Joe Rogan Talks Horror Films & Books, Monkeys, and the Psychedelic Experience


The face of genre fandom is a kaleidoscope of different people, backgrounds, and perspectives. A person’s love for all things spooky need not necessarily mean that they fit a certain aesthetic or sport a specific wardrobe choice. Genre fans are a collection of unique individuals who all come from a wide variety of vocations.

Celebrity genre fans are no different. Some of them are actors. Some are musicians. Lena Headley (300) cites films like Session 9, Black Christmas, and Martyrs as favorites. Eddie McClintock (“Warehouse 13”) is another actor who supports the genre. Tina Turner reads Anne Rice. Richard Christy (Howard Stern Show) is a major horror fan. Hell, even Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) refers to herself as a fan with The Exorcist and Poltergeist topping her list.

Joe Rogan Talks Horror Films & Books, Monkeys, and the Psychedelic ExperienceAnother name that might surprise you: that of actor, comedian, UFC commentator Joe Rogan. Since coming to the public’s attention in 1995 when he began a four-year run as eccentric electrician Joe Garrelli on the immensely popular show “NewsRadio”, Rogan has surprised and entertained audiences the world over. As his comedy reputation continued to grow through the late 1990s, Joe branched out and added “mixed martial arts commentator” to his resume and massively broadened his already large fan base. While the gig surprised many, to others, it made a lot of sense. After all, Joe won the US Open Tae Kwon Do Championship at the age of nineteen and, as the lightweight champ, went on to beat both the middle and heavyweight title holders and take home the Grand Championship. Then, from 2001-2006, hosting the network challenge show “Fear Factor” solidified Rogan as a viable commodity and made him a household name. Once the popular stunt show’s run ended, Rogan returned to his first love – stand-up comedy – and proved that his was a voice that was insightful, contemporary, and utterly hilarious.

Now, with his sold-out comedy shows, continued involvement with the highly successful UFC, and hugely popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, Joe sits at the forefront of the world’s attention. He continues to speak openly on topics many other people in the public eye would shy away from such as psychedelic drugs and marijuana use, conspiracies, and alien/human interaction. His is a considered and informed voice unlike any other in the media.

Dread Central spoke at length with Joe Rogan, and what we discovered may – once again – surprise you.

To be fair, it should be said that the following interview includes some of the notorious “7 words” George Carlin warned you about. Life’s tough, kids… wear a cup.

Dread Central: Ok, I’m going to start this recording, so everything you say from here on out will be held against you…

Joe Rogan: Holy shit!!

DC: Let’s start by me asking some easy questions. You play a lot of music in your podcasts. What are some of your favorite bands?

JR: That seems like it should be an easy question, but I never really fucking know what I really like. I’ve always loved classic rock. I’m a big fan of music from the 70s. I love The Allman Brothers and Hendrix and shit like that, but I’ve never sat down and quantified it or put together a Top 10.

DC: I was a buyer for Tower Records for like 10 years, so my tastes tend to run all over the place, from old school jazz to rock to whatever.

JR: I tried hard to get into jazz, but it is the one thing that, for whatever reason…

DC: I would think though that someone like yourself who does jiu-jitsu would really like it because it’s so freeform and improvisational.

JR: I don’t know. It just seems to me that they’re just kind of banging away on their instruments and I appreciate that and everything, but…

DC: Sometimes it feels like “Ok, this is everything I learned while I was at The Berklee School of Music” in three to five minutes. I used to take my wife to jazz shows and she’d always end up looking at me like, “What the fuck is this shit?!?!” Just a room full of guys all nodding their heads and laughing because of some technical thing the band was doing.

JR: [laughs] I wonder if there are a lot of female jazz fans? Is it more of a male-oriented thing?

DC: Well, I think there are a lot of female fans of things like “Quiet Storm” or “soft jazz” stuff like Kenny G.

JR: Is that really jazz though?

