The Gaslamp Killer's Near-Death Account
Credit: Kevin Scanlon
[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
The doctors told The Gaslamp Killer that he was three hours away from dying of internal bleeding. In the bedroom of his Mount Washington house, the resident DJ and breakout star of Low End Theory is retelling the story of his near-fatal scooter accident that occurred early last Tuesday morning. A dozen staples suture his chest from belly button to breastplate. His spleen is gone. There's a savage gash on his left hip. To quote Warren Zevon: his shit's fucked up.
GLK's been out of the hospital for three days, after spending that much time incapacitated--with a half-dozen IVs in his arm, unable to eat solid foods or walk. Due to the massive wounds, he's still unable to wear regular clothes. Prescription painkillers are at arm's length. Normally a blur of frenetic energy, he'll be bedridden for the duration of summer.
This was slated to be the biggest summer yet for the psychedelic beat producer and DJ, who covered the Weekly last year. The serious injuries forced him to cancel dates at Low End Theory Europe (and Low End Theory L.A.) and prestigious festival gigs across Europe and Asia. But even at his weakest, there's a sense of triumphalism. He plays his latest compositions--ghoulish sci-fi synth stabs in the vein of Vangelis. He's still in pain, but understands the importance of re-channeling it into something productive.
In the meantime, there is a long recovery ahead. While drinking homemade soup, GLK spoke to me about the crash, the inadequacies of the health care system, and his plans for the future.
How exactly did this happen?
I'd gone to [Hit + Run art collective head] Brandy Flower's house to watch the Superman bootleg. Everybody fell asleep and I decided to call it a day and get my scooter out of the garage.
I started going down this hill and the wind took my hat, so I removed one hand to grab the hat and tried to squeeze the brakes--but I was squeezing the front brakes and flipped my whole shit.
I was literally driving three minutes away. I don't use that scooter for anything other than recreational Highland Park visits. It's not like I'm some fucking motorcycle speed demon. The thing is electric; it goes forty. But, it's pretty fucking heavy. It flew on top of me and I was going downhill. And it felt like when a super villain pounds the superhero into the concrete, and it breaks. I felt pummeled underneath the pressure. It could have bent me in half.
It was the most intense pain ever, but I dragged myself out of the middle of the street because I didn't want to get run over. It was pretty dark in Highland Park and I rolled onto the grass and reached for my phone and called Brandy Flower. I was only 30 seconds from his house. And I called him and said. 'I just crashed.' He said, 'I know I heard the screams.'
Did you immediately know the extent of the injuries?
That's the crazy thing. [Flower] said it only looked like I had a few scrapes. My elbows and my knees were bloody, but my face was fine. My head was fine, my neck and my back too. But I felt my left shoulder was dislocated, I didn't know what the fuck was going on.,
Two firemen dudes showed up in an ambulance and were very unsympathetic. They kept moving and jerking me around and they were like, 'man, you're fine, you just have a few cuts.'
I told them my shoulder felt like it had been ripped apart and my stomach feels like my organs are scrambled up inside. They said: 'Well...did you eat dinner tonight? I'm like, 'Yeah, at 9:00 p.m. They're like, "Well, maybe you need to shit.' You know, making jokes. I'm like, 'Just get me to the fucking hospital. Please!'
So we get on the fucking road and the freeway is shut. The 110 is shut. So they're blazing down the back streets. We get to the USC-County medical hospital and there's gunshot wound victims, all these people around, and nobody's fucking helping me. And finally, they get me into this back room, I was screaming, 'Please god, help me,' the whole time. Well, not screaming but more whimpering because I had no air in my fucking lungs.
You're still in crazy pain the whole time?
Yeah, no one was giving me any relief, nothing. People were just asking me questions, the same questions.
How long do you think you were waiting?
Forty-five minutes. And then they're like, 'We got you a room'--except it wasn't even a room, it was a hallway. Next thing I know, I'm surrounded by doctors and nurses. People are sticking needles in me, IVs, gels. They're looking inside me, but they can't figure out what's wrong.
I couldn't breath and asked for oxygen. They gave it to me, but that didn't help either.
How did they figure out what it was?
A doctor came up and said, 'He's hemorrhaging inside. I know it's got to be internal bleeding. We got to fucking open him up.'
Then the surgeons came out and this woman looked at me and was like, 'You're losing a lot of blood.' I'm like 'What? No I'm not.' She said that something inside of me had burst and was bleeding. 'We got to open you up. Do you have insurance?'
Yes. And then they literally cut my pants off, cut my boxers off, and immediately performed surgery.
Were you still processing it at that point?
I didn't know what the fuck to say. I looked at [Flower] and said, 'Tell my parents I love them.' I was trying to get him to record me saying a message to them so that they could hear my voice for one last time.
And they put the mask over me and injected me with some shit and I fell asleep. And I woke up and my mom and dad were on my right side and [Flower] was on my left and they were all standing over me and I could barely see. I had a bunch of IVs in me and I looked down at my scar and saw how gnarly it was, and passed out. I woke up 24 hours later.
It's crazy to think that if you'd listened to the firemen and just gone back home, you probably never would have woken up.
They were telling [Flower] to drive me to the hospital. And I was like, insurance. I pay for it. Put me in a fucking ambulance and get me there with your stupid sirens. They said they didn't want to drive there because the freeway was closed.
Did you get any crazy visions from the morphine?
It was like DMT. As soon as I closed my eyes for one second, I had bullies from high school screaming in my face, teachers that I used to fight with, right face to face, screaming at me. All these fucking pressures coming at me from a million directions. I can't even describe how vivid the visions were.
So what exactly are the consequences of having no spleen?
I can't drink or do drugs ever again. I'd quit for a while and when we spoke for the last story, I felt like I was the most lucid I've ever been in my life. I felt great. And then all of a sudden, I felt like, I got my record out, time to celebrate.
Do you think you'll miss that?
I don't want to sound like some self-righteous prick, but I was there and now I'm here. And now I'm at this crossroads again, but it's a little more real this time. I feel like the universe kept pushing me in this direction, but I just wasn't willing to accept it. Now this is pretty much the guillotine, the ax to the head of the demon snake that begs for more, but has been chopped off.
I literally could fucking die from alcohol. I could load up and turn blue and die from a night of drinking. Fall asleep and not wake up. I'm not talking like ecstasy and coke. I'm not even talking psychedelics. Just drinking.
I don't have anything against partying. It's fun. I get it. It's just not an option anymore. It's very real and fucking upsetting. Especially for someone like me who grew up taking whatever the fuck I felt like at that moment. You live in the moment, you don't want to be a square.
But now what? Am I gonna be like, 'Oh I don't have a spleen. I can't really party like that anymore.' I'm not going to give that excuse. I'm just going to have to hang with the people who are like me. Those who aren't interested in chasing a fucking dragon. A dragon's head has been fucking cut off.
What have you been working on lately?
I've been on that synthesizer, space echoes scene. But no words, just humming through reverb, and synthesizer shit. I'm trying to make a sci-fi soundtrack. All I can think about is the new album.
I feel like I was given this opportunity to slow the fuck down again, and get inside my own head, and really try and create some dope music instead of fucking burning my brains out. It's time for me to go back inside my soul and see what comes out.
I'm gonna' reel it back in and make my next album. I already have a lot of super vicious drums and interesting rough drafts. I'm going to try to reach the next breakthrough.
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