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An Interview with Krystle Cole: Tripping Maven and Founder of NeuroSoup.com
Krystle Cole is a YouTube sensation and was once royalty in an underground LSD palace. America's view of drugs is slowly changing and now she's one of the people at the forefront, pushing for intelligent applications and rational choices.
A conversation with NeuroSoup founder, Krystle Cole, is punctuated with a lot of laughter. She is a funny, charming, and highly intelligent woman who is quite wise to the world but still has the unassuming positivity of a Midwesterner. Krystle was born and raised in Kansas, but chose to become a rebel, first as a goth stripper, and then as the love interest of notorious LSD manufacturer Todd Skinner. Her time with Todd is the subject of a documentary video called "Getting High on Krystle" produced by Hamilton Morris for Vice.com.
NeuroSoup provides information about psycho-active drugs, offering information on harm reduction. She has written: "We hope to educate people about the positive and negative aspects of all drugs, whether they are legal, available by prescription, or illegal. Moreover, NeuroSoup aids in addicted individuals' recovery by providing online self-help drug and alcohol rehab resources."
You can read Krystle's life story in her books Lysergic and After the Trip. She is infamous and beloved for the many YouTube videos she has produced as the founder of NeuroSoup. All are relatively short, but highly informative about many different aspects of psychedelic drugs (often called entheogens these days).
I spoke with Krystle by phone at the end of September.
Your videos are captivating and quite calmingly informative. Are they how you gained a following?
Krystle Cole: I started NeuroSoup at the end of 2006, about 6 months before starting my YouTube Channel. I hadn’t heard of YouTube when I started NeuroSoup. To be honest, we weren't getting very many people on the NeuroSoup website. It was just starting out, really small compared to what it is now. I was putting out drug and harm reduction information. Also, information about spirituality through entheogens. I just wasn't getting a lot traffic. And then I saw this news program about YouTube. I thought, hey, I should do a trip report on that. I looked on YouTube. Before I did my first trip report there wasn't anyone else doing anything about tripping at all on there. The only people who had anything on YouTube about drugs were the "Say No To Drugs" crowd. Now, I'm not necessarily an "Always Say Yes to Drugs" person, but I'm not "Say No to Drugs" either. I'm more about people making responsible choices. So it all started with trip reports and then it spread to other things.
How many videos have you posted?
KC: I think I have about 150, maybe a little more than that. I've been taking some down. I've done around 250 videos total from 2007 until now. But I've been taking some down and redoing some. Not all of them, but quite a lot of the ones I've taken down are in the "members" area [of NeuroSoup]. Most of what I've taken down doesn't fit in with [YouTube's] community content guidelines.
Which video is your favorite?
KC: I can't narrow it down to one, but I'm really partial to the "Integral Psychedelics" video series that I do. I would say that they mean the most to me spiritually. I'm trying to share my heart and my soul and what I've learned through entheogens for spiritual purposes. Now the biggest hit video, even though it's not out there anymore, is "Shamanic Colonic."
Have any gotten you in trouble?
KC: No. Luckily. But a lot of them get YouTube border-line ticked off. And that's why I've taken them down. They have a three strikes and you're out policy, so if you have a video that's against their community content guidelines, they'll take it off. If you get three of those in a six-month period, your account is banned forever. So you don't want to mess up too many times.
The first video I had a problem with was a slide show on how to make ayahuasca. It was bad because you're not supposed to show anyone how to make an illegal drug. Ayahuasca is a plant that contains illegal substances and they interpreted it as showing people how to make an illegal drug. But I didn't perceive it that way.
So, what was the intention of forming NeuroSoup?
KC: First, I was bored and stuck in Kansas. I needed something to do and I wanted to make some friends who knew what I knew and, you know, had stuff in common. So I thought if I built an online community, I could connect with people at that level and I wouldn't feel so isolated. I figured if I felt like that, then other people might feel like that too – you know, other entheogen users stuck out in the middle of nowhere.
The other thing was that I felt a really big drive to do something positive for the world. I still do feel that. And the main reason why now I keep doing NeuroSoup is that I want to do something positive. I know that I've given people warnings that have saved their lives.
There was no one like Krystle Cole around when I was 17.
KC: You know, a lot of people think I'm like 20 or something. I'm not. I've been doing [NeuroSoup] since my late 20s. But I think it's nice for people to see someone young that has used all – well, maybe not all the drugs out there, because I don't use research chemicals, but I'm giving people rational advice, I'm not saying "don't use drugs; you're going to go to Hell if you use drugs!" You know, all these crazy things, "Your brain is going to fry like an egg in a pan,"whatever. I'm saying rational stuff about being careful, and I think people are more apt to listen to that and be safer. A lot of the "Say No to Drugs" people are spreading misinformation and everyone knows that. So because I'm young and tell the truth, at least some people listen.