DC: Not really… But when you get into shit like Thelonius Monk or Coltrane, a lot of women tend to just look at you like you’re nuts. Now, I know you’re a reader and you’re kind of all over the spectrum on what you read…

JR: As far as fiction, I love horror books. It’s practically all I ever read. I don’t read anything about war or romance or politics, that’s all nonsense to me. I’m enjoying books by Joe Hill like HEART-SHAPED BOX and I have a copy of HORNS. I love King. Didn’t you and I talk about Guillermo del Toro’s THE STRAIN on my message board before?

DC: Yeah, we did…

JR: I liked it in the beginning. It was like, “Wow, this is kind of cool. It’s interesting,” but… I think we both talked about how, at the end, it was like he was just trying to finish it.

DC: I think that happens a lot. Writers will have this great idea and they’re cruising along and then they look at their word count and think, “Oh, shit! I’m getting to 170,000 words… I need to wrap this up.”

JR: How is the new one supposed to be?

DC: I’m so swamped with reading other stuff that I ended up thinking, “Do I spend a few days buzzing through something I know might be flawed or do I take a chance with some unknown quantity?” I’m hearing good things about King’s new book, Full Dark, No Stars.

JR: I haven’t picked up a King book in a while. I’m kind of skeptical since he laid off the drugs. [laughs]

DC: I think getting off drugs and getting hit by a car can change your perspective a bit. [laughs]

JR: Uh… Yeah… not just getting hit, but having your whole body ruined.

DC: You also read a lot of stuff that is non-fiction, stuff like Terrence McKenna, and that seems to have affected you pretty profoundly. I mean, a lot of the expanding consciousness stuff.

JR: Well, obviously I’m a huge fan of McKenna’s work. His books are very entertaining. His lectures I think are more entertaining. He was almost a better talker than he was a writer. His writing was very information-filled, but it was a bit flat as far as entertainment value. You had to really be into the subject matter, but I’m obviously fascinated by anything that has to do with the psychedelic experience and he was one of my favorite “psychonauts,” I guess you could call him, because he was such an intelligent guy and so brave about his quest to make people aware of the power of the psychedelic experience knowing very well that a lot of people were going to consider him to be a silly person for taking this on. It’s such a controversial topic. Whenever you get into the topic of psychedelic drugs, immediately you’re thought of as a nut.

DC: Or a hippie…

JR: Or a hippie or just a silly person… a person who’s not to be taken seriously. And I think that’s really a shame. I mean, it’s really a by-product of a bunch of different things. The actual accounts of real people who’ve done psychedelics… a lot of them are as silly as shit. There’re a lot of silly, knuckle-headed people that are into psychedelics, but there are also a lot of really brilliant people who have used psychedelics and changed their lives. But, for the most part, when we think about… even today, people who are really well known intellectuals or the flavor of the month like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens… you never hear of them expanding on the psychedelic experience. It’s one of those things that puts you in this weird sort of hole. It’s really odd to me that those guys don’t talk about psychedelics. I don’t know what kind of experience they have with them. I know Hitchens likes to drink, but… If your whole thread is about religion… If that’s what you’re constantly talking about and putting it in perspective for people who are zealots and trying to enlighten them, how do you not know or how do you not bring up psychedelics? That really is the elephant in the room.

I think the root of almost all real, true religious experiences is probably psychedelic drugs. I mean, that IS the connection to the Afterlife. It IS the connection to the higher power. It is the road map to the center of the mandala. It really is. What I’m saying is that it really is what all these people are looking for. All these people who are looking for this being touched by a higher power or this feeling of being in the presence of something divine or something indescribably wise… like really being in the presence of God. That really is what a true psychedelic experience gives you. It’s very humbling. You come out of it very loving. You come out of it feeling like you have a responsibility to do something about this experience and make it have a positive effect on your life. That is what all these people are looking for… all these people who are talking in tongues and throwing their arms up in the air and crying out for someone to come down and give them the wisdom. That’s what psychedelic drugs are there for, man. They’re there for you, but, for whatever reason, it gets left out of the debate because it’s thought of as a frivolous topic. If you’re the type of person who is into psychedelic drugs, you’re like… me. I’m an easy person to be dismissed.

