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Tó Trips: “You have to step out of the box and say: ‘Yeah, I smoke! I’m a normal guy!’”

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Tó Trips - Photo: Kid Richards

António Manuel Antunes, better known to the public as Tó Trips, was born in 1966, in Lisbon. He studied at the famous artistic school António Arroio in the 80s and became an unavoidable figure in guitar and Portuguese music, founding Dead Combo with Pedro Gonçalves. Without any hesitation in admitting that he smokes cannabis, he says he has already warned young people to stop smoking and believes that the reduction of associated risks is achieved through an informed society.

Tó Trips became interested in music when his mother started playing guitar in church, when he began to learn and experiment with playing with friends, in high school and later at Rock Rendez-Vous. His first band was called Ámen Sacristi, having been part of Santa Maria Gasolina in Teu Ventre! and later founded Lulu Blind. Later, he got tired of the bands, the problems that some people had with drugs and started recording alone. It was at that time that he met Pedro Gonçalves, with whom he founded Dead Combo, an unprecedented project that catapulted him to fame and gave him international recognition. Father of 3 children, he recently released a new solo album, Popular Jaguar, which includes “Infimas Things”, a book of photographs, texts and notes of the places he traveled over the years with Dead Combo. We spoke to Tó Trips to find out what role cannabis plays in his life.

[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and there may be some typos or errors in other languages.]

Okay, the section we invited you to is called “Take cannabis out of the closet” and serves to break the stigma that still exists around this plant. When did you take cannabis out of the closet, if that ever happened?
I fully assume that I smoke cannabis and have been smoking for many years. I'm not a smoker who I call, in slang, a “full head”. I think it is a product that should be legalized. I smoke sometimes, a little at night, sometimes for the recreational side, sometimes for the creative side.

Recently, I read an interview with Observador in which you said that, in 1985, you and your group of friends were looking for weed and there wasn't any, and that at the end of the year many were addicted to heroin. Heroin was, at that time, a national tragedy. Do you want to tell us a little about how things happened in Portugal?
At the time of Rock Rendez-Vous I was in high school, at D. Pedro V, then I went to António Arroio. This was almost a national plan for people who sold hashish or weed. At the time, a lot of people went to buy there near Padre Francisco, in Benfica, or bought there in Rigas, there was a lot of herb there from people who came from the African colonies. Then there was a time that summer of '85, at the end of the school year, when the people who sold weed started selling heroin. In other words, in the 86 academic year there were a lot of kids stuck. I had friends of mine stuck, some died later, others screwed up their whole lives.

That's why one of the arguments for the legalization of cannabis is this... because it's often said that cannabis is a gateway to other substances, right?
That's a good lie and I'm a good example of that. I've never touched heroin! And I had, like all kids and like many people of my generation, access to that. I had opportunities to experiment. But I've always been the guy who liked things that speeded me up and didn't bring me too much down. down. I'm that kind of person. Now, I like to smoke my weed. A gateway? I think there has always been a mentality, there has always been, that puts all drugs in the same bag. There were years and years of this type of campaign. I compare the cannabis scene with the legalization of abortion scene: everyone smokes, but no one admits it. AND I don't understand why cannabis isn't legalized, because the State, which is all of us, would make money from it. On the other hand, it controlled the quality of the product, we knew the statistics of how many people smoke in this country and there could be a didactic and preventive side to this.

“Kids like me would go to a dealer to buy weed and then the guy would sell them heroin. In this sense, cannabis is a gateway”

Exactly.
I've advised kids who had panic attacks and who smoked weed or hashish to stop doing so. I once went to buy mushrooms in Amsterdam and there was a leaflet on it: “If you are not in good health, if you are not in the right mind, do not take this”. Anything that is prohibitive and scares people is the worst thing you can do. The best thing you can do is, in this case of cannabis, legalize and gain that preventive and didactic side, of informing people of the pros and cons.

You didn't use heroin because you were probably lucid...
Because I saw people my age falling apart, giving up everything and losing everything and everything else.

Tó Trips founded Dead Combo with Pedro Gonçalves, a band that stood out for its unique sound and which had huge success in Portugal

Yes, and why?
This drug gateway thing… there is a side of reason to it. Why? Because it's not legal, because you're going to see a dealer. That's what happened in '85. Kids like me would go to a dealer to buy weed, and then the guy would sell them heroin. In this sense, cannabis is a gateway, because the kids go to people who have other things. There's not just weed, there's other types of drugs. Therefore, in this sense it is true, it is a gateway, because it is not legalized. Then there is something else: I’ve never seen people, I use the expression, doing ‘shit’ for smoking joints, what I see is people drinking alcohol. The state has this cynical, hypocritical side, which is to sell lots of harmful drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol. And I think that cannabis, in the second decade of the XNUMXst century, should be legalized. It should be like tobacco, like alcohol. It's logical that I'm not going to smoke a joint of weed and then drive, in other words, there have to be rules for these things, a healthy side to consumption. As with everything, right?

