zaterdag 14 februari 2004

Interview in Spaans en Duits tijdschrift.
Onderstaand interview met D.C. Lama verschijnt (in het Duits en Spaans) in het Duitse tijdschrift Grass Times en in het Spaanse tijdschrift Yerba. Het artikel is geschreven door Karijn Kakebeeke en overgenomen met toestemming.

D.C. Lama is probably the first Dutchman to publish a book with short stories about smoking marihuana and appear on television during its book launch. Smoking may be tolerated in the Netherlands, this does not mean the social stigma around smoking has become any less. With a second book ready to go to print and a novel in the making, D.C. Lama has done a lot for the ‘normalisation’ of soft drugs in the Netherlands. But above all, he is a writer.

D.C. Lama is not his real name. But when his first text was about to appear in cannabis magazine Highlife, he realised he needed a pseudonym. With D.C. as his initials and Lama his nickname, D.C. Lama was not a very difficult choice.
He has always been a writer. Except for maybe a few years during his puberty. Anecdotes, short stories. “Smoking also influenced my development in writing. I wanted to write what I felt, but saying ‘I’m stoned’ was not the way I wanted to do that. At a certain moment I started to write and I approached it purely academically. How it changes your perception. It became a funny story. And it became my first real publication.”
To write about smoking was never intended as a statement. But when Lama found out that writing about your experience is ‘not done’ when it concerns marihuana, it became a statement. “If a story takes certain angles because the characters are stoned, I must be able to write that. Pretending they are not would be hypocritical.” In the same way he is for legalisation. “The [Dutch] government runs a bad drugs policy. Drug use should never be in the greyzone. Prohibition means the government avoids its responsibilities. Drug use is much more something to be placed in the healthcare sector.”
Is D.C. Lama an advocate of the cause?
He pauses and looks down for a moment. Then up. “Yes, on the one hand yes”, he says firmly. “On the other hand”, he adds, “it also just happened.”

What just happened? D.C. Lama writes short stories for various different monthlies. A first selection of which has appeared in bookform, the second, ready to go to print. Three stories have been put to film. Two stories have been put to music. He is currently writing a novel. He is the cartoonist for the website of famous Dutch person Theo van Gogh. He is the creator of adbusters for a different publication. His book launch appeared on television. He performs on stage. And he is only 31 years old.
In his second book ‘Wieteratuur’ [read ‘weed-literature’] he has improved as a writer. Has become maturer. “There is more differentiation between long and short stories. The stories are more descriptive. And there is more sex”, he laughs. He is angry that the publisher of ‘Wieteratuur’ pulled out at the last minute. Friends warned him not use such a suggestive title, but if everybody says ‘yes’, Lama will be sure to say ‘no’. It is the reason, he thinks, he’ll never be a columnist in the normal print media. “My stories are too often about drugs and its too far removed from the main taste.”
For his art he will make no concessions. And Lama calls himself an artist. “People have responsibilities in society, as soon as you take part you have responsibilities. But in the arts these are different. There you need to be free, art is free space. It also means that you shouldn’t change your style for a commercial benefit. You need to stay pure. Sometimes that is difficult.”
He doesn’t seem like someone who is in need of much. He lives at the edge of Amsterdam’s city centre in a modern apartment block that was actually meant for the elderly. The apartment is modestly furnished with all the practical necessities. Desk, computer and chair, sofa and television. A palm tree standing on the floor with cassettes pouring out its roots and a pod-smoking baby cartoon on the wall. The cupboard full of music CD’s; hip hop, reggae, funk, ska or jazz. And lined up from the front door reaching almost the living room, a row of empty fruit syrup bottles. Not exactly what one would call inspiring surroundings, but Lama doesn’t want more. “I’m critical towards our consumption society. I believe it places limitations on our happiness.”
This societal critique can be found in his stories. Just as he can be the anarchist, the idealist and the moralist in his texts. “Not every story is autobiographical. Not every story has to reflect what I think. With some things I agree, with others I don’t. I’m against over-consumption. And against violence. Those things sit very deep.”

“The first person in my stories can sometimes be number one, but also the anti-hero. I think I walk that balance very well.” Lama as God speaking out his Ten Commandments and Lama as a fucked-up junky. These are two roles that Lama the writer puts on at different times, after each other and at the same time, but constantly. It also elevates his stories from a ‘smoker who writes’ – level to the ‘writer who smokes’. But how integrally integrated is ‘Lama – the smoker’ with ‘Lama – the writer’?
“With more blood going to your brain, your associative capacity becomes quicker and more irrational. This changes your perception and enhances your analytical capabilities. That is how it works for me when I smoke. I write when I smoke. When I just started with writing, I really had to learn to remember things. When we would be sitting a group of friends together, everybody would be speaking at the same time. Gradually I started discovering what were the useful elements for a story. Now when I think of a story whilst being stoned, it is almost impossible for me to forget it again. It happens much more often that I think of something new when I am stoned.”
“I am very interested in finding out where your brain can take you or where drugs can take your brain, what happens to your perception – that is something you have to look for on your own. You experience something that is added information.” “But”, he continues with the same serious tone also to be found in his stories; “drugs should only be used in an intelligent manner He smiles and goes on to say; “that may be me being moralistic, but I really think that is important. It also means that I never take drugs other than cannabis spontaneously, it is always a well-thought out moment.”
And does D.C. Lama’s books also read as a recommendation to start smoking?
Lama pauses a moment. He is too responsible a person to take the topic matter lightly. “Yes”, he starts hesitatingly, “ but I am no Bob Dylan who says everybody must be stoned. I don’t mind recommending it, but I am not going to force anyone to try it.”

Lama’s monthly column for EssensiE, the cannabis magazine he has appeared in for the last six and a half years will continue to exist if its up to him. “I like the other people who write for the magazine, I feel very committed to the magazine.” But what his novel, now in the making, will be about and whether his readers will recognise the Lama from his short stories, he will not tell. “It’s still a big secret. Many fans will be surprised is the only thing I can tell you. I must keep to my artistic freedom. But it’s fun playing with the way you present yourself or with the way you are perceived by others. Sometimes I’ll be serious, sometimes I’ll be the junky.”