Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: A Previously Unpublished Interview with Timothy Leary

Roger Steffens and Timothy Leary talk Buddhism, Leary's first trip, and why partisan politics make no sense.

DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated April 9, 2024

It would be inaccurate to call Roger Steffens simply a photographer. Though he picked up photography during his service in the Vietnam War, it wasn’t until the native Brooklynite returned stateside, settling in the Bay Area and then Los Angeles, that he began to capture quintessential California. Through his lens, we witness the birth of modern psychedelic culture, as Steffens captures the magic of the zeitgeist, from the late Sixties through the early Nineties. He chronicles friends and family, and a cast of characters—from Bob Marley to Timothy Leary—who defined the counterculture. For decades these photographs went unseen—and today, they’re widely known through “The Family Acid” Instagram account.

Multidimensional in every definition of the word, Steffens also worked as an actor, author, editor, DJ, reggae archivist, lecturer, and radio producer with LA’s NPR affiliate, KCRW, where in 1986—shortly after news of the Iran-Contra scandal broke—he interviewed Leary. (At the time, Steffens recalls, “Tim was stoked, thought Reagan was going to jail.”) In this previously unpublished radio chat shared with DoubleBlind, Steffens and Leary purvey the spirit of the times, exploring politics and punk, literature and LSD, psychedelic frenzy and the future of it all.

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