Buchla Covered In LSD at UC East Bay

originally posted 05.24.2019|transmission by: zaxx

It’s not every day a long standing legend becomes confirmed truth. Having lived in the East Bay for some years around the electronic music scene it was certainly a campfire topic ie: The Merry Pranksters and specifically The Acid Freak Out Parties of the 60s were really something different then today’s sort of electronic shows. Sounds would be very unstructured. While capable of sequencing no one used them that way at those events. Footage of the proper Acid Freak Out Parties is extremely rare but from what little I have seen they were more comparable to noize or punk shows than flower child tropes or modern rave. A haunted house for extreme psychonauts would best summarize.

What could only be called mad dosers would spray bottle it on people. Stand behind fans so it blows out even further. People knew what they were in for and these events were not for everyone. They were literally Called “Acid Freak Out Parties” after all. For lights they would just use a couple crappy filtered par can lights and a film projector. Darkness was more of the light. It would get on everything and everyone. The more people freaked out the better. No one can really confirm (yet) that this specific Buchla 100 was used at them but it’s a pretty safe bet and this discovery it raises more questions then it answers.


The 156 Control Voltage Processor can blend, invert and mix up to 6 different CVs. It’s the only bright colored module on the system. Was the LSD only behind that module or was all over all of them? If it was only that one my guess would be it’s because that’s an easy way to hide and transport it but it could also of been a prank for the future. It’s thought to be legendary Owsley Stanley LSD too. Why on earth would the music department let a Buchla 100 rot in the back of a closet? Are Sasquatches real too? 2 things are certain. Pure acid crystal on the back of a Buchla is pretty damn gangsta and…

acid bucla

“SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — For years, an urban legend circulated online and in documentaries, purporting how part of a groundbreaking musical instrument — versions which are stored at a Bay Area university and other institutions — was dipped in a psychedelic drug.

Online chatter detailed how musicians who used the instrument would wet their finger, touch the device, and then lick their finger to get a little bit of mind-expanding inspiration.

Now this supposed myth may turn out to be a reality.

At the helm of KPIX Television, Broadcast Operations Manager Eliot Curtis tackles all sorts of technical problems to keep Channel 5 on the air. Recently however, a strange electrical transmission threw him for a loop. It happened inside his brain.

“It was … felt like I was tripping on LSD,” remarked Curtis.

It turns out that Curtis was indeed tripping on the infamous psychedelic drug known as lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD for short. He got dosed by accident at home in his workshop — in front of his wife.

“I think it’s super wild. I think this whole situation is a nice chapter in the history of the counter culture,” commented Curtis’ wife Holly.

Late last year, Eliot volunteered to fix a vintage “analog music modular instrument” owned by the music department at Cal State University East Bay.

The instrument — commonly known today as a synthesizer — was commissioned by two leading avant-garde musicians who taught in the music department in the 60s. Cal State East Bay was then known as Cal State Hayward. The men who secured the funding were Professors Glenn Glasow and Robert Basart, two men were at the forefront of the burgeoning Bay Area modern music scene.

“It’s definitely a piece of history,” commented musician Joel Davel.

“Yeah, [they were] looking for new ways of creating sound,” explained Ines Thiebaut, Assistant Professor of Music at Cal State East Bay.

But the modular analog synthesizer device eventually fell out of favor, into disrepair and was stored in a cool, dark place for decades.

“It was in a closet in the corner of a classroom, which was a little sad because it was like a shipwreck,” remarked music composer and retired professor William R. Shannon, who remembers composing on the device when he was a student.

At one point, the device was likely augmented with additional modules, including a red-colored module on the top row. During his repair work, Curtis opened the module and saw something stuck under a knob.

“There was like a residue … a crust or a crystalline residue on it,” said Curtis.

He sprayed a cleaning solvent on it and started to push the dissolving crystal with his finger as he attempted to dislodge the residue and clean the area.

About 45 minutes later, Curtis began to feel a little strange. He described it as a weird, tingling sensation. He discovered this was the feeling of the beginnings of an LSD experience or trip.

The sensation lasted roughly nine hours.

Three individual chemical tests identified the substance as LSD. A well-known LSD researcher and expert who asked to remain anonymous told KPIX that LSD can remain potent for decades if kept in a cool, dark place.

The expert also informed KPIX that one can ingest the chemical through the skin under the right conditions. He noted that the Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman, who was the first person to synthesize and ingest LSD, wrote in his memoirs that he believed he accidentally ingested the drug through his skin.

It turns out this machine has deep roots to the west coast counterculture. It’s called a Buchla Model 100, and it was created by the late Don Buchla of Berkeley.

“I call him the Leonardo Da Vinci of electronic music design.” remarked Suzanne Ciani, known as the “Diva of the Diode” and an acknowledged pioneer in electronic music. Ciani worked with Buchla in the late ’60s and ’70s when she was a grad student at University of California, Berkeley.

Ciani recalled how the Buchla 100 was developed in the 60s when Berkeley was the epicenter of political and social unrest.

“It’s no accident that he developed his unique ideas in this crucible of upset and chaos in Berkeley,” noted Ciani.

In 1966, some Buchla modules ended up on an old school bus purchased by LSD advocate Ken Kesey and his followers known as the Merry Pranksters.

During the last of Kesey’s acid tests — LSD-fueled parties — at Winterland on Halloween in 1966, electronic sounds, possibly from the Buchla, appeared to interrupt an interview of Kesey.

Buchla used LSD and was friends with Owsley Stanley, the genius behind the Grateful Dead’s sound system. Stanley, also known as Bear, was a masterful sound engineer and legendary hero of the counterculture. He was also famous for making the purest LSD to ever hit the street and kept such a low profile that not many photos of him exist.

Author/photographer Rosie McGee, who had uncommon access to the Dead, managed to capture a photograph of the elusive Stanley in 1968. McGee and her intimate, early-days portraits of the band are historic and revealing. Her personal memoir “Dancing with the Dead – A Photographic Memoir” sheds light on the San Francisco Music Scene of the 60s and early 70s, and provides context and detail to the era in which Buchla and Stanley lived.

Another picture of Owsley taken by legendary photographer Jim Marshall captured him at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival which helped usher in what would be called the “Summer of Love.” In this rare photo, Owsley is seen behind the influential Indian musician and sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar.

As to how the LSD ended up on the red modules?

“There were a lot of legends,” said Davel, who worked for Buchla for more than 20 years and is now the lead designer and engineer for Buchla USA.

There are few facts available to come to an understanding of why LSD ended up on the red module handled by the KPIX engineer. Buchla and Stanley are both dead and no public records exist to shed any light as to where the modules originated. On the Buchla 100 at Cal State East Bay, some modules were added and did not come with the original commissioned device. Close friends tell conflicting and confusing stories.

Was the red module used to stash the drug? Did an accidental spill result in the drug seeping through to the circuitry or was it a source for chemically-induced and mind-altering inspiration?

No one knows. Even so, Ciani said what happened to Curtis is astonishing.

“It’s a bit like time travel,” said Ciani. “If you could go back that would be the way to go there. That is, to share the drugs that everybody took at that time.”

After his strange trip, Curtis — wearing gloves — finished repairing the vintage Buchla. The instrument is now back at Cal State East Bay and ready for music students to explore.

The device has no keyboard. You play it by turning knobs and patching cords. It can move sound around a room. The students on hand were mesmerized. Some told us that they were blown by its design and craftsmanship .

“This will open your mind, you know?” said CSUEB student Adam Hughes, laughing. “Sometimes I think the LSD will open your mind too.”

One final note: there will be no more trips with this Buchla. The instrument has been thoroughly cleaned of all LSD.”