Clear. One of the arguments against legalization, when this issue is debated in parliament, is the possibility that cannabis could trigger psychotic episodes, especially in young people. What do you think about that?
I think they're right. Now, the story is this…

Although it is already known that this only happens in a very small proportion, in those who already have a predisposition to psychosis or schizophrenia.
Exactly! Now, the question is this: okay, I agree with that, but will this person stop consuming what is legal or not?

Maybe if you have more information? If there are more risk reduction programs?Exactly! That's why I think there must be information. That's what he said, I knew some kids who had panic attacks and smoked at school. She happened to have a conversation with them and said: “Man, if you have panic attacks, maybe I would advise you not to smoke.” This could be on a leaflet when you go to buy it. If it were legal, it would be on the leaflet. Like a medicine: “Don’t take this with alcohol”, “Don’t take this…” I don’t know, like there are warnings about alcohol and tobacco.

“Why do they continue to prescribe Xanax and anxiolytics instead of, for example, CBD?”

And there are also other cannabinoids within cannabis, which can have exactly the opposite effect, such as CBD…
It's the medicinal side of cannabis. Sometimes they appear headlines in the newspapers: “Portugal, one of the largest consumers of anxiolytics in Europe”. Why do they continue to prescribe Xanax and anxiolytics instead of, for example, CBD?  Why do so many people take sleeping pills, when perhaps they could take a natural product, which calms, relaxes... I think there is also the LOBBY pharmaceutical companies or... I don't know, I can't understand why this isn't progressing. It had several advantages. Everything that is prohibited really is a gateway to other paths, because people will come across people who have no qualms about selling anything else, like super-heavy drugs, right? I think we all benefited from that. And I also believe that people wouldn't smoke anymore because it was legal or not.

There are already studies in the United States that show that consumption even decreases, especially alcohol consumption among young people, after the legalization of cannabis.
Man, I think there has to be worthy, true information about the harms and benefits. Not be something like “Oh Jesus…!”.

A big-headed beast!
What I was going to say is not quite true. I was going to say “Everyone smokes”. It's not “Everyone smokes”, but there are a lot of people who smoke and who say they don't smoke. It’s the same thing as people saying “I don’t drink” when they drink… [laughs]. You have to step out of the box and say “Ya, I smoke! I’m a normal guy.” It's like with alcohol and medication, I won't smoke to go on a trip. People have to know how to use any substance that alters consciousness, they have to know how to use drugs.

One thing you are saying and which is true, is that you are a well-known person and normally people who are well-known or famous are a little hesitant to admit that they smoke.
No, man! I think that a guy called Tó Trips, from the outset, doesn't have much to hide in relation to these types of things.

Tó Trips released his most recent solo album, “Popular Jaguar” this year.

But some people still have it, because for this section we have already tried to interview other people who we know smoke and they don't want to reveal it. Do you think the stigma is still very ingrained in people?
I respect people's personal side, so people only show their face if they want to. I'm just showing my face here because I think we all benefited from legalization and so did the kids. The whole country benefited from this. At the economic level, at the social level, at the public health level. This question about the entrance door is actually true. It's a gateway to other things because you're going to buy from some guys who have other things to sell. [laughter]

Of course, and when the dealer doesn't have any weed...
Man, there's this, there's that, there's that!

Exactly. It's this problem of having to turn to the illicit market to purchase a product that is actually quite safe. I'm not saying it doesn't have risks, but compared to alcohol...
Of course there are risks, but the point is that people don't stop doing it. It's the same thing as with abortion. It was prohibited, but people did it, therefore things exist, so let's deal with them in a correct way in terms of public health, in terms of statistics, in terms of education in the use of things, of information. If we are talking about something illegal, everything illegal always has a negative side. You'll end up in places where it's probably cool not to go, you'll deal with people who have, perhaps, absolutely no scruples...

“There is something that I use more and more in music and that is silences. Slow scenes. And cannabis helps, in this elastic side of time”

And right now, being illegal, how do you get your cannabis?
Man, I buy it, like everyone else [laughs].

[laughs] In the illicit market, obviously.
There's only this one!

Sometimes, people cultivate because they don't want to have to resort to the illicit market, or things they don't know where they come from, and so they opt for self-cultivation (despite it still being illicit). But this is one of the big struggles of legalization.
It's not about people having fields of this, it's about having two or three plants for consumption. A normal thing, like planting lettuce or tomatoes.

Do you think people could grow crops at home?
Yes, for consumption. Not having fields of that, but I don't know, three plants, five plants at home, if they wanted.

If it becomes legal, will you grow at home or are you not good at farming?
No, I have a knack for agriculture, just yesterday I was pruning the tree.

And have you ever tried growing cannabis?
Already! Some gave more than others. But for consumption, of course.

In fact, cannabis, in its raw form, is great for making certain types of fruit smoothies, cakes, gummies, all kinds of things.
Mind you, I'm not a big smoker. I usually give it two raisins and it's great.

