Of all the groups who have marijuana references in their name, Greenlaw Ave is among the best. Presently at work recording the new single, High Rise, Cannabis Culture spoke with Skyla J, Greenlaw Ave’s dazzling lead vocalist and flutist.
How did the marijuana affiliation come about? Most bands aren’t so up front about it that they put it in their name.
Yeah, I know. And it’s funny, no pun intended, ’cause we’ve kind of weeded it out actually. When we traveled across Canada, nobody knew who we were ? a lot of people still don’t, but it’s coming along slowly ? and I don’t want to use the word gimmick, because we are marijuana supporters and my mom is a medicinal marijuana user. I mean, it’s been around me my whole life, but we just thought it would be something that would catch people’s attention. If they didn’t know our music then at least they would feel they had something in common with us and want to come see the show.
What is the “green law” in Greenlaw Ave?
It’s more of a vibe, the law of the earth, the law of being human, the law of weed, the law of plants, like everything. It’s not just about pot. It’s much more than that.
Are you familiar with the group Morcheeba? Do people make that comparison?
Yeah, I’m not really quite sure why. I think maybe it’s the lyrical style, and a slight vocal style, but other than that I don’t really see much of a comparison. But a lot of people do.
Maybe because both groups have two guys and a soulful hot lead female?
Actually, our band is four people. The main three ? myself, Ozzie, and Pete ? and then we hire a drummer.
You recently got voted Best Show of 2003 by Victoria’s Monday Magazine, and MC Kia Kadira often plays live with Greenlaw. Rap and flutes?
We have a real dub-heavy sound that makes it easy for [emcees]to rap over. Ozzie, our bassist, is a big Run-DMC fan, and was a breakdancer back in the day. He usually freestyles during the show. And Kia Kadira is about to blow out Canada. She’s amazing!
Do people compare Greenlaw Avenue to Jethro Tull because of the flute? [laughter]I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Our website, www.greenlawave.com, just had a big re-do. All of Greenlaw Ave’s releases are independent and our new live CD, Second Story Sessions, is available by digital distribution at www.cdbaby.com.
What Bongzilla is to marijuana is what Coca-Cola is to water. Depending on your perspective, this could mean either an abomination of that which is holy and sacred, or it could mean one age’s ? our age’s ? perfection of a form. An anomalous blip or a chronological maelstrom, this is the present moment conundrum that is Bongzilla.
Imagine 10,000 lunatics, wailing in harmony during a sandstorm being kicked up by the mothership in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This comes close to describing the exaggerated emotional groove that Bongzilla routinely abuses again and again in their recorded work. It’s as if a single, determined machineworks in Hell, manned by the lost and the dead, suddenly discovered a way to make cacophonously murderous noise with a shameless bump-and-grind by smoking pot all the time. Or if a monstrously stoned James Brown decided that electronically-amplified vacuum cleaners processed through distortion pedals were suddenly a very interesting idea. For Bongzilla are as radically stupid as they are methodically stoned, and the end result is something akin to genius, something relative to retarded, and something very, very loud.
An interview with Muleboy, the 36-year founder and driving force behind the Madison, Wisconsin, based Bongzilla, is an experiment in the inane. Beginning with Cypress Hill ? “Wack, but they’re making money!” ? the conversation runs the gamut. From his part-time job at a local co-op, “Lots of hippies, great for scoring dope,” to what the group does with receipts from merchandising, “Buy more dope,” Muleboy makes out marijuana smoking, procuring, distributing, and procuring and smoking more marijuana to be more than a hobby, or a career, or even an obsession. For Muleboy (named so for “being the guy who always held the band’s ‘tour ounce’ in the van in the early days”) and Bongzilla, recreational marijuana use is a crusade.
“This is how we do our part for the fight to legalize,” Muleboy boldly announces. “It’s our way of protesting.”
With song titles like Hashdealer, Stone a Pig, and Giggle Bush, (along with 666 lb. Bong Session and Grim Reefer) and the three albums, Stash, Gateway, and Shake (the group’s early 7″ vinyl singles, compiled together in one hard-to-find collection), and a new album expected within the year, Bongzilla are dedicated advocates of a marijuana microcosm mentality, namely, the past-time lifestyle.