There’s a lot of talk these days about a psychedelic renaissance? What do you think of that?
KC: There are definitely a lot more research studies being approved and undertaken around the world. I think there's potentially a lot of medical uses and spiritual uses for entheogens. But I guess most people are concentrating on the medical side of it. I wish that people would concentrate on both aspects of it, I guess.
There seem to be three branches of interest in the psychedelic world: Healing, Spiritual Seeking, and Recreation. A lot of your trip reports are about something like people taking MDMA and going to a weekend-long rock concert. Can you talk about your thoughts on these three branches? And if you agree that there are three branches, how do they interact?
KC: I agree with you. There are kind of three branches. We don't talk about the recreational side because that's kind of what we're trying to move people away from, I think. At least as a role model, that's what I'm trying to do. I don't advocate that people use entheogens for getting high for recreational purposes. If anything, I advocate for the use of legal entheogens – whatever is legal wherever people are. But only for spiritual purposes. I've done a lot of videos on that.
As for the interrelatedness, the focus on medical science to treat addiction, helping people transition into dying, or treating PTSD, I think there's a lot going on because if they can find a medical use, then they can make a case to de-classify these substances to Schedule II instead of Schedule I, and that will help even the recreational users a lot because there are mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for Schedule I drugs and penalties wouldn't be so inflated anymore as they are for Schedule II, and prison sentences would be less.
Most newsworthy things out there are for research studies. For me, I don't see as much happening on the spiritual side, you know. It would be cool if there were more religions popping up in our country that were centered around using entheogens. There is the UDV [União do Vegetal] and the Native American Church. I think it would be interesting if there were more. You know, something more widely available.
Now that's my personal opinion. A lot of people would say they don't think we should have religion involved. Because of all the dogma and whatever. But I think it's an important side of entheogens and probably the most relevant because deep down, I think, we're all searching for something more in life. Or we're searching for something deep within ourselves, and entheogens can open that doorway into our souls.
In a way, that's so beyond anything else that you can achieve. Even with meditation or lucid dreaming or any of the other natural alternatives. Entheogens are like using an elevator that takes you all the way to the top and blows you off the top of the building and you're floating in the stars. And meditation is like walking up the stairs. I mean, it's the same thing but it will take you a lot longer.
If we could as a community focus our efforts on creating some sort of ritualized spiritual system for the use of entheogens. That would then make it legal for everyone. Not just UDV members and Native American Church members, but anyone who wanted to become part of that religion.
I'm wondering about your thoughts on spirituality and taking the elevator to the top. Once you get up there and you explode into the cosmos, are you able to find an answer?
KC: I think that everyone has their own answers to find, you know. How I interpret it is that, in a lot of ways, they're all the same answer. It's a process. And it's something that everyone has to find out. I think that it's very possible for people to find their own answer. It's just a matter of getting there and having the mind-blowing [laughs] experience that will give you those answers. You just have to remember them. [laughs again].
I think a lot of people, too, they'll get the answers, right? But then they'll come back to their lives and they won't see how those answers fit. They'll have these answers and it's like trying to fit a square peg into the round hole of their lives. And they ask themselves, "How am I going to make these answers fit?" And eventually they say, "I'm not going to pay attention to it anymore because I have to deal with these real world things." And the problem with the answers is that they seem paradoxical, and they're just mind-blowing strangeness that can't even be described. So that's why it's hard to get these definitive answers.
But on the flip side, you were saying it gets people to ask questions, but I also think [entheogens] get people to take different perspectives. You can look at situations in your life and they help you with problem solving, and ethical reasoning. It might make you more considerate of ecological situations. You don't want to ruin our environment because we all live here.
Your books Lysergic and After the Trip are as much personal as they are about altered states and psychedelic chemistry. You've had quite a life, and you're barely over 30. When you think back to when you wrote those books, has your view of what they're about changed?
KC: You know, I was 18 and very naïve. I was in way over my head [laughs]. And then having to play catch-up real fast in order to survive...and thrive. Life was good. But it was also bad.
I take the whole thing in as light-hearted a way as I can when I look back on the odd stuff I went through. In Lysergic I really focus on the good parts and I just try to ignore the bad. It was really difficult for me to talk about the kidnapping and other stuff like that. It was a crazy ride, but I did a lot of growing up really fast.
You're very effervescent, and nerdy and charming, and you've got a powerful charisma about you. Everybody falls in love with you. Were you like that before Todd?
