Tommy Cappel(photo: David Novin)

Words by Lily Moayeri

Tommy Cappel was not born with the propensity for seizures.

Rather, the co-founder, co-producer, and drummer for Beats Antique developed them after multiple concussions as a result of altercations and sports injuries in high school. His seizures continued for years, putting Cappel on disability and causing additional physical problems. “Every digit, elbow, and joint I have is chipped,” he says, chuckling. “My bones are damaged from landing on my face in a parking lot, hitting my head on a rock five, 10, 20 times because that’s the environment I’m in when it’s happening. My tongue — chunks are taken out of it and it grows back. Cracked teeth and broken glasses. Lots of broken glasses.”

Cappel has a sense of humor about this now, mainly because he has a handle on the situation. He was first treated with prescribed medications. They held back his seizures, but lowered his energy level so the excessive amount of electricity his brain was producing wouldn’t result in convulsions. “It was like a 400-pound blanket on my whole body and brain,” Cappel remembers. “I was walking around with a lot of weight.”

A partaker of recreational marijuana from his later teenage years, it was only through observation that Cappel noticed a correlation between how he felt after smoking and the slowing down of his seizures, eventually realizing that it was relaxing him far more than his prescriptions. (It should be noted that Cappel has no scientific evidence to back this up, but has personally researched the health benefits of CBD — the non-psychoactive chemical compound the cannabis plant produces — for the treatment of his formerly debilitating seizures.)

There has been a great deal of coverage on CBD’s effects on health in recent years, including reports on the use of CBD to control seizures by CNN and CBS News. Moving to the West Coast helped convince him of its worth, too. “Things changed when I came to California,” says Cappel who is originally from Virginia. “On the East Coast, weed was just weed. People here are more aware of different strains and what they do to you. I did some experimenting with

[peer] guidance and discovered it is way more legitimate than I thought it was. I learned about the extraction process and became better educated about what parts of it I was looking for. That’s also when I started learning about cannabinoid receptors in our DNA, which react to CBD.” Drug Discovery Today has confirmed the presence of these cannabinoid receptors, directly related to the endocannabinoid system in the human body, in their January 2017 issue.

Cappel is now such a well-known CBD advocate that he’s judging competitions at the Golden Tarp Awards, which takes place at the Mateel Community Center in Humboldt County on November 18. In its fourth year, the Golden Tarp’s competition focus is on cannabis flowers that have been grown using light deprivation techniques.

“Sidecar Tommy is challenging stereotypes and preconceptions of musicians and their relationship to drugs,” says Dennis Park, executive producer of The Golden Tarp and co-founder of Ganjier, producer of the event. “He’s opening up about the therapeutic use of cannabis in his life. When people hear the same points from a farmer or dispensary, it doesn’t resonate in the same way. We know Tommy’s fans will learn something different by him sharing at The Golden Tarp.”

With more awareness of cannabis’ medicinal qualities, particularly CBD, and decreasing his prescription medications over time (not to mention Beats Antique having a positive effect on his overall well-being), Cappel has been controlling his seizures only with his marijuana and CBD use for the last three years. But if Cappel does feel a seizure coming on, he doesn’t hit his vape pen or reach for a pre-rolled joint. Instead, he drinks water, lies down, tries to sleep — and hopes he is in a soft place.

“I believe in cannabis,” says Cappel. “Part of the beauty of it and what is helpful is how it’s cared for and how it’s presented. I respect that and I feel it. I’m excited to ask a lot of questions about CBD at The Golden Tarp and get answers from people that are educated and care about it and put a lot of time and energy into it.

“The only way I can describe CBD and what it does is as ‘scientific’ as your mom putting her hand on your neck and saying, for no apparent reason, ‘Everything is going to be OK,’ and you believe it, and it is. That’s what CBD and its receptors are doing to me on a cellular level, they’re saying, ‘It’s going to be OK.’”

Beats Antique
The Midway
December 31, 2017
9pm, $29.50 (21+)

Los Angeles-based writer/teacher Lily Moayeri has been writing about music since 1992. Over the years her scope has widened to include the occasional article on television, art, fashion, and random elements of pop culture. You can find Lily’s writings aggregated on her work-in-progress blog, named after the Who song. Twitter: @PicsOfLilyBlog