a way for humans to transcend their own subconscious—to leave behind the baggage of emotion we store in the mind that can cause us to stagnate as developing human beings.

Through Holotropic breathwork, Christie said he was and is able to transcend much in the same way he did on the psychedelics. 

Holotropic breathing exercises were developed in the 1970s by Dr. Stanislav Grof and his wife, Christina, initially using lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). When the psychoactive formulation was made illegal, the couple developed the breathing technique to allow their subjects the same type of release and realizations outside of themselves.

“The point is not where the work takes you,” he continued, “but what you do with the experience afterwards. Using psychedelics as a treatment shows you the work you need to do, where you need to be in your life – especially if a change is needed.”

It’s not unusual for someone to use psychedelics to help them get to another place of emotional wellness. Fungi, LSD, MDMA, and ayahuasca are all used to help dig into the subconscious for understanding, to heal trauma, and to aid in addiction recovery, offering a reset as a starting point.

“The experiences while on these substances open up your third eye, allowing you to see what’s important, leading you on a path to healing,” he added. “But you still have to do the work. My use of acid actually taught me to medicate smarter, helped me to feel peace long after the experience had ended.”

Christie said he also realized that the psychedelics were more about feeling, and that once your brain stops ruminating, that’s the point where you are truly present—to “be here now,” as the late, great spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, once advised. And meditation, he said, gives him that same portal of peace.

“That’s the message I convey through music—moments of peace,” he continued. “If you have a feeling of peace, of being present, it’s easier to have faith that everything is going to be all right, and you are on the right path.”

Music, he said, is a placeholder for other messages, melodically speaking directly to the subconscious. A signpost letting you know you are not alone, united by a common thread of words and melody.

“Talk about some radical shit camouflaged in music,” he laughed. “Music has a universal message and can speak to many. This may be a dream we are living in, but we are all in the same dream. Music puts you directly in the present. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now was life changing for me in living in the moment.”

“Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.”

– Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now (New World Library)

The Message in Music

Christie recently released a psychedelic rock album, Kukuni, created in a self-imposed six-month isolation, “accidentally” sacrificing the entire summer of 2019.

Afterwards, he swore he’d never lose another summer, and then America’s mandatory COVID-19 lockdown hit, forcing a second isolation period and the completion of the album—fueled by consuming copious amounts of weed. 

“I’m one of the members of the “do drugs and make music for people who do drugs and listen to music,” he laughed. “I went through pounds of weed during the six months time it took to write the album. The influence of the plant is undeniable. One song on the album, ‘Zorrillo’, is a reference to weed. It’s the Spanish word for ‘skunk’.”

His moniker Kukuni makes this album self-titled. It’s a play on the word cocooning—likened to his self-imposed, then pandemic-mandated lockdown.

“I was listening to NPR and misheard the word ‘cocooning.’ I was expecting to hear some new foreign concept, as I’d just become hip to the Japanese concept of Forest Bathing,” he said. “If you are stressed, you go out into the forest and breathe in the pine air. The word cocooning sounded like Kukuni to me, so I went with it.”

The connection to the forest and cannabis is strong, as terpenes are also found in pine trees (pinene). It’s one in the same.

“Just like when you smoke a cultivar with the pinene terpene, when you go into the forest and breathe in that terp, you are instantly relaxed and alert. It’s the same effect,” he concluded.

Christie was recently signed by Liquid Culture, a global community of artists and creators with a mission to preserve and further the psychedelic experience—founded by Nutritious and “Renaissance woman, publicist extraordinaire,” Zoe Wilder.

Christie’s album had him working with producer Tony Buchen (Smashing Pumpkins, Sam Gendel, John Carroll Kirby) and drummer Robby Sinclair (Linda Perry, Chet Faker).

The album cover is trippy in itself, shot by Los Angeles-based photographer, Emily Eizen. The cover features a nod to the plant, with Christie holding cannabis flowers he grew in a vase. In the other hand he holds a mirror, as a sign of his constant searching and self-reflection.

Christie
Courtesy of Kukuni

Fueling the Muse

Hailing from Kansas City, Kansas, Christie proved what we all know: even in conservative, illegal states, people grow cannabis. The plant prevails.

“I’ve been growing now for 12 years, but was living with the constant fear of a knock at the door and going to prison for the mandatory five-year sentence when I was still in Kansas,” he said. “So, I moved to Los Angeles in 2016, staying with friends in West Hollywood. When I arrived and exited the freeway there was a gas station on the corner and I remember thinking how high the gas prices were and thinking to myself, I’ll never be able to make it here.”

After placing an ad on Craigslist to put a band together, he met a girl—acquiring both a bandmate and a girlfriend—making the high prices of California a little more bearable. A job with a cannabis company didn’t hurt.

“I worked for a company called the Venice Cookie Company,” he said. “They’re called VCC today and still make a beverage, Cannabis Quencher.

His cultivar, Rainbow Road, was inspired by Mario Kart’s final course on Mario Kart 64. 

“On the course, you are literally driving on a rainbow with stars as guardrails,” he explained. “You are driving around in space on a psychedelic rainbow. What’s better than that?”

Kukuni is filled with symbols, myths, and fables—the language of the subconscious.

“I like to take people into the dark forest of the human spirit and shine a light on the path less taken,” he surmised. “It’s what cannabis does for me, and it’s in the spirit of the music I make.”

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