KC: I think I've always been a little nerdy, unfortunately. Have you seen some of my pictures on Facebook? I try not to be nerdy anymore. But, if anything, I was more bubbly and more trusting and outgoing before Todd. Once you have someone do the things that he did to me...I mean, people who know me say I'm just a portion of what I used to be.
You do a lot of art shows with your fractal work. Can you talk about this work and where you want to go with that side of your interests?
KC: I love doing my fractal work. It reminds me of my entheogenic experiences. But also, when I have art shows I really like to watch the people – you know there's not a lot of entheogenically inspired people where I live – but to see their reactions, people start smiling and they'll comment on their feelings of joy or that they're hypnotized, and they can't look at them anymore because it makes them feel weird. I like that people connect with my work. And I think it's on a level that they don't even really understand. So, yeah, I'm definitely sticking with doing my fractals.
Any chance you’re working on any new books?
KC: I've got some ideas for new books in mind but lately I just finished my master's degree. I wrote this 50-page paper proposing a research study [on binaural beats]. And now I'm getting ready to start my PhD program, so life is going to get really hectic again. I've been thinking about new books, for sure, but life is getting in the way. After I finish my PhD work I may try to publish my dissertation. But I do have some other stuff in mind as well.
What is your dissertation going to be studying?
KC: I'm probably going to do something with binaural beats. My master's proposal was on that topic, so I'm thinking of doing something along those lines. I have some other ideas, but they may be a little more grandiose than what I can actually accomplish. I'd love to do some psychedelic research, but I don't see myself getting a DEA license anytime soon [laughs].
What new issues and new drugs are you following?
KC: I'm constantly keeping apprised of the different things that are happening in the world of research chemicals. Out of all the psychedelics, research chemicals are the fastest growing area. With more traditional psychedelics like psilocybin or LSD vs. a lot of these new designer research chemicals which are so readily available on the market, in fact many drug dealers out there are potentially misrepresenting what they're selling, calling something LSD when it's not at all. There's some major problems there. People can have bad reactions. There's a whole host of unknowns when it comes to research chemicals. So, I think, from a message of harm reduction, I wish people would think twice before using them.
There's no data on whether research chemicals are safe long-term or what they're doing. They could be carcinogens. They could be doing something horrible to your body, to your health, no one knows. And I think one really bad thing about them, too, is what if there's one that's really bad, and we're taking all these strides to have this psychedelic renaissance, and then there's just one really bad research chemical that goes on the market and some drug dealer starts distributing it and it kills hundreds of people. Or it permanently gives them Parkinson's or some other neuro-degenerative disease? Then where are we? I don't think people are fully thinking through the consequences.
Yeah, I know when I was 17 or so, I didn’t really think through what I was doing. I was basically taking research chemicals. And I didn't care. I was basically an idiot and I'm lucky to be alive. I wish you'd been around back then.
KC: When I was that age, I was doing so many of the things that I'm cautioning people about. I'm so lucky. Because when people are 18 to 21, their prefrontal cortex is still developing.
You're speaking at the KnowPhest in Los Angeles scheduled for mid-October. What are you going to be talking about?
KC: I'm not really doing a talk. I'm more doing a question-and-answer session. An organizer of the KnowPhest is going to be asking me questions in kind of an interview format, and then other people in the audience are going to be able to ask questions, too. Mostly it will be about entheogens and spirituality. All the NeuroSoup stuff. It's going to be very impromptu. I haven't prepared anything. [Laughs]. My problem is that I have to do everything off the top of my head. I screw up sometimes, but usually I just get in the flow of things. I can't do a prepared talk. I feel like I'm being inauthentic and stuffy. I like to be myself. Hopefully it will be enjoyable for everyone watching. And, you know, after a whole weekend of listening to people just talk and talk it kind of gets boring just sitting there. So hopefully [my session] will make it a little more interesting.
They're going to be doing a live webcast at their site. So people who can't attend can still participate. I think you need to pay something still, but you get a log-in ID and you can watch live on the website. And I think at some point they're probably going to post the talks up somewhere on the Internet. So if people can't make it to the KnowPhest, just know there are all sorts of other ways to get all that information from the talks.
All right, anything else you might want to say to Kotori readers?
KC: Just that people should try to be safe and careful out there.
“Getting High on Krystle” and the Underground LSD Palace
Note: For an example of Krystle’s approach to harm reduction, click HERE to watch a brief video from the YouTube channel.
Images courtesy of Krystle Cole, NeuroSoup, and the KnowPhest.
David Biddle has written for Kotori on and off for years. He is also the author of the psychedelic novel, Beyond the Will of God. His column "These Altered States" features frontier cultural issues emerging in America whether the status quo likes it or not. Besides leaving comments here, he can be reached through davidbiddle.net.