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Jaap Jamin: ‘When a substance remains unmentionable, you won’t be able to make rules with each other.’

Writers and Ruigoord-godfathers Gerben Hellinga (83) and Hans Plomp (77) were some of the very first psychonauts in Holland. They were there when Amsterdam first got introduced to marihuana and LSD, and they had tons of adventures with psychedelics. In 1994, they wrote about their experiences in the book Uit Je Bol (which translates to Off Your Head or Spaced Out). This extensive reference work became a cult classic. Because many new substances have been discovered in recent years, the duo is now writing a revised edition of their Dutch drug Bible.

Text Isa Davids 

These days, information about drugs is easy to find online. From Jellinek to Erowid, from Psychonautwiki to High Humans – using creative search terms, you can find out practically anything about a substance. For me as a teenager, growing up in the 90’s, that information was almost impossible to find. That’s why I still owe a great deal to my mom, who gave me Uit Je Bol when she found out I was smoking weed. Although I don’t think the book had the intended effect. It gave me information about the drugs I had already tried out, but also made me curious about all the drugs I hadn’t tried out yet.

Hans Plomp smiles when I tell him this story at the beginning of our interview. ‘Looking at the result,’ he says, ‘I’d say your mom can be proud.’ We’re sitting in his colorful living room of his first floor apartment in the East of Amsterdam. Hans moved here twenty years ago from the artist colony Ruigoord. His neighbor is Gerben Hellinga, who is also sitting on the couch. Between us on the coffee table lies the most recent edition of Uit Je Bol. Since Gerben’s hearing has become impared, we need to speak up and articulate as clearly as possible. Hans continues: ‘I think the only way to achieve responsible drug use is through information, not through repression.’

 

World Behind the Regular World

Gerben and Hans grew up in post-WWII Holland. Drugs weren’t around in their teens. They only discovered cannabis in the early 60’s, in the Cotton Club on Nieuwmarkt. Hans: ‘American soldiers who were stationed in Germany, would come here on leave and carry weed. That’s how we got introduced to it. A match box filled with marijuana cost a fortune in those days, and was extremely hard to get.’ In the late 60’s, Gerben and Hans organized parties in the Paradiso. That’s where they laid the foundation of their life long friendship. ‘People smoked lots of weed and hash there,’ Gerben says. Hans seconds that: ‘The first floor of Paradiso even housed a coffeeshop with a house dealer.’

The Cotton Club, the first place where people from Amsterdam got in touch with marihuana. 

The psychedelic revolution was an eye-opener for both of them. Gerben: ‘Once that started, it was one big adventure. The world altered in its entirety, and life changed in a positive sense. You discovered a different world, hidden behind the regular world. What was also important, was the fact that all this was part of a desire for freedom. We used substances as a form of internal liberation.’ Hans: ‘That’s actually the opposite of being addicted. Although those two things can also coexist.’ 

 

Refuge for Free-Range People
When in 1973, the village of Ruigoord had to make way for the Westelijk Havengebied industrial development project, Gerben and Hans were leading the protests to stop the developers. Together with a colorful congregation of creative spirits, they started the now legendary artist colony Ruigoord, which is still defying the surrounding petrochemical factories – a bit like the Gallic village in Asterix and Obelix does with the Roman Empire.

The core values of Ruigoord are in line with the desire for liberation marking the psychedelic revolution. Hans: ‘It’s a refuge for free-range people. What kind of ideology can you connect to that? One where people have the freedom and space to discover who they truly are. Not too long ago, a friend of mine bought a bunch of hens which had been in a tiny cage all their lives. Even though they weren’t caged anymore, the poor animals stood outside completely frozen for a month, before they slowly felt comfortable about being actual chickens again. The same goes for people. What happens when you turn them into free-range people? At Ruigoord, we were able to try that out with a bunch of extraordinary artists.’ 

‘What happens when you turn them into free-range people? At Ruigoord, we were able to try that out with a bunch of extraordinary artists.’

Ruigoord (photo: Ruigoord.nl)

That also included plenty of discoveries with psychedelics, Hans recalls: ‘We were experimenting a lot in those years and had some amazing experiences, especially with substances like weed, LSD and magic mushrooms.’ When Amsterdam was flooded with harder drugs like heroin and crack during the 80’s, it barely affected Ruigoord. ‘We were still perfectly happy in our little 60’s bubble,’ Hans says. Nevertheless, they both lost friends to substances like heroin, alcohol and crack. Gerben: ‘Throughout the years, we’ve seen a fair amount of friends going down the tubes.’  

 

Try Everything Themselves

In the 90’s, a new generation started finding its way to Ruigoord. They were children of a new revolution: the rave culture. This subculture had different drugs and a different mentality. Hans: ‘We were psychonauts. But we saw the rise of a different kind of attitude, which felt much more three-dimensional to us, more like drug consumerism.’ This was exactly when the idea arose for Uit Je Bol, Gerben recalls. ‘We discovered that the younger generation was using pills and other drugs, without informing themselves. That’s when we thought: let’s write an informative book to give them more knowledge about the drugs they’re using.’ 