DC: Well, look at someone like Ram Dass… It’s like, “You’re ok. Yeah, you’re a Harvard academic, but now that you’re openly talking about these drugs, you’ve gone way off the rails… and here’s an easy answer for sidelining you and, by extension of that, the debate.”

JR: Sure… and Timothy Leary as well.

DC: I wonder if by trivializing it, it diminishes its appeal… I mean, here’s a solution to everything people are looking for… and it’s easy… but there’s no cash in it. There’s no church-based economy inherent in it. Instead, we’ll trivialize it and say, “no…no… no… listen to the guy on the pulpit who talks about the Ten Commandments and Leviticus and blah blah blah…” because there we can tap into a revenue source and exert some control.

JR: There’s a little bit of that, but I think there’s also what you said – it’s too easy. I think, for a lot of people, the idea that you can just take a gigantic dose of mushrooms and have this insane, religious, powerful, all knowing experience… it just seems like a cop-out to people. You should be meditating on a mountain for thirty years to have that. You should earn that, you know what I mean?

DC: Staring at your navel…

JR: Yeah! The fact that you can get there with the same method that some goofy high school kid who just watched SOUTH PARK and giggle off of a few caps and stems… that’s the method you’re going to use to change your whole life? Whoa, you sound like a nut!

DC: You’ve kept to the organics, true? You’ve never done LSD or…

JR: I try to avoid anything that I know has completely wrecked people’s minds. A lot of that has been because I’ve been very fortunate to meet people who have fucked their brains up. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people with cocaine problems early on when I was really young, so… I was always terrified of coke. I had seen what it had done to people. I’d met people who’d had heroin problems and seen what that had done to them. So, I’d had some real clear evidence stuck in my face at a very young age that there is a lot of stuff that’s just not good for you. But, you don’t really hear that about marijuana. You don’t really hear that about hash. You don’t really hear that about mushrooms… Although, there is a depiction in the book TRUE HALLUCINATIONS where McKenna and his brother, Dennis were somewhere in South America and they took mushrooms and Dennis had some sort of a schizophrenic episode for a couple of weeks where he’d really lost his marbles. But, who knows what they were taking. They might have taken so much stuff…

DC: And you never know if there were already cracks in Dennis’ foundation before they dosed, you know? The trip might have just sort of brought those flaws to the surface.

JR: Yeah, absolutely. You just never know what kind of psychological state he was in when he took that stuff and that has a big effect on it.

Joe Rogan Talks Horror Films & Books, Monkeys, and the Psychedelic Experience

DC: A lot of people know you as an actor, a standup, a martial artist, and a sports commentator, but you’re also a big horror fan and monster fan. Was that interest sparked early on? As a kid, were you gobbling that stuff up?

JR: Yeah, man… When I was really, really young, for as far back as I can remember, I loved monster movies. My mom used to be a horror movie fan and she used to watch movies with me when I was really young – like 5 and 6 – like vampire movies and shit like that. It was something I always really enjoyed. And still to this day, I always get really excited when a monster movie comes out. There’re just not enough of them, man… and the ones that are out all suck.

DC: While reading your message board, I sensed the outrage you had at Splice when it came out. You could tell you really wanted it to be good …

JR: It sucked SO hard. [laughs] The way I described it to people was, “Here’s how bad it was… they made this artificial human and they put this artificial human in a basement where it grew to full adulthood within a couple of months and, a couple of weeks after that, Adrien Brody fucked it. So, it’s not that he just fucked a monster, but he’s a pedophile monster fucker!” He fucked a baby monster. The whole thing was so wrong on so many different levels and so stupid and at the end when it changed sexes…

DC: What got me was… as soon as it got a dick, it went out raping.

JR: [laughs]

DC: It was like in 28 Days Later, where the soldiers were capturing women to have sex with them. I’m like, “Dude, it’s been 28 days!” It’s not even been a month. I’ve gone a year without getting laid. Calm down!

JR: I know. It’s pretty ridiculous. I get upset… I got upset at THE WOLFMAN. It was so weak. I was really disappointed in Rick Baker because I was a huge Rick Baker fan as a kid. At one point in time in my life, I actually contemplated being a makeup artist when I grew up. I loved The Cantina scene in STAR WARS and how Baker would talk in great detail about how he fabricated all these masks and what he did with AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. I mean, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was awesome and was really a great werewolf movie even though the technology was a bit limited at the time. Like when he had the werewolf moving through Piccadilly Circus, moving through the crowd, you see him for a second, two seconds, you just see this thing on four legs and it’s fuckin’ awesome. It was terrifying. It looked menacing. It looked powerful. It looked like a real monster. And then you have this Benecio Del Toro thing where it’s a stupid mask and it looked so hokey with the bottom teeth sticking out like the old Lon Chaney, Jr. I guess they were trying to do a tribute to that, but god what a letdown. It wasn’t even remotely scary.

DC: When we sat down to watch it, as soon as Del Toro starts reciting Hamlet, we were like, “Oh boy…” [laughs]

JR: [laughs] “Here we go…”

DC: [laughs] But Baker goes from American Werewolf to Harry and the Hendersons . I think he just likes putting hair on people.

JR: You may be right there. HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS… you gotta kind of give him a pass on that. He was just trying to make a kid’s movie, but fuckin’ WOLFMAN… there’s no pass on that. I mean, the fuckin’ scene where Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins are fighting… Jesus Christ! It looked so dumb. It was awful. It’s like, “You guys have made a movie with 2010 technology and 1980s sensibilities. So hokey and shitty.

Joe Rogan Talks Horror Films & Books, Monkeys, and the Psychedelic Experience

DC: When you say that you and your mom used to watch a lot of horror films, was this when you lived in San Francisco?

JR: No, it was even before then… when I lived in New Jersey. My whole life I’ve always been a huge, huge fan of horror movies, horror comic books. I just recently bought a bunch of the book versions of the CREEPY and EERIE comic books. I love those. They brought back a lot of memories.

DC: Do you remember the film that really hooked you?

JR: I was always a big fan of werewolf movies for whatever reason. Those were always my favorites. I loved THE HOWLING… I just loved the idea that some regular guy who was just going along in his life and all of a sudden he gets bit and now he’s fucked. And now, he’s got to figure out what to do because he turns into a monster. I just loved that.

DC: I think it taps into that whole “beast within” thing.

JR: Absolutely!

DC: From what I know of you, I notice there are a few things that are sort of touchstones. One is werewolves and the other is apes. You really seem drawn to those creatures. I mean, your special was called Talking Monkeys in Space and you have a production company called Talking Monkey Productions…Is your interest in apes part of that same thing that drives your interest in werewolves?

JR: Definitely. I mean, there’s a part of all of us, especially if you’ve experienced as much violence as I have, where you realize that there is a certain line that gets crossed in the human mind or the human psyche. There’s something in the consciousness that gets crossed where you literally are exactly the same as an animal. There’s no difference at all. There is no language. There’s no contemplation of the consequences of your actions. It’s just pure primate violence. I’ve been very close to that my whole life with martial arts and I’ve just seen a lot of fucked up shit in my life. I’ve always been fascinated by the origins of human beings and I have always had this deep, deep fascination with all sorts of primates. I find it amazing that these things, which are so similar to us, are all around us at zoos and, in some parts of the world, people actually live around them. It’s a really interesting thing. Any time someone gets fucked up by a monkey… Like if I go to the news or some shit like that and I see something like that guy in India who was a mayor of a city and he got killed by a monkey… that’s the first shit I want to read! [laughs] I wanna read it. Like “Whoa, what happened to that guy?”

DC: Or the woman who got her face eaten off who was on Oprah. What the fuck was that all about? [laughs]

JR: I’ve been telling people for years that chimps are super fuckin’ violent monsters. If chimps lived around us, we’d have to shoot them all the time. They’re really dangerous. They’re the closest things to us and they’re some of the most brutal and vicious animals in the animal kingdom because they’re intelligent and they have a plan. They go for your genitals. They bite your fingers off. They pull your face apart. They’re not trying to kill you. They’re trying to fuck you up and that’s a scary, scary thing.

DC: I remember a National Geographic documentary I watched once that showed an orangutan that was handed a coconut. He held it in his hand and suddenly you see coconut milk start leaking through his fingers and then the coconut just collapsed in his fist. There weren’t any grimacing or any visible signs of exertion. It just held it and crushed it – no problem.

JR: We can’t wrap our heads around how strong they are. They could literally pull your arms right off your body. POP! We were on the set of NEWSRADIO back in the day and there was a baby chimp on set for some scene and it was only two years old. This little guy got on my back and started beating on me. I was holding on to him and it was like he was made out of wood. He felt like he was carved out of ebony wood, just solid and dense. You can’t imagine how strong they are and this was a baby. A little tiny baby. Imagine a hundred and fifty pound grown male… my god! The strength those things have. And now, they’ve found those super chimps in the Congo called Bondo Apes. I am constantly fascinated by that. These are huge six foot tall chimpanzees that the locals call “lion killers.” They have two different names for chimps: “tree beaters” and “lion killers.” These enormous chimps… they sleep on the ground in nests like gorillas because no one fucks with them. They don’t even have to climb up in trees. They are so loked out, they just get to sleep wherever they want. They’re like, “Fuck you! Come get some!” These are giant chimps, man and they’re real. This was like a myth for the longest time… The book and the movie CONGO was a big part of that and it was based on mythology, based on some really old photos from the early 1900s. Someone had shot and killed one and they had it propped up on a stick, their arms were hanging from a stick and they had it standing at its full height. I remember it was a really controversial photo where people were like, “Is this a mutant gorilla? What is this thing?” As it turns out, it’s not a mutant gorilla. It’s an entire sub-species of huge chimpanzees that lives in one particular area of The Congo.

DC: But we take something like a chimpanzee and put it in a suit and put it on a tricycle and give it a smoke… just bizarre.

JR: I know, right? We have this weird thing that we do with all dangerous animals where we make them like our cute little buddies. Tony the Tiger… “They’re grrrrrreat!” Klondike Bars are sold by polar bears. Polar bears are fuckin’ ruthless cunts. They’re the most vicious animals. They live in the harshest climate. Have you ever seen videos of the polar bears trying to kill pilot whales that are stuck inside an ice patch? The whales get stuck and there’s only one hole where they can go to get air. There was too much ice for them to swim and get out to the open sea. So, they kept popping up in this one area. The polar bears recognized this and they started just clawing at them as they were doing that, just biting junks of them as they come up. You’d see these poor whales popping up every couple of minutes or so covered in scars and open wounds and every time they’d pop up, the polar bears were there grabbin’ them.

DC: I imagine the polar bears couldn’t image what it was that is underneath the ice… or the size of it.

JR: They don’t give a fuck.

DC: They just see a potential food source.

JR: They’re pretty ruthless, man. There’s a terrible story I read once where these guy’s boat hit an iceberg and was taking on water, so they had to get off the boat and onto an iceberg… or ice island… and they called for help, but help was hours away. So, as help is coming, they see a polar bear and the polar bear starts getting closer to them. Then, the polar bear dives off of one particular ice island that he’s on, dives into the water, comes onto their ice island, and kills one of the men. He then grabs him, swims through the water, pulls the body onto the other ice island and start eating him in front of everybody. Whoa…

To be continued…

Check back soon for Part 2, and in the meantime look for Joe online at the official Joe Rogan website or on The Rogan Board (Joe’s messageboard). Also, don’t forget to follow Joe Rogan on Twitter.

Thom Carnell

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