Throughout your career, has cannabis helped you in any way in your creative process?
It helps, when it's to open doors, to go places you've probably never been before. I'm talking about the music composition scene. It's an additive that helps you lose prejudices you have regarding certain creative aspects of music. But it's also not a cool thing, in my case, to do detailed things or things that you have to pay attention to, like final arts, technical things. In my case this doesn't work. And also, sometimes, you can tell that you've traveled too much, that you thought it was really cool and the next day you listen to it and it's not so cool.

(Laughs)
Yes, this has to do with products that alter consciousness. Now you say “Hey man, this is really cool!”! Then, the next day you listen to it with a clear head and it's not so cool, but maybe to get to that you had to open a door, to get to that type of music, go down that path. It's knowing how to use it!

“It’s not because alcohol is cool that I’m going to get drunk every day.”

In your new album, “Popular Jaguar”, was there a moment when cannabis helped you open doors?
I think people are relaxed. There is one thing that I use more and more in music and that is silences. Slow scenes. And cannabis helps, in this elastic side of time. I increasingly give more importance to silence. Cannabis is a good additive to stretch this out, so that the silences are longer. Not for other things in music, like maybe speed [laughs].

There are many people who make a very clear distinction between what is medicinal and what is recreational. However, there is a study that reveals that, of the people who smoke cannabis, more than 80% use it because it helps them relax or relieve anxiety. Isn't this also a therapeutic effect?
Yes of course. Why can't something that has a recreational side and a pharmaceutical side not be legalized? It's another advantage. I see kids there falling down on the weekends, really drunk, getting into fights and doing 'shit' on the alcohol bill. Drinking 20 shots in one night…

And it's accessible, which is scary. There are children aged 12, 13 drinking.
I think it should be used medicinally, I have so many friends who have been suffering from cancer and cannabis can help alleviate the pain. This was even one of the reasons for legalizing cannabis for medicinal use. But if it has a recreational side, why not? In fact, I think this is all based on something that is exactly the same scene as abortion. People do it anyway. It's forbidden, but I'm going to do it. And I'm going to do it in the worst sense, I'm going to do it like it was in the abortion scene, any shoemaker would have an abortion. That's what causes confusion, people still have this attitude of “Ah, not recreational…”. But now people don't have fun?

Yes, as if it were forbidden for a person to have fun…
Is it forbidden to have fun? In fact, people even have fun with a drug that is alcohol, in the worst way. I've never seen people smoking joints and breaking things and beating them up, on the contrary, it's usually a form of communion, of people being happy, relaxed, talking. Now, like everything that alters consciousness, within cannabis there are things, [like] skunk crazy, all chemical, everything altered.

Synthetics!
Synthetics, exactly! One more reason for it to be legalized.

In Portugal, there are now two proposed laws, one from the Bloco de Esquerda and the other from the Liberal Initiative, to legalize the adult use of cannabis in Portugal. In principle, they should be discussed in Plenary by the end of this year. If you could decide, how would you legalize cannabis in Portugal?
It's a product that could be sold in stores, with a warning, like a leaflet, saying the pros and cons, whether you should take it the way you feel or not, that there is quality control to avoid those synthetic scenes. I hope this evolves in the second decade of the XNUMXst century and that we all know how to deal with the product. There are countries that have already done this. We are a country that is ahead in this regard, especially when it comes to heroin addiction. We had the courage to…

Decriminalize.
Exactly! And it was something that worked, so the person who is dependent is not a criminal, he is a sick person. I think this was a great example for the world. I don't understand why this cannabis thing is such a scene... It's like that sketch by Ricardo Araújo Pereira on abortion: it is prohibited, but people do it. So, if they say, 'let's legalize this and let's all benefit from this.' Because people do!

“I think that sooner or later it will happen, because it has to happen”

And [abortion] reduced a lot after it was legalized. Contrary to what the opposing voices said.
I'm not going to smoke, or I'm not going to stop smoking, because it's cool. Tobacco also says “This causes cancer”. And I know that tobacco is bad, we all know that, that alcohol is bad. Now, It's not because alcohol is legal that I'm going to get drunk every day.

The black top hat was Tó Trips' trademark for a long time.

Of course, this depends on the people themselves.
Of course, this is part of education and information. All of these products must have information and prevention.

And that, essentially, is what we intend to do with this magazine, give people more information, so they can reduce risks.
This is my opinion, I gain nothing from it. I'm giving my testimony, because I believe in this. If you came to me and talked about the legalization of all drugs, I wouldn't agree with that. I agree with the legalization of cannabis.

It was very important that you were with us today, Tó, to help break down prejudice and also leave some advice for younger people. It was a good conversation and I thank you.
Thank you Laura. I think that sooner or later it will happen, because it has to happen. It's stupid, I don't think it makes sense. The point is that, no matter how many negative points someone may point out, the scene exists and people consume it. If there are a large number of people who consume – and not everyone drinks, not everyone smokes – then it is necessary to legislate on this.
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This interview was originally published in Issue #10 of Cannadouro Magazine.

 

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[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]

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