Whether this is shameless and brazen, or moronic and contemptuous, or contemporary and pointless, the fact remains that ignoring the presence of Bongzilla on the cultural landscape of the 21st century is to turn your back not only on Beavis & Butthead, Bart Simpson, and Sonic the Hedgehog, but also on the modern merged milieu of marijuana, politics, and entertainment. In other words, it may be weird, and it may not make any sense at the moment, and maybe the only thing that separates that which is Bongzilla from complete, drab ordinariness is sheer force of will, but at least it’s something. And in a time where a little goes a long way, Bongzilla is revolutionary.
Herbillest does not suck. This is the first thing that everyone notices about this group, who make hip-hop music as if it were a brand new invention. One of the best discoveries made during researching the countless, faceless, and forgettable bands and groups that claim a marijuana affiliation, is that Herbillest stood out like a chunk of gold hash in a pile of schwag.
The five guys who make up Herbillest are in their mid-twenties and have known each other growing up. The incident that galvanized them into Herbillest was when Duke, the group’s bad boy, got arrested for 200 pounds of herb. That’s what incentivized the group to get serious about recording ? to have something done before their friend got sent away to prison!
Fortunately, instead of jail time, Duke got probation, and, now with two albums under their belt, Herbillest has taken form. Nick (Herbillest’s spokesperson and team adhesive), the infamous Duke, Grassmoke, Reno, and the inspired production skills of DJ Slick, along with DJ O’Brick, make up Herbillest.
Straight out of suburban Philadelphia, the most under-rated hip-hop Mecca in the US, Philly’s Herbillest have just finished work on their new album, Vegetation. Nick did the talking to Cannabis Culture.
How did the name Herbillest come about?
Just from our love of herb. That’s our main thing, smoking herb, whatever. And it sounded cool. And then Duke was the one that said, “Let’s spell it ‘herb-illest.'” ’cause we only smoke the illest herbs.
Do your friends know that you guys are big herb-heads?
Oh yeah, man. Well, like I said, not everyone knows but there’s definitely a lot of people that know. We [were producing]this radio show, me and this other guy, Pat Duff, he’s like a good friend who’s like a big activist around here, and there’s this other guy, NJ Weedman he calls himself. These guys go smoke in front of cops and congressmen’s offices and take it to court, and go to court and say, “Marijuana should not be illegal. I should not be in trouble for this.” It’s great, all kinds of newspaper articles about them, and we get listed in that.
We did this radio show on AM, live. It was call the Open Minded Show. Pretty much all we talked about was legalization and hemp. So yeah, I would say there’s definitely a good amount of people beginning to catch on.
On the website, www.herbillest.com, Nick, which one are you?
I’m the big Italian dude that pretty much has a bong in hand all the time. The one in the ’75 jersey is Reno, and the skinny one is Duke. Slick is the one on the turntables. I think O’Brick is in there somewhere.
Herbillest is relatively young to be so musically savvy. What makes the group Herbillest stand out from hip-hop groups that are great but never make it?
I think that groups that are really good like that but don’t find portlets to get out, is because they don’t try hard enough. That’s just what I think. There’s so many guys who I have CDs of like that, I’m like, “Man, how come they don’t do anything anymore?” It’s ’cause they didn’t get that little break, and they just quit, basically. That’s the thing. I’m just gonna keep doin’ it myself, if we don’t get that break, then we’re gonna keep doin’ it I think being in Cannabis Culture is going to affect us big time. I mean, 80,000 herbheads will now know that there is a record label out here called Herbhead Records.
How did Herbillest get an underground independent album to sound so good?
We work with a guy named Scott Stallone, but everyone calls him Supe. He made beats for people that are out now like Jedi Mind Tricks, High & Mighty, Bahamadia. We do pre-production at home. Duke or Slick makes the beats in his bedroom. Lay down everything one track at a time, and then Supe mixes it down, and he makes everything sound way better [laughter].
Tell me about the incredible voice singing on the song I’m Going To Amsterdam. Is that a sample from another song?
No, that’s my friend Bernadette Dimeglio. She is nasty! She’s just a flat out talent. She sings in opera, Italian, French, German. She’s just incredible. She’s just a true absolute musical talent.
How do you get all the new music for your album?
For the most part, we sample old records. Slick and Brick have records you just can’t even imagine, and they turn garbage into gold.
How are your live shows? Are you playing live a lot?
Yeah, pretty good. It’s a lot of fun. I’m pretty sure we’re going to do the Boston Hemp Festival, the Jacksonville Hemp Festival, and we’re talking with the Seattle Hemp Festival. We have an opportunity to play the Warped Tour this year. Not the whole tour, but I’m [definitely]going to ask if we can play Vancouver.
>> King Bong
I spoke with Sticky Kola, the fun fun fun-loving lead vocalist for Victoria’s own party band radicals King Bong. Talking over the phone, matching bong hit for bong hit, Sticky Kola was by far the most passionate, entertaining, yet level-headed, pot-talking advocate of all the bands interviewed for CC’s music issue. He introduced himself to me as “the first angry Canadian,” and when it comes to marijuana, Sticky Kola gets heated!
Sticky? Is this Sticky Kola? What do you have to say?
This is Sticky Kola. Sticky Kola has lots of things to say! I’m pissed off! I’m tired of getting pushed around! I’m tired of having all my money fucking taken away from me. I’m tired of getting looked down at by people who are a bunch of the biggest criminal fuckers in the world. I’m tired of making myself feel bad because I enjoy one of the beautiful fruits of the earth. And I’m tired of the fact that I can’t make a living at doing something I’m really, really good at, which is growing amazing weed.
I’ve been busted three times, I’m getting ready to go to court again, and these fucking guys give up. I’ve been working with the medical cannabis club for almost 10 years. And like many of us in this movement, I’m ready to go to jail for my beliefs, but I’ll tell you what I’m not happy about it. That’s where I’m at.
The first thing on our agenda is to stop making marijuana illegal for people who are dying to alleviate their pain. That’s what we’re about. We think it’s against people’s human rights to deny pain relief from some source which is not directly involved with a fucking multinational pharmaceutical company.
Dude. You’re, you’re… American! [laughter]Los Angeles, California, by way of Ottawa. My mom’s Canadian, and my dad’s American. I’m a North American.
That’s completely rad! King Bong is rad!
Yeah! The other thing that we’re about and that we want to make people understand about Bong is that we’re a working-class, working man’s band. We’re a bar band. And we don’t have big aspirations of being some fucking big stadium band. What we want to do, what we like to do is to go into a bar and make people forget that you trade your fucking life for a paycheck. For an hour and a half, you can come and forget about the rest of the world. That’s our goal, and that’s what we do.
Those are some respectable aspirations.
Two goals, freedom and happiness, just like everybody else, right? It’s about reaching out to people while they’re having a good time. ‘Cause you can preach to people in their face about how they can change their lives… but most of the time you’re just too busy and too consumed with shit to get a grip on what anybody is saying to you.
But there’s another road in. It’s when they’re in a good mood and they’re having fun, they become very receptive to ideas. So our goal is to provide a good groove to make you dance, but while we’re doing that we’re slipping in with a message. We want people to come to the realization that you are getting fucked over. And forget all the other shit, you’re getting fucked over on a daily basis and that should really make you mad. It makes me mad.
Right on, brother!
Yeah, so the Bong show can be a bit of a preachy thing sometimes ? depending on how high we are ? but no, but generally it’s a really good fun time. Because basically as you can hear, we’re a big funky dance band. Nine pieces, full horn section, it’s a revue. We kind of pattern ourselves after the big 70’s party bands like Three Dog Night and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Bands that didn’t cheat. Bands that orchestrated and arranged their music. It’s like organized chaos. We feel like we’re coming back to an old school thing that’s been forgotten. When our trombone player starts blowing a line, and in the front row there’s like five or six kids that are 19 or 20 years old, they’re like, “Oh fuck! That’s what a trombone sounds like!”
Yeah, the CD release was last month, at a sold-out venue here in Victoria. 500 heads. We sold tons of CDs, and we gave away lots of the King Bong board game.
King Bong board game?
The game comes with four different colored rolling papers, and you start off by rolling yourself a fatty, and everybody smokes, and your roach is your Man. We gave away 100 of these at the CD release party, and they were playing them all over the fucking bar! Everybody would go outside, smoke their fatty, and they would come in with their roaches, and they were playing them all over the bar.
Your group is called King Bong. The album is called Grow. The website is www.kingbong.ca. I believe! I believe! [laughter]Hilarious!