We were only a few feet apart, but in completely different worlds. When imagination takes over, there are no boundaries. Reality? That was just where our bodies happened to be lying at the time.’  

Gerben and Hans felt that in order to write their book, they had to try everything. In that respect, they’re on the same page as Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. They personally tested everything: 2C-B, ayahuasca, mescaline… You name it, they used it. Hans: ‘We even had a doctor administer ketamine through an injection. And we also took salvia divinorum. Heavy stuff. The first time we smoked it, I was transported into a spaceship, and it was fascinating. I was yelling: ‘Gerben, Gerben! So that’s how those Amazonian tribes did it. While we’re messing around with rockets, they were contacting actual aliens.’ All I could hear Gerben do was grunt back at me. We were only a few feet apart, but in completely different worlds. When imagination takes over, there are no boundaries. Reality? That was just where our bodies happened to be lying at the time.  

Amsterdams Ballonnen Gezelschap (The Amsterdam Balloon Cooperation), where Gerben and Hans are both member. (photo: Facebook, 2020) 

‘Governed by those Reformed Christian assholes, Holland has grown into the biggest narco-state of the world.’

Uit Je Bol got a lot of positive feedback when it first came out. Not only from the people who were experimenting themselves, but also from concerned parents and policy makers. ‘They were just as happy that this information became readily available,’ Hans says. He’s devastated that the Dutch drug policy has changed so much since then. ‘These days, Holland is last in line,’ he says. ‘Countries like Portugal and Czech Republic are much more progressive. But for the last twenty years, we’ve been dealing with the most repressive government we could come up with. It’s a miracle the coffeeshops are still open, and that our country, governed by those Reformed Christian assholes, has grown into the biggest narco-state of the world. The only answer our prime minister Rutte has for the drug problems is: “We need to get rid of that garbage!” Thank god America and Canada are moving the other way. It’s a movement that can’t be stopped anymore. In the end, Holland will probably join the ranks of the mainstream.’

As If That Jerk Had Created the World Himself 

The reason alcohol and tobacco are legal and other drugs aren’t, Hans feels, is because those drugs don’t pose a substantial threat to those in power. ‘It keeps them addicted and stupid, like opium, for which England has fought China. Apparently, those in power profit from keeping the people ignorant. Eve wasn’t allowed to eat from the apple either. Nothing wrong with that apple, wouldn’t you say? The knowledge of good and evil, from the tree of life, mind you. But eating from it is what got them ousted from paradise.’ 

‘Essentially, that’s where the War on Drugs starts, on page 1 of the Bible,’ he says. ‘Eve is probably eating a shamanistic substance from that tree. Because the book makes it seem as though God was the one who created the world. That’s what emperors always say: history starts with my reign. But there had already been a shamanistic culture, like the one in South America. The first thing we did as colonizers was kill the medicine men, christen everyone, make them wear pants, imprison them and enslave them on our plantations. Not much different from what happened in the Bible. Those people lived in paradise, in nature. They ate the same kind of magical plants as the American medicine men. A new religion took over, putting a ban on ancient sacraments and habits, threatening to expel anyone from paradise who wouldn’t comply. And that’s basically what they’re still preaching.’  

New Generation of Psychonauts

By now, both Hans and Gerben are pretty much done experimenting. Gerben doesn’t even smoke anymore, because he doesn’t like today’s weed. Hans still does, on a daily basis. He also enjoys a drink every so often. But he barely uses any more psychedelics. ‘The last time I did an ayahuasca ceremony, I thought: this is the last straw. I started connecting with my body, and sensing how worn out it had become. And then I even got the message in my visions: “Are you here again?! Haven’t you learned what you need to know by now?” 

‘The last time I took ayahuasca, I could hear a voice saying: “Are you here again?! Haven’t you learned what you need to know by now?”’

 

What Gerben and Hans find reassuring, is the fact that the 90’s techno crowd is being replaced by a new generation, whose mindset is more in the vein of the psychonauts. ‘At some point, it was a bit much, all those techno parties,’ Gerben says. ‘They were mixing everything: XTC, GHB, speed, crack and ketamine. It didn’t appeal to us, because it felt less psychedelic. And techno also felt much like a monoculture.’ 

That’s completely different with the new generation, Hans feels. ‘The boys and girls between twenty and thirty seem to have a much broader scope and are also more interested in psychedelics. They’re moving our way, entirely, and have even insisted on writing a repress of Uit Je Bol. It has made a similar impact on them as it did on you back then.’ Hans realizes that a re-press should include all the new designer drugs. ‘But no way Gerben and I are going to try them all out again. The new generation is now taking the lead in that respect, and it’s an amazing feeling.’ 

Finally, the both men sign my copy of ‘Uit je bol’, with the text: ‘In your head! Gerben & Hans’ 

‘Uit Je Bol’ isn’t newly available at the moment. Prometheus has stopped pressing it – God knows why, because it has been selling steadily for the past 27 years. Thankfully, the book will soon be self-published, in a new re-press for a new era.

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