Sunday, August 18, 2019

Dimebag Darrell: A True Legend

Dimebag DarrellWhen I was fresh out of high school, there was one rock group that was simply higher than the rest, and they didn’t fit into the category of stoner rock. The group was Pantera; the original Cowboys from Hell. They were proud to be southern, loud, heavier than a ten-ton hammer, and they loved to smoke weed. In fact, for a period in time, their battle cry was, “smoke weed!” It was at that point during their electrifying live performances that the crowd would bombard the stage by throwing joints. The singer, Phil Anselmo, would start picking up the joints, mumbling into his microphone, “cool…smoke…”

Their guitarist, Dimebag Darrell, was always at the forefront of the “smoke weed!” period in the history of Pantera. His love for whiskey and weed was second only to his love for writing guitar riffs capable of ripping the face off of us mere mortals. Pantera was loud, obnoxious, opinionated and heavy as hell. They didn’t care who or what stood in their way.

A love for heavy metal and weed

Dimebag DarrellSome would consider this at odds with the weed-smoking mentality of being laid back and mellow. And perhaps they’d be right. But as with everything in this world, there are always exceptions to the rule. For their “Strength Beyond Strength” tour, their backdrop was a huge marijuana leaf with the word “Pantera” under it. They may have been the heaviest group ever to use the image of the leaf, and they were at their heaviest musically during this time.

Of course, all good things come to an end, and this time Pantera was not an exception. The group disbanded a few years after the height of their popularity.

Dimebag Darrell was murdered on stage in 2004 while touring with the group he formed after Pantera split ways. He was a clown of sorts. Never sober, never reserved, long pink beard, almost every aspect of his short-lived career was wild and unpredictable. But rest assured, he was high as hell when he died. And I take comfort in that.

Stephen Carpenter

Guitarist for the Cause: Stephen Carpenter

Stephen Carpenter, the guitarist for Deftones, has never been shy about his fondness of marijuana.  Following a recent interview with Guitar World, the interviewer described how he watched Carpenter roll an ample-sized “spliff,” mid-interview.  And once he lit the joint, he didn’t attempt to pass it.

Stephen Carpenter
Stephen Carpenter – Guitarist for The Deftones – and a Pot Culture Icon

Carpenter, along with his bandmates, Chino Moreno (vocals), Abe Cunningham (drums), and the late Chi Cheng (bass), started Deftones while they all were still in high school.  “Our common thread was our love of music and weed…weed is a musician’s tool, at least that’s how we use it.”  When asked if he used it for writing, or recording, or performance, Carpenter smiled and said, “All of the above.”

The eight-string is a relatively new development in guitars, first used by Carpenter’s favorite band, Meshuggah. Carpenter exclusively used seven and eight-string guitars.  “They just offer more sonic combinations of tone and chord structure,” he stated.

A tool for musical experimentation

Stephen CarpenterOf course, Deftones isn’t the first band to use marijuana as a tool to expand the musical experimentation.  But Carpenter seems more than willing to carry the flag of legalization into battle.  “I understand that (marijuana) isn’t for everyone, but is that reason enough to make it hard on those who can use it productively.”  It wasn’t until after being on the cover of High Times Magazine that Carpenter realized he was speaking for his generation on the legalization of marijuana.  And because of his shy nature, perhaps that was the best way for that to unfold.

Deftones released their debut album in 1995, the same year Korn released their debut.  With both acts coming out of different cities in California, there was a respectful competition between the two bands, both of which ushered in what the music press dubbed, “Nu-Metal.”  And while Korn dominated the charts in those first few years, it’s of little surprise that Deftones would eventually surpass the success of Korn.  When Carpenter was asked why Deftones were able to stay relevant in an ever-changing musical landscape, he answered, “I guess because we never tried to be something we weren’t.”  The interviewer then asked what was their secret weapon.  Carpenter began to laugh as he simply lifted his joint into view.

Be sure to check out our other Pot Culture Icons to see who else is lending their voice to the cause.

Willie Nelson – The Original Outlaw

No one man who has been arrested several times for possession of marijuana (over four times in Texas alone, where he was born), has been as important in the legalization of the marijuana movement as Grammy-winning, singer-songwriter, actor and activist Willie Nelson.  As the Co-Chair of NORML, this 80-year-old American icon has lived the life of the outlaw with a heart of gold. He has long been advocating the benefits of marijuana in both spiritual and practical realms.

Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson: A soldier for the cause.

Simply put, Willie Nelson stands for everything that is good and right in the American character.  Of course, the terms, “good,” and “right,” are subjective, but when the Red Headed Stranger stands up for a cause, it’s a safe bet that it’s from a place of tolerance, goodwill, understanding and freedom of choice.   For the benefit of this article, and the time and space allotted for it, the focus will be his unwavering support for the legalization of marijuana.

In 2005, he hosted the 1st Annual Willie Nelson and NORML Benefit Golf Tournament, which garnered him the cover photo and feature interview of High Times magazine.  In the interview he stated that marijuana has never hurt anyone who didn’t want to be hurt to begin with; the fact that possession of the plant is illegal in the U.S. is not characteristic of what its founders intended.  “I smoked weed on the roof of the White House in 1980,” he stated.  “Not many people can say that.”

One of the First Pot Culture Spokespersons

In 2010, following another in a long line of possession of marijuana charges, Nelson created the Tea-Pot Party under the motto, “Tax it. Regulate it. Legalize it!”  As always, Nelson has never missed an opportunity to use his celebrity to bring attention to something that he truly believes in.

Perhaps the title of his latest biographical book, named after one of his songs from the 70’s, published in 2012, says it all:  Roll Me Up and Smoke Me when I Die: Musings from the Road.  For Willie Nelson has never been afraid to take the road less traveled, and it shouldn’t be long before he is On the Road Again.

Phish Pheatured

30 Years of Phish

After 30 years of creating free-form musical fusion, over 8 million albums and DVDs sold worldwide, a discography of 14 albums, and an ice cream flavor named after them by Ben and Jerry, the Vermont-based band Phish is still very much relevant in the ever-changing landscape of popular music.  Trey Anastasio (guitar, vocals), Mike Gordan (bass, vocals), Jon Fishman (drums, percussion, vocals), and Page McConnell (keyboards, vocals) have been mesmerizing audiences with their no-two-shows-the-same approach to live performances for three decades and show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

The success and longevity of Phish can be attributed in a large part to their ever-loyal grassroots fan base.  Without the help of corporate radio airplay, Phish, like The Grateful Dead before them, has become a vital part of pop/counter culture and transcended the trappings and boundaries of commercial success.  To be a Phish fan means being unafraid of mental, physical and musical exploration.  At any concert of festival where Phish is present, the sweet aroma of marijuana is the unofficial fifth member of the quartet.

Phish
30 Years of Phish

Extended solos, total genre combination/permutation, and improvisational exploration of their original songs when performed live, is and always has been, a staple of the band’s character.  So much, in fact, that their live performances, which can last over 90 minutes, have sometimes consisted of only four songs.  And while music publications categorize Phish as a “jam-band,” the moniker is the only phrase that attempts, but never successfully describes, the musical experience that is Phish.

Phish is not the only band to have a 30th birthday.  In fact, Phish may be the least commercially successful band in the 30-plus year group, but there is no denying the fact that they very well may be the most influential of the thirty-something groups.  Always a festival favorite, Phish has rarely ever known what it feels like to play in front of anything less than a capacity crowd.  Understanding that album sales never reflect musical quality, Phish has always allowed their fans to record their live shows and share them free-of-charge to new and old fans alike.  The band has always been able to let their songs take on a life of their own, to exist in the moment without boundaries or expectation; in this way, the songs of this legendary band, are living a life that we, the fans, are lucky to experience for a brief moment in our lifetimes.

Happy birthday, Phish, and many happy returns.

Photo Credit John V

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This is the End

This is the End

This year’s summer batch of stoner friendly movies isn’t a very long list, but that doesn’t mean the list is weak in any way.  We’ll skip the obvious eye-candy entries like Man of Steel, the new Star Trek, Generation Z, etc., and instead let’s start and end with, well, This is The End, based on the short film Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse.

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the dynamic duo behind Superbad and Pineapple Express, have done what they do best: make irreverent coming of age comedies.  Except this time, they’re using almost every actor with whom they’ve become friends and starred with in all of their films.  This is The End, as the name suggests, is an apocalyptic comedy/horror that takes place at James Franco’s party.  That’s no typo, this large scale movie with a very large cast has all of the main characters playing themselves.  And we all know that if Seth Rogen is playing himself he’ll be armed with a sack of weed and an annoying laugh.

This is the End
“This is the End” could be this year’s premier stoner flick.

Here’s some of the star billing:  James Franco, Johah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, David Krumholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin’ in the house!), Rihanna (hmm), Martin Starr, Paul Rudd, Channing Tatum, Kevin Hart, and Aziz Ansari.  And they all play themselves.

If you happen to live in a small town, you may have to travel to The Big Bad City to see it on the silver screen, or you can be patient and wait for the DVD release.  As with Pineapple Express, it may be best to wait so you can watch and bake for the first viewing in the comfort of your own buzz.  While this movie will not get any Oscar nods, it will get some big belly laughs and should have a decent shelf life, which is to say, if watched in the “proper-stoner” movie state of mind, it should still be funny for at least another three or four screenings.  When it comes to summer movies, short-term memory isn’t a bad thing.

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Marijuana Use on the Big Screen

Becoming Less ‘Taboo’

Marijuana Use in Movies
Accepted marijuana use in movies is on the rise.

Marijuana use as portrayed on the silver screen has come a long way in the 70-plus years it’s been in movies. Marijuana as a character has gone from malicious bad guy to loveable good guy in its time. And while the list of movies is long, too long to mention in a single article, there are some milestones that are worth mentioning.

It’s impossible to mention the marriage of marijuana and movies without mentioning the 1936 film, Reefer Madness. The movie’s message, which is nothing short of malicious propaganda, shows how those under the influence of this dangerous drug become devoid of reason, morals, and any worthwhile sensibilities. As the name suggests, it depicts smokers as victims of madness and makes the characters capable of deplorable acts that they otherwise would be incapable. This movie is the first monumental step, albeit in the wrong direction, of marijuana and movies.

Marijuana Use in Movies
The effects of Marijuana use is also being more accurately portrayed in movies.

Jump forward to 1969, and the landmark counter-culture film, Easy Rider, attempts to undo the damage done by Reefer Madness. Written and directed by Dennis Hopper, the film shows two young men trying to break the conventions of the day as they set across the Land of the Free on their choppers in hopes of eventually making it to Florida to enjoy the rest of their days. Open to any experience, their journey finds them in the company of a drunken lawyer played by Jack Nicholson. When the two heroes of the film, Wyatt and Billy try to get their new friend to smoke, the drunken lawyer declines saying he doesn’t want it leading to “harder things.”

Moving on

A jump into the modern age still shows a somewhat less lethal, but still skewed view of marijuana. From 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High to 93’s Dazed and Confused, the stoner is still portrayed as the lovable fool, free from worry and of little consequence.

Even in this modern age, we’re pressed to find a suitable spokesperson to the cause, but there is hope. In Wes Anderson’s movie, The Life Aquatic, the main character played by Bill Murray is shown toking, but Anderson refused to show Murray’s character affected smoking in any particular way. Which really is closer to the truth. Stoner’s rarely get stoned, they just get relaxed.

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Burn One Down

Burn One Down

Ben Harper‘s song, Burn One Down, has the lyrics, “If you don’t like my fire, then don’t come around, ’cause I’m gonna burn one down.”

The power here is in the ability of these words to completely circumnavigate sex, religion and politics.  That’s no small feat, and this particular one does so in less than 20 words.  Chris Cornell, when asked about great lyrics, once said that its strength lies in the “ability to say as much as possible, using as few words as possible.”

So when asked where I stand on the issues, particularly on the legalization of marijuana, I can pretty much sum it up with that one sentence.  It’s a more direct way of stating the “want” for Constitutional rights to be recognized around here.  And, yes, that’s pretty direct…but collectively, it is becoming the war-cry of the entire counter-culture movement.

Ben Harper | Burn One Down
Ben Harper | Burn One Down

And that, to those of you still reading, is my opinion, to which I’m entitled and is afforded me by constitutional right.  Understand that does not make my opinion a law, and you’d think that wouldn’t have to be pointed out. After all, take Colorado and Washington. Both states went through the entire political process, playing the games, crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s. Both states voted to legalize marijuana. But at any given moment, the federal government can swoop in and crash that party Elvis doing karate. Sometimes I feel like we may live in the Twilight Zone.

…And Your Point Is?

Back to my point: Ben Harper wrote a stoner song that is brilliant in its total negation of political paradigm, yet somehow, with avid bow-hunter accuracy, perfectly says what every person with a sound mind, who isn’t consumed by the “want to be disagreeable to anything remotely considered liberal (Ted Nugent)” really thinks.  That’s my opinion.  That’s Ben Harper’s song.  And this, my friends, is where I stop writing. Stay green.

Abbey Road

I Get High…

One of my favorite stories about marijuana and the musicians who use it is the infamous first meeting of The Beatles and Bob Dylan.  As legend has it, the Liverpool lads were a bit star struck, and Dylan, noticing this, decided to start the conversation by telling them that he really dug their tune, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”  The Fab Four reciprocated by letting Dylan know that they were huge fans of his work.  Dylan smiled and responded, “I especially like the part of your tune where you sing the line, ‘I get high, I get high, I get high.’’

Now whether or not Dylan knew the actual bridge line was, “I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide,” is irrelevant.  The Beatles, of course, did not dare correct the folk legend.

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan

What is relevant is what happened next.  Dylan asked the boys that fateful question, as the legend goes, that no one had ever asked them before:  “Y’all wanna get high?”  The rest, as they say, is indeed rock n’ roll and counter-culture history.  The first time The Beatles smoked weed, they did it with Bob Dylan.

…And Then There Was Music

The relationship between the best plant on the planet and the best songwriters, activists and free thinkers on the planet was, without a doubt, set in motion by a power much greater than what the greatest minds in human history could begin to comprehend.  This is of great comfort to me when I remember to stop forgetting that coincidence is just a word created to rationalize a much larger and universal truth:  symbiotic relationships, cosmic to convenient, are as natural as it gets.  As they say, a friend with weed is a friend indeed.  Stay green.

Bob Dylan photo courtesy Badosa

Abbey Road Photo Courtesy Rev. Beraldo

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Hollywood and Marijuana

The Big Secret

Cannabis, Hollywood, and The Counter Culture
Large jar of creativity and stress relief.

To my marijuana-smoking counterparts:

the entertainment industry is mocking us.  They are betting it all on the assumption that the weed smokers of America are so stoned that we won’t recognize the same crap in a different idiot box.  The truth is that their technique is working, just not so much on our demographic.  Soccer moms are easy targets, as are the unemployed.  But we, the cannabis smokers and watchers of the watchmen, are much more attuned than we’re credited for.

The monster that is reality TV has become an instrument of crime. One of the biggest criminals being the “brand” known as the Kardashians, and the little man behind the crime, Ryan Seacrest. And the trained chimps they hire to script the reality?  Let’s just say their little primate hands aren’t unclean either. Regardless, the ratings don’t lie, and the ratings are the bottom line. Being famous for being famous does violence to the term fame. And it does even greater violence to the watching dead; the poor gossip junkies who fill that void with the horrible acting done by “real” characters who cannot even act like themselves well.  I feel for the kid of Kanye and Kimberly, what’s her name?  Oh, yeah:  North.  North West. Wow.  If anyone had a moral compass of any kind, those two would’ve been kicked out of the gene pool long ago.

 

If Only “Pop Culture” Was Really “Pot Culture…”

The movie industry, Hollywood, tinsle-town, the place where dreams come true.  The place Willie Will Smith and his mutant children call home.  The crimes of the movie industry are less severe than that of TV, but just as harmful. Cannabis smokers world-wide have come the realization that quality ‘stoner’ entertainment just isn’t what it used to be. Picture a board room full of these “idea” people; and the big boss shouts the command, “I want ten ideas that already exist that can be regurgitated before this year is over!”  The room goes quiet as the well-dressed chimps think to themselves, “Oh, God!  It’s already March; Thank God I left Red Lobster on good terms.”  This same room was the birthplace of the remake of The Karate Kid.  They “re-imagined” a great movie that spoke to the generation from which it came, and they got jiggy with it.  The demon spawn of Willie Will did to that movie what American Idol’s Randy Jackson did to the word “dawg.”

All I’m saying is that I may be too stoned to find my lighter, but I’m not so stoned that I can’t recognize feces being hurled at my head.  Think green.

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Good Music and Weed

Fundamentals of Good Music

I am of the humble opinion that this century’s music has not lived up to the bar set before them in the decade of responsible and social aware rock n’ roll. That decade saw a great paradigm shift in music and pop culture; a decade that started with America’s unfunniest home video bringing global attention to abuses of power in a metropolis sitting on a fault line long overdue for an eruption.  An ambitious young doctor out of California branched out and prescribed smoking indo, sipping on Gin and juice, and heavy contemplation on personal finance.Good Music and Weed  His album defined his generation in two simple words: The Chronic. And the doctor? None other than Dr. Dre.

It’s the 90’s!  Not since the late 60’s has a music scene exploded in such a fashion.  The fire was fueled by the battle cry of Dre: Weed, smoke, fire, sticky-icky, chronic, the kill kill.  It didn’t matter what you called it as long as you had a fat sack full of it.  Being an active listener and a product of the times, I discovered the tools of an active listener: a good set of headphones, a good bowl and a lighter.  My judgment was deemed sound by my peers.  And if my words and endorsements of music were responsible, then I, alone, was responsible for them.

But, What Happened?

Then, as fast as the scene erupted, the quality changed to quantity, and everybody was trying to sound like Pearl Jam…and I do mean everybody. To what could this epic failure of auditory pleasure be attributed?  Besides the obvious corporate influences of “bottom line” over substance, which didn’t create the problem, by the way.  They just took advantage of it and took most of the knee-jerk blame.  I think the real culprit was the late 90’s shift in narcotic of choice.  Bad drugs make good people make bad choices…and there is no crime greater than bad taste in music.  And speed kills creativity in exchange for efficiency.  In all aspects of pop culture, the smiles from the early 90’s, fell victim to meth mouth and paranoid delusions.

Tarintino movies weren’t as cool as Tarintino-esque movies simply because Tarintino couldn’t make movies fast enough for the demand.  The musical cry, “I’m still alive,” was replaced by Disturbed’s guttural cry, “Get down with the sickness.”  The positive energy of raging against the machine was killed by the rabid cries shouting, “let the bodies hit the floor.”  And just like that, it was over.

And this, for the most part, can be attributed to the fact that the masses of people have been tricked into thinking marijuana is a bad thing.

 

Photo courtesy